Brighton Mixtapes: James Black 02 - Interview
Since the success of our beloved Berlin Mixtapes Series, which has featured awesome guests so far, we felt there was a real gap in terms of showcasing the amazing talent within our own home city right here in Brighton. We have a wide spectrum of artists that span across many genres therefore we decided we would create the 'Brighton Mixtapes' Series, so that we can not only showcase established artists but also feature up and coming musicians that would like a platform to be heard.
Equally, whilst our focus at Berlin has always been somewhere between Deep House and Techno we can now open up and extend a wider reach into other genres that Brighton has to offer. Also each artist will be subject to a series of one answer quick-fire questions to accompany each guest mix to give readers a quirky insight into the artists' likes and dislikes.
Next up we have a Brighton legend and darling James Black. No stranger to smashing up dance floors across the genres, circling around a dark circle of Techno, Progressive and Trance, James whilst delivering pounding beats, equally charms you with his wit and endless banter. Now a resident at London's Dark Matter held currently at Union, James can also be found across Brighton in particular over the airwaves on Trickstar Radio. We caught up with James to chat beats, bants and Ministry of Sound...
Hi James, how are you and what have you been up to this week?
Hi Markus, great to be here - these written interviews are great because no one can see me answering them wearing my Star Trek dressing gown, drinking white wine from a mug. This week has been pretty busy - getting my show ready for the Trickstar relaunch, doing 3 promo mixes for them, played a couple of sets out, worked with Dave Pearce on his recent Dance Anthems Q&A and general house keeping with the Dark Matter possé. That and doing my full time job as an anaesthetic practitioner at a nearby hospital as well...
Nice to see you're working with Dave Pearce, how did that come about?
Met Dave Pearce on the streets of Brighton, he doesn’t live far away from me and had the courage to say hello - built up a good rapport with him, interviewed him for After Dark and then played for one of his nights. From then on we formed a good working relationship from there.
How long have you been producing and Djing?
I started Djing in 1999, at the delicate age of 14, where I got bought one of those Argos all in one home mix kits, so that I could do house parties for friends - it had no pitch adjust on it so I had to mix in the breakdowns so that the mixing wasn't "falling down the stairs"... Even at 14, I knew the importance of not clanging a mix and I started producing about 2001 on Dance Ejay, remember that? It's your basic block sequencer - I then moved onto something a bit more fancy in 2003 when I started my degree in Music Production at the University of Kent.
What made you get into dance music?
When my Mum and Dad divorced, my Dad used to go back out clubbing with his mates in Maidstone and he used to bring home mix tapes from the DJs, so that he could blast them out in the kitchen - proper rediscovered youth and all - and he used to have his mates Nick, Andy and my Uncle Moss over (all newly separated) for beers / lads time. He used to play those "the best dance anthems in the world ever part 9 million" albums, so from about the age of 13, I was hearing Kadoc - Nighttrain, Brainbug - Nightmare and my Dad's favourite - Robert Miles - Children, pretty much on repeat over the weekends I stayed with him. Cheers Dad!
It was a great era for music and Brainbug is a bit of classic. What was your favourite track of that time?
My favourite track changes from day to day depending on my mood. But my all time favourite track probably is VPL - T Break, a little known about track by Judge Jules and Paul Masterson (Higate). It’s the techno track with a massive acid drop which always erupts the dance floor - I played it at Dark Matter recently and it was just immense. The track's build up is made out of steam and whistles like a kettle, which is why I guess they call it a break. I’ve also got great memories with this track. It came out in 2002 and I remember playing it with my brother DJs, Ben Wintle and Matt Danton at mix sessions round their houses - we even developed our own dance to it. A strange kinda robot strut during the breakdown. but when the track lands it still gets me as excited as the first time I heard it.
Where was your first gig?
In a basement of a church in Sittingbourne for my mates youth club in 2002, on his KAM turntables, smashing out hard house to the generation of the time. They had a tuck shop that sold loads of sherbet, so all these kids were off their non-existent tits on sugar, dancing to Champion Burns and BK! There was even a strobe, which was on permanently. It was pretty intense.
How would you describe your style or what would be expected from one of your typical sets?
I grew up listening to Judge Jules and watching how Fatboy Slim commanded a crowd, so I stole his moves and Jules' twisted grooves. I used to go on the Radio 1 tracklistings after each of Jules' shows to get the names of some of the tunes he played and that's where I found classics like 'Starfighter - Apache'. Dave Pearce was also dropping hit after hit as well.
My style is 'full of energy / twisted / something a bit different'. I love to interact with the crowd as I feed off their energy and then push that back amplified many times straight back at them. I give my performances every ounce of energy, so I usually end up a big sweaty mess and absolutely exhausted.
You have your own radio show on Trickstar Radio right here in Brighton, tell us more about your show.
Tekbeat - its now monthly, and it can be either progressive techno, or full on riot in a box, foot in the groin, acid in the shower gel, explosion of fury. It all depends on how I'm feeling that day - but it's a variety of techno that gets me excited and music that I have been playing out over that month. Plus banter, usually with myself. I try to be as entertaining as possible for the listeners.
You regularly hook up with the guys from Dark Matter for some wild shows in London, how did that come about and what can people expect?
I go to know Dark Matter / Transcend resident Calvin Karass through friends from Trickstar, the SMX Project, and we grew from acquaintances to good friends. I was totally mesmerised by his DJ sets and became a fan of his. He invited me up to Dark Matter to check it out, loved the vibe, the people, the crew running it, then the following event, he invited me to play for Dark Matter - the techno / sister night to Transcend - that went well, and then the following event I was made resident. People can expect a night ranging from Progressive sounds to full on hardcore techno come 7am when the tracks have kick drums recorded in caves, acid lines that'd make Josh Wink wince but all within one of the most positive and friendly club atmospheres I have ever been in.
Which other DJs or producers are you liking right now?
Umek has always been a favourite, ABYSSVM, Darmec, Harvey McKay, anything on Suara really - haha. T78 are brutal as well. Also a massive shout out to my mate, Paul Helyer, who is a production machine, producing some sick techno at the moment which is blowing up Beatport.
What are your go to labels?
What’s been your biggest achievement?
To date? Playing Ministry of Sound, child dream realised and working alongside DJ heroes like Amber D and Dave Pearce. Getting my beloved Dark Matter residency - for which I am proud of and thankful, they believed in me when gigs were getting harder to get.
What can we expect from you soon?
WOOOORRRRLLLD DOMINATION. No, erm, probably more madcap crazy mixes to ruin your house party with, popping up at random events. I have some releases on the incredible Discover Records coming out soon. 2019 is looking great already!!
So tell us a bit about your guest mix?
Trademark James Black sound.. well.. as of December 2018. My sound tends to change a bit, but I LOVE acid techno and I've been there for most of the year. Full of energy and probably what you'll hear if you come and see me at Dark Matter, as well as my big sweaty face.
Awesome stuff! Thanks for spending time with us, it's a great pounding mix, nice work! Now as mentioned earlier in the article we will be doing a quick-fire question and answer session, which will be part of every Brighton Mixtapes guest mix, so here we grilled James:
Favourite Colour: Red
Where in Brighton are you: Kemp Town
What do you put on your chips? Mayo
Apple or Android: Apple
Pioneer or Denon: Pioneer
Ableton or Logic: Logic but I use Cool Edit & Massive.
Can you juggle: Beats? Yeah a little, I used to be a scratch DJ
Weirdest/Coolest Item of clothing: Platform Trainers
First record ever bought: Craig McLachlan - “Hey Mona” - Facepalm...
Favourite place to hang out in Brighton: My Flat
Favourite Pub: The Barely Mow, Kemp Town... ITS GOT A PIEMINISTER IN IT
Favourite place to eat: My flat, again
Best club: Dark Matter @ Union
Who does the best roast: Ricky Gervais
Coffee or Tea: Tea - 2 bags. Splash of milk
Have you swam in the sea: Yes
Brexit or EU: POLITICAL... REALLY ON A MUSIC Q&A? EU!
Favourite Footy Team: When I was a kid I was a big Peter Schmeichel fan
Favourite Track right now: Umek - Mechanical Blade
View on Seagulls: They're having a good season
View on Oysters: Handy for London
Favourite word: INDEEEEEEED
3 words to describe your mix: Wasps in face
To find out more and listen to James' music catch him on these socials: