Jack Lever Interview by Rocco Tyndale Music / Art / Label / Interview

Jack Lever

Subtempo Guest Mix 036


Jack Lever is Music Producer, Label owner and DJ from the Peak District in England. Now residing in Stockport UK. Jack’s music productions span a decade of downtempo breakbeat electronica. Alongside his collaborative works as one half of Kiyoko and SK222 with Joe McBride, Jack is the director of the newly founded record label Open Tapes and club night Open Circuit with Tom Mallas.

Hi Jack, first of all, thanks for doing this mix for us.

Cheers for asking! I’m a huge fan of your label & mix series.

I’d like to start by asking what tools did you use to create this mix.

I used a combination of Vinyl, Tape and Digital formats. Rekordbox for tempo matching and Universal Audio Luna Software for Mixing and Mastering.

You prepared a fairly eclectic, multi-genre set. Is there a theme behind this mix?

I wanted to keep it as eclectic as possible whilst still picking tracks that have some sort of commonality between them. A couple of the records were gifted to me by Dan Black Lodge as we have worked on some music together over the last year, which I decided to include. There are a few forthcoming bits for Open Tapes and other labels too.

As I was preparing this interview, I couldn’t help but notice, you have a number of projects on the go, how do you find time to work in all of them?

I always have a bunch of projects on the go at any one time so I think I’m just used to it. Every so often something will happen naturally and it will seem like the right time to get something out there.

Do the different projects serve as different outlets for your creativity?

I’ve got a bunch of tape machines, synthesizers and samplers which I use in all of my projects. Each one gets approached differently, for example the SK222 material is started by tuning up instruments to a microtonal scale. The Kiyoko stuff can be quite improvisational but we often start with some Vinyl samples. My solo work draws a lot from putting together chords and melodies from scratch on a Synth or Guitar or cloning melodies from old b-movies and horror films and processing them heavily. Recently I’ve been getting mixing and mastering work for other people's projects which I love doing.

Jack Lever most recent output is heavily inspired by his local scene, in Stockport, at the outskirts of Manchester, UK.

When we chatted offline, you mentioned that lately a lot of what’s informing your work has been your local scene at Stockport, UK. What’s good over there?

There’s a lot going on over here, my sister runs a screen printing studio called Small Press which is taking off and I have two great record shops on my doorstep, SK1 Records and All Night Flight who both run their own events sporadically throughout the year. You’ve got Finders Keepers records based nearby who have been a massive inspiration and Mastersounds too who make rotary valve DJ Mixers.

And you are also running a club night called Open Circuit. Tell me a bit about those. Do they have a drum & bass focus?

I set up Open Circuit to host performances and exhibitions in and around Manchester. So far we’ve had performances from Tape Loop Orchestra, Andy Votel, Black Lodge, John Powell-Jones and Conor Thomas. Only recently have we branched out into more club oriented events since Tom Mallas has gotten involved in the organization.

This is initially why Open Tapes was created, as a way to release some of the live performances from these nights but I’m branching out to put out EP’s and Albums with the label now. The first solo EP was ovïd’s Frail Gesture EP which came out mid last year.

You are about to release an EP under your Jack Lever project. How’s this new work different from your previous releases?

In a way it’s a continuation of everything I’ve done previously but I think the production value is just much higher. The main difference is everything I have done before has been 100% analog right up until recording the stereo master. But for this record I have multi-tracked into my UA Apollo x 16 which sounds insanely clear. So the recordings are much crisper.

It’s a full stop to conclude the little bits I’ve dropped here and there, such as a 7”, two remixes, mixtapes, compilation track and the SK222 releases.

A man in continuous flow, multiple projects & collaborations, as well as a label, event series and he even does mastering & graphic design on the regular.

And you are self releasing it, correct? Or is it coming out on your label Open Tapes?

I am releasing it through Furthur Electronix who are pretty much leading the way in that sound today I think. They’ve put some wicked stuff out by John Beltran, Mike Paradinas, Brainwaltzera and many others who I really rate. I have more solo material and collabs planned for Open Tapes in the near future though.

Your label has a cassette focus. The format seems to be having a bit of a moment. When did you start it and how is that going?

I think the moment is happening due to the fact that pressing plants are backed up and it’s the next available physical format that gives good analog audio tonality. The first albums I owned as a kid were on cassette. I’ve been releasing them for ages and use them as a recording medium in the studio too.

There are a lot of genres that grew out of cassette and mixtape culture which I’m very much inspired by such as Industrial, Noise, Dancehall, New Age and Memphis Rap, all of which I think lend themselves more to cassette than vinyl.

You have a very close relationship with Joe McBride aka Synkro. How’d that come about?

We went to the same secondary school but Joe is a couple of years older so we didn't really meet until later when we were studying music technology at City College in Manchester.

I was a massive fan of his records and DJ sets when I was at college and he was already DJing in the city on a regular basis by that point. The first club night I went to was Dubspot with Synkro and Zed Bias at the Music Box around 2008 when I was about 17. He was releasing an insane amount of music around 2008-2011 when Dubstep, Techno, UK funky, Garage and Autonomic were forming a bit of a melting pot in electronic music. It was a very exciting time in Manchester. We’ve been friends since around then and eventually started working on projects together a few years later once I learned how to use a sequencer.

Joe is also going out with my sister Yasmin and they have a little Shih-Tzu called Moomin. Shout out to Moomin!

Vintage syths, tape machines, movie samples are common themes in Jack's work.

Maybe that was a bit of a leading question, we love Yasmin Lever, your sister has helped us with some album covers and recently she pressed some tote bags at her Small Press Studio.

Yes my sister has played a pivotal role in a lot of what we do, she's steadily becoming an essential part of the local music scene commiting artwork to record sleeves for some of the best local labels. She also has a great ear for music (and record collection).

Big fan of the Souns album she did the sleeve for!

You have a number of music projects with Joe, SK222 as well as Kiyoko. I love Kiyoko personally, I’ve been following the project from the early days, hits all the right notes for me. What’s drove you to split your output into more than one alias?

Thank you! I’ve just realised Kiyoko turns 10 this year, I wouldn’t say we split the project up so much as we created another arm of it. The SK222 music is just something completely different. After learning about Aleksi Perälä & Grant Wilson-Claridges discovery of the Colundi Frequencies we realised that we shared a common purpose and decided to create our own artefacts.

With SK222, there seems to also be something conceptual, visual, some pattern you are chasing after. Can you tell me a bit about it?

The extent of my failure to accurately express thoughts and intentions clearly, in language of words, is bound to mislead someone to some extent so I apologise and thank you for your time and effort thinking about what I may really mean.

Kiyoko seems to be getting more recognition these days, your latest record completely sold out in a matter of days. I remember way back when you launched the project I felt like I was one of the few the knew about this well kept secret gem. I’m very happy for you guys. What’s the connection with Japan?

I think that in the early days we were just exploring ideas with a child-like curiosity and naivety. At the time it kind of seemed like a picture was slowly forming out of some kind of misty framework and we came up with the name Kiyoko for this new sound we had created. The meaning of the word “Pure Child” seemed to resonate with our music sketches as Sea Of Trees was coming together.

A much deeper and disquieting sound is emerging from the project now. There are a lot of cultural references and samples that we draw from, for example we have been exploring the documentation of early recorded sound and sonic devices in the late 19th century in our as a theme in our last couple of records.

It’s impossible to ignore the impact Japan has had on recorded music in general throughout our life span. So the inspiration is coming less from the country itself, like landscapes and so-on and more from the incredible and bizarre technology and records that have come from there.

I don’t feel the project is solely tied to Japan at all though, the Stone Tapes series draws inspiration from ‘Stone Tape Theory’ the correlation between metaphysical phenomenon and tape recording. In Lighthouse we were inspired by numerology, patterns in nature and local folklore.

Some of Jack Lever's go-to tools.

Any plans on future Kiyoko releases?

Yes we are always working on new material and the next release is coming together at the moment which we’re both excited about!

You are a graphic designer as well. Is that your day job or do you find you end up using your design skills for all your projects?

Not all of my projects, for the last few Open Circuit nights I have been collaborating with a great artist called Diana Tap-f who has a beautiful style which is really bold and minimal. Also Joe is an amazing graphic designer in his own right and pretty much most of the visual work on our records is a collaborative effort.

Is there any upcoming releases or events we should be keeping an eye out for?

I’m currently scoring a short film which is loosely based around some of the theme’s from the Forthcoming EP so keep your eye out for that. I have also been working on a full length Album with Black Lodge which will be surfacing in the near future, and there will be more Open Circuit events at SOUP in manchester this year for sure.

Well it’s been a real pleasure talking with you, and thanks again for doing this mix for us.

Cheers for the opportunity & enjoy the mix. x


  1. Sleeparchive - #2 [Sleeparchive]
  2. Dalhous - You Don't Know What You Want Do You? [Blackest Ever Black]
  3. Christina Vantzou - Inter-Dimensional [Slow Moves]
  4. Jack Lever - Untitled [Not On Label]
  5. Untitled - Untitled [Not On Label]
  6. The Specialist - The Specialist (Instrumental) [Infinity]
  7. Lol Coxhill & Morgan Fisher - Jetsam [Pipe]
  8. Fun Boy Three - Faith, Hope & Charity [Chrysalis]
  9. REQ - Bonus Jam [Skint]
  10. Thom Brown - Untitled [Not On Label]
  11. Aleksi Perälä - FI3AC2160040 [AP Musik]
  12. Loose Joints - Is It All Over My Face (Female Vocal) [West End]
  13. Black lodge - Broughton [Acupuncture]
  14. ovïd - Untitled [Not On Label]
  15. Robert Owens - Bonus Beats [Alleviated Music]
  16. Pure - Optical Illusion [New Electronica]
  17. Andy Stott - For The Love [Modern Love]
  18. Boards Of Canada - Korona [Boards Of Canada]
  19. Kreggo - Smalltown Girl [Not On Label]

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