“I just want people to have a good time”, Jamie Roberts insists.
Most would know him better as Blawan, which means to blow up but also, and much less threatening, is a name of a coffee brand.
Based on his releases ranging from UK garage, via experimental, industrial and left-field techno all the way to noise, one could suspect the artist joking. Such diversity in styles is necessarily not the typical formula of keeping the fans constantly happy. With his most recent release, a debut full-length album, it actually makes sense – the record is more dance-floor friendly and less diverse in styles.
Originally from Barnsley, UK, Roberts started playing music early. Back then, he was a drummer with several bands, and at a very young age he was already touring extensively. At university he studied music, but he does not want to give it too much credit when asked how his early years in music have shaped him.
At the time Roberts started clubbing, the DJ’s at the clubs mixed everything: dubstep, garage, house, acid, bass and everything in between. Like most hypes coming from the UK, also this one only lasted a few months. But the idea stuck with Roberts. Ever since starting to release his own music, he has always included a mix of styles into his work. And even more so, it has more or less defined his style.
Blawan’s early releases hit the market on credible labels such as R&S and Avian, and them paved the way for a number of remixes. He has for example remixed acts as diverse as Radiohead, The Black Dog, Source Direct and Depeche Mode, and he saw a commercial breakthrough came with a remix of Brandy’s I wanna be down. When asked, Blawan puts the Radiohead remix at the front of the stack. That is the one he is the most happy with.
And then there is the banger Why they hide their bodies under my garage. True to the artist’s constantly changing styles, this track is like nothing else he has made before – but the crowd loves it. The track bears a strong resemblance to the massive Born slippy by Underworld, and when asked, Blawan admits he must have been inspired by it. “But then again, coming from the UK, who wouldn‘t be?”, he adds.
For a period Roberts had a gap in his releases, during which he relocated to Berlin and set up his own label, Ternesc. However, according to him, there is not really that much to it: the label is simply a convenient way to release music the way he wants it. And one thing is clear – he is not going to release any other music than his own.
Currently, Blawan has released 4 EP’s and one full-length LP on Ternesc. Those releases together have a distinctively different sound and feeling than the previous releases, but it is apparently only indirectly caused by the artist moving to Berlin. “The change of scenery was good, for sure. I needed a restart”, he says.
When moving to Berlin, Roberts got set up with a much better recording studio than before. Back in the UK, the studio was in his home, but in Berlin, those two are separate. He lives a fairly straightforward life, almost 9-to-5, goes to his studio every morning and back home again every afternoon. “Actually, I’m not really a night person”, Roberts states.
It has never stopped him from touring, though. Except for a yearly winter break, he has been touring every weekend for as long as he can remember.
Moving from computer to modular synthesizers must also partially explain the change in sound. Whenever he plays live, which he does under the name of Kilner, he plays modular synths. “It really keeps you on your toes, and it prevents you from doing only what is safe, which is an absolute necessity if you want to keep going over time.”
When touring as Blawan, though, it is all about DJ’ing. And that has to do with keeping the crowd happy. “Because you want to give the people a good time. And most of the time this means to give them what they want.”
And sometimes what they need?
“Yes, that too”, Roberts confesses, laughing. “I always come prepared with a lot of different music, new and old, but I never prepare a set besides that. I usually spend the first 30-45 minutes figuring out what the people want, and then I take it from there.”
There is no doubt Roberts really loves touring and DJ’ing. Anyone who has seen Blawan playing can tell he is a very hard-working person, someone who puts a lot of energy into his sets. “The best gig I ever did was a closing set at Berghain. It lasted for 12 hours, and after that I was completely exhausted for 2 days. For all that time, I didn’t even have a drink!”
However, Roberts, prefers smaller clubs of up to 200-300 people. There he can connect with the crowd more easily. He also works with various collaborations. A few years back, his agent connected him with the Italian duo The Analogue Cops, and that led to a handful of co-releases as well as the collaborative project Parassela. He has also put out a few releases with Pariah as Karenn.
A potentially awesome collaboration that unfortunately never saw the light of day, was one with Marc Bell of former LFO. Sadly, he passed away suddenly right after reaching out to Roberts.
“I’m soon going into digital detox. In January I’m taking a break from all this”, he says. But fear not, there’s a number of releases already scheduled in the next few months: Two EP’s on his own label, one of which will have live material, but also new material on Avian. And then there will be a brand new collaboration. “It’s going to be extreme, and that’s all I can reveal for now. Except for the fact that it will be totally different”.
Which should come as absolutely no surprise at all.
Photo: Marie Staggat