There’s a gleaming character to London-based DJ, Jay Carder. Across the last decade, the bass-aficionado has shaped a career in radio, dancefloors and beyond, sustaining an open-minded approach to her craft. Following her move away from Brighton into the capital’s ample night-life, Jay has racked up a number of note-worthy accolades, from co-founding her own label Erbium Records to becoming one of three DJs shortlisted for this year’s Annie Nightingale Scholarship. Conceived by the longest-serving presenter on BBC Radio One, the Scholarship seeks to uplift women and non-binary creatives in the electronic music scene, offering them a one-off show on the national platform. Elsewhere, Jay skips between local venues, superclubs and festivals, playing to the likes of Glastonbury Festival, Boomtown, fabric and more. Indeed, the current day marks a turning point for the artist, a celebratory period that accumulates plenty of perseverance, hard graft and dedication to the perfect soundtrack.
A weekly resident on the ever-evolving Rinse FM, Jay Carder finds balance in a heavyweight, yet melodious pool of sounds. An amalgamation of techno, breakbeats and, of course, UK bass, the artist pieces together an eclectic, mood-focussed set that equally spills across her own production, namely last year’s debut EP ‘Entropy’, released via Faux Poly. Across three tracks, the project carries a rich depth, an intricately crafted listen that lends itself to the sweat-drenched after-hours.
Amongst a jam-packed schedule, the selector now gears up to one of the most hotly-tipped events of this winter season: Bicep Curates The Hydra, which will take place on December 8th. It’s not the first time that the two have merged forces, previously featuring on the Belfast duo’s mixtape compilation and spotlighted on their line-ups. Ahead of the night, CLASH sat down with Jay Carder to explore the foundations of her music career, motivations in broadcasting and what she has in store for us in the upcoming months.
How did you first get into DJing, is there a specific moment or scenario that marks that starting point?
I actually spent the earliest part of my 20s trying to find ‘my thing’. I worked at the Co-Op and in various copywriting jobs for money during the day, and would spend evenings going to creative talks and meetups, trying to find a part of the creative industry that I enjoyed.
I tried journalism, running on films, working on TV sets (damn do I make a good cuppa); but nothing really set the spark alive – until I tried radio. Radio was the one. After muscling my way into Radio X for some work experience (more tea), I managed to make some contacts and land some evening work at Virgin Radio and Soho Radio. One day at Soho, that classic ‘moment’ happened where the presenter couldn’t get in for the show, and they offered me (as a volunteer producer eager to try presenting) the chance to cover it. Two hours and about a litre of sweat later, I’d completed my first ever radio show and I was in love.
The station manager liked the music and offered me a slot. I wanted the show to sound as good as it could, so asked some DJs on the station (4 To The Floor London) to teach me how to mix. Later on I’d join their crew and play at their parties too. I’d usually stay at the radio after my show sometimes until 4/5am (they let me keep a key and even a sleeping bag at the station – legends) to learn how to use the equipment and practise. For almost a decade now I’ve never looked back.
Versatility feels like a key component to your sets. How important is it for you to sustain a fluid approach to your selections and how do you find balance between different styles, rhythms and textures?
I do try to make my sets as dynamic as possible. Rather than genre, I try mostly to play with energy. My playlists are organised by the way the tracks make you feel – are they ‘building’, are they ‘breathers’ or uplifting etc. The more I play the more I learn to trust my gut, when in the moment, it’s a kind of mad ‘winging it’ that has such a great pay-off for traversing lots of different sounds.
As the co-founder of Erbium Records – what kind of artists or sounds are you looking to spotlight? How has the label evolved across the years?
This question comes at a great time for Erbium Records as we’re about to put out one of my favourite releases to date – a debut EP from Delano which has truly blown my mind. It’s light and dark at the same time – each track packs a serious punch in its own unique way.
The idea behind the label has always been based on the element ‘Erbium’ from the periodic table. Erbium is a rare-earth, silvery-white solid metal that dissolves in acid. This felt fitting as a ‘mood board’ for the soundscape of the label – and for our first releases, Oli created a manifesto of sights and sounds to share with the artists, so they could come up with their own musical interpretations for the releases. Also, natural erbium is always found in chemical combinations with other elements – which appropriately represents the remixes and collaborations seen throughout our releases. It feels like now, coming into our fourth year, people are really starting to notice.
Can you tell us about your debut EP ‘Entropy’? How did the project come into fruition, and how did you find the process of sharing your own music with the rest of the world?
‘Entropy’ was the result of almost all of my studio sessions ever, ha! Despite DJing for a decade, Ableton and I didn’t start making acquaintances until 2020 when lockdown allowed me the time. I had Zoom lessons with Joe from Kassian, and then started renting their studio in Hackney Wick, where I made the full EP.
All but the first and arguably most popular track took me ages to make as I was learning, making mistakes and improving them all the time. The track ‘Eva’s Stoned’ however was my first enigma in music production. I didn’t want to waste a Sunday studio session and was feeling inspired after playing at the small but brilliant Noisily festival in the summer. I drove back to London and got to the studio around 9pm. I must have left around 4am with it nearly finished bar some form of vocal. I felt exhausted but was so buzzing from having made a ‘potential banger’ that I couldn’t sleep. I messaged my friend Eva about the track and she replied with a voice note saying a load of nonsense followed by an apology, ‘sorry I’m stoned’. Eureka! I had my track vocal. I went back to the studio first thing in the morning and finished the track, complete with Eva’s voice note.
In terms of sharing the release, it’s so hard putting your art into the world and opening it up for scrutiny. It was Kassian who encouraged me to do it, saying if I didn’t start putting stuff out, I’d sit on unfinished tracks for years. And they were so right.
Yourself and Aneesha Kotwani come together every month for your Soho Radio show, House of Carder x Wavlngth. How did that relationship form and what made you want to bridge the gap between the UK and India’s music scene?
Aneesha and I connected when she was on a fleeting visit to London and she came on the radio show. Her musical selection comprising of mostly Indian artists blew me away so intensely and we stayed chatting until the early hours after the show. She returned to India and we spoke regularly, deciding to combine my show with her platform ‘Wavlngth’, from which she tours/interviews/creates films etc for international artists in India.
We’ve been sharing music and introducing each other to new artists now for nearly five years. There’s over 50 individual radio shows; these caught the attention of Mary Anne Hobbs in 2020 when she offered to mentor us during lockdown. Aneesha has also had a residency on BBC Asian Network and planned a Wavlngth tour of India for me earlier this year, where I played 15 shows around the country. For two people who’ve only been in the same room for a combined maximum of a month, we’re pretty inseparable.
Having just been selected for this year’s Annie Nightingale Scholarship, what does that recognition mean to you? What was your initial reaction when finding out the news?
Receiving the email inviting me onto the scholarship was a really special moment. It feels like all of those late nights at Soho and now weekly shows at Rinse have counted towards this. What’s also really nice is that thanks to those shows, I feel ready for it and although anxious to do a good job, mostly the butterflies were anticipation and excitement over worry or fear.
As we approach the winter season, can you name one record that has soundtracked 2023 for you, so far?
I tell you what, it only came out in July but ‘Disarray’ but Palitra is definitely the sound of 2023 for me. He’s a Ukrainian artist currently based in New York. ‘Disarray’ has a beautiful build up and keeps you on your feet – I feel like 2023 has done exactly this for me, so the tune feels even more relevant as a soundtrack for the year.
How does it feel to be part of Bicep Curate The Hydra? What kind of set can we anticipate from Jay Carder, and is there anyone else on the line-up you’re excited to see?
What a way to close the year. Seriously, I am so unbelievably excited for this event. If I had to pick… Clark and Rival Consoles performing live sets? That is certainly going to be mind-bending.
In terms of my own set, I plan to exalt a usual genre-hopping radiance featuring some nice fat rolling bass, peppered with lighter moments of elation. Lots of twists and turns but all under a Bicep-shaped umbrella.
Where do the next steps lie for Jay Carder? Are you experimenting with any new sounds at the moment, is there new music on the way?
I’ve actually just dropped a track on the latest Earful of Wavs release (Vol 2 from Earful of Wax). That came out on November 3rd and I have another I’m working on for Tasha’s Neighbourhood. I’ve made most of my tracks within Ableton but have invested in an Erica Synth LXR-02 for my drums so you can expect some real chonky percussion on the next releases. I’ve had such a busy summer that creating new music has been slow but I’m getting back into the studio now and there are a couple of EPs in the works, so this is certainly a case of ‘watch this space!’
Catch Jay Carder at Drumsheds, London on December 8th // tickets.
Words: Ana Lamond
Photography: Sienna Gray