His update of Kelis's 'Milkshake' is one in a long line from this Plymouth-based producer, but now he plans to concentrate on more of his own productions
Hailing from Plymouth on the southwest coast of the UK, Freejak - known to his friends as Rob - has been making quite a name for himself at the more commercial end of the bass house spectrum over the past couple of years, picking up support from jocks as diverse as MistaJam, DJ Target, Danny Rampling and Fatboy Slim as well as the more EDM-ish likes of Oliver Heldens, Martin Garrix and Diplo.
A Beatport house No 1 in the shape of Somebody To Love on Spinnin' Deep (with Mr Belt & Wezol) has played a big part in that, but so too have a string of remixes - both official and less so - of classic tunes like Xpansions' Move Your Body, Candi Staton's You Got The Love, Gorillaz' Clint Eastwood and Cleptomaniacs' All I Do.
This summer, he put his bottom-heavy spin on another classic, Kelis's Milkshake - but this time with the cooperation of the lady herself, who revocalled the track especially for his reversioning, which was released as My Milkshake and credited to Kelis x Freejak. That release came complete with a remix by deep house dons Leftwing & Kody, with their take supported by the likes of Danny Howard and Solardo.
So naturally, we wanted to know just what is it that keeps bringing all the boys (and indeed girls) to his yard...
Your Milkshake remake has been getting plenty of attention. How did that come about, and how/why did Kelis end up resinging the vocal?
"It was quite a long journey to the final track, if I’m honest. It started a good few months back with a track called Finger Flip that I released on my own Wetlook label. It was essentially an instrumental to begin with, but was received pretty well with support from Oliver Heldens, Afrojack, Avicii, Jauz but most notably 1Xtra’s DJ Target took a real interest. He approached me about signing the track to his Sony/Columbia-associated label Pitched Up. We tried a few different top lines on it but found nothing that really grabbed us.
"Just for some fun for my DJ sets, I put together a little mash up with Finger Flip and Milkshake. Target played that at a few festivals with a great reaction, and so he played it to Sony and Sony played it to Kelis’s team. We were blown away when she came back to us not only saying that she liked it, but she would love to get involved and would love to re-vocal it to make it a fresh new update. And the rest is history, as they say."
Milkshake must be one of the most bootlegged tracks so far this century, with hundreds of different reversionings - was that a consideration when you set about your take on it?
"As I mentioned, it was never our intention to take on Milkshake to start with. But when Kelis announced she wanted to get involved, we all felt it was a great opportunity to do something that the other bootlegs hadn’t done, and that was to put together an official remake with the support of the original artist. But there have been some really great mixes of it for sure."
A Leftwing & Kody remix has also been released - were they your choice or the label's, and what do you think of their take on the track?
"I’ve personally been a fan of Leftwing & Kody for some time. I've used many of their sample packs to put together some of my own productions. So, when I heard that they had put together a bootleg version of Milkshake, my manager got in touch with them to see if they would like to get onboard and make it official, alongside my mix. I sent them over the new re-recorded Kelis vocal and bam, we had a banging new tech roller for the cool kids."
Remakes, re-edits and reversionings seem to be something of a speciality with you - what is it you enjoy so much about putting your own stamp on classic tunes?
"I have been hidden away in the background of the music industry for a good few years and have been DJing even longer. So many of the tracks that I have updated have a huge amount of special clubbing memories and nostalgia for me. Having been commissioned to update so many is just a huge honour for me.
"Many of these tracks are anthems for a reason, so when I get an opportunity to update them I really try to understand the essence of what made them special to start with and try my best not to drift to far from that. For me, there is no bigger compliment than being approached by the original artist to breath some new life into their most closely held projects."
Is there a danger, do you think, in taking that approach? Do you risk your own original productions getting overlooked?
"In short, yes! And that has certainly happened to a degree, that my own original projects can certainly get over-shadowed somewhat by these huge anthems. It’s something I really want to concentrate on this year. I’m really looking forward to teaming up with great new and established singers and songwriters to spread my own musical wings that bit further. Really exciting times for me if I’m honest."
I gather you're also the first "official producer" for the DJcity record pool. What does that entail, exactly?
"DJcity are probably the biggest DJ network in the world about now. They have a global presence with official branches in the US and across Europe and Asia. I started submitting bootlegs, mash-ups and DJ tools to DJcity about three years ago. I was lucky enough to strike a bit of a chord with the other members and they really started to download my content. Across a one-year period I managed to notch up many UK and US Number 1s in their internal charts.
"After such a positive response, DJcity approached me to become their first official producer - commissioning me to put together exclusive content for their network. It was amazing to get my projects out to a global market which picked me up support from some of the biggest DJs in the world Including Tiesto, Fatboy Slim,Diplo, Skrillex, David Guetta, Martin Garrix, EDX, Oliver Heldens, MistaJam, Target, Danny Howard, and many more."
You're based down in Plymouth, which isn't really known as a dance music hub. Do you feel that's been a hindrance in any way, or in this age of global connectivity does it not matter?
"Well I must admit, I do a lot of driving! I was based in and around the southeast for many years, working in major studios in central London. But I guess as I got a little more mature, I realised the importance of being happy and the difference that makes in my music, so I relocated back to the southwest to be closer to family and friends. I also have an awesome, BBC-built studio here, which is almost reason enough on its own. It’s an incredibly beautiful part of the country. We have miles upon miles of magnificent white beaches and vast areas of national parks - it’s unquestionably a very inspirational place.
"I don’t feel I’ve been to hindered being down here. I've collaborated with New York, LA, Amsterdam, and London-based artists; it really is a global industry these days and we're all so well connected it makes no real difference where I am."
Finally, what else is going on with you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"I can’t let too many cats out of the bag just yet! But Sony/Columbia have me locked in the studio working on a lot of new material for the next single and beyond. I have taken a bit of a hiatus from the performance side of things to concentrate on studio work, so I’m really looking forward to getting back out there on the DJ circuit and touring again."
Words: Russell Deeks Pic: Dan Reid
Kelis x Freejak's My Milkshake is out now on Columbia/Pitched Up. Buy/stream it here