Jim Pasant has a distinguished spot in the upper echelon of Dallas DJ vets, with just short of three decades in the DJ trenches. Along with being a veteran crate digger, he also has a producer credit for the infamous Starck Club documentary that will finally be available for public consumption later this year.
Although Pasant is most often affiliated with house music, like any experienced DJ, he is not one to be pegged in a corner of a singular genre. That commitment to diverse sounds is on full display on this week’s track list with the inclusion tracks from Mr. Fingers, Mary J. Blige, Mos Def and John Lennon. It even opens with a touch of big band by way of Glenn Miller. Pasant weaves together a tapestry of sound rooted in the essence of soul music rather than a specific genre.
How long have you been in the DJ game, and what drew you in?
I always wanted to be a radio DJ from a young age. I have been spinning since 1989. Started as a bedroom DJ and honed my chops for a couple years before I started playing out. I have been a record collector since I was little. When I heard house music for the first time I was in Chicago staying with my uncle over spring break in junior high. I heard the Hot Mix 5, Farley "Jackmaster" Funk, and all those Chicago house music shows on the weekends. When I heard that house music, I knew at that moment that it was the music I was waiting my whole life to hear. I caught the bug hard. I recorded those shows and brought back the tapes and listened to them until I wore them out. The first time I saw Go-Go Mike DuPriest spin at the Starck Club and watched him holding the room in the palm of his hand, I knew right then I wanted to be a club DJ. It was the path I wanted to go on and I did.
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What was the theme of the mix?
The theme of the mix is somewhat of an homage to the old-school mixtapes I made pre-DJ days. It has songs that have meaning to me. I focused on the song versus the mix. This one is about programming versus mixing. I opened the mix with Glenn Miller and that was a nod to my grandparents. My grandfather loved big band music and as a little kid I fell in love with it. Big band was the house music of the time. There’s nods to the early rave days with The Orb and The Grid. There’s a nod to those days where I was hearing house music for the first time with the Mr. Fingers, Man Parrish, and Nitro Deluxe cuts. Nitro Deluxe’s – let’s get brutal was the first house music song I heard on the radio. There’s some hip-hop on it as well. When I started DJing, I played the entire night. I learned to open the room at a slower BPM and them build that night’s set to cap it off with house music. I walked up to the decks cold and knocked this mix out in one take.
How did you become a producer on the Starck Club documentary?
It was through my friendship with Wade Hampton that got me involved in the project. He had a treatment that he had that he was shopping at Sundance. Michael Cain also happened to be at Sundance the same year doing the same with his treatment. A mutual friend got them together and they collaborated and the seeds of the film grew from there. The Starck Club was the very first nightclub I went to. Go-Go Mike DuPriest, Kerry Jaggers, and Rick Squillante were the main DJs at Starck. Those three inspired so many in this town to become DJs, myself included. Starck has been an often overlooked historical nightclub. Ecstasy as a club drug has it roots going back to Starck. It was legal. I wanted to be part of the film telling that story. I started as an investor. Then moved into cinematography as Wade and I shot many of the music-based interviews for the film. From there Wade and I were influential in reshaping the original treatment and moved it to a more music-based film. Wearing many hats with the film, I eventually moved into a producer role by the end of it. It’s an amazing snapshot of Dallas at that time. Starck was in the center of the Bible belt here in Dallas. It was a place that was welcoming of all. Gay, straight, bi – didn’t matter. You were welcome. You were free to be who you wanted to be. It pushed the societal norms of the '80s fabulously. To me, it is square one of the rave scene. I’m really proud of the film.
How did you end up playing Mexico so often?
I’ve been going to San Miguel de Allende for over a decade now. I have a great set of friends that live there. My first gig in San Miguel de Allende happened by chance though mutual friends four years ago next week actually. I had a series of events happened that crushed me, so I bugged out for a couple weeks down there to get my head right and pick up the pieces. That first set I played for myself. I played the songs that night that wove a story of love, loss, joy, and pain. The crowd loved it and followed me along on that night’s journey. To this day that night’s set is one of my favorites. I’m glad I recorded it. From that one gig it opened the doors for me to spin every time I am there.
How different is playing in Mexico than playing here?
There isn’t the American grind there of everything in your face. I get the freedom to open up and play what I want without any restrictions and the people love it. San Miguel de Allende is a town full of artists, expats, and somewhat of an older group who have been always been responsive to what I do each time I am there. I’ve made some really amazing friends through it all.
What has been your most memorable gig in your career?
It was opening for Derrick Carter at Red Jacket in December 2000. The place was packed. As the night went along, no Derrick. His flight was canceled that day due to snow in Chicago. I had this big room full of people that came to hear Derrick and there was no Derrick. I gave it my all and rocked the hell out of that room. Derrick could get in the next day. So the decision was made to do it again the next night and made it a free event for those that paid and for those that didn’t. The second night the room was a sardine can. You couldn’t move. I carried the spirit from the night before into my set opening for Derrick. Derrick being Derrick, he showed up and destroyed that room.
Are you still buying vinyl?
I’ve slowed down on the weekly hunt and dig for wax. Today if I pick up a record it's because it’s lost in the collection and I want to play it. It’s easier to go dig at Josey and find it for a couple bucks. I have over 10,000 records and going to pull that specific record I want to play can take hours, if not days. It’s easier to buy it again.
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What is going on with you production-wise?
Back in the '90s I had a studio where a lot of amazing Dallas house records where produced. JT Donaldson cut a couple cuts there. His remix of Chez Damier’s – Close and the Dialect – sitting in the sun were a couple that come to mind. Julius Papp recorded there for a record that was came out on Estereo. I had a very short lived record label. I put out Demarkus Lewis’ very first EP, Making It Happen In Kaotic Timez — Look at him now. I had my house broken into and I got cleaned out. All my gear walked out the door one night when I was did a party at RBC. After that I stopped making music all together. I couldn’t pick up the pieces and rebuild. Today with the accessibility and ease of all the software out there I have started making music again. I don’t need tens of thousands of dollars of outboard gear when I have a virtual instrument that can do the same thing. I use Logic, Ableton Live, Maschine, and a lot of plugins and virtual instruments. I forgot how much fun it is and I have fallen in love with it again. I am really great at laying beat structures down and when I need some keys and instrumentation I work with Adam Pickrell. He’s been a great friend and mentor. He lovingly helped push me back into it again. I am really happy to be back at it.
What residencies have you held in Dallas over the years? What were you playing at those gigs, and how has your musical palette evolved since?
The fist residency was at Video Bar. I was their last DJ before they closed. I’ve spun at damn near every club down in Deep Ellum in the '90s to the mid 2000s. The two residencies that I really enjoyed were Saturday nights at Zubar. I was the first to bring in out of town DJs there and had a real fun Saturday night. The other was Café Izmir — I spun on Tuesdays and it was half-off bottles of wine and food. The night slowly built up and at one point they had tables in the parking lot as the crowd got that big for that tiny spot. It was a chance for me to play all the all funk, soul, disco, jazz, and rock. I’d toss a pinch of house in for good measure. That’s where I really honed my chops with programming and learning how to bring the night up, peak it, then wind it down smoothly. I’ve played a lot of parties, as we called them as we hated the word rave in this town. I also threw my own events as well bringing in people like Phil Weeks, Derrick Carter, Lego, Greenskeepers, Iz and Diz, Holmar, some of the DIY guys from the UK. The evolution of my sound comes from my love of all music. I love the surprise of playing things that no one would expect at that time. I love and play funk, soul, disco, house, techno, R&B. A heavy emphasis on songs. I learned to tell a story with my mixing from my mentors before me. The thing I love about the dance music of the '70s and '80s was that those were bands all in the pocket cutting those grooves.
Is there any new music or new discoveries?
With Spotify I am constantly finding stuff that may not be the newest music but new to me. One of the songs right now that I am hot on is the The Juju Orchestra cover of "The Beginning of the End’s" by Funky Nassau. It came out in 2007. I found it last week. I actually like it better than the original. The Souljazz Orchestra’s "Kapital" is another old record that I recently found and it’s an amazing nod to Fela Kuti. On the house tip currently, Andrew Emil’s remix of DJ Skip featuring Shalamar’s "Don’t Go" is pure fire. It’s an great throwback to that soulful house of the '90s. Riton’s "Fake I.D." and Mystic Bill’s remix of Kiddy Smile’s "Teardrops in the Box" are some newer songs that come to mind.
Glenn Miller — "Moonlight Serenade"
Handsome Boy Modeling School — "The Truth"
Zero 7 — "Passing By"
John Lennon — "Watching the Wheels"
Mary J. Blige — "Mary Jane (All Night Long)"
Amp Fiddler — "Unconditional Eyes"
Thievery Corporation — "All That We Perceive"
Daft Punk — "Something About Us"
Sam Smith — "Latch (Acoustic)"
The Grid — "Flotation (Subsonic mix)"
The Orb — "Little Fluffy Clouds"
Royksopp — "Eple"
The Herbalizer — "Up 4 The Downs"
Gang Starr — "Who's Gonn Take the Weight"
Mos Def — "Casa Bey"
The Ting Tings — "Soul Killing"
Phoenix — "Lisztomani (Classixx Remix)"
SBTRKT Feat. Sampha — "Gon Stay"
Mr Fingers — "Mystery of Love"
Nitro Deluxe — "Lets Get Brutal"
Man Parrish — "Hip Hop Be Bop"
NYC Peach Boys — "Don't Make Me Wait"
Holy Ghost — "Hold On"
Home and Garden — "In and Out Feat. Chez Damier (J Tilla vs. Daz-i-Kue Remix)"