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)
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