As a New York-based DJ/producer and club owner, Jack Trantides lives a double life that only a few readers of this magazine will ever experience.
Known professionally as Jus Jack, Trantides owns the Queens hotspot Central Lounge and, since 2009, has cranked out productions and remixes for labels like Dim Mak, Armada and more. As a touring jock, he’s headlined major venues like Marquee in New York, Studio Paris in Chicago and New City Gas in Montreal.
With a pair of catchy, vocal-driven releases on Armada’s sublabel The Bearded Man—“Love Somebody” and “I Can’t Win”—he’s been on a production roll in 2017, with more tracks to come. We recently caught up with New York DJ/impresario Jus Jack to discuss how he holds it all together.
DJ Times: How did you get involved with DJing?
Jus Jack: I was 13. My brother and one of his DJ friends purchased equipment together because my brother thought he wanted to get into it. A few days later, he decided he didn’t want to—and the equipment was just lying around—so I put everything together and bought some records. From that day forward it just became a passion.
DJ Times: When was your big break?
JJus Jack: I had two. One was the first record that came out [in 2010] called “Smoke.” That was on mainstream radio and Top 3 on airplay. My second was developing a relationship with Tiësto and him remixing one of my songs [“Love Is the Answer” in 2013].
DJ Times: Any musical background?
Jus Jack: No musical background. Everything was self-taught.
DJ Times: DJs influences?
Jus Jack: Roger Sanchez, originally. But now it’s a lot of people that I work with—Tiësto as well. He is a huge influence as a person in the business who helps cultivate new talent and always brings a lot of people up to the surface. I find it honorable that he can be in that position and do that. Obviously, there is a mutual benefit in it for me, but at least he is not someone who hogs the spotlight and he helps people become known.
DJ Times: Tell us about “Love Somebody” on Armada’s new imprint The Bearded Man.
Jus Jack: The singer, Rico [Greene], sounds like Stevie Wonder meets The Weeknd. I found that combination so fascinating and I wanted to work with him, so I made a track specifically to for him to see what he could do with it. He came back with something really great and we worked back and forth on it to finalize it.
DJ Times: What’s your approach to collaborations?
Jus Jack: One of my biggest things to tell people when we are making a track together is I’m not afraid to re-write things and blend things. I want a song to have substance. I want people to have an emotional attachment to my tracks and I feel like when you listen to most of my music it’s a story.
DJ Times: The Bearded Man is a label for “outside-the-box” music—how do you like releasing music on that imprint?
Jus Jack: It’s great. I feel like it’s a good platform for a label like Armada to get unique talent onboard and create better music. With house music and dance music, there is a core to it. When you are on the dancefloor you feel the emotion and you truly connect to the music. Nowadays, I feel like songs are very cookie-cutter. These “out-of-the-box” labels are letting people express themselves in a great way. Being able to put something out on a label like this and having Armada backing gives artist a little more exposure than they would normally get.
DJ Times: What studio gear are you using?
Jus Jack: I use Ableton for quick editing and remixes. I use Logic when I’m doing full productions, and I record on Pro Tools any time I do vocals.
DJ Times: And to DJ?
Jus Jack: I use a USB stick. I grew up in a culture where you played vinyl – and I tend to like making my life more difficult [laughs]. I literally load up all my music and I just select things naturally. If I mess up, I mess up. It’s once in a blue moon I do, but sometimes I make something great out of it.
DJ Times: You own Central Lounge in Astoria, Queens. How do you balance being a DJ and a club owner?
Jus Jack: I was very torn about it for a while, but now I’m coming into stride with them and they both complement each other. I never wanted anyone to sign a record of mine because I owned a club and I never used my Jus Jack career to prompt the club. I’ve always kept them separate. I wanted to know that I was good at both being a club owner and making music. Now, I’m at a comfortable level in my career where they are both doing decently well and I want to start tying them in a little bit more and start expressing that I am a DJ and a club owner.
DJ Times: What else can we expect from you this year?
Jus Jack: I’m really starting to get influenced by The Magician, Croatia Squad and Nora En Pure, but not as pretty – I’m a little grittier. I’ll be doing more production than actual touring this year, so I’m hoping to get another five or six releases this year.