Interview: Galactus Jack

Jun 16 2009

With a new EP just released, LTTM talked to one of the biggest up and coming stars in the world of Christian Dance Music. Galactus Jack tells us about club managers talking to him about Jesus, the hard times of the Christian Music World and playing gigs in New York.

How long have you been Galactus Jack? Tell us a bit of history about how you got to be doing what you are doing.

I started off DJ'ing and touring with British Youth For Christ about 9 years ago, and from there met Si.D with who I would go on to set up DJ worship group Aorta. We toured around for about 6 years or so and released a record called 'Love Hope Future' back in 2005 after we took on a third member, a producer called Andy Searle-Barnes. They were really good times and we learned so much from those gigs and tours, but inevitably when working as a group you have to make a lot of compromises.

After we got the first record out I started thinking that it would be cool to do something on my own that was more fully my own sound, rather than one third of a sound! So I guess Galactus Jack was born in the early part of 2006 from that line of thinking. I recorded some demo's over the years but could never get anything solid down. When we eventually decided to call it a day with Aorta around 2 years ago, about 6 months before we officially announced it, I thought it was time to step up and deliver something as a solo artist. So the last 2 years have been spent planning, writing and recording the debut record. Its been such a long process its a relief to get it out there!

Tell us a little bit about your latest EP 'Reality Bytes'?

The EP is really a fusion of my favorite sounds and influences in dance music and beyond. I worked with an amazing engineer/producer called Chris Taylor on the whole record and we recorded it on and off over a year at rooftop studio's in Liverpool. A year sounds like a long time for only 7 tracks but there was a lot of hard work and abandoned ideas to get to the finished product!

The best part for me was having the guest collaborators like Shell Perris, Ad-Apt and Lindsay come in and work on the different tracks. Everyone brought something different, and had a different way of working which was really exciting. I love working with talented people, they make me sound good! A liverpool based singer called Ste Hedley did the vocal sample on Hollywood and nailed the sound so well I just wanted to record a classic big band or swing song with him, it was a shame to mash it up!

What was the inspiration behind 'Reality Bytes'?

Well musically I have a really wide taste, and I get really frustrated when people dismiss an entire genre of music and every song within it. A good song is a good song at the end of the day regardless of genre, so I wanted to write a dance record that would appeal to dance fans, and those who can't stand traditional 'dance music'. We approached every track slightly differently but overall we tried to write them like a rock band would write a song but with a dance sensibility. In fact the general rule during recording was "more guitar!".

The theme of the record is reality, so all the tracks pick up on a different aspect of that. I think the greatest challenge we have as Christians is to be Authentic, its what we all need and crave but we can only get that authenticity and truth from God. The world offers so much fake reality, when true authenticity shines through it always points to God.

Do you find it easier or harder in the Christian music world being a DJ and not a "normal band"?

Harder! It can be hard for people to take you seriously as club culture is either frowned upon in the Christian scene, or there is little experience or understanding of it. I'm hoping that the record opens some peoples minds to the fact a DJ can produce 'real' music like a band and give a crowd a great show, but if its a choice of me or the up and coming new rock band I think a lot of promoters go with what they know works which I totally understand, but would love to see shift a little bit. I've been playing a lot recently with a live drummer which adds the extra element, but still do a lot of shows with just the decks. Having said that I'm working on touring the record as a band next year, adding to the live drums with guitars and vocals. It'll be like a DJ/Rock band hybrid!

When playing in clubs do you get much reaction from the punters regarding your Christian message in the music?

Actually I would say that the dance music scene is the easiest to incorporate spiritual messages and ideas into. "You Got The Love" by The Source ft Candi Staton has to be one of the biggest dance tunes ever and its a full on gospel, God focused song. House music in particular has a long history of gospel orientated lyrics. I'd love to take that principle and do 'rock' type gigs with similar lyrical ideas and focus, maybe I could get away with it more than a traditional rock band, who knows.

I find more than the music, I get the most attention from the bar staff and managers at clubs for being 'different' in attitude to some of the other DJ's which has led to some incredible conversations including one time when a club manager asked me "so what's this Jesus stuff all about?" just as I was in mid mix for the busy dance floor! Most of that stuff comes out of relationship at the end of the day, and it comes back to being real. There has been a lot of talk about making church relevant over the years, well to me its pretty simple, the Christian community needs to raise its game, me included, and start living authentic God centered lives, that will always be more relevant than trying to follow a secular trend.

What's your song writing process?

I will get an initial idea, like a vocal hook or melody line, and then start building something from there. That's why working with Chris Taylor on this record was so great because we were on the same wavelength most of the time and he really caught my vision and sound. I think the best thing is to trust your instincts and be prepared to let it develop outside of your initial idea. 'Hollywood' for example started out as this epic rock track with a full on chorus vocal talking about rocking it up in Hollywood. By the time Ste had come into the studio and contributed the track had morphed into this big beat, hooky number with a chorus that sounded like an old sample. It was a really fluid process, and sometimes you just have to go with it, worst case scenario you scrap it and move on.

Where is the best gig venue you have played at?

I played this cool bar in Brooklyn, NY called the Union Pool which was fun because of the location, but crowd wise it would have to be opening up for Family Force 5 at New Day festival a couple of years back, the crowd was totally up for it! Hopefully if you ask me again in a year we'll have a new champion.

Which do you prefer playing live or recording albums?

They are both really different, but I would have to say playing live. That's where you really connect with the audience and get the feedback as to whether they are having a good time or not. I find recording can be a bit stressful, especially when it comes out and you have to let it go! But with a gig you can always evolve and improve even in the space of an hour on stage, or four hours in the DJ booth at a club

I also love hitting the road with other bands, as a huge music fan one of the biggest privileges of what I do is getting to see great bands perform all over the place.

Whats on your iPod at the moment?

Good question, erm, the new prodigy record is mega. Liam Howlett is definitely a musical hero. I discovered the US band MuteMath late in the day and their album is amazing, I think they have a new one out soon, I would love to remix something for them. Also a buddy of mine from Canada, Matt Henderson, just released his album and I'm waiting to get that, which from what I've heard so far is ace. I hope he appreciates the plug.

Your stuck on an island, its hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your mp3. What track is it?

Oh man that's a horrible question! What a choice to have to make... oh this is like a strange form of torture... erm... 11:11 by Rufus Wainwright, I love that song, but ask me again in 5 minutes and I'll have changed my mind.

What does the next year hold for Galactus Jack?

Well hopefully people will respond positively to the record and that'll lead to more opportunities to get out and play live, which is in many ways what the record is for. I've already started working on some new tracks and I'm thinking about releasing a single towards the end of the year with maybe a full album to follow next summer. Before some of that though I'll probably look to do a few remixes for some bands and hopefully see some of you at a gig in the near future!

Read the Reality Bytes Review.

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