Ally J Steel
Rebecca Vasmant making moves (Feature Interview)
Ally sat down with Glasgow-based DJ, producer, bandleader and label boss Rebecca Vasmant, catching up after her Tru Thoughts release and discussing the direction of her career.
Over a year has passed since we last caught up with DJ, producer, and label owner Rebecca Vasmant, and the time which has passed since has been transformative for her career. Having released her debut record, With Love, From Glasgow, last summer, Rebecca has gone from strength to strength: having also signed with the brilliant, Brighton-based Tru Thoughts crew, created her very own live band, and continued to bag top-tier DJ sets across the jazz world.
“I constantly have to pinch myself”, she tells me, “It wasn't ever the intention…”, reflecting on the formation of the Rebecca Vasmant Ensemble. Sitting backstage at XJAZZ! Festival, in Berlin, Rebecca explains how she has picked up the title of bandleader, alongside her other name tags.
Following the release of her debut album, the legendary Manchester-based producer and DJ Mr. Scruff asked whether Rebecca would consider performing her record live. “We played that one gig, then we started getting asked to do more things. So, we just decided, let's make a thing of it. And, here we are!” Thinking about the group of musicians she’s surrounded herself with, Rebecca tells me “I'm so grateful. They're such lovely people, and they've become like family now. And, obviously, we're all in our little, small Glasgow scene - everyone's super tight and super close. Yeah, it's crazy.”
Another big change in Rebecca’s journey a year on, is her relationship with Tru Thoughts, having released her Dance Yourself Free EP with the outfit in April of 2022. Talking about their partnership, Rebecca recalls “I've been a fan of Tru Thoughts since the beginning. And, I think what happened was I sent Rob [Luis] these demos quite a while ago”. Chuckling, she says “Actually, it’s a funny story. I got my wisdom teeth taken out the day we had the meeting, so I was still obviously on the dental sedation drugs, so I came across, like, super chill… I was thinking that’s good, [so I could hold myself together]!”. So, one drugged dazed meeting later, the partnership began, leading to her stellar broken beat-fuelled release, with a new deal having just been signed.
Comparing With Love, From Glasgow, and Dance Yourself Free, it’s clear they represent the two different sides to Rebecca’s musical mind – the ethereal side, and the dance floor-driven side. Although linked, the different strands reveal the differing elements of Rebecca’s career, with the spiritual leanings staying with her label, and the grooves sitting with Tru Thoughts.
Exploring the mindset of her music-making process, Rebecca explains "I love making all of it. But, I've just got such a special place in my heart for ethereal, dark, spacious - I just love that type of music. And it feels amazing to actually make it”. Surprisingly, Rebecca suggests she struggles with her dance-inspired music, “I love making the broken beat stuff. But, I find it a lot more difficult because I've got an idea in my mind of how it's going to be. Whereas with the spiritual jazz stuff is a totally blank canvas…they're both blank canvases but to a different level.”
Having so many different layers to her career is nothing but admirable. Yet, as others within the modern musical and media landscape can attest, these different layers take their toll.
Opening up, Rebecca tells me “It's very hard…”. Thankfully, to help support the various pressures of the music industry, Rebecca has a network surrounding her – including a label manager, publicists, bookers and more. Yet, whether it's pressure from the industry or self-expectations, it is still difficult to balance all these different elements – “It's hard managing being a DJ, let alone being a DJ, and being in a band, and owning a record label. But, they're all things that I really want to do and I really want to make work…I've got a great team…And, if I didn't have all those people, there's no way I'd be able to do this much.
I used to often wonder - how do figures like Gilles Peterson do all the things that they do?"
Both traditional and social media can often act like beasts, feeding on anxieties by only representing the end product of toil, graft and highlights. Candidly, Rebecca says “Now that I'm, I guess, a bit further forward in my career, I realise, people need help. And I need help. And I do struggle. I struggle with stress management, I struggle with my anxiety levels, I get nervous before gigs, and I also struggle with the ups and downs. So, it's like, you know, we're in this whirlwind of amazingness”.
Turning to Rebecca’s Records, which aims to primarily promote female and Scottish jazz talent, there are many exciting releases to expect, with the next 24 months’ worth of releases locked in.
Whilst talking with Rebecca, it's impossible to ignore her gratitude to those around her, who are helping support her to become one of the leading forces in the UK jazz scene. With her trademark smile and laugh, she states “since I released [With Love, From Glasgow], things have just totally kicked off in a massive, amazing way”.
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You can buy Rebecca Vasmant's Dance Yourself Free EP here.
You can see Rebecca Vasmant live on the following dates in 2022:
14 October - Headrow House, Leeds
15 October - Mackintosh Church, Glasgow
16 October - The Caves, Edinburgh
17 October - Blues Kitchen, Manchester
21 October - Jazz Cafe, London
23 October - Green Door Store, Brighton
27 October - New Morning, Paris
Keep up-to-date with Rebecca Vasmant via her socials and Soundcloud: