‘Off the Deep End’: Jauz discusses his roots, success, and future plans [Interview]
The term “overnight success” would be a misnomer for Sam Vogel. The LA-based artist, who perpetually produces and tours internationally under the Jauz moniker, epitomizes the notion of the hardworking producer and is one of bass music’s loudest voices. Between his constant stream of releases, high profile collaborations with veterans like Tiësto and Skrillex, and ubiquity across festival lineups, it’s easy to forget that Jauz was virtually unknown before releasing his breakthrough hit, “Feel the Volume” in July of 2014.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Vogel’s quick, thorough ascension to his current level of success is his ability to balance his high output level, demanding touring schedule, and stylistic integrity with his fundamental humility and honesty. From forthrightly weighing in on pre-planned sets to releasing free music for his listeners every day of Shark Week, Vogel manages to maintain a respectfully engaging level of communication with his fanbase that is extremely rare for someone of his stature.
For Vogel, this balance is rooted in his authenticity, both as a composer and a person. When asked about balancing humility and success, he notes, “I think the most important thing for me is that my mindset was always: ‘The reason that I made the music that I was making when people started liking the music that I was making was because of the person who I was,’ and I’ve never wanted to change being that person because if you become someone different then you’re going to make different music.” Despite his catalog of releases, Vegas residency, and other varied accolades, Vogel is still inherently the same person he was before his Jauz project ignited.
“I try to remind myself of who I was before I started doing all of this: just a broke-ass kid on the couch making music on my computer and playing video games, and that’s pretty much exactly what I do now. I have a fancy studio at my house with nice speakers and stuff and I’ll sit in there with all of those fancy things that cost a bunch of money and just use my laptop speakers and just sit there for hours, because that’s how I started making music in the first place. No amount of money or fancy gear is gonna make your music any better and that kind of also translates to myself as a person. No fancy car or house or anything is gonna make me feel like a cooler, better person than I was when I started any of this.”
At its core, every facet of the Jauz project relates back to Vogel’s personal roots. The name “Jauz” itself, which has spawned a shark iconography surrounding the brand based upon Spielberg’s iconic Jaws film, was actually inspired by Vogel’s high school experience in Mill Valley, CA. Vogel explains, “Jauz – the way it’s actually spelled in my name, not like the shark – was a slang word that was used by the kids in my high school the grade below me. I thought it was the stupidest word ever, and I hated it. I hated it so much. And then, when I was coming up with ideas for names for my new brand it just kind of popped into my head randomly, and I was like, ‘Eh, it’s short, it’s catchy, people might relate it to the shark.’ And, if i ever get anywhere with my career people from my hometown will see it and it’ll either be like an inside joke or they’ll be like, ‘What the fuck, he hated that word! I can’t believe he used that as his name…’ So it was funny for me.”
Vogel’s ironic appropriation of the local slang term is all the more fitting when given full context:
“‘Jauz’ was like a slang word for bullshit or being a liar. So for example, if a kid was like, ‘Yo, I got so drunk last weekend and I didn’t study for my test and I aced it,’ and then someone else was like, ‘Jauz! I saw the grade on your test, you failed.'”
Whether intentionally or not, Vogel’s use of a term indicating “bullshit” to label a brand based upon his own authenticity delegitimizes its original meaning. While the producer used to mock the use of “Jauz,” the word is now inextricably linked to his own unfettered integrity; his honesty which pervades regardless of the situation.
When Vogel recently reignited the debate over the legitimacy of pre-planned DJ sets, he did so knowing full well that he would receive criticism from a fair share of detractors. Still, in the interest of being straightforward, Jauz divulged his strategy for sets because his meticulous selection of songs for each show is a fundamental facet to his performative style. Of his sets, Vogel states, “It’s different for every show, but the goal for me is to tell a story through the set at the beginning depending on where I am.”
The preparation that Vogel puts into each setlist to reach the utmost pertinence across a variety of settings entails that each of his shows is unique to its audience. To further his performance goals, Jauz has established “Off the Deep End,” a series of performances spanning his residencies at Hakkasan-branded clubs and beyond, where he aims to experiment outside of the sets he purveys at “typical” Jauz shows.
“The whole Off the Deep End brand is something that I’ve been mulling around in my head and figuring out where the best place to start it was. And i think having it start in Vegas is perfect because what I do in Vegas is different than a lot of other guys, and to have like a brand that people can attach to myself so that when I go to Vegas…it’s different than going to a regular Vegas nightclub, seeing a regular Vegas DJ. In broader terms, the whole Off the Deep End brand, for me, is kind of just whenever I do something that’s a little bit different than what I normally do.
“So the whole concept, for me, originally was, let’s say I’m doing a North American headlining tour, for example. If I’m going to San Francisco and playing the Fox Theater in Oakland or Bill Graham or whatever it is, then the after party at Mezzanine or 1015 Folsom or wherever it is would be the Off the Deep End party where it’s totally different than the main Jauz show. Whether that means that it’s off the deep end in the literal sense, like me playing a lot of the deeper stuff that inspired me, or I’m playing an open format – like hip hop or whatever – set, it’s just a way to differentiate [between] a Jauz set and Off the Deep End show.”
Vogel’s establishment of a Vegas residency and secondary concept show only two years into his career is telling of his high ambitions. When asked if he has the further ambition of starting a label in the future, Vogel states that it is a consideration for him down the road, but he feels he has more to accomplish first:
“It’s something that I’m considering. I don’t have a set plan right now, especially because my main focus right now is putting out the music that I have ready now, and continuing to build my brand as much as I can and get myself to that point where there’s no other option than to start a label. But I will say that there are definitely people that I’ve been keeping my eye on; artists that I would like to be able to help. And coming from a kid that was sitting on his couch two years ago and doing nothing, I only got here because of the artists who helped me along the way, and I feel like it’s my duty to repay that.”
Two years since leaping off the couch and into the deep end, Sam Vogel has managed to stay afloat and make waves by remaining consistently true to his roots as a person, an artist, and most importantly, a relentlessly hard worker. As Vogel stays this course, it’s scintillating to imagine where he will be two years from now.
Photos by Joe Janet.