Having firmly positioned himself at the forefront of dance music for well over a decade, the Australian DJ, producer and label boss Kaz James has built one of the most exciting portfolios in electronic music, continually pushing the envelope in everything that he does. A seasoned regular behind some of the world’s most revered DJ booths – and with an arsenal of critically acclaimed hit releases on the likes of Sweat It Out, FFRR, Circus, Saved Records and his very own imprint Another Record Label – 2023 is shaping up to be Kaz’s most prolific year to date, as he readies the release of a brand new album; a body of work that reflects his distinct take on electronic music. We caught up with the man himself to find out more.
DJ, producer, entrepreneur, etc. The first question is a must, who is Kaz James? How do you define yourself?
Firstly, I define myself by who I am as a person, not by what I do. Secondly, I would say I’m a DJ/producer, and the rest is all bullshit.
How are you and where do you answer us from? In which exciting phase are you now?
I’m great at the moment and I’m on a flight from LA to Paris. I'm doing a show in Paris tonight, which is sold out and this still blows my mind. I’m so grateful and lucky that so many people want to come to see me play my music. This is my third sold-out show in Paris in the last 12 months. It really is a special feeling, because when I was growing up, I followed the French music scene closely and I was heavily influenced by what was happening there. It’s always an honour to play in such an amazing city, which has had so much influence on me.
And professionally, would you say that you are experiencing one of your best moments?
Definitely, right now I feel that I have really found my own creative way. It’s definitely a super special moment in my career. I’m in a good place. Careers are up and down but that’s what makes a career. Right now, mine is pointing in the right direction, fingers crossed for the future. So, I’m feeling really happy right now with how things are going.
It's almost 15 years since you released your first solo album, If They Knew, in 2008. Quite an achievement considering that instant phenomena have become a constant in the music industry and success does not seem to last long. What do you think of when you look back?
I think I’ve done so many wild things over the years that when I look back on them, I think “fuck that was amazing” as well as at other times saying to myself, “what the fuck was I thinking!”
Has the music scene changed a lot in the last decade? Have you ever felt nostalgic?
The scene is forever evolving that’s just life. The world changes and so does the scene. Sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better, but it seems to be the same talented mother fuckers that keep evolving with it that are still around today. However, there’s still a sense of purity behind the scene that has always been there. People eventually see past the bullshit.
There is no doubt that since then you have not stopped releasing tracks that have become international hits with millions of listeners. What do you like most about your job as a DJ and producer?
I wouldn’t call what I do a job, because I love my work, and what I do. I’ve never worked a day in my life! It might sound cliché but I love making music. I love the process and where it takes me. I love seeing the reaction on people’s faces. The smiles and the screams, it’s what it's all about. Making people happy and sharing something special together for a few hours. A place where nothing else matters besides having fun and living in that moment.
Your latest release, Footprints, has been very well received by the public. What has it meant for you?
For me, it came as a surprise. It’s an interesting record because I deliberately went out of my way to make a record that was more club focused. Not a peak-time banger! Because my last few releases have been just that. But it turned out to be one of the biggest records of last summer and one of my biggest releases. I cannot explain how it happened, but it happened. So big love to everyone that supported and shared Footprints.
But let's go beyond the musical field and delve into your facet as an entrepreneur. At what point did you decide to start your own business? Did you always want to be your own boss?
I’m a creative person and I love to create. I wouldn’t say it’s about being my own boss. It’s more throwing yourself into things that make your brain work in a different way. Expanding your knowledge. I like to learn and try new things all the time. Whether it be in design or hospitality I love being part of it all. It’s a nice break from music. It keeps me inspired. It keeps things interesting.
You own a professional recording studio in Shoreditch London, a coffee roastery that supplies brands like Soho House for the world and your record label Another Record Label which is a joint venture with Warners, among other projects. What does each of these businesses bring you and what do you enjoy the most about all of them?
It’s good to keep your brain active and to keep on learning. There’s nothing more exciting than working on a project from scratch and watching it come to life. Whether it’s releasing a piece of music, or co-founding an international coffee brand. I get the same thrills!
Let's talk about your passion for coffee. You co-founded the Grind in London which now have over 10 restaurant locations, bars and cafes around the world, don't you? Where does this hobby come from and what does coffee mean to you?
I grew up in Melbourne Australia, which some would argue is responsible for what became the third-wave coffee movement. Are they right? I’m not sure. But who really cares? The truth is Melbourne has fantastic coffee. Everyone in Melbourne “goes for coffee”. It’s a real thing. They hang out talk shit and drink coffee until they don’t feel bad and it’s still not even mid-day before they switch to beer. My step-father owned a lot of hospitality venues growing up that were heavily focused on coffee. So, it’s just something that was embedded in me from a very young age. When I moved to London in the early 2000s there was absolutely no decent coffee and after every meal, I would end up ordering a coffee and having to return it because it would be so bad, it was undrinkable. All my English friends thought I was insane. So, an opportunity arose in 2010 to build a Recording studio and Espresso bar in East London and I was in! I came up with a concept, found the right coffee, and brought over some real barristers from Australia. Designed the place and the rest is history. That’s a very long story short. There have been many people involved along the way to help get Grind where it is today. I’m very proud of the Grind and everyone who has been involved in the journey.
You are also a founding shareholder in Aero the private jet company and still help them with marketing, among other duties. I guess that with such a variety of projects and businesses, you never get bored, do you?
I would say that I’m good at conceptual marketing and was lucky enough to be involved with Aero in the early days. I helped launch and set up their first route from Ibiza to Mykonos. But I’m not really involved in it so much anymore, although from time to time, I still help out. But the airline is so big now, the team is massive and they don’t really need my rogue style of guerrilla marketing anymore.
You’re also very into fashion, aren’t you? What importance does aesthetics play in your musical and personal projects?
I love fashion and learning from new trends. I love to follow certain designers. I think it’s really important. Fashion has always had an extremely close synergy with music. It’s a scene. Each music scene has its own fashion style. The two worlds feed off each other.
Which country would you like to visit next and why?
My next destination to visit outside of work is going to be Africa. My best friend bought me a safari for my birthday. So, I’m super excited to experience not only that but the rest of the country. There is so much dope music coming from Africa at the moment. Well, not just at the moment. There always has been. So, it’s going to be really amazing to see and experience it firsthand.
And if you had the opportunity to have a coffee with a deceased historical character, who would it be and why?
I would have a coffee with my grandfather. He was only a short part of my past and I would love to ask him questions. Tell him about my life. But hold up, he couldn’t speak English and from memory, he only really drank red wine and smoked cigarettes. So that totally messes that idea up. But it’s a good question and I’ll try to answer fully next time.
What message would you send to all those people who want to start their own project but do not dare to take the plunge?
I would say it’s not about taking the plunge; it’s about believing in something so much that you will do whatever it takes to get there but if you don’t have that belief in yourself then don’t bother. This shit is not easy or else everyone would be doing it. It takes time and patience. You give up normality to achieve your dreams and sometimes with major sacrifices. However, in saying that you only get given a certain amount of heartbeats. Don’t waste them!
And what can you tell us about your upcoming projects? Are you working on any album?
I was up all night last night finishing my album before this flight. I’ve finished 15 tracks. After playing Paris and Dubai this weekend, I'll be in London next week mastering my album. It will be out later in the year on my label Another Record Label. I'm so excited to get it out. It’s driving me crazy. Honestly, there are some proper bangers on it. I'm really proud of it. It will be available soon at all good record stores, and some shit ones too! I really appreciate anyone that takes the time to listen to an entire body of work like an album. Or just read me rambling on about myself. So, thanks again and big love always.
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