This week we’ve got a very special guest on the books for you. Blaise James is a name familiar to a lot of you in the industry for his incredible work with a very notable music brand. What you may or may not know is that he’s also a fantastic DJ and a lover of all things house and techno! A few weeks ago a mutual friend shared his mixtape, and needless to say it was hard to pass up on putting this mix out on his behalf.
MR PUZL: Hey Blaise, thanks for joining our mix series this week. You’ve sent us over something quite special. Tell our audience what you’ve got in store for them.
Blaise James: Thank you… I love making mixes like this because I see each one like a puzzle, and it’s fun and challenging to see how they work together. With this one I just thought about setting a nice warm tone in the room early on in the night. You can keep your hands down for this one because it’s about the groove and not “the drop” 😉
MP: As a DJ you’ve performed at some of the most prominent events and festivals in the world. In the past you’ve mentioned that your ideal setting to spin is in a small, intimate space. Why is that?
BJ: Number one, it’s always going to be a more intimate vibe and it’s easier to connect with the audience as humans, which is the most rewarding part of DJing. You can play things that are really interesting or challenging and not worry so much about having to “fill the room” with big sounds or long buildups / drops. There is also less concern about “filling the room” in the sense of bodies, so you know you’re going to get the “right” people who really want to be there and aren’t just there because of some drink special or promotion. Quality over quantity all day. I’d rather play to 10 people and make a real connection with them than play *at* 1,000 people who I can’t make eye contact with.
MP: As you continue to develop your career as DJ do you also have plans to produce your own music?
BJ: I do – right now I’m traveling Europe spending time in a few different places to soak up the scenes and decide where I want to settle down. So I’m not being overly hard on myself right now in terms of working, but once I settle down in one place, I will definitely be getting myself a few toys to mess around with. I’ve been DJing now for almost 10 years so the production side will have a long way to catch up, but I have some very inspiring people in my life to learn from.
MP: On your profile it says you currently live in Barcelona. What was the impetus for moving to Europe?
BJ: I’ve been splitting time between London and Barcelona with a little bit of Berlin and Ibiza in there until I finally decide where I want to settle down more permanently. I just felt more of a resonance with the musical landscape here, and with peoples’ outlook on life and the world in general.
MP: Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta to now having traversed the world multiple times over. What have been some important personal takeaways to your view of the world with relation to music?
BJ: Music is one facet of the culture of a given place or group of people, right? When you think about it that way, it’s easier to see the link between certain sounds and parts of the world. In America, capitalism is the dominant worldview – everyone wants big houses, big butts, lots of cars, fancy sneakers, all that, and it’s all about instant gratification. And you see that reflected in the music – you have more of the big and brash or kind of stuff. In Europe, people are a bit more subtle with their tastes and modest with their money – nobody is wearing fancy sneakers at the club and even expensive homes are relatively small and economical. So you see that reflected in the music too – it’s more minimal, subdued, and refined. I think that’s why Europeans can listen to a kick drum for 8 minutes and go nuts when a horn comes in, whereas Americans might need to be stimulated a little more. Then Australia is somewhere in between – they’re just the happiest most upbeat people and want to have a good time above all else, so you see that reflected in their music too – it’s not about house or hip hop, it’s just about what’s fun in the moment.
MP: You’ve been involved in the music industry for a quite awhile. From the technical and software side to business and management roles there are obvious nuances between those fields. What do you think are some underlying trends and positive aspects that are driving the industry forward?
BJ: I think the expanding role of the curator is one of the most important positive aspects pushing the industry forward right now. They’ve always been around – the record store clerk, your friend’s older brother, the radio DJ, whatever, but now there are more and more ways for them to express themselves, be it digital radio like Beats1, Soundcloud or YouTube, music press, Twitter, whatever, and it’s easier than ever to keep up with them. There are people out there who are just treasure troves of great music, and they are helping spread that music to more people, creating opportunities for those artists, and feeding people like me who always need to be discovering new stuff. I think it’s important that big corporations like Spotify use their growing reach and influence to spotlight true curators and worthy musicians and not just plug in whatever new release that Major Label X is pushing that week because they had a lunch meeting about it. There’s way too much amazing music out there!
MP: You’ve said that Girl Talk and DJ AM were some important influences in helping to usher in a new era of dance music. Who do you think are some acts that are pushing the boundaries forward now. What are some styles of music that you think will be making waves in the coming years?
BJ: People like AM were so special because they bridged together what were previously disparate musical scenes and created something new with it. I think those 2 were responsible for getting a lot of people into electro who previously only listened to hip hop or rock, by pairing those 2 familiar flavors with something new, they had people listening to electro who didn’t even know they were. To draw one comparison, I think Black Coffee is someone who really stands out today. Here is a guy who has worked his ass off coming from an underprivileged area in South Africa and is showing people that house music isn’t only for the social elite classes in posh nightclubs. Going back to one of my earlier answers, music is a reflection of the overall culture and attitude of people in a community – and right now, given the sociopolitical times in America and the world, you are starting to see more of a divide than ever between the “little guy” and the so-called 1%. It feels like the 90s again because everyone has that “fuck the system” attitude – from hip-hop to house to techno and everything in between. Being rich and elite isn’t cool anymore. So now you have Drake fans listening to house music and don’t even know that they are – and not bottle-service house music, but real organic blood-sweat-and-tears house music. That’s what AM and Girl Talk were doing in 2007 – using familiar musical flavors paired with something new to almost trick you into expanding your horizons.
MP: For those finding their feet in our constantly evolving industry, and those who are simply looking for new creative avenues, what pearls of wisdom can you impart on them?
BJ: Make your own thing. Create your own world. Express yourself. It’s our primary desire as souls. Only when you truly express yourself will you make real genuine connections to others, and only by doing that can you leave any positive impression on the universe. Plus, nobody is going to just put you on because you ask them. And if they do, trust me it likely won’t last long and certainly won’t fulfill you. People want to see you’ve got a little initiative yourself and you aren’t scared to live in your own reality. Then you’ll attract who you want to attract, and you can build real bonds with those people. Those are your people. Fuck the hype.
MP: You never know when you’ll need a piece of equipment for a show, recording or just a chance encounter. Do you still keep an aux chord on you?
BJ: I keep a whole cable organizer filled with all types of cables in my backpack at all times. It was a Christmas gift from my mom last year and I think it cost around $15 but it still brings me joy every day because I’m embarrassingly organized and I get pleasure out of things like that. And one time I got a job out of it 😉
MP: I heard u have a killer smoothie program. Do you have any advice for our readers who want to get into blending?
BJ: I will GET. YOU. RIPPED. BRO. Just kidding but if you want to feel great all day, try this in the morning:
> 1 organic banana
> 1 organic avocado
> 4-5 ice cubes
> 1-2 scoops vegan protein (make sure it has a complete amino acid profile or you’re wasting your money – I recommend Garden of Life or Vega)
> fill blender to near-max with cold-brew coffee (see below)
> 1 tbsp raw organic almond butter
> fill to max with splash of unsweetened organic coconut milk (Kalifa brand toasted coconut flavor really sets it off)
Shake then blend. You’re welcome.
*Making cold-brew coffee at home is as easy as soaking some ground coffee beans in room-temperature water in your refrigerator overnight for 12-24 hours, ideally in a French press which cost like $10 on Amazon Prime. It’s important to use cold-brew coffee as opposed to regular coffee for 2 reasons – 1, by making regular coffee you are heating up the beans and therefore making them more acidic, which is bad for your body, and 2, cooling that coffee down again by pouring it over ice is going to make it taste bitter. So, cold-brew your beans overnight for better taste and better health!
MP: Where can we find you playing your next show?
BJ: Since this is the LA Music Project, I’ll be back in LA November 12-20 and will probably try to get at least 1 gig in that week, so follow me on Soundcloud or Twitter or Instagram if you are interested. Then I’ll be off to Japan for a few shows with Chris Lake and then Australia and Fiji for my favorite festival, Your Paradise.
1. Mennie Haus (Exploited Ghetto)
2. Oli Furness Wanna Lie Down (Original Mix)
3. Christian Nielsen Loading
4. Darius Syrossian Stay Up Dancing, Get In Monday (Original Mix)
5. Fantaboys Pump It All (Original Mix)
6. Zappe Larry’s Exotic Blend (Original Mix)
7. Mennie Reels Rebel (Exploited Ghetto)
8. Josh Butler, Bontan Call You Back (Original Mix)
9. Hector Couto Ruffneck Business (Original Mix)
10. Luna City Express Victims of the Funk (Dario D’Attis Dubby Dub)
11. Josh Newsham, Doorly Trip To Medina (Original Mix)
12. Max Chapman, George Smeddles Charger (Original Mix)
13. Christian Nielsen Another Day
14. Pasquale Caracciolo El Ritmo (Original Mix)
15. Bassel Darwish Born To Be (Original Mix)
16. Rick Sanders Lawless (Original Mix)
17. Chris Minus The End ft. Mr. V
18. Steve Lawler, Darius Syrossian Future Pain (Original Mix)
Check out more music selections by Blaise James below: