Up & Coming: James Pople
A little while ago I came across a producer named James Pople. Something about his music really captured my imagination, so I delved a little deeper. Though he’s only been making music for a short time, there are subtleties in his sound that separate him from many of his peers, for instance one of his more recent releases Who’s That Girl?. I recently had a chat with James about his beginnings and where he’s heading.
An extended version of this interview is available at marcusbarnes.com.
How long have been DJing now?
I’ve been DJing in clubs for about 19 months now, I got my first gig in December 2010. Things really kicked off when I started playing for Creche with Alexis Raphael and Cozzy D in March 2011
What were you doing to earn a living before you became a DJ/producer?
I used to work as an event manager for Ministry of Sound booking branded events in clubs in the USA, South America and Eastern Europe.
Why did you decide to become a DJ?
One of my best friends in South Africa was a successful DJ called Shannon, we met at one of her gigs and then I spent every weekend with her in the clubs in Cape Town where I’m from. I remember having a quiet ambition to do it one day myself but at the time I just used to love being on the dancefloor listening to her play. When I moved to London I found myself thinking more and more [about] what an amazing feeling it must be to be the DJ and I realised I wanted that for myself. I was really scared of admitting my desire to anybody though. I wanted it so bad that I was petrified of failing because I thought if I failed at the thing I wanted most then nothing else would ever be good enough. I told a couple of friends but when I actually did, I think everyone was pretty surprised as they had no idea.
Whereabouts did you start going out raving?
I moved to Barcelona from Cape Town when I was 21 and I guess made a progression from the small clubbing scene in Cape Town into proper ‘raving’ in that city. I was into a lot of deep stuff then with electro elements like Miss Kittin, Trentemøller, Ellen Allien.
Is there much of a scene in Cape Town?
The scene in Cape Town is really small, in fact I wouldn’t say there is really a ‘scene’ like we think of them in Europe. There are loads of clubs that open and close with each summer, so it’s cool that there are always new places to go each season. But Cape Town is actually a really small city. You can walk the length of the city centre in 25 minutes and the rest is suburbs and beaches.
Has music always been a love of yours?
It’s definitely always been a big part of my happiness. I had a childhood ambition of being a singer but my voice wasn’t great. I tried every instrument possible at school, every six months I was carting around a new one, anything from the cello to the trombone. Unfortunately, I never managed to make any of them stick. Shannon helped me fall in love with house music, it was like going on a wonderful journey of discovery with this new thing I had no idea existed before and it was so exciting and fulfilling to me.
How did you feel during your early gigs?
My first gig was at a gay club called Room Service in Soho on a Thursday night. I had a lot of encouragement from my good friend Kris Di Angelis, who is a resident there, and he basically got me my first booking. I was incredibly nervous, literally shaking, but I had so many good friends cheering me on that night I ended up really loving the experience once I got started.
So the music policy at Room Service is house/techno? Is there much of a difference in the atmosphere you get in gay clubs?
I’d say it’s a mixture of house and tech-house, quite fast at about 128-130bpm. I find the atmosphere in gay clubs completely different to normal clubs. Unfortunately, I think that the majority of going out for gay men is about being surrounded by other men and trying to look good. It’s not like the clubs I go to or play at now, where the common purpose for most people is that they have all come out for the music primarily, to dance and have a good time with friends.
There was quite a strong gay presence in the early days of house (leading off the back of disco) and nowadays house/techno raves seem a lot more testosterone-fueled. What do you think about that?
Yeah I would agree with you. I wasn’t around for the early days of ‘gay clubbing’ but even in my time the atmosphere has changed. It’s not about freedom of expression and the same level of innocent hedonism like it used to be in its heyday, I think.
Why did you move to London?
Originally it was to go to university here. I had the option of going in Barcelona but when faced of being in one place for the next three years at that time I decided London would be the better option for me.
How has the move affected your musical development?
I think where you live really affects your musical taste. Had I still been in Barcelona I am sure I would have been listening to much more different stuff now and in the past years.
How are you finding living here?
I’ve enjoyed living here and the club scene has been great with all the options. But I’m moving to the sunshine next year.
Where do you like going out?
I go to less obvious club nights now I think. I’ve always felt more comfortable in an underground environment, listening to DJs I may not have even heard of before. Half Baked, Slowpoke and Lo*Kee are my favourites.
Do you miss Cape Town much?
All the time! I go back once a year for as long as I can manage and it’s always a comfort. I’m still very close to my old friends and we pick up where we left off with ease.
How soon was it after you started DJing before you started making your own music?
I started making music in July last year so it was a short space of time from when I started playing I guess.
Why did you decide to start making music as well as playing it?
I realised very quickly that if I wanted to improve and be on the same level as some the DJs I admired then I had to make my own music. It was such a great decision as I love making music as much as DJing now.
How did you go about getting everything started production-wise?
My brother lived with me for a month last July, he studied music production at university and helped me to get on board with Logic and so I’ve been learning as I go along really. I also worked with a great producer and sound engineer called Michael Jansons to get my first records done and learnt a lot from him in those sessions. I now use a combination of Ableton and Logic to make music.
What was the first track you had signed?
My first record signed was ‘Keep It Up’ to Lower East and was out on the first Inner Circles compilation. I had met Cozzy D through playing at his party Creche and he gave me a lot of encouragement with my production so I was actually ecstatic when he wanted it for the label as I really admire what they do.
What stage would you say you’re at now?
Right now I’m holding back from releasing a lot of records and just focusing on forging my sound. My focus is on quality and not quantity right now. I have experienced and learnt so much in a short space of time and spent a lot of time figuring out the type of DJ I want to be and the music I want to play. Like many people I have a very eclectic taste when it comes to music but I feel like I have now found what type of dance music really moves me the most, so I’m really excited about my future releases and DJ sets.Cape Town, House, house music, James Pople, techno
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