Name: Kaz James
Occupation: Producer, singer, songwriter, DJ
Recent release: Kaz James's new single "Footprints" is out via his own Another Record Label.
If you enjoyed this interview with Kaz James and would like to find out more about his work, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started playing music when I was super young.
My step father was a jazz musician so he played music in the house all the time. I learnt trumpet at a pretty young age but I didn’t like that style of music so when my aunty was going to the clubs at the time and buying a lot of records that is how I got introduced to electronic music. I think I was kind of rebelling, and going the opposite of jazz, which is techno.
I started DJ-ing at 15, by the age of 17 I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. At that time there was no money in it I just thought it was cool and I was really into the scene and the music. The community where I grew up, all the DJs just hung out and drank coffee and were playing music at the weekend.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
I know when I hear certain songs, definitely they draw emotions in some people, and I think that’s pretty normal.
I actually have synaesthesia, which is what one of my other companies is called, this is where certain sounds or songs remind me of colours! It can be a little awkward, especially when I am in the studio writing a record, if someone changes parts of the record, which for me changes the linked colour, it really freaks me out if it doesn’t match with what I think it should – Bizarre!
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
I’ve had a pretty whirlwind career.
I had my first hit at 22 years old and the hit was so big that I wasn’t really playing anymore and went more into producing and writing for other people. It wasn’t until 2013 when I really got back into DJ-ing, I think this is also when the sounds I was into really came back in, making it the perfect time to really focus on DJ-ing and making quality underground records.
I also think leaving Ibiza to go to Mykonos helped me a lot, I managed to get a really cool residency at Scorpios which I did 6 years at, this year I am moving venues which is scary and exciting at the same time – More to be announced on this very soon!
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
Personally, I like to play a lot of vocals, I am a pretty happy person, I think vocals are sexy and I like stuff that is really groovy. I try not to play stuff that is too dark, I can make darker records but I am always trying to make my own sounds that are a bit more eclectic.
I listen to a lot of indie, rock records which you can hear elements of in some things I make. I grew up on disco so I love playing this also, you will always hear a few disco classics from me towards the end of the night!
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I am a perfectionist, I will keep working on a tune until it’s absolutely faultless. When I get an idea I try to evolve it as a continuation from the last record I made. Obviously that can change a lot with a vocal idea or a collab but I do take a lot of time finishing records and I think you can sonically hear that my sounds are a lot bigger than some others.
It does cost a lot of money going back and forth mastering but I think its really important when you are making club records that they make a really hit on the dancefloor. So getting the right EQ on the kick, making sure the drop hits properly, making sure there’s enough compression on the record to make it exciting enough are all super important.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I think if you make a good piece of music then it should last to the end of time.
If you are pushing some crazy boundaries and sounds, its proven that these phases dont really last. I think you need to keep a certain amount of tradition in the sound. The core needs to stay the same, but I do think its cool to evolve and add elements to make them more original.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
I think because I grew up playing music, I understand music, which is a big help. It is was also a big help with key mixing, I try to not key mix too much, I prefer rubbing as it feels a bit more natural.
In saying that, being able to read a crowd and understand a dancefloor has definitely helped me knowing what to make in a studio. That’s one of my strongest tools, playing a record and seeing that really works, then try and do something similar with the drums or the way the kick hits on the dancefloor.
I think if you look at the best producers of all time a lot start as DJs, Pharrell, DRE, these guys learnt Sonics and what catches people’s attention.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
A normal day in my life, I get up call my assistant, see what we need to catch up on, then call my manager on the way to the gym. I come home and do some more work like go through some music.
Then if I have time I really love going to restuarants, trying out new food and venues and I love red wine! If im touring I am really just trying to sleep and survive!
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
An album for me that stands out electronicaly is Daft Punk – Homework.
Although I dont think it's the best ever made I think it's insane to listen to what they did and like we spoke about before I think this is a really great example of something being original and timeless. I'm also a big fan of Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, I took a lot of inspirtation and studied the creative process of how these albums were put together and I try and draw inspiration and stick to this calibre.
When I was growing up I looked to DJs like Carl Cox & Eric Morillo, these guys were playing like 3 vinyl at once. So I knew if I wanted to be at that level I had to do the same.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
Personally, I like to work with as many people as possible so I can get ideas and bounce off of people. A lot of the time I make a record and send it to my friends and ask them to check it out for me, they might add some hats for me or something cool. Depending on the record I sometimes like to mix it down with different people.
I hate engineering – I think there’s a huge difference between producing a record and engineering a record. People who do this learn about each plug in or software instrument. I find it difficult to do this and I’m a little slower at it too.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I think I give people a certain release from society and the world's pressures for a few hours on a Saturday night on a dance floor.
With the records I play I try and always strike a certain emotion or something people can relate to. I feel that my music is making people happy because I keep getting booked and I hope this will continue!
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Everyone takes different things from music, especially on certain records.
In the past, I’ve made records where people think I’m talking about one thing but somebody else could interpret it in a completely different way! I generally don’t tell people the meaning behind the music, because I don’t want to destroy what they're feeling. So long as they are enjoying it, then that’s all that matters!
I don’t have any sad records, they’re generally quite energetic, up tempo because my aim is to strike happiness in people.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Interesting you talk about this, at the moment people are super into sound healing and sound baths, and if you think it works and you feel something then go for it!
Scientifically, I dont know if it actualy makes sense because everytime you hit a sound bowl or everytime the acoustic in the room is slightly different the frequency will also be different.
That said, people are definitely into it and it's a form of meditation. I think there's definitely a scientific connection behind it all somewhere.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Funny you say that because I know a lot about music and I know a lot about coffee, I think theyre both an art form!
All these things hit different emotions, there's art in food and in music, however I think music has a bigger reach than someone making a cup of coffee!
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I think this links back to how certain chords or musical notes can strike emotion in people, much like how people can hear emotion in voices, you can do the same with music.
I don’t know how to explain it, they’re just programmed into the human body but I think it’s pretty cool!