JAUZ On Staying Active At Home, Being A BLM Ally & His Creative Approach To Livestreaming
Sam Vogel is a 26-year-old music producer, professionally known as JAUZ. Based out of Los Angeles, the artist has taken dance music to new heights with intricate production skills, energetic live shows and an ever-growing fanbase. As an international staple, Vogel frequently performs at major music festivals worldwide. His debut album, The Wise And The Wicked, released in 2018 and reached no. 1 on the dance charts.
Most recently headlining the ‘Dangerous Waters’ U.S. tour, JAUZ is now home in Southern California working on new projects during the pandemic. He’s gearing up to release a new single, "Wildlife" with pop vocalist KARRA on June 26.
We recently caught up with the producer, who reflected on the year so far, social justice in America, health and wellness routines from home and projecting his next steps as an artist.
2020 has been a really challenging year for all. Music and sports are what fans turn to when needing a distraction from the outside world. What has it been like and how do you stay motivated during these times?
As touring musicians this has affected us a little bit more than most people. I don’t wish this lockdown and pandemic on anybody. But, as opposed to be being upset or depressed, I’m not taking for granted the giant pause button that has been hit on my life. Touring full time for six years now, I haven’t had as much time to work on music, being creative and be with my wife and dog.
There’s a large silver lining for not just me, but people in my position. It would be really hard for someone like myself or my peers to say, "I’m going to take X amount of time off from touring, making money, playing shows for the fans. I need time for me." We’re in June and if things had all gone according to plan, I would probably be in the busiest part of my year. I don’t think I realized how much I needed this kind of time off.
As a non-Black ally, why was it important for you to speak out and join the Black community in solidarity?
There are many reasons. I have always been a proponent of fighting for what you believe in and what’s right, regardless if you’re a business or brand. I grew up inspired by bands like Rage Against The Machine and System Of A Down. These artists were really vocal in what they believed in and trying to make a positive impact on the world. I don’t think what’s going on here should be divisive at all. There are a lot of smaller subjects that you could be on opposing sides of. I think at the end of the day, it’s either you want equality and justice for a race of people who have been oppressed for 400 years in our country, or you’re a racist. I think everybody should be able to get behind the fact that Black Lives Matter.
I felt like I had to voice my opinion and platform to provide awareness to what’s going on. I didn’t feel like I could sit here and do my normal things, to run my livestreams and be an artist when the world is on fire. Personally I couldn’t feel genuine going on as if everything was normal. I think there’s a lot more that I could be doing and I’m setting up fundraisers to take real action.
Artists have adapted to the virtual world recently. You started streaming performances on Twitch and working with producers on their demos. Where did these concepts originate from?
Even before lockdown I’ve been doing livestreams. On Monday’s we call it "Demo Roulette," where I review MP3s sent in or full projects. I’ll go in and work on them with that person, more from an educational standpoint. On my last tour, our videographer had a full livestream backpack so at bigger concerts you could go to my Twitch channel and literally watch the show as it happened in real time. I’ve always been a fan of livestreaming and the Twitch community, it’s something I’ve wanted to be a part of. Now with everything going on, there’s never been a better time for me to tackle it full force.
I’ve created a weekly schedule like a television channel. Each day has a branded segment. "Wednesday Workshop" for example, I came up with that name yesterday. When you look through that lens it feels like another education tool. Thursday is "In The Tank," my new podcast where I bring artists on and do in-depth interviews about life.
There’s nothing like performing for thousands of people on tour. Recently you’ve taken part of livestream fests with Beatport and Insomniac. How have you adjusted your sets to the virtual world?
I think that’s a good question and a big reason why I haven’t done too many livestream festivals. I had just gotten off a three month bus tour and was burnt out on playing shows, especially ones consisting of all my music. With two or three online shows each week, it would be hard for me to genuinely be excited about playing the same music I just did for three months straight. For Beatport, I played all deep tech house music, because that’s what I love playing for myself. On the EDC stream I wanted to stand out and played 25 minutes of my oldest records that I never play anymore and 25 minutes of drum and bass, which is something I love but doesn’t necessarily get recognition in the States. Instead of playing all of the livestream festivals like ‘Look at me, look at how great I am,’ it was more about how I can bring awareness to stuff I care about.
Early on during the quarantine you did Instagram Live home workouts with your wife, who is a fitness instructor. Has that been a good outlet to connect with fans and physically stay active?
Yeah, Joann has been really good helping me get into working out, which is something I never did my entire life. Because we are all stuck at home, there’s nothing stopping anyone from improving your life from the comfort of your home. You don’t need a gym, you wake up and do pushups, crunches and stuff around the house. If you do that every day, you’ll probably be in better shape than I am right now because I’ve been pretty bad at it [laughs]. I’ve been taking this as an opportunity to play the guitar again, which is something I haven’t had the time to get back into. Film and photo editing too, which I did a lot when I was younger.
I’ve been asked this a lot recently. "What’s the advice you would give to people to help them get through this and how to stay positive?" I think if you’re learning a new hobby, skill or improving on skills that you have and better yourself, that’s the best way.
Let’s talk about your new single coming out, “Wildlife” with KARRA. How did the project come about? I heard you collaborated with her over Zoom?
It was actually on a "Workshop Wednesday" show. It was about bringing in an artist and writing together. We used Zoom so we could talk face-to-face while working on the song and give the concept of what a studio session feels like even through the Internet. Putting that concept together forced me to reach out to these artists that I’ve wanted to work with but never had the time, or too busy with other music. Now I have all the time to make whatever I want, so I had this opportunity to work with tons of different vocalists and songwriters that I normally would not think about while in the middle of touring.
The first time I heard the song was on the stream with KARRA and we went through it together. I almost wrote the entire song, start to finish, in three or four hours. I’ve written a lot in the last couple of months that are focused on being songs and not being tracks, much more about the vocals and song as a whole then having a big crazy drop. If feels really good, something I care about and I’m glad music like this is coming out from me.
Are there any artists or bands you would like to work with in the future? Is there a dream project?
There’s so many people I would love to work with outside of dance music. I grew up in the metal world, my goal was to be a guitarist in a band before I even heard of dance music. I’ve started working with a band or two, hopefully doing production on their record that has nothing to do with me. It helps me take what I’ve learned, bringing it into the world that got me to where I am today. Guitar and rock music is why I am a professional music producer today, even if what I make sounds nothing like it.
"We’re in June and if things had all gone according to plan, I would probably be in the busiest part of my year. I don’t think I realized how much I needed this kind of time off."
As far as a dream scenario, Twenty One Pilots. I’m not a huge pop person, but to me they nail it on the head. They’re incredible. They basically do what I do. They write their songs all electronically. They have real instruments, they’re as much producers as musicians. You can hear it in their music, and it would be cool to see what their process is for writing a song. I think it would be super inspiring.
Last year saw you reach new heights, playing Coachella and major festivals around the globe. When touring is possible again, what do you and your Bite This! label have planned?
I don’t have anything planned right now [laughs]. I’m literally taking it day by day. When we are back, we’re going to be back! I’m taking this time off to write as much music as I humanly can because I know the second the flood gates open, I’m gone. We had a lot of cool plans as far as festival takeovers. As bummed as I am that none of that stuff is happening, I’m taking it as an opportunity. Now I have the time to build myself more as an artist, so when touring does come back, I can do those things but even bigger and better. To one up myself.
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