We know that Malta isn’t technically a city, but it’s so teeny tiny (a mere 316 km²!), that we decided it can have it’s own guide, especially when we were approached by native Jupiter Jax to do it. We’ve been big fans of Jupiter Jax for years, first coming our way thanks to the supreme LA label 100% Silk. His dazzling and ethereal take on house will have you dancing for days. Last year saw the release of his debut album ‘Visions’ on 100% Silk, which has been a staple in our bags since, and was followed by ‘Social Zombies’ on Opal Tapes, under the new alias ‘Son Of’. He’s also a computational biologist in the day, how cool.
Jupiter Jax, or Jup for short (not actually, we just made that up), gives us a knowing insight into the stunning Mediterranean. A place known for its historic sites, fortresses, megalithic temples and after this guide…it’s electronic music!
Jupiter Jax is playing at Glitch Festival, taking place in Malta 7 & 8th September.
Check out the map above and interview below for Jupiter Jax’s favourite spots, while you listen to a 100% Malta mix.
Favourite place to buy records
Unfortunately, we are not exactly spoilt for choice in terms of record shops in Malta. In Valletta you can still find the first record shop in Malta (est. 1885) – D’Amato Records. It is a boutique family run store which also bills itself as the oldest record store in the world. The store also played a part in providing the first Maltese music recordings back in the 1930s. I would say it is worth a visit just for its place in history. Riding the DJ culture wave, a few electronic music record stores did open in the 90s, but eventually all closed down. I would definitely check out the recently opened Sunset Records in Sliema though. It has quite a good selection of music and is definitely worth a visit.
Favourite live music venue?
Liquid Club in San Gwann. Its isolated location means that you don’t get random people stumbling in. Everyone who is there, is there for that specific club night. The atmosphere tends to be quite intimate. For at least the last 20 years the club has become synonymous with an alternative to the mundane club nights happening in other parts of the island. Personally, it was also my first exposure to the subsets of electronic music that resonated with me. Since my mid-teens, Liquid Club is still the go-to place for me and many others like me. Besides foreign acts, the place is also your best chance to listen to a bunch of great local music artists. For example all of the artists in this mix frequent the club itself, either as performers or as part of the audience. In fact, it is this club which is the common link between all of us and the means by which most of us met. Cannot recommend this place enough!
Best party in the city?
I would be somewhat biased if I had to choose just one. Squadron would be the answer in that case. Me and my cousin founded Squadron events back in early 00s, mostly to satisfy our selfish need to listen to the artists that we loved. The events centered on artists from Creme, Bunker, Viewlexx and continued on from there. I’m not involved in the organizing aspect anymore but the nights are still going strong and will have their 15th year anniversary next year! With that in mind, I would really check out what is going on in Liquid club. Another two of the great and long standing parties are Shift & Disorder – their focus is mostly around techno. Also one should check out Unfocused. Though this is more of a recent club-night, the persons behind it, Owen Jay and Brian James have been at it since the early 90s and are amongst the most respected selectors in the Maltese house and techno scene. With that in mind, pretty much all of the different promoters organizing events at Liquid Club are really passionate about the events they do and the artists they bring over, and I would recommend any of their parties.
Best view of the city?
Maybe not the ‘best’ view but at least for a unique and authentic view of Malta, I would say it has to be the ‘roof-top’ view. Just get on any roof you can and do a 360 around you. Any 3 to 4 storey building would do as Malta is still relatively low-rise. I think that Malta is sometimes posed as this sunny and pristine gem in the Mediterranean, but in reality for most of the locals, this is what we see every day. From this view, three things will stand out immediately; the urban sprawl, the occasional parish church sprouting out of the concrete buildings, and some sea on the horizon. Nothing is more representative as a view of Malta than that.
As for the more scenic views, the Upper Barrakka Gardens. From here you can see the Grand Harbor and fortifications of Birgu, Bormla and Isla known as the three-cities. If you are lucky enough you might witness the national ‘Regatta’. It’s a traditional Maltese rowing event that has been held since the Middle Ages. The competition is between the cities bordering the grand harbor and is quite a spectacle to watch. Otherwise, I highly suggest to visit here at night time, the view is much more spectacular! Some other views: the view of Valletta from Tigne Point; The countryside from ‘Triq Louis Wettinger’ in Mellieha. The view of the Old Capital city of Malta, Mdina as seen from the road linking ‘Triq Buqana’ to ‘Triq L-Imdina’.
Best spot for a picnic?
Buskett Gardens – one of the few places in Malta that can technically be considered a woodland. It maybe best to visit there during the week as a lot of locals tend to flock there during the weekends. Also Riviera – sandwiched between 2 beaches, the hill area is a great spot for a short walk and one of the best places to capture a stunning sunset.
Favourite Cafe’s and Restaurants?
Personally for restaurants, I would go for the local cafe/restaurant of the town. You will know one when you see one because it will be stacked with locals from early morning till just after lunch hours. It is there where you will find the authentic Maltese ‘ftira’ and a selection of home-made dishes – some of the recipes might be even local to the town itself. This is the closest you will get to Maltese ‘street-food’ I would say. As for coffee, KefaKafe – a small cafe close to home. We’re not big on good coffee shops in Malta yet, though this spot makes up!
What are the best local dishes or street food?
‘Fenek moqli’: Fried Rabbit in Garlic. This is a Maltese delicacy. Do not order it from some random restaurant across the island. This has to be taken at very specific places which specialize in it. For example Mgarr is one of the more common places where you can get good rabbit. There are a few restaurants circling the Mgarr parish church, each of which serve this traditional dish. And if you go there, be prepared for a very local and loud environment.
Is there somewhere you like going to escape the hustle and bustle and take some time away for yourself?
Given that we are on an island, you can only go so far to get away. The next best thing is to actually leave the island itself. A visit to the neighboring island Gozo is the best tune-down experience for me and I highly recommend it. Gozo is just 15 minutes away by a ferry you may take from the north side of Malta, Cirkewwa. This island is significantly less densely populated than Malta, also less exploited insofar, and you really feel that it moves at a much slower pace. A drive around the hilly landscapes in winter accompanied by some dinner in one of the villages is sometimes enough to give you a good reset before heading back to Malta.
Best place to experience something unique to Malta?
For better and for worse, the local town feast or ‘festa’. In summer every town celebrates a feast (sometimes more than one) related to the saint of their parish church. So it is very normal for the skies In Malta to be lit with fireworks pretty constantly throughout the summer time. The streets are endowed with decorations for the whole week before the feast and on the eve of the feast, families flock towards the town center to enjoy the activities including music from the local band marches, processions and standing firework displays. As for food, I would try and avoid the stalls, so don’t go there too hungry!
First thing you miss after leaving Malta?
Besides friends and family, probably our traditional bread. More specifically its crust! Though nowadays, it is much harder to find good traditional Maltese bread, as most of the local town furnaces have closed down and production became decentralized. But yes, I miss it to the extent that when I’m abroad, I have become that person creepily touching the bread in a supermarket trying to feel out whether the crust is at least similar to that of Maltese bread!
Best place to see another medium of art other than music?
St James Cavallier in Valletta. This is the central creative space in Malta home to all sorts of interesting events other than music. Whether it’s art-installations, theatre and dance. You can find a list of events happening there here.
Are there any markets in your city worth checking out?
The market in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk on a Sunday morning. Freshest seafood and fish. It is also the best way to see the traditional fishing boats known as ‘luzzu’ as the bay there is filled with them. While you are there make sure to pop in at the Rising Sun, a very tiny family run restaurant. Food doesn’t get more fresh and authentic than what they serve there! Also worth checking out is the flea market at Birgu on Sunday. If you manage to make your way through all the second hand clothing stalls, you’ll find stalls with some of the quirkiest objects, antiques and vintage items around. Some stalls also sell a bunch of second hand vinyl. Worth a visit if you can wake up early enough.
Where will you find the friendliest, most interesting locals to have a chat with?
There is one particular place that definitely draws in the most interesting characters – Crystal Palace Cafe in Rabat. The place is open 24-7, which means that at a very specific time , early Saturday or Sunday morning between 3-6am you get an odd combination of older locals starting their day early with their tea and ‘pastizzi’, together with younger locals ‘fresh’ out of a night of clubbing. Cram both of these into a very small room with charming local decor, and to say the least, you get an interesting cultural experience. And if the experience disappoints, you will always leave the place with the probably the best tasting ‘pastizzi’ on the island.
What’s the best and worst thing about living in Malta?
I would say this changes depending on age and motivations. You get to grow up in a safe and sunny island, always close to the sea, family and friends. Everyone and everything is a few minutes away. So it is a great place to grow up in. Once past that stage of life however, Malta can very easily feel a little bit claustrophobic in terms of physical spaces, career diversity and mentality. For example, we have a serious lack of green spaces. I think that to an extent, our all-year-round good weather and the fact that you can be near the sea in 15 mins from practically anywhere on the island, tends to make most people forget about our lack of green and open spaces. The high population density and saturated road traffic is also adding more to the claustrophobic feeling. As a country we also suffer from a small-island/village type mentality. For example locals have this inadvertent need to talk about other people’s lives and doings. Another symptom of this is that most things are done sufficiently but not efficiently. But again, you can always just drive a few minutes towards the sea, watch the sun go down in a picturesque sunset, get nostalgic with the smell of a barbeque nearby and you can easily forget about everything.
Who’s doing good things for Maltan music right now, who you’d like to shout out?
We have the recently established Electronic Music Malta doing events at the St James Cavallier. These include lectures and interactive shows by local music artists. It is nice to see families attending with their children at these events for example. We also have Trackage Scheme another recent initiative that is focusing specifically on creating a platform which supports the local music scene – be it bands and electronic music artists. I would also give a shout out to all the promoters doing events and sharing their passion by bringing foreign artists over to Malta and giving space to local artists. Organizing club nights right now is a very saturated space, and people have a lot of options of where to go, so to keep at it in these times is very admirable.
Are there any interesting organisations/charities/projects involving music based/happening in your city?
I would say the team behind Glitch Festival. It is the second edition of the festival and holds a lot of promise for this island. The people behind it have been organizing club nights at Liquid Club for the last 10-15 years and now they are taking their experience and their artist rosters to the big-stage. This I feel is a more genuine approach to festival organization as it is a natural extension of their original nights. So the festival is built on a passion towards to the music of the artists involved, a passion which has been shared between the partygoers and the promoters for all these years. This festival I would say is a culmination of this. This creates an intimate feeling in the festival which could be felt in by both the partygoers themselves and the artists playing there. This is in stark contrast to some other music festivals on the island where the event promotion has no underlying scene behind it, but a mere attempt at bringing over the most hyped artists to try and make a quick buck.
Who are some of your favourite up-and-coming DJs/producers/musicians bubbling up in Malta right now?
Most of my favourite producers can be heard in the mix I prepared. So the genuine answer to that is to just listen to the mix and have a look at the tracklist. If you dig their music, follow them on social media or soundcloud and see what they are up to!
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us? Where and how did you record it, what was the idea behind it and are there?
The mix I prepared is a collection of electronic music by Maltese producers. I tried to contrast the two dominant feelings for locals in Malta. The sun-drenched laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere is evident in a lot of the tracks for example. But as I said before, the idea of Malta as this pristine island is far cry from the atmosphere sometimes felt by us locals – as we are not at the sea or in scenic touristic spots every single moment. I think the effects of urban sprawl, and claustrophobia can therefore also be felt in some of the tracks and this mix, to some extent, is also a manifestation of this saturated feeling. In terms of producers in the mix, some are established and some are still finding their way but to me, each of them forms a representation of this island equally as important.
And finally, what’s on the horizon for you in terms of live dates or releases we should look out for?
Ray Buttigieg – Momentum
ip-config – Sine Fields
Ray Agius – Have your Sighs of Grief Young Mother
Silver Lacroix – White Tenzing
N.d – As Time Faded into History
Skullcakes – Neon Wolf Amongst them
Microlith – Ostkreuz
Craig Mac – Only Thing
Mutex – Recursive Point
Jupiter Jax – Moods No Grooves
Owen Jay & Melchior Sultana – High Times
Gast Vel – Topic
Brian James – Shades
Mood Systems – Support Systems
Salvavita – Patagonia
Skullcakes – Vespers
Microlith – Idhikal Kabari
Son of – Hologram Living
Silver La Croix – Still Believe in Threes
Mood Systems – Tensor Flow
Owen Jay & Melchior Sultana – Mirror
Jupiter Jax – Soul Searchin
Semitic Groove Foundation – You’re Something Else
Owen Jay & Melchior Sultana – After Party
Resume Inc – Untitled 1
Anti – Zifna tal-etere
Microlith – 4 last C-kwens
Silver Lacroix – Clean Palette
Kalni – Solar Witnesses
Decibel – Celestial Symphony
Ray Buttigieg – Cell of the Cosmos (Cosmovision)
Ray Agius – Scene of Martyrdom