Joker

In 2007, with the underground in the midst of grime exploding nationwide and dubstep beginning to show new possibilities for UK bass music, a then 16-year old Joker was making his first contribution to the scene he’d later go on to define. Since the release of his debut record, the Kapsize EP, he’s been swept along by a wave of hype and excitement that hasn’t allowed him much chance to catch his breath.

From a young age, Joker was DJing at clubs in and around his hometown of Bristol – “I was eighteen for a long time,” he once wryly remarked in an interview – it was in these environments that Joker developed a hunger to make music. His first moment of recognition came when a hero of his, Plastician, responded favourably to being cold mailed the track ‘Gully Brook Lane’ and began dropping it into his live sets. This provided the catalyst for Joker to start taking his music making more seriously, and against the backdrop of Bristol’s rich musical heritage he was well placed to thrive.

Further encouragement followed when one of the city’s dubstep pioneers, Rob Ellis AKA Pinch, booked him to DJ at his club night and subsequently agreed to put out his debut record on the Earwax imprint. Naming the debut EP after his late-cousin, Kapsize was a tribute he’s maintained with the founding of his own label of the same name.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Joker was to release five more 12”s the following year, included among them splits with peers Jakes, TRG and Rustie. Acquiring new equipment and rapidly honing his production skills with each release, it was this run of records that firmly set the template of Joker’s sonic DNA. Offering the clues to where he would head in the future, key tracks such as ‘Snake Eater’ and ‘Holly Brook Park’ provided the impetus for him to start making big steps outside of Bristol into the wider world. He also released a split 12” with Californian experimental don Flying Lotus which too further pushed his name out there.

True to form, 2009 began with ‘Digidesign’, a landmark release on Kode9’s celebrated Hyperdub label, which was met by both critical and commercial acclaim. Awarding the track Best New Music, Pitchfork pithily observed that Joker was “enjoying one of those 18-month runs of one-classic-single-after-another.” Such was the case, when ‘Digidesign’ appeared, Joker had muscled his way to the forefront of British dance music.

That same year, Joker also collaborated with fellow Bristolian Ginz on the track ‘Purple City’, an in-joke about the “purple sound” tag and Joker’s apparent synaesthesia, in which he claims the colour helps him make music. Continuing with that association, he ended the year with a free mixtape, The Purple Wow Sound, collecting together his own music along with Ginz and fellow purple sound players, Guido and Gemmy, plus soon-to-be big name Skream.

Alongside putting together his own compositions, Joker found his remixing skills in demand, lending his distinctive sound to tracks by Simian Mobile Disco, Sean Paul, Basement Jaxx, Professor Green and Bristol legend, Roni Size.

With such a wealth of releases and remixes behind him, it’s hardly surprising that Joker’s music escapes easy characterisation. Keen to avoid generic formalism, he has even publically distanced himself from being labelled ‘dubstep’. It’s understandable, since his music runs deep with R&B, funk and soul influences combining with his trademark pounding bass wobbles and ascending crystalline synths. Also apparent is an affection for the music of computer games and the Sega Megadrive – no more evident than on album track ‘Level 6 (Interlude)’ – and he’s even built an entire track around the Metal Gear Solid 3 theme.

Forward to 2011 and still only 22, the year has seen Joker spend every available weekend in a field, club or on a plane. He also premiered the album at Glastonbury Festival with the numerous vocalists involved. By the time the year is out, he’ll have been all over Europe, and to the US, Japan and Australia. It also marks the year when he finally signed an album deal with 4AD, a label not normally associated with the UK bass scene, but with a vibrant and increasingly iconic roster that makes the fit seem an obvious one.

Released on the 7th of November, debut album The Vision finally appeases his waiting public and represents the sum of five years of hard work. Old fans will be pleased to know that trademark instrumentals are there in abundance, from the Vangelis inspired album opener (‘Intro’) to established classics ‘Tron’ and ‘My Trance Girl’, which showcase the muscular synths and sharp drum snaps for which he has become renowned to the warmth of the heady height of summer album closer (‘The Magic Causeway’, performed with Ginz).

These are complimented by a number of startling vocal collaborations that also show just how far his sound has come; with inspired contributions from fellow rising stars like Jessie Ware on the Radio 1 playlisted ‘The Vision (Let Me Breathe)’, Jay Wilcox on ‘Electric Sea’ and Silas from Turboweekend and William Cartwright on forthcoming singles, ‘Here Come The Lights’ and ‘On My Mind’. He also found the time to round up Buggsy, Shadz, Scarz and Double (KHK-SP) to make ‘Back In The Days’, the definitive Bristol track he’s been promising to make.

With The Vision, Joker is still unable to stand still, learning all the time and firmly rooted in Bristol's fecund dance music scene. He’s also now in the enviable position of being somewhere between the cool of the underground and stardom of the charts.
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    Joker
    On My Mind

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    Joker
    The Vision

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