A chat with Jane Fitz
On a video call from her new house in Florence, where she has recently relocated with her partner, Jane Fitz is having a fangirl moment. Even facing fresh lockdown restrictions just a couple of weeks after moving to Italy from the UK, she is almost giddy at the prospect of digging for records in a country that has inspired her so much. Italian music, of all kinds, has always been a passion of Jane’s – and now she’s living in the epicentre of it. “It’s like wow, I can actually meet these people whose music has meant so much to me and just be a total fangirl,” she says. “I never had the opportunity to be that in London.”
After what has undoubtedly been one of the most difficult years in the career of any touring DJ – especially one with a gig roster as full as Jane’s – it’s refreshing to see that the UK-born and now Florence-based selector has not even remotely lost the spark for her craft. If anything, her relocation to Italy has reinvigorated her musically, while an enforced break from DJing has given her pause to reflect on where she'd like to focus her energy once the industry bounces back.
Here, Jane fills us in on some new projects that have kept her busy the past year and shares how, even faced with the challenges of the pandemic, she’s never lost that deep-set curiosity for music that shines through every set and mix she creates.
How have things been going for you this past year? When the first lockdown hit, I kind of took it as an opportunity to say ‘right, I’m going on a really deep dig’. I spent about three months really getting into digging for stuff that I have never really had the time to do, whole days of 12 hours of just searching for music. Then some family stuff happened that put me into a whole other headspace. I was literally hiding behind finding records and finding music, it was the only thing keeping me afloat. Last summer we were lucky enough to come to Italy, took a month off to do a bit of travelling, then the winter was really hard again. So it’s been weird but I’ve been trying to keep up as much as I can. But I did have this brilliant period of just searching and I’m kind of doing it again now.
Now that I’m here in Italy, all these different things are available to me that had been really messed up with Brexit. I had parcels go missing and all kinds of stuff. I’m never going to stop buying records, I’m obsessed with it, but now I’m here and things are arriving in two days. So that’s the upside to moving.
It must have been difficult for you to go from touring and playing as much as you were, to everything just coming to a standstill.
I think when it first hit, I just thought it was a holiday, some time off. By the end of the year, I had no money left at all and I was really struggling. So I have been selling loads more records. I’ve always been selling records – I have been for 15, 16 years – but now I’ve really ramped it up. I’ve done it on the downlow and haven’t put my name to everything, but I’ve been selling loads. So I’m an online shop owner now! It’s just sharing your knowledge in a different way.
And it’s another way of using your skills I guess?
Yeah exactly. Another thing I have been doing is I’m setting up a publishing company. My background is in journalism and I’m setting up a publishing company with a friend of mine to launch a book/journal/magazine. I’m not going to say too much about it but it’s a nice project because it’s a historical project. It’s more of a research project than anything about new music. If you’ve got those skills, you might as well use them in times of need. So I definitely haven’t been sitting on my ass, I’ve been busy!
What music have you been digging for, when you’ve been getting back into it lately?
Everything really. I just don’t stop. I’ve always had a big thing about Italian music, whether it’s techno or old ‘90s Italian music or whatever. Now that I’m here, the music that has inspired me for years was all produced in Florence, or at least in Tuscany. Miki is here, I’m good friends with him and all his records are really important to me. It’s so nice to have just by chance ended up in a city which musically is really channeled into my sound. When I’m walking around and I’m looking at the hills or looking at the sunset, I’m getting a little bit of what’s channeled through those original records. Over time, I hope I can add to that myself in some way.
How nice if you can rediscover the music you love in its original context.
Exactly, and be around the people who made it. It’s like wow, I can actually meet these people whose music has meant so much to me and just be a total fangirl. I never had the opportunity to be that in London.
What music are you most looking forward to discovering there?
With the Italian stuff there is so much. Obviously there’s italo and deep house, but there’s also all this weird progressive stuff and all the old ‘70s and ‘80s minimalism and strange classical music and some crazy folk stuff. My wife is from Sardinia and there is all this weird folk music which comes out of Sardinia which I really want to go and explore. I’m in the right place I think.
Tell me about your mix for Patterns of Perception then. I’m really curious to hear how you put this together and about the direction you took with this one.
I must tell you, most mixes I do are not that banging but it just happened to be the records themselves I really liked. I think people expect me to do something a bit more trancey or whatever, because that’s obviously what I’ve been playing more out, but I realised that the records that were getting me more excited were a bit more techno and a bit weirder and a bit more tribal. And I thought: this is exactly how I feel right now. I don’t think I planned for it to be quite so uptempo but they were the records that appealed to me. I’m always pushing forward to try to surprise myself, as well as anybody listening.
I haven’t really put a good podcast together for awhile, I think the last one I did was actually the Italian music one for Tropical Animals. So it was a little exploration for me, of having accumulated lots of new records that I haven’t been able to play out for the past year. That’s the thing, I realised I didn’t know any of my records because normally you buy them and you integrate them into your set immediately, so you know them back to front. But I’ve realised I’ve been accumulating probably the same amount of records and not had a chance to learn them because I haven’t really been listening a lot, just accumulating, and I hadn’t been hearing them out or hearing them loud. So when I got to play a couple of these records, I was just really excited. It felt like the first time I’ve played a set in ages, and I guess it was.
It sounds like a lot of fun. Yeah, it was. I was thinking also about when I played for you guys, it was such a nice experience. It was such a warm experience which is not the feeling you think of when you think about Berlin clubs generally. The whole concept – seeing you guys, coming for dinner, hanging out, playing with Eric (Cloutier) and being in the booth at OHM which is really comfortable – the whole thing just felt like a much warmer experience than what you usually get, which is a little bit more wild and a bit more, I don’t know, dirty. I remembered that and I wanted to get into that mindset as well.
I also really enjoyed this mix, I think because for me it felt a bit like being brought back to the club, or at least recreating a little bit of that magic again.
Yeah for me it definitely felt like I was in a club space – or maybe more a festival space. A bit of me was kind of longing for playing on the side of a Japanese mountain again or all those festivals you do in the summer, they’re all just gone. I much prefer playing outdoors now, that’s one thing I’ve learned n from lockdown: that I don’t really want to be indoors much anymore, I really want to be outdoors if I’m going to play music. It just sounds better and you see people in a different way.
I wanted to have people stomping on a forest floor. There was that element of something a little bit tribal to it which I’m not sure you would get so much in the club. There was that cathartic element for me.
I was listening back to your interview for the AIR Podcast with Emma Robertson recently, where a lot of the discussion was about getting lost in music and the sort of meditative role that it plays for you. Have you been able to experience any of that lately?
Yeah, I think so but in much, much shorter modules. I haven’t had that feeling of when you give yourself to something. Having this time not playing, it’s given me a lot of time to reflect on what I was doing as a DJ and I do think I was playing too often and I do think not necessarily in the best places all the time. And I was selling out a little bit, I really feel like that. At the minute I’m kind of desperate so I’d take any gig (laughs) but I do think that given the opportunity to plan ahead a bit more, I want to really commit to those kinds of gigs where you can do that.
Meaning you can play these longer sets and fully immerse both yourself and the audience in the music?
Yeah, and I do feel actually that the year before lockdown hit, I was getting more opportunities to do these really long sets. I felt that I was moving away from just being a guest in a club and getting a bit more control. On reflection, I need to keep on with that. I don’t want to just come in and just do two hours at a club. I want the promoter to go, ‘right that’s yours, do what you want’. If you’re young and you’re bouncing and you’re on drugs or whatever, go to a club or be that DJ. But I’m kind of an old lady now – I’m 50 next year – and I don’t want to do that. I want to be the person who gets to go there and sit down and chill out and do a long set and say my thing. It makes more sense to who I am to play in that way. I like doing warm-ups. I hate peak time. To be able to tell a story is so important to me.
What are you looking for when you’re digging or does it really depend?
I don’t have anything specific that I’m looking for. I’m always a big believer in the mysticism of records, that they will find you. There is a real element that I believe in which is: if you look too hard, you’re going to miss stuff. You need to be open to those opportunities for things to just turn up or somebody in a record shop to just hand you something or some weird unnamed thing in a bargain bin to be screaming for you. I’m not going to say the records talk to me because that will put me in the madhouse but I do think that your instinct and your connections and your experience definitely floods through when you’re hunting for stuff, whether that’s online or in person. I try to be as open as possible when it comes to looking.
When was the last time you found something you thought was really fresh? Every day! Every day I find something new. Woody92, who also did something for you guys, he put up a Buy Music Club the other day and I thought, brilliant! There’s so much stuff in there I hadn’t heard of before. So every day I’m finding something new to go and explore, or there are people I know who inspire me to search in a new place. I feel grateful to be excited with wonder and curiosity every day.
I was listening to your RA podcast from a few years back and it struck me how different it is to what you’re releasing now, and how much your sound has changed.
That was kind of presenting the end of something. There were a few things on there which were telling you what I’m playing now, so if you get to the second half of the mix it goes a bit more ravey and acidy, whereas it starts off more deep. For years that had been my vibe and so there's an element of that which will never go away. It was my history. I played a lot of records in that set that I had been playing for 15, 20 years almost. I also knew that was something that was going to stick around for a long time so I knew if I only play one sound on that mix, that’s all I’m going to get booked to play.
I also think it’s really important, as a person who loves music, to evolve. I would be so bored if I’d bought the same records for the last 30 odd years, almost 40 years.
What do you think has driven this evolution from housier Jane Fitz to acid/ravey Jane Fitz? Is it just your changing taste or something more?
Well, the music that I play now is probably much more representative of the music that I was playing when I first started mixing. In the mid-'90s I was really into Goa trance and before that, I was really into jazz and hip hop and soul. And then I was really into house, end of the' 90s I was probably into that whole French filter disco thing and that didn’t last, then I came back to the UK and got really into the tech house scene. So I’ve always evolved. I was thinking about this regarding new records recently and I think one of the things that drives it is that you get a sound that’s really pure and really original and over a period of a couple of years other producers start to recreate and make that sound. So it gets diluted. By the time it’s diluted, I’ve moved on. I’m always looking for something a little more interesting.
How much of this has to do with your own commitment to your craft as well?
Most people are not into it for life, but I’m a lifer. If you are fully invested in music, then over time you will evolve because music is also evolving all the time. So you can’t fail to evolve if you’re interested in new stuff and also interested in expanding your own knowledge. No one stays the same – and it’s completely anti-human to not evolve. I would be very skeptical of someone whose sound didn’t change.
What keeps you going with music, especially nearing 50 as you said earlier?
Just that you’re never an expert. I’ve heard it so many times before but the more you know, the more you realise that you don’t know. The past year I’ve realised there are so many more interesting new things coming out. I’ve always dug old stuff but there is plenty of new stuff to keep you interested. There’s a little online community I’m part of, a little secret music group with about 150 people in it, and we’re all kind of into the same thing. Even that, just being able to share music with people all around the world who are all really excited about things which you’re also into. Whether that’s ambient or psytrance, it doesn’t really matter. I always feel like I’m a beginner and there’s not many things in your life that can make you feel like that. For me that’s exciting, to always have a clean page to start with. You’re a librarian really.
I’m not a producer, I do make a bit of music but that’s not my heart. My heart is finding as much crazy stuff as I can really and sharing it with people as much as I can.
And telling a story with it?
Yeah, using that music to do something else. I bought it but I never made it. For me to feel that I’m actually relevant, rather than just a machine that puts one record on after another, then I feel I have to do something with those. They’re tools to create an experience. I think we all need a way of connecting with another thing that’s bigger than ourselves, and my way of doing that is not religion, but music. That’s what I have faith in and curiosity for music is what drives me.