When Jace Clayton (a/k/a DJ /rupture) steps behind the decks at Great Scott this Saturday, it will be a homecoming of sorts. It was as a student in Boston in the mid ’90s that this Massachusetts native cut his considerable musical teeth. An early diet of Boston’s eclectic college-radio programming nurtured his tastes; he got his first exposure to jungle — with its frenetic beats and dub-inflected bass — at the now-legendary Loft after-hours club. “It was shocking and amazing,” Clayton recalls over the phone from his home in New York City. “That was the point that I decided that I wanted to become a DJ. I wanted to get into the slipstream of that music, which I found really, really invigorating. I thought, ‘Okay, this is it!’ ”
Soon Clayton was in the thick of Boston’s jungle-music underground. As one of the founding members of Toneburst, a collective of musicians and multimedia artists, Clayton helped organize a slew of innovative large-scale events and intimate parties around the city. His Toneburst-era sets were incendiary, dense mixes, chock full of intricate breaks, esoteric samples, and vocal snippets. After graduating and leaving Boston in 1997, he put out a series of mix CDs, including 2001’s Gold Teeth Thief, which was eventually released on breakbeat enfant terrible Kid 606’s label, Violent Turd. The disc is an ambitious live mix that incorporates the disparate styles and genres that have become the bread and butter of DJ /rupture — hip-hop, jungle, breakcore, modern classical, North African, reggae, R&B — while showing his keen ear for revealing their musical kinship.
Clayton has recently moved back to the States after seven fruitful years in Barcelona. He currently has a number of collaborative projects in the works in New York, as well as a weekly radio show called Mudd Up! on the venerable freeform Jersey City station WFMU. One of the projects is an album with Matt Schell, of New York’s Team Shadetek, who has also just returned from a stint abroad. As Clayton describes it, the album leans heavily on grime and dubstep, two dark, bass-heavy subgenres that have emerged out of the London underground. The work involves some musical translation, because what flies high in London can fall flat in NYC. “A large part of it is us making the music our way,” he explains, “doing it in such a way that it makes sense in New York City and, more importantly, making beats that make people dance in New York City.” This means adding local elements, such as hip-hop and R&B, to the dubstep foundation in order to, as Clayton puts it, “activate the mix.”
This is also true of his DJ sets, which are improvised on three turntables. Clayton’s style may be complex and provocative, but he never loses sight of the audience. “I’ve never been interested in being a bedroom producer or a bedroom DJ. The whole point of being a DJ is that you’re interacting with a crowd wherever you are. So everywhere I go I sort of bend and adjust my set to what’s going on there, what kind of sounds are big there, and, more specifically, how the audience reacts to different tunes. I’ve never been about forcing things down other people’s throats.