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James Talk is an incredibly talented DJ and producer, whose work spans a wide variety of genres. His music has been released on some of our favorite labels like Defected, Get Physical, Suara, and, forthcoming, Anabatic Records — just to name a few.
His latest release, Firefly, out on Suara Records, is an amazing full length record that shows off James Talk’s flexibility as an artist. From “Deepspace,” a wafty track with dreamy pads and a dark edge to “Yessir” a higher-energy, deep-jungly mover, Firefly, has a unique and diverse flavor that can be listened to all the way through like an LP or used to play out at shows; each track on this album would rock a dance floor.
Next up for James Talk is “Worbles Werbles,” a bootybass, West Coast house track, set to be released on Anabatic Records and “Ain’t That The Way,” on Defected, featuring Cari Golden. (You remember Cari, right? That haunting voice from that little Fur Coat track called “You and I”). He’s also worked with dirtybird’s rising star, Shadow Child (aka the wonderful Dave Spoon), and so many more artists I won’t even try to list them all here; this is just another reflection of the fact that James can make any type of music — and do it well.
Stayed tuned to Music is 4 Lovers for more from James Talk and make sure to follow him on social media.
1. Where are you from and where do you live now?
I am from Southampton, and I still live here. I moved to LA for a short time, but it didn’t work out. I really feel like that is my second home.
2. Tell us a bit about your musical journey. How did the place you grew up shape you musically?
I was really lucky in that I met a group of friends in high school who introduced me to dance music in 1994 (I was 12). I had no idea about the dance scene before then, only the cross over tracks I had heard on day time radio. I didn’t know about specialist shows on Friday and Saturday nights, like Pete Tong and Judge Jules on Kiss FM.
I became hooked on the music, and by 16 I was sneaking into clubs to hear local DJs, recording all the Essential Mixes and spending all my money on vinyl. I met a lot of other local DJs and promoters and that inspired me further to get into producing music, and pushing myself to get gigs.
The High Tide boat parties of Southampton were my first “proper” gigs. I switched styles from Trance to Progressive house in 2000 as I wanted to get more warm up gigs for local DJs and this evolved into playing tech house and deep house.
3. You’ve put out work on a wide-range of labels that cover a variety of electronic music. How do you feel the labels you’ve worked with have influenced your artistic direction, if at all?
I’m not sure any of the labels have influenced my musical direction really, I try and write music I like, then find a label after. Inevitably, if I try write music for a specific label, they invariably say it’s not right for them.
4. When did music production become a serious part of your life? When did you know that you were going to continue doing this professionally?
I think in the summer of 2006 I decided to be a full time music producer, TBH. It was too soon and I could of waited a couple of more years, but I was in the middle of something exciting and thought this is where I wanna be and went with it. I think any mistake a young musician can make is giving up his day job, it puts added pressure on the creative process.
5. Do you have a favourite piece of hardware or DAW plugin, you know, something that is your “Go To”?
Favourite plugins right now are SYNAPSE DUNE and Albino3. Both excellent soft synths with a unique sound. I love all the SoundToys effects too. I sometimes do a production question time on Sunday evening [on Twitter] and this is a common question. It often changes though, as I go through phases with various sounds.
6. Do you prefer to work alone or do you like to do collaborations?
Both are excellent. I enjoyed working with Ridney for 3 years. We achieved great success as a duo and our records, collectively far out weigh our solo efforts. I’ve rarely collaborated with many people. I wrote a track with ShadowChild this year, which we actually started before Christmas of 2011, but with schedules the way they are it took a long time to get around to finishing it.
I want to go back in the studio with Tom Budden [Alive Recordings] soon, we always seem to make excellent deep house tracks and he has a great label to release them on. Working on my own is good, but I procrastinate a lot over tracks, and am rarely happy with the finished result.
7. I love your latest album because it explores a wide variety of sounds—it never gets boring. What do you remember a particular inspiration to those sounds? How do you find your samples? Are the choices pretty calculated or do you randomly come across something you like in a record shop?
I was going through a very hard time in my love life while writing my album, and over 3 months I poured my heart and soul into the studio. I worked so hard, harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. At christmas time it was finished and I crashed, I was mentally exhausted.
Sampling…I usually stumble upon things by accident. There is no real plan to anything. I might hear a vocal sample in a movie or sample pack and instantly know how and where I’m going to use it, but a lot of tracks grow slowly and organically.
8. Speaking of, do you still record shop? If yes, what is a favourite spot of yours?
I buy music all the time, too many tracks TBH. I don’t have enough time at my shows to play all the new music I have. I buy 90% of my music. I don’t buy vinyl anymore as I don’t have a turntable, but I trawl through Beatport every week looking for tracks.
9. Ok, back to the album. Uh, not in the creeper way but I’ve been following you on Twitter for a while and remember when you were tweeting away as you were making your album. Seemed like there was a moment there where you were putting out tracks pretty quickly! Where did you make your album? What were some of the most rewarding breakthroughs in that process? Did you just have a flood of inspiration and hole yourself up for a bit?
I wrote the album at my home studio. I set myself a goal of writing 1 track per week. It’s amazing once I got into a routine of writing music how quickly each track flowed, and the inspiration just kept coming. A big breakthrough for myself was realising how focused I could be, and overcoming the anxiety I felt when being in the studio.
10. Is there anything special coming up here in the near future that people should know about?
Defected Records are re-branding and re-launching their HiRise label, and I have a single coming out with them this year featuring Cari Golden. I am finishing an EP for Worthy’s Anabatic records, and working on a few collaborations too, I plan to have a lot of tracks ready for WMC 2013.
11. What is your drink of choice?
Vodka Cranberry or Tea.
12. Tell us a little bit about this particular mix.
I made this mix to be all about the BASS. Every track has a heavy bass line and groove, and they all flow smoothly together. I opened the mix with a garage vibe, flowing into some tech house, then close the mix with funk, vocals and a special DJ friendly edit of Spectrsoul’s “The Curb”.
1. Squarehead – You Are (Get Physical)
2. Mark Henning – Trojan (Cityfox)
3. Rampa Ft. Meggy – Everything (Mark Fanciulli Remix) (Defected Records)
4. Jay Lumen – Get Ready (100% Pure)
5. Tom Flynn – Do You Like Bass? (Leena)
6. John Dimas – Quick Dance (Claap)
7. Marc Romboy – More Muzik (Gerd Rough Tool) (Systematic)
8. Shadow Child & Tom Flynn – Drive Hero (Deleted)
9. Frank B – Chain Of Fools (XLR8R)
10. Spectrasoul – The Curb (JZedit) (Shogun Audio)
Big thanks to James Talk for the mix, the interview, and the tracklisting.