Dallas Observer Mixtape with James Kelley: Xhei, Bas Mooy & More
The aura of Berlin club music surrounds James Kelley.
James Kelley is a true techno journeyman. Kelley is based in Dallas, but has taken advantage of the mobility and flexibility that comes from being a solo electronic artist to travel and play all over the country, as well as some gigs on the other side of the pond. As a DJ and as a producer he leans heavily on the prolific side. His take on techno exists comfortably in the darkest shadows of Berlin club music, a soundtrack of robots making robots in a robot factory.
How did you get started DJing? How long have you been DJ’ing?
I started going to events pretty regularly in the late '90s. Sometimes three to four-plus times a week. I would always find myself in or near the DJ booth studying what was going on. I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I loved dancing (and I still do), but I was always more fascinated with how the music was actually being mixed. So, I watched and learned quite a bit before I ever touched a set of decks.
When did you make the jump to DJing yourself?
I bought some gear in the spring of '99: a pair of Numark Pro TT-1s (which I very quickly traded for some Technics 1200s) and a Pioneer DJM500. I used to go to several record stores in the area pretty regularly. I would spend hours inside of Core, Bill’s and Forever Young digging for tunes, and then spend all of my free time at home teaching myself how to mix. At the time, I worked at a place where a large percentage of the people went to underground events. We had some pretty serious house parties back then with hundreds of people attending. I would load up all of my records and gear to DJ these parties.
Where did you go from there?
After a while, I started hosting them in random venues around the Arlington area as well. I had my first weekly residency at Ecco Lounge on Lower Greenville in 2003, and then moved it to Club One in 2004 where my crew and I were Thursday night residents for almost two years. I took a bit of a hiatus for a couple years until 2008 when I started playing regularly again. Most recently I hosted several techno events under my project SOURCE 20/20 ... Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to play in quite a few places. Regularly in NYC, also Vancouver BC, Denver, Washington DC, Shreveport, Austin and Berlin. It’s been a wild ride…
How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
I recorded this mix in my home studio with Traktor, an Allen & Heath Xone:K2 and an Allen & Heath Xone:92 mixer. I wouldn’t really say there’s a particular theme for the mix. I recently had the opportunity to make my European debut playing in Berlin, Germany, at M-Bia Club. During my time in the city, I was also able to attend a few other events at some of the infamous nightclubs there, including Berghain, Tresor and Sysiphos. The energy on the dance floors and caliber of music played was very inspiring to say the least. I’m still vibing off of the experience, and I think this mix is a direct reflection of that.
What is your relationship with techno?
I guess you could say that I eat, sleep and shit techno. When I have my headphones on, or my earbuds in, it’s most likely techno that’s playing. I think about it for a large percentage of the day, and I’m always digging for tunes or listening to mixes.
Which do you prefer between DJing or producing?
Both equal to me. It just depends on my mood I suppose. I like the raw energy and interaction with the crowd while DJing, and the solitude and self expression that I feel when it comes to producing. They’re polar opposites to me. I like my highs high and my lows low.
Your music tends to lean on the dark side of techno. Is there something that draws you to that side of techno?
Yes it does. Although it’s not quite as dark as it was a few years ago. There’s nothing in particular that draws me to the darker side of techno really. I like all different styles, but when I’m playing or writing it, I really just relate to the darker sounds better. It’s been that way for at least the last 10 years or so.
How many releases do you have out?
I currently have three EPs — which were No. 7, 17 and 49 on Beatport’s Top Minimal 100 for several weeks — a single and 4 remixes out.
Out of your catalogue of tracks, do you have a particular favorite?
As far as remixes, I would say my “Against the Clock” remix of Jay Zoney’s “Limitless” on Vancouver-based Subspec Music, or the remix I did for Kansas City-based Uun’s “Chaos Element.” Out of my original tunes, ”Getaway Car” was a pretty fun tune to make.
Did you play music before you started DJing?
I was into music at a very young age, but no, I’ve never played another instrument.
What gigs do you have in the near future?
I’ll be playing at Sandaga 813 on New Year's Eve at the Panther City Productions party, and then at the Techno Punx series at Red Light on January 9th. Other than that, I’ll be doing a guest mix for Type III Podcast out of the Bay Area soon, and a few others shortly afterwards to be announced.
1. Submerged, Ricardo Garduno - Limited Options(Mr Jones remix)
2. Xtnd - State of Equation
3. Endlec - Force of Future
4. 88UW - Through
5. Material Object, Luis Flores, Impact Unit - Tenshin
6. Stevie Wilson- Follow Me(Xhei Mix)
7. Mas Teeveh - State ov Dream
8. Niereich - Ventricular
9. Ryuji Takeuchi - 10.2
10. Octave - E1V(Bas Mooy Remix)
11. Inland - Wayfinder
12. Vegim, Fiekitza - No music
13. Reacted - Interplanetar Phonecall(Extra Dry Version)
14. Felix Lorusso - Wcyjsu(Flug Mix)
15. Ninna V - Restless
16. Bodies in Pawn - Nul(Luis Flores Version)
17. Morgan Tomas - Unlock
18. Octave - Rawm
19. Ryuji Takeucji - Wa
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