Rebecca Vasmant 'With Love, From Glasgow' (Feature Interview)
Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Glasgow-based DJ, crate-digger, producer and label boss Rebecca Vasmant sat down with Ally to talk about her debut LP 'With Love, From Glasgow', giving us an insight into the development of her career and the scene which she represents.
DJ, producer and label boss Rebecca Vasmant has been supporting the Glasgow and Scottish jazz scene for many years. Having established her central place within the Glasgow music community through her residency at the famous Sub Club, the last few years has seen her branching out, becoming a broadcaster through her monthly spot on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM, as well as dabbling in production in creating a string of remixes for Scrimshire, On The Corner Records, Dundundun and most recently Amanda Whiting’s After Dark. This last year has now seen her establish her very own label Rebecca's Records with the release of her debut LP With Love, From Glasgow, which sees her showcase the exciting Scottish scene in style.
For the past 13 years, Rebecca has been honing her craft of DJing as she has performed sets across the world from India to Nicaragua. Despite being known for backing jazz in recent years, Rebecca started her career by playing electronic music. “I started out DJing, and I actually started out playing house and techno exclusively”, she tells me, “But the house and techno that I played makes sense to me because it had a lot of jazz samples in it. It was musical and I still play house and techno in all my sets…But when I first started, I didn't do that - I just played electronic music. So, it's been kind of a journey that's formed.”
Reflecting on what drew her to DJing in the first place, Rebecca credits her brother’s influence through his exposure to skateboarding. “This was before the internet”, she explains, “he used to show me and my little brother all these hip hop tapes that his friends would make. He had friends for America because he used to tour around skateboarding, and I remember being so fascinated by the fact that we had access to this music that other people didn't know”. Captivated by sounds she hadn’t been exposed to was pivotal to Rebecca's desire to DJ. “The kind of idea the theory of me then going to show this music to my friends, and them not being as interested in it as me was totally mind-boggling. So, I think the obsession and the bug for discovering new music started then because I think for me, it's all about discovering music, and then sharing it with the world.” Defiantly, Rebecca states, “if I can play a small part in the kind of puzzle of that music being then loved by others, then that feels like a really privileged position to be in”.
Being self-taught, and never receiving any form of musical training, Rebecca landed a world tour residency with Ministry of Sound aged 22, helping lead her to the point of landing a gig at the prestigious Sub Club in Glasgow, one of the longest-running clubs in the world. “Playing at this club was one of my goals”, Rebecca says chirpily, “When I first moved to Glasgow, I was like, ‘I'm gonna play. I'm gonna play at the Sub Club, and I'm not going to give up until I do that’.”
Landing her dream gig, Rebecca’s time at Sub Club led her to become one of the central champions of the Glaswegian jazz scene, hosting the first-ever jazz showcases at the venue. Reminiscing how this came about, Rebecca says, “I had been making mixtapes, jazz mixtapes for years, putting them online and they were doing really well. But it just didn't equate to be able to play that kind of stuff on dance floors. And, with this UK jazz thing being on the rise and the fashion coming round, and jazz being less of a buzzword to young people, it gradually was moving closer to being a possibility”.
Establishing such events has helped fuel and drive the lively Glaswegian scene over the past few years. Thinking back to the time when she first hosted these gigs, Rebecca explains “It was just really exciting because I just wanted that for such a long time. Like, I knew that putting a jazz band on, that were playing cover versions of things like Fela [Kuti] tracks and original material mixed in and stuff like that, I knew that that would hold the dance floor. But I think it was a case of persuading the general public that they want to come and see that”. Having got to the point where the Glasgow music scene was ready for jazz gigs, these events had their challenges. “It's still to a certain extent difficult”, Rebecca reveals, “but I think they know it's become a bit easier to do it. And it's very exciting because I feel like young people are hungry for it now. And young people actually want to pay to go and see jazz while they're in a party environment and not just sat down or at gigs. So, I think we're at the sweet point, we have a very young jazz scene in Glasgow, where it's really exciting. And when events are allowed back again, I think it's gonna just all kick-off. It's just it's bubbling melting pot of all these amazing musicians”.
Having released a string of remixes and, and featuring as part of On The Corner’s Door To The Cosmos compilation, With Love, From Glasgow marks Rebecca’s first major solo release. “I always wanted to produce music,” Rebecca states, “more for like a personal achievement type of thing. So, like, to say to myself, ‘I want to learn how to make music. And I'm going to prove to myself that I can do that’. Because obviously, making music is not something that just happens quickly. And it's only something that you can do if you have the patience to stick with it for years and years and years and years.”
Through dreaming and determination, Rebecca has got to the point of producing her debut album, overseeing a list of leading Scottish talent to help make With Love, From Glasgow a reality. “It's taken me 8 years to get to the point where I've released my first album”, she tells me, “But for me, I just it was my absolute dream to be able to produce music, and I don't play an instrument. But I have all these ideas in my head for like tracks and for lyrics and for poems and for soundscapes and all that kind of thing. So, it was me being able to teach myself the software, to be able to actually get an idea into my head and be able to put that onto paper… I think the self-confidence aspect of it took quite a long time”.
Pondering over With Love, From Glasgow, Rebecca reveals “I think for me, it was just all about like, personal experience and about a feeling. And the album's kind of about, like, emotions and space and time, and just giving yourself that the space to feel stuff properly. And I guess each song is about something different in my life, and I'm sure that everyone can relate to. So yeah, it's just about an emotional journey and putting things together in a way that resonated with me, which hopefully would then resonate with other people.”
Deep, spiritual and rich, Rebecca’s unique way of creating music has created a fascinating and encapsulating record that transports you to another world. Yet, remarkably, when Rebecca finished With Love, From Glasgow, she approached many of the labels that she respected and turned the project down. “All of that definitely happened for a reason”, Rebecca positively exclaims, “Because now look where we are. There's this amazing label [Rebecca's Records] that's formed. I've got the next 12 months’ worth of releases lined up. There's all this amazing, exciting stuff we've booked in two dates with the Rebecca Vasmant 11-piece band, it's just insane! Like, it definitely just shows you that other people might not believe in you. But if you just keep believing in yourself, then it will go well.”
This grit and tenacity which Rebecca has displayed throughout her career has clearly paid off. Whether that’s storming onto the DJ circuit, shining a light on the Scottish jazz scene or making the move towards producing and creating records, Rebecca’s self-belief in her talents has led to success. Now, having landed a deal with K7 to create her very own label Rebecca's Records during a global pandemic, her debut record has sold out across the board, leading to a rush to release a repress run. However, this certainly isn’t the stopping point. “The label is going to focus on Scottish based artists” Rebecca informs me, “we're going to be releasing a range of music, definitely jazz themes and spiritual jazz themes, but not exclusively jazz, we're going to obviously deal with things like the jazzier end of hip hop and electronic music, and, you know, like, neo-soul, and all that kind of stuff. But I do want to try to focus the next 12 months on female-led projects within the Scottish jazz scene because I think that's really important. And, I think that's something that is not that there aren’t females in Scotland who are doing amazing, but I feel like a lot of them aren't being given enough of a platform. So, it would be really good for me to be able to do that. And I would like to hopefully be able to achieve that.”
Whether working with the vanguard of the Glasgow scene or the up-and-coming stars, central figures like Rebecca Vasmant and her contemporaries have collectively worked incredibly hard to give Glasgow the exposure it deserves. “We really have worked very hard”, Rebecca strongly states, “And we have fought to be heard. And now it's finally happening. So, it's, it's really exciting". Smirking, she tells me, "But it's funny, because, you know, I get the impression people think that this is all just happening, and this is all new. We have fought to be listened to and we are now being listened to. And this is why I've done this album as well, precisely for this reason.” Joyously Rebecca exclaims “And it’s working! So, it’s exciting!”
Keep up-to-date with Rebecca Vasmant via her socials and Soundcloud:
With Love, From Glasgow features:
Harry Weir - Sax
Chris Greive - Trombone
Cameron Thomson Duncan - Trumpet
Lorne Cowieson Trumpet (Tracks 3 & 4)
Lorne Cowieson - Flugelhorn (Track 4)
Nikki Foster / Nadia Carveth / Gillian Katungi / Emilie Boyd / Nadya Albertsson / Luca Manning - Vocals
Brodie Jarvie - Double Bass
Dave Koor / Chris Greive - Keys
Dave Roberston - Percussion
Graham Costello - Drums
Tom Pickles - Flute
Tom Gibbs - Fender Rhodes
Tom Stephenson - Guitar
Danielle Price - Tuba