In his first season in Ibiza James Campbell picked up residencies at the infamous Ibiza Rocks Bar, Hush and Pukka Up boat parties and landed regular gigs in Sankey’s for the tech-house label Craft Underground, whilst back home in Scotland he’s played for some of the country’s biggest brands. Having shared the DJ stage with the likes of Hot Since 82, Annie Mac, Pete Tong and Duke Dumont amongst others, and having tracks signed to the infamous Elrow event label, we sat down with James to discuss all things Ibiza, his early DJ gigs, his productions and his plans going forward.
Hi James, how’s tricks?
Really good thanks! Currently holed up in the studio finishing up a bunch of tracks in prep for summer.
Good stuff. Tell the readers of Uneek Ibiza about you and your style as a DJ.
I love playing melodic and emotional sounding tracks. I aim to give the people on the dancefloor a good time regardless of if it’s a warm up or headline set. My style will differ from deep house and electronica to peak time tech house tracks depending on the event. I always try and include my own productions in my set as well if the mood is right. I started out playing more commercial gigs, focusing on Hip-Hop/R&B and commercial dance music playing for student nights (which I still do now) and progressed into playing events that tied in with the style of music I was producing. I guess I’m a multi-genre DJ? I’m the furthest from a snob, I just love playing music.
The way it should it! Tell us about how you first started DJing and your early gigs.
I was a promoter for student nights about 7 years ago, and I always had an interest in wanting to learn to DJ. I used to be in the club watching the resident DJs play, and I kept saying ‘That’s what I want to do.’ So I set out to learn, and taught myself everything I know. I remember I used to ask other local DJ’s for help and advice but not many people were keen to help at all. It was so disheartening, but looking back now I think they were only trying to protect themselves from losing gigs down the line plus it was much more rewarding learning everything on my own. There was one local DJ who’d been in the game for a long time, gave me a brand new set of Sennheiser’s and offered me a ton of advice which I’m forever thankful for, so thank you Will Massie!
My first few gigs were in the famous JP’s Bar in Aberdeen. I really owe JP a lot for letting me play there even though I was terrible. But he had faith in me and even 6 years later I still play for him in the club he runs now. My next few opportunities were playing in the back room for the club night I was promoting, covering the Hip-Hop/R&B DJ. That sort of music was all I grew up listening to, so I was in my comfort zone. Eventually I got to cover the main room DJ, where my love for dance music started to really develop. I wasn’t that great at DJing and I didn’t have enough money to buy any equipment to practise at home so I had to go into the club during the day and use their decks, and luckily I picked it up pretty quickly. Word eventually spread and I networked as hard as I could to pick up more gigs, and it kind of just grew from there!
Hard work certainly pays off. You’ve had good success in Scotland, DJing at the likes of Underground, Let It Bleed, Milk, Vanity and more, do you like to play differing styles at each of these gigs?
Yeah each of these brands and clubs are different in their own right. Let It Bleed are extremely successful promoters in Scotland and they gave me opportunities which I’m forever grateful for. Thanks to them, I’ve warmed up for Pete Tong, Annie Mac, Duke Dumont, Hot Since 82, Hannah Wants, Breach, Skream, Oliver Dollar and loads more. Those gigs were where I really got to dig deep and play the electronic music I love and produce but don’t often get to play at the other residencies I have. All of the other nights I play at are student nights along the more commercial side of music (Hip-Hop, Commercial House etc). I’ve played all across Scotland thanks to these guys to thousands of clubbers per week and that’s something I truly value. The experience I’ve gained from these residencies has helped me progress to the position I’m in now, and those gigs are always a crazy, sweaty packed out party which I love!
They’re the best kind of gigs! In Ibiza you’ve had some cool gigs too, most notably at the likes of Ibiza Rocks Bar, Pukka Up boat parties and at Sankeys, can you tell us about these?
I did my first season in Ibiza in 2015. I had a great job in the alcohol industry and I knew I really wanted to take my music the whole way. So I had to put music first and quit my job, and flew out to Ibiza to chase the dream. I picked up a trial shift at Ibiza Rocks bar early on, and landed a residency with them playing a few times a week. It was always a great buzz and eventually led to me getting some sweet gigs in the iconic Ibiza Rocks Hotel too. My good friends were DJs for Pukka Up and I went on a few of the boat parties to watch them play, where I managed to pick up some warm up slots for them. Eventually I was playing on the boats every week and it was just insane fun! I will be working a lot more with Ibiza Rocks and Pukka Up in 2016 so I’m excited about this. With Sankeys, I was booked to play by the boys at CRAFT Underground in the Spektrum room a few times over the summer. Eventually this led to me taking on the role of Label Manager with the guys and I’m going to be throwing some great parties in Ibiza this summer with the label. One of my favourite residencies I managed to secure was in the famous Hush nightclub in San Antonio. It’s got such a great reputation for good music and I was so happy to be added to the team. I played there several nights a week and the vibe was always spectacular. I really appreciate getting that opportunity from Dan Van and Jason, so thanks guys.
Sounds great. Take us back to your first trip to Ibiza, what was it like?
I went with a few DJ friends of mine and we did one of those package holidays through Ibiza Rocks. I was so naive to the whole Ibiza culture and didn’t really get to experience as much as I could have. It was still great fun, and went to most of the super clubs on the island which was just mind blowing!
What is it you love about the island?
It sounds super cheesy, but it just has a really nice vibe in the air everywhere you go. There is an abundance of parties on the go, all the time and if you combine that with the amazing weather and the countless beautiful spots around the island it really is unlike anywhere else! For me it’s the land of opportunity. I went out on my first season knowing absolutely nobody, and managed to pick up several residencies with massive brands, and play countless incredible parties all because of networking and putting myself out there. So what I really love about the island is just how much of an impact it’s had on my life so far.
That’s great to hear. When not DJing, what nights/DJs on the island do you love to check out?
I have spent a lot of time at Together in Amnesia in the Defected Terrace, Paradise in DC10, Enter in Space, but most of all my favourite party in the whole damn world, ELROW in Space. I swear down there is no better party on the planet than an Elrow party.
Elrow is absolutely insane isn’t it! What’s been your highlight gig to date on the white isle?
I played a headline set b2b with MODAA (Best Ibiza Newcomer 2015) at the famous San Antonio Beach Party near the end of the season. It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever played to and the vibe was just fantastic. I think there was around 5000 people there and I played one of my own tracks which was such a great feeling to play. I felt like I was in a dream, honestly. I owe MODAA a huge thanks for bringing me on to play with him. I had played the earlier set when it was just beginning to fill up, and he insisted I join him for a 45 min b2b session and it was incredible!
Sounds like a great party! As a producer you’ve had tracks featured on BBC Radio 1’s Introducing show several times. You must be proud of this as you’ve only been producing a few years?
I’m incredibly proud of every little bit of success I’ve had and when I got to hear my tracks played on BBC Radio 1 I was buzzing! It gave me the confidence that I was producing good music which just spurred me on to keep working at it. I urge everybody to send their stuff in as it can open doors for you in more ways than one if you get featured on the show. Big up Ally Macrae for supporting me each time and doing my interview too. He’s a gent.
Good advice James! Talk us through how you approach a track to produce or remix, what’s your style in the studio, and what equipment are you using?
When it comes to making original tracks I sometimes begin with an idea I have or if I’m going in blind I tend to just fiddle around with various synthesisers until I find a sound I like then design the track around that melody or chord progression. It’s different each time. Sometimes I find a cool bass sound and begin making a riff with that, then the rest just falls into place. I don’t have a set way of making a track, I just let the creative juices flow!
With a remix it’s different. I already have several parts of a track that I can play around with and develop a sort of theme of how the remix is going to pan out. Then I just build the track around the parts I’ve decided to use. It’s a lot of fun taking someone else’s work and putting your own spin on it.
I’m using Bitwig Studio, a bunch of VST plugins, KRK VXT 6’s and a midi keyboard.
What’s been the best track you’ve produced to date do you feel?
I have just finished up a new one called Faith, and that’s by far the best thing I’ve put together so far. Every time I finish a new track I feel like it’s better than my previous work, and that can only be a good thing. I posted a short clip of it on Facebook recently and the feedback has been great so I’m excited to get this one out on a record label!
Here’s the link – https://www.facebook.com/Boomsy/posts/10156524509590156
Sounding good! And you’ve made a new remix of Eric Prydz – ‘Pjanoo’, tell us about that.
I’ve actually been toying with the idea of turning it into an original track. I posted a video of the remix and the feedback was amazing but I love the original elements I’ve put in so much that I think I’d prefer to try and get it signed to a label instead as an original track. I may just keep the Pjanoo version for my sets, who knows! I’m going to decide soon. If I do put it out for free then you’ll be able to get it from my Soundcloud page.
You’ve recently signed to Elrow & Sam Divine’s label D-Vine Sounds, what kind of stuff can we expect you to be putting out on these?
The EP I signed to Elrow will be out in summer. It’s 2 tracks I’ve created with Alex Descarada, and we have a remix of one of them by Pete Dorling (Hot Creations, Viva Music). The tracks are really nice melodic tech house. I’m really excited for their release! At Christmas time just past, I had a track go out on D-Vine Sounds as a free download (due to sample clearance issues) but I’m hoping to release more music with them in the future. Sam, Jess and Kamilla are doing such a great job with the label, and I really want to work with them in 2016.
Where can we catch you between now and the summer?
I’ll be gigging mostly in Scotland until May. In between Aberdeen and Edinburgh is where you’ll find me! You can keep up to date with all my gigs on my social media pages.
And the summer, you’ll be back to Ibiza? What’s your plans/gigs looking like?
Yes I’ll be back to Ibiza mid-May. I’m aiming to turn it up a notch this year and throw quite a few of my own parties, and getting as many other upcoming DJs involved as I can. I know how hard it can be to get opportunities on the island so I want to do my best to help others. I’ll be returning to work with Ibiza Rocks, Pukka Up and putting on events with Craft Underground too. If all goes to plan I’m going to be flat out, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m excited for this year and what it holds!
Great stuff! Cheers James thanks for the interview and see you on the island!
Thanks Andrew it’s been a pleasure! See you soon.
Check out James’ social media pages here;
Lead photo Credit Luke O’Brien