Michael James is a UK based producer and DJ who's been on the rise for the past few years. His unique minimal grooves topped with house feeling positioned him as one of the top prospects within the underground electronic music community. His music is regularly released on labels such as Constant Sound / Black, Rowle, Hoarder and he's been enjoying support from heavyweights such as Apollonia, Ricardo Villalobos, Barac, Enzo Siragusa and many others. 2019 saw him performing all around the globe, from Australia, South America and across Europe.
He'll soon have a debut performance in Slovenia where he'll play at the SOLVD season opening party at Klub K4 on 12th October. We invited him to a casual chat before joining us behind the decks.
Hi, Michael. How are you? What keeps you occupied these days?
Hey, I’m all good, thank you! At the moment I’m touring a lot. I’ve had a really busy summer, so most weekends I’m away traveling and during the week I’m trying to rest and to make music as much as possible!
Tell us a bit about your beginnings. How did you get involved in electronic music? What inspired you to start producing beats?
I had a passion for electronic music from quite a young age. My Uncle bought me an Ibiza CD for my birthday when I was about 12 years old and I used to listen to it on repeat, then I convinced my younger brother to get some turntables for his birthday and we used to collect vinyl and mix records when we got home from school. We also had some sort of audio editing software on the family computer and I’d cut up my dad's songs and add beats and try and make my own tracks but I’m sure they were absolutely awful!
I started deejaying in local clubs when I was around 18 and then moved to Leeds and me and my friend got a copy of Ableton and started to make tracks properly around that time, I quit university and decided to focus on making music and deejaying.
Could you tell us a bit about your studio setup? Are you using a lot of hardware stuff? Can you highlight your favorite piece in your creational dungeon?
I have a bit of hardware. I have an old Electribe, an Elektron Analog RYTM, an Elektron Digitakt, a Virus ti2 Desktop, a mixing desk, and some hardware FX units, all synced with an ERM Multiclock and running through Ableton.
The Virus has been a central part of my set-up for about 6-7 years now, I’ve bought and sold a lot of pieces of hardware but the Virus has always stayed and I don’t see myself letting it go. It’s super versatile and I use it in all my tracks.
Your music always includes strong groove filled with a lot of details. Would you say that these small details make the difference between a solid track and a great one? Would you also say that you’ve managed to create your own style?
Thank you! There’s no right and wrong in music production and everyone that I speak to has their own way of making it, which is why we have such a diverse selection of music available to us. I was never taught how to produce music, I just pressed buttons and tried things out until I found something that worked, and I think because of that I probably do have my own sound. I know that a lot of people will say “this sounds like a Michael James track” and that’s a big compliment.
The main focus of electronic music for the dancefloor has to be the groove, and you can create a groove with a kick drum, a bassline, and a hi-hat. I’ve often found myself dancing around the studio with just 3 elements, and to be honest that’s technically all you need. If I’m dancing to it in the studio then surely people would dance to it on the dancefloor. The tough part is keeping it interesting for 7-8 minutes.
I’ve always wanted to add as much detail as possible to my music and I’d say that all my tracks have at least 80 channels of audio, some of my tracks have had over 100 channels, which is pretty high but it works for me. It’s not at all necessary to have so many sounds in a track, most producers I talk to are shocked that I use so much, but I like to have lots of subtle parts working together to make my tracks what they are. As a listener, you don’t notice that there are so many sounds but it’s all working away in the background together trying to make something that hopefully, you’ll find interesting and unique.
You’ve been supported by Burnski and his Constant Black/Sound imprints for a few years now. Can you tell us how did you first get in contact? Would you say that releases on labels above pushed your career onto the next level?
I didn’t release any music for about 6 years and I've focused on creating a sound I was really happy with. When I reached that point I didn’t really like the idea of sending my music to labels and I wasn’t sure that other people would even like it so I put some clips on my Soundcloud page for people to listen to them and hoped for some feedback.
I was overwhelmed, to be honest, about 10 labels got in touch with me saying they’d like to sign the tracks. Burnski was one of the people that got in touch with me. I’ve known him for years and always respected him, so it was nice to see his passion for my music and belief in me, he was an obvious choice for me to sign with. He asked for more tracks when he signed the first EP “010101” and I sent him about 100 more tracks that I’d finished.
He’s been a big help and Constant Sound / Black will always be a home for my music. Releasing music is a very important part of pushing your career forward and I think a lot of my bookings originally came from people who had bought the vinyl and enjoyed the music I released.
Do you have some nice releases lined up for the rest of the year? Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
I always have a lot of projects that I’m working on. I get a lot of requests for EP's and remixes. At the moment with being so busy touring it’s hard to get time to focus specifically on individual projects, so I’m taking some time to make the music that I feel like making rather than making something for a certain label. Once I’ve got a good collection of tracks I’m happy with I’ll be sending them to the labels I want to work with.
I’ve released quite a lot of music over the last 2 years and it’s really important for me that the quality is as high as possible. There are a few things going on at the moment that are really exciting, but you’ll have to wait and see!
You’ll soon have a debut in Slovenia at Klub K4. Do you know anything about the club or country? Do you prepare differently for gigs such as this?
I don’t know much about the club, but I’ve heard great things about it and I’m really excited to come and play there. I’ve had a quick look at Ljubljana and it looks incredibly beautiful, hopefully, I’ll get some time during my trip to have a look around and take in some of the culture.
With regard to preparing for different gigs, I like to get a feel for it at the moment. My job as a deejay is to make the people in front of me have an amazing time, so I’ll try my best to do that by reading their reactions and finding tracks that I love and I think they’ll enjoy too.
Where can people hear Michael James in the following months?
This summer has been really crazy for me with my first South American tour, my first tour of Australia, two dates at DC10, playing Fabric room 1, Hoppetosse and Sisyphos in Berlin, and loads of other amazing dates in between.
As far as I’m aware there are plans for another couple of tours over our winter and between those so there’ll be lots of dates spread around Europe as usual.
Last but not least. What can people expect from you at SOLVD in K4 on 12th October?
Solid grooves and next-level dance moves!