Chicago born, Atlanta raised Virginia resident and Must Have Records label-head Jay Simon supplies the 14th and latest installment in our Leisure Mix Series. Simon’s only release to date, last year’s Faith single on Kyle Hall’s Wild Oats imprint, is a liquid sugar, retro remake rain drop in the vein of Detroit beat tailor Dez Andrés. Its seductively simple, repeating refrain lodges deep throughout the listener’s central nervous system, from nodding head down to swinging hips, bouncing soles, tapping toes and the cockles of the beating heart. Similarly, this jacking mix takes you on safari across grooving starscapes filled with lush instrumental and vocal melodies fluttering in over devastatingly nimble and surprisingly crunchy rhythms. Shuffling house burners burst softly into kaleidoscopic funk treasures, crying out in stuttered, stretched and stymied climax. Juicy pads provide punch like a big, cold, pink bottle of Tahiti Treat. Simon packs just enough of the blues in here to chill the soul, and enough sunshine to thaw it back out. Through all the diverse sonic scenery, the captain of our vessel never loses his edge, guiding the threads of his thought to gently supple conclusion with his eyes closed and the lights off. We talked with Jay about college, his musical influences, the new label, meeting his idols at the Mecca of Detroit Techno, DEMF, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, the best gyros he’s ever had and the NOVA’s thriving opossum population.
Where are you from and where are you currently located? Tell us about the things you love in your city.
I was born in Chicago, raised in Atlanta, and currently live about an hour outside of Washington D.C. in Loudoun County, Virginia. I kinda hate Nova (Northern VA). Not enough good restaurants near my house, not enough young single ladies, and I have to drive an hour to get to any DJ gig. But I go to school out here, so it is what it is. I really like this one Greek place about 20 minutes from my house, Plaka Grill. Best gyros I’ve ever had. Also there are some cool animals out here, lots of deer, rabbits etc. I saw a big ass opossum running outside my house the other night.
Besides music what are you currently staying busy with? What does the typical day to day consist of for you?
Well, I work at a liquor store. They’re all state run in Virginia. The one I work at is niiice. I also go to George Mason University full time, working on a Business Management degree. On a day to myself I’m usually digging for music online, new and old stuff. I’ve been playing Tekken Tag 2 a lot lately… busting heads on that. I may work on some music, rip records or waste time on Facebook. Not necessarily in that order.
Tell us a bit about the mix you made for us. Where and when was it recorded?
I did two mixes that day, one in the morning and one in the evening. I kept the lights off in the basement and just played some of my favorite straight up deep house tracks. No gimmicks or anything like that.
The first release on your label Must Have Records came out earlier this year. How did you end up connecting with Finnish producer Saine? What’s coming up next on the label?
We hooked up initially on Soundcloud. I spotted his LP’s on Juno and really liked the house songs on there. I thought he was a really talented producer, but for some reason no one really knew about his music. He was into the idea of Must Have off the bat, so that was that. He also designed the label art for the EP. There are upcoming releases planned for Todd Osborn aka Osborne, Melbourne based producer Julien Love, new artist Seven Davis Jr., and music from myself as well.
What’s the mantra behind Must Have Records? What are you trying to achieve by running your own label?
It’s just music I like, nothing more than that. I’m trying to put out great music I believe in and get some more damn gigs in the process! (Laughs.)
What were the highlights of 2012 for you? Be they musical, personal, etc.
Putting out the first record on my label, having it be received well AND actually make a little money on a vinyl only release was pretty cool. DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival 2012) earlier this year was amazing. I stayed with Kyle Hall for a little over a week and it was so much fun. I got to meet a ton of my heroes, from Glenn Underground to Andres, Specter, DJ Spinna, Anthony Shakir and too many others to mention. To get respectful and motivating words from a lot of them really meant a lot to me. I was also fortunate enough to play an after party there, which was a ton of fun, too. Playing Cybotron and Drexciya in the old UR building… c’mon.
Choose five tracks that best embody the overall vibe of Jay Simon. Tell us a bit about what makes them so important to you.
James Mason – I’ve Got My Eyes on You
Album: Rhythm Of Life Label: Chiaroscuro Records Date: 1977
I love jazz-funk, but this one really stands out as very energetic and spiritual while being mellow and painful at the same time. When I first heard this album it absolutely blew me away, and continues to. A true master at work. The vocal can bring me to tears.
Michael Watford – Holdin’ On (Original Shelter Mix)
Album: Holdin’ On Label: Atlantic Date: 1991
This song really represents to me what deep house is about. The recording is super raw… There’s even pain in the crash cymbals. “At night when I come, I start feeling blue. My telephone don’t ring, and when it rings it brings me bad news.” Doesn’t really get much realer than that. Just dudes struggling, but not on some soft shit. It’s gritty and desperate at the same time. Still amazing drum programming too.
GQ – Disco Nights (Rock Freak)
Album: Disco Nights (Rock-Freak) / Boogie Oogie Oogie Label: Astra Date: 1979
For me, kinda the ultimate disco song. Everything you could want in one really; joy and pain, the groove, one of the best guitar and bass grooves on one record and truly heartfelt vocals. “The feeling’s right and the music’s tight”
Royal Rock – Locadelicaly Him
Album: Pure Pimp – Pimp of the Year Label: Gueno Recordings Date: 1992
West Coast rapper Suga Free’s first 12″ under the name Royal Rock. Super raw, MEAN and unashamed. I can get raw and uncut every now and again. Apparently this is producer Lee Bo’s only release, according to Discogs. Whoever is playing bass is going OFF.
Mark Gormley – Little Wings
Album: Mark Gormley Label: Self-released Date: 1977
Now this one may stand out on the list, but it’s definitely not a joke. The video is a little weird, and his voice is unexpected, but this guy pours an emotional honesty and soul into his music that few artists come close to. When I first started watching his videos, I wanted to laugh, but when I really gave it a chance it really moved me. I was joking with my friends that I’d put out a 7″ of this song, and I actually would.