The multi-talented Swiss DJ delivers mixes psychedelic house, full-throttled acid, and the late Bernie Worrell before she plays the London festival this weekend
Switzerland’s Sassy J has many talents: besides being an excellent DJ playing everything from house, techno, and disco to cosmic jazz and soul, she also makes clothes, designs flyers and record sleeves, and even teaches part-time. J was constantly surrounded by music growing up in Bern, with her mother hosting a radio show and her father a jazz musician, but it was in her teenage years that she became immersed in the music scene that took her onto the path she’s on now. After hearing about London clubnight Co-Op, which ran at the iconic Plastic People venue and helped nurture talents like Floating Points, she started making semi-regular trips to the UK capital in order to immerse herself in the city’s broken beat scene. She took many of these ideas back to her own clubnight, Patchwork, back in Switzerland, and applied some of its lessons to her own DJ sets.
Her mix for Dazed comes ahead of her appearance at London’s Sunfall Festival, taking place at Brockwell Park this weekend (9th/10th July) and travels from blissful analogue grooves to full-throttled acid assaults. We caught up with the DJ to hear more about it.
How do you manage to keep so many jobs, hobbies, and interests up at once?
Sassy J: Focusing on the moment, the now, is one thing. There are times I’m more active with one of the passions, like DJing. I haven’t sewn that much lately for example, but it’s fine. My joy for doing it is still there.
Is it easy to separate those different creative mindsets?
Sassy J: Yes: I just go with the flow. There are times I’m more focused on some of the passions, then I pick up on the other with more focus when it feels right and I have an idea of something I want to create.
You grew up surrounded by music. Did you always like the music your parents played, or was it something you had to come back around to later on in life?
Sassy J: Well, I was also picking up music that was played by the elder siblings of my friends and stuff. But most of the time I enjoyed the music at home. When I started getting into hip hop I would find the samples in their record collection and starting to appreciate the original music and masters. My parents always had some knowledge or memories to share upon the artist. I keep on going back to my dad’s or mum’s to check upon a certain artist I want to dig a bit deeper for, or maybe wasn’t that aware of.
What was the turning point that transformed a love of music into actually DJing?
Sassy J: When I realized that the versions of tracks I couldn’t find on the albums and desperately was recording on my tape desk from Yo-MTV Raps were actually available on 12”s! I was in heaven. A friend of mine bought turntables and I tried to mix on them too. Before I could afford to buy my own, I would ride my bicycle with my records to the youth centre and practice for quite a while.
You’re playing Sunfall tomorrow. What’s your perception of UK crowds?
Sassy J: I love playing in London – nothing like the vibe of the crowd at certain venues and partys, like the Eglo Night or Plastic People.
Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with London in general? It was quite formative to your musical upbringing wasn’t it?
Sassy J: I’ve always loved to escape to London for music, cultural diversity, fashion, and meeting people and friends; connecting with the music cosmos there – artists, people at the record shops, or going directly to get some music at the distributors in the basements. My friends friends were dancers and they took us out clubbing. Later on I discovered parties within my own taste and found out about the Co-Op night at Velvet Rooms. That was a mind-blowing experience – the broad spectrum of music, so much unreleased music, and people ust singing along to it. Then of course, the dancers and the vibe.
“Before I could afford to buy my own (turntables), I would ride my bicycle with my records to the youth centre and practice for quite a while” — Sassy J
What have you got coming up next?
Sassy J: I’ve just played at Worldwide Festival. I’ll be heading to Sunfall this Weekend. Then off to France and Holland next week. I’m doing a mix for the Pender Street Steppers residency on Berlin Community Festival at the end of the month and working on another project that I’m quite exited about.
What can you tell us about this mix?
Sassy J: I selected and recorded it at home last weekend. I always like to let the music speak for itself, and there are plenty of hidden things or messages for you to find – it’s another Sassy J journey through the worlds of my all-time favourite greats and my latest greats. There’s new unreleased music from Gifted & Blessed and Greg Beato, and new Joy O on Hinge Finger. Last stop on this journey before the mothership disappears is dedicated to the master, Bernie Worrell.
Lastly – you have a very memorable artist name. What’s the story behind it?
Sassy J: Starting off with hip hop at a young age, I was inspired by the attitudes of Money Love and Neneh Cherry. At one point I needed a name to appear on the first flyer, and there’s a song by Neneh featuring Gangstarr called ‘Sassy Soul’.
Sassy J plays Sunfall Festival at Brockwell Park in London on Saturday July 9th