Jamie xx - The sounds of a reluctant superstar DJ

He's won the Mercury Prize and worked with Gil Scott-Heron and Adele. Now Jamie xx is finally facing up to fame, says Morgan Durno

Finding yourself at the forefront of the British dance music scene can prove rather daunting, especially if you're as shy as Jamie xx. It seems like just about everyone wants a piece of the 23-year-old producer and remix artist. "I've just got a message from Thom Yorke," whimpers a third of last year's Mercury Music prize-winning outfit The xx, as he bashfully glances down at his phone. As it transpires, Jamie xx's (or Jamie Smith's) remix of Radiohead's "Bloom" has just been mastered, and it's a remix which is due to appear on the internationally renowned band's next album.

And Radiohead haven't been the only musical heavyweights desperate to get their hands on his distinctive post-dubstep treatment; since going solo less than a year ago he has worked on tracks for the likes of Adele, Jack Peñate, Florence and The Machine, and Canadian rap giant Drake. If all this wasn't enough for the nervous young man responsible for The xx's beats and production, his ever-burgeoning solo efforts reached a peak with a reprise of the Gil Scott-Heron album I'm New Here; a stunning venture which earned him a joint album credit with the American godfather of hip-hop, just months before he died earlier this year.

In the past two weeks the South-west Londoner has travelled extensively, playing his trademark broken dubstep beats, funky rhythms and spaced out melodies in DJ sets from Singapore and Tokyo, to Montreal and New York, but it's in East London's humble Hackney Wick we meet today.

We're in the studio of the visual artist Davide Quayola where the pair are working on their upcoming collaborative performance Structures. It's the debut joint project from RizLab, an organisation which aims to bring together the most innovative artists to create new and ground-breaking material.

In a one-off live experience at The Classic Car Club in London's Old Street, the producer and DJ will debut tracks from his forthcoming solo EP while digital artist Quayola works alongside him, interpreting the music visually and screening it in real time onto three giant HD screens. Guests will be treated to a four-hour DJ set amid an all-encompassing cinematic show of flowing computer-generated artwork.

Smith first became interested in Quayola, a London-based artist whose work encompasses photography, geometry, time-based digital sculptures and immersive audiovisual installations, when he saw one of his projects earlier this year in Paris. Since then, together with artists Abstract Birds, Quayola has finished creating Partitura, software which can both interpret sounds and transform them into visuals inspired by the geographic artwork of Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Oscar Fischinger.

The digital artist talks freely about the inaugural RizLab project which aims to create the ultimate in music experiences by bringing togethre progressive artists and pushing creative boundaries. "I'm really looking forward to finally seeing it, to seeing your music," he chirps gesturing towards his awkward musical collaborator, who nods sheepishly.

It seems that the only non-singing third of the indie buzz band The xx doubles up as the only non-talking half of this RizLab project, but the producer eventually opens up on the subject. "At four hours, it will be the longest DJ set I've ever done", he says.

The xx producer also describes the awe of discovering Quayola's work in Paris. "I could really see how this could be a totally immersive experience," he murmurs with discreet enthusiasm.

Likewise, Quayola is a fan of Jamie xx's. He confesses that it was his girlfriend who first got him into The xx, but adds, "It would have been difficult not to have discovered Jamie's music over the past couple of years."

He's right. As well as his and The xx's records receiving airplay all over the radio, there's hardly a BBC montage on television that hasn't featured The xx's "Intro". But as the biggest artists in the industry clamour for his personal hallmark the reputation of this producer-of-the-moment is quickly exceeding the fame of his band. After walking off with the Mercury Music Prize for The xx's self-titled debut, Jamie got to work on Scott-Heron's album of remixes. And as the buzz surrounding the award-winning indie band died down, the Jamie xx hype began to reverberate.

Yet the man himself hardly exudes the confidence instilled by a string of critically acclaimed records. "Every time you do a release it sort of stamps you with this thing, you feel like the next thing you do might just be worthless."

It seems that the huge amount of pressure that accrues when everything you touch turns to gold is taking its toll on the hottest DJ in town. How does an artist maintain creative momentum in the wake of a success that has come relatively quickly? "Making music that you love takes longer and longer in-between every release because each time you're trying to progress," he admits.

Though he "tries not to think about it", he shares the mounting burden of anticipation surrounding the sophomore album from The xx with his fellow band members, Rommy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. "We are all very similar people," he explains. Familiarity is important to the band. The sole barrier preventing the recording of their follow-up album (already written) is the sourcing of a studio in which they'll all feel at home. They used to record in Jamie's bedroom.

Still, success has, to an extent, brought Jamie out of his shell. "It's definitely changed me. I've gained more confidence, I've had to," confesses the introverted DJ. Yet, his social profile remains in stark contrast to the buzz he's generating. "I've been forced to meet a lot more people than I ever would have liked to meet," he declares, with startling sincerity.

Garnering a reputation as the producer-of-the-moment has lured many others out from the shadows and into a spotlight that they've gone on to embrace. The likes of Mark Ronson, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland and Calvin Harris, have all gone on to become more famous than the artists they produced. But finding himself the UK's hottest commodity seems to have caught Jamie xx like a rabbit in the headlights.

Perhaps the decision to swap Smith for xx when marketing his solo work was intended to manufacture a ferocious persona more capable of thriving in the spotlight. If this was the case, it hasn't really worked. His refreshing lack of ego and insistence on sticking to what he's good at, though, points to a character that is unlikely to fall prey to unashamed over-exposure. And crucially, this might ensure him a degree of longevity in the ever fickle industry of music production. Win one of two pairs of weekend passes to Bestival with RizLab Win one of two pairs of weekend passes to Bestival with RizLab

Perhaps the fact that the only one not buying into the Jamie xx hype is Jamie Smith himself will be what keeps the producer's head above water and ultimately save the man-of-the-moment from disappearing in the waves of his own success.

Jamie xx and Quayola's RizLab project 'Structures' will be performed live at the Classic Car Club, London EC1, on Thursday. Sign up for free tickets and see exclusive Jamie and Quayola videos at www.rizlab.co.uk. Jamie xx plays Field Day, Victoria Park, London, tomorrow

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions