Ashley James Ė one of hard danceís rising stars
Reported by VinDiesel
Submitted 23-08-06 18:59
The past couple of years have seen a number of djs establish themselves as major forces on the hard dance scene. People including Greg Brookman, Technikal and MDA and Spherical have worked hard to define their accomplished talents in both djíing and production work.
Itís no doubt that Ashley Jamesís career has progressed steadily on the past 2 years especially with his residency for Addiction amongst other rising stars such as Olly Perris and Luke Warner. Heís cleverly crafted a very unique sound of no nonsense driving hard trance, that devastates the dance floor every time.
This accomplished skill as a dj is also matched in his production work, which has seen him work with some of the most established djs on the scene, including Marc French, Trevor McLachlan and Technikal. His latest EP for Addiction Digital has been widely acclaimed by many others inclusing Tom Harding.
Itís no doubt that Ashley James is being described as someone who will become one of the biggest forces behind hard dance in all its form over the next year.
Next month sees Ashley make his debut at the popular and well followed Zoology party at Brixtonís 414. Zoology Trance sees Ashley playing a psy trance set amongst some of biggest talented trances djs, including Julien and Matt Lock.
I first met Ashley through Webbo at Sids Bar two years ago. Since then his career has taken off, so I was keen to chat to him about his prolific work over the past two years.
You started djíing in 2000? Where and when was your first gig?
I first got decks in 2000 but didnít start playing for a couple of years after that. My first gigs were things like house parties and I played at a couple of squat type places as well.
Describe the different styles of music that you play?
I play hard, acidic, psychedelic, melodic, forward thinking and highly charged trancey stuff. Over the years Iíve got into various styles of music and I couldnít possibly narrow down what I play to just one style. I also have a large(ish) acid techno collection.
Your style of hard trance has been described as Ďno nonsense driving hard trance . . . with little or no vocalsí. How would you describe your style?
Iíd describe my style pretty much the same as what I play. I love futuristic sounding stuff with amazing melodies, gritty 303s and sounds that make you sit up and wonder how the hell they were made. My favourite style if I had to choose one would be psy trance. To me itís pure, sonic perfection and the production on a lot of it sounds so impeccable, I think Iíd find it hard not to love. As for vocals ó thatís not strictly true. Iím not really into massive vocal tracks but there are definitely exceptions to the rule.
What were the musical influences in your life growing up and now at present?
Iíve always been into lots of different styles of music. When I was growing up my parents used to listen to bands like the Dire Straits but I was never quite as inclined to lean that way. When I was about 14 I found dance music and never looked back. Iíd say that my influences throughout the past few years have probably been artists like Nick Sentience, Astrix, K90, Broken Toy, Rinkadink, Alf Bamford, James Lawson and Eskimo.
DJíing wise, my influences are Marc French, Tim Samsara, Phil Reynolds, Kristian and Brad Thatcher. For hard dance my main influences have pretty much always been Nick Sentience and Alf Bamford. Nickís stuff is immense. Heís got his style down to a T and the way he can take the best parts of different genres, put them together and turn them into to something completely new never ceases to amaze me. Alf is just an anthem factory. His riffs are for want of a better word, epic. Iíd say he has probably been my single biggest influence. Heís the guy that pushed me in the right direction and got me into production in the first place.
Iíve read that you were involved working with Heat and their promotion. How did you get involved with them?
Kind of by chance actually. Anton and Damian ended up as my landlords and I just started doing odd jobs for them in the office and out and about, collecting and delivering tickets, cash etc. and occasionally helping set up some of the parties on the day
Youíve been an Addiction resident for the past couple of years. How did you get involved with them?
I was there from day one. When Andy and Mike threw their first party they made me resident the same night. Over the past couple of years weíve all done our bit to promote the party and weíve each got a role(s) to play. Mike is no longer part of the promotion anymore, but heís off making a name for himself elsewhere. Andy is the boss and does a hell of a lot of work, I do what I can from this side of London and Olly manages the label. We all get involved in the actual parties on the day though, including our other residents, Luke, Matt and Mark.
Youíve gained a lot of experience not only from working for Heat but also from the Addiction promoters, including Andy T. Would you ever be tempted to start your own party/event?
I wouldnít rule it out but I have no plans to any time just yet. It takes a hell of a lot of hard work and commitment to run a promotion and as much as it all pays off I donít think Iíd have enough hours in my day to get it all done.
Do you think clubbers are too segmented in their liking for certain genres of music and not willing to try and experience other styles of music?
Yes, they can be. I like parties and clubbers that arenít afraid to try new things and styles every so often. Admittedly having too many styles on one dance floor can sound a bit messy, but if done well it sounds amazing. I think that that is the strong point of promotions like Innovate and Antiworld. Their parties always go off without fail because their crowd and djs are intentionally diverse. Thereís a reason that theyíve got where they are.
In what way has been being an Addiction resident developed your career?
Iíve had a lot of support and backing from a lot of people, especially the Addiction crew. It has acted as a stage for me to be seen and heard and has also turned into something Iím so proud to be a part of. Weíve expanded drastically and are now turning into a real force to be reckoned with. Addiction has also made me numerous friends and contacts from within the scene. One of our founding mission statements was always to pick up and promote new talent. Not only has it worked for us, but weíve also discovered people like Matt Lock, James Terry and Phil Metcalfe along the way and put them on track for their own promising careers.
Who are the DJs and producers who are making you sit up and listen on the scene at the moment?
There are a few. For hard dance itís MDA & Spherical, Alf Bamford, Nick Sentience and more recently Matt Gardner. Matt and Mark (MDA & Spherical) totally own their style and they do it so well. Matt Gardner has risen from strength to strength recently. His production is sounding scarily good and he seems to be a hotbed of new, clever ideas. Expect big things from him.
Youíve produced quite a few tracks over the past year. How do you get ideas for new tracks?
In a number of ways. Iíd say my influences definitely play a part. They make me want to make music. Sometimes it will be after a night of clubbing and Iíll just come up with something in my head I feel I need to get down. Sometimes Iíll just sit in front of my computer and ideas just begin to flow. To be honest a lot can set me off. I donít really have much control over it.
How many tracks have you produced so far?
Probably about 25 or so, including a couple of remixes. Iíve usually always got a couple of things on the go at any one time though and my hard drive is full of half finished tracks and ideas I need to complete!
Do you get involved with the technical side of production i.e. using tools such as Logic, keyboards, mixing desk etc?
Yes, I donít use an engineer at all, what you hear is all me, or me and whoever I happen to be working with. I only use software and a MIDI keyboard at present so all the mixing desks, FX modules, synths and samplers etc are on screen.
We saw the end of Addiction parties this year. They became hugely popular over the past 2 years and had quite a regular following. What do you think the effect on the industry, especially hard trance, has been from Addiction?
Well, we were one of, if not the first hard trance label to go exclusively digital. We release a couple of tracks a month and they are always top quality tracks made by some of the best producers on the scene. We are lucky enough to have built up a good name in what we do so you know exactly what youíre getting from us. The Addiction parties havenít actually ended ó we just arenít doing any more free Thursday ones. Weíre now concentrating on parties on a bigger scale. We will be hosting The Fridge next month and there are a couple more parties planned before the end of the year.
Addiction Digital was launched this year. Amongst other releases due is a new EP from yourself. Tell us more about that?
My EP is due out on the first of next month. Itís called ĎNothing Seems Realí/íLast Chanceí and is my first solo EP so far. Itís the latest installment of our residents EP series and is getting a lot of play from some of the people I respect most in the scene which Iím extremely happy about! It also just got a 5/5 rating by Tom Harding in iDJ magazine. ĎNothing Seems Realí is a darker, acid fuelled hard trancer thatís guaranteed to scare the shit out of your dance floor . . . ĎLast Chanceí is a more a more anthemic, euphoric track but Iíll leave you to judge them for yourselves!
Are you required to produce x number of tracks a year for Addiction Digital?
No. There are a lot of tracks waiting to be put out at the moment and I think that if we were required to produce a certain amount there would be quite a backlog. Youíll be hearing a lot more from all of us on the label though including a couple of remix EPs coming up. Iím remixing probably one of our biggest tracks to date . . . Iíll leave it at that.
Does being part of Addiction Digital mean that you are exclusively signed to them, much like main stream pop artists like Robbie Williams are to record labels?
No not at all. So long as there isnít lots of stuff waiting for a release Addiction Digital usually gets first refusal on all of my solo tracks though. However there is nothing to stop me releasing tracks on other labels if I wish to do so. Trevor McLachlan and myself have our first collaboration being released on Impact in the near future as well as a couple of others in the pipeline so watch this space...
A lot of the work behind popular tracks released by djs is down to the engineers who work with the djs in perfecting sounds such as the basslines, riffs right, adjusting notes and note length etc. . . . . Do you think engineers get enough credit within the industry?
Yes and no. I donít think itís fair on the engineer for them to practically have to write a whole track with minimal, if any input from the person whose name it is going under. In a lot of cases though, thatís almost precisely what the engineer gets paid to do though. In my opinion an engineer should always be named in the credits of the track also. There are a number of djs and producers I know who do use engineers but I believe that you should be able to hear a definite trademark sound from them even if they use multiple engineers.
If and when I engineer for somebody or do collaborations, the person Iím working with needs to have a good amount of input into the track. Iím lucky in the fact that everybody Iíve worked with so far has known the score and all have had some amazing input into the tracks that weíve made together. I would definitely work with each and every one of them again.
Do you think hard trance music is running out of originality and innovation ideas or do you think that the boundaries can be pushed further?
Not at all, although many would argue that it is. Established producers like Nick Sentience, James Lawson and Alf Bamford are constantly breaking boundaries and incorporating exciting new elements into their tracks. However, I think that the scene needs to stand up and take notice of the younger producers emerging as well. These are some of the people who can also truly make a difference and take the music in a different direction also. When somebody has multiple influences you can hear them in the production of their tracks. There are a whole army of these people out there. They just need to be discovered. Boundaries can always be broken and ideas can always be pushed and distorted to create new ideas. I think that the biggest single problem is people thinking that tracks need to conform to the way others are made. Thatís when you get tracks all sounding the same and the originality running out.
Last year you started Digital Injury with Marc French. You performed at one of the last Addiction Thursday night parties where you were quote as saying you provided an advanced hard dance sound. How do you exactly define this?
First and foremost, as we have tried to explain to people, it is not a genre in its own right. ĎAdvanced Danceí was basically a phrase we coined to describe futuristic, well produced dance music. In other words future classics, and futuristic, upfront stuff that we believe breaks the mould for the better.
Would you ever consider doing a PA performance?
Absolutely and itís something that Iíll be looking into in the future. I need to save up some cash, buy myself a decent laptop and some new equipment and learn how to do it first though! It has always been my ultimate goal, but Iím taking things one step at a time for the moment and not rush into things just yet. There are some fantastic new live acts out there at the moment, including Greg Brookman and MDA & Spherical, so I think that for the moment Iím just going to watch and learn!
Youíve been asked to play at the forthcoming Zoology Trance, a promotion featuring some quite established djs such as Mat Lock and Julien. You will be playing a psy trance set, differing from the normal hard trance weíve come to hear and love from you. What can we expect from you during this set?
Iíve played a number of psy sets before, but this one will differ in the fact that Iíll be playing a couple of my own productions in it. I absolutely adore the sound and have done for a long time. Itís always sounded light years ahead of everything else. You can expect a good dose of no nonsense, full on, acidic trance from some of the best psy producers around!
Zoology and Vinyl Zoo have been going strong for 5 years or more, whilst a lot of promotions have ceased and disappeared into history. What do you think has kept Zoology being so popular?
Iíd say that their open minded music policy is a definite factor in whatís kept and keeps them popular. There is something to suit everybody. Their parties are well planned and their line ups are diverse and interesting. Theyíve also developed a die hard crowd that religiously supports them, so they have struck the perfect balance. I think that their joint experience as djs and promoters has also kept them on top of things. Basically, it just works. People know what they do, and know what theyíre getting into. Even the tracks on the label are quite diverse. Youíll find all sorts of different styles on there ranging from trance to techno.
Psy tance music and psy trance parties are renowned for having quite an underground in some respects niche following. A lot of the big hard dance djs including Nick Sentience and James Lawson have been playing quite a bit of psy trance during their sets, making the sound more popular. Do you think this will lead to psy Trance becoming more part of the mainstream and less underground?
I think the psy sound will always remain pretty underground. DJs like Nick Sentience and James Lawson are doing a very good job of just making sure that people are aware that itís out there. In my opinion they are the perfect people to do it as well because of their forward thinking approach to music. I think that things can become more popular without becoming mainstream and I very much doubt youíll ever hear any psy trance in the top 40!
There has been quite a proliferation of clubbers who have become djs over the past couple of years. Do you think this is a good thing, or is there too much saturation, not enough emphasis on discovering djs who have something different to offer?
There was a point and perhaps there still is where everybody wanted to be a dj, but what I think needs to be remembered is that you need to find your own niche. Somebody who just wants to play the same old tracks will not go nearly as far as somebody who is willing to take risks and try to create their own sound. Iím not one to put somebody down because they want to be a dj though. If they can make it then good on them, they deserve to do well. We were all bedroom djs once as well!
What is your most notable achievement to date?
Passing my A levels!
Where do you see your career progressing over the net 18 months?
Do you see yourself moving onto play for bigger/more diverse parties and events or do you see yourself moving more into the production side, creating tracks for others as well as yourself?
Hopefully both. Iíve got a few engineering dates coming up and have no plan to stop making music or stop playing out. Iíd like to continue playing for both the bigger and smaller parties, as they both have their own vibe to them. On the production front Iím just going to keep on doing what Iím doing!
Thanks so much Ash for chatting to us and best of luck for Zoology Trance!
Cheers mate and see you on the dance floor!
Photos courtesy of Addiction and Ashley James. Not to be reproduced without permission.
Friday 1st September
CLUB 414 [map]
10pm till 6am
£10 all night - £8 with Flyer/Paying Guest list
Full names to email@example.com
Full names to firstname.lastname@example.org
We're now well over half way through what has been one of Zoology's best years ever. Our specifically themed nights have gone down a storm and the quality of DJing has been amazing.
September we it the Trance again and have an excellent line up for you. As well as that Vinyl Zoo Records was both five years ago in September, and while nothing much has happened with our label for many a year, it's 5th anniversary is certainly a reason for celebration.
We'll have a limited number of Vinyl Zoo CD's to give away. These CDs will have the pick of Vinyl Zoo tunes on them, a few tracks that where never actually released. These will be a must for all Zoology fans or for those DJs that crave something a little bit quirky for their sets.
So on to the line up.
RAW or Rory to us was with us from our early days at Zoology. As a clubber though and not a DJ. He's been away for over 2 years now and whilst he's been away he has finely honed his skills on the 1's and 2's and he makes his Zoology debut, in fact it might well be his debut anywhere, for us in September.
Markus Buhmann b2b Matt Dahl
This terrible twosome have played together at Zoo on many occasions now and really need to introduction. Blending Progressive Trancey business with Breaks, House and Tech edged sounds. Their sets are always inventive and more importantly entertaining.
Julien is another of those talented French chaps behind the decks, they must put something in the water. He's played all over the shop and makes his Zoology debut as well. He'll be dishing out a blend of the finest possible Trance music and I guarantee you'll love it.
Mat has swiftly earned a reputation as another of London's quality Trance DJs. Having played all over town for parties big and small he is yet another Zoology debutant. Mat will be delivery his trademark sounds of chunky but uplifting Trance.
Needs no introduction so I'm not going to bother to write one.
Another DJ who has yet to grace the decks for Zoology. Addiction resident and regular DJ around town. He can throw his hand at all kinds of Trancey business but for Zoology he'll be playing a very special Psy Trance set for us.
Latex Zebra b2b B.S.E
We'll be finishing the night with a set of nothing but Vinyl Zoo tunes or our own Productions. OK, so it might not all be Trance but as it's the anniversary, and our party, we'll let it go this time.
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Other Features By VinDiesel:
Across the divide - It's Alex Mac and Zeebra Kid
Alf takes the Technikal View
Cheers! ReFre5h is 2
Get attracted to Magnetix
Phil Reynolds starts the Digital Revolution: Part Two
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.
| From: ~deleted1390 on 23rd Aug 2006 19:19.51|
A pleasure to have this man at Zoology. Wish him every succes for the future as well. A very talented DJ and Producer.
From: Mike Harris on 23rd Aug 2006 19:20.51
Ash is one of a kind, hes a really good mate, a superb dj and an amazing producer, his music is interesting and different and i believe he has bucket loads of talent!
He is def one to watch for the future!
From: Matt B on 23rd Aug 2006 19:50.03
Ash you legend mate! Top bloke, DJ and producer, and always a welcome guest Dj at Momentum.
Good luck to you mate, you deserve it!
From: Ian H on 23rd Aug 2006 20:15.02
Ash never fails to deliver absolute dancefloor perfection, a great dj, superbly original producer and an absolutely diamond geezer - gwan me breadbin!
From: Spherical on 23rd Aug 2006 20:17.02
Ash's productions are quality and he's a very talented DJ.
He's going to go far.
Most notable talent is the skill of looking like a different person every time you see him.
From: James Jaye on 23rd Aug 2006 20:21.57
Good stuff Ash, loving your stuff mate.Keep it up
From: Olly Perris on 23rd Aug 2006 21:55.15
Not only is this bloke one of the nicest you're likely to find on the scene, he is also one of the best upcoming producers out there and has created a totally unique sound which is getting praise from just about every major player on the scene. 'Haunted' is one of the anthems of 2006, and was, astonishingly, Ashley's first ever track.
It's a honour to have him as a producer for Addiction Digital and as a DJ for the Addiction parties but it's a bigger honour to be a mate of his. You deserve it mate, f*cking go and get it.
From: Technikal on 23rd Aug 2006 22:34.23
What a read!
As well as a top DJ and producer, this interview also fails to mention this mans remarkable talent at trivia in on the Mousetrap and Cluedo games in Wetherspoons. I've seen him get about 4 questions wrong ever.
Keep your chin up mate, and clean those winnets out.
See you soon!
From: Dubster on 24th Aug 2006 06:54.40
Absolutely stirling bloke, fantastic Dj and a cracking producer with an original head on his shoulders.
All round star.
His grinning face will always stick in my head for the moment he dropped Eskimo - Party Pooper at Innovate and had a load of rather shocked clubbers running for the nearest exit.
Top top work.
From: Andy T on 24th Aug 2006 08:39.04
Awesome Interview Vin
and ditto to what Olly said. Ash is one of the most dedicated poeple I know and has always been pivotal to our promotion. Big up yourself mate your production skills are incredible and your definately on the way to big things !
See you soon !
From: Batch on 24th Aug 2006 11:06.50
Can't wait for our b2b at SOS... Top guy!!!
From: Martin Begley on 24th Aug 2006 11:33.27
Get In Ashley! Good work mate, u deserve the good things that are happening, and that are yet to come your way.
From: Cocker Franiel on 24th Aug 2006 13:12.06
very well written babe, XX
From: Lozz on 24th Aug 2006 13:52.19
Go Ashley. Our dancefloors definitely need the contribution of musical souls like you. Interview reads very well too.
From: Dr DUZZIT on 24th Aug 2006 14:00.38
Ashley James is a rising star of today and i would like to wish him the very best of luck in the future and beyond, it could'nt happen to a nicer bloke..... Well done Ash Top Read
From: K.A.R.L. on 24th Aug 2006 14:57.46
Wicked interview. I have a lot of time for Ashley. A top bloke and very talented dj & producer. All the best mate.
From: Ashley James on 24th Aug 2006 15:14.50
Thanks for your comments guys. It means alot.
From: Shasa on 24th Aug 2006 15:22.35
From: slacky on 24th Aug 2006 16:06.21
Cool interview, really indepth, nice work Vin.
As for Ashley, what a wicked bloke! Good luck for the future mate
From: FrankyB on 24th Aug 2006 18:36.14
Great interview, Ash you are the man !!!
Wicked DJ, Producer and Addiction Resident...Goodluck for the future babes
From: sexyminx on 24th Aug 2006 19:34.22
Wicked interview OI OI to a legend and a wicked guy. Its great to know you and thanks a million for playing at my birthday party. Can't wait to hear your set again. Mass to you. to you and Marcel for everything xx
From: Flip on 24th Aug 2006 20:16.33
Fantastic interview Vin. Probably the best I've read on here. Far more indeapth than most that goes up.
Ash, well done with how far you've come so far. You'll go a long way mate. Glad to have had you play for us dude. Nice one!
From: spacefairy on 24th Aug 2006 20:36.32
Wicked interview vin...some interesting question...that even i have wondered about...well done babe.. i know how much you love it all ...xxx
From: DebB on 24th Aug 2006 20:51.19
What a great interview Ash! I really have to thank Frenchy for introducing us because you a fantastic person and you've come a long way with your music. Keep in up Ash you going to go a long way. You one of my favourite dj's. Love you honey x
From: Mark. on 24th Aug 2006 20:57.35
Advanced dance FTW!
From: Ashley James on 24th Aug 2006 21:04.41
From: Funboy Trev on 25th Aug 2006 01:14.16
wicked stuff dude!
still, you need to get a haircut.
From: VinDiesel on 25th Aug 2006 14:06.11
Hi there. Thank you so much for your all comments. They were so positive. It was an absolute pleasure to interview. Glad you enjoyed reading it.
From: Richard Launch on 25th Aug 2006 14:46.30
Nice one Ashley.
From: Trevor McLachlan on 25th Aug 2006 19:54.08
Nice one Ash, was a pleasure working on the collab together, and looking forward to more sessions in the studio!! Top bloke, and very talented...
From: James Terry on 26th Aug 2006 02:27.23
Well done dude, your productions have been rolling out, each one superb!!
See you soon.
From: luke warner on 28th Aug 2006 09:21.25
tops ash mate
From: Mat Lock on 28th Aug 2006 18:39.46
Woohoo, great read there Ash and Chris well written matey !!
Cant wait to play alongside Ash at Zoo this Friday. It will be a pleasure and cant wait to hear u rip out the Psy trance in Zoo !
From: Mike Harris on 29th Aug 2006 00:02.25
Get some Psy in you life!
From: Batch on 29th Aug 2006 12:03.18
What a fantastic weekend! Cheers for our b2b session.. look forward to our next meeting!!!
From: Claire99 on 30th Aug 2006 13:59.32
Wow what a read, Guess Im gonna have to come and she this one play again that's for sure! webbo the king of introduction x
From: 00Frenchy on 30th Aug 2006 18:26.22
Good stuff gimp... sorry I cant make it to your Zoology set... but should be able to make it to Wetherspoons to watch your Cluedo skills.
From: matt gardner on 31st Aug 2006 09:46.54
nice one ash, such amazing material from someone who's been doing it for next to no time at all, your unstopable mate! (oh, and cheers 4 the mention - your too kind!)
From: Tina Martin on 4th Sep 2006 22:29.51
Wikkid interview! Love ur work hun..
From: BakLash on 5th Sep 2006 15:20.35
Top Banana,well done mate,u deserve the plaudits,uve worked hard (and played hard..) to get there,keep up the good work geez,its all out there for ya..(good to see u and Marcel weekend),see u again soon
From: Ashley James on 9th Sep 2006 15:53.37
Thanks for your comments everybody.