A Chat With…Jane Fitz

Jane Fitz is a DJ we’ve got a lot of time for. Her selections are eclectic and you’ll never hear her play the same set twice. Whether she’s playing soul, acid house or whatever other style – one thing’s for sure. She plays records worth hearing. Along with Jade Seatle, she puts on Night Moves, which you can read about below. Catch her every Monday from 10pm – Midnight on myhouseyourhouse radio. We caught up with Jane to talk about her approach to DJing, digging and putting on events.

Jane Fitz Interview

Hi Jane. Could you briefly tell us who you are and what you do?

Well, I’m guessing you’re here to talk about music, which is actually only about 1% of what I do. Well maybe a bit more, maybe about 10%.

You’re also a journalist.

Yeah. It’s funny to be on the other end of the questions – I’ve been a journalist for over 20 years. I don’t really do much writing anymore, I stopped in March out of default, not out of choice, the magazine I was deputy editor at finally collapsed after about 5 years of clinging on. I mainly just make other peoples’ writing a bit better and concentrate a bit more on my music these days. That again wasn’t really by design, more by default but I’m quite happy with that, it’s all right. They’re both quite lone professions though, I spend a lot of time doing my own head in – making music and buying music you’re generally on your own apart from a few hours a week when you’re suddenly surrounded by all these people. But I’m not complaining.

So how long have you been DJing for?

It depends on what you’d call DJing. If it’s putting records on in an order for people in a room, then I’ve been doing that since I was 13, when I was still in school. I was the only person who had records so I’d go and play at house parties. We’re talking house parties in the 80s; we’re not talking anything sophisticated here. I did a bit of radio and played soul, funk, hip hop, rare groove, shit like that in pubs when I was a student, around ’91. I guess I started mixing properly when I was in Hong Kong, which would have been about ’97. That’s when I started buying records more seriously and playing in clubs all the time. I think I put my first party on in ’93 in a recording studio in Camden, so let’s say around that time.

It’s always been records for you?

Yeah because that’s what I’ve got. I’ve never felt any need to adjust…I’ve always had a lot of old records…when did I notice the format change? It was in New York actually, I was freelancing for DJ Mag – it was a pretty lame job but it was cool to go to New York. I went to Subliminal, which is Erick Morillo’s record label and he’d just released some statement that he was only playing on CDs and I remember thinking…well that’s not for me, cause I store things visually and I’d never be able to find anything in a dark club. Also my handwriting’s so bad after all those years of doing shorthand interviews on the phone. I love flicking through records, it’s just a visual thing.

I’m really anal about where they go in my house, I’m incredibly disorganised and chaotic with everything else, but my records are in an unbelievably complicated filing system so if I’d have to start looking for a track on a laptop, I wouldn’t even know what to look for. It’s purely organisation that keeps me playing records, nothing else.

D’you ever forget you have a record?

Oh, yeah all the time. That’s the beauty of it. I’m always selling records – I’m not one of these people who’s like “I’ve got 10,000 records, they all must be good.” Bullshit. You’re always gonna have shitty records, so I don’t believe that you should have a record collection that just gathers dust. It should be like an organism, you should feed it and you should prune it – cut off the deadwood. Just by that process, you’re discovering things you’ve forgotten about, which is brilliant. If I had files and I was deleting them, half the time I wouldn’t know what I was deleting, cause I don’t remember track names.

The only problem with having a record collection is the amount of space it takes up! In my house my records have an entire room to themselves. I figured that I don’t have a kid, but I’ve probably spent as much money on my records over the years as I would have done bringing up a child. I’d probably be in there for 4 years listening to all of them!

Do you find you’re still going to record stores and listening to records, or has your digging moved online?

I go to second hand record stores more than I do new ones. Over the last 10 years I’ve not been going as much, because I’ve seen most of it already. Put it this way, when I lived in Hong Kong, which was ’96 to about ’99, when I started buying records beyond just occasionally, my flatmate at the time was playing dnb and you couldn’t get that over there. He was getting his records online, from the Dance Music Resource Pages, which was the first name for Juno. There were no sound clips on there, so I’d chance it and order stuff. A year and a half later, about ’99, I came home to England, but because that’s what I was used to, I kept doing it even though no one else really did. So I was actually ordering records off the internet long before most people, so my digging for new records began in that way and by now it’s habitual and everybody does it that way.

I only really dig for things in record stores that I haven’t listened to already online, which rules out most of the new stuff. I used to work in the Music Exchange, I was based in Notting Hill and then I worked in Camden and Soho once a week. I kind of stopped going through basements because I’d seen it all before. I do still go though; especially when I’m abroad I go straight for the bargain bins.

I do still go to the Music Exchange, and sometimes to Reckless, just to talk to the people there. That was always the best thing about them, was talking to the people – about music or about parties, even though I’m really not someone who talks about records. I hate it. I get really frustrated when you meet people out and they don’t know you but they know of you and the first thing they say to you is about records. It feels like you get pigeonholed as the “record person.” In my old house in Leytonstone about 10 years ago, people used to come back to my house and they’d all be DJs. If I caught them talking about records, I’d kick them out! Records are there to be played, not talked about. I’d rather people heard the result of my digging.

What’s your approach to DJing? Do you do your own thing and play the records you want to play, or do you try and have a feel for what people want to hear?

This is actually something that I spend time thinking about. I think it’s a bit of both. You’re in a room and it’s the weekend and people have generally payed money to be there. If you went to see the Rolling Stones and they didn’t play Satisfaction, you’d be pretty fucked off. Obviously I can’t really play Greatest Hits, but I do think you’ve got to be aware that people have had a long week and they’ve come with some expectations. However, you’re also not there to be a jukebox. If you book a DJ, then you’ve done some research to see what they play. I think it’s like “Okay, I’ve paid money to see a DJ do this, but also be themselves while doing it.” I always try to watch the crowd. If they’re not responding to what I’m doing, I’m not gonna be some mug, trying to force music down peoples’ throats. I’ll try change it up and make them respond.

I spend 5 or 6 hours packing my record bag before I go out to play, I try and think about the night, who’s on before me and pick records that will make the crowd respond. I’ll always fall short of saying “What d’you want me to play?” But I’ll always do my homework. It’s not like I’m a wedding DJ – I think there’s a sense of freedom when you’re booked to play a night. But I will spend hours packing that record bag, thinking about the night.

I think music is a real representation of who you are. I’m not very good at small talk, so I try and get across what I’ve got to say through records. I’m sure that I could get more across to you by playing a certain record than I could by talking to you for 20 minutes. When you’re in a club environment, you’re not in a library, you’re at a party. You’ve got to make sure people have fun, so I always try and give people a good time, to take them somewhere different so they can forget about all their crap.

You’ve put on your fair share of parties. What are the most important elements that make a party a good party, rather than just another night?

It’s doing things in the right order. The last thing you should think about doing is booking a name. You can’t light a candle without a match. You need to have the ingredients there to make it happen first. What are you trying to say with the party? How welcoming d’you want it to be? Where’s it gonna happen? What’s it gonna sound like? Who’s gonna come? And then who’s gonna play the music. You need to put in a lot of time into your guests – into making people feel welcome so that they want to come to your party.

I think you need to show people that you give a shit – that you want them to have a good time rather than you just want their money. I’ve stopped going out in London a lot, because they’re booking amazing people but they don’t feel like a party anymore. I always try and create a welcoming, family vibe with amazing people and amazing music. I try and create a sense of belonging. I want people to feel like it’s their night. The crowd is the key to a good party. You need to create a vibe where no one feels like they’re being watched, like they’re there to be seen.

I don’t want an atmosphere where it’s too packed to dance, and it’s all just people standing there watching the decks. I don’t understand why people watch the DJ. How can you possibly be having a good time if you’re staring in one direction? I don’t think it’s important where the DJ is. Parties are about having fun, having a dance and meeting people, not standing in one place all the time. That’s not fun. I remember a few years ago, Moodymann was doing things like DJing from behind a sheet. The DJ is just a conduit for music – they’re not doing anything live. They’re not rockstars, any DJ who wants to be watched is a prick. The party should be on the floor and not in the booth. I just…don’t understand it. I would never put a DJ on a stage, I would always stick them in a corner at floor level. That’s how we do it at our parties.

So we’re not gonna see a Jane Fitz Boiler Room then?

If I did a Boiler Room I’d face the other way. And all of those people, who desperately want to be on camera, can be! I play other peoples’ music. I’m not important, the records are.

Is that what Night Moves is about then? Trying to do something completely different?

Yeah, I think so. It’s completely transparent. It was really difficult at first promoting a party when you’re anti-promotion. We’re not elitist, we just don’t want to be a trendy thing that can just as easily fall out of trend. Our priority is the crowd and making the crowd feel like they’re part of something. We made a really important decision really early on, which was not to have a guestlist. We didn’t want any elitism. Every single person who comes to the party can contribute. Everybody puts something into the pot, there’s no blaggers. We keep the prices low. If people can spend £60 on a gram of coke, then they can spend £10 on a party that lasts 8 hours. That’s 2 drinks around here! By doing that you have no VIPs. Everyone is the same, which makes for a democratic party.

People can see we’re not millionaires, and we keep it small. We don’t do any advertising and the venues we use are only used by us. Everybody knows it’s not about money and because of that we’ve got a very loyal crowd.

We want people to find out about us, but we want them to work for it a little bit as well. So we keep it secret. We never ever disclose the venue unless you buy a ticket. It makes the party feel private. You’re in a Night Moves vacuum for the next 8 hours and you can do what you want! No one gives a shit. There’s no hipsters looking over your shoulder, there’s no kids off their heads on ketamine, no women in heels, no blokes on the pull. It’s just an atmosphere for letting go. And that’s what a party should be.

Me and Jade are both really proud of it because we’ve created a party that we would like to go to. If I’m DJing, Jade will be on the floor. We’re very visible because there’s no VIP. Everybody’s a VIP, because everybody’s special and I genuinely don’t think there’s another party like that in London and I think that’s what it’s lost, that authenticity.

Other promoters who I really respect come out. The FreeRotation and World Unknown guys have all come to Night Moves, which is a really nice compliment.

The ones we did in the summer we didn’t have any tickets or Facebook events, we just said if you want to come send us your number. Jade had printed out little blue circles and we put them down by the canal so that people could follow the circles. Then to get to the venue, we swung a boat out across the canal and people had to cross it to get there. The second day party we had a speedboat and people had to go to a place where they’d get picked up. It makes our parties different to everything else. We try and have that free party spirit. I don’t want to be another promoter, I want to put on parties, and there’s a difference.

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