By Michael Sharpe
Matt ‘Jam’ Lamont can be regarded as an undisputed legend in the UK Dance scene, making a major contribution since the very beginning. He’s released classic after classic. If you need reminding of the power of Tuff Jam’s anthems to energise a crowd, then look no further than Tumblin’ Down. As well as forging fruitful partnerships throughout his career, he has also got into the charts hits on more than one occasion and successfully launched his own label. Foreverland catches up with the man himself.
Indeed, it was at The Arches in South London where Matt’s career was suddenly filled with promise. His residency there was a stepping stone but when did he receive his first major chance to impress? This key opportunity presented itself at a nightclub in Islington, which is ironically now an unobtrusive library. The night, AWOL, had a second room and Matt was incredibly determined to play: “Got to know him, guy called Timmy Ramjam from Happy Days and literally begging him chasing him round the club for a set, kind of cleaning the floor by dragging his heels. He goes ‘Right, you’ve got half an hour.’ Kind of literally stayed on for an hour and a half/two hours and the rest is history.” It was interesting to learn exactly how Matt felt at the time he was playing. Although he admitted to being a bundle of nerves, he believes you can suffer from being overconfident: “Oh yeah putting the needle on the record I was shaking like hell, trying to hold it down so people weren’t looking at you going, ‘What’s he doing, he’s shaking you know’, but I was nervous and it’s good to be nervous because it keeps you focused”.
One of Matt’s biggest achievements is undisputedly Tuff Jam. Him and DJ Karl ‘Tuff Enuff’ Brown formed the legendary team in 1993 and the UK dance scene would be subsequently hit by a tidal wave of classic tunes and hot remixes. Among the duo’s successes were entering the charts with TJR’s Just Gets Better and obtaining gold sales status on the release of CDs Underground Frequencies Vol.1 and Vol.2. Not bad, right? I was eager to find out the making of this dream team. Matt pondered momentarily, “That’s a good question”, he said. “One of my mates, Adrian, had this group called Q-Rious and he had a track called Spread Love. And he came up to me and said ‘Matt, I want a remix’. So I thought who should I do this with? And I thought I’ll do it with Karl because I want to see how we work together.” What the duo produced in their first project certainly didn’t disappoint Matt. What he didn’t know was that this was only the beginning: “So we came up with this remix and played it because we used to do Elephant and Castle just after the Ministry. And I tested it in there after we done the mix and it literally nearly broke the windows.”
When the year 2000 arrived, Matt thought it was time to leave Tuff Jam and pursue new projects. Could he really build on his achievements? Oh yes. Another hugely successful partnership would be forged, this time with Gavin ‘DJ Face’ Mills (Banana Republic & Copyright fame). Jam and Face, as the pair were smoothly known, have re-dubbed the likes of Daniel Bedingfield’s ‘Gotta Get Thru This’, Artful Dodger, Liberty X and many more. Their arguably greatest achievement though occurred in 2001, when they pioneered a UK dance style mix for British trio Mis-Teeq. The remix of Why was admirable in the sense that it showcased production versatility, merging two different flavours of music: “I said look Gav (Gavin ‘DJ Face’ Mills), we’ve got an R&B track and they want a garage mix so let’s do a two step mix, let’s take it R&B into garage and bang it out.” Although the mix became a debut top 10 chart hit, Matt treasures the experience in other ways: “The girls didn’t have a name and their R&B track wasn’t doing it for them. I mean I’m not saying it would never have done anything but at that time it wasn’t. I mean to come up with something like that and give the girls the career they had.” Mis-Teeq were most definitely given a helping hand, obtaining an album deal on the back of the single. Top work Jam and Face.
Throughout his career, Matt has always been on the move, playing at numerous clubs in the UK and abroad. To name a few, his clubbing haunts overseas include Ibiza, Germany and Las Vegas. The DJ life appears to be a dream job; playing to wild crowds, spending time in the glorious sunshine and staying in quality accommodation. Well, it might not be all it’s cracked up to be where accommodation is concerned. After I asked Matt about the worst accommodation he’s stayed in, he laughs, saying: “There’s been a few.” He recalls going to the Miami Music Conference as part of Tuff Jam back in 1998 and the drive on the way to his hotel was certainly filled with promise: “We are driving and going up Miami drive and I’m seeing all these lovely white buildings, exclusive like pent houses as we’re driving and I go d’you know what, we’ve been looked after here.” Rather amusingly, there is a sudden change in situation: “Then it gets a bit more ghetto. I think it’s the taxi driver taking the mick taking us the long way round but then he stops and goes ‘There we go’. And I look at this hotel and all I saw were half cut cars sticking out the walls. I was like what the hell is this place?” Already, Matt’s hotel doesn’t sound like The Ritz or accommodation you’d associate with the city of Miami. What was inside though? Mentally prepare yourself because Matt didn’t: “I was like it can’t be that bad. Go inside and I look to my right and there was the restaurant. The restaurant, where you sit, was half cut cars, with a roof taken off them and seats put inside of them with like a table in the middle”. You’re now probably wondering what the bedroom was like. Matt had arrived at the conclusion that he was living a nightmare at this point: “Thinking that was the worse, I got to the room, and I’m not joking, girlfriend sat on the bed, girlfriend at the time, and dust came off the bed. And I looked on the floor and there was like dust everywhere. Turned the water on, dust in the bath, literally sand coming out of the thing or brown water and I saw a couple of cockroaches and thought nah that’s it.” So there you have it, the life can sometimes not be very pleasant, even for a respected DJ and producer like Matt.
Matt ‘Jam’ Lamont can be safely classed as one of dance music’s real pioneers and his reputation continues to be hot today. His summer is already looking ‘jam’ packed, with him expected to play at events across England and Spain. Hopefully there are no cockroaches in store. Matt, we wish you all the best.