This week’s interview sees us taking a slightly different angle on the usual ‘producer/dj’ feature. Instead, we have Jake Sebastian in for a chat. Jake is a Bristol-based promoter, sound system operator and label owner. Best known for Hold Tight Records and Firmly Rooted Soundsystem.

SSC: Hi Jake. In your own words, who are you and what do you do?

JS: I’m Jake. A sound system enthusiast and player/promoter of music in all forms. I do lots of things from sound engineering, event promotion, label management, selecta/DJ, stage management, stage construction… I’ve done most things within the music industry in some capacity or another at this point which has really helped me understand the industry better.

If there’s one word I would use to describe what I do, it’s ‘facilitate’. I aim to help others achieve their aspirations by providing platforms for their music and art to be heard. 

SSC: So, how was the journey? What started it all off and how did that lead you to where you are today?

JS: The journey so far has been challenging and very interesting. It’s definitely been a very busy one, to say the least. It all started with events, consisting of underground dubstep and dub artists from all across the continent (mostly UK) coming to play at infamous Bristol spots which incorporated the key aspect of the music’s essence… sound system.

Through this and a natural evolution and desire to do more within myself, I have always aspired to take things further and it just seemed to make sense to create a label. Soundsystem has long been a deep interest of mine also so building one was a dream until I gained the opportunity through some angel investment to enable me to start that journey. One thing led to another and now we’re here today.

SSC: Who are the main influences for you, in terms of running a sound system? 

JS: If you were to talk about soundsystem, it would have to be the legends of UK Roots and dub soundsystem like Jah Shaka, Aba Shanti, Channel One, Jah Tubbys, but watching local Bristol sounds such as Jah lokko, Negus Melody and Bass I at carnival also has given me plenty of inspiration. 

I would say I have been inspired most heavily through attendance to soundsystem events such as Teachings in Dub, Subloaded and Tokyo Dub when it was still Tokyo Dub in Bristol. I fell in love with the experience and the message that the music gives to the audience, I always feel a different kind of energy In a dance. It’s more conscious.

SSC: What do you consider the highlight of your music career so far, and why? 

JS: I have had some amazing moments during my career so far. From meeting some of the music’s great artists to even becoming friends with some… it is a great pleasure to meet people you’ve looked up to for many years and be able to learn more about who they are and their own journeys. 

A highlight moment would be playing on our brand new stage at Boomtown called ‘SUB LAB‘. Getting to run tunes on my soundsystem in an area we conceived and created as a team was only a dream I had five years previously and something I didn’t expect to be doing just yet… however it was such a vibe there that I felt a great sense of accomplishment during the event and at the end. 

SSC: Any moments you’d rather forget? 

JS: I only have good memories when it comes to music really. It is never a bad thing when you’re engaged in something you enjoy doing. I have sacrificed things to be where I am today, so I would definitely change things but if I forget stuff then I also forget the lessons I learned from them. 

Jake Sebastian

SSC: As well as running the sound system, you’re also the bossman of ‘Hold Tight Records’ – when and why did you start the label? 

JS: I started the label four years ago after noticing the talent that I had in my friendship group and resident DJ’s around me within the events I was running. This, along with the interest I had for the music sparked the next step in the journey – which was the imprint. Pushing only digital music which is inspired by the roots of all UK bass music. But most importantly it was about creating a platform for the talent within Bristol that I believe in, to utilize and present their music to masses while trying to have fun along the way as well.

SSC: Anyone we should be keeping an eye on right now? Any particular artists/ DJs/systems/labels standing out to you? 

JS: I’ve been hearing some amazing music coming out of Bristol recently from the young generation of 140/dubstep producers. It’s so great to see them gaining the acknowledgement.
There is such a plethora of new music out there, it’s hard to pinpoint a shortlist of labels as things are way more diverse in terms of releases and amount of labels out there now… I just encourage people to check out vinyl shops and download sites for the freshness.

SSC: Other than bass-focused music, are there any other genres or artists you are particularly fond of currently? 

JS: I listen to loads of different music from new jazz to acoustic stuff. Yuseff Dayes is amazing, he’s been on my speakers a lot recently. I spend most of my personal time listening to roots and old blues music as well though. All sorts of old-school American hip hop is a favourite also.

SSC: What’s on the horizon for Hold Tight and Firmly Rooted? Anything exciting coming up? 

JS: We will be running our family sessions bi-monthly, along with some of the popular plough events throughout 2020. Both I look forward to as they’re always good fun.

Release wise, we have more music planned than ever on Hold Tight Records – but more vocal focused tracks coming which are always exciting projects. 

Firmly Rooted wise, the sound has bookings for some of the country’s top promoters. HVYWGHT being one of the first this year, which is definitely set to be a big night. We can guarantee plenty of sets across the year also showcasing our brand new live performance. ‘Hold Tight‘ for that one… haha.

SSC: And finally, if you could give one piece of advice for those wishing to follow in your path, what would it be? 

JS: It sounds cheesy but stay true to what you started the music for and instead of talking about things, just go make them happen. You can never lose in this if you persevere because even if you fail the first time with something, you’ve learnt why you failed so ultimately you’ve gained knowledge and have won anyway.

Massive thanks to Jake for taking the time to chat with us. Keep up to date with his projects at the following links…

Hold Tight Records: https://www.facebook.com/holdtightrecords/

Firmly Rooted Soundsystem: https://www.facebook.com/FirmlyRootedSounds/

Jake Sebastian