Currently holed up in Dalston during the lockdown, India Jordan has been making the most of all of the clubs being closed. Instead, they’re busy mastering the basics of German. “They have a word for everything,” the east London-based DJ and producer marvels over video chat. “This particular time of day is called Feierabend. It means: the freedom that you get when you’re released from work.” By day, Jordan works in Diversity and Inclusion at King’s College London, and they’re speaking to NME after wrapping up for the week.
The Germans also coined the expression “Ohrwurm” – or earworm – before anywhere else, and there are plenty of those to be found on India Jordan’s new EP ‘For You’. Spanning across all the eclectic genres that you’ll spot woven through one of their sets – from ‘Rave City’s unrelenting hardcore, to the house-inflected ‘I’m Waiting (Just 4 U)’ – the entire release is addressed to a younger self who felt displaced, and dreamed of making music one day. The whole thing serves as a hefty and euphoric pat on the back.
Growing up as a queer teen in Doncaster was tough. Jordan (who uses they/them pronouns, and spoke candidly about their ongoing “gender journey” in an Instagram post last year) speaks of experiencing frequent homophobia. The best thing about the place, they joke, is the well-connected train station with its multiple escape routes. “It was proper shit.” they say. “I didn’t really feel like I belonged. This record is like me saying: you got through all that bad shit and now you’ve made some music – well done. I’ve been trying to learn in the last couple years to be a bit more self compassionate. I used to beat myself up all the time and be quite self destructive.”
In recent years, India Jordan has been reflecting on their negative feelings towards their hometown, and there’s a sense that ‘For You’ also forms part of that healing process. “I had such a bad experience from growing up there,” they say, “and I guess I sort of rejected my upbringing and class, my connection with the North. It’s only in the last four years that I’ve thought that it’s important to appreciate where i come from, and see it with a little more perspective and distance, rather than still being quite emotionally reactive to it. I struggle to go back there.”
After finishing up with school, Jordan headed straight for the station and moved to Hull. It was there, in a shared student house (name-checked by the title of ‘Westbourne Ave’) that they started learning to DJ. Hull’s scene was tight-knit and “very over-saturated with drum’n’bass,” they say, and ‘Westbourne Ave’s skittering beat is “an ode to that period of time”. The track was originally called something else,” they laugh, “which was a bit of a dig at a record label, saying that the music they put out was better in 2005.” Jordan tactfully declines to name the label in question.
Almost every weekend, Jordan and their mates soon started boarding regular coaches down to London in search of something different, and beneath the enormous tented expanse of the Millenium Dome, they stumbled across Matter. Set up by the team behind dance institution Fabric, Matter occupied a sizable corner of the O2 arena for two years. “The impression that Matter had on me was enough to get a tattoo on my wrist.” Jordan says, brandishing an inked wrist towards the camera.
“We used to get the Megabus down to Matter, go to the Hospitality [Records] nights there, and just stay up on Red Bull, completely sober. Then we’d get a megabus home at 8am the next morning. That’s pretty much what got me into DJing, and clubs generally. It was this huge, 3,000-cap super club,” they recall. “You know when a club is set up perfectly, so that the lasers and smoke machine makes it look like a globe? They did all this wild shit. The third floor used to have this cage running across the top. You could go in and look down onto the crowd.”
And a few years later, India Jordan moved to London for good, where they began playing at a laid back, ambient party called New Atlantis at Peckham’s Rye Wax, hosted by fellow artist Allen Wootton (aka. Deadboy). When Wootton upped sticks and moved to Montreal, Jordan took the reins, and it was here that they found their musical family. “It became a bit of a space for our community,” they say. Inadvertently, it all blew the lid off the box of influences Jordan was drawing from. Everything was fair game.
The approach immediately made sense. “All I used to read growing up was the NME,” they say. “I used to be really into Placebo, Red Hot Chili Peppers, [US post-hardcore band] From First to Last, things like that. I used to go to quite a few gigs at a place called The Leopard [in Doncaster]. We saw Bring Me the Horizon when they did the early circuits there. I’ve got a huge combination of genres that have influenced me for sure – I had some big emo years.”
“This record is me saying: you got through all that bad shit. Well done”
And so it follows that ambient, house, metal, and Jordan’s emo phrase all informed last year’s break-out debut EP ‘DNT STP MY LV’, and its successor ‘For You’ is more diverse still. “The high intensity of a band like System of a Down, is raw, high energy stuff,” Jordan points out. “And seeing them live has a similar effect to being in a club listening to hard dance music. I was a massive emo, and used to channel all my upset and anger into that.” Nowadays, Jordan’s outlet is dance music. “I used music to help process some things”.
‘For You’s closing track ‘Dear Nan King’ also plucks influence from surprising sources: heavily sampling from the BBC’s early noughties adaptation of Sarah Water’s Tipping the Velvet. A campy coming-of-age story about a Whitstable oyster girl called Nan, the period drama didn’t shy away from depicting queer sex, either – and in 2002 telly terms, that was virtually unhead of.
“I snuck into my bedroom to watch it as a kid,” Jordan says. “It was life changing.”
“That tune was written as a connection between my younger self, 12 years old, about to go through all this crap, and get a lot of homophobia – and then the person who finally read the [original Sarah Waters] book at 29. At the end of ‘Dear Nan King’ it says: “there’s nothing wrong with me at all”. If you could take my brain and how I feel about music and put it into a track, I think that’d be what it sounds like. I really feel like I’ll be reaching out to some queer people who have perhaps gone through a similar sort of thing when they first watched Tipping the Velvet in the early 2000s.”
As a whole ‘For You’ was written over the course of a year, and spans from joyful snatched moments, to quiet pockets of reflection. The cover art was snapped during a surreal morning spent shooting in the loos at East London LGBTQ+ venue Dalston Superstore: for Jordan, hovering in front of a bathroom mirror is a safe place to decompress. “They’re places I’ve experienced to be queer,” they previously explained in a press release. “When I was growing up, it wasn’t necessarily safe for me to show any public displays of affection with people, so toilets were a safe option.”
“Also they do generally have really good lighting,” they joke. “Superstore was the first club I went to in the area when I first moved to London. I have this connection to it, and it made sense to pay homage on the record. There’s a freeing element, the idea that you can totally go and be yourself.”
Freeing is exactly what ‘For You’ is intended to be – though Jordan admits it has been strange releasing a record that’s custom-made for a thrashing night out at a sweaty, strobe-lit club while they’re all shut for the foreseeable.
“At first I was just thinking, well, I can’t play this in a club so what’s the point? But I think I underestimated my own music.” Some of the messages here are accidentally applicable to the present anyway. “Be kind to yourself,” they agree. “It’s okay to be sad. Just chill out a bit and your motivation will come back. And if it doesn’t, it’s fine. Because look at what the hell’s going on in the world right now!”
India Jordan’s EP ‘For You’ is out now via Local Action