The essential online TV show that blasts the best grime live every Wednesday

26.06.12 Words by: Anthony Walker

On Wednesday evenings, a corner of the internet goes into overdrive when Just Jam stream their live show. The music channel – an arm of the broader blogging site www.dontwatchthat.tv – is a home-grown interactive multi-media project that encourages openness and participation. It’s a new take on community broadcasting, stressing the DIY verve and colour of early youth TV with some of the most exciting DJs of now.

Taking the cosy setting of their London studio base, chopping it up with live visualisations and blasting it out worldwide via Ustream they’ve have made a name for themselves through a strong work ethic, sense of fun and sharp artist selection, with previous guests including DJ Q, Lady Chann, D Double E as well those outside of the fertile grime-bashment-funky-bassline scene like DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn and Brenmar. I got in touch with the creators of Just Jam to ask about how they got started, how they juggle the demands of running a weekly show on the internet and their ambitions for growth.

Firstly, what is Just Jam and who is involved in it?

A simplified description is that Just Jam is a live weekly audio/visual online music show, which celebrates underground music. A more detailed explanation is that it’s a visual experiment centred around music which also features live in-show visual edits, a multi camera system and show segments.

It’s the brain child of photographers and video directors Tim & Barry (Us!) and a bunch of Don’t Watch That family members. Hakim Bahgari, Ben Turvey, Shaun Savage, Ben Day, Ben Ellesworth, Bui Mushekwa, Pheobe Platman and Akinola Davies Jr. whose contributions are far greater than they would ever imagine.

It’s what we do every Wednesday, which allows us to hangout and collaborate with our best friends to produce something innovative and record some great music. There is always a lot of love flying around the room as well as booze.

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“We hangout and collaborate with our best friends to produce something innovative and record some great music. There is always a lot of love flying around the room as well as booze.”

I first heard about you guys through your work photographing and filming grime artists a few years ago. How did all that start up?

We started doing freestyles with grime MCs in 2006, because people like Risky Roadz, Practice Hours and Lord of the Mics had stopped doing them. Due to the fledgling prominence of Youtube, kids would upload freestyles straight away, which meant people stopped buying DVDs, so there was no money in hard copy sales. We had wanted to do film stuff for a long while but didn’t have access to equipment, editing software or a platform for it. Suddenly when photography cameras started having video options, we “acquired” editing software and Youtube provided us an audience.

We began making some of the earliest content exclusively for an online audience to which the response was extremely overwhelming. Our reaction to this was build a website to host it all- www.timandbarry.tv, friends like Lev (Palace Skateboards) and Ben Drury (Silent Listener) subsequently asked if they could put stuff on the site. Flattered that this wealth of talent would be under one roof we decided to change the name to reflect this online community. We had already been using the tag line “Don’t watch that” in our videos so www.dontwatchthat.tv was conceived.

How did Just Jam develop from the earlier projects you were involved with?

It actually came from a bigger and earlier concept around 2008 called Jam. We pitched it to several companies but unfortunately the credit crunch had just transpired and they were all still commercially trying to get their heads around the concept of Youtube! – let alone a massive multimedia live streaming project! In all honesty we were a bit too early for them!

We shelved the idea for a while, then when our friend Dean opened The Alibi in 2010 we approached him about doing a scaled down version of the idea called Just Jam. We shot the entire first series there and now the second series is edging a lot closer to the original concept, however there are still a lot more of the original ideas to facilitate.

How’s it been running the night as an live internet stream and how does it differ from organising a traditional night out?

It’s difficult because we didn’t originally charge on the door and Just Jam being even more self-contained means we don’t have a physical audience to charge like a traditional night. Alongside this, the organisation that goes into running Just Jam can be very detailed and painstaking similar to that of a traditional event, so only having to deal with one side of this is far more manageable and easier on the nervous system.

Also, with the whole project being self-funded, on the one hand it gives us creative freedom which is such a blessing yet on the other hand it means all artists and crew are unpaid. We have to maintain our equipment, the space and general upkeep ourselves. We love it though and the response from the majority of artists that have played is that they want to come back. Hopefully the love which we all have making it happen, is reflected amongst the team and possibly in each performance and set as it’s such a relaxed, chilled out vibe.

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Do you think that it’s particularly important to stream performances live online now?

Well yes, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it! We’re an original part the Youtube generation. It is very much it’s own monster now, which is becoming more a corporate thing as opposed to the early days. Also there are less creative and challenging shows on television these days. We were big fans of The Word and Dance Energy which were very ahead of there time. The whole aesthetic, tone and patch-work format was something that excited us when we watched both. We think it’s important to keep up with technology, for many including ourselves it is a daunting task. There seem to be new things happening everyday, the best way to approach it is to take what works for you and build on it.

Just Jam is empowering and accessible in terms of something positive from our generation . People can click on www.dontwatchthat.tv/just-jam every Wednesday evening, watch the show and be an interactive part through Twitter and Facebook. They hear their names called out and they can ask their favourite DJ’s and performers questions. Moreover the audience can tune in and watch their friends perform with some more established acts which is always trippy.

“The internet allows kids to make music a lot of which might be copycat versions of their influences, within that though someone will take all their influences and make something magical and original.”

How do you intend to develop the model? Do you have any big guests or takeovers planned for the near future?

We think organic growth is very important and this has always been a feature of our work’s aesthetic. It has some cons, but the pros far outweigh them. More importantly it helps to make a project community-based rather than something that would only serve to exploit those it’s really trying to promote. In a perfect world there are a huge amount of ideas we’d want to develop further. How and when we’ll be able to do that is a matter of timing and finding the right opportunities to do so. We’re not looking to compromise our aesthetic so we’d prefer to nurture it and maximise its full potential.

In regards to things coming up in the future we’re open to ideas but we’re still always booking guests who excite us. We don’t really want to give anything away. We figure we should “just do” as opposed make a bunch of noise about what we’re doing. Music at the moment is in an interesting place. The internet allows kids to make music a lot of which might be copycat versions of their influences, within that though someone will take all their influences and make something magical and original. Those are who we want on Just Jam because they are the innovators. Also they are the ones who tend to put the most time and effort into really nurturing an idea.

Still we really appreciate the support of those who tune into Just Jam every week from Miami, Chicago and London, you know who you are! Also to those who put our videos up and generally spread the word. For all the difficult days we might endure we’re truly grateful and appreciate every re-tweet, blog post and interview.

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