I'll be the first to admit that I have never been one of those gay men who has ever gotten sucked into the world of nightclubs and after hour parties. There have been a handful of times, however, where I've dabbled in these sorts of festivities and enjoyed myself thoroughly while there. This is due to a myriad of factors like the hot men who attend, the good company that surrounds me and the great music coming from the DJ's speakers which keeps the party going all night long.
A while back, I arrived at a local bear event in New York City called Furball where I was introduced to the sounds of world-renowned DJ Jack Chang. I was instantly impressed by the varieties of house music that he interjected into the bar that night and his brutally sexy demeanor that looked very hot behind his booth.
I did some research on Jack and found out that he's been in this industry for nearly a quarter of a century and continues to build his brand on an international level. He's rocked the house at major gay events all over the world including IML (International Mr. Leather) in Chicago all the way to legendary parties down under in Australia. Dude has done it all, and he isn't finished just yet (by a long shot).
Jack was nice enough to sit down with me and talk about how he got into this industry in the first place, why he doesn't have one particular "sound," his favorite place he's performed and what's next for him. Take a look.
What inspired you to want to become a DJ in the first place?
I don’t think I can pin it down to just one single influence. Part of the inspiration came from my music studies during my childhood. I studied the piano for eleven years, beginning at the age of 6, along with classical music theory. I also played the violin for five years. I think having the desire to perform came from there. I think what really struck that spark of inspiration was when I went to my first gay club in London, my first time in a nightclub, ever. Of course, that night, I saw a DJ for the first time and was captivated by the sight of someone performing with music, but in a totally different way to what I knew.
How would you describe your sound and how often do you change it up with each gig you book?
I do not have one single “sound”. Thinking back as far as I can, I honestly cannot recall a time in my 23 year career as a DJ that I did not have one foot in London’s sex clubs and the other firmly in the mainstream gay club scene. I always had two collections, or streams of collections running, one for the fetish clubs, and the other for the mainstream clubs. If I were to try to quickly “label” the genres I spin, they are Tribal House (mostly for after hours events and performances in Brazil and South America), and the style of course known in the gay world for the types of event I am appearing at with increasing regularity these days, circuit.
Over the last few years, I have also restarted my techno sound, reserved mostly for the fetish side of the event world that I live in. Across all three genres that I currently spin (tribal house, circuit, techno) , there are, I hope, the following things in common: my selections for each genre are all rhythm-driven productions or remixes, some involving interesting rhythm play and interest to the listening. There’s also a general level of depth and detail to the tracks I like to involve in my live sets.
Having said that I have one foot in the fetish world and one foot in the circuit, to answer the second half of your question concisely, music in my DJ collections are included for only one genre of event, and never cross over. So, every time I switch from a circuit party to a fetish event, or back again, my music switches collections. I constantly update all three genres I spin as often as I can. Normally, that happens once or twice a week.
Do you have a favorite place you've performed in and why?
Over the 23 years I have been performing as a DJ so far, now 15 of them globally, I have performed in 26 countries around the world. Having that kind of first hand personal experience of the world has taught me that I should do my best not to pick favorites. Places around the world are just not comparable in that kind of way. I bet half of the promoters I currently work for around the world would cut me off if I gave only one place I hold as a favorite place to spin in, and it was not their place! I’ll list a few that really do jump out of memory the fastest, and they’re always for very distinct reasons. I’m not listing them in order of preference, either…
The first is La Isla Beach Club, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. February 2015, I headlined one of the biggest closing parties in Rio de Janeiro at La Isla Beach Club, to close a week of Carnival, on Mardi Gras (Portuguese: terça de carnaval). I had literally just landed two hours before at the airport before I was taken directly to the club itself. I had spent about 20 hours flying in from a gig in Antwerp, Belgium the night before. The club itself was in two halves, the pool party area, and the nightclub building. I arrived at the club and entered through the pool side first. This is one of my most fondly remembered moments: it’s 11pm, dark night, it’s 90-100 Fahrenheit (yes, in Brazil at the end of their summer, at 11pm at night). The pool party area is enormous. I am surrounded at the poolside with what looked like four to five thousand beautiful, scantily clad party people. Above I could see the moon, and because the club was at Barra de Tijuca, 30 minutes’ drive from central Rio de Janeiro, the club was surrounded on all side, and all I could see apart from this huge beautiful crowd and the club building… was jungle. I had never seen anything like that before in my life.
A close second is Tel-Aviv, Israel. 2009, at the legendary Haoman 17, for a special event called Dark Empire. I remember the atmosphere in the club that night being electric. The energy in that place was incredible. I knew why – Dark Empire was Tel-Aviv’s first attempt at a large scale fetish dance event, which is what I have become closely connected to during my career. The night was total chaos, and so, so much fun!
I will mention one more, because it is one of the seminal gigs in my career. 2016, Madrid World Pride, Spain, at Sala La Riviera for WE Party fetish-styled event “Macho”. I had never before taken over such a large space like that. Why is this a favorite? The memories surrounding it. I remember the enormous crowd of people still trying to get into the party. I remember seeing two circuit boys in tears (I kid you not) – not like a paper cut tear, these boys were bawling their eyes out: they were trying to re-join their friends inside, and were refused re-entry as the venue had reached capacity. The venue holds about five thousand to capacity. I remember my knees half buckling with terror as I stepped up onto the DJ stage from the back to see the biggest sea of people ever, and joining a DJ that I have so much respect for (his career is even longer than mine), praying that my performance having to follow up Tom Stephan would not crash and burn. I was so terrified, but it in the end, it was fine.
How did it feel to be voted best Best European DJ not once… but twice?
They’re publicly voted awards, so to find myself at the top of a public vote not once, but twice, doubly valuable. The fact that they started in 2013 and I won the first one, being the only name that holds a second award as early as only the sixth year the awards have run to date, really felt genuinely appreciated by the public. It was very affirming!
What is your overall view of DJ personas like Skrillex and Calvin Harris. Do you think they are overly criticized or do you respect their hustle.
I think everyone has critics. Skrillex and Calvin Harris are such high-profile, visible names, I would imagine as their popularity increases, so does the criticism. Everyone has their hustle as a DJ, simply because almost all of us as DJs have come from very, very different former professions. This is a matter of character makeup, and style. I respect it, because they have made huge successes of themselves, and, almost like the Frank Sinatra song, they’re doing it their way.
Do you have any major gigs coming up in 2018?
There have already been a number of major gigs already, as it’s now September. Two weeks ago I returned to Berlin after a five year hiatus to headline the 15th Folsom Europe Official Party, PiG Berlin. I was the resident headline DJ for the first nine years of PiG, since it started in 2003.
September 2018 – Melbourne and Sydney, Australia – I am headlining a two gig anniversary tour featuring my Berlin-style techno sound for the 10th anniversary of their biggest fetish dance event, Extra Dirty.
November 2018 – I am joining the DJ team in Porto de Galinhas, Brazil for the Hell & Heaven Festival. also for their 10th anniversary event run. After ten years it has become one of the most celebrated clubbing Brands in Brazil. It is an honor to join them to represent International DJ talent to this incredible circuit party event week in Brazil.
What would be your biggest career goal?
Well these days I am a DJ / Remixer / Producer – I spin live as a DJ, I remake my own remixes, and I have two original productions to date. Anyone who I know as a DJ who also remixes or produces, is either a better live DJ than their remixing or production side, or vice versa. It’s 99 out of 100 times, unbalanced. There are the few DJ Remixer Producers who are equally known for the popularity or quality of their remixes who are also good live performing DJs, but the DJs in what I believe is a very, very small set of us indeed, I find to be a role model I would like to aspire to one day, by bringing my production and remixing side equally to view as my live DJ performances.
For more information on Jack, you can follow him here.