It’s fitting that our most house-inspired mix to date arrives via Chris James, the Birmingham deep house mastermind whose catalogue includes releases on Off Recordings, Get Physical, ALiVE, and Auidojack’s Gruuv— imprints notorious for curating innovative, high quality club tunes. A veteran producer and DJ, Chris’ house expertise is evident not only behind the decks, but also in the support his productions have garnered from dance heavyweights such as Claude VonStroke, Maya Jane Coles, Annie Mac, Seth Troxler, and Round Table Knights.
In addition to producing, touring, and running two labels— fresh talent hub DubNoir Music and the deep house reserve Runnin Wild— Chris teamed up with the red hot Eats Everything in 2011 to form Coat Of Arms, the duo’s acclaimed “bumpin’ house” side project. With a stacked release schedule and a new label launch brewing on the horizon, Chris’ ambition is fueled by a relentless passion for his craft and scene. As massive fans of both his creative output and outlook, it’s a privilege to host his contribution to our mix series. You can stream and download his house mix below, and follow the jump to check out our conversation with the man himself. Enjoy the mix, and be sure to follow the talented Chris James on Facebook for more.
Hey, Chris, thanks for such an excellent mix. Sixty minutes of irresistibly smooth tunes. Did you assemble the set with a particular vision in mind?
Thanks, glad you like it. No, not really, I don’t usually plan my sets at all. I believe that’s part of the fun about doing mixes and playing out— not having a set tracklist time after time. I think that would bore me. Might as well have a robot playing if that’s the case. It’s just a selection of tunes I’m really digging at the moment including a few of my own.
No shortage of UK talent in your tracklist. We’re quite envious of your home country’s scene. Have you experienced firsthand any cities or regions that rival the UK as a dance hub?
Erm, I’ve played in Zurich, Munich, Paris, Luzern and many other European places, but the city/party I recall having it the most was in Bern at Club Bonsoir. They really appreciate great music and are really receptive. The hosts, Round Table Knights, are really respected in their hometown, unlike some local cities in the UK!
You initially produced trance music as a teenager. How were you converted to house music?
Mainly through a lack of nights that were on in the UK, trance wise. I was also very young and into 140 bpm stuff. I’ve matured a lot since then and my sound has as well. I’m down to 117 bpm these days!
As a producer and DJ, you have a penchant for covering all ends of the house spectrum in a fluid, seamless manner. We admire the scope of your sound. How do you think house music has evolved since you began producing?
Wow, thanks for the kind words. It’s always evolving. When I first got into making house, it was the so-called “fidget & electro” phase that brought out all kinds of bedroom producers making horrible noise (even I made a few I’m not proud of). But everyone has to start somewhere. I feel it’s taken me longer though to build a name again for myself, so you do need to be careful with what you associate your name with. Now we’re in the deep house phase, where every track has an analogue bass line and R&B vocal. I’m sure it’ll move onto something else soon…
Congrats on releasing All For Her. The record cultivates plenty of delectable grooves amidst a moody, suggestive atmosphere. It’s very affecting. Is producing an emotional release for you?
Yes, I find it stressful haha. The thing I’m realizing now is that I want to please just myself, and make stuff I REALLY want to be released. Before I was caught in a little trap, trying to make things specifically for labels. You’re not bringing anything new or fresh to the table doing that. Also, I’m really pleased that a label like Audiojack’s Gruuv picked up All For Her because it’s so different. A lot of labels don’t gamble enough in my eyes to sign different stuff.
We love what you’ve created with DubNoir, and frankly believe the label is criminally underrated. You’ve maintained an impressively consistent output without sacrificing quality. How do you go about discovering fresh talent?
To be honest, a lot of it was when I first started the label. I was receiving so many tracks from literally all over the world— and the same has been the case for me and Bubba’s new side label, Runnin Wild (it’s for the deeper heads). I would say I’m more of an A&R guy for Runnin Wild, but with DubNoir, it was just about getting different, quirky records into the market, and a bit of exposure for new talent to go onto bigger and better labels. I’m thinking about doing a new label next year, but 100 times better as I’ve learnt a lot the last 3 years with DubNoir.
Has your perception of the music industry changed since starting your own label?
Yes, I was all naive and innocent before I came into this industry. Some things have certainly opened my eyes…
What are your favorite DubNoir releases?
It’s going okay. It’s just me doing the project on a solo basis now, so there won’t be loads of output, but still the odd EP release and remix here and there. Unfortunately, Dan can’t commit to studio time with his busy schedule, so it’s a shame, but life goes on.
Awesome to see Dan gain some recognition in the US these past couple of years. We have a feeling you’re next. Any chance we’ll see you stateside sometime soon? Perhaps at a Dirtybird event?
Ha, I think Barclay would need to sign one or two of my records first for that to ever happen. Would be a dream— as it’s no secret I adore Dirtybird and their crew— but like I said earlier, I’m not going to sit down and try to write a record specifically for DB. If it comes, it comes :)
What’s the best part of your job?
Being my own boss, doing what I love, people liking and enjoying my music and sets.
Thanks again for your time and energy, Chris. It’s a privilege to feature your mix. What can our readers expect from you over the next few months?’
No problem. I have a track out on Get Physical called “My Love” on the Full Body Workout 10 compilation (Nov 16). A remix of Audiofly also out on Get Physical, a new Coat Of Arms remix on Gruuv, and loads of new original tracks under Chris James, COA, and Purple Velvet :)
1. Kornel Kovacs - Down Since 92 (Studio Barnus)
2. James Fox - Close Your Eyes
3. Leftwing & Kody - I Need U (Alive)
4. Jimpster - Can’t Stop Loving (Freerange)
5. Jack Dixon - Spin Drive (Leftroom)
6. Bicep - Vision of Love (Bicep)
7. Joyce Muniz - Drop In Pressure (2020 Vision)
8. Chris James - Break Ups No Make Ups (Gruuv)
9. A1 Bassline - Buoyancy (Dirtybird)
10. Tom Flynn - Be Yourself (Dirtybird)
11. Chris James - And I Fought (Gruuv)
12. Last Magpie - Who Knows Where Love Goes (Hypercolour)