Name – Kuya James
Music Producer, bass player, and DJ
Tell us a little bit about your various roles in this industry? Where are you most often found spinning records?
I am a bass player, music producer and DJ. I am most often found spinning these days at specific events or parties I throw in my hometown of Darwin although I’m currently in Brisbane about to play a big Asian Hip Hop carpark party called “SOUTHSIDE BY NIGHT”. Big vibes like Fast and the Furious – Tokyo Drift haha.
Do you mostly play vinyl and do you remember the first time you wanted to be a DJ?
I mostly use Traktor these days although I started on vinyl. The thing that most made me want to become a DJ was reading an article with Chad Hugo from the iconic production duo “The Neptunes”. He said that all music producers should also learn to DJ, to really understand and connect with what makes an audience engage with the music.
Do you have a favourite Pinoy artist, and what record of theirs would you recommend to someone who’s never heard them?
My favourite Pinoy artist at the moment is KZ Tandingan. I would encourage people to watch her sing on YouTube as some of the recordings are very ballad focused but she is actually an incredible soul / RnB singer and is a phenomenal live performer too.
Where is your favourite place to dig for records when you’re in Adelaide for Oz Asia?
Used to be Big Star, but now I usually find records through gumtree. In Darwin we have an incredible record store name “AIR RAID RECORDS”. I think it’s possibly my favourite record store in the country at the moment. The owner is so passionate about vinyl and really encourages local artists to think about pressing their music.
Do you remember the first record that started your own collection?
Was it bought, gifted or handed down?
I’m gonna be real honest here – Neil Diamon – Jonathon Livingstone Seagull. It was my mum’s record and I used to play it all the time. It just fascinated me this black plastic thing could make sound using a needle and speakers.
Do you have a favourite Australian record of all time?
This changes a lot, but thinking back to the late 90s when I started to watch live music i’d have to say REGURGITATOR’S “UNIT” or….THE AVALANCHES “SINCE I LEFT YOU”. Growing up in the NT, Yothu Yindi’s Tribal Voice was also a huge part of my coming of age music time.
Tell us about the most valuable or rarest (monetary or sentimental) record or merchandise in your collection. Why is it so important to you?
I have a bunch of The Meters records that are really important to me but I think my most valuable album is a limited edition Japanese pressing of Bill Laswell’s “Dreams Of Freedom (Ambient translations of Bob Marley in dub)
As a part time cook, what is your favourite record to listen to in the kitchen?
I’m a fan of a journey when I cook so probably D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah” or The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper”
What are some of your favourite moments working as a producer on a record?
Hearing the demos from the artist for the first time and dreaming ideas without holding anything back…like spray painting a back wall with all your favourite colours just randomly… then spending some time trying those ideas out and hearing the magic when things work.
Best thing about collecting vinyl or recorded music?
I think the feeling you get seeing it on your shelves is pretty magical, the memories that are attached to certain records and the way that there’s still such a ritual about putting a record on is special.
Favourite Australian DJ to hit the D-Floor to or for?
For many years it was the incredible DJ DEXTER, and still is, but as I started and still curate Darwin Festival’s “CLUB AWI” I get to see so many great sets, 2 highlihgts from 2021 were DAMEEEELA and DJ CHARLIE VILLAS
What’s next for Kuya James?
I’ve just finished recording and producing Emily Wurramara’s new album and I can’t wait for people to hear it, it’s very different to what she’s done before and she’s one of the most inspiring artists to be with in the studio as she’s a killer songwriter and musician too. The next project I have on the cards is a new theatre show i’ve been developing called “HYMNS FOR THE WITCHING HOUR”. It will premiere in Darwin in May
To keep up with Kuya James follow him on Instagram + check out HYMNS FOR THE WITCHING HOUR