Pa Salieu closed the 2021 Youth Music Awards
Simon Whybray wants an NTS show "so bad." He got a taste for it when covering for Mamiko Motto's show Hepcat Radio in September last year, where the seeds of JACK댄스 were sown. Run roughly every other a month, JACK댄스 showcases producers and DJs picked out of the online labyrinth, thrusting them into the land of live perfromance. "We were talking a lot about there not being a good club night for the kind of music that she and I were playing," he says.
By that kind of music, Whybray means the stuff you could easily confuse for pop played too fast and beaten into a pulp of grime, gabber, or happy hardcore circa Y2K and the millennium bug. It's music that's overloaded with references, samples, and appropriations, rampantly ripping from the World Wide Web and moulded into something that's both of and outside its time to generate a hyperactive sense of everything and anything, always and all at once. It's music that's of the internet.
Whybray – a promoter, graphic designer, performer, and producer ("aka DJ Dead Air, aka Lil Emoji, aka Yung Bot") – is, surprisingly, super slow with his answers, typed out on Google Docs. Conversation becomes breezier when we switch to Skype: "Hard to write, I can mumble better about that IRL, but feels like jumble to write." I’m shocked. This is, after all, the chirpy online persona who posed as Will Self on Twitter for nine months before turning the account over to his band, TEETH, and who usually replies to email immediately, sometimes signed with a 😀.
But then, in person, Whybray is equally as friendly, and is managing to throw some of the most fun live nights in London right now. Locals like Felicita, Ana Caprix, SOPHIE, and GFOTY have performed at his shows, usually happening in the hot and sweaty basement of Dalston venue Power Lunches. PC Music mastermind A.G. Cook played his first live performance ("and last, according to him," Whybray says) at the DIY venue for a TEETH gig in January 2013. It was this gig that gave him the initial inspiration to make JACK댄스 a regular occurence. "I promoted that show and filled it with too much smoke and pink lights," Whybray says, "Made me really wanna do it regularly."
Simon Whybray. Photo by Ellis Scott.
Branded by block-coloured animation appropriations and mutilated international characters focused on "simple, colourful stuff, minimal info, and good merch," JACK댄스 – is an anomaly in the typically broody, pretty macho London electronic scene at large. This is music made by a sensibility that is anything but, as Whybray tells me about his Instagram girlfriend while running through his iTunes history ("I never delete anything") to track an evolution as musician, enthusiast and digital dilettante. "This aesthetic has never really been part of my character," says Whybray frankly. He’s in his lounge room looking at his collection of 7" records bought when he was 18 and working in Starbucks in Milton Keynes, "the most generic city in the UK." It’s all indie. Considering he moves through new music so fast that he orders his iTunes by date added, it’s no surprise that back then he’d "basically bought every 7" that came out for two years."
Whybray has seen the creative landscape change dramatically since his teens, and his musical tastes along with it. After moving to London suburb of East Dulwich, he found himself wedged between two young families and their babies, which meant live drums were out of the question. He taught himself to use an electronic kit through his headphones. Then there was a MySpace ad from a then-two-piece TEETH looking for a drummer, and then a few years of the dance-punk hybrid rehearsing in an East London squat – when those things still existed. After that, space became an impossible privilege, and Whybray fully integrated into the online realm, where the squatters now live and the really interesting stuff exists. "Soundcloud is a squat now," he says, before adding drily, "Actually, no, Tumblr is a squat. Soundcloud is a café. Maybe Soundcloud is a squat as well. All of them are squats. Facebook is a fucking burnt down dank squat. Facebook’s a slum."
Because it wasn’t enough for corporate interests to privatise just the physical world, Whybray eulogises the Facebook musician’s page in favour of Tumblr, where he credits one grossmary with introducing him to the said social network and teaching him how to use it "properly", and finally finding the computer-generated gloss of Contact Lens. "That’s definitely the first solid thing that kind of opened up the new weird world of Soundcloud users."
JACK댄스 is a product of all of this. With one foot on either side of the online/offline border, Whybray draws from the "self-sustaining ecosystem" of internet-as-DIY counterculture, where the producers he prefers to work with first learn their craft there before eventually bringing it into the club. "I think JACK댄스 works right now cause nothing still beats sweating IRL," he types, "But it won't be long until we’ll look back at going to a club and laugh."
Until then, Micachu, Et Aliae, Kero Kero Bonito, Dora tha Xplorer, モニカ·σníkαミックス and Spinee are playing what will probably be JACK댄스’s final show in London for the year, before bringing it to New York in September. So best get a ticket and leave the laptop behind.
JACK댄스 feat. Micachu, Kero Kero Bonito, Spinee, モニカ·σníkαミックスand more takes place at Power Lunches in Dalston, London on Saturday August 16th 2014 (buy tickets).