Jazzy M – Exclusive Interview
Interview – Mike Mannix
Born in London in 1962 Michael Schiniou aka ‘Jazzy M’ always had a keen ear for dance music and got his first break as a DJ at 17. He was the first DJ in the UK to host a regular ‘house’ music show the ‘Jackin Zone’ on pirate radio in 1986, which directly influenced DJ’s such as ‘Darren Emerson’ of ‘Underworld’ and Balearic pioneer ‘Johnnie Walker’ to get involved in the scene.
His record store ‘Vinyl Zone’ opened in Fulham around the time of the ‘Acid House’ explosion, which soon became a focal point for ‘Rave’ organizations like ‘Biology’, who used ‘Vinyl Zone’ as a ticket outlet for the now notorious M25 Raves, and launching the careers of the mega stars ‘Orbital’ on his label OhZone’. If that wasn’t enough, he has since become the longest running resident DJ at the Ministry of Sound. He has been in the thick of it since the 1980’s and has cemented his ground-breaking position, as the UK’s undisputed ‘Godfather of House’ in the biggest music revolution in history, a true iconic heavy weight in the global dance music scene.
MM – Thank you for talking to us at iconic underground, what attracted you to the dance music / rave scene, what gave you the itch to mix?
JM – Cheers Mike, I was attracted to dance music from an early age, I was around 13 when I stared to listen to Funk Disco Jazz & Soul by 14 I was already going with older people who would get me into clubs and bars. I started working in a record/equipment shop in the early 80’s called Spin-Off’s owned by renowned New York DJ Greg James who came to London in the 70s to play The Embassy Club.
The shop was based in Hammersmith along the Fulham Palace Road in London. We sold all things Hip-Hop, Electro, Funk, Jazz-Funk, Disco and then House from as early as 1984. We were a music and equipment store which was famous for bringing in The American GLI mixers ( They were early X-Fade Mixers that Run DMC, Jazzy Jeff, Mantronix early UK outfits like Mastermind, Richie Rich were using at that time, and the huge stocks of Silver Technics 1200 Turntable’s maybe selling as many as 30 – 40 a week and the owner as I said was from the New York gay disco scene, who helped me learn to mix as he also taught Les Adams and knew all of the New York DJ’s & Artists. He taught me the art of American style blending. In early gigs I met and played alongside the late great Frankie Knuckles at raves called The Trip in Astoria that I learned from him the art of 2 copies the same record and remixing them live by playing Dub to Vox etc. Same principal as Hip Hop except playing tracks instead of cutting from one break to the other.
MM – After you launched your label Oh Zone, you signed the now seminal ‘Chime’ by Orbital, at the time did you realize it would be such a worldwide phenomenon that’s still inspiring and smashing the parties globally, and why do you think it was so successful?
JM – Chime is a track that had all the ingredients to be a massive hit and I had no doubt it would be, and it was. It was brought to me while I was doing my show on a TDK cassette simply entitled Chime by Paul from Kent, a year later it was 16 in the UK Pop Charts. I put my whole soul into starting OhZone Recordings with it pouring all my money into making sure it would do something from the look of the label to naming the band Orbital which I took from the Orbital rave scene (M25 Raves were called Orbital Raves) that were going on at that time, it also went well with the whole concept of the label name OhZone our OhZone moto was ‘Love your Mother (Earth)’ we were big on saving the planet and sending out a message even though I was ignorant of the fact that Vinyl itself was a product made from Oil but that was 30 years ago, the earlier days way before the internet and more information now about our planet, I had every confidence it would do great things but truthfully not to the expectations it got too and still has even to this day.
”We we’re pioneering a huge dance music movement that was bigger than any other music movement in history”
MM – What part did your pirate radio show ‘Jacking Zone’ on LWR in 1984, contribute to the explosion of interest across the UK into ‘House music’? JM –
The Show The Jacking Zone was the first ever all house music show which started as a 30 minute part of my show where I would play funk, jazz, soul and boogie as well as electronica from bands like Kraftwerk, Klein and MBO, Depeche Mode and early Giorgio Moroder and disco and that’s how it got the title ‘The Jacking Zone’ cos ‘House dance’ was to ‘Jack’ too at that time and also the title to an early House track out by Lee Haggard (Mr Lee) And K’Alexi Shelby known as The Risque Rhythm Team who wrote it as a House version of the Twilight Zone Theme when it came out on Chicago Connection records part of Trax network in 1986 and I started my show with it as an intro from then on. House Records were scarce in those early years so I could only fill a small amount of time up, but within a year I had a full blown 3 Hour House Music Show Tuesdays & Thursdays 9-12 pm straight after Tim Westwoods Hip Hop Show which by then every kid in and around London was listening too.
The Jacking Zone supplied early House Charts for Music papers called at that time Black Echoes and later magazines Like Soul Underground & Blues & Soul which started as a Top 10 to become a Top 100 Chart Show, I ran every Thursday night.
MM – Was the Acid house explosion a major factor in the success of your ‘Vinyl Zone’ record shop in Fulham and your collaboration’s with Pete tong?
JM – Yes it was of course, we were pioneering a huge dance music movement that was bigger than any other music movement in history, first with my radio shows then with the shop, The Vinyl Zone selling tickets and DJing all the big London raves as well as some big orbital raves outside the M25 and my own brand new labels OhZone & Delphinus Delphius who’s first release was Chime – Orbital. I was working alongside and compiled with Pete Tong (FFRR) on LP’s like The House Sound of London Vol 4 (The Jacking Zone) which not only featured Salsa House made by my dear friend DJ Richie Rich who was a Hip Hop DMC Champion and made Salsa House as a bet from me, that he could not make a house track (ER he proved me wrong) to 2 tracks on that LP by The D.S Building Contactors, Who I renamed Orbital! I signed my own tracks to Him including KlubZone 1 – Boom Ahh which was on OhZone as well as the biggest deal of all I signed Chime to FFRR from OhZone for a 6 LP deal which led onto Orbitals huge success, I also worked with Mike Sefton ( A+M Records) and compiled a double Acid LP called ‘House Hallucinates‘ that came out stateside as well, before that with Morgan Khan (Streetsounds) where I compiled The History of House Box Set which has every single early house track from Chicago, Detroit, New York and the early beginnings of UK house . I’ve met and played alongside all the biggest DJ’s/Producers in the world and many of them came to Vinyl Zone my record Store in The Kings Road in Fulham. I was at that time untouchable when it came to House in the UK the whole industry looked to me. It was an amazing time
MM – After nearly 3 decades in the house scene does the ‘underground’ today still inspire you, and does it compare to the hedonistic and heady days of the late 80’s early 90’s where do you see it evolving??
JM – Because of the Internet there really is no true underground anymore and most of the new productions are variably Shit. But I still get hyped about some new music today as I ever did, and of course there is so much more to choose from and of course wade through. The fact that sadly I don’t go and buy vinyl anymore and I miss the excitement of that and also the social aspect of it, because you were guaranteed to meet someone you knew down at the record store, when I had Vinyl Zone it was like a who’s who of the industry who came to shop with me, those days were something else.
As far as it progressing of course and now a days a lot of the young producers who let’s face it were not alive or too young to remember the Early House, now try to recreate that early basic sound especially Acid House. Not quite the same though as it was also the roughness of the Vinyl pressings like on Trax Records from Chicago which gave it a surface noise etch to add to the flavour of Acid etc. But there are many many amazing tunes being made today, trouble is you just take a long time to search them out even on the nets online stores and sites and some of the promo’s I’m sent are terrible, under produced and have as much feeling as a cardboard guitar!
MM – What drives you Jazzy, and what is the secret to your immense success?
JM – It’s my love for the music the spiritual high and energy of a live crowd plus an undying nature to give always, the pleasure from this is can hardly be equaled.
MM – How does the tag Grooverider gave you as ‘The Godfather of UK House’ sit with you, how does it make you feel, and what impact did Frankie knuckles have your career?
JM – First the term UK Godfather of House did not go to well as there were many jealous people out there laying claim, also to me as there was only one Godfather of House, but I was quite humbled by the whole thing really. And as time has moved on it’s a great accolade to have and I’m very proud of that. My early memories of playing out with Frankie Knuckles and also getting to know him as a friend are too much to say, I really miss him and so does the whole world of House he was by far one of the nicest people in this industry and super cool talented DJ/Producer at his work . I learn’t a great deal from him and he was inspirational.
”Chime by Orbital is a track that had all the ingredients to be a massive hit, and I had no doubt it would be, and it was”
MM – What was the very first record you played on your very first set, as the very first DJ to play at the Ministry of Sound?
JM – After the intro of 2001 A Space Odyssey was played to open the doors for the first time to the Main Room Box from the Bar, I played De La Soul – A Roller-skating Jam named Saturday. Both Dub and Vox remixes from the wonderful David Morales came out on Tommy Boy Records and ran at about 116BPM (Just for the Record hehe).
MM – When you are in the studio producing a track or a remix what is the process you usually take, and what DAW / outboard audio gear do you use in the production process?
JM – I have worked in many over the last 30 years including studios run at the time by ‘Paul Weller’ called Solid Bond which was in Marble Arch London, more now at home I work with either with Ableton Live and mainly all plug-ins. I still have a Roland 909 Drum machine, plus a few old Roland Synths, The outboard depends on the Studio so it could still be mixed down on a huge SSL desk or some Mackie Digital Desk or just a small soundcard mixer it’s really not same now with digital.
Unfortunately I sold a lot of my studio including most of the outboard drum machines and Synths a while back. Which I now regret of course .We still like to master after a day’s break with fresh ears like in the old days, I used to arrange a dub mix live for more effect with all the tracks playing from the 24 Track and mix the track down like a DJ would . Now it’s all preprogrammed of course. We used to use Pro – Tools a fair bit.
MM – What are your next big projects and collaboration plans for the future?
JM – Well there is new music coming out from myself Jazzy M and studio partner programmer and drummer The CR41G on a revamped OhZone but before that just will post it up on Soundcloud for an Ltd free download, there will be collaborations with a few other great people I can’t mention at this time. The music will be all styles like Funky Disco loops, Soulful House’, Deep, Tech to something very different and electronica. Also I am writing a book called ‘The Jacking Zone’, and there are talks of it being made into a film, The Story House Music and how it truly began in the UK especially London from my life’s perspective.
MM – Thank you Jazzy
JM – No problem, man
Photography ref Jazzy M
Interview conducted by Mike Mannix a Dublin based dance music writer, editor and publisher