By definition, a 4/4 beat is repetitive.
What was an indelible tenet of the disco revolution of the ’70s has become as essential to the nightclub as the beams holding its walls upright. Now powering seas and seas of house and techno releases, the four-to-the-floor beat rolls on and on, regularly and consistently.
And more often than not, life happens to mirror art.
Pick up an issue of DJ Times from 10 years ago and peep the cover feature and you might find a DJ recounting an origin tale that involves some variation on the following theme: 1) Wide-eyed youth sneaks into a club underage; 2) Youth is transfixed by a deity-like jockey’s mastery behind the decks; 3) Youth goes home inspired to scrounge together enough coin to buy a cheap mixer and a pair of turntables in order to work toward building a legacy as a DJ.
That’s not to knock these artists. Their stories are their truth and are just as compelling as they were when they were first told. However, it does befit a certain narrative that was as commonplace as the beats driving the music at the time.
Now, the landscape has changed considerably, with the onslaught of technological advances in social media, music sharing, and production software, a brand-new generation of electronic producers has ascended to festival main stages without ever needing to have stepped foot into a nightclub.
One of the biggest forces leading this pack of fresh-faced crowd-slayers is 23-year-old, Los Angeles-based producer/DJ JAUZ (pronounced like the shark). Born Sam Vogel, the bass prodigy came to prominence just as he turned 20 with the runaway success of two nascent cuts in 2014: the career-launching “Feel The Volume” on Mad Decent and the Ephwurd collaboration “Rock The Party” on Spinnin’ Records.
The success that came hot on the heels of these festival mainstays might seem like it came overnight, but Vogel’s been toiling away since his early teens when he first started producing music himself. Further down the line, he traded in film school for a desk at Icon Collective, L.A.’s famed music-production institute.
Today, Vogel stands as one of the festival circuit’s hottest commodities, and that notoriety has also made one of the biggest draws on the Las Vegas strip at megaclubs like Hakkasan and Omnia. Combined with a staggering cascade of top-tier productions to his name (including collabs with Marshmello, Tiësto, and Skrillex), Vogel’s rapid ascent to the top of the proverbial mountain is a prime example of just how far a self-described bedroom producer can come when lightning—and hard work—strikes.
We caught up with JAUZ on the eve of launching his new Off the Deep End Tour, an offshoot concept Vogel describes as “going as far as [he] can” musically, to get the story of his meteoric rise in his own words.
DJ Times: What sort of musical upbringing did you have as a child?
Sam Vogel: My parents weren’t really musically inclined. They were big fans of music. My mom is the biggest Rolling Stones fan I’ve ever met in my entire life, which ironically made me not a fan of them. I think the earliest memory I have is me deciding that I was going to be one of the guys in NSYNC or Backstreet Boys, and my mom being like, “That’s cool, but you have to learn how to play the piano.” I was like, “No, fuck that! I’m going to sing and dance and be a pop star and it will be great!” When I was one, I wanted to be a firefighter, and when I was three, I had already decided musician—that’s it.
DJ Times: A natural progression, obviously.
Vogel: In elementary school, me and my friends got really into hip-hop. I remember going to school when Master P had come out with this full velour jumpsuit-sweatshirt-sweatpant combo and me and all my friends wore it. It was probably the biggest mistake I’ve made in my entire life. No white kid under 10-years old should be wearing that, but that was how into the music we were. In middle school, I was still into hip-hop, and in high school I got really into rock and roll: I started playing guitar.
DJ Times: What were you into?
Vogel: I knew every single Metallica song on the guitar by heart, and that was really where creating music [came]. I was a nerd, so I had played around with Fruity Loops and Ableton [growing up], but it wasn’t really until I started playing guitar when I was 12 that I really was like, “OK, I can really make music on my own.”
DJ Times: Production itself came to you in your mid-teens. How did it start and how did you first dive into it?
Vogel: I started producing when I was 15. It was this transition from when I wanted to be in a band, no one I knew was serious enough to be in a band, I started to try and record my own band myself—I’d play the guitar, I program the drums, and all that stuff—and that led me to learning about the whole world of electronic music. Then I found one of my friends making beats on Reason, and I was like, “I can make electronic music, and all I have to do is rely on myself. If I work hard enough, it’s only up to me how far I’ll go.”
DJ Times: Were there any electronic artists guiding this inspiration or were you just finding your own sound?
Vogel: That was the cool thing about how I got into electronic music. I didn’t have parents that were raving, I didn’t have a group of friends that was really into electronic music until me, and one other friend brought it to them. For me, I really only learned the music and the scene as I farther into making the music. That’s what was important to me: figuring out how to make the music well and express myself how I would on guitar equivalently on the computer. I was a metal kid—I played really heavy guitar, so I got into the dubstep side of things.
DJ Times: Which artists?
Vogel: One of the first people I listened to was Getter. He’s my age, and I didn’t know that until we became friends a couple of years ago. He grew up in San Jose, I grew up outside of San Francisco—we were maybe an hour-and-a-half away from each other. I was listening to his music thinking, “This is crazy,” while he was in high school in my same grade making it on his computer. I was into him, obviously Rusko, Caspa, Benga, Skream, Excision—all those guys. Skrillex, obviously—I feel like that goes without saying. The guys that were pioneering that heavy sound and bringing it to the masses back then.
DJ Times: After dropping out of film school, you enrolled in Icon Collective in L.A. It’s an interesting part of your story: Taking an education approach to your music. What sort of lessons did you learn from there? Just technical stuff or processes that affected your whole creative process?
Vogel: It was less technical stuff and a lot more the creative mentality side. There are a lot of kids at shows who will come up and say, “I’m going to Icon” or “Should I go to Icon?” I always explain to them that Icon taught me a ton about the technical side of things, but it was more that they were re-teaching me the basics. They give you this foundation technically for you to do as much or as little as you want.
DJ Times: Looks like it worked.
Vogel: Me, MAKJ, Protohype, NGHTMRE, Kayzo, yadda yadda—if you took all the kids that came out of Icon and were really successful, the one key element between all of us is that we all worked our fucking asses off. There’s no substitute. Yeah, we went to Icon, but we there 13, 14, 15 hours a day. There were times I would get to Icon at 10:30 or 11 in the morning—[MAKJ] and Kayzo would be there—and I wouldn’t leave until 4:30 or 5 in the morning to go home, sleep, and do it all over again.
DJ Times: Were there lessons you didn’t learn there? What did you have to find out while being in the real world, so to say?
Vogel: That’s the beautiful thing with Icon: They teach you how to learn that stuff on your own. They give you the tools to go into any situation, any platform and at least be comfortable, and then be able to on your own be like, “I want to go do more of this. I want my music to sound like this,” and not feel like you’re scrambling in the dark. It makes you excited to push yourself and learn more.
DJ Times: The networking there must be unique as well…
Vogel: When you’re sitting around Icon, you have all these different producers sitting in this building together. You have all these different kinds of ideas, with one person’s way of doing something being completely separate from the next person. That’s what they tried to build and I think what helps me and so many other people… getting influence from hundreds of other kids who are all trying to do the same thing [in different ways].
DJ Times: What do you think was your biggest break on your career path?
Vogel: Normally, when someone asks me about this, I would say it was the HARD Summer [festival] before I played. I went there with my girlfriend and one of my really good friends and his girlfriend just to go hang out and party at the festival because that’s what we do. Jokingly, one of my buddies said, “Oh man, who’s going to play your song today? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha…” I think “Feel The Volume” had come out a few weeks before this. That’s it. My manager had gotten it into an email chain with tons of DJs, which I had no idea about. Tchami must have picked it up from there or heard it on Soundcloud…