Jesse Rose is the real deal—a master in the grooves of underground house and techno. He is both a perpetual traveller and a tireless operative, honing his craft for more than two decades in the institutions of dance music across the world. Be it on the terrace at Amnesia, Ibiza, or in the darkest corner of Womb, Toyko, he has the weapons, the skills and the mindset to turn up.
London-born, Berlin-bred and now living in Los Angeles, Rose has been running shop since the early 90s and, to his testament, his stature only seems to rise. He is an exemplary in longevity, pushing the artistic boundaries without losing touch. His panache in the studio has made his reworks a valuable commodity to beat junkies and chart-topping artists alike and he has worked magic for everyone from Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar to Hot Chip and Radio Slave. Rose leads numerous labels including Made To Play, Play It Down, and the recently launched A-Sided. His audacious Detroit-Chicago blend has won the plaudits of the most revered DJs in the scene.
Taking over Montréal's Piknic Electronik last Sunday, Jesse's A-Sided showcase reflected the creed behind the artist. The party welcomed Chez Damier, accomplice to the likes of Marc Kinchen and Kevin Saunderson circa 1990, he is a lesser known legend of the Detroit game. A bold decision in some eyes but one, that was well worth taking in the eyes of Rose, who stresses the paramount importance of following his heart, or more aptly his ears. "If you take a risk on what you just think is cool and it doesn't work you've fucked it twice," says the former Panorama Bar resident. He's quick to clarify. "Because, you didn't choose what you love and it didn't work. So if you do what you love and it doesn't work, it doesn't matter because you love it. You're winning. It's a win." It's a hypothesis that Rose has tested and successfully proved across the globe. "It's not about putting on what's fashionable or what's cool, it's about putting on a line-up of music that I really like. It's super selfish. All my nights at Watergate, Razzmatazz, Womb, wherever it is, I don't do it by who will pack out the club and, ironically, it packs out the club."
Rose applies the same principles to his labels, Play It Down being the ideal example. His apathy for trends and unwavering support for quality music have been instrumental in the LA imprint launching the careers of numerous artists. "This year Christian Nielsen is now travelling the world to play, last year he was working for a phone shop," he says. "Lately I've been thinking about this and I think that of all the things that I do, the most prolific is bringing people through, whether it's Oliver $, Riva Starr, Sinden, Christian Nielsen, Zombie Disco Squad or Roundtable Knights. These were all people I found at the very beginning of their career."
With Riva Starr now a household name and Oliver $ renowned from an Ibiza classic in "Pushin' On," there's no denying his eye for potential. Clearly thriving in the role of mentor, Rose possesses an unimpaired vision of a constantly morphing landscape, something, which influenced the decision to launch new label A-Sided. "My taste goes from Chez Damier to Moodymann to Derrick Carter to Robert Hood," he explains. "I love house and techno right, but a lot of people find it confusing if the label doesn't give you the same sound over and over again. So, I decided to put out the bigger records, the special record of the night, on A-Sided and the groovers on Play It Down. When I grew up we had the likes of Talkin' Loud [Gilles Peterson's label], you'd get a hip-hop record, a house record or a soul record, but now it's different."
While Rose sees changes within the underground, he's still yet to be convinced by the influence of the EDM movement. "I haven't noticed any changes," he notes, "and in the beginning I was very supportive of the whole EDM thing. When I first moved here, Mixmag did a big article about me moving here and the big question was—is EDM going to affect underground music? And actually I think that's bollocks, it doesn't help underground music in any way. I think people who listen to EDM are now going to listen to hip-hop, they're not getting into it."
"If anything, I ended up playing a lot of very average shows to a lot of people who didn't quite get it. So I ended up going back to the great clubs that we have in America like Rhonda in LA, Treehouse in Miami or Output in Brooklyn." Rose is focused on doing his own thing, clearly.
Stepping up after a jovial Chez Damier set, the Londoner brought his own potent concoction to the Piknic stage. Dousing the flames set by Damier before building expertly, climaxing with the piano-laden Knee Deep Remix of "Pasilda" and a keenly enjoyed sit down. Rose takes the term 'off the cuff' to a new level, playing freestyle from the first tap of the play button. "I prepare nothing, haven't got a clue. I love that feeling," he says, "Two weeks ago I played to ten thousand people at Park Life and I played a back-to-back with Oliver Dollar. I looked at him and I said, 'it's mental, we're on in two minutes and I don't have a clue what I'm going to play'. You could fuck it up, but then you get it and it's like 'oooohh.'"
For the infrequently LA-based producer, touring consumes a huge part of his schedule. The Piknic Electronik appearance arrives at the beginning of a four-month tour. What's more, with new music from Black Rose (Jesse's project with a certain Henrik Schwarz) and an A-sided re-release for "Chocolate" in the pipeline, you can be sure this tour through your ears isn't stopping anytime soon.
Dermot O'Sullivan is on Twitter.