New York producer Sajeeb Saha, aka Jai Wolf, embarks on his first headline tour this spring. To celebrate, he invited some of his friends and fellow electronic music creators Manila Killa, Hotel Garuda, and Electric Mantis to perform with him at his two San Francisco shows. Dubbed the Somewhere in A Forest tour, Jai Wolf will be showing up full-force with new visual enhancements and a ramped up sound for his Regency Ballroom show on May 12 and 13.
To preview the shows, we spoke to Jai Wolf by phone to learn his growth and development over the years, his adventures at Holy Ship and SnowGlobe, and what he likes about San Francisco.
What did you study in college and how did you decide to pursue music professionally?
I was studying marketing and communications at NYU [New York University]. I’ve been writing music for the past seven years, since my senior year of high school. I grew up playing violin and I picked up the guitar in high school. I was playing a lot of music that already existed, like Mozart or Bach, or for guitar, I was playing music written by bands. That was fun but not creatively satisfying so I started writing my own music.
I started writing electronic, synth-based guitar music. You could call it synth rock, synth pop, or somewhere in-between. I was doing it as a hobby for many years. In college, I realized that I couldn’t have a nine-to-five job and music was my passion. NYU didn’t let me graduate initially because I was slacking off so much. It took me five years instead of four to graduate. From 2013 to now, I moved back home and was writing music in my basement seriously. Jai Wolf started two years ago, so 2014.
When did you make the transition from No Pets Allowed to Jai Wolf?
I was making dubstep/EDM music from 2010 to 2014. It was fun to mess around and make that stuff, but I realized I didn’t want to make dubstep for the rest of my life. I didn’t want a name like No Pets Allowed. I initially chose the name because, (unlike Skrillex, Flux Pavilion, Excision, where they had really harsh x’s in their names,) I decided I was going to make dubstep and have a light-hearted name, like No Pets Allowed. But it was too joke-y of a name and if I were to take music seriously and stop making dubstep then I figured it was a good time for a new name.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
It’s funny, I say a lot of my influences coming from outside of electronic music. I love Kanye West. I think his vision for music is just really big and grand. That’s sort of what I implemented to my music. I don’t make hip-hop obviously, but I’m a fan of his vibe and the way he tackles big projects. I love Kid CuDi, one of Kanye’s protégés. I love bands like Two Door Cinema Club and Foster the People. I love indie music as well. Melodically, I’m sort of influenced by pop melodies like Blink-182, Green Day, Fall Out Boy. I don’t think you can necessarily hear the influences cause it’s not sonic based. It’s sort of the melody thing. In terms of electronic people I enjoy, I love Porter Robinson, I love Skrillex, I love Odesza…but I would say, in a weird way, they have less influence on me than those other artists that I named.
Has Skrillex ever given you any advice since he started playing your remix of “Ease My Mind?”
Well actually, around that time, we were sort of invited to hang out with him for one of his dates at Syracuse. I got a lot of face time with him, but I didn’t want to talk too much about my own music or advice, career-wise. We just sort of just shot the shit, shit the shoot, whatever that phrase is. We just hung out for a few hours before his show. To be honest, I haven’t had that much contact with him since. I have seen him at random events. I never really want to get in his face because a lot of people demand his attention. I know what it’s like in a backstage environment. I never got a chance to have a longer conversation with him about that stuff.
What has been your biggest learning since joining Odesza’s Foreign Family Collective?
I’ve become really good friends with them. In terms of advice, they just say ‘stay true to yourself’ in terms of writing music and ‘keep your head down, and make sure your music is you.’ If you do you, you’ll be fine. I think a lot of producers struggle with that. I’m definitely not perfect when it comes to that. When you start out you always want to be copying other people that are popular at the time. I remember when Skrillex was big, I wanted to copy Skrillex four years ago. When stuff like Wave Racer, and Lido, and Cashmere Cat, when they were getting big, it was very easy to get tempted into using those songs as a template.
I think when you start out, it’s OK to do that. Eventually, you just need to find your own sound. I think “Indian Summer” is the first step in that direction. I hope the music I’m writing currently will take me to a space to say, ‘this is very Jai Wolf.’
What was your favorite memory from playing Holy Ship this year?
It was a really good time for sure. It’s surreal because I remember being in college three years ago watching videos of Holy Ship thinking that’s the coolest thing ever. One of the most memorable things was on the final night, there was this humongous back-to-back-to-back session—GTA, Flosstradamus, Valentino Khan, Snails, Wax Motif, me, Wax Motif, Slumberjack, song after song. It was cool to play hit after hit of fun songs, with big dubstep, trap, and EDM producers. They are all fun, really nice guys. It’s like a staple of Holy Ship, that you’ll stumble across a surprise back-to-back mega set. I’ve seen videos of it over the years. It was really cool to be part of that.
A very close memorable moment, right after that, Hudson Mohawke was playing the final sets, like 3-4am, and he was just playing disco throwback songs from the 70s, 90’s hip-hop songs, OutKast…it was so fun. Me, Odesza, and a bunch of our friends were having a good time on the final night of the ship and seeing Hudson Mohawk curate the soundtrack really well that night.
What do you enjoy most about visiting and playing in San Francisco?
San Francisco is a really cool city. I’ve seen a lot of San Francisco growing up. The first time I ever visited was a year ago. I just love the vibe. It’s cool how it’s surrounded by water. Everyone I met there is really nice. I had a really good burrito, like a California burrito. The crowds have always been really cool. The show I’m playing this time at the Regency is the biggest venue I’ve ever headlined and it’s the biggest venue of the tour. I’m really excited about that.
Why is your tour called Somewhere in a Forest?
There’s no real meaning to it. I just really love environments. I thought the music I listen to if you were to go into a forest with your friends at night, and if you were camping or something and you were listening to my music, it would be a really good soundtrack for it. That’s how I came up with it.
Didn’t you play SnowGlobe this past year?
Actually, it’s so funny you say that. I think it’s from there, the name Somewhere in a Forest. I remember telling my friends, the coolest thing about SnowGlobe is you’re in the middle of the forest with all your best friends. I was there with my closest music friends just hanging out the day I played. Everyone is in crazy winter gear, it’s really cold, and in the forest—but you’re there listening to the coolest music acts.
Can you give us a sneak peak or hint to the brand new show setup?
Since this is my first headline tour, we’ve been able to expand on the show. It’s not just me hopping into a booth and just playing. We’ll have lights and visuals, and it’s the first time we’re doing that. It’s the first time we can afford to do that. It’s just gonna be a bigger and more interesting experience than ever before.