Growing up in the south of France, James What discovered his passion for music through playing in funk, rock and jazz bands. He moved to London in 1999 to study music and sound engineering. Since then James has been involved in all sorts of music projects from house and techno to producing for TV, games and commercials. Pursuing his passion for electronic music James released his first record in 2005 and took part in the Red Bull Music Academy in Seattle that same year. In 2006, James teamed up with Dan Berkson to perform and produce together and released a number of records and remixes together and solo on labels such as Poker flat, Crosstown Rebels, Get Physical and their own imprint Modelmaker.
In 2015 James relocated to Chiang Mai, Thailand to explore Asia, take a break from London and to help develop the scene. He's since launched Araï Agency to help bring more artists to Asia. His label Modelmaker has also been influenced by the move to Asia, and the next release will come from MadderModes, (residents at The Observatory in Saigon) who he met when playing there last year.
James is now looking out for more Asia based artists to work with.
Greatest inspirations or influences?
I've always been influenced by many genres all across the musical spectrum, from funk to jazz to ethnic music but also by travel, history, documentaries and movies where i’ve collected many samples over the years.
If I had to narrow I down to my earliest electronic influences it would be people like Carl Craig, Âme, Derrick Carter, Marc Farina and Aphex Twin and the London based DJs which I got to hear so often like Craig Richards and Secretsundaze’s Giles Smith and James Priestley.
How has your time living/working/breathing in Asia affected/evolved you as a person and with your music?
The move the Asia has been a real breath of fresh air after 15 years in London. I enjoy being a little detached and find my own inspiration and ideas in a different environment than a DJ/producer dense metropolis.
Asia is still off the beaten track for electronic music and being based here opens a range of new opportunities, as its difficult for most places to invite internationals with more limited budgets than in Europe or the US.
The lower cost of living compared to London also really takes the pressure off, no more rat race. Can’t say I’ve ever had it better than since I moved here.
Musically it’s taking some time to get a studio back together here so it’s been a bit of a back to basics. It’s a great environment to work from and I think feel freer creatively now that I’m further away physically London and Berlin.
Upcoming gigs/productions ( summer tours) ?
- Up next this summer I’m playing in Dhaka, Bangladesh which will be a new place for me so very excited, then MadderModes & I be launching the new Modelmaker release (MDL6) at The Observatory in Saigon in August.
- In September I play at Boogie Box in Abu Dhabi followed by a Brazil tour with Triade records in time for my new release there and planning an Australia tour in October.
- I’ll have a new Berkson & What release on US based Touch of Class records which will include a Jovonn remix and also on Triade Records.
- I also have special track on Whim-ee’s W-EE records coming as a 100 limited vinyl edition. Whim-ee will be the next artist we welcome on the label later this year.
Most memorable gig to date?
I’m not sure if I can single any one party out, there are a few:
- the first few times playing at Panorama bar in 2007 and 2008,
- the closing of Secret Sundaze in London back in 2007,
- Saturday night on Robot heart at Burning Man in 2012
- and Fusion festival in 2009 was also a great one I would like to go back.
Those have been some of the highlights for me.
Favorite websites or social media handles you follow?
Just following promoters and artists is already plenty.
- My favourite website is probably www.topdocumentaryfilms.com- I got a lot of inspiration from there.
- I spend a lot of time on http://www.juno.co.uk
- http://www.phonicarecords.com to check out new records.
Here is his last mix released on Pulse Radio, (the interview talks a bit about Asia as well).