It's rare to find Judge Jules in a record shop these days. One of the UK's highest profile DJs, the London-based spinner hosts a globally broadcast radio show every week that's renowned for its fresh-from-the-studio material, so he relies on MP3s and Web links more than most. Not that he only plays freebies, but with all those gigs and two young kids, he just can't physically get to the shops.
“When I'm at home now, I have to actually stay at home,” Jules admits from behind the trademark specs. “So what I do is get a package biked over from a few shops every week, and I just send back what I don't want. I've got someone I pay to filter it down.”
Jules has been particularly pressed for time recently as he's just completed two albums for Koch released this year: a new mix LP, The Global Warm-Up, which ties in with his show on Sirius Satellite Radio, and his first solo LP, Proven Worldwide. The latter marks a significant new stage in his production career, having previously enjoyed chart success with the collaborative Hi-Gate and Angelic projects. This is his first release under his own name, and Jules even sang on a few tracks, so he may look a little more anxious than usual as the release date approaches.
Then again, as the album title suggests, its songs have already proven their worth. Recorded over the course of the past year, each cut has been rigorously road-tested during Jules' relentless touring. He still fits in 200 gigs a year across 25 countries — in between his radio, studio and babysitting duties — and while that means he's often had to leave an engineer to “do the spadework,” as he puts it, few album artists get such an instantaneous response to their material.
“When I'm at home, I'm constantly in the studio, making records for my DJ sets,” he says. “Two out of every three you might play for three or four weeks; then they form that great mountain that gets pushed to one side. But some [tracks] I've found myself playing for over a year that work in every environment. And that's basically what this is a collection of.”
It's been more than 20 years now since Jules took up decks and was nicknamed the Judge — having studied law in college — and much has changed since then. He's gone from tabloid-friendly party boy to settled family man, moved from house to trance to today's more mixed-up sound, and seen some significant changes in his chosen profession, many of them recent. “I see loads of DJs turn up with a record bag because they feel that they should be seen arriving with one, but never playing one bit of vinyl,” he sighs. “I can't be bothered with that charade.”
His favorite store, however, is still going strong. Trax Records, in London's Soho, was Jules' local shop in his wilder years. It's run by an old DJ acquaintance, Craig Daniel, who has a residency at Fabric and clearly knows his stuff. Trax specializes in hard-to-find European fare, and the pair clearly has a whale of a time ploughing through a pile of Daniel's suggestions. Meanwhile, Jules also takes this rare opportunity to pick up a few “hard copies” of his current favorites. Sometimes you just can't beat a bit of vinyl.
DIGITAL DOG FEAT. 45 FLAT
This is a combination of rap and a big bass line; I like records that manage to bury themselves in loads of different styles at the same time. I used to love hip-house when it came along years ago but, generally speaking, associating rap with any kind of uptempo dance music has really been the kiss of death — it spells cheese. This is about 130 bpm, though, an incredible bass line, a very convincing rap and a catchy chorus. It's got hit stamped all over it.
“Love Sensation 06 [Hi_Tack Mix]” (Gusto)
Hi_Tack had a recent hit, “Say Say Say (Waiting 4 U),” and is a funky house name to look out for. The original “Love Sensation” was the record Black Box sampled for “Ride on Time,” and it's been revisited here in the style of modern funky house with this almost trancelike arrangement, where it breaks down and keeps the tension going and going. You almost scream at the speakers because you want it to kick in.
I want this album for the track “Red Blue Purple,” and I've heard loads and loads of DJs playing it. It's another one with this retro thing, but it's a different type of retro; it's got this big old bass line that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an Altern-8 or Shades of Rhythm record. I've no idea why the label hasn't put it out as a single because the club reaction is just astonishing. It's been the biggest record since about December.
“Hell Yeah” (Mofohifi)
When people started saying electro was in vogue, initially I was skeptical because there's quite a lot of what I consider fairly boring German electro; it just sounds electro without really adding any modern flavor to it, without any hooks or structure, like an old, boring B-side. Speaking as someone who got into dance music through electro when I was very young, a lot of the stuff that exists today minces along in a directionless sort of way. But what makes this kind of record exciting is when they've borrowed a trance arrangement and applied an electro tempo and backing track, and this does that in an incredibly strong way. You've got to deliver a good track for an instrumental to be accepted.
“C'mon Get It On” (Loaded)
Studio B's big hit was “I See Girls,” which was another rap-with-chorus-over-funky-house track, and this is their new single. I'm not that keen on the vocal version, but I like the dub mix. The same way you know you've been around a while when you start seeing clothing fashions appear for the second time, we're definitely seeing the renaissance of certain retro sounds in studio productions. A lot of it has to do with the emergence of studio plug-ins, which enable you to get a load of old-synth sounds without having to bid on eBay for old keyboards. This track has a really chunky '80s-style rolling bass line added to a very modern context, and it's lovely hearing those warm old sounds with a very modern, supercompressed flavor.
“Leaving London” (white label)
Team SR is actually a production duo called the Signal Runners, from Scotland. If you manage to string together four decent releases, the chances of notoriety are strong, so I'm kind of surprised that you don't see their names around much as DJs, whereas their productions have been without exception the biggest things that I've played. This is a big hands-in-the-air anthem with a very pretty minor-key piano riff. It almost sounds like something Sasha would have played in his time at [legendary UK club] Renaissance eight or 10 years ago but with a modern feel and a really nice catchy vocal.
“Monotone” (High Contrast)
Marcel Woods' track “Advanced” was one of the big summer upbeat anthems of 2005. I did a gig with him at a thing called Trance Energy in Holland, and I asked him to send me some of his stuff, but he didn't know about YouSendIt.com, which is unusual, as it's the currency of modern-day promos. I tried to get onto his FTP server, tried to get him to send this to me, but I've singularly failed to get it, so now I've ended up having to buy it. It's got a driving, unusual, offbeat, hypnotic percussion that just defies categorization, which is always a good thing.
Trax Records; 55 Greek Street, London, England W1V SLR;www.traxrecords.co.uk; firstname.lastname@example.org; 44-20-7734-0795