OFF THE RECORD: The DJ's and producers spicing up Canberra's creative scene
- ASTON SHUFFLE: Keeping people shuffling
- KARTON: Getting the right mix
- PEKING DUK: Serving up a tasty treat
James Cayzer is enjoying some time off in his hometown after several weeks touring through Europe, the US and Australia in support of his new album, Multiverse.
“I definitely relish coming back to Canberra,” James says.
“I don’t get homesick too much, because I make a point of coming back at least once a year, usually twice a year. So the next homecoming is always on the horizon.”
Now based out of Berlin, James is arguably one of the territory’s most successful musical exports.
His melodic and uplifting brand of progressive house has earned James a coveted place on Anjunabeats, a forward-thinking, pedigree record label overseen by British trance maestros Above & Beyond.
James’ productions feature persistently in the record box of top international DJs like Armin van Buuren, and have seen him perform at some of the most renowned clubs and music festivals in the world.
“To me, it’s quite humbling, because I still consider myself to be a producer-in-training,” James says.
“I never expected to get the attention of people on the other side of the world and up in these high places. So I’m just trying to be as humble as I can about it, and just be aware that there’s still a lot that I have to learn, and I do have the potential to one day be at that level myself.”
While growing up in Canberra, James was introduced to the world of music when his mother and aunt encouraged him to take piano lessons as a five-year-old.
“I used to play in the local piano competitions and eisteddfods and things like that,” he says.
“I was basically doing music composition and performance for my HSC at Canberra Grammar…so I was always well-versed in music theory.”
As a teenager, James fell in love with turn-of-the-century trance from genre-shaping producers like Paul Van Dyk and BT.
“It was really exciting, because I’d never experienced producing and composing with so many different sounds, and having the ability to manipulate sound as well as the musical elements,” he says.
“So that ended up overtaking the more traditional musical direction I was going in – there was just so much more to it.”
Equipped with an old PC, a pair of 70s-era hi-fi speakers and some basic music production software, James began to play around with electronic composition and “it just sort of snowballed from there”.
“Originally I had my speakers on the ground, and I couldn’t work out why I wasn’t getting such a great sound – then a family friend suggested I’d have a lot more success if I put them up on my desk,” he laughs.
“So that was the formation of my first makeshift studio.”
Rudimentary though it may have been, James’ bedroom studio was enough to put together a series of impressive tracks – including a remix in 2005 for Markus Schulz’ label, Coldharbour Recordings.
“That was one of the first experiences I had releasing music overseas – I think that was one of the first vinyl records I put out as well. So that was obviously very exciting, getting a copy of that in the post,” James recalls.
The excitement continued to build the following year, after James’ track Genesis was picked up by Tiesto to feature on volume five of his legendary In Search of Sunrise mix compilations.
“I still remember I got a signed copy that said, ‘Dear Jimbo – Thanks for your epic track. Signed Tiesto’. That was a sort of eye-opening moment for me,” he says.
Realising that electronic music was something that he “could make a go of”, James threw himself into producing singles – and soon earned the attention of Above & Beyond, who quickly signed the young Canberran and oversaw the release of his critically-acclaimed debut album, Everything Is OK, in 2008.
“Once I moved over to the UK, [Above & Beyond] were not only very helpful in my career, they were a big help in getting me set up over there and getting me integrated into the UK lifestyle. So I definitely owe them a debt of gratitude for that.”
In the years since, James’ strong relationship with Anjunabeats has seen him taking on DJ duties for three Anjunadeep compilations, releasing a monthly podcast, and touring extensively in support of Above & Beyond, who also provided technical assistance during the recording of Multiverse, released in August.
A 13-track journey through a broad spectrum of electronic music, the consistent thread in Multiverse is the trademark Jaytech emphasis on melody.
“I think my approach to writing music definitely comes from playing piano, where everything is based on melody and harmony and stuff like that,” James says.
“I think it’s a really important aspect, and it’s something I always try and keep in my tracks…because it’s the best way to tell a really good story with music.