Hello and welcome to Magazine Sixty, James. Thereâ€™s a great picture of you holding a copy of your latest release: So Long (Crosstown Rebels) outside of Phonica Records. How did it feel to have in your hands your first release on vinyl and why for you has the format remained such a potent force?
Hi. Thanks for having me. That was a very special moment for me. Not necessarily because itâ€™s a â€˜vinylâ€™, Iâ€™m not a purist in any way and I embrace all formats. It was more the fact that when I started DJing as teenager, I went to record stores to buy music. The guys making those records were heroes to me and inspired me to start making music. To walk into a shop like Phonica and buy my own record bought all those memories back and that was a really nice feeling.
Pete Tong recently premiered the Solomun remix of ‘So Long’. Can you tell us about how the choices for the remixers where made: Solomun and Audiojack?
That was all down to Damian Lazarus. Heâ€™s an A&R guru! From FFRR to City Rockers, and now celebrating a landmark 15 years of Crosstown Rebels, he has created such an iconic brand through his musical vision. When I first sent him the original for â€˜So Longâ€™, he was very excited by it. That prompted him to invite the likes of Solomun and Audiojack to add their take and the EP took itâ€™s form.
And what is it about Pete Tong which has made him such an influential voice on radio for the past three decades?
Well if there was a definitive answer to that then there would be hundredâ€™s of â€˜Pete Tongâ€™sâ€™. Who knows? It probably has something to do with the fact that heâ€™s been able to pioneer underground music on a commercial stage, giving a platform to young up and coming artists as well as showcasing the industries most accomplished acts. I think thatâ€™s where the longevity comes from.
Can you talk us through how you created So Long. Where the initial ideas came from and how you then produced them as music, your decision on creating a song rather than an instrumental, plus working with Jem Cooke again who delivers such a smouldering vocal.
The initial idea was a to create a track that would work in a club but also translate to something you could add to a playlist and listen to in the car or at work. The track went through many versions. When I sent it to Jem it sounded completely different. Some of the elements were there but it was a different track. When she sent it back to me I loved what she had done but realized the track needed to change to really combine with the vocals. I had another few days on it and the lead pad that comes in from the start pushed forward into the mix, setting the tone for the arrangement. Itâ€™s always a pleasure to work with Jem. Sheâ€™s a pro, and sheâ€™s from Twickenham where I grew up.
Who are your main influences both within and outside of electronic music? Any particular artists, painters, writers etc that you like to refer to for inspiration?
I donâ€™t have one in particular. Iâ€™m influenced by all sorts of sounds and music. Sometimes itâ€™s house, sometimes itâ€™s rock, hip-hop or electronica. I try to keep my ears open all the time for inspiration. It really can come from anywhere. Then I take those inspirations and try to interpret them in my own way.
How have sounds evolved for you in Dance Music since you started producing. Do you think it is important for the music to keep moving forward rather than revisit the past too much for inspiration?
Music is always changing. It has to otherwise it gets boring. Iâ€™m not a huge fan of remixes of classics from years gone by. I think a classic is a classic because it emerged at the right time in the right place. Itâ€™s very rare to find a remix that delivers the same emotions as the original, probably because that original conjures up memories of good times. On the other hand, having a good knowledge of what has shaped the scene before you is vital. I like to hear sounds being recycled and reinvented in a new way. If you can combine that with your own unique sound then that, for me, is very exciting.
You have a busy touring schedule as a DJ too. How have you found time on the road? Have you read The Secret DJ?
No I havenâ€™t read that yet but I have been meaning to. I have traveled and toured as a DJ to places like Ibiza, Australia and Asia as well as around the UK, but not to the extent that I would like. Hopefully with continued dedication and a bit of luck that will come, but managing to fit everything else in is hard. You have to be dedicated and also have a good balance between work life and downtime with family and friends.
Can you talk us through your studio set-up? And tell us about any particular favourite piece of software/ hardware you like best?
My studio set up is quite simple. Iâ€™m not a huge tech-head. I like to mix organic natural sounds with analogue synthetic elements and I have found Omnisphere to be perfect for that. I like to use U-he Diva as my main synth. I think itâ€™s better to master one or 2 instruments at a time than to fill your hard drive with hundreds of plug-ins that you donâ€™t know how to use. Iâ€™m a big fan of the Fabfilter pro bundle. Iâ€™m getting great results using their EQ and compressor on my group busses to add an extra punch during the mixing process. Last year I upgrade my monitors to EVE SC207â€™s and they are really fun to work on whilst staying transparent. I havenâ€™t ventured into the world of hardware much but I have just bought the Moog Sub 37 and canâ€™t wait to get stuck into it.
And finally. What are your plans for the remainder of the year?
To keep making music as much as I can. I have signed an EP to Audiojackâ€™s label Gruuv Records which I have been a fan of for years. The lead track featureds my good friend Penny Foster who I have worked with many times before. Iâ€™m working on a collaboration with Habischman, whoâ€™s music I really respect. I also have another EP for Crosstown Rebels on the go which is a work in progress but weâ€™re getting there. ☺
Buy: So Long http://classic.beatport.com/release/so-long/2335420