Named by Billboard Magazine as one of the ‘Top 30 Under Thirty’ in the music industry, Jason’s music supervision credits include: HBO’s Six Feet Under, The Closer for TNT and Free Radio for VH-1 in addition to DJ’ing the 86th Academy Awards Governors Ball and creating mixes for Fred Segal. Michael Kors, Beats Music and Urban Decay. I was turned on to Jason’s work through our mutal friend Andrew and I caught up with him to discuss his career.
I think to describe you as a DJ is limiting and doesn’t do you justice. How would you describe what you do?
I have always described myself as an artist. I am constantly working in different mediums and practicing a variety of disciplines simultaneously. Everything I do is based in the arts. Music, performing, writing, painting, cooking, design. I have a great appreciation for the creative process and I am happy to contribute whenever I can.
You’ve consulted on various music projects. Tell us about that process.
Consulting is a dream come true because the bulk of that work is mainly making suggestions. Unlike other jobs where I have to go through the process of licensing music, consultancy is more about sharing ideas and it is the essence of creativity. A client will come to me with a specific project and it is my job to pitch a selection of music that will fit their needs. As with everything I do, I also try to maintain a bit of my own signature in the work.
You DJ’ed the 86th Academy Awards Governors Ball and also provided a mix for the Oscar’s Foreign Language Film Nominees reception. How did that collaboration come about?
Tom Hanks and Annette Bening were hosting a private inaugural fundraiser last year for the upcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. I was asked to create a mix of movie soundtracks for that event and it turned out to be a big success. When it came time for the Oscars to hire a DJ for the Governors Ball, they remembered my previous work and I got the call. It was a really incredible night.
Music is such an emotive and powerful tool. What factors do you consider when curating your play lists for various clients?
I tend to gravitate toward music and art that has a strong sense of originality and I continually strive to curate for quality in everything that I do. My number one concern is maintaining a high level of integrity for both the project and myself. That said, I also constantly look for places where I can take risks and think outside the box.
Do you prefer the immediate visceral response from your audience when DJ’ing as opposed to other environments?
DJ’ing in front of a live audience and DJ’ing on the radio each have their own unique perks. When I am DJ’ing live, it is all about instant communication. A good DJ is able to read the crowd and the space. It is amazing how a DJ can immediately change the temperature of the room based on what he or she is playing. On the other hand, when I’m doing a radio show— even though I might get listeners texting or calling in— it can sometimes feel like performing in a bit of a vacuum. I guess a good comparison would be acting on stage as opposed to acting on film. In theatre, you have an instant response from a live audience that you don’t usually get while working in front of a camera. The same goes for DJ’ing. When you play live you can get an immediate response, whereas on the radio or with a prerecorded mix, the response is more delayed. Usually there is an opportunity to take more substantial risks with the latter, because you’re not as concerned with keeping the flow of the room going.
What projects are you working on that you can share?
I am currently in the process of launching AccidentalRhythm.com, which is the exciting new chapter of my radio show. It has been thrilling to move my program over to its own independent entity, because it feels like such a new idea. Aside from maybe the BBC, it seems like radio stations as we’ve come to know them are coming to an end and I am really intrigued to see what happens next in the world of webcasting. In addition to the new phase of my show, I am also helping produce a documentary focusing on the town of Montauk in the Hamptons and this year also marks my fifth year anniversary of DJ’ing for Oliver Peoples. I will be playing their Summer Sessions series again this July in Malibu.
What do you think are the most common misconceptions about what you do?
DJ’s are not jukeboxes. I am usually not opposed to requests, but what I don’t understand is when the occasional person wants to change the entire vibe of what a DJ is playing just because it doesn’t suit his or her particular taste. You wouldn’t ask a chef at a restaurant to rewrite the entire menu just because you aren’t familiar with the dishes, would you? When I hear other DJs play live, I am genuinely interested in how their sets are going to unfold. I want to know about the music that other people have discovered and how they choose to express their individual taste. That is the genius of the job. I recently had a long conversation with a friend who said, “I understand that you are playing songs up there, but what exactly is it that you are doing? Like, what are you listening to in those headphones?” I tried to explain the concepts of cueing and beat-matching and orchestrating the appropriate tempos and pitches and it all sort of blew his mind. I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the complicated process that goes into the work. DJ’ing is the epitome of postmodernism. It is the act of taking ready-made works of art and creating something new. To me, that is the highest level of creativity because it is such a unique form of collaboration. DJ’ing is about creating a collage. It’s auditory assemblage. I think Marcel Duchamp would have been really amazed to see this type of curating happening. He also would have made one hell of a DJ.
Follow him at @JasonEldredge