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Interview: Justin James

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Justin James, a techno producer from Windsor, Ontario, was so kind to allow me to interrogate…err interview him on Saturday December 1st, 2012. The 30 something year old Dj/producer not only was a delight to speak with about everything EDM but also was a ton of fun to dance to during his set at the Promise German Sparkle Party later that evening…but that is for another (the next) post.

I did a ‘lil research before hand and came across a couple peeps who have traveled this road before me, for more info on Justin James please check out Techno-logy – The Mediaplex and Justin James Interview on Dub Monitor.

It was my fellow House of Dust-er’s idea to link up with Justin James before the sparkle party as Justin will be throwing it down at our mega jam Love and Dust on December 29, 2012. One great idea is always followed by another, hence this amazeballs blog post.  Sigh, I’m so modest!

I was a little late, as I had a hard time finding my pink wig, so when I arrived at The Painted Lady Yossi and Justin were already chatting it up.

Immediately the conversation was directed toward OnesandZeroeslive.com, a podcast that Justin James and his friend Matt Herdman created in 2008 and after 101 episodes saw it’s end in June of 2010. I told Justin about how my friend Ben from the Bahamas was a big fan of the podcast and turned me on to OnesandZeroeslive.com a while back. “Hearing you say that sends chills down my spine,” says Justin “the numbers told us that people from around the world were listening but we didn’t actually know if they were or not.” Later that night Justin couldn’t resist but to text Matt and tell him about the podcast fan in the Bahamas.

This is not the first time Justin has experienced chills down his spine due to recognition in the EDM world. Not too long ago while Justin was hanging out in The Boom Boom Room, where he has a residency, Justin received a text from someone at a party in Toronto telling him that Dubfire was playing one of his tracks. Thanks to RADR or Twitter-Dj an app created by Hawtin‘s Minus label, the fact that Dubfire was playing Justin’s Suck my Soul was there for the world to see.

Immediately Justin texted Dubfire via The Boom Boom Room’s club owner thanking him for playing his track. Dubfire replied with an invitation to add him on Skype and send him all of his music. “He fell in love with my music, which  is really cool.”

Toronto has been good to Justin, even early in his career as an artist. “My first ever release was on Paranoid Jack‘s label, I’ve never met him but it was released on a Toronto based label Generation Recordings.”

Justin has been releasing tracks over the past five years and estimates that he has about 50 releases.

Since the beginning Justin has been a digital Dj. “Before Traktor there was a thing called Final Scratch…” Shares Justin, “…I would always kinda chop up music and do kinda fun things. Y’know, even on the train ride here I did a couple cool things, I hope cool things, for this party tonight.”

Djing came before producing for the ‘next big thing’ coming out of the same hometown as Richie Hawtin. “I got into Djing kinda late, about ten years ago.” Says Justin. The story kinda goes like this…

Justin went to a squash tournament, met John Acquavia and was able to tell him about a ‘life-changing moment’ he had hearing him play at DEMF.

“He [John] actually told me don’t go into the music business, stick to teaching, a lot of guys have told me that, so that’s kinda scary, I don’t know…we’ll see.” Even though John Acquaviva told him words of caution, he ultimately opened the door further for Justin’s interest in Djing to manifest itself. John telling Justin about Final Scratch and to get 1200’s started Justin’s digital journey as a Dj.

An Interesting Justin James Fact: His day job is teaching grade 7.

Justin uses Traktor for Djing and Ableton for producing. Justin can even recall the first time he saw Ableton at a small club, which, as a side note, happens to be the first time he met Andrew from BreakandEnter who is also from Windsor. “I met [Andrew] that night, and there were these dudes playing upstairs.” Amazed with the djs playing live with a three computer setup, Justin found out they were using Ableton. “I went home and downloaded a copy of it and that’s how I got into Ableton.”

pssssst! BreakandEnter are throwing a big party this weekend that I am so excited for!

Justin now teaches Ableton in various cities depending on interest. In fact, if you hit up Jackie Spade she can let you in on what’s going down in Toronto in terms of Justin’s classes.

All of this technical talk lead into one of the most disputed topics amongst Djs. Digial or ‘laptop’ djing versus vinyl or cdjs. I was interested in what Justin had to say, especially after meeting Sammie from #NoSync, a group that throws parties featuring djs who do not use laptops, the night before. I told Justin about #NoSync and about their upcoming Jason Hodges party on December 15th as the conversation dove into the topic of the laptop dj debate.

Another Interesting Justin James Fact: He had a Jason Hodges set playing in his ears during heart surgery.

“I’m actually kind of tired  of that argument now.” Justin said frankly as he took a breath before run-on sentences too entertaining to chop up. “This is techno, it’s technology, it’s about moving forward. I think there’s people that do a disservice to laptop djing, they’ll go through it and just kinda ride it and just hit play and then y’know fade up and hit play and fade out, they’re not really pushing the envelope of djing, and not everyone has to, y’know but I just think if you take djing seriously, then you should be trying to push the envelope, do something different. The beauty about this music is using machines to create something new, whether it’s in the music or whether it’s in djing so if you’re just gonna play one song and then stop and play another one,  or do a quick mix and play another one, then you’re just a jukebox or a radio dj.”

Justin went on to describe that Djs who just play tunes one after another are not artists but rather curators.   Justin used an analogy of a curator in an art gallery. “You’re the curator, you decide you’re going to take these pieces in here because you think it’s going to create a certain atmosphere, but you’re not the artist, you’ve done a very good job selecting. That’s the difference I think with djs….If you’re going to use djing as an art form there has to be something more to it.”

Justin pointed out that there is beauty to collecting good tracks and playing them for people, but the art gallery analogy has inspired some art of his own; Not The Curator.

Our conversation went up and down and around topics such as Richie Hawtin’s positive influence over Justin as a mentor/role model and the importance of the role of social media when creating hype about parties, sets, events etc.  I wanted to get some questions I had for him out of the way so I asked him what advice he would give to a producer who is just starting out or wanting to go further.

“The biggest thing is just do what you think is right, number one. Don’t write music that you think someone else will like. If you aren’t writing it because you like it, and you’re not into it, it’s gonna show.”

Justin quickly went on to share a second tip. “The only way that I think djing is going to help you in the music world is to make connections and networking. I am a firm believer that networking is huge.”

We got the phone call that our table was ready at Libretto Pizza accross the street, so I asked the last of my questions.

Since one of my most favorite things to do is dance, I had to ask Justin if he likes to do the same. He loves to.  “Never trust a dj who doesn’t dance.”

Well said.

Another step closer to enlightenment,

Heathir

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