The project head down to Southampton to work on a track, and have a chat with DJ/Producer James Talk.
One of the unsung heroes of the UK house music scene, James Talk has gone from a fledgling producer and DJ championed by Pete Tong to a global star, gracing the world’s most respected labels and clubs on a regular basis.
The 27-year-old Southampton talent has been DJing half his life, and over the last 7 years has carved a name for himself in the production world as one the most talented groove-makers around. Whether it’s the straight-up, chunky acid and tech house sound that he’s best known for, or the flashes of anthemic genius in his tracks with Ridney (Sunshine and their Pet Shop Boys approved rework of West End Girls both chosen as Tong’s Essential New Tunes), his productions are always filled with colour, character, and funk.
Having graced world-leading labels like Get Physical, CR2, Bedrock, Noir, Saved and Fabric in recent years, he’s kicked off the new decade in sterling form with his stomping, peak-time remix of M.A.N.D.Y. vs Booka Shade’s Donut – with the latter loving his version so much that they’ve asked him to remix their stone-cold classic Manderine Girl. In addition, he’s had releases throughout 2010 on acclaimed labels like Blu-Fin, Great Stuff Recordings and Global Underground.
After playing many of the world’s most revered clubs over the last few years – including Tokyo’s Womb, Chicago’s Spy Bar, London’s Ministry Of Sound, Manchester’s Sankeys and Toronto’s Footwork – he continued to tour the globe extensively throughout 2010 & 11, with many more exciting plans a foot for the year. His successful Radio 1 Essential Mix from September 2009 will be followed on by a third guest mix for John Digweed’s Transitions show.
In an age when the continental European sound dominates the house and techno scene, James Talk remains one of theUK’s brightest talents, reminding the world where tech house came from in the first place. A breath of fresh air from the droves of posturing scenesters and minimal chinstrokers, his is a sound which goes back to the visceral essentials.
Starting out from London on what turned out to be a near on 3hr journey, I decided to keep my head clear by not listening to any electronic dance music. What to listen to….the car in front wasn’t a Toyota but did have a BBC Radio London sticker, so for the first time ever I tuned in. Surprisingly I enjoyed it.
After going the wrong way on the M27, I’d arrived 10mins late Sorry James.
I’d been playing with Ableton for what seems like years, building loops, intros and the like not really finishing anything – but now it looks like I’ll actually finish something. Armed with a few samples, ideas and inspiring tracks, we chat about direction for where I want my track to go.
I try to explain to James what’s in my head. Gobble-d-gook and contradictions is what comes out, but I get the feeling he knows what I mean.
My samples are loaded and combed over, we choose a few bits to get the ball rolling. Running mainly in Logic with sprinkles of Ableton, within no time the major parts of the track are sectioned together.
Over the next few hours of building the core elements of the track, we chat about music, gigs, films and amongst other things, the joys of going to the cinema in the daytime (so you can actually watch the film you paid over the odds to see in peace).
James is a friendly down to earth kind of guy, who knows his way around the components needed to put a track together. At times I can’t believe how quickly he can take my input and transfer them to the sound. I guess this is what we call experience and knowing what all the fiddly bits do in your chosen DAW.
Not previously having any experience with Logic myself, I find I love it and am making notes on what does what. Needless to say I have now ordered a new Mac and Logic (R.I.P Steve Jobs).
We continue chatting about influences and artists, James also plays me elements of a few things he has in the pipeline. What stands out to me is an upcoming DJ Sneak remix he and Ridney are working on for defected, watch out for it. It sounds full, phat and is going to tear up many a dancefloor.
We take a short break to rest our ears. I pop down the shops for some food.
After the break we start to work on arrangement and finalising the track. Isolating elements and moving bits and bobs around. A short while later the arrangement is done and the track is finished……Wicked…
James is offering anyone his time for studio engineering, I can highly recommend the experience for those wanting help to write or finish a track. It has been just what I myself needed to see how someone else arranges their workflow. Get tips and advice, I came away with a thirst for finishing more of my stuff with more confidence. In fact I have the main parts down for two tracks after 4 days later.
Sometimes working with someone else helps you see things in a different light and test yourself…
I first started DJing at school when I was 14. A few friends and I had some decks and we would do house parties and spin at the local youth club. I loved record shopping, but didn’t think about moving into production until about 6 years later. I bought a PC with Reason and Cubase and set about teaching myself, I had no prior experience or knowledge of how to make music so I was in the dark for years. After 5 years of using Reason I switched to Logic Studio on Mac.
MK – Burning (James Talk & Ridney Remix) – Defected Records
Lowlights or highlights from your first gig.
First ever gig was at a youth club when I was 15. It actually went ok from what I remember. My next gig came when I was 17, this didn’t go so well, my hands were shaking and train wrecked every mix due to nerves. I’ve always prided myself on my beat matching ability, so from that day on I’ve never been nervous at a show. I really honed my skills playing at a social club in my town, we threw parties for all the kids at college, some weeks we had 3-400 people attend.
How do you prepare for a DJ set?
A few days before I will go through my iTunes and make a playlist up of around 60 tracks which I definitely want to play based on the gig. I’m pretty relaxed before a show, but a few minutes before I go I am silent and like to compose myself and get into a zone, so I can focus.
You have played in some amazing places, where would you say was your favourite?
There has been a few. In London I was lucky enough to play The Cross and Turnmills before they closed. Womb in Tokyo was pretty amazing; OneSixOne in Melbourne and of course Avalon in LA holds a special place in my heart.
Can you tell us more about Extra Dry, the label you co-run with Ridney?
We started Extra Dry back in 2009 to release our track “West End Girls” Then we didn’t release anything on it for 18 months. Ridney and I then decided to start the label up again to put out some singles we liked. It’s been going well, but it’s actually pretty hard to find good music to release. We do have a solid release from Tom Flynn and iLcris coming up before Xmas.
Following on from your own releases, remix duties and the Azuli presents Ibiza mix cd, where would you say you’re most comfortable, behind the decks or in the studio?
Behind the decks, definitely. Studio work is work; it’s frustrating and can be pretty miserable at time if things are not going well. I go through bursts of creativity then can’t do anything for days. I am trying to write an album right now….
You’ve started offering up some of your time for studio engineering. What can someone expect to gain from this experience?
Well hopefully they will come away at the end of the day with a pretty decent track. Hopefully they can pick up some good tips and ideas, or even just see the workflow of how to build a track. It’s not a complicated process it’s just time-consuming.
Highlight of 2011 & what does the future hold for James Talk?
Releasing an Azuli Ibiza CD with Ridney was a pretty exciting time. Also I went to Space in Ibiza for the first time this summer and loved it! I’ve done some pretty massive remixes with Ridney for Defected that will be out before Xmas, and I am working on a James Talk album!
Any advice for the newbie?
Persistence. It’s tough out there now, more so than ever before. I’ve thought about quitting a few times, but you gotta keep going if you love it; one day something might happen that will change your life.
Big Thanks to James Talk for letting me come down and answering a few questions for us…….good luck with the Album.
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