Jax’s recent chart success has given him access to an extraordinary and far-reaching range of talent, including the likes of Jess Glynne, Ellie Goulding, Selena Gomez, Tove Lo and George Ezra. Where and how those collaborations will one day land remains to be seen — Jax says that the success of the slower, less housey Mabel collaboration Ring Ring has shown him he can move far beyond the hits that first propelled him to stardom, reflecting an unsecond-guessable spirit that’s now making itself felt in his live shows. “I avoided live to start with and just spent all the cash on lighting and video screens,” Jax laughs. But inspired by the likes of Basement Jaxx, his live performances are now morphing into more of a production, where every event really is an event with all the bells and whistles or, in this case, explosions and inflatables. “The ideal reaction from my audience is ‘OH SHIT, WHAT’S GOING ON’,” Jax adds. “I’m feeling for the first time that I’m finally ready to headline festivals — it’s all about creating moments, adding the same sense of spectacle that I aim for in each of my records.”
It all adds up to a compellingly idiosyncratic approach to pop music, underpinned by a belief that pop — and house, and every other sort of music — is at its best when the rules are bent slightly out of shape. Jax adds that it was only when he went to LA on a songwriting mission that he realised just how distinctive his songwriting had become: peppered with London slang and pop culture references that didn’t always make sense to other writers who just wanted their songs to hit as many demographics as possible, but whose uncommonness seems to have been resonating well with Jax’s own fans.
“I try to make everything super real,” Jax says. “When you make it colloquial and conversational it doesn’t sound like traditional writing.” And that, he says, is where the magic comes from. “I used to rein myself in,” he acknowledges. “When I was starting out in the music industry I’d be ashamed of how I spoke — this Chinese Turkish boy from south east London who could solve the mysteries of quantum mechanics, but nobody would listen because of how he spoke. It felt like a real boys’ club for privately-educated people talking about Chelsea.” And now? “Now it feels like the music industry’s gone rogue,” he grins. “One of my favourite things about success is that I can finally act like the person I truly am.”