ABOVE: JACK NOVAK
Jack Novak’s music is intense, intimate, epic dance. The DJ/producer has non-stop energy, both in person and in the booth, that catches like fire. But Novak was not always an accomplished musician. She also used to model and act, struggling through tough years finding her way in the wild streets of downtown New York City. It wasn’t until Novak decided her life needed a change that she packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles, where her passion for beats, rhythms, quaking bass lines, and anything musical was turned into a full-tilt obsession, then a career.
Traveling to play shows in South America as well as back in New York, Novak’s tracks take you on a trippy journey. Beyond just contagiousness, Novak’s tunes have a raw, ecstatic swagger that reflect the path she has taken. Novak’s music makes you want to tear up the club, throw down on the party, pop bottles forever, but there is a story behind it all that adds a tantalizing, timeless feeling. We spoke with Novak about changing her life in two weeks, her first mixtapes, how spiritual growth helped her sound, and the importance of keeping it real.
ROYAL YOUNG: Tell me about your trajectory going from New York to L.A., changing from modeling and acting to music. What did that look like for you?
JACK NOVAK: I was really young and had just finished high school when I moved to New York. I learned a lot about myself in New York, but I was a wild child. It got a turning point in my life where I felt like I needed to make a drastic change. Literally in two weeks, I made a decision to move, I packed up my bags and I was in Los Angeles. I didn’t know anybody, maybe one person off the Internet. But I came out here. I have always been driven by music, I can’t live without it, all the ups and downs of my life, I couldn’t have gone through without music. I remember I went to Coachella for the first time, and I had an amazing experience. I stayed in a house with a few friends that I had made, and they kept asking me to put music on. They kept saying “I love the music you play!” At the end of the trip my friend was like, “Look dude, can you send me a mixtape? I really miss your DJing.” A little light bulb went off went off in my head. Spiritually I had grown up so much as a person, and I decided to do a 180 and start DJing. I reached out to some successful DJs, and immediately they said “if you want to do this, you have to produce your own music.” I said, “Okay, I’m down! How the hell do you that?”
YOUNG: Do you feel like as you grew as a person—not only your taste in music, but what you were creating grew as well?
NOVAK: We’re always creating something. I think that’s our purpose, to create something, even if it’s noise as a child. I was kind of unhappy with what I was creating in the world. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but creating music felt like it was coming from a really good place in my heart. After being so wild and going through a lot, I reached a point in my life where I wanted to put out good things and I was more aware of what I was creating. When you’re partying, I don’t think you’re really aware or in tune with what and who is around you. But creating music in a studio with another person is such an intimate thing. For me, it’s about bearing myself, opening yourself up. As I grew spiritually, what I was creating just got better and better.
YOUNG: And now you’re working with younger musicians, like Liam Horne. Do you feel like there’s a mentoring process, or a giving back? Maybe teaching, learning and growing together.
NOVAK: Yeah, especially because he’s such a young kid. I can be a little bit of a good influence. [laughs]
YOUNG: [laughs] Can you tell me more about your collaborations?
NOVAK: I’ve been lucky enough to be in the studio with a lot of great artists, from Skrillex to Just Blaze to Baby E., who I think is going to be just huge. Then there are so many people who are writers in the industry. For me, making music is not a formulaic thing, where this is what I’m supposed to do and I go in and do it. Every song I make has to feel really, really good to me for me to actually put it out in the world and share it with other people. So sitting down with another person, opening yourself up and making music together, you can’t connect that way with someone in any other art form. It’s just awesome and amazing!
YOUNG: [laughs] What is that feeling for you?
NOVAK: It’s one of the most intimate things I’ve ever experienced. It’s not on the surface, and that’s why I like it.
YOUNG: What are you excited about in the future? What are your dreams now?
NOVAK: I don’t want to delve too much into being a woman in music. I don’t consider myself a female DJ, I just consider myself a DJ and a producer. I don’t like to put that tag on it. But, it definitely is a more male-dominated industry, especially dance music. When I first started, I was approached by so many people who told me not to worry about producing music, they would have someone do it for me and then just stamp my name and face on it and make a bunch of money. I remember feeling a little surprised and insulted by that. [laughs] I politely declined. It was a long process, like learning Japanese, Royal. [laughs] It took a long time for me to sit down with any artist or any other producer and run the session and feel really confident. This might be longer road, but at the end of the day looks fade, but talent doesn’t. It’s important to be real and honest, especially with music. Otherwise, I’d feel like such a fake.