The Lockdown Lowdown with James Burton
James Burton has kicked off 2021 in emphatic style with his ‘Need U So Bad EP’ on W&O Street Tracks, receiving heavy radio support from BBC Radio 1’s Danny Howard, Annie Mac and Kiss FM’s Charlie Tee as well as support from DJ Harvey, Eli Brown, Jansons, Spektre and Walker & Royce.
We sat down with James to discuss how he has coped as an artist during the pandemic and to find out more about the man behind the music.
Congrats on the EP – how did the release come about?
Street Tracks is a label I’ve admired for a long time. The releases are always solid and something a little different from your standard tech house music. I admire their confidence to put out a record that doesn’t conform to what’s perceived as “current”. I asked Richy Ahmed for an email for the Waze & Odyssey boys and even better than that Dicky sent an introduction email to Firaz with me copied in explaining I had some cool tracks for him! Firaz replied pretty much straight away saying he loved the tracks! To be honest the first set of tracks I sent over were not the ones which ended up on the EP, it was actually a while before the EP was signed. They first took a single track ‘5 to 10’ for a VA from a second set of tracks I sent and eventually after requesting more tracks some time later the EP was confirmed.
What was the inspiration/creative process for each track on the EP?
‘Need U So Bad’ – I remember at the time I was starting tracks with the vocals. I would find a vocal I liked and build the track from there, when I first found the vocal for ‘Need U So Bad’ it reminded me so much of a Skream track from a couple years before, I remember re-listening to that track a number of times to gain some more inspiration and taking it from there.
‘Expression’ – Expression was a really fun track to make, inspired by listening to a lot of bouncy energetic tracks I love from the likes of artists such as ‘2000 and one’. With this track the toneful bouncy bassline and basic percussion came first, then it was a case of layering it with energetic catchy synthy call and response elements. The track also contains two different vocal samples, the female ‘expression’ vocal was the first one I used but I felt on its own the track was lacking an element, the hip hop ‘no snowmobiles, no skis’ vocal was probably the last element that went into the track. To be honest I was just messing around with it at first and wasn’t actually planning on using it but it was one of them once I’d put it in and cut it, I was like ‘Wow….this might just work you know’. I just felt like it was adding so much energy carrying the track through that I couldn’t not use it!
‘Here’s What You Are’ – Another track built from the vocal upwards. I’d heard this really catchy vocal and there was this certain bit that caught my attention. After playing around with it, cutting and warping it, I came to an arrangement I felt had some potential and then started building the rest of the elements of the track from there. Musically out of the three tracks on the EP this was the one I’m most pleased with, its not trying too hard but just seems to flow effortlessly, progressing in energy and almost telling its own story as it goes. At the time I felt this track was a massive stride forward in my musical progression in my track writing, a coming of age if you like.
How have you managed to stay productive from a creative aspect, throughout the pandemic?
This is a hard one as I think the lack of access to clubs and dance floors hinders creativity. I often used to find it was the sounds and feelings from the club on a weekend was giving me ideas and inspiration for writing tracks in the studio throughout the week. I’ve been listening to a lot of music throughout the pandemic, taking regular long walks or bike rides with my headphones on and just listening to a lot of different kinds of music, from mixes by DJ’s I would never normally listen to, as well as just listening to all different genres and styles whilst taking in the great outdoors. Whether it be just mooching around the town taking in the urban landscape or out in the great British countryside, inspiration can be found in many different forms. In a way this lack of a club environment has shifted focus from just wanting to make club bangers to diversing my style into a much broader spectrum and incorporating different ideas into my tracks, it could be a blessing in disguise!
Any tips for producers struggling to find inspiration out there at the moment?
Don’t worry, it will come. I find worry or putting unnecessary pressure on yourself can be the biggest inspiration killer. If it’s not happening for you that day, that week then take a step back, go do something different. Listen to other peoples music, listen to different types of music, take long walks with the headphones on and trust the process, know the inspiration will find you.
You’ve got to pick six people to party with at an after party, dead or alive – who are they?
Amy Winehouse, Noel Gallagher, Liam Gallagher (just to watch him wind Noel up), Gazza, Tyson Fury and someone proper proper funny, maybe Eddie Murphy
Most memorable party as a raver and most memorable party as a DJ?
As a raver it’s actually hard to choose because most of the best raves I’ve been to I can’t really remember much about them! However one does spring to mind, the Resistance Closing at Privilege Ibiza 2017. It was crazy, it felt like 10,000 people were going to war! The atmosphere and the energy in the main room was incredible. I remember a few times lifting my head up and looking around me and taking in just what was going on. I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously losing their shit to music in one room like that before. The closing set was a B2B2B with Dubfire, Nicole Moudaber and Paco Ossuna. Incredible night.
DJ wise I love playing in my hometown Darlington at the club where i first started, Inside Out. Sadly it has closed now and I’m not sure it will ever open again which is quite sad for me but I have some incredible memories of playing there over the years. A couple times to a sell out crowd of around 1000 ravers packed into a small old school club room supporting the likes of Solardo & Richy Ahmed.
We know you have a big year planned but who are your tips for 2021?
There’s a few names to watch this year for sure, there’s some incredible talent coming out of Scotland at the minute, two that have really grabbed my attention that I’m certain are going to be huge this year are T E S T P R E S S and Ewan McVicar, both have a unique ravey house style packed full of so energy and soul, almost old school with their own proper Scottish ‘HereWeFuckingGo’ imprint in their sound!
My good mate Ben Hemsley is another one, Ben had a pretty big 2020 to be fair but I think this is the year he really kicks it on to another level. I’ve known Ben for a number of years now and have loved his tunes from day dot, I always told him his time would come and his talent was going to make him one of the biggest names in the game and I firmly believe he’s well on track to accomplishing this. Also a big shout to Eldon and the Mandalo boys, both absolutely smashing the tunes out in the studio at the minute and this year will be an important breakthrough year for both.
Can you share any exclusive bits of news in your 2021 plans?
2021 plans are bit up in the air at the minute with the ongoing situation so it’s hard to talk about concrete plans just yet, i’ll just say there’s plenty more music due for release on some big labels, even more waiting in the wings unsigned and in the meantime I’m just gonna keep on writing tracks with the same passion and endeavour to keep the troops dancing thru the year!
Thanks for taking the time out to speak with us James and let’s hope 2021 brings us all more joy than 2020 right!?
James Burton ‘Need U So Bad EP’ out now on W&O Street Tracks, available to buy or stream here >>> https://fanlink.to/need-u-so-bad