You wouldn’t think that a bunch of old-school punks owe their souls to disco, but we do. Disco was the first mainstream genre of music to incorporate electronic elements, and it paved the way for the fully-electronic genre we know today as EDM. From groovy platform heels to chunky Doc Martens, EDM has been a part of the scene for nearly 50 years, and it’s as hot now as it has ever been.
Because Rick Astley didn’t return my five emails, three phone calls (to his management office, because I’m not THAT good at stalking anymore), my Facebook messages or my Twitter DMs, I turned to an old friend to talk about what he’s up to. James Masters and I didn’t quite go to high school together (he graduated a bit before I did) but we tended to end up at the same parties and now, through the magic of social media, we are probably better friends now than we were back then. Funny how technology makes the world churn. James is an Air Force Veteran and single father of three amazing daughters. He took time out of his morning to chat with me.
What did you listen to when you were a wee kid? Were your parents into music at all?
My parents combined, listened to the Beatles, Queen, Steely Dan, Elton John, E.L.O., Motown, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane/Starship and pretty much what their generation listened to. I loved it all, followed what was on the radio…until I heard punk. Then that lead into other alternative music. Like The Cure, which incorporated synthesisers, that in turn got me into electro sounds like Depeche Mode. That evolved and mutated into industrial groups. Then in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I got into listening to what was electro-dance and industrial, evolve into techno, then trance, house and what is now modern EDM. That honestly…is now evolving back to it’s roots.
How would you describe your sound? Who are your major influences/inspirations?
My sound actually is affected by what I mentioned, but more heavily related to current EDM styles. A bit of everything I have heard plays a role in what sound I create. I try to infuse it all, to appeal to a wider range of ears. The whole purpose, is to bring people together through music, through a musical journey that soothes the mind, while beating with one’s heart. The beats, are always in relation to tribal rhythms, that literally are a reflection of the human heart and pulse.
This interview took place on November 9, 2016 following an incredibly contentious Presidential election that did not go the way many people expected it to. There was a lot of anger and pain on social media that morning.
So do you think the current political climate is a good thing for artists such as yourself?
I can say only this for sure…that it is an inspiration, in terms of touching base with very raw emotions. Especially when thinking about my kids’ future, because of it. Today…despite my disappointment, I am trying to be positive, and use the situation as motivation to succeed…for my kids. In case Canada becomes a necessary option. 😉
Ha! Tell me a little about your proces: do you play any instruments or do you create everything electronically?
I listen to a lot of music, and DJ at home quite a bit too. I’m buying new music weekly, to keep up with it all changing so fast. Then I take my life experiences, and apply it to both sampling, (which I legally pay for, so I can sell my own music with it in there) as well as also playing a keyboard. It’s kind of like being a symphony conductor I guess. Taking a bunch of pieces, that individually reflect both the feelings of others, and how it connects with me. Then putting all these pieces together, in a way that it is now something new, and conveys a message and feelings, telling what musical story I am trying to. Which just flows through me I guess.
I know you are a visual artist as well – is there a visual component to your music (meaning, do you create both at the same time) or does one follow the other?
Sometimes one precedes the other. Sometimes they work together. Right now…with the song I am trying to finish, the visual side is following the musical portion.
You said you DJ here and there – do you actively look for gigs or do gigs find you?
I don’t actively look for them, but have been sought out a few times. I mostly make mixes now, and put them out on DJ websites. Honestly, it’s more for fun at the moment. I do it mostly for production value.
Who would you say is your target audience? Are you looking to please people who are already into EDM or do you consciously (or unconsciously) tweak your sound to maybe appeal to people who aren’t into EDM as much?
I think it’s mostly the EDM crowd. Those have been the people who like it the most. Fortunately, through the internet, I have made some international fans and listeners, and linked up with other and larger artists. I would though…like to cross musical borders. So yes, I do tweak it to appeal to other audiences. But I do recall talking to people, going back 20 years, that used to go to Metropolis/Trilogy [Both of these are former dance clubs in Cleveland]. They would tell me that they were mostly rock fans, but really dug the then-techno scene. Electronic music has come a long way, and has paid a lot of dues. Right now…EDM/Dance Music festivals are the biggest international money makers. Every year, the city of Miami shuts down the city center and has the Ultra Music Festival. A record label for EDM brings in the best DJs and electronic acts, featuring what will be that year’s best and featured club hits. And that’s just Miami.
As most of you know, the Madchester scene in the 1980s/90s is my favorite thing in the world. The best we could do Stateside is the rise of Chicago House and the subsequent morphing into acid house, techno, and rave. EDM has since swung back to being less about the gadgetry and more about the dancing and is arguably one of the most popular genres of music in the world. When in doubt, dance.