Love & techno: the Jane Fitz story | Features | MN2S

This week saw underground house and techno heroine Jane Fitz join the MN2S agency roster, bringing with her two decades of experience at residencies at acclaimed festivals Freerotation and Field Maneuvers. We took some time to get to know her, digging through her history and influences and ending up at her recent forays into releasing music as one half of Invisible Menders.

When and how did you first discover electronic music?

It seemed to be everywhere when I was growing up, from seeing Depeche Mode and Sparks on ‘Top Of The Pops’ on TV, to some strange synthesizer demonstration tapes that my Dad had in his car, to the Jean-Michel Jarre albums my older brother had. In fact, I remember my Dad being really into it. When I was a bit older him and my mum and me all went to watch the Jean-Michel Jarre show at Docklands – although we didn’t have tickets, we watched it from the side of a big hill in Beckton. Lasers and synthesizers outdoors; that was impressive.

What were some of your formative experiences?

I used to go to a party at the back of a pub in Dagenham on a Monday night when I was about 14 and that was the first time I heard DJs mix without talking. It was a lot of rare groove and soul and the sort of stuff I was listening to on the pirates, and then bits of house started to filter in. It was an under-18s thing but the DJs used to play at clubs and raves at the weekend so they were the real deal. I clearly remember hearing Phuture Fantasy Club’s ‘Slam’ – it was the maddest thing I’d heard up to that point, played out, with loads of people going for it all around me.

I grew up on the edge of Essex and East London. Listening to pirate radio really shaped me musically – loads of soul and rare groove from Tony Monson and Graham Gold. And Chris Forbes’ electro shows on Solar and later on Capital Radio were big. I was a real soul and jazz head growing up, so I learnt my party ropes at Talkin’ Loud and Dingwalls and the Iceni. And later at The Blue Note. And then I had a bit of a mad trance and techno stage and used to go to Return To The Source and squat do’s for a bit, before I moved out to Asia – the after-hours and blossoming rave scene there was incredibly important.

Visiting New York in 1998 and to Body & Soul guided me back to a real house path, as did Kenny Hawkes and Harri’s weekly Friday’s R Firin, when I moved back to London. I’ll be honest though – I’m genuinely always looking for formative musical and party experiences. Going to The Labyrinth last year blew things apart for me. Setting, soundtrack, co-partiers – they can all inspire life-changing magic if you’re lucky.

When did you start DJing and where did you first play out?

I dabbled around with playing records at parties for years when I was growing up so I can’t really remember a first time. But I was more of a fade-in, fade-out DJ for years, playing rare groove and hip-hop and freestyle. I didn’t learn to mix properly until 1997 when I was living in a place in Hong Kong with some decks in it. I really need to thank my old flatmate for that opportunity! My first time mixing out would have been about a month after that, at this place called CE Top – a gay karaoke bar on a rooftop where friends used to hold parties.

Which have been your favourite parties to play at over the years?

Easily the Robot parties in CE Top in Hong Kong where it all began for me properly, as that was the first place I played house music, and it was just a great bunch of people. Those parties were brilliant – the guys that ran them were really creative in terms of production and had great taste in music and they were able to bring a good mix of locals and expats. They run a huge festival in Hong Kong now so I guess it’s where it started for them too.

Also I’ve always loved playing outdoors – I did some epic ones on the beach in Whitstable about 10 years ago. Of course Freerotation is a favourite, because the crowd are just so lovely. Overseas I love playing in Belgrade – the Serbian crew always make me feel so welcome. More recently I’d have to say Cartuli’s Day in London and everywhere I play in Birmingham – both the crowds and the teams are so passionate and have welcomed me in, and I have the freedom to play what I want. And of course our own Night Moves/Day Moves parties – where it’s like playing at your family knees-up. I’m sure i’ve missed off many greats from over the years though.

You largely play vinyl. Is that an aesthetic choice or by dint of the music you like only being available on wax? Or a bit of both?

It’s an organisational choice – I just find it a lot easier to spend time packing a bag at home, and whittling my choice down to 50-80 records, and then being able to flick through them. If I had too much to choose from, I’d be lost. I also can’t be bothered to listen to anything other than what comes out on record – that’s enough. When I play in, for example, India, then i’ll take CDs or USBs as it’s just not practical to lug a bag of records around in the heat – and that will be the time I really listen to all the promos i’ve received. But I prefer records where I can look at what’s happening. I like records and i’ve bought them for more than 30 years now, so they suit me and I can organise them better. It’s purely practical.

Tell us about Freerotation. How did you first come to be involved with the festival?

It’s funny – I was watching Freerotation from the beginning as I used to follow [Freerotation founder] Steevio‘s Mindtours label online and every year me and my friend talked about going, but because it was in the middle of summer I couldn’t go. At the time, maybe 2007/2008, I was working on Big Brother and it was difficult to get time off when that was on air. But I think it was 2009 I’d had enough and I booked the time off before the series began. And that year loads of my mates were up for it too, so a load of us went. It was easy to get a ticket then, and I knew some of the people involved. Then on the off-chance I sent my Soundcloud link and some mixes to Steevio and he asked me to come and play. That was it – the next year I was asked back and then I think the year after they asked me to be a resident. I plan my year around it now – and I know i’m not the only one.

What makes it so special in your opinion?

Pure lack of attitude, and a perceptible collective consciousness. It’s an incredibly liberating experience to go to a party where a majority of the people look forward to coming simply to catch up with everyone else. And where everyone is so sound. The warmth that cultivates is tangible. It really isn’t there for being seen at, or for posing at; it’s just a big family gathering with inspiring music.

The policy of only being able to attend if you’re invited by an existing ‘member’ – does it ever cause problems?

When you are part of something and then suddenly, everyone wants to be part of it, on a site of only 900 people, then of course there has to be a way to maintain both the vibe and the capacity. I’m glad the regulars who supported it when it wasn’t even reaching capacity are given priority – they should be. They built that vibe. It really is their party. From the outside i’ve heard people say that’s elitist – but it’s the furthest from elitist you could possibly get. Everyone is a VIP at Freerotation. It’s a lesson in good manners and unbridled fun – and an absolute privilege to play there.

What’s in store for this year at the event?

I have no idea. I’m in the dark as much as anyone else. Just love and techno I should imagine. And hopefully sunshine.

You’ve been making and releasing a few tracks in recent times. Is it something you’ve done for a while but never made a serious go of? Or is it more of a recent development in your musical career?

I’ve been making music for about 15 years, it’s just never been a priority. I enjoy it, I definitely have ideas I want to express, but I’m no virtuoso producer, which is why I always work with a partner, for the past seven years that’s been Dom Ahtuam. I’ve always felt the turntable and mixer and record bag set-up was more my instrument really. I’m also not motivated enough to work on my own (which is one of the reasons I don’t mix records at home either – without the crowd to bounce off, I don’t see the point).

The only reason we’re releasing things now is because I think we had a bunch of tracks that we were sick of only playing to each other. We only get to work together every few months because our schedules seldom match – but that’s taught us to be creative in a limited time frame. It means our influences and ideas evolve from one session to the next, and we’re both itching to get going when we do hook up. But there is no masterplan. Like most things I do, I have no urgency to force creativity – things happen when they’re ready to happen.

And which producers are really doing it for you right now?

So many. I like so many styles and my tastes warp all the time – and I’m picky so I can’t say anyone is consistently on my radar either. Artists I’ll try to check include Juju & Jordash, Voiski, Steve Moore, Lord Of The Isles, DJ Qu, Joe Claussell, GB, Laraaji, Wolf Muller, Donato Dozzy, The Black Dog, Stasis, Pye Corner Audio, Hydergine, Petar Dundov, Nax Acid, Ellis Island Sound… oh and pretty much anyone who releases on the US label Further Records.

Finally, what’s your ultimate end of night tune?

I have loads of full-stops, if you like. But I probably have two favourites, although I rarely play them as I’m not a fan of repetition. But, the USG remix of ‘Do You Want Me’ by Blak Beat Niks, or the Frankie Knuckles ‘Hallucinogenic’ mix of ‘Ain’t Nobody’ by Rufus & Chaka Khan. Both unashamedly singalongs made for emotional goodbyes.

Click here to enquire about Jane Fitz via the MN2S booking agency.

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