James Huxley, London - United Kingdom - on 25/9/12
Having first met in 2003, over a shared love of interest and post clubbing carry ons, James What and Dan Berkson's productions have since gone on to grace the finest of record labels, counting Pokerflat, Crosstown Rebels, Hypercolour and No.19 Music as fans. With a live set that pairs live instumentations, deep house jams and studio tickery, the duo have supplied a live mix for Pulse.094. Joe Gamp caught up with the pair from the studio as tehy work on the new album to speak to them about studio partnerships and live jams and engineering.
Tell us about working your relationship, how did that start? James: Dan and I met in East London in 2003. I think there was an after party at his place. He had a few synths there so wanted to keep in touch and come back to check it out. We had just recently found out about Ableton Live and were talking about trying to do something live together as we had a similar background playing in bands. At the time we were really excited about using some of the gear live rather than DJing.
You obviously have a strong connection both in production and in your live sets - what do you each bring to the table and why do you think it works so well?J: Thanks, yes it fell into place pretty easily for us, seemed to find a natural way of splitting up the roles when it comes to performing the tunes. Dan is a keyboard player so tends to get more live keys, synths and some basslines which he can play live keys while mixing in some percussive elements while I have most of the other parts like drums and groove elements, and I do some live fx, 303 and percussion type stuff.
You studied as a sound engineer in London – do you do a lot of engineering for emerging artists these days? J:I don't usually take on those kind of projects, I prefer to work on my own music. I don't find engineering particularly rewarding. It would be if it was for amazing artists or bands, but not particularly excited about helping other DJs make tunes so they can go and get gigs with them and not give you much credit which is when seems to happen a lot.
Was it tough for you to stand out within the London scene? What have been the biggest challenges that faced you as budding DJ and producers, and how does it all compare to the challenges the young generation face today? Dan: When we got started we were focusing on producing music rather than playing out, so it was wasn't until we had some international releases and recognition that we really started performing in London. I guess this made it easier because we were treated more like international artists rather than Londoners trying to stand out in a very busy scene. It's always hard when you're getting started to know what labels to send to and to make the connections. I think now it's even harder because there are soooo many labels that have popped up in this "beatport" age. The market is a bit flooded and if you are new it can be difficult to get noticed.
How do you approach your writing, production and general output? Are you sitting on a large bank of tracks? J: Generally the approach has been not to take on remixes because most of the time the offers were not interesting and you are better off working on some of your own music. I guess as you become more popular that could change though. I'm always collecting samples, recording snippets from movies, documentaries or on the lookout for vocalists to work with. Sometimes those sounds you collect can inspire a tune when you get an idea of how to put them together, or otherwise it's just messing around with a new piece of kit in the studio or collaborating with someone. Got quite a few tracks i'm sitting on but not things I am planning to release, i think its very important to filter the music you output.
James, You've recently started producing under the ZOD moniker, can you tell us a little bit about the project. Well I was staying at Damian's place in LA just before burning man in 2011. Theres was a track on crosstown he wanted to put out pretty fast and needed a remix. I have to say i wasn't particularly excited about that track , but decided to give it a shot. I started working on its and was taking it into a pretty different direction, which you can hear in the intro of Rise Before Zod. Damian and I discussed the track in progress, and he came up with some really cool sampling ideas which give the track most of its identity. This totally inspired me and to dig out other things and the track just started to come together pretty fast by magic. Damian had this thing about General Zod because he also looks a bit like him, that was how the Zod project was born. We've started work on a new Zod track, we got some good ideas down in Berlin earlier this summer but have been trying to get back in the studio to wrap things up. It difficult finding studio time when you're always on the road. (James will be playing alongside Damian, Tim Xavier, Acid Pauli and more at the Rebellion Rave on 06.10.12 - info here)
Dan, you've been associated with Hypercolour over the years, a label which is really representative of the current cutting edge UK house scene at the moment, do you have any more plans to work with Jamie & Alex? D: Yeah, it's great to see them doing so well lately. I've known them for years, and Alex and I have certainly shared more than a handful of awkward moments together [Laughs] Nothing for certain, but I have a lot of new solo material in the making so hopefully we'll do something again soon.
Your sound is carefully balanced between heads down floor tracks and quite stripped back warmth – should electronic music make people think as well as dance? D: It's always tough to get the right balance with this. It's important to remember that you're making music for dance floors and clubs, but you always want to try to make interesting and timeless music at the same time. We always end up making deeper tracks than we meant to.
Where else can we see you in the near future? J: I have some solo remixes coming soon on Poker Flat and Dogmatik along with a couple of collaborations with Luca C. Then hopefully and new Zod record and collaboration with Dan Berkson. Back in Europe now after a really fun North America tour. In October will be my first time in South Africa with a short tour there, really looking forward to that one, and also super excited about being back in Lima for Halloween with the 4Beats Peru crew! (tickets and info)
D: At the moment James and I have been back in the studio working on new material, and I've been slowly working on a series of tunes on my own. I haven't figured out exactly what i'm going to do with them, so more to come on that. I had a baby last year, so have been doing less travelling, but now getting back into it and James and I have some dates in South America coming up in October.
And finally, can you tell us a little bit about the liveset you've provided for the podcast? J: Earlier this year Dan and I went to the south of France to work on some new music for the live act, and this was one of the first few times we played alot of these new jams. It's not perfect as a studio recording but it had a really spontaneous feeling as we were excited about playing these new tracks. We rarely release our live sets, but we thought timing was right and liked the raw energy of this gig.
You can catch James & Dan at The Rainbow presents.... The Haunting with Argy and Terrence:Terry: Sat 27.10.12 (Tickets & Info here)
Download Pulse.094 - Dan Berkson & James What here.
Talkback (working title)
Talkback jam (working title)
Rise Before Zod
Disco Intro (working title)
It feels wrong
Bill (working title)
Work what i have
303 acid jam (working title)
String track (working title)
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