Signing to a major label like Dirtybird is a dream for most producers, young and seasoned. For industry veteran James Curd, it just seemed like a natural fit. We caught up with James to discuss how all of this came to be, in addition to him providing us an exclusive mix. Check the interview, mix, and tracklist all below, and be sure to catch James's track Play 2 Win on this year's Dirtybird Campout compilation.
James, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. You've just released on Dirtybird. Tell us how this all came to be? Was this a natural progression for you?
Hey! So yes, it was. I've always really loved the label and what they stand for in our scene. Claude told me he loved a song I did for Tsuba, and then after that, he did an edit of my song "I Wanna Freak" for Play It Down. From there, I decided to create something especially for the label, and "Play to Win' was the result.
When I DJ I always hit on a bunch of different styles of music, but DirtyBird tracks often pop for me, so it makes total sense for me to make music for them. I've also just had another track come out on Defected's DFTD Records, under a collaborative side project name "Chez Moon" with singer-songwriter Nah Man, which is a further nod to my range in producing style and taste in music.
Every artist has their muse. What personally inspires you most as an artist?
For me it has always been getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’m constantly pushing myself, especially when it comes to learning new things about making music and being a DJ.
If I’m in a rut in the studio - I’ll buy a new keyboard or piece of gear because I know I’ll come out the other side with some new songs and inspiration just by trying to learn how to use it!
DJ wise, my first proper DJ booking for a massive rave called “Submerged” in Chicago when I was 16 years old, after only playing in front of a few people previously. I also accepted a tour to play live shows across Europe before I even had a live show created. So basically, I like being thrown into the deep end, being terrifying and excited at the same time usually pushes me further and ends with great results!
What tracks are you loving right now? What should other DJs be spinning to fill up their dance floors? Any standouts from the mix you did for us?
Patrick Toppings remix of Rogue D’s “Chains” on Hot Creations is so dope! Doorly’s "Cafe Mambo Disco Pumper" on Reptile Dysfunction is also a banger. I also have these new 4 unreleased tracks Derrick Carter just gave me that I play a ton out - his stuff just always works.
Some artists have unusual requirements on their rider when DJing. What's on yours?
I'm very low maintenance. I come from a time where we used to have to put penny’s on needles to weigh them down and help keep them from skipping from the floor bouncing in a dirty ass Chicago warehouse. As long as the tech is set up and the venue sounds great for me to play, I'm good.
Today - one thing I like is that the person who picks me up at the airport has a sign. Otherwise, you end up calling each other and have to go through that awkward thing of both being on the phone with each other walking towards each other waving. Just do a sign :)
You're from Chicago, the birthplace of house & home to many of our favorite current artists including Lee Foss, Gene Farris, and Honey Dijon. Did you guys all go to school together or what?
Ha pretty much! When I was 19, I had my first club residency in Chicago, at a spot called “Tunnel”. Gene was a resident too and we became friends from there onwards, which included us becoming golfing buddies! We released on each others labels and hung out all the time. When Gene moved to Amsterdam, he would come back for a couple months at a time and stay in my guest bedroom. They were fun times.
Derrick Carter was my closest friend in Chicago from age 20 onwards. He and Honey have be tight since before I was born I think ;). Honey was already living in New York when we met, but the three of us have played all over the world together, sharing hotel rooms - the lot! I was the first person to release a remix of hers for an old Greenskeepers release. When she comes to Australia we have hang out like any old friends would and order pizza in.
Lee and I used to play basketball together at this 24 hour gym. It was really fun because we played late night and it was all bartenders or people who didn’t have typical 9-5 jobs who played with us. My best memory of Lee though is one night when we were spinning at a bar called Funky Buddha Lounge. I think Lee was getting into photography or maybe modeling? Anyway, he framed me up using his hands like a director would do and told me I was photogenic and should be a model. Derrick was there and spit the drink in his mouth across the room in laughter. I think it is still the best compliment I have received to this day. So yep, the roots run deep with all of us!
Frankie Knuckles also came from Chicago too. How much has his music influenced you as a producer? Were you ever able to work with him?
Frankie is a legend to the entire house music world, but especially those who are from Chicago. He was an amazing DJ and producer and his music is timeless. In today’s era with so much house music being disposable, that is really inspiring.
I met him and heard him DJ a bunch. I didn't get to work with him when he was alive, but I'm almost getting the chance right now! I just remixed one of the most famous and original house tracks, Jamie Principle’s “Baby Wants To Ride”, which Franky had a big part in blowing up. I always thought he wrote and produced it himself (his name is on the record) but it turns out Trax records put Frankie's name on it even though from beginning to end it was all Jamie! I'm remixing a few more classic Chicago house tracks at the moment, which has been a real honor as it's a rare thing to be asked to do. All are being released soon and I'm super excited about it.
Now for some fun - answer each question with ONE word so we can get to know you
Something you can't live without when on tour? Facetime!
Your favorite track EVER? Chez Damier & Stacey Pullen - Forever Mix 1 & 2
Dogs or cats? Dogs
Something you hate? Slow Internet
Hot or cold climate? Hot
Your favorite place to be in the world? Home
Best day of the week? Payday
The one DJ you cant stop listening to right now? I still check Derrick the most!
Tea or coffee? Coke
What annoys you? My Tinitus!
What do you love to look up and see when you're DJing? Dancing
Morning or night owl? Night
Favorite club? Yellow in Tokyo back in the day!
The last thing you ate? Nando’s!
Finally, we'll give you more than one word, but tell us something about you that no one knows?
When my front baby tooth fell out a straight up fang came in. They had to pull it out but thankfully I had a normal one on the way in right behind it. I’m part shark!
Check out James' exclusive mix for Magnetic Magazine including his new track "Play to Win, which came out Sept 28 on the Dirtybird West Compilation.
1 James Curd & Nah Man - Whisper In Your Ear - Unreleased
2 Torrfist & KE - Let Em Hurt - Purveyor Underground
3 Seven Davis Jr. - Rollercoaster - Secret Angels Records
4 Benard Badie - Crazy For You (Benards Remix) - Chicago Revisited
5 Volkoder - I Talked - DirtyBird
6 Fouk - Elephants Yeah - House Of Disco
7 Jamie Principle - Baby Wants To Ride (James Curd Remix) - S & S Records
8 Doorly - Cafe Mambo Disco Pumper - Reptile Dysfunction
9 Walker & Royce - Sophiegrophy - DirtyBird
10 youANDme / Gjaezon - That Bass - Rejected
11 Serial Thrilla - On The Frontline - Tasty Recordings
12 Dirty Channels, Danny Russel - Watching Out - Athens Of The North
13 Demuir - Paaaaarty - ???
14 Giman - The Bomb - PPMusic
15 Karma Kid & Fono - Telephone - White Label
16 Weiss - Bergerac - This Ain't Bristol
17 James Curd Featuring KE - Laid Back With It - ASTRX
18 James Curd Featuring KE - Play To Win - DirtyBird
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