A Conversation With Dirtybird DJ Justin Jay: “The Deep Satisfaction Comes From the Process and the Journey, Not the Destination”

At Lightning in a Bottle last Saturday, Justin Jay, Dirtybird's Los Angeles based deep- and tech-house DJ, played a rollicking set for a packed crowd at the festival's Woogie Stage. The energy was electric and Jay's thumping, melodic beats were exactly what the doctor ordered.

After the 23-year-old's marathon two-hour set, SF Weekly met with him backstage to ask a few questions about how he got into making music, his college days, and what's up next. 

[jump] SF Weekly: Was Dirtybird the number one label you wanted to be on?

Justin Jay: Dirtybird was like like THE label. I would watch every YouTube video of every DirtyBird player. If I had Dirtybird posters, they would’ve been straight above my bed. I was obsessed. These are like my musical heroes, and they still are. That moment of getting my song on Dirtybird was like the most surreal dream come true that I’ve ever experience, and now it's nuts having become friends with the guys from the label.

SFW: Where is your favorite place to play in San Francisco?

JJ: The S.F. scene is so much fun! I've played Monarch many many times, and that spot is one of my favorite places to play in California. My favorite thing is that you can high-five the kids at the front of the dance floor from the DJ booth. SFW: When did you know you made it as a professional artist?

JJ: When I could start paying for my own food and my rent through music, that was the most surreal thing ever. But no, I haven’t had the viral crazy hit single or anything like that. I've spent most of my last five years in my bedroom just making beats and getting lucky enough to do shows. The grind then and now is just the same. It's not really about hitting the specific milestones 'cause if you put too much pressure on saying, 'Oh, if I just play this show and then I'll make it and then I’ll get to the point (maybe) and be like NOW WHAT?' You’ll still feel the same. And I feel like the deep satisfaction comes from the process and the journey, not the destination.

SFW: What software did you use while you were in your dorm room?

JJ: I just used Logic and a pair of my small speakers in my dorm desk studio.

SFW: What made you bring in the guitar on your new album?

JJ: All the credit goes to me just becoming friends with people who love different types of music. In college [at USC], I joined a frat my freshman year, and there was one other dude that joined with me that was way into music and his name was Josh Taylor. We were the two sensitive music kids in the frat and we were into two different types of music, but we bonded over that mutual passion. I was obsessed with weird house party tech music and Josh was into the feel-good jams you wanna hear on the beach. The last year of college, we just said, 'Fuck it. Let's jam and see what happens.' We started a song on Monday and on Wednesday, we brought in our buddy Benny Bridges to play guitar that Friday night. I decided to miss my flight and drive up Saturday morning with Josh and Benny finishing up the tracks on the way. On the way up though, the computer died half-way on the six-hour drive, so we stopped at an In-N-Out, and the only outlets were on the ceiling. Later, we go to the club, five minutes before we started playing. We did a quick soundcheck and right when I got on, Josh (vocals) and Benny (guitar) got behind me and it was just magical. The next week, we cranked out another one and another one after that.

SFW: How is bringing your crew with you?

JJ: It's so crazy when we have all the homies. We take over the vibe. We set the tone. People are smiling and it feels really good.

SFW: Is that you on the vocals for the EP, Mom, I Graduated?

JJ: Yes. After I made five to six songs with Ben and Josh,I decided to hop on the mic on the two songs “Hit It” and “Rain Dance.”
SFW: What's next for you?

JJ: I just want to push myself to keep on learning about song writing and live music. What's so dope about doing music is when you learn how to do new things. You get to make music that you wouldn’t be able to make before.

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