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On the road with… Jazzy Jeff

The revered DJ and producer tells us about night drives in Arizona, relaxing in Phuket and a spooky castle in Scotland

What is your favourite on-the-road moment?

I love tour buses. I’m that passenger who chats to the driver throughout night drives. If you embrace the journey, you get to have random conversations with an interesting person. I remember driving from Las Vegas through the Arizona desert at night. There was a full moon and I’d never before been anywhere desolate and clear enough to appreciate just how the moon can light up the sky. The driver and I were awestruck.

What’s your favourite city?

For me, Phuket is the most chilled place on the planet. The first time I went there was supposed to be a short stop via a cruise from Singapore but, instead of boarding the boat back to Singapore, I ended up staying five days in Phuket. The nature’s insane — there’s not many places in the world you can experience mountains, mangroves, beautiful beaches and rainforest, and if you walk along the forest path at Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, you can follow a stream that turns into a waterfall. I like getting a moped, heading out along the coast and finding little local places to eat — Rimpan seafood restaurant is a tiny beachside restaurant right in the north of the island where you can eat proper Thai food from bamboo huts on the sand (mains around £3.50, phuket101.net/rimpan-seafood-restaurant-phuket).

Moonlighting: The awesome Arizona desert at night and, below, and one of the beautiful beaches of Phuket

What keeps you sane on the road?

I take a portable studio with me everywhere I go — my laptop and software, a drum machine and a keyboard — so when I need a bit of normalcy I just set up and make music. The ritual of producing grounds me.

When have you been most frightened while you’ve been travelling?

What’s weird is that I’ve experienced the opposite. We did a gig at the Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in April 2012 during a time when — reportedly — there was huge uprising. All of the news out of the US was talking about outright war but all I saw was a single tyre burning by a roadside. My mother called me, telling me to escape the unrest. It gave me instant perspective regarding the mainstream media’s portrayal of news from around the world. I told my mum I felt safer in Bahrain than I do in parts of America.

What have you ever taken from a hotel room?

I’m forever taking flannels. What’s interesting is that everywhere in the UK provides flannels and everywhere in France doesn’t. They have hand towels. What do they wash their bodies with?

What is the best souvenir you’ve come home with?

I like to collect what’s considered typical from the country I’m in, like French berets, for my mother. The rise of social media makes the world one place. A lot of cultures have begun to blend together — I want a kimono from Japan, not a burger.

Blissful: Phuket’s Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, where you can follow a stream leading to a waterfall

What has been your most life-changing experience while travelling?

Travelling generally, especially with my wife, gives me a greater appreciation of how beautiful the world is. Back home in Philadelphia, I know far too many people who have never left America — they save their money and then fly to Las Vegas when they could get to Amsterdam for the same airfare and have a much better, life-enriching experience seeing and learning about how the Dutch live.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve spent the night?

I spent the night in an apparently haunted Scottish castle. It was in the middle of nowhere and three of us thought we would ride it out by playing cards and putting it to the back of our minds. Safe to say we got freaked out, didn’t move unless we really had to and spent the night huddled together waiting for daybreak.

Wheelie safe: The Grand Prix in Bahrain

Have you ever come close to being arrested?

Yes, in Italy. We didn’t realise you couldn’t smoke in hotel rooms until the fire alarms went off and everyone had to evacuate at 3am. Someone lit some incense before we ran outside to try and cover it up but, of course, they pinpointed exactly which room the smoke had originated from and tried to arrest us all because so many guests complained and asked for a refund.

Jazzy Jeff’s album M3 is out now. He plays Electric Brixton on Oct 12, from £13, djjazzyjeff.com