So chances are the most recent edition of ‘DJing for Dummies’ will include, in its top few tips, the need for every aspiring jock to hop on the Internet bandwagon and cosy up with a dizzying range of social media. But try googling ‘Ulysses James’, and you’ll get little more than a flood of links to the counter-eponymous novel by James Joyce (yes, our good DJ’s mother did cleverly name him after this favoured book of hers). Dig deeper yet and you may just root out his one dormant Myspace page and an empty (!) Soundcloud account. And while the man known as ‘Uly’ to his friends seems unfazed by his lack of Web “vigilance”, as he calls it, he confesses that one fine day, he might just – ok, will – get down to having more of a presence. He tells us more.
Before we go any further… what is it that’s stopping you from showing up online?
Nothing, I just find it tedious to start and upkeep a blog or website, especially since I’m not a full time DJ.
What is your day job, and does it influence your DJing in any way?
I work in finance. It doesn't really have any effect on my DJing but I suppose it’s a good balance of life. Most people are too often caught up in the rat race and forget who they really are or what they really love doing.
How did this affair with DJing begin?
I’d been collecting vinyl records for some time, eventually learning to mix them but in the comfort of my bedroom. It was a friend who suggested that I start playing ‘out’ instead. Back in those days, I wasn't that much technically inclined, but he felt that my selection of music was ace and asked me along to spin at his parties. The first few times, my mixing was pretty much like a train wreck, going here, there and everywhere! But I guess that's how you learn innit? Looking back, I suppose I always knew I wanted to play out, so my procrastinating self has this friend to thank for where I am now.
If you had to describe your music to someone completely clueless, you’d say…
It's music for grown ups! Well, I don't like to pigeonhole myself. My musical style is pretty eclectic; I play all kinds of sounds within a 95-125bpm range. It's about connecting music from past to present.
Is your DJing style inspired by anyone in particular?
Not really, but if I have to name someone I admire, it would be Theo Parrish, who plays across a whole range of genres including house, Detroit techno, jazz, funk, soul and even rock! He does it pretty old school – with the focus not so much on technical mixing abilities per se, but rather on how one plays and fits certain records in a set. Having said that, I don’t think its quite possible to entirely imitate someone else’s style of DJing. I would think it best to find your own way, to develop your own sound.
What are the records that you never gig without?
1) Afefe Iku - Mirror Dance
2) Kerri Chandler - Bar A Thym
3) Jamie 326 – Wicky Wacky Edit
There are more, but it’s going to be a long list!
Name some new DJs/producers, both local and global, getting you all excited these days.
I have been paying a lot of attention to Nicolas Jaar in recent months. He's done a couple of good works and I’m actually waiting for the release of his remix of South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim's ‘Ishamel’. Pretty interesting. As for the local scene, I'd say Xhin is killing it on the dancefloors. I admire his talent and tenacity in staying in this business, and for doing what he loves and what he does best.
What’s your favourite place and event to play at?
I would say the now defunct Night and Day for its small but intimate location. And the event held there for a few years running – Mugic Soundsystem – which I co-founded and have fond memories of.
Do you have any plans to produce your own music someday?
Well, I am still polishing up on my production skills and to be honest, I am still far, far away. I might start off with simple, cheeky edits and then move on to production when I’m ready. It's like writing a book. You gotta have a storyline.
What’s happening for the rest of 2011?
I am pretty much occupied with my current residency at KPO and Balaclava. We'll take each day as it is.
Do you think more 4/4-based events like Mugic and Midnight Shift are important to our city’s scene? How do you think they compare against the differing genre palette of say the Syndicate and Bedsty outfits?
Such nights are vital in order for our scene and its DJs and musicians to grow and gain more exposure to local crowds. It's good to know that a significantly growing number of people are starting to reciprocate such movements and on a bigger scale each time. Kudos to Midnight Shift for allowing us locals – from budding talent to industry veteran – to play out more. As a matter of fact, big ups to Syndicate, Mugic, Pushin’ On, Dooomph! and the rest too for livening up the scene here and providing a good variety of sounds.
The important thing is to listen with an open mind – it’s not about genre divides between 4/4 and the rest, old and new etc. For example, it took me awhile to warm up to dubstep, but I eventually found myself appreciating certain tracks that were really pretty good. I think essentially, music grows on you.
Back to the scene – I also don’t think it’s whether ‘my night is better than yours’ or who gets a larger crowd, because the club/venue plays a part too and to a greater extent, the feeling of community.
On a side note, I think that to really push things forward, it’s important that Singapore sees more quality acts beyond your usual Paul van Dyk or Bob Sinclair or whoever.
Truth. Thanks for the wisdom… now tell us more about ‘Uly’s Nudisco Mix’, which you recorded for Midnight Shift.
It was done with standard 2 x CDJ 2000s and a mixer. It's pretty much a taste of what I'll be playing on the 24th of June. I have an early set, so I won’t be going too hard, it’s more of the groovy stuff – but at the same time, you can expect a whole lot of versatility and musical surprises along the way! Ultimately, I just hope to give my best so that everyone has a good time.