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Making Friends With is our series that sees us get to know DJs in some of their favourite hangouts
Jay Pryor is a young Irish producer on a seemingly meteoric rise. Since releasing his first tune, "Break-Up" back in 2015, the 22-year-old has worked with everyone from Steve Aoki to pretty much every member of One Direction.
His work with Steve and Louis Tomlinson, "Hold On" reached No.2 in the UK Singles Chart and has over 500 MILLION streams worldwide. He's also worked with Nial Horan, ZAYN and Snakehips. Aside from his songwriting credits, he's an accomplished producer in his own right with club-ready hits such as "Teenage Crime", "All This" and his new one "Rich Kid$" finding him fans in everyone from Tiesto and Martin Garrix to Pete Tong and Annie Mac.
As he's making his main room Ministry debut at POSITIVA XXV, I thought we should get to know this boy wonder producer a little better. Fans of his Instagram will know that Jay is into his cooking, so we suggested I suggested he gave me a bit of a cooking lesson. We met at No.90 Bar & Kitchen in London's Hackney Wick on the hottest April day for 70 years.
Alright, what are we cooking today?
I’m going to make some granola bowls, I guess. Erm, if you follow me on Instagram you know that I make these a lot. It’s the start /setup to my day, so....
It’s a pretty healthy breakfast, do you like to eat healthily?
I’d like to think so, I kind of just nail loads of fruit into it but erm it's a very satisfying start to your day, indulging in fruit. It’s a very refreshing breakfast and it's very simple.
Oh! There’s a fly in that...
Haha! I try to eat like averagely but I do snack a lot which is kind of, I hate chocolate or sweets or anything but crisps I like
Are you like me, do you go to great lengths to get Tayto in London?
No, I'm not much of a Tayto fan. They kind of just taste just like normal crisps to me.
I always feel that Tayto from Northern Ireland tastes a lot different from the Southern. They're like way stronger flavours.
My sister actually studied in Belfast and she likes the Northern Irish ones.
They're great! We should probably stop talking about Irish crisps before I alienate all our readers. So we start off with the yoghurt and sprinkle in Granola?
Yeah, so we put a base of some yoghurt. I probably put too much though, and then just some Granola and some seeds.
Are these a specific kind of seed?
They’re just an assortment of seeds, some sunflower seeds... fuck knows. Then chop up some strawberries.
Cool, let me get on the chopping. So do you have a studio in London?
I work out of my bedroom in London at the moment, I've kind of set my room up so I sleep above my studio - I've got a loft bed, it sounds really lame but I've got a city curtain. It kind of blocks in noise. I have that all around the lower part of the loft. So it's kind of surrounding the studio, it works really well. I'm actually looking for a studio, around this area.
How did you first get into music?
I started producing after I went on a sixth year holiday. I went to Magaluf, I went to Calvin Harris and it blew me away. I wasn't hugely into dance music at the time. I saw Calvin and thought, shit! That's pretty sick! At the time I didn't know what I wanted to do career-wise. I had a little graphic design company when I was about 15, but by then I was kind of at a loss with the graphic design stuff. When I got back from holiday I signed up for a course in visual communications it lasted about a month, but I didn't like it, so I left college and started working on music.
It's interesting, a lot of dance music artists were graphic designers.
Yeah, there's a guy called Feed Me, he's huge in like Dubstep, I used to love all his design work when I was a designer. that was kind of music I listened to but I wasn't into house music, I was more into Drum and Bass, like Dubstep when that was a thing.
How did you learn to produce?
Searching the internet for tutorials, forums, the r/edmproducition subreddit. It's a huge forum that has 50,000 members, all bedroom producers, everyone posts their ideas and you give them feedback or you can ask questions. It's a very interactive way of learning music, Youtube was great because I could just flick on a video and learn from that.
So how long did it take between that trip and you releasing your first track?
I didn't release my first song until probably like 2 and a half or 3 years ago so I'd been producing for around half a year before I released it.
That's quite a short amount of time to go from just starting out to full a song in six months...
Yeah, I think I caught on to it so quickly because of my previous background. I was doing loads of geeky shit on the internet, I was editing videos, designing graphics, motion graphics and stuff like that. It all helped with the interface, I found similarities in the UIs. it was a lot easier to work in music software because I had the previous experience with Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects.
How did that first track, three years ago, come about?
It was through the encouragement of my best friend, we made the track together. We used to hang out at each other's houses, he came over and started an idea really quickly and it kinda just happened in one day, we created a song called breakup it was a sample of Mila J - "Smoke, Drink, Break-Up" and we just got the acapella online and released it for free and it got half a million views, so my confidence shot up really, to see it get half a million streams on Soundcloud. So that was quite cool.
I'm a little hazy on the timeline, but did you go into producing with other people after the initial release?
Yeah, I was approached by a nightclub in Dublin and they asked me if I could come in and get their DJ's to learn how to make music and help them make their own music and in some cases just make the music for them! That was quite an interesting experience because I'd never really been open to the idea of making someone's music for them.
Like ghost producing?
Yeah! It was quite interesting and I was on a Salary, which is quite unusual. It definitely opened me up to accepting the idea of working for other people and with other people on their projects instead of mine. So from there, I was really open to the idea so when I met up with my management, they had the idea of working with other people it was more natural to say yes.
How many tracks did you produce for the nightclub?
I quit after a while but it was probably about 8-10 records but I was kind of helping people spruce of their tracks a lot of the time, so I wasn't just making tracks for people.
I've never heard of that kind of job with a club before
Yeah, they like gave me a budget to set-up a studio and stuff which was cool, setting up space there. I just loved it, it was a great environment. I'd never been in a collaborative environment before. I'd just been in my room working on music - just like any other bedroom producer. It made it quite easy to go on then to writing sessions, studio work for more high profile acts.
How did you end up working with people from One Direction? It seemed like a big leap!
Yeah, it was a big leap actually! I did a remix of this guy called Digital Farm Animals. I noticed he was quite an influential songwriter because looking online he'd been in the studio with Will.I.am, Little Mix, etc, but his social numbers were quite low. So obviously he's a behind the scene kind of guy. I was intrigued by that and wanted to get in touch with him and find out how he did that. He never replied to my emails, maybe he didn't see them or he was too busy. So I remixed one of his singles called "True". I literally had no stems I just took one of the remixes from the official package, which didn't have much behind it, I sort of took the acapella through that and did my own thing behind it. It sounded really dodgy, especially the vocal, but it was just the idea that counted.
It's a great way to get people's attention
Yeah that was the idea, so I sent it to him and it did grab his attention, he loved it. I finished it and then asked if I could release it. The label said no, but allowed me to make it a free download. It got like 2,000,000 on SoundCloud which obviously is incredible for my second/third release. Through that, I was introduced to the MD of Syco. He introduced me to the project of "Just Hold On" which is how I got to work with Steve Aoki and Louis Tomlinson. A lot of relationships have formed through my manager, Nick, he's helped me to get sessions and discover what it's like to be a songwriter, as well as producer. I owe a lot to him.
How is the granola by the way? It's better when you make it yourself, don't you think?
It feels very healthy, looks very healthy! When you're working with these big artists, do they give you much input?
Yeah, absolutely, it's quite a collaborative thing. More often than not it's emailing or phone calls, it's quite unusual for those high profile people to actually get in the studio because they're so busy. Especially for someone like Steve who is constantly touring. They do set time for the studio and stuff but most of the time it's over email and stuff. It's quite good, they give quite a lot of input.
I interviewed Steve like 2-3 years ago - it was kind of amazing to watch. Just before he was so exhausted, like hadn't slept in ages been on to many planes for the last week but when he came on just got all this energy. It was like the nicest guy to interview.
I've always been inspired by how he uses his energy, I read a lot about how his tours schedule is so hectic but he maintains a healthy life. He does a weird sleep thing where he sleeps for a couple of hours a day and he's fine. Its crazy, it's about energy use and not using any energy until he has to.
How's your life changed since you kind of made it big?
I was actually living in my parents' house in Dublin and I was on the dole, I wasn't making any money. Getting an earful from my parents because in their perspective I was just sitting there on the computer all day! I always tried to reassure them that it's like 2015 or whatever it was, you can do stuff on your computer nowadays - you don't just mess about or whatever. And it took them a while to grasp that - they only recently have! It's definitely changed from then, a year and a half back. Just before "Just Hold On" came out. I moved to London 8 months ago and it's been amazing since then. I'm so glad I made that decision, it was hard leaving family and stuff it just felt like the thing that was necessary to further my career, every day I've spent here I've learnt something new, it's just a great environment.
So you're playing at Ministry in a couple of weeks, you've played there before, how did you find it when you played? That was the first time..?
Yeah that was my first time in Ministry and I played room 103 and it was insane, I opened the room and it was just so much fun. A lot of people came to support and I was just not expecting it. After my set me and my manager went to the main room and looked out at the sea of people and we were like 'one day I'll be playing here' and sure enough six months later I'll be doing that, which is amazing! It's just really cool, I kind of follow this mindset where I want to continue to upgrade my goals. To see one coming to fruition is quite incredible. I think it'll be surreal when it happens, standing behind the DJ booth and looking at the sea of people. Actually visualising it happening, that's going to be insane.
Have you got any unreleased material for the gig?
So much unreleased stuff, so many edits of things I want to premiere some new music and stuff. I think my shows are all about having a good time. Having a party, some people treat it as a thing they have to do, but I want to make it a big deal every Jay Pryor show is a party and I give 100% energy, get everyone involved and try and make it as interactive as possible.
You're playing for Positiva XXV, were they an influence on you when growing up?
Back then I didn't know the label, but I definitely knew the songs. They had a huge impact on society and the scene, and I'm signed to that label now - so it's pretty incredible!
Is it signed just for the single, or a longer deal?
We've got several singles in the pipeline with them, I feel with one single deal you're not fully part of the label. You do a song and then it's like goodbye, see you later. When you do more, they fully take you in and develop you. You're a real part of the label. It's been amazing so far, we go out and have dinner and have drinks. It's how it should be.
Is there any possibility of a collab with any of the Positiva roster?
I've been reluctant to collab on my project but right now I'm working with a lot of smaller producers and DJs and friends of mine that are hugely talented but aren't getting the exposure they should be, so I'm working on a tune with a guy called Ellis and I wrote it with a guy called Ollie Green and yeah hopefully that'll be the next release. We are finishing that up right now, so hopefully, I can premier it at Ministry.
Will that be a Jay Pryor release, or?
We've got an interesting plan - I don't wanna give too much away.
Have you got much planned for the summer?
Erm, some shows, working in the studio. I plan on doing writing trips too.
What does a writing trip involve?
It's basically going to another country and writing there. I was in Oslo where I met Ida, she features on "Rich Kid$". I work with her a lot when I'm in Oslo. It's a great way to work. When you land you're instantly inspired. Especially in places like Oslo, it's like everything's so beautiful. Everything's so gorgeous. It just doesn't look real. It's like a video game or something. It's insane. I've done it in Dublin as well, written there.
Where do you want to be a year from now?
I do I actually have a vision board in my studio, a big board with things I want to happen in my life and stuff. I want to go to LA and write there. I sort of want to move out there if I like it. I've heard you either love it or hate it. I defo want to go there and write there. It's just a music making machine there. I want to see more artist projects with the sort of people I've been working with. That's a huge goal of mine. I want to buy the Tesla Roadster! I think it comes out in 2020. I just want to be on a grander platform, I do have specific goals but it's generally the same thing, just want to influence people with my music, it's sort of the end goal. Oh! And I want to start my own granola bowl kitchen!
Well, these are pretty good! So I reckon you can do that last one. Finally, we've had a bit of a mini dinner party here, well more of a breakfast party, but if you were going to invite any four guests - alive or dead - to your dinner party, who would they be and what would you cook?
Oh, that's very tough! Um, let's say... Johnny Cash, Brendan Ure, Heath Ledger and Calvin Harris. I'd probably cook something very Irish, like Stew and potatoes, something like that.