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‚Äôd later go on to define. Since the release of his debut record, the Kapsize EP, he‚Äôs been swept along by a wave of hype and excitement that hasn‚Äôt allowed him much chance to catch his breath.
From a young age, Joker was DJing at clubs in and around his hometown of Bristol ‚Äď ‚ÄúI was eighteen for a long time,‚ÄĚ he once wryly remarked in an interview ‚Äď 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 ‚ÄėGully Brook Lane‚Äô 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‚Äôs rich musical heritage he was well placed to thrive.
Further encouragement followed when one of the city‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚ÄĚs 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‚Äôs sonic DNA. Offering the clues to where he would head in the future, key tracks such as ‚ÄėSnake Eater‚Äô and ‚ÄėHolly Brook Park‚Äô provided the impetus for him to start making big steps outside of Bristol into the wider world. He also released a split 12‚ÄĚ with Californian experimental don Flying Lotus which too further pushed his name out there.
True to form, 2009 began with ‚ÄėDigidesign‚Äô, a landmark release on Kode9‚Äôs celebrated Hyperdub label, which was met by both critical and commercial acclaim. Awarding the track Best New Music, Pitchfork pithily observed that Joker was ‚Äúenjoying one of those 18-month runs of one-classic-single-after-another.‚ÄĚ Such was the case, when ‚ÄėDigidesign‚Äô 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 ‚ÄėPurple City‚Äô, an in-joke about the ‚Äúpurple sound‚ÄĚ tag and Joker‚Äôs 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‚Äôs hardly surprising that Joker‚Äôs music escapes easy characterisation. Keen to avoid generic formalism, he has even publically distanced himself from being labelled ‚Äėdubstep‚Äô. It‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď no more evident than on album track ‚ÄėLevel 6 (Interlude)‚Äô ‚Äď and he‚Äôs 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‚Äôll 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 (‚ÄėIntro‚Äô) to established classics ‚ÄėTron‚Äô and ‚ÄėMy Trance Girl‚Äô, 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 (‚ÄėThe Magic Causeway‚Äô, 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 ‚ÄėThe Vision (Let Me Breathe)‚Äô, Jay Wilcox on ‚ÄėElectric Sea‚Äô and Silas from Turboweekend and William Cartwright on forthcoming singles, ‚ÄėHere Come The Lights‚Äô and ‚ÄėOn My Mind‚Äô. He also found the time to round up Buggsy, Shadz, Scarz and Double (KHK-SP) to make ‚ÄėBack In The Days‚Äô, the definitive Bristol track he‚Äôs 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‚Äôs also now in the enviable position of being somewhere between the cool of the underground and stardom of the charts.
VEVO have recently premiered the video for Joker's latest single, 'Lost'. Directed by Johnny Mourgue and featuring a show stealing performance from Buggsy, the video is a gritty take on street life and gang culture, with the moral message of Buggsy's lyrics put centre stage.
The Bristolian producer is keeping himself busy through the spring with a series of dates throughout Europe. See the comprehensive list below.
8th - Club Hollywood, Tallinn
10th - Simplon, Groningen
11th - DMZ@5...
Following a number of formative teenage years helping shape the UK underground, Joker released his debut album on 4AD in October (a week later in the US). Entitled The Vision, Joker premiered the record at Glastonbury Festival with the numerous vocalists who guest on the album involved and showcased just how far he'd progressed as a producer.