Justin Jay’s career sounds like that of many producers over the past decade.
He started out as a bedroom producer – in this case, from his freshman dorm room – before receiving support from such major-name tastemakers as Pete Tong – who labeled him a “Future Star” – as well as Jamie Jones and Disclosure, to name a few.
Rather than stick with a single sound, he’s proven himself versatile without changing his moniker, releasing traditional house tracks, some techno on Nicole Moudaber’s Mood Records, and some experimental stuff on Shall Not Fade and Childsplay.
Currently, he’s the youngest member of the Dirtybird family.
As well, like what other producers eventually do, he started up his own labeled, auspiciously calling it Fantastic Voyage. Mirroring his career, Jay envisions Fantastic Voyage as an effort for other artists, as well as himself, to push boundaries, bridge genres, and find their footing without being pigeonholed into a particular sound or style.
Commemorating all his label has achieved in a relatively short time, Jay recently started releasing Fantastic Voyage: 5 Year Compilation, a 100-track journey over three discs, each with a distinct sound.
As each disc unfolds, Jay covers such familiar ground as vocal house, U.K. garage, disco, and techno before branching out into IDM, drum and bass, breaks, and industrial, as well as notes of hip-hop and indie rock.
Disc 1 came out early in November, followed by disc 2 later in the month and disc 3 early in December. Taking more of an old-school feel, disc 2 sees Jay’s musical production students unveil their original and fully realized compositions.
Disc 3, meanwhile, reworks what we consider traditional club and rave music while weaving in some nostalgia.
With Jay clearly someone to watch both for his own label and his own works, we had a chance to speak with him about this release.
Let’s talk about your background first: How did you get started as a producer?
In middle school, I really wanted to join a rock band. Unfortunately, I was the kid who grew up playing classical piano. Nobody needed a Mozart sonata in their Red Hot Chili Peppers cover, so I was out of luck.
At the beginning of high school, I learned that you could turn the keyboard into any sound imaginable using the computer and DAW – I was hooked!
What was your vision or goal when starting the Fantastic Voyage label five years ago?
My friends and I had made all this music that no label would sign. We were exploring the intersection between singing, songwriting, and live music and electronic and club production.
Many labels only sign music that fits their style, and we love tossing all the genres we like into a big chaotic blender.
Another core part of the vision was to facilitate collaboration between our friends when we wanted to juxtapose techno and ukulele-driven songwriting, but have space for people’s independent artistic expression when necessary.
Finally, we wanted to blur the lines between a DJ crew, a party, and a live band. We’ve been very lucky over the years to have thrown crazy shows where everyone DJs or does a solo live set, and we finish the night with a full band performance.
Lot of homies, lots of music, lots of chaos – hahah.
How do you go about selecting talent for Fantastic Voyage? What do you look for?
The crew of artists that I started the label with were friends I met either in high school or college. As things grew, I started getting demos from fans over the internet.
I’m actively looking for anything. I try to embody the most open-minded state of mind when listening to demos.
If the music resonates with me, it doesn’t matter what genre or style it is. We started a series called “Fantastic Tapes” for non-club music, because I began receiving these amazing jazz and indie-rock demos from my friends.
You’re now celebrating the label’s five-year anniversary with a three-disc compilation. What kinds of tracks and vibe were you seeking out for the compilation?
Oli-J wrote a song called “Colors,” which is about showing your true colors. That was the prompt. I told all the homies, send me ANYTHING.
Any style, any genre. I tried my best to get out of each artist’s way and say yes as much as possible. I had artists singing on songs for the first time, sending genres they’d never made, etc.
BOT from Dirtybird had never used his voice on a track before, and he sent a 110 bpm indie track called “I Want To Be A Cocktail.” I love seeing artists having fun and expressing themselves authentically without self-judgement. That’s the core concept of the comp.
Beyond the three-disc compilation, do you have any other Fantastic Voyage events or releases planned, especially as clubs in the U.S. are opening back up?
On Dec 4th, we threw a five-year B-day Party at Lot 613 in LA. It was a crazy show with dozens of artists playing.
We had a bunch of family style b2b sets and locked in a super crazy special guest, lol. Cooking up some exciting stuff for next year but too soon to announce.
“Colors” is one cut from the compilation, featuring Oli-J. How did you end up collaborating together?
During lockdown, my friend was in a Zoom B-day party and heard Oli sing a song acapella. He was blown away and introduced Oli to the rest of our crew. Since then, we’ve all made a ton of music together.
How did “Colors” come together, and how did you decide on its theme?
“Colors” came about in part when Oli and I did a session at Lubelski’s studio. There were crazy beautiful lights in the room and that inspired Oli to write a song about colors.
Oli wrote the first round of lyrics all by himself insanely quickly, drawing upon his own personal experience of “showing his own true colors.”
We collaborated on both production and lyrics to get everything across the finish line and couldn’t be more stoked with how it turned out. Oli is a beautiful singer/songwriter, and this is a very special song.
Also, shout out Lubelski for writing the bass line, and Danny Goliger for help with engineering and mastering.
Now with five years under your belt, what are your plans for Fantastic Voyage? How would you like to see the label evolve?
Next year, we’ll be launching a new series that will focus on more forward-thinking club music. Some have described this new scene of dance music as “nu rave,” where there is a newfound open-mindedness to mixing and matching classic rave genres.
Everything from drum and bass to trance to gabber to electro etc. is fair game. I’ll always love house but just want to keep on enabling artists’ authentic musical expression no matter what.
On the singer/songwriter side of things, we’ve got upcoming albums from Oli-J and Josh Taylor. Oli made a pop/R&B album, which Benny Bridges and Danny Goliger produced.
Some of the songs sound like The Weeknd and are insane pop bangers. Josh’s album is some of the most heartfelt music I’ve heard him make, which is crazy because he’s made sooo much incredible stuff.
It’s called Breakfast In Bed, which is great, because it has such crazy feel-good energy. Gonna be the perfect soundtrack for starting your day.
Aside from Fantastic Voyage, what are your plans as a solo artist to return to touring and festivals?
I’m currently finishing up a new album. Been very inspired by 100 gecs, AG Cook, and hyperpop, as it’s a blend between lots of nu rave production with a singer/songwriter component.
I got to drop a few of my new songs at Dirtybird Campout in October, and they all felt amazing despite being quite weird and chaotic. I wrote a song called “Where Is the PLUR?” that’s a 150bpm ode to self love.
I played it in the family set at the end of the festival, and people seem to really like it! Hope to drop it before the end of the year.