Owen Jay: ‘In the morning, my son always reminds me to play some vinyl unless he has a request’

Deejay Owen Jay tells all in our Q&A

Owen Jay. Photo by James Bianchi/Mediatoday
Owen Jay. Photo by James Bianchi/Mediatoday

Indelibly marked on Malta’s club scene, deejay Owen Jay has released some 30 vinyls on renowned labels Deep Explorer, Underground Quality, Metrolux, Housewax, Moto Music and, coming soon, on Swiss Label DeepArtSounds. He will perform with pianist Tricia Dawn Williams on an interpretation ‘Sensing Satie’ for this year’s Circuits, to fit in this year’s theme ‘Away from the Comfort Zone’.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Normally I wake up early for my daily exercise, then join my family for breakfast. My son always reminds me to play some vinyl unless he has a request. A few days ago, he wanted me to put on an album from Robert Glasper which is perfect for the morning.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

To do my own thing, be as original as possible and to be persistent.

What do you never leave the house without?

It will probably have to be my mobile phone.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Focused, calm and determined.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Nowadays I own two records labels, Batti Batti and Gauss. I started Batti Batti Records in 2009, a pivotal year when the underground house scene was flourishing. I made a lot of new connections and one of the persons I met was Naan H from Los Angeles. Our relationship led to a music collaboration under the name Gauss, eventually leading its own label. The music on this label was highly received and we were selling out in days. The greatest achievement was to attend a music festival and unexpectedly hear a Gauss track played three times. Even more special was the fact that they happened to be my favourite DJs.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Buying another piece of studio gear or ordering another stack of vinyl is an addiction. With so much new gear and new music being released, it’s hard to resist supporting the scene.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Nothing more important than enjoying life, respecting friends and loving your family.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

My modular system. Modules can really be costly, but the good thing is that the system grows gradually so it’s not a one-time purchase.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

If I only knew that Google would become so massive, I would surely have purchased a good number of shares while they were still a start-up.

Who’s your inspiration?

Artists who take the risk and release music which is ground-breaking and different to the sterile scene where everyone sounds alike and everyone looks alike, which is a major problem today.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My recent gig alongside classic pianist Trisha Dawn Williams for EMM’s Away from the Comfort Zone. I will be programming the modular whereby she will be triggering effects and subtle sounds by means of envelope followers. She will be performing a piece by Satie which has no fixed tempo and as we know this is an important factor when using machines. Being a classic piece from the 1920s, we wanted to respect the music and keep its essence without ruining the vibe. This may also be enjoyed in Binaural format by using headphones.

If you weren’t an Deejay what would you be doing?

Hard to say but if I were not into music I would probably be into sports or perhaps gardening.

Do you believe in God?

Probably music is my religion as I would feel lost without it. There are no rules or regulations and it’s all about feeling good and getting back on track when needed!

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

An artist who I never had the opportunity to listen to live – Prince – so having dinner with him would be quite amazing.

What’s your worst habit?

My worst habit is jamming in the studio without recording.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I am rarely ever drunk these days but if it happened, it would have to be an event where I am having a really good time. I would immerse myself into the music even more and enjoy the sounds from a different perspective.

Who would you have play you in a film?

This is a tough one, I really have no idea.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I hate when people promise things and then when the time comes, they come up with excuses.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Any song from Sun Ra would be perfect. I love his music and cosmic philosophy so it will surely fit the moment.

What is your most treasured material possession?

I have many items that I treasure but nothing that I would not part with. I don’t really attach myself to items which can be replaced. For me, memories are my best treasures, but the treasured items are the ones that are linked to a memory like photos from when I was young or travels.

What is your earliest memory?

Being with my family in Sicily at the age of 5. I wanted them to buy me a toy robot I saw in a shop window close to our hotel. I was making their life miserable until they finally had to give in.

When did you last cry, and why?

Two months ago while watching a funny movie.

Who would you most like to meet?

Again Prince.

What’s your favourite food?

Thai cuisine.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

Hainbach, Brawther, Reedale Rise, Look Mum No Computer and all the skateboarders on Trasher Magazine.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

The early 1980s to experience the emergence of house music in New York and Chicago. I would specifically need to attend venues like The Loft, The Gallery and The Warehouse.

What book are you reading right now?

Richard Bach’s ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Flying would come in really handy. This way I would avoid all the time wasted stuck in traffic or looking for parking.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

I would like to take one year at least and travel around the world.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Without mentioning the classic artists that many might know about already I will mention artists such as Knxwledge, Mndsgn, Byron The Aquarius, Foisey, John Beltran, Sun Ra, Kaidi Tatham, Karriem Higgins, ERP, Reedale Rise, Drexciya, Leif, Richard Devine, Afrikan Sciences and Terrance Martin to name a few.