It’s noon, and a soft late morning light spills into Jamie Jones’s impeccably white and impressively minimalist living room. Birds chirp in the background. Through floor-to-ceiling windows, there’s a peak at a cloudy downtown, but Jones isn’t seeing it. Instead he’s hidden behind monitors and mixing equipment, working on music in his cozy closet of a home studio.
Jamie Jones is a heavyweight in dance music, but for many mainstream fans, his name may be unfamiliar. That’s because Jones is a king in the underground house and techno scenes, one of the guys who still mixes his sets live. Essentially, underground is the antithesis of what Angelenos know to be typical club life. “When that word is around, it usually means that it was started because of music,” Jones says.
Jones moved to London in 1999 from a small town in Wales, where he grew up. He started DJing parties there, and in 2004 he played his first U.S. show, a loft party thrown by fellow underground DJ Lee Foss. In 2007 Jones was playing for DJ and label owner Damian Lazarus's “Get Lost” party in Miami when a promoter from Hollywood’s Avalon was in attendance. The promoter dug Jones’s performance so much he asked him to come out to L.A.
Nowadays, Jones splits his time between London and L.A., though he prefers for the most part to live at his Hollywood home over London, especially in the winter. While Jones has gained enough mainstream notoriety to have played at festivals like EDC and snag a headlining spot at the newest Southern California dance music festival, CRSSD in San Diego, the underground is still where he's most at home — and he says L.A.’s still got a ways to go until it has a cohesive underground scene like London or New York.
“There’s different scenes, but… there’s not a scene that’s a whole scene yet. There’s little tiny pockets,” he explains. L.A. has a reputation for being one of the world's great music capitals, and yet a truly complete underground scene hasn’t developed here. Why?
It’s not because there isn’t a market for it, says Jones. “L.A. is ripe for the taking, for some people to start some regular parties.” The problem holding the city back is one Angelenos know too well: Our city is not easy to get around.
“That’s the thing about L.A.,” says Jones, “Because everyone lives so far apart, it’s tough to create a city vibe where everyone’s kind of like, there’s a party there, there’s a couple afterparties over there… you can’t just pop from one thing to another.”
Jones thinks there is a key to making L.A. an underground mecca: Focus on downtown. “The more that downtown becomes developed, and the more that people move down there and the more artsy, cool things that there are, I think that will definitely help create a really cool underground scene.”
Which is not to say that it’s not growing already. Yes, the typical Vegas lineup of performers — sometimes known dismissively as “press play” DJ’s — still rule in L.A. clubs, but new ventures like Culprit’s Lot 613 parties, reliable pop-up party places like No Filter, and deep house and techno clubs like Sound are gaining more and more fans who are tired of seeing the same thing at every festival or show.
Jones isn't some underground snob or purist. He says of the uber-famous “press play” producers, “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how bad the music [is], how much someone’s getting paid, or how little actual DJing they’re doing, people who have come to see them are having a good time…Who am I—or anyone—to say that's rubbish?”
And these fans eventually filter down to people like Jones. “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” he says. A few months ago, Jones played an eight-hour set in New York. After the show a girl approached him, gushing her excitement over his set and telling him she drove two hours to see him after first discovering his music at TomorrowWorld, a mainstream EDM festival in Atlanta.
“That person hasn’t come into it from any preconception of like a scene or trying to be cool,” Jones points out. She probably went to TomorrowWorld because of a big name on the lineup, but that big name brought her to Jones, and a whole new scene outside of the festival and bottle-service realm.
With festivals like CRSSD and New York's Mysteryland announcing lineups featuring more artists of Jones’s sector, it’s clear the EDM scene as a whole in America is changing. L.A. especially has the room to grow and a large market of fans who are looking for something new.
“Now that the underground scene is rolling, it can only go one way — grow and grow and grow, the same way it has in Europe. But it needed to be introduced to the mass youth culture.”
Jamie Jones headlines the Palms Stage at CRSSD Festival in San Diego's Waterfront Park, March 14-15. Tickets, full lineup and more info here.