It’s a rare moment when a DJ uses his profile to help raise money and awareness for a worthy cause. But with a Fabric comp on the shelves and a new Fuckpony album on the way, Jay Haze is taking to the decks at T-Bar as part of his campaign to help the crisis-stricken people of the Democratic Republic of The Congo. ROB CHADWICK talks to Jay to find out more…
On October 8, London’s T-Bar will be hosting a party with a conscious, a bash devoted to raising awareness of the plight of the people in the Democratic Republic of The Congo (DRC). The party is part of the DJs For DRC project, a new charity founded by Jay Haze aiming to provide relief in the war-torn countries all over the world. It’s the perfect time for Jay to be launching such a campaign – his profile is sky-high just now, what with his recent Fabric mix album, his upcoming new artist album as Fuckpony titled Let The Love Flow, and the stream of top-drawer releases from his labels Tuning Spork and Contexterrier. And he’s using all this as an opportunity to generate awareness for a bigger cause close to his heart: confronting the ongoing political and social turmoil in the DRC.
The country has been in chaos since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, but things got a lot worse following a rebellion in 1997. The following year, an insurrection by rebels linked to Rwanda and Uganda triggered a war involving six other nations. Despite a peace agreement in 2006, the Congo’s east remains overwhelmed by rebel fighting, sexual violence, starvation and disease. The human toll of the fighting – often called Africa's First World War – has been catastrophic, with more than four million dead since 1998. Around 1,200 people die each day as a direct or indirect result of the conflict – more than half of them children. Many have suffered rape and sexual slavery by armed groups, which has contributed to the advance of HIV and Aids.
DJs for DRC is asking other compassionate DJs to choose any single DJ gig this year and donate 50% of their earnings toward the cause. Tiefschwarz, Loco Dice, DJ Sneak and Tiga have already pledged their alliance, and Jay hopes the list will increase exponentially. He himself will donate half his DJ fees from all DJ appearances from September through the end of 2009. As a visionary in the world of techno and house, the evening at T Bar is surely going to filled with Jay’s genre-expanding, experimental cuts and productions. But alongside the fun, DJs for DRC wants to bring consciousness into the global electronic music scene, to prove that electronic music can be about social justice as much as artistic expression and hedonism. We caught up with Jay to chat about his trust, what got him involved, and his various music projects…
Can you give us a little insight into the whole DJs For DRC cause?
It’s just an effort to make people aware of how they can help a lot with just a little effort. The DRC is in dire need of outside help – the situation is pure crisis and it looks to get worse before it gets better. We need to be talking about the complexity of this situation. It affects us all on different levels, and somehow we all play a part. There should never be children working in mines, there should never be a family in the world who has to deal with sexual abuse as a weapon.
How did you get involved in the cause?
The normal media is not doing a great job at covering the conflict. We need to be vigilant in using new technology to get the real information. I can’t remember the last news story I saw about Congo, but the conflict is still going strong as I type this.
This party is part of your world tour on the back of your Fabric release. How’s the tour been so far?
I think it’s growing at a good rate. The project still has 10 more weeks and is gaining more attention with every gig I play. And the gigs so far have been amazing – but I don’t force the purpose of my donations on their party minds. This is my decision and I just want them to enjoy my music as they normally would.
You’ve managed to get some top DJs on board to help push the benefit. Has it helped having some big names on board?
They were up for it straight away, and of course it helps immensely.
What can we expect from the party at T-Bar? Is it strange raising awareness and having fun at the same time?
I think people should just come out and rock it like it was 1999, pay the cash at the door and know you did your part for the night. Let us provide the warm and vibing music!
What can we expect from the new Fuckpony album Let the Love Flow?
Lots of piano and organic sounds, borrowing from the classic Chicago house tradition – but the album is very much in line with BPitch’s electronic template. You would never mistake it for an older recording. Aside from that, I’d say it's a dance album for the bedroom. Compared with the first Fuckpony album, which was a bit more upbeat and fun, this one is a bit deeper and more contemplative.
Would it be true to say it shows off your more soulful side?
There are always inspirations, whether I am conscious of them or not. Some of my biggest influences are Parliament/Funkadelic, Curtis Mayfield and Al Green, but that's not to say that this album sounds a lot like them. But yes, it is very soulful, sensual and emotive. The guest vocals from Chela Simone and Laila Tov certainly add to that.
You even sample your own vocals in the tracks. What was that like?
To be honest, quite routine. I often incorporate voice into my productions. I sang lead vocals on my last Jay Haze album, Love & Beyond, but on this new Fuckpony album, they were handed over to the ladies mentioned above. My own voice took the back burner and was woven into the mix just as any other backing instrument would be. Even in this way, the human voice adds an element you can't get from a machine or from software. But just wait until 2010 for the release of my acappella gospel album for Deutsche Grammophon. An entire 60-person chorus of Jay Hazes. I even got an expensive castration plug-in so I could sing soprano!
What’s next for you?
I’m organising a CD for the charity in the next four months, and let’s see what develops after I visit the DRC in January. I want to do some work on the ground there…
The DJs For DRC benefit event is at T-Bar in London on October 8. Visit www.tbarlondon.com and www.djs4drc.org. Jay’s Fabric47 mix is out now. Visit www.fabriclondon.com. And the new Fuckpony album Let The Love Flow is out on BPitch Control on October 26. Visit www.jayhaze.com, www.myspace.com/tharealjayhaze and www.bpitchcontrol.de