Get familiar with: Jam Thieves

Whilst 2021 comes with great uncertainty, one thing we can guarantee is Onyx’s release schedule is absolutely stacked. We’ll be working with some amazing talents, some of which you might not be as familiar with. Let’s change that. We want to provide you with as much insight into the artists we work with as possible. One of those is Jam Thieves.

The Brazilian from São Paulo dropped his debut Onyx single Dexter last Friday – a tune that is on the way to becoming one of the label's biggest releases to date. Now operating as a solo act after the brothers split in January last year, Guilherme Garcia is on a mission to keep flying the flag for the Jam Thieves identity that has hit great heights since bursting onto the scene in 2006.

It’s a journey that has so far been an eventful one, but as we motor into a new year of unknowns, the direction Jam Thieves heads next is one filled with possibility – and unanswered questions… What inspired Dexter? How will we see the Jam Thieves sound evolve in 2021? What kind of jam does Guilherme like? Read on to find out more about one of D&B’s most versatile, hard-working artists.

Your debut single on Onyx Recordings is now out! What can you tell us about Dexter?

I'm very happy to get a release on Onyx and hope it’s the first of many. Originally, I produced the tune without vocals, but I felt something was still missing. It needed a vocal to make it swing more. So I started researching until I found the vocal I thought was right for the music.

The vocal is wicked! You’ve always been known for your interesting vocal samples.

I'm from hip-hop culture and the most important thing is the sample. I’ve been using them for many years with Jam Thieves. The sample in Dexter is from a ragga tune. I think it’s important to listen to lots of different genres of music and take influence from them for your D&B. For me, this is the grace music provides, and every day I try to listen to something new in order to keep me feeling inspired.

It’s interesting you say that, because one thing I‘ve noticed about Jam Thieves is how you’ve built a very diverse sound. Jump up, rollers, minimal – it seems like you can easily switch it up.

My goal has always been to make different styles of D&B. Of course Jam Thieves has become known for its rollers – which I think is my main style – but I always try to improve my songs by doing different things.

That’s good! Obviously things have changed recently. You used to be a duo with your brother, but you split up early last year. How come?

He decided to start another project, which was a big change, but I feel like it was the best thing that could’ve happened because I'm very happy to work alone on Jam Thieves and shape the project around the direction I want to take. Previously, the Jam Thieves sound was a bit simple. It was just kick, snare and bass. Going forward there are going to be big developments. I always want to make tunes that cause rewinds on the dancefloor. In 2021, I will continue producing big rollers, but with more vocals and stronger synths.

Dexter is testament to that change of mindset. It’s a different direction for the Jam Thieves sound.

Yes, I think Dexter is a bit different to previous Jam Thieves tunes. This was intentional because since starting working on Jam Thieves in 2006 the tunes have been quite similar, so in 2021 I want to surprise people by doing things differently.

it’s good to evolve! So going back to the early days, how did you get into drum and bass in the first place?

I started to listen to D&B when I was 8 or 9 years old. The first DJs I listened to were Andy C and Hype. I used to watch videos of them on YouTube and DrumandBassArena and really loved their styles. I fell in love. So the first thing I did was teach myself how to play a very old turntable. Living in Brazil, over time I realised that if I wanted to be properly recognised as an artist then it was not enough to just be a D&B DJ. I needed to make music too. So in 2006 I started to produce D&B and here we are!

It’s cool you’re from São Paulo. Over the years the city has produced some precious D&B talent.

We definitely have, but to be honest with you, we don't actually have a scene in São Paulo. There are many producers here, but we literally don't have any D&B events… That’s why my references have always come from the UK because it’s the cradle of D&B.

How did you find your way into the UK scene?

When I started this project I already knew the best place for D&B was the UK, so I made sure the Jam Thieves name was one that worked in English, and I started approaching labels in the UK. It’s crazy because I first got recognised in the UK, then in Brazil. I think that even today some people don't know I’m from Brazil and think I’m from the UK… So my plan worked, haha.

It sure did. So how did you actually come up with the name Jam Thieves? It’s an interesting one.

At first we came up with The Thieves, but I felt this name was very simple. The name thieves came from the fact that I like hip-hop music. The most curious thing is how we came up with the name jam though… My English still isn’t great, but back in 2006 it was worse. I used the word jam like you would when improvising in a music jamming session. It stems from an event flyer at the time called Jam Sessions, which would have DJs playing b2b. I never thought about the meaning of the word jam away from music…

Brilliant. Looking at your journey over the years, Minimal Funk Project seems to have been a particularly important milestone for Jam Thieves. It was very well received!

This is without doubt the most important Jam Thieves release so far. It was the first release on the mighty Playaz, and the song has had support from the biggest DJs in the scene. Even to this day the music smashes on sound systems. Well, maybe not currently… Minimal Funk also had a remix from the legendary TC, and this was very important for Jam Thieves because through TC I was able to reach more people. I really respect him too. It’s not easy to get a remix done by him.

So was working with Playaz the moment you were able to really hone the Jam Thieves sound?

I think when Jam Thieves arrived at Playaz we felt ready to progress. Being a part of the label was like graduating. I’ve been lucky enough to work with lots of good labels like Serial Killaz Recordings, Proximity, Hangar and Radius, but Playaz was the moment Jam Thieves graduated into a fully-fledged artist. They’re a very difficult label to reach, so it was an honour to work with them.

Looking ahead, what does the future hold for Jam Thieves?

Well, for 2021 I have big releases to come, which I can’t say much about… I also have a remix of Ed Solo and Deekline’s - No No No, plus a Mista Lava Lava VIP, which I’m very excited about. As I said before, now that I’m working alone I can put my own style and ideas into the project – making use of samples and vocals. There are going to be some exciting changes!

Great to hear. Just for fun… What is your favourite type of jam?

This feels crazy to say but I don't like jam that much, haha! Probably strawberry if I had to pick…