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One afternoon, while perusing Soundcloud, I serendipitously happened across Jet Airess, a DJ and producer from Borneo. More specifically, she’s from Sarawak, one of two Malaysian states that share the island with five Indonesian provinces and the nation of Brunei. As such, her music is influenced by club rhythms from all over the world, as well as Sarawakian and Borneon sonic traditions. Her page’s description articulately self-identifies the genre: “Harmonics and Hardness… This is Borneo Bass.” Over email, I got to talk to her about global bass, the worldwide electronic music community, and her experiences as a DJ and a producer in the age of the Internet.
How did you come up with the name Jet Airess?
I was thinking since my previous job was an air stewardess, the closest name I could think of was Airess. I added Jet to the front a while later coz I wasn’t ready with the DJ term, as I needed to prove my capability as a DJ first before calling myself a DJ… :)
What does global bass represent to you?
Global bass is a modern type of world music formatted to dance music of this era, a blend of native and traditional with a modern twist.
What is the electronic music scene like in Sarawak? Can you talk about Borneo bass a little bit?
Honestly there is a barricade with the music scene and MUSIC!! around here. I’m just doing things and always keeping it positive in that perspective, as we are full of a culture with numerous ethnicities and races. We Sarawakian Borneons love our cultural heritage very much – most of us will try to preserve it for the future generations in various aspects, be it through music, agriculture, traditions etc. At least initially, I guess that is how Borneo Bass was created.
The first person to have actually done the mix of the traditional and dance music together was my guru, known as DJ Sundae, followed by a team of Bassfriends from the north of Borneo (Sabah), as we are from the south side of the Borneo Island, Sarawak.
Have you always been a DJ and producer? What led to you to where you are now?
Initially, for a year plus, I was a DJ, until the urge to flow some self-made tracks came to mind. During one event I met with DJ Sundae & Pharmacist (S&P) who are my label managers now, they were in the production biz way before I started DJing. DJ Sundae, who is the founder of Bassfriends Records, has been my officially appointed tutor ever since. It took me a while to do my own solo track from A-Z… Yes, I am still learning as we speak. :)
What is your creative process like when you produce? What kind of mood do you want to create?
I realized that I like to create my own sound with the plugins. For example, if I like a sound from any of our traditional music instruments, I will try to create the sound if not 100% but slightly similar. As we are producing digital music, I guess it’s fair enough that I replicate using the DAW.
Since I live in a tropical/monsoon climate, it’s either automatically set or in my imagination that I’m in a tree house in the rainforest overlooking the greens, the mystic mountain over looking the sea and the wild life… Hahhaah, yes seriously… :) The mood would be dark deep in the rain forest…
What kinds of things did you listen to growing up? Who are your influences?
Honestly, I grew up listening to what my parents liked to play on their car stereo. Classics, I guess: The Carpenters, Abba, Frank Sinatra, a few more but I can’t recall the names. But I remember the sound and our local legend artists were P. Ramlee and Broery Marantika (Indonesia). Nevertheless, I love music unconditionally, as long as it is permissible to my hearing and other senses :) and if I love one particular song, I will tend to still love it for years to come.
You have released music internationally on quite a few labels: Toronto’s Latino Resiste, Houston’s Global Bassed, and American imprint Bassfriends Records, to name a few. How do these collaborations happen? Do they usually find you or you them?
Wow, I guess that was pure luck, there were a few that discovered me, and mostly I’ve discovered them from Facebook and Soundcloud myself, and vice versa.
What does your dream collaboration look like? Who have been your favorite collaborations in the past?
Diplo… lol. No seriously, the reason for that is because his music evolves according to my taste and time. Nevertheless, I’ve had amazing and mad collaborations to date, but if I was a beginner Jet Airess, these would still be the same people that I would want to collab with in the future. I love all these dudes, they are super nice even though we never met, hey thanks guys. The names are S&P (Malaysia) of course, Michael Banginclude (New York), Caballo of Latino Resiste (Colombia), Billion Dollars (Mexico), Luke Duckworth (UK), Rama Rival (Indonesia), and Francesco Lombardo (Italy). I have upcoming collabs with Chuck Upbeat (Russia), MC Zulu (Chicago, Illinois), PNCVZ (Venezuela), and Moombahking (Chile).
At least in the mainstream, the electronic music community has been dominated by primarily white men, but it seems like that may be starting to change a bit. What has your experience been like as a female DJ, both in real life and online?
I surely would love to see more of that around, music has no boundaries. For me, the gender issue doesn’t really change your creative self. My experiences as a female DJ were the best experiences so far throughout this lifetime, it is a blessing to be able to hype the crowd with your own self-made beats, as well as spinning the genre that you hold close to heart.
What’s next for you, in terms of releasing new music? Any chance of a tour?
Honestly speaking, I am taking a short break right now. Hopefully when I get back to the DAW I’ll be able to come out with something fresh n flavourable.
I’m doing some small studies in regards to my new releases, hoping to get some crazy ideas during this break. Tour!! It’s every DJ’s dream and is at the top of my wish list… :) But for an un-mainstream DJ, as well as being from where I’m from, the chances are really 50/50.
To hear more Jet Airess, follow her on Soundcloud. To hear more Nina Posner, follow her on Twitter.