A house music everyman talks shop.
John J. Shepheard had always seen music production as a hobby, with other music industry work earning him his paycheck. But after his first EP under the name Jay Shepheard became a hit for Compost Records' Black Label series, he started to see that he'd be able to scratch out a living from house music alone. That first record, Pipes N Sneakers, came in 2007, and in the years since the Berliner (by way of London and Gdansk, Poland) built a reputation as one of dance music's most likeable characters, whose disco-rinsed house sound has made him a regular face in clubs across Europe. If the early part of his career was in large part about his affiliation with one label, then the latter half has been about moving toward self-sufficiency—the bulk of his releases now come on his own Retrofit label, including a pair of albums, Home & Garden and Seeing Sound, released in 2013 and '14. We'd heard about some interesting anecdotes that came up along the way—like a very early DJ residency in the Cayman Islands, and some time spent recording the sound clips for new releases at Juno Records—and we wanted to hear them from Shepheard himself. So after the dust had settled on New Year's Eve celebrations in Berlin, we invited him by our office to hear how his musical life took shape.