hayden james

Hayden James: “I didn’t want to just DJ. I wanted a performance.”

Hayden James is the Sydney wunderkind behind certified rompers like Permission to Love and Something About You. Aside from crafting infectious, deep and soulful beats, he’s also blessed with some incredible pipes and serious chops on the decks, remixing the likes of Odesza and Dillon Francis. He’s in good company; having been signed to Australian EDM powerhouse Future Classic along with Flume, Chet Faker and plenty more.

This year he’s come off a massive US tour including a blistering set at Coachella, and recently graced his homeland with performances at Listen Out. We had the pleasure of talking to Hayden about in-house competition, nerves and Zac Efron.

First up – congratulations on the ARIA nomination.

 Thanks mate, I’m really excited about it. It’s pretty ridiculous really.

I see that you’ll be going head to head with your label mate Flight Facilities – is it very tense in the Future Classic offices at the moment? Are you guys on speaking terms? Are you giving them dirty looks? Spitting in their coffee?

Fight yesterday. Huge fight. No, no, no, it’s mad being involved with these guys. We’re actually; all of us were at Listen Out, all of us on that list we’re just hanging out together on the weekend. We’re actual mates.

Speaking of Future Classic – you, Chet Faker, Flume, Touch Sensitive – what is it like being part of the Avengers of Australian EDM rosters?

This is my favourite interview already. It’s obviously really cool to be a part of Future Classic because everyone pays attention to you, what you’re doing. And the calibre of the artists on that label is just ridiculous.

Do you guys hang out heaps? Is it the Big Brother house that I’m imagining?

Not as much. Everyone travels. I mean Harley (Flume) now lives in LA. Chet and I don’t actually know each other very well. I know he lives in Melbourne. But he travels a lot. But a few guys, Touch and I hangout. Wave Racer lives down the road from me. So yeah, a few of us hang out when we can. But we usually see each other at the Christmas Party.

What is the Future Classic Christmas party like? Who mans the decks?

Whoever! We use their offices. Mason, Chad and Ed from the label, get some beers and play ping-pong.

Lets talk Something About You. Heaps of people are saying that the most incredible part of Something About You is the vocals. I had a friend who though that it was a new SBTRKT song, and that the vocals were provided by Sampha.

The vocal track is me and a girl called George Maple, who is also on Future Classic. We wrote that together a while ago. And then I started to piece together the whole track and the way it sounded, and the production – I actually hit up Sampha a while ago, he was working on his album, about a year ago, I would really like to work with that guy, I love his work with SBTRKT, that ‘d be cool. It’s amazing what the track has done for me this year, really excited to bring out new stuff to be honest.

And how do you feel about getting props purely as a singer?

It’s good. Well it all started from Permission To Love and singing Embrace. I would need vocals for a demo, and I don’t know anyone that can sing, or will sing like I want them too.

Because previously you hadn’t done work as signer yourself

No, exactly. And I don’t really sing on other people’s tracks. There’ll be lots more to come with the new music.

The tune is a bonafide babymaker. How do you feel about the idea of a generation of children conceived to Something About You?

 Totally, totally cool with that. It’s awesome.

Would you prefer that babies were named ‘Hayden’ or ‘James’ in your honour?

I’d like a 50/50 split.

The song is even featured in the new Zac Efron film “We Are Your Friends” – if you could give Zac Efron one DJing pointer, one tip, DJ to DJ what would it be?

Stop DJing. I haven’t seen the film either. I’m waiting for it to like be on a plane or something that I’m on.

Not gonna buy the DVD?

I don’t think so, no.

Apparently there’s one scene where he talks through the art form of DJing and he explains that the beat of EDM has to be in sync with the human heart beat. Can you either confirm or deny that claim?

I deny it. Because Something About You is 116 BPM. If that were true – I’m in a lot of shit.

Do you still get song requests by fans and how do you deal with them?

I was playing an impromptu set with Alison Wonderland in Brisbane on the weekend after Listen Out. And someone gestured to their iPhone with Something About You on it. And I’m like yeah, yeah okay. I had been on the decks for 5 minutes.

You came up very quickly. How did you prepare for being a big stage performer?

It’s really important to me to play all my own music when I perform live. So anything you heard at Listen Out, was either stuff you’ve heard, or new material, or remixes. I didn’t want to just DJ, I wanted a performance. What I have on stage if a MS20 Mini Korg, I play like bass notes and effects and things on that. I have an SPD-SX Roland drum pad that I love playing with live. It’s important for people to see something. I think people enjoy that too.

And how about your visuals and the future of the live show?

That will be a big part of the live show when I bring out an album next year. I kind of envisioned it like Daft Punk Interstellar the movie where all the tracks coincide with an actual event. I’m working with a good friend at the moment, a lot of 3D work, a lot of simple stuff as well. While I like the visuals, to me it’s more about the music, it’s just a nice visual representation of what I’m trying to do.

You’ve mentioned the new album. What can we expect from it?

Well I’ve got a new single that will come out this year. It’s poppy, but its dark. It’s accessible, darker electronic music. I love writing like pop hooks. It’s very poppy and catchy. But it’s very moody as well. There’s a lot of artists that kind of describe the sound. But at the same time I think I make my own sound.

Absolutely. You’ve just come off an American tour where you played Coachella. Your sound is almost going to be more popular to American audiences. Did you find they were more receptive to your style?

They call my music over there ‘Deep House’. What? In my head I’m just writing songs. But Coachella was an incredible place to play. I played on a pretty cool stage to a huge crowd and I didn’t expect it, and a lot of people came out to watch me. So it was really great.

When is the most nervous you’ve ever been in your whole life?

That is easy. It happened not to long ago. From Norway, in Bergen to Reading festival in London. I had to go through customs. I arrived at about 1pm, had to be at the festival by 3pm. Reading is about an hour and a half away from the airport. I jumped into an Uber. Got there about 5 minutes before I was supposed to play. It takes me about 15 minutes to set my gear up. I nearly spewed I was that anxious. I literally got wheeled on, as I was still plugging stuff in. That was the most intense crowd I’ve ever played too as well.

Hayden James will be performing at Sea N Beats, Australia’s FIRST EVER cruise ship festival! Headlined by Alison Wonderland, Peking Duk, Kilter, Slumberjack, Tkay Maidza and more, the festival runs from March 5 – 8, 2016. Tickets and more info at their official website.