It’s no secret, I love music and DJ’s, however, as I continue to dive deeper into the realm of music and the industry, my curiosity grows. And the more I dive, the more I learn about music, the industry, the artists, and the DJs who make me love music. Recently during an interview with Tina DeCara, I learned the importance of selecting and working with the right producers. Wow, did I miss one of the most important roles?
Music producers are the foundation of a track/remix and why I love the songs that I love. They are a unique group of talented individuals who step back and let the artists shine even if it means they will never get the true recognition they deserve. It’s also the reason why I am becoming more and more fascinated with the role of the music producer. There are a plethora of music producers whose names we recognize but what about the unsung heroes in music, like DJ James Anthony.
Anthony is a DJ who I don’t know personally but follow religiously on Facebook. He is smart, has a passion for his craft which I admire and respect. In 2003 he started working at New York’s WKTU. Within a year he had secured a weekly mix show, doing freestyle, and classic dance on Sundays. He’s still active in the music industry professionally which is another reason why I decided to find out more about him.
Tell us a little about yourself (where did you grew up, study and when did your love for producing begin and what was your first producing gig).
I grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York. Dance music has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. In grade school, I was the kid who made mixtapes and had to absolutely make sure everyone knew the words to “Can You Feel The Beat” by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, or what the latest Madonna single climbing the charts was. DJ’ing came naturally to me. Curating new music and sharing it with people was a calling from the time I was very young. I was also a proficient musician growing up, so producing and remixing was a natural jump for me. About a decade ago, when I felt I was ready I started the long process of learning how to create a song from the bottom up. In many ways, I’m still learning.
How did you start producing and what gave you the motivation to stay with it?
I started producing with the help and guidance of legendary producer Tony Moran (who I grew up listening to on the radio), A&R guru Hosh Gureli (who hired me for my first full-time job out of college) and my remix production partner in crime Orlando “Deep Influence” Fussalva. Their input, encouragement, and patience are what gave me the building blocks of learning how to create music.
Who or what has been your most memorable collaboration?
I am a lone wolf. I’ve remixed some pretty amazing artists, but those are less collaborations and more being hired for a project. When it comes to writing and producing, I’m very much in my own head. Sometimes I look at producer duos and I’m like “how do they do that?”. I can barely get on the same page as myself most days!
If there was one word you could use to explain your experience so far while working as a music producer, what would it be, and why?
Introspective. I learn a lot about myself through my work. That might just be a result of getting old too. Who knows. But I do know my work makes me feel very introspective.
What is the biggest struggle you face as a producer?
The creative process. It’s a lot like giving birth. I may sit down to write a song or get commissioned to do a remix, and….nothing. It just won’t come out of me. The words aren’t there. Nothing sounds right. And I’ve learned you can’t force it. It’ll come when it comes. And then suddenly there it is; fast and furious. I tend to be meticulous in terms of workflow, and yet the creative process always finds a way to disrupt that.
How do you determine success?
I’m my own worst critic. But if I can complete a project and know it sounds exactly like I want it to, then I count that as a win. If people like it, that’s icing on the cake. We’ve become a society so accustomed to craving likes and adds and positive reinforcement from strangers on social media, it becomes like an echo chamber after a while. Positive reinforcement is great, but if you don’t truly believe in yourself and your work regardless of that outside noise, you won’t get very far.
What is your biggest accomplishment as a producer?
I tend not to measure things in terms of accomplishments. There’s so little I’ve done and so much I want to do. One thing at a time…
There are times in a career when life isn’t going your way, how do you keep your mind on your work without losing focus?
Sometimes the best thing to do is step away from everything. Disconnect for a little while. I let my mind clear, my ears rest, and after a few days, I find myself fully recharged and refocused. Sometimes a little silence goes a long way.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve seen in this business for LGBTQ artists?
Good music is good music, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality. I look forward to seeing those labels erased in the name of good music. We’re getting there…slowly, but we’re getting there.
What other producers, songwriters and/or artists do you see as your primary inspirations?
I’m inspired by so many different things, there’s no easy answer. Sometimes I’ll hear a little bit of a lyric, or a certain synth sound and I’ll mentally earmark it. Inspiration can come from the most random places if you keep your ears open. I’ll be in the supermarket and some random easy listening song from the ’70s is playing in the background, and suddenly something in the melody or the chord structure will catch my ear and I’ll think “do that somewhere”. And it’ll eventually work its way into something I’m doing.
Do you have advice for young LGBTQ people who want to become pop music producers?
Find what inspires you and do the work! Keep at it until you’re completely happy with what you’ve come up with.
With all the various cloud and web technology out there and free downloads everywhere, how do you balance giving the right amount of free stuff and how do you protect your creative works?
It’s a delicate balance. I try to share some of my “private” remixes on Soundcloud to create buzz. Projects I’m officially commissioned to remix I manage on a case by case basis, based on how the label wants to roll it out.
If I was to turn on your iPod right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
These are my actual last five songs played:
Halsey “Without Me”
Company B “Fascinated”
Linda Ronstadt & Stone Ponies “Different Drum”
Fedde Le Grand “All Over The World”
Gloria Gaynor “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”
What exciting projects are you working on now?
I just completed a big room house mix Ariana Grande “7 Rings” that is currently #1 on the Billboard Dance/Club Chart. My remix of Teyana Taylor “WTP” is also making some noise. Besides that, I have about a dozen half-finished and finished projects looking for homes.