Interview by: Royal Young
I first met Jack Novak when I was twenty drinking a 40 Oz. on a Lower East Side stoop. Now ten years later, she’s a hugely creative, ecstatically energetic DJ and producer and I am a slightly less tipsy reporter. Jack has been making music her whole life but in the past few years has found her beat and blossomed into an international force, playing shows all over the States and Latin America. Her sound is big, lush and powerful—playing with catchy beats but turning them upside down and adding something dark and a little wistful too—full of a yearning to go higher.
It was a pleasure to reunite with her when she played Webster Hall in New York and dance wildly on stage in front of thousands—forgetting my fears, doubts, loneliness and devoting my energy completely to the music—pounding, wild, rhythmic, freeing.
I caught up with Jack again over the phone in LA to chat about what music means to her, connection through sound, fans from around the world and her new music video “If It Kills Me.”
YOUNG: What is music and what does it mean to you? Has your relationship with music changed?
NOVAK: I’ve always been working on music since I was a kid. I first taught myself how to play piano. With electronic music and all the music I’m working on in general because I don’t just work on dance music I’ve been really honing in on my sound and what feels good and my favorite things.
YOUNG: What are your favorite things?
NOVAK: Well, you know when I first started working on music and I think this is true of every artist it’s really important to take your time and experiment. I think that’s true of any art. Try everything. I’ve been doing that for years. In the last year I’ve gotten to know what feels best for me, even though there’s music in every genre that I absolutely love. I love a lot of melody, I love vocals. But you came to my show at Webster Hall and I also love stuff that has a lot of energy and works really good in a live arena. When you look out at a crowd and everyone knows the song—even if you’re in the room with a hundred people and everyone connects and you get a song that everyone is singing back to you.
YOUNG: What is it about that moment of connection?
NOVAK: When you can take a concept as complex and simple as love, an amazing songwriter can connect people through that. That moment is a moment of freedom and letting go. Not to sound corny but it’s that feeling you get in your chest and your head and your heart—it’s indescribable. When I’m up there DJing I’m connected to the music too. I don’t play anything that doesn’t make me feel everything. Life can be tough sometimes so it’s amazing to get out there and forget about that and connect through music.
YOUNG: It’s interesting that you use the word forgetting. Because I felt that seeing you at Webster. I had to forget the outside world to remember this pure moment of connection. Does that make sense?
NOVAK: Absolutely. Throughout my life the one thing that can instantly make me feel better is listening to some music. I’ve never understood people who say they don’t really listen to music. I’m like “What!” [laughs]
YOUNG: [laughs] I know that is super weird.
NOVAK: I honestly can’t live without it. If there’s one thing you can always rely on to give you energy or help you get lost in the moment it’s music and that’s a pretty awesome creation in the universe.
YOUNG: You’ve done a lot of traveling. Have you noticed differences in the crowds and reactions different places you’ve been?
NOVAK: Yeah definitely. Every country and even every state has their own vibe. I love playing everywhere but I’ve loved traveling to Latin America. I know you’ve spent time down there too and the people are just in touch.
YOUNG: Don’t get me started I can talk for hours about it [laughs].
NOVAK: [laughs] There is just something really pure and awesome that happens in Latin America when you get to play a festival with a large group. It’s less about drugs and more about the music, which I love. Sure some people are partying but a lot of people are dead sober dancing singing and moving and have energy for eight hours straight because they love the music so much. I love that.
YOUNG: I also think when your every day existence is less free. In America I feel like the youth are pretty privelelged, bored and cynical.
NOVAK: You said it, I didn’t [laughs]
YOUNG: [laughs] It was all me. But in Latin America you often have kids that are poorer or don’t have the same opportunities so for them the music is a pure escape.
NOVAK: I’m not making assumptions about anybody, but when a kid saves their money all year to go to a music festival it is a really big deal for them and it should be because that is awesome! It’s a bunch of people coming together to enjoy music, light and sound. It’s a really creative experience. For some this is a once in a year opportunity and they are just waiting to do it again next year. How could you not go out into the crowd and meet those people? Greet them and be effusive? It teaches me how to reflect and appreciate and not take anything for granted.
YOUNG: It’s a very humbling experience. So tell me about your new music video ”If It Kills Me.”
NOVAK: Maybe three or four years ago Twitter lead me to an artist called Blackbear and I listened to some music and just loved it and thought, I gotta work with this guy one day. Years later we ended up working together and creating some really awesome music. He wrote on my song “If It Kills Me.” I love the collaboration. Then last October I was looking through music videos on YouTube. I found Alex Howard who is such an artistic soul. I wanted to do something different than a lot of electronic music videos where it is just people dancing with stock footage of the New York skyline and then you see the DJ with their arms up [laughs]. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but for me that doesn’t inspire me at all. I really wanted to get creative, so when I found Alex, who was this young, clearly talented director I sent him a message. We talked a lot about ideas and I think he’s going to be creating for the rest of his life.
Check out her new music video here: