20 Nov Things That Run and Run and Never Stop: Jumping Back Slash’s ‘Horses’ EP
About eight years ago, a DJ from the small English town of Wigan planned a five month trip to South Africa. Upon arrival, he did as all tourists do—took in the sights, experienced the local culture, and of course, sampled some of the music. It was the latter bit of his South African walk-about that saw Jumping Back Slash develop a passion for producing local music and subsequently never leave the country.
Since then he’s gone on to release a number of gqom, kwaito, and afro-house inspired tracks on a variety of big name labels as well as co- produce and mix the debut Fantasma LP. Currently, he’s co-producing the next Spoek Mathambo LP and he’s just released another one of his own EPs, Horses.
In short, Jumping Back Slash is a prolific DJ who rarely stops working, and Horses, with its use of looping drum beats and mounting, ethereal synth, is a testament to his abilities.
In light of his latest release, Jumping Back Slash gave us a bit of his time to talk music, culture, and life in SA.
Let’s start off by getting to know you a little better. Who is Jumping Back Slash and how did he end up in South Africa?
My name is Gareth, I am from the UK. I came to South Africa in 2007 with a South African woman who is now my wife. I still haven’t left.
The first time you heard kwaito, gqom, sbujwa and other local genres was shortly after you arrived in South Africa. What were you producing before and how long did it take you to get the hang of producing local genres?
I was making all kinds of stuff I guess, broken beat, garage, all the stuff in the UK I was listening to but I wasn’t really finding anything that defined me and I rarely finished tunes. When I came here I was really struck by the smashing of different styles that I heard in SA house and kwaito music. Bazoom Base by DJ Fhiso (which was the first tune I heard here) had a kinda almost tacky euro-house/progressive arpeggio over a very strident SA beat. It was trancey and almost hypnotic and really forward thinking as far as I was concerned. It sounded so fresh and clever to me and very different to what I expected. After that it wasn’t long before I was taking my UK influences and trying to smash them over SA style rhythms but with a more analogue, old techno vibe. That was my early sound I guess and definitely what Kwaai Sneakers came out of.
As soon as you got here, you started immersing yourself in ‘South African culture’ so to speak. How important is it to you to learn the culture of the music you make?
I think it is very important and not just in the field of music. I think you should at least try to engage in it. I know a lot of immigrants like me don’t, particularly the English because they can be fucking superior. But I think it’s a respectful thing to do.
You also learned to speak a bit of Afrikaans and isiXhosa. Does that have any particular impact on your music?
I’m not sure, not directly but maybe in other more subconscious ways. I have always been interested and pretty good with languages and they really do become a lot easier to pick up via immersion.
Tell us a bit about your latest EP, ‘Horses’.
It’s about drum machines. Things that run and run and can never stop.
Your music ranges from slow, gqom beats to fast paced shangaan electro style tracks. Where does your inspiration come from?
It comes from all over—places I go, people I meet. A lot of the time I try and change it up to keep it interesting and to learn new things.
You’ve also done a lot of official and bootleg remixes that get a lot of circulation. What do you enjoy about remixing other artist’s work? Any favourite remixes you’ve done?
I find it very flattering when people ask me to do remixes for them and it’s nice to make music out of other people’s music and recontextualise it. I like to try and only use the original parts (except for the beats which I tend to totally replace) and go for an opposite vibe from the original. Maybe my remix of ‘Ladders’ by Card On Spokes is a good example of that. The original is a bit dark and moody in that signature COS style, so I kinda flipped the beat into a double time jit feel and made it a bit more up and lighter.
The South African music scene, specifically the African electronic music scene, enjoys a lot of international recognition. Why do you think that is?
Because it’s the best and most forward thinking right now.
Why do you think it’s taken South Africa so long to recognise kwaito and sgubhu artists who have been making music for years now?
Local music has to leave the country and come back via international media for a certain part of the country to take notice. Why, I don’t know. The answer is complex. I will say though that it is getting better.
Any latest musical discoveries you think we should be listening to?
Thobzin has put out some big ones this year, Hora Boys, Aexo Music, Deejay Twiist, Cavemaster, Blaq Soulz, Infamous Boiz have put out some bangers it’s a massive list. The Brother Moves On have put out incredible music this year along with all the usual suspects, Rudeboyz, Lag, Aero Manyelo, Okmalumkoolkat, Big Space, the Black Coffee LP was fantastic, The Good Dokta Mixtape was seriously next level, Hessien + are fucking heavy, Andy Islands, Christian Tiger School. Also not so much discoveries but recommendations from this year would be the Oneohtrix Point Never LP, the new Anthony Child LP, DS2 by Future, Good Morning Peckham by Henry Wu, the last Sufjan Stevens LP, No Face by Body Boys, the last Sun Kil Moon LP and I have to say If You Reading This by Drake is another big one, it’s pretty much always on in the car. He catches a lot of flak, but he has changed the game no question.
Looking ahead to 2016, have you got any plans yet?
I have a few releases lined up next year including a couple of 12s and some other stuff – I won’t talk too much about them now, but you should keep your eyes peeled starting March next year.
Illustrated portrait by Jeanne Fourie.