NYC-related DJs pick their top records of the 80s
DJ Times 1989
Credits David Leifer
James Duncan was born in Toronto Ont Canada and was active as a musican and DJ there for a number of years. Since arriving in NYC he has worked with some of the city’s brightest lights, in additon to releasing his own records as a producer on labels like Traxxx and his own label, Le Systeme Records.
As a musician, he has recorded and performed with Metro Area and has appeared on recordings and remixes by Environ head-honcho Morgan Geist. 2002 also saw him playing on trumpet on The Rapture’s dancefloor hit “The House of Jealous Lovers” (on DFA), adding a scronked out, Don Cherry-like trumpet solo to Geist’s made for the floor firey remix. In addition to this, he also records with NYC improvising collective IZITITIZ on the Conduit/Sound@one record label. His latest release is called “Times Like These” on Le Systeme.
1. Where do you continually get your inspiration?
Well it’s from a wide variety of sources. Most directly from records by artists that I enjoy and respect of course. I try not to limit my inspiration to things like style and sounds etc. I really try to be inspired by an artists intent. I truly believe that the spirit of a person comes through in the sound and soul of a recording. I also am inspired by those in my life directly and I really enjoy hearing them work on music or projects and seeing them work through the creative process.
2. Which artists are you currently listening to?
Well it’s a long list! That changes a lot too.. currently I’m enjoying Kai Alce, Lots of old house like the Burrell Bros, old classic house on labels like Prescription and Serious Grooves. Jazz and disco from the usual suspects and then ppl from detroit a lot. Old techno and newer house from ppl like theo parrish and KDJ and one of my fave DJs ever, Ric Wilhite.
3. Are you involved in any current collaborations?
Yes currently I play trumpet in an improvising collective here in NYC called IZITITIZ. We recently put out our second release called “Lucky Bird” on a label run by our guitar player Carter Thornton called Conduit Recordings that he released jointly with the No Neck Blues Band’s label Sound@One. We do shows here in NYC and on the east coast with ppl like Thurston Moore and The No Neck Blues band. As far as productions go, I usually work on my own, but if the right situation comes along, it’d be great to collaborate with someone in the studio.
4. How do the crowds and club atmosphere in NYC different from those in Europe?
Well to be totally honest I don’t know as Ive never played in Europe. It’d be great to do tho and Ive tried to make it happen but unfort timing and circumstance haven’t allowed it work out yet. Plus as a producer, a lot of ppl don’t know my name so its hard to expect them to bring me over as I don’t think they know that Ive been involved in some bigger name projects as a musician. But from what I can tell, the clubs there seem a lot more open to different sounds. Here in NYC, in the bigger clubs, its either very commercial or, in terms of deep house, it’s a very NYC styled sound. So to hear something a bit more varied you have to listen to DJ’s in bars, which unfort you cant dance in, so it affects the music scene quite a bit here I feel. But when someone can get a space together, NYC can party like no other. That’s what makes NYC really amazing.
5. Enlighten us on your dream project?
Well in some ways they’ve already happened so I guess I’m trying to build on them. Ive been lucky to work with a lot of ex-Sun Ra Akestra members as a musician, so to hear about their experiences first hand has been both very delightful and incredibly informative. Plus working in Metro Area even in my humble capacity has also been a wonderful experience. Morgan and Dar are so respectful of the musicians they employ but I also love that they exercise a great amount of control over how the live instruments are incorporated into both their productions and live shows. I tend to avoid situations where a producer just asks me, as a musician, to play a “solo” over a beat or pattern. I personally think that’s been one of the downfalls of dance music. Personally id rather hear well programmed machines on a track rather than a producer filling up time for the groove by adding a solo over top…but then again, done well, there’s nothing like it….so it goes both ways I guess.
6. Talk about your label and dj/music 2004 news
Well there will be a new Le Systeme release soon under my own name in spring 2004. Unfort I don’t DJ that much, even tho I love to do it, so unfort no gigs are planned at the present moment. Hopefully that will change! Thanks for asking some kool questions! Cheers!
Interview by Dax DJ (Year 2003)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
# What is the significance of your name, Metro Area? How did you get that name?
> I originally was going to do a label called Metro Area as a house sub-label for Environ. Darshan and I started working together and we decided to use the name.
# You come completly from a techno-detroit/deep school background, is that right?
> Yes, definitely. The first records I put out were definitely grounded in Detroit and more experimental melodic techno like Dan Curtin, Black Dog Productions, Stasis, A.R.T. and others.
# U use analog instruments + strings, guitar, flute, and percussion … Who and what are your influences?
> Disco, boogie, techno, soul, hip-hop, new wave, you name it. Big personal dance music influences are Patrick Adams, early Detroit techno, early 80s Emergency records, Salsoul, West End, Supertronics, Larry Heard, lots of NYC club/loft/Garage tracks, old Chicago and NY house, etc.
# How would you describe your sound? I like the atmosfear in your sound… What images and emotions do you want your music to invoke in the listener?
> It’s up to the listener. I do hope some imagery comes into play – I love human emotions and a live feel but the music that gets me the most has no real “face” attached to it and leaves imagery up to the listener’s consciousness.
# What do you look for in a beat?
> Simplicity, funk and atmosphere. I like stuff on the ones, and I’m into 8th notes – sort of the opposite of what I was into when I got into dance music, which was 909 swingy 16th notes and tight 808 patterns.
# Quality and innovation… future projects?
> “Quality” is subjective but I think every release on Environ will be the culmination of a lot of work and struggle, but also love for the music and evolution. Innovation – it would be nice, but almost impossible to do outside recombining different forms of music. Upcoming projects are a solo EP from me, Metro Area album, a new project called Jersey Devil Social Club and other releases.
# How your live set evolve…? You start slow-deep and after? I’m very corious abuot… (I want to play with you!)
> I haven’t done a solo live set in ages. The Metro Area live set is really a mix of tempos, very much like our records. It’s more of a PA than a live set – unfortunately most people can’t afford to pay for our musicians to come with us.
# The last: I love the little voice (oh oh ohoh!) in Miura … is very boogie? who sing it? or you sample it?
> It’s not sampled even though it sounds it! It’s multitrack takes of Dei Lewison, a vocalist who happens to be the daughter of Woody Cunningham, who was in Kleer and did lots of session work on Salsoul.
# thanx in advance! +sorry 4 my bad english ;-P
> No problem. Mi dispiace che non parlo italiano!
> Morgan Geist METRO AREA Environ
# Dax DJ (Interview Year 2002)