Judge Jules: Don’t Dread the Judge

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Judge Jules’ sets epitomise what DJing is all about; the connection between DJ and audience, amazing mixing capability, and a passion for the music he’s playing. With experience being behind the decks since 1987, Jules is a DJ in 2 senses, he’s as much a DJ in clubs as he is on a radio show. While he has since stopped DJing on Radio 1, his long-running night at Ibiza, Judgement Nights, remains a mainstay on the party isle. With festivals such as Gatecrasher, Ministry of Sound, Global Gathering, and Creamfields to his name, Jules is no stranger to huge-scale outdoor events, ensuring his presence at Global Sound System to be a memorable one. JUICE speaks to the man on his reignited law career, the secret to maintaining a regular night, and the old days and future of dance music among other things.

What’s good Jules? We read that your newly reignited law career will take off late this year, how’s that going?
In reality most DJs spend at least part of the week at home and there are very few periods of the year apart from the summer that provide gigs 7 nights a week, so a while back I decided to retake my degree and professional exams. I am now working part time as a music lawyer, which rather than being a tangent away from what I do, it actually complements it very well. I have long been more than a DJ and have also been part of the business side with recording deals, promoting and etcetera. I guess it is a long term goal but it is a very, very slow morph into doing something different.

How do you balance entrepreneurship with a career that requires a lot of travelling?
There is an awful lot of down time that one spends on planes. You can either sit there drinking Bloody Mary’s or you can attempt to do something a little more positive, which is why I restudied law, all done with very little college attendance and lots of work on long haul flights. I guess when you travel a lot you start to view down time as wasted time and I have always been somebody that derives relaxation from mental stimulation as opposed to sitting there doing nothing on a beach.

You are a seasoned DJ in two ways, radio and behind the decks, so in the spirit of Music Conference ASIA – which is also about educating the public – what is that one thing you’d tell an aspiring DJ, producer, and just an ordinary dance enthusiast?
Back in the day when I started it was a question of picking up some decks from a store and learning to mix with them. This was probably more of a financial challenge then, because the hardware needed to mix was more expensive than it is now. Now you can just do it on a laptop.

I feel it is rather more difficult to learn an instrument because I think just about all the DJs to come through are musicians in their own right as well. You have either got to have an instrument or predominantly keyboards as the fundamental skill to go alongside the ability to play behind the turntables. Learning to play keyboard is not a 5 minute enterprise, so make your own tracks and try and build up your reputation and brand image that way. Of course be concerned about brand image because you can’t just come up with any old crappy name and expect that to cut through in a sea full of competition.

You run one of the longest running successful nights at Ibiza, Judgment Sundays. Around this part of the world, organisers and DJs struggle to maintain a consistent club night. How did you make it work?
The most important element for me in having made and created a long standing successful club night in Ibiza, that has lasted longer than almost any other, is to understand the market you are appealing to and the music you are playing. Our soundtrack is predominantly trance and we have consistently managed to gaze into the crystal ball, find the DJs of tomorrow and combine them on the lineup with very successful semi-household names from today.

Also understanding that our clientele is largely British… the Brits account for almost a 3rd of all tourists in Ibiza as is evidence by the huge amount of flights from all regional airports in the UK to Ibiza. We understand our market and that is why it works so well!

We’ve only heard about Ibiza and it all sound very mythical – like nightlife heaven, almost. Tell us what it’s really like there?
Really, it is the epicentre of clubbing. In the world other locations have attempted to do the same thing – Vegas is on a bit of a roll at the moment. But Ibiza exists with some of the clubs that are simply unmatchable in terms of venues. Over the course of any 7-day period from mid-June to mid-September, you’ll see a lineup of DJs across the island unequalled anywhere else in the world.

A year ago you spoke about the danger of Ibiza catering too much to ‘VIPs’. Has that happened yet?
VIP culture is something we as DJs should possibly be fighting back against. I understand that club owners want to incorporate VIP spaces because they make an awful lot of money and vicariously the money that is made by VIPs pays for DJ fees, but generally speaking, the sort of people who are interested in the VIP aren’t the music heads. It is the music heads that are the lifeblood of club land, whether it is Ibiza or anywhere else. As far as Ibiza is concerned there are certain clubs whose names I won’t mention that have certainly begun to devote too much space to the VIPs, but that really does only apply to a couple of  the venues on the island thankfully.

VIPs get charged probably 10 times the cost price, if not more, for a bottle of spirits and a slightly more exclusive experience, but don’t automatically add anything to the vibe. The vibe is all about the people on the dance floor surrounding the DJ booth whooping and hollering!

You’ve DJed in front of the pyramids of Egypt. What other fantastical places you dream of playing at?
I guess it is fair to say with the Pyramids of Egypt being one of the 7 wonders of the world, this has to be the most magical location I have DJed in. But magical locations are a small part of the equation. It really is all about the crowd and DJing in front of people who are very up for hearing anything you throw at them musically as opposed to people who are a little more conservative in their taste. I am all about the crowd and, the location, whilst being secondary I guess, is important as well.

You’ve been around since the glory days of illegal raves and warehouse parties. Some old school DJs miss that underground, grimy feel of dance music back then. What do you think?
Of course when I was doing raves both as a DJ and promoter, it was magical because very few people were even aware of the music. The internet has become a shop window for all genres of music but has been particularly important in promoting dance and EDM.  So back then, pre-internet, when there weren’t dance clubs and there weren’t owners of venues prepared to entertain the idea of having dance music, it was very special to put things on in illegal venues that only the very few initiated knew about.  I guess the scenario now is a victim and I guess the scenario now represents the success of a scene that grew from those seeds. Of course they were great days but I still find that life is all about the crowd.

After 13 seasons at Eden, Ibiza, we wager you’re more than an expert at giving people a good time. How would you describe the perfect clubbing experience?
I am probably not the best person to ask what the ideal club night is because I spend so much of it behind the decks which is a wholly different perspective. During the summer in Ibiza, every night is a Saturday night, so I do tend to go and visit other clubs and see other DJs. Generally speaking as these are my friends, I am either in the Green Room or DJ booth, so I can’t really describe the perfect clubbing experience as I see things through totally different lenses.

You’re something of a tastemaker, so we want you to put on your fortune teller hat and tell us about the future of the dance scene this year.
I think on a commercial level you will begin to see the return of bands with a slight reaction against the over commercial dance sound. This doesn’t really affect me because I have always stuck in the middle ground of playing a trance vibe, which isn’t commercial but at the same time is more palatable. I think on a general music level you will start to see record labels maybe signing more bands, and possibly the extremely commercial end of dance music moving slightly out of fashion. Don’t get me wrong, that leaves a huge amount of artists, DJs, and clubs still playing the right area of dance music that is timeless and will continue into the future.

Excited about Global Sound System?
I cannot wait to get back to KL, not just for the Music Conference Asia, but also because I adore Malaysian food and I will undoubtedly return back to London a fair few Kilos heavier!

Judge Jules is slated to perform at Music Conference ASIA’s official festival Global Sound System on Saturday 27 April ’13.