Jana Rush – Soulful footwork mutations (interview)
It is not many people who can say that they aired a dj-set at the age of 10. However, it is exactly the case with the Chicago-based artist Jana Rush who started broadcasting on the local WKKC radio. “I just went straight to turntables and radio,” she cheerfully explains to Passive/Aggressive in this transatlantic interview before going to Europe to perform for the first time.
Jana Rush was 10 years old, bored and listen a lot of radio every evening. “Boredom is pretty dangerous for kids,” Rush admits. “I was at home by myself and my mother had a friend at the hospital who was really sick. So, she had to be with her friend and I was at home listening to the radio,” she continues, “I listen to the radio pretty often at that age and it was just one of those days I decided for no reason one night that I wanted to become a dj.” She then called the radio station countless times until someone finally picked up the phone and Rush simply asked: “How can I become a dj?”
“And of cause they really did not take me seriously. They talked to me for a little bit but when they heard that I was 10 years-old, then they started laughing,” she says. Somehow Rush managed to get her foot in the door and she was invited to join the radio station the following Saturday for an audition, “they told me what to bring, but off cause I did not have any records” Rush then turned up the next Saturday not knowing what really was about to happen next, the people at the station showed her a set of Technics, which she had no idea how to work. But Rush turned up and practiced every weekend and six months later, she had her first radio show.
By the age of 15 years she had put her first track out on ghetto-house label Dance Mania and two years later she had a single split with Dj Deeon “I just kept bugging him to help me out and he eventually helped me with my album and put my mixtape out. I was ecstatic about that.”
Though Jana Rush has been in the game since the mid 1990s, she took some serious ground back in 2016 with her ep “MPC 7635” on Objects ltd. as Ja Ru, following last year’s debut album, “Pariah”, she gained a lot of hype around her name Jana Rush, which took her by surprise “I did not expect everyone to take such a good reception of my record.”
When Rush released her debut album, it was completely without any specific genre in mind, she just wanted to make music, she explains, “I am still in my learning-phase, and I will not call myself a full-flesh musician just yet. When you are learning and you come to the studio, you just lay down tracks, your job is to put tracks together no matter what it is, you do not have a plan about making a certain type of track. You are learning and putting stuff together and if it sounds good then you test it out on people and if they tell you that they like it then that is what you do. Right now that is where I am” and she concludes hopefully “I come in and make music.” For now she is focussed on always aim to do better, to learn more and then the rest will come “Maybe in a year from now I will be able to whole-hearted come into the studio and tell myself hey I wanna make a jazz record, or I’m going to make a footwork album” and she continues, “and I might be able to make it. But right now, it is all about making good tracks.”
It is hard to fully capture the sound of Jana Rush. Her music is a mutation of Chicago’s footwork, at one moment it has soulful snares and the next fast gabber related bmp-count. Her natural way of navigating in-between subtle rhythm and frenetic grooves that sounds as if they are about to explore is beyond admiration. Her confident and control is added on top of it. All these elements are carefully included in that Jana Rush sound of hers, because as she puts it, “It depends on how I feel when I come into the studio. I can play, or listen to music all day that inspires me,” and she adds “it really depends on what kind of mood I am in – if I am in a sappy mood or I am in an emotional mood then I will probably go for the more emotional sounds, more minor sounds, something that is angry but at the same time emotional beauty in some way.” That is her approach to producing the special Rush signature.
“In general I just like to make music, I am not trying to be so much of an IDM artist or a hip-hop artist or anything. I just like to explore and make music and that usually what happens when I come into the studio. I guess it is probably why my tracks sounds so weird. Because I just do not come with the idea of I am going to make a jungle track today – it is just whatever comes out.” So, basically your album is an archive of emotions and moods? She nods and adds a simple “yes”.
Let female artists stand on their own
Jana Rush is raised as a pariah. In the footwork field she feels like an outsider, she explains, “love footwork. I love it a lot. But as far as me being considered solely a footwork artist, that is kind of false” and Rush continues “I am not accepted by the heavy hitters or the main peeps in the footwork world. I am the red headed stepchild. I am not accepted into the family it is almost like I am some sort of transplant or something.” she adds a laugh at the end. That is what is understood by the title of her album. The feeling of being an outsider suits Rush good almost perfectly, it allows her to work without any limitations or expectations, “being an outsider affords me the amenity of not having to consider any expectations. When I make music, I do so without any conscience which allows one maximum creativity. I want to constantly out-do myself and this allows me to ‘think outside the box’ when I want or ‘think inside the box’ when necessary.”
With the lid having already been thoroughly pried off the female discussion recently Rush can only join, when asked if she ever experienced any challenges alone because she was female ”definitely” she concedes, “you said it right there yourself it is a male-dominated field.” Rush continues, “a lot of time you are not fairly represented and you are not fairly supported. There is a lot of time you get into situation, which you know how they are going to turn out, and they often do not turn out in your best interest.” An early Jana Rush track is featured on a Gal Fyah compilation including tracks by females only. Looking back she thinks concepts like this is some sort of a double-edged sword “basically it is good because it is like a union of females and we have to all come to together and become a stronger force. But it can become too much like a gimmick. There is a lot of that going on right now all-female line-up at festivals and there is something about that just is too gimmicky.”
It is not Rush’s intention to sound piggy but she tries to navigate herself around concepts like these, because to her they sound sexist and adds, “I don’t really see a lot of all-male compilations with an underline message about it.”
While Rush fully respect and acknowledge that more and more women are starting to produce and enter the club culture, she keeps staying critical because even though a lot of progress has been made, we are not there yet, “I have noticed in some genres that women are starting to both get recognized and supported, but Ii have this feeling that it can only be one per genre. It feel like it can only be one female. If it is going to be a female it can only be one. And that kind of fucks me a little bit. I feel like in the music industry with reviews and stuff like that we need to let more female artists stand on their own and stop the situation where we start to be competitive between two females.”
“We need to let female artists stand on their own, like we do with the male artists. If they are going to be an artist, then they have the right to be an artist without having to be compared with x,y,z or whoever. When we do an interview or a review then talk about the album, talk about the artist. That to me is one huge step to let female artists stand on their own. If you want to talk about their work – talk about their work,” she declares.
“The most important thing for me is to be renowned for my music and have my own name. Let female artist stand on their own.” and she concludes, “I am non-binary identifying. I can not really say I identify as female, male, or trans. I refuse to impose any unnecessary limits on my life, gender, music etcetera. Take me as I am or watch me as I go! In any male-dominated industry, there is always this wet dream of orchestrating ‘cat-fights’ between women or any minority that dare to enter the field; this orchestration is often perpetuated by the inferred scarcity of attention and opportunities available to women and minorities. What we must remember, being any minority, is that to successfully rise we unite and have an undying commitment to build a solid foundation and support one another.”
Info: The beginning of next month Rush is doing her first performance outside USA ever as she is headlining this year’s CTM Festival at Berghain. Later 2018 she will drop another album on Objects and then she will take Asia.