You’ve been releasing music really consistently lately! What’s the latest and greatest?
J: It has been really exciting!! Since November I’ve essentially doubled my catalog of published music! In November my song “Lochnessa” was released on Audiophile deep. Then in January, my first ever EP, “Crystal Eyes EP” was released on Audiophile Records. The EP got such amazing support, and it was the #2 House Release on Beatport, and was the #9 release across all genres on Beatport! Recently my brand new release with Eukaryota came out called ‘Enamour’ which features Vanessa Taal. People really connected with these songs, and they posted about it on Instagram and Facebook, and it all just spread like fire. It was really an amazing feeling to know that so many people were out there enjoying my tunes. I’m riding that wave right now, with my latest single, “It’s Not Goodbye”, out now on Audiophile Deep, with an awesome remix from Nik Thrine.
Crystal Eyes has been getting a ton of buzz!
J: Yeah, the support from fans, and other DJs has really been incredible. The guys at Audiophile have set up a strong network to promote the music, and it really shows. From the promo, I got to see peoples feedback on the EP and it was so cool to see compliments and downloads from people like Jamie Jones, Mark Knight, and Sam Divine. I’ve been getting to see some of the radio play stats, and it has just been so cool to know my music is being listened to from LA to Japan to Ibiza.
Mark Knight discovered the EP and featured the title track on Toolroom Radio. I’ve been listening to Toolroom for so long, it was pretty surreal to hear my own song on there. For an example of the buzz thats been going on… in November I only had 12 monthly listeners on Spotify. After 3 consecutive releases with Audiophile Music Group, and that feature on Toolroom, I now have over 1200. 100x growth in about three months… lets keep that rockin’!!
Your track ‘Enamour’ on Eukaryota was just released this past Friday! What makes this one so sentimental to you?
J: This story could get long, but it’s good so it’s worth it haha. I met my wonderful girlfriend, Vanessa, when we were out dancing one night at the Brooklyn Mirage. Now, a year and a half later, I work there as an audio engineer! We just chatted, and danced.. and ended up spending the whole night together without really thinking about it. That week she had invited me to join her at the Desert Hearts party, and I already had plans that night. At the last minute, on the day of the party, I changed my mind and decided to meet up with her at Desert Hearts… and we had another absolutely awesome day together. Everything was so light, fun, and natural and that party really flew by. Around 1am Vanessa said she would dance for ten more minutes and then head out. So after a few minutes I pulled her aside, and essentially spilled my guts to her about just how amazing a person I thought she was (and I was right… she really is!) She left the party, and I left shortly after. I ran home and started writing a poem that really just came exploding out of me. I’ve always been a songwriter, but I’ve never been much of a poet without the melody to accompany it, so this was quite strange for me but it felt right. That week, Vanessa was leaving for a trip to Amsterdam for a few weeks. So i recorded myself reading that poem, and sent it to her as she was on the runway at JFK. Fast forward several months and I wrote this song, Enamour. To me, it really sounded like the musical representation of that poem I wrote for her. So I took a small excerpt from that poem and I read it over the beat of the music. When Vanessa heard it, she wrote a short response poem, and recorded it for me. Her pacing and tone is truly magical, and it really completes the emotional scope of the song. Vanessa has been an inspiration for all of my best art I’ve created in the past year and a half and this song is a really awesome example of that, and such a heartfelt collaboration between the two of us.
Wow, what a great story! We know you also have an interesting back-story to your career in NYC.. want to share that one as well?
J: Sure! I graduated from University of Hartford with a BS in Audio Engineering, and I was intensely focused on becoming a studio engineer at a high-level recording studio in NYC. Over my winter break I walked around manhattan to 13 recording studios to drop off my resume. At Quad Studios (Were Tupac was infamously shot in the elevator) I was told via intercom that i should apply online. I didn’t walk all around NYC to be told to go home and send an email… so i went and got a slice of pizza and then came back and rang the intercom again. This time, instead of mentioning a resume, I said, “I’m Here for the session in Q1”. They sent an intern down to retrieve me, and I walked in to see several confused people starting at me. I gave my resume and shook hands. Allan, the manager, threw my resume under the bar and I left thinking I’d never hear from them again.
I ended up getting hired as an intern, and I knew i had to put in 100% of my effort to move up through the ranks. I interned there for about seven months, working for no pay, anywhere from 40 to 90 hours a week. I was spending several nights a week sleeping on the couch at the studio… or not sleeping at all. I couldn’t get a side job, because any kind of job schedule would hinder my ability to take every opportunity I got at the studio. So instead, I started playing guitar and singing in the subway to support myself as I interned, and even after that as I got hired. I performed in the subway for about a year, and had unbelievable experiences that ranged from groups of people dancing around me, to women standing right in front of me, staring me in the eyes and crying silently. That actually happened several times, and was so, so powerful for me.. I thought to myself… wow, my music is truly impacting these people. When I really think about my first experience as a DJ, I always say it was there in the subway. That was the first time I had the task of picking the right song to play at the right moment, for a big group of strangers. I felt pretty inspired by that, and that helped me feel more at ease as I transitioned from standing behind my guitar, to behind the decks.
I busked in the subway for about a year and I will always remember those times. Hot subway tunnels in the summer and cold stiff hands gripping my guitar in the winter. Encouraging days full of big tips and human connection, as well as days so slow I had to really consider if i needed that second slice of pizza at the end of the night. I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad that I don’t need to do that anymore, haha! I was hired as an Assistant Engineer at Quad, then promoted to Engineer, and promoted again to House Engineer. I got to record some of the highest level acts in pop and hip hop, including Lil Wayne, Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Masta Killa.. so many cool artists. But hip hop really isn’t my passion and eventually I moved on from quad to work more in live-sound and broadcast, and pursue my own music more aggressively. Nowadays I’m working non-stop on my music, as well as engineering for Boiler Room, The Brooklyn Mirage, and an amazing venue on Bleecker St called Subculture.
Awesome. Now for the producer nerds out there… what are a few of your go-to tool and tricks when producing?
J: My most consistent go-to tools are my 909 and my 303. You’ll hear some element of those in most of my songs. I use the newer editions of them from Roland: the TR-09 and TB-03. Learning to use these classic instruments definitely transformed my understanding of dance music. I recently got a Maschine Mikro MK3 that I’m really enjoying because of the play-ability and touch sensitivity of the pads. It allows me to add a lot more flavor and humanity to my percussion by playing the pads and not quantizing the notes. Lately I’ve also been recording myself playing saxophone and all kinds of little percussion instruments, and that is always a blast.
As far as tricks go I really enjoy using simple, powerful tricks. My mixes are always approached with an extremely minimalist mindset. It’s all about the delicate balance of volume across the frequency spectrum, not about how strangely you can use your tools. One of my favorite simple mix tricks is using a “simple delay” in Ableton. I set the left side for 1ms, and the right for something like 8 or 10 ms, Feedback set to 0% and Mix set to 100%. This makes the right side of the sound happen 7-9 milliseconds later than the left side, creating the illusion of really wide space. This trick can be super useful, but also super sloppy if its overused or if the settings aren’t proper. Also.. I like to use Waves rVox plugin as a really simple way to compress things a bit and make them brighter and louder, it works surprisingly well on a number of sounds.
Plans for 2019?
J: I am making better and better music, faster and faster these days. I want to focus on performing this year. Its time to focus on making people dance. I want to play as many shows as possible, and I’ll be producing dance floor ready tracks all throughout. I already have 4 songs written this year, so we’ll see when you all get to hear those!! Follow me on Instagram @jameshartnettdj and Facebook to stay in the loop and get some inside looks at my creative process! See you on the dancefloor.