Judge Jules - Judge's Ruling
British DJ Judge Jules may yet be the greatest survivor of contemporary dance music. He’s been mocked for being too commercial, too posh, and even too intelligent, but the good-humoured DJ takes it all in his stride. As a trance superstar, he’s as relevant as ever. Jules, who’s worked in radio, press and A&R, is an articulate spokesman for the wider dance movement.
Fresh from headlining Trance Energy in Utrecht, Holland alongside Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk and our own tyDi, the Londoner is Australia-bound to play Sydney’s first chapter of the same event. Jules stresses that, while Trance Energy, from the creators of Sensation, is apparently devoted to a single electronic genre, punters can expect variety. “To the uninitiated, when you say the word ‘trance’, it has one [association] in people’s minds, which is probably what they heard in 2000 or 2001. But, actually, trance is a very broad church with lots of subgenres.”
Judge Jules has toured Australia countless times, once DJing at a Sydney cricket match, but Trance Energy will be among his most high-profile gigs in recent years. He’s seen the scene here change dramatically.
“It’s very difficult to go somewhere once or thereabouts a year and call yourself an expert – it’d be a bit arrogant of me to say that,” he starts diplomatically. “Some trips I’ve gone on have been more club-based, and others have been more festival-driven, and you can only really compare festival to festival and club to club. [But] I’ve always thought the Australian club scene is very strong. People seem to know the music. The atmosphere is good. Aussies travel a lot, which tends to help in terms of them having experienced club scenes in other countries. And there are lots of home-based Australian DJs making good music and who’ve developed a scene of their own. It’s not one of those countries where dance culture is wholly imported. The international DJ is just part of the spectrum of it all.”
Julius O’Riordan’s DJ handle is a reference to his days as a law student at the London School of Economics. It was during this period in the late ’80s when he began spinning house – and promoting. Jules scored a slot on the then pirate station Kiss FM, where he was mentored by Norman Jay. Eventually he progressed to Radio 1 – and his presence there continues. Jules hasn’t abandoned promoting, either. He will have hosted Judgement Sundays in Ibiza for 10 years this summer. Jules is also a seasoned producer, although, at times, that’s been eclipsed by his DJ compilations.
In 2009 Jules is plugging a new ‘artist’ album, Bring The Noise. He previously teamed with Darren Tate to conceive Angelic, roping in wife Amanda for vocal duties on It’s My Turn. Jules likewise impacted with the Hi-Gate project, named after the affluent London suburb of Highgate where he resides. Formed with Paul Masterton, Hi-Gate had a crossover hit in Pitchin’. Six years ago they presented a double-album, Split Personality, with Boy George a vocalist. Following Jules’ 2006 solo debut, Proven Worldwide, Bring The Noise is an upfront club LP, encapsulating the anthems Laid Bare and Judgement Theme. Nevertheless, he does offer some surprises. Jules collaborates with Jonty Skrufff on a cut. Another track samples Josh Wink’s Higher State of Consciousness, which, in an A&R capacity, the DJ originally signed to Manifesto. He’s “thoroughly roadtested” Bring The Noise.
Dance culture has never been as fluid as over the past decade. A huge watershed has occurred, with old DJs disappearing. However, Jules is appealing to a new generation. “For me, the radio has clearly helped a lot ’cause it gives people an identifiable means of relating to you in more than just DJ sets. Some people get stuck in a certain sound that maybe becomes an anachronism, and others have a sound that evolves with time and still has a modern-day relevance. I guess I’m in the latter category – I’d like to think, anyway!”
Jules is in sync with the full scope of dance. “In the UK what sells most is what we call ‘clubland’ or ‘all around the world’ label releases, which is really commercial, quite fast, slightly cheesy trance. That’s not my thing but, at the same time, I appreciate its value as a gateway into dance music for young listeners in the 13 to 17 age group. That’s not something I particularly like, but I think it’s performing a very valuable function, grabbing people into dance music who’ll probably evolve into more esoteric strains.
“I like a lot of the drum n bass that’s out there at the moment. I like what people are describing as ‘fidget’, which is the kind of Herve-style cut n paste electro. And trance, which is the main body of what I play, is in a very healthy place at the moment.
“Obviously, half of any news bulletin in the UK is about the recession, and all that negativity, but it just doesn’t seem to have affected clubland. It’s almost like dance music seems to thrive in hard times when people look for a bit of escapism that’s not majorly expensive.”
Jules admits that he only listens to drum n bass at home, but he has dropped fidget records in his sets, noting that producers like Fake Blood have trancey elements.
At any rate, the flamboyant Jules is enjoying an eccentric – and enduring – career. He’s even launched a clothing (primarily T-shirt) line, Heroes & Villains. The affable DJ boasts extraordinary connections, with ’80s pop stars like Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley citing him as a pal in interviews. Still, it’s hard to imagine today that Jules ever crossed paths with that rare groove DJ Norman Jay.
“Generally speaking, the more successful club DJs – there’s a couple of exceptions who I won’t name – are quite decent, sociable people, who I respect, because DJs are not just about playing records or making music in the studio – you’ve got to be a social being,” Jules says. “There aren’t that many real wanker DJs who’ve made it, because it’s a contradiction in terms.”
On his website, Jules vows to answer every email he receives from fans. (He posts some online – you can discover that celebrity chef Rick Stein is his uncle and used to DJ.) “A lot of it relates to career advice for DJing, questions relating to when I’m going to be playing, feedback regarding tunes that I’ve been playing – that kinda stuff, just any possible thing that you could imagine relating to DJing. ‘I’ve started DJing, should I wear earplugs-’ ‘Really liked your set at blah de blah...’ ‘Really didn’t like your set at blah de blah...’ Thankfully, there’s more of the former than the latter!” Jules must be inundated by emails, but he is his own best PR. “There have been occasions,” he says wryly. “There seems to be quite an uneven volume.” He considers 200 queries a week manageable. “A thousand a week, on the other hand, would be the occasion where I’ve got like a cartoon Adam’s apple gulp going on in my throat!”
WHO: Judge Jules
WHAT: Plays Trance Energy at Hordern Pavilion / Bring the Noise through Maelstrom / Stomp
WHEN: Thursday 9 April / Out now