If I was down the pub and talking to someone I’d say that I do radio, I’m a DJ, and I run my own record label. I also throw parties, I love music and I do what I love. I’m happy, and I’m passionate.
Jamz Supernova – real name Jamilla Walters – does not live up to her stage name; a Supernova, after all, is the name given to a dying star; something that Jamz most certainly is not. She is known to her legions of fans as a spotter of stars, finding new talent for her popular Tuesday night and weekend slot at BBC 1Xtra, while at the same time being a rising star on the international DJ scene herself. Turns out, the choice of Supernova came from a quick look around the room for inspiration for a Twitter handle, and spotting a book of her brother’s about Space.
As a supporter of young entrepreneurs through the DIY Generation feature on your BBC 1Xtra show, what is your story, rising through the ranks to become an internationally renowned DJ?
I was surrounded by music when I was younger. Even though I lived between my mum and dad in London, everything we did revolved around music which obviously has a big influence on what I do now. I studied Media at College and knew then that I wanted to work in radio, and started off on a station called Reprezent 107.3FM. It’s one of the biggest youth stations now, but at the time it was based out of a Peckham Council Estate. At school I was always making CDs for people too. My idea of fun was to sit on Limewire for hours and see how much new music I could discover.
And it was at the same time you landed an internship at the BBC?
Yeah, so I started interning at the BBC at the same time, and I was interning at the bottom, across all the different shows. I’d then take back to Reprezent what I was learning. I was growing in the BBC and over 5 years became a Producer. I got a bigger show on Reprezent and this led to me getting a show on the BBC. It’s all about starting small. If you want to do radio, make radio in your bedroom and go from there.
My idea of fun was to sit on Limewire for hours and see how much new music I could discover.
How did this affect your DJing?
The DJing actually started from the kind of radio show that I wanted to do. I wanted to be a specialist DJ playing underground music, and they said that if I wanted to do that I had to learn how to actually mix. So that’s how that started. It’s all intertwined, but radio was the first thing.
You’re known as one of the most up-and-coming DJs in the UK at the moment; what would you say your greatest achievement has been so far?
Last Summer I was asked to play at Sonar Festival in Barcelona. It’s a really eclectic festival, a bit of a Holy Grail like Glastonbury. It’s a nod that you’re going in the right direction, so it was an exciting thing in itself to even get the invitation! That was a huge moment for me. That, and also getting to play the main stage – although by default as they only had one stage during the day. Everyone was really receptive and it really felt like I was doing what I was always meant to do. It was just this weird experience of coming off stage, going partying with my friends, but then having people stop you and say “I really enjoyed your set, can I get a picture?” That was a big moment for me.
Is that when it really hit that you had made it as a DJ?
No, I’d say that was when I was still at Reprezent. I was producing for a DJ called Toddla T and I was the youngest producer at Radio 1. I was getting DJ bookings that Toddla was helping me out with, getting me to open for him, while at the same time my show in Reprezent was popping, and I just thought “I could do this forever.” And that I was comfortable with that thought. Of course, when I got my own show on the BBC, that was also a moment that changed everything.
Since starting at 1Xtra, how would you say the underground scene has changed?
It’s become more mainstream. A lot of the sounds, the type of RnB we’re hearing and its production, it’s all mainstream now. Look at Ariana Grande’s “Thank U Next”; 5 years ago that would have been edgy on Soundcloud. Now, it’s Pop Music. But for me now, it’s great to see artists like Mahalia embrace and be inspired by future RnB sounds, as well as Jorja Smith. We now have to go deeper, more alternative, to find that next sound of what’s going to come through. At the moment I’m really inspired by jazz and also the use of live instruments making a comeback. If it’s a bit more electronic, then it’s more kind of weird and ambient, pushing different sounds. So my job is just to go deeper really and search for these sounds.
When I got my own show on the BBC, that was also a moment that changed everything.
Where is your favourite place to play in London?
London has changed so much, so many venues have shut down. I love Rye Wax in the basement of the Bussey Building in Peckham. It’s 100 capacity with low ceilings, so it just feels nice. I like playing in a dark club with an intimate venue, and afterwards, I like to carry on partying!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be patient. When I was 19-24 I wanted everything so badly and I wanted it straight away. I wasn’t really present in what I was doing day to day and would be anxious about not being where I thought I should be. But now I know I can do whatever it is that I want to do, even if it takes me 20 years. I will do it, I just have to be patient.