INTERVIEW: Jean Claude Ades (2012)
Jean Claude Ades is one of those rare producer/DJs who lives in both the underground and commercial world. He had massive commercial crossover success as JCA with “I Begin to Wonder,” which became an international pop hit with Dannii Minogue. His nu-disco and groovy house records that he releases on his own label Swings create major buzz in the underground world. With a new residency at Lio in Ibiza and an artist album coming out this fall, Jean is definitely a producer to watch.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: Congratulations on your new residency at Lio in Ibiza. How was the opening and how did it come about?
Jean Claude Ades: It was great. We had a great vibe and it was a magical start, so everyone was happy. I’ve been coming to Ibiza every summer since 1994 and I was living here and had my studio here ten years ago. I got connected with the island and I started to play four years ago in smaller venues like Blue Marlin, El Ayoun and King Five, and then last year I played for the Tea Party in Amnesia. I was building up a DJ profile on the island and last summer they asked me to play a few parties at Lio and everything went well, they liked our set, so they decided to give us a night. My brother, Maurice, is one of the biggest PRs on the island, we had done some events together in the past, and they went very well so they decided to give us a night. I’m playing every Friday til the end of September. We are going to close the party on the 5th of October.
RS: Very cool, what kind of music are you playing there?
Jean Claude Ades: We play mainly new disco and deep, sexy, groovy, house music.
RS: You are being buzzed about as a big new name in Ibiza. How does it feel to be a “new name” again?
Jean Claude Ades: I didn’t know that, I’m hearing it for the first time. I’m happy to have something going on on the island and something regular where I can build over the season. I know every venue here and I’ve been trying to find a ‘niche’ that is good for me musically. I wanted to bring a high quality night of music to the crowd, combine both things together, and have a night in a venue that I really appreciate. I think it’s a fantastic venue and I love it because it’s not too big and not too small, it’s just right to start something new and make it more exclusive. We end up fliering around the island because we have our crowd all over, and we can move. We don’t need to have 3,000 people, we can do something more small and exclusive- I’m happy to develop it and bring a more straightforward music concept into the night.
RS: Okay, who are some of the producers that you play or tracks that are big for you?
Jean Claude Ades: Right now I like a lot of stuff from the label called Stil Vor Talent. Of course I also like all the stuff from Hot Creations, Dynamic, and I like a lot of Noir. I found a guy that’s going to do a remix for me, his name is Kellerkind, a producer from Switzerland, and he is one of my favorite upcoming producers and he is remixing my next track that is coming out in July. So those are my favorite names at the moment.
RS: You mentioned labels, why did you decide to start your own label?
Jean Claude Ades: For me, it’s good to have my own label because it’s a creative platform to release whatever I feel and have in my mind and I don’t have to follow any other label’s philosophy. I can do my own thing and release what I believe and what I play in my sets. Sometimes it’s really hard, because with other labels you have to adapt, stylewise, and it’s very important to develop your own style and have your own platform so you don’t have to follow anybody and you can just follow your own signature and style of music and that’s what I decided to do. The label has existed for five years, but it was managed by Great Stuff Records before and now I’m doing it completely on my own and with my own team- which gives me complete creative freedom.
RS: Very cool, are you working on new music right now?
Jean Claude Ades: Yes, I recently released an EP called East West EP to get everybody excited. We did three tracks for the EP and then I will have a monthly release. There is a collaboration with Rony Seikaly, another guy that is playing at my night, as well as one with a singer called Elsiane from Toronto. She does indie rock and we licensed a track; a vocal of an old track of hers that we love, so we turned it into a dance track and it’s going to come out in July. There will be some other stuff later on, and I’m working on my artist album that’s going to be released in October and a compilation from the DJ magazine ‘Ibiza’ in August.
RS: Congratulations. You just mentioned Rony Seikaly, the basketball player. How did you meet up with him?
Jean Claude Ades: We played one gig together last summer in Ibiza at Amnesia, then we played another gig and he invited me to come to his night at WALL in Miami during the Art Basel conference in November. Slowly, we started to like each other musically and then we went to Miami to his studio and we started to work on some tracks, and from then on we got along musically. He’s very open-minded and has a large musical understanding. We get along even though we each have our own musical style. At the end we match very well. I really like his style when he plays and that’s why I invited him to play with me on my night. He is doing twelve gigs with me this summer at Lio. He’s coming next week, so it’s like we have our own little team going on here and we have this bridge between Europe and America. It’s good to do some stuff in Europe together and bring the brand to America next year once everything is done here. It’s a good bridge between the East and the West. That’s why we call it the East West EP which makes sense.
RS: I want to go back in time a little bit. You produced one of my favorite songs of all time, “Fly Away.” What’s the story behind that song?
Jean Claude Ades: Well the track was done six years ago. That was a track that my friend and great singer songwriter, Rufus Martin, and I came up with in only twenty minutes. We were jamming in the studio and I told him that I wanted to write something about letting ourselves go and forgetting the world. There is a moment when you are clubbing and you go and stand on the dance floor and listen to the music and you want to hear a message and the feeling of completely letting go of the world around you. He sang and wrote the lyrics at the same time, it was only one take. When he was done, I said ‘that’s it, we don’t have to record any more.’ That was exactly what I wanted. I didn’t expect that the track would be so massive in South America, and in Asia it was also incredibly big. I was touring for many years all over Brazil and Asia because of that track.
RS: It was big also in Nashville, Tennessee just so you know.
Jean Claude Ades: Cool, I didn’t know that. Sometimes it’s hard to control where you record is famous because of the internet today. Sometimes you don’t have a licensing deal in a territory but online it spreads all over the world and sometimes you get the weirdest requests to play in some places very far. Just because everyone loves your track and you may not know anything about it because before you had to have a license to play in the territory. Today it’s just like one upload and one release and you spread worldwide. It is very exciting and interesting how music reaches people today.
RS: Yes, I also wanted to ask you about the Dannii Minogue thing because I remember playing “I Begin to Wonder” when it was first released as JCA, just your name. How did it end up coming to Dannii?
Jean Claude Ades: I did the track as JCA because at the time I was more of a producer in the background and I recorded a track with a girl who had her own rock project going on. She came to Ibiza in 2001 and we recorded this track in Ibiza. I didn’t expect anything. It was just like any other house record. No one actually wanted to sign a record because it was so different at the time. I remember in 2001 it was more about disco house. Then an Italian label called Do it Yourself signed the record and all of a sudden it became massive in Italy; it was number one. I got invited to play at a festival in front of 50,000 people and other stuff like that. That’s why I put my name as JCA. I didn’t want it to be like in a song, I wanted to use it as a project but there was nobody fronting the project. All of a sudden I was treated like a pop star and I had to go and do interviews. I had to go to MTV’s “Top of the Pops” and stuff like that. I got pushed in front of the camera and I didn’t want it or expect it before. After that the record went famous in several countries like Australia, and all over Europe. We were close to releasing the record in UK with Warner because I was signed into Warner in Germany with that record. I said to Warner in UK, “okay we don’t have anyone fronting the project, what do you think about Dannii rerecording the vocals.” She loved that track and for me it was perfect because I didn’t want to front the project any more so I gave it to her. Then we went number one in the UK and then the record came. We recharted in countries again and we did the bootleg with the “Dead or Alive” playback from “You Spin Me Round.” The territories were my original versions and it was a top ten hit. The bootleg came back and we charted again so the song was all over for two or three years.
RS: So you were involved with the bootleg/mashup? You did that one?
Jean Claude Ades: The mashup was done by some other guy and of course the original version went number one in UK. I charted already in Germany and they also wanted to launch the album from Dannii, so they used the mashup to give her another push to relaunch the album. So it was weird; the performance of the original version, and the mashup, and I don’t remember exactly what happened in the US. I’m not sure if we got charted but I think on the radio and on the Billboard Radio Charts we were in the top three. But I don’t remember about the selling or how many records we sold in the US.
RS: You did really well in the US on the radio with the Krystal K record.
Jean Claude Ades: Oh yes, I know, I remember we signed with Robbins
RS: Did you have any idea that that record would make it so big here in the States?
Jean Claude Ades: Not at all, I didn’t even follow it but two or three years later I got a statement from the US and thought “wow, that wasn’t that bad.” The record was massive in the UK and I really didn’t follow it because it was like a separate project, I was focused so much on my own stuff then. I was happy about it of course, but I didn’t release anything else after Krystal K because I was so busy with my own stuff that I couldn’t focus on too many projects at the same time.
RS: It sounds like you’re going a little more underground now and less commercial. Is that something you are trying to do or is it just happening?
Jean Claude Ades: With underground, I would say that I always try to balance because when I have a hit that hits the radios I don’t want to go just as a pop DJ. Of course I want to play at the incredible venues and for people to hear my records and think he is going to play hit records all night. I play much deeper in my sets; I produce more pop but play more underground. It’s hard to find a balance and try to keep a balance because I love both worlds. So that’s why I need to release more instrumental underground tracks to keep myself in the underground scene more. But I love to work with vocals and the moment you work with vocals it’s impossible to stay completely underground. I don’t call myself an underground DJ, I’m definitely a more commercial DJ. I don’t want to copy myself and once I have a hit record I don’t want to come up with the same thing again and again and be a sellout product. So I prefer to go back to the underground thing and create something new from scratch because for me it’s not the commercial aspect. The number one thing for me is to love what I’m doing and not become a sellout product, so that’s why I’ve been doing this back and forth thing for years. But like I said I still love to work with vocalists so at the moment that you have a good topline, you are definitely not underground.
RS: You album is going to come out in the fall, I guess. What can we expect from that?
Jean Claude Ades: It’s going to be more deep house-oriented because I think music is changing in a good way here in Europe. People are a bit tired of high energy house music that is a bit too ‘trance-y.’ But now you have all these acts like Swedish House Mafia and etc. They decided to go big room and festival music, so you can’t call this club music or house music anymore. I call it the new trance music. So we have these two worlds, the big room and festival music going on or the deep house and sexy music with a lot of good vocal stuff coming out. People have started loving vocals again. I find myself again in the world that I love to be in. It’s with more downtempo stuff, not too rushed, not too noisy, but more soulful and a good mixture between new disco elements, deep house, vocal tracks, instrumental tracks, and different instruments. It’s going to be a mix of different worlds, but it’s hard to explain the style because I’m always trying to do something different and new. So I have to decide at the end what kind of music they are going to hear or judge.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Jean Claude Ades: Thanks for loving deep house and new disco music, and if they come to Ibiza come and visit me at Lio on Fridays, it’s the best music on the island and of course, keep supporting me.
Interview conducted June 2012. Special thanks to Agi Czumbil and Toni Tambourine for arranging this interview.