James D is an American producer and DJ based in Brno. He is one of those you can see spin more internationally than in the Czech. But if you are lucky enough from time to time you can catch him in Brno, playing at venues like Exit Club, Enter Club and Perpetuum. He also runs his own event Nocturne Number. It’s been two years since I did an interview with him so if you are wondering what’s new, here is a freshly baked interview.
Kouzelna: Hi James, first of all, thank you so much for being patient. It’s been a while since I told you to do an interview with us. So here we go.
How have you been lately?
James D: First and foremost, thanks for having me again, guys! Doing very well, just super busy nowadays between my wife and our two beautiful baby girls, music production, DJ gigs, event hosting, and my full-time job as an IT Manager.
What I roughly remember from the last time when I saw you, you mentioned that you are planning to go spin to Amsterdam. So how was it? Where did you play? And did you take any advantage from it? I mean like riding a bike around or visiting those coffee shops?
Yes, to all of it (including the coffee shop visit for my 1 gram fix for the weekend, haha)! After playing the Orange Recordings showcase and Element Showcase in ADE in October, I was also booked by Stuck In A Loop Events at club John Doe in November. It was absolutely insane – the typical packed, intimate, underground room with around 400 people from The Netherlands and all over the world (I met Portuguese fans, Swedish fans, Germans and even a girl from Olomouc!). I love venues that make you feel the crowd and I was overjoyed by the response I got there, it was amazing.
Also, I did plenty of bike riding in Amsterdam when I played at the ADE last year in 2021 and it really is a unique experience. But, this year I did a lot of typical Dutch pubs with my friend Joris Turenhout and Dutch markets also (I love Beemster and Gouda cheese!).
Also it wasn’t the first time since you’ve been in Amsterdam, right? You were there for ADE as well?
Yes, exactly. I played at ADE again this year and what else to say, it was an amazing experience. It was also a pleasure meeting my friends Subgate and Tomas Sinn in-person, since we all played at the Orange Recordings showcase. I also was booked to play a second showcase for Element events the day after and it was also a great experience. I also met up with lots of my close music producer and DJ friends in the scene and made loads of new friends too. It was once again an experience I will never forget!
It looks like this year you were extremely busy with your international gigs. Where else have you been?
This year was actually mainly busy here in Brno, but I also had 3 gigs in Finland on three separate dates, as well as the 3 separate gigs in Amsterdam and a Nocturne number event in Bratislava. Overall, I am very happy with the gigs I have had this year and it was insane to hand the decks over as co-headliner to international Psytrance star Blastoyz. In the past, I have played in Italy as well and I would love to return there once again.
What’s been some of your most memorable performances to date?
Honestly, my most memorable performance to date was my first live performance as a DJ in 2005 at my university campus in North Carolina, USA, believe it or not… The reason why is because I played a 2-hour vinyl set and we had a small fire occur! No joke, my friend Virgil who was a bassist told me to plug in his small bass amp to give my DJ monitors on stage that night more “low-end warmth”. I told him that it would likely not be able to handle the signal, and therefore may break… sometimes I hate being right, and so there I was, 30 minutes into my DJ set, mixing two vinyls, and stomping out a small bass-woofer fire with my foot, hahaha. The party was actually a huge success–we packed 500 people and it was the biggest party the fraternity had ever hosted, and we had an amazing time.
Tell us, what else are you cooking in your studio? Any new releases coming up?
Actually, yes! But, I literally cannot talk about it right now until contracts are signed with the official release date. I will be releasing some harder material that goes in line with peak-time and driving Techno, just higher BPMs, harder kicks and less melody, and that is the next trend to come along with the more Raw / Hypnotic style that is popular nowadays. I also will continue with some melodic peak-time stuff, depending on what the biggest labels are looking for, I plan to aim high.
You are a producer, tour internationally, work on various projects in the studio whilst also having a family. How do you manage to juggle all of these roles? Do you have any tips for others in the same position?
This year has been one of the most difficult years I’ve ever had, but also one of the most fulfilling. Raising two baby girls ages 3 and 1 while being a professional music producer, DJ, event host and also a full-time Marketing manager for an IT company, is absolutely crazy. My EP releases this year on Drumcode star Ramon Tapia’s Say What? Recordings, and on Italian rising star Sisko Electrofanatic’s Gain Recordings, both had great support from Beatport and even on an official Tomorrowland Spotify playlist, and this motivated me very much. This, along with my wife and daughters’ love and support keeps me motivated to do more every day, and that is how I juggle it all–with love.
My tip for anyone in this position is to be very resilient, never give up and love the journey. Know this: the sad reality we face as artists is the realization that some will get the easy road, even if they don’t deserve it. And, for the rest of us, we have to build a long, hard road for ourselves brick-by-brick, stone-by-stone, year-after-year, there is no other way. Learn to love your avant-garde life burden, you will appreciate what you do more.
You are also well known that you are against the “business techno” mentality. My colleague Nikol wrote an article about business techno where she mentioned your post from facebook. You wrote „How long will we continue this circus? Does the word fraud mean anything to anyone?‘ What should we do with that?
Honestly, I think it is truly sad that we have so many fakes and posers nowadays who claim to be real music producers and “artists”, while they pay ghost producers to write or finish their music, just to get gigs and social media followers. We are seeing this done almost as a norm today even at the highest level and it is not okay because many very talented, honest, humble and great artists are paying terribly for it. Real artists deserve a fair chance to make a modest living from what they have dedicated themselves to their whole lives. The only thing to do with the fake stuff is banish it from this scene. In the end, it is up to the crowds and the promoters to change this.
It is only a question of logic to realize that music has no future if it is being placed on the backs of frauds, they will lead our artforms astray for their own selfish gains. And, by the way, big ups to Nikoala and rave.cz for publishing that article, you girls rock!
As we all know you are an American producer and DJ living in Brno. And we all know that Czech language is very difficult to learn 🙂 Apart from that, what are the most challenging things you have to do regarding the music scene?
Ano, máte moc těžký jazyk! 😀 But, actually, I think the most challenging thing I have to do is the same issue that most self-made artists face, and that is to find a way to get recognized for your work on the international level and not get held back by the very real friends and family politics that are embedded in every local techno scene today. This is no different in the Czech Republic, but luckily the people here are great and I have had few issues thus far.
What’s the weirdest gift/proposal you have ever received as a DJ?
A bra (to my wife: Sorry, honey, not what you think it is (she might kill me)). And, on another occasion two roses. I was flattered both times, and in the end it was harmless fun, I did not feel it was done in a sexual or invasive way. I love real techno fans, they are extroverts on the dance floor and I thrive off of this energy, I could not be without it.
When we talk about the czech music scene – what are your top 5 Czech producers?
I’d have to say my top 5 Czech producers right now are Broken Robot aka Golpe, Tømas Sinn, Subgate, Domek and Lucas Wirth. And, on the harder side of techno I must give a shout-out also to Zuzana Hakl and Matt Ess. And, watch out for Prague-based artists Anhum, they got some bomb stuff coming soon!
As you have been in the Czech republic for a while, what do you think about Czech people in general? Do you like our grumpy mentality? 🙂
I actually LOVE Czech people, no joke. That “grumpiness” is just a facade, you all are actually big-hearted, fun-loving, heavy drinkers, don’t lie. 😀 But, seriously, it is a big difference from the U.S. and Spain (my two countries, I have dual-citizenship), where people are immediately very open and super friendly from the start, but there is not always substance behind it. In Czech culture, it is the opposite – here it may take more time to gain someone’s full trust or build a strong friendship with them, but once you make a friend here it is a friend for life, and I have dozens upon dozens of Czech friends like this. I am very grateful to be here and to be part of this beautiful culture and country.
And what about the Czech food? What is your favourite one?
Svíčková is amazing, that is my favourite main dish! I also like small Czech delicacies like utopenci and Czech beer is by far the best in the world, along with the great Moravian wines. I can’t complain, I am well fed in this beautiful country!
As an exciting new addition to the Czech techno scene, what can we expect from you in the next year?
You can expect some very strong releases on legendary techno labels and my full dedication to giving you the best techno DJ performances you have ever heard! You can also expect to see me in Prague more often, as my family and I are moving there in 2023, without doubt. I can’t wait to celebrate many more great nights and days with you all. Thank you for your support!