Like any good turntablist, James is a sonic scrounger. He digs through cheapie bins and thrift shops looking for breaks or anything interesting to throw into the mix. "I rarely pay more than a few dollars for a record," he touts " I think there is this big misconception with many DJ's that you have to have a large bankroll to find something unique."
The drive for new sounds forces James to sample his own recordings. "Being able to use my own material has freed me up quite a bit." That material includes bells, whistles, handclaps, synths, guitar effects, and all kinds of live percussion. He's even working with a 10-year-old rapper out of Seattle. "I want to use more kids voices in my music."
Stones Throw Records is responsible for several underground hip hop pioneers, including Madvillain, Quasimoto, Madlib and label founder Peanut Butter Wolf. How James became acquainted with the LA-based is a bit of a fabled tale. "I was living in Austin during high school, when Peanut Butter Wolf announced a show in town. I was a big fan, so on a whim I emailed him and asked if he'd like to go record shopping. To my astonishment he agreed. I was mostly into buying $20 hip-hop records at the time. PBWolf pulled a Grover Washington record out of the dollar bin and laid it on me. It had this really great sample that A Tribe Called Quest had used. That was a major turning point in what was to be my new fascination with digging for sounds. It really blew the doors open for me."
He came to Spokane for college and began spinning under the Brainchild moniker, all the while keeping in contact with PBWolf and Stones Throw. "Every time I came up with a mixtape or rough demo I tried to get it into PBWolf's hands." Eventually he landed an internship with the label. "That really got the ball rolling for me," he says. " I learned so much."
Peanut Butter Wolf himself gave a glowing endorsement of James' unique work, "Very few people I know have an appreciation for obscure early 80's soul/funk/electro as well as 60's psych," he said, "I'd say Madlib and Koushik are the only other two I can think of. I have no idea how he gets these live drum, drum machine, and synth sounds, but he does it. I think when he's done with [the album], it'll be a classic."
James stresses that his work is still in the early demo stages, and no contracts have been signed. Anything can happen, but it helps when the CEO of the label you're courting agrees to play your wedding, "It will probably be my most important gig since I spun at my best friend Steve's wedding 10 years ago," said Wolf.