This Friday, May 11, As You Like It returns to BeatBox with notable househead, DJ Jus Ed.
Ed has been emersed in music of all kinds his whole life with his foundations in percussion and an early start DJing at the age of 10, but it wasn’t until the last decade that his career really took off. Since the early 2000s, he has played a crucial role advancing leftfield dance music through his Underground Quality imprint, releasing records from the likes of artists such as Levon Vincent, Fred P, and DJ Qu. His good work ethic and understanding of the music business has brought success to himself, his peers, and the Underground Quality mission as a whole.
Ed took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us before his anticipated SF debut.
What would you play in your early years of DJing?
When I DJed in the 70s it was dance, funk, disco, and rap. In the 80s I played freestyle, top 40 dance chart. When house music hit for me it was in ‘88 and it was the college radio stations and New York FM, like Kiss FM. Those were my feed. Then in the late 80s, I had retired because of drugs and alcohol, until 2001.
Most of the spots that I went to in the late 80s and early 90s had a dresscode. That was just to get you through the door, but then of course, you’re soaking wet sweating and you have to take your suit jacket off. There was tons of napkins everywhere because you were dancing so much. It was the 90s: a dancing era.
How do those undergrounds compare to the undergrounds you play now?
The younger cats that came in kind of held tradition, but then there was a gap. Superclubs came to birth in the early 90s and then there was a new style of music that accompanied new styles of drugs; that was when the rave started. Then you had the birth of drum and bass, broken beat, acid; it was just an influx of so much stuff.
People kind of got away from the care of going out. If you wanted to go to a nice club, then you had to have certain attire, but if you want to go to an underground there is no dresscode, it’s very dark. It would be mixed a little more before. It depends on what area or what city you lived in and based on what laws you were under.
What were you doing while you were retired?
Just quietly going to dance. Staying in touch with my music while I got my life together. Then in 2001 Vic Money, the founder of UQ, asked if I would DJ with him at his residency at New York and that was it. The fire was lit again and I felt confident about playing out.
When did you guys start the UQ label then?
Vic had already established Underground Quality as a party and a brand. He had the concept and the idea and we did parties together, but then a year later, he retired. So I took over UQ and opened up a website first. In 2004, I released my first album.
Underground Quality has been credited as being a big part in the New York deep house revival. What is your definition of this?
That was a pretty media caption, but that was never our intent. Technically it’s leftfield or niche music. For me, it’s just underground music with house elements or house vibes.
Someone had given me the right description and said, “Jus Ed’s music is right down the middle between techno and house music.” Levon bridges hard house and progressive house. Qu bridges techno house and tribal house. Fred P bridges acid and minimal. Anton is New Age dub and electro. We don’t fall on a note, we fall in between the notes.
The biggest success for us is that individually, so many DJs and people can relate because the music is all made from our life experiences and emotionally where we’re at; it’s not made from a pre-set or trying to copy or emulate the latest sound or rhythm patterns.
Connoisseurs have always gravitated toward this approach of making music. The mathematics behind the formula of music were being broken—mixmatching patterns and using different elements to create this spiritual vibe. This is what we’re doing. Will this ever take over and be super huge? No, that’s not any of our aspirations at all. Will it ever die? No, because it’s one of the taproots of music is originality and purity. That’s why UQ represents more than just a name. It’s not a fluke or fashion or a trend.
How is your music received around the world, here and in Europe?
If you were judging by numbers, Europe was the first to embrace it and make it viable for me to make a living and to keep the label going. [The rest] hadn’t gotten on board until media exposure with different websites, interviews, YouTube. Most of my business is word of mouth. Somebody somewhere met me or was at a party I played at and they yickity-yacked; that’s the best promotion.
I think Europe has a bigger partisanship, but I still love playing at home. I love playing in New York because I think we’re still the most expressive when we dance.
Have you come out to the West Coast much?
I played in LA twice, but this is my first time playing in San Francisco. I know on my mailing list I have quite a few people who buy my records so I’m hoping to meet them and because I’ve heard so many good things about San Fran.
Catch Jus Ed’s first SF set at As You Like It with support from Marcellus Pittman, Lance DeSardi, Tyrel Williams, and Brian Bejarano this Friday, May 4 at BeatBox. More information can be found here.