On a night at Webster Hall, that's where I first met the trance DJ, James Cottle. “It's Cottle, same as a bottle.” We were there for Paul van Dyk's new event concept Venture X. From then, we agreed to an interview together. Trance music has always been the heart and soul of dance music with the emotional lyrics and chords it's a global genre that everyone can speak. "Uplifting, joy, and happiness to do with trance. There are so many sad things, what terrible things going on in the world. That's why I try to inject a bit of joy and happiness into something out there and that's not to say I don't like making dark styles of trance music. It's something a little bit sad, but it's definitely. Directed towards Uplifting and happy sound.” It's the reason why James Cottle entered the scene and persuade his passion and dreams into a reality. From releasing unique tracks, and performing at iconic trance festivals and events to his weekly Twitch channel, James Cottle is the one to be on your radar.
Born and raised in England, UK - Northeast of the country. At an early age, he discovered dance music. “The year was 2000, the first time I heard trance because my sister was listening to tracks like ATV at home. I started building my music library around 2003 and 2004 when I was leaving high school. I managed to find a lot of Tiësto tracks. Then I heard them in a local nightclub that I probably shouldn't have been going to at the age of 15. I decided I love trance music.” Through the beginning of his DJ career, he experienced different sub-genres and different types of trance music. “In a different direction, I was going to a retro-style piano house night in England. It was a nightclub called Club M, and about 7,000 people would go. It was a huge event, it was a monthly thing”. Cottle then discovered the business side of the music industry and began to hustle his way through. “So trance kind of took a bit of a backstep. There was a lady at work who was buying their Mix Mag, and she just gave me loads of them, like Slammed, The Band On, there was Armin van Burren, Big Room Tracks in 2004, Paul Van Dyk, Return of God MixMag CD, which blew me away. Then after a year or so, some friends who were more into tech house and earlier tech house stuff got some Pioneer CDJs and would go around and have a mix on them. So then in 2008, I got some Pioneer CDJ 800s. That's when I started to learn to mix and download lots of trance music. I didn't have any vinyl decks.” Through discovering more artists that touched his body and soul he was able to create original mixes and tracks. “So from then, I was just all about DJing and I kind of didn't realize the importance of making your own music to promote yourself. I was very single-minded on that subject. Then I bought Ableton Live and started learning to produce music, which took a long time. I also started to work for an events company called Good Grief Events and Tours in England and they were booking DJs like Eddie Halliwell, John McCallaghan, Giuseppe Ottaviani, and the big trance acts. I was getting to meet these people. I was then getting gigs, which it's all part of the process. Soon after, I ended up getting a main room warm-up slot at Digital Nightclub in Newcastle. Probably the longest club in Newcastle.”
After breaking through, he signed his first track with a major label, officially putting his name on the trance map, leading to more releases and appearances at events and festivals. “When I signed my first track to Vander Records in 2016. That was the moment I decided I wanted to do it as a career. But what got me into electronic music was probably, I told you my sister was listening to a lot of trance music. Also before that my, parents were very music orientated. Going back a long time before they had a vinyl playing. They would play stuff like David Bowie a lot.” Many artists and DJs will not make it big in the dance music industry if they don’t have an inspirational icon to look up to. With any genre in any realm of music, a song is always inspired by an old track or beat that was produced in the past. It all circles back to the beginning when I first met James Cottle at Webster Hall who then told me who his number one DJ who inspired him, the answer then made sense. “My number one is Paul Van Dyk, I love his older music and I love his current music. He stayed very true to his sound over the years. Also, I love Alex Moth. I used to listen to him a lot like a while ago.”
Throughout the years he established his style of sound in trance music, teaming up with heavyweight DJs and producers such as Paul van Dyk, “done two tracks together with him but the first one was a proud moment for me.” Plus, Craig Connelly ‘Place in the Stars “Was released on John O'Callahan's Subculture record label. So we discussed potentially doing a second collaboration over a few drinks. I'd been writing some ideas and I sent them over to Craig and he said he liked one in particular. So I end up going to a studio in Manchester. I met John O'Callahan in 2009 when he was playing a trance gig. I was just in the crowd. I went and said hello to him at the end. So then he got a girlfriend and one of her friends is one of my friends. Then we all became good friends over the years.” One of his biggest accomplishments as a DJ was performing at the infamous Ministry of Sound “That was a proud moment then. A dream come true, to be honest with you.”
Artists from different genres have been changing their DJ sound and sometimes identity by creating another alias. Sound change is not a bad thing, it's the perfect way to stay current in the music industry and express a different range instead of one specific genre giving artists a bigger platform for more releases. James Cottle was asked if he would ever change his style of sound and explore a different genre. “It's a difficult question. I just love the uplifting trance sound, it sounds so much at the moment. Art is changing its style to stay current. I used to have some quite interesting views. I thought people shouldn't do it, but at the end of the day, these are their main jobs and they need to earn money and they need to feed their families. I've got more of an open mind on it now. Whereas I was probably a lot more narrow mind on the subject a few years ago.” Circling back to where we first met at Webster Hall, Paul van Dyk was not an ordinary trance event. Recently he launched a new event series concept called Venture X releasing a slew of techno and melodic completely shifty to a different gear in music. He completed his tour with positive reviews and maintained his original followers and supporters plus gaining more. “So my view on it is, I like techno a lot, so I don't really have, a problem with people changing the sounds, also like has a lot of like fancy elements in it. It still does it, doesn't it? But I'm not sure whether I considered doing it at the moment. Memories I could take some crossover style tracks, but I wouldn't slow, my sound right down to that speed.”
The freshly talented, innovative, DJ and producer has captivated the trance scene with his original tracks and selection. His pure natural skill and the deliverance of each set are what make him shine. His abilities and talents of playing diverse sets are why his highly entertaining and unique and put him on the right path to building his impressive catalog. The process of making original tracks is difficult on its own, but what's the process like for James Cottle? “I would normally start with writing some melodies and then, and maybe just thinking about a point in time in my life, like for a theme, maybe something that's happened or something that's like, maybe it's planned to happen in the future. So the way I work is I would write the main theme with melodies and chords and pads, string sounds, and then a kind of layout of structure with drums and baselines. Sometimes it can take quite a long time and sometimes it can just maybe take one or two weeks to make a track. I would do is I would listen to lots of tracks that I love from other artists. I wasn't feeling so inspired on a particular day, I would maybe listen to Paul Van Dyk one of his earlier albums. I should also say that I like going out for walks as well away from electronic devices, getting away from social media and electronic devices, and maybe spending time with family, and friends. If you're struggling with ideas, just being with family could just lighten the mood up, and then something pops into your mind.”
From the beginning of entering the dance music community, I always loved trance. The three Ts in my life are trance, tacos, and techno. I’ve been to many trance events and shows and they always held a special place in my heart. I ask James Cottle why trance music. Why did you become a trance DJ rather than a different genre? “I think it's so emotional and the melody and riffs are so catchy. I just became obsessed with it. Trance was his calling card, he continues - “It's not to say I don't like other genres of music. I do like techno and things like this. I would go out to a club and see a techno DJ. I think trance will always be the one for me. I'm one of those types of people.” His all-time collab was difficult to answer because he already collaborated with icons such as Paul van Dyk and John O'Callaghan. “If I had to pick somebody else, it would probably be Michelle Jean-Jacques, he's an electronic artist, French. He's been doing it for 50 years. His sound is so weird, modulated synthesized music from the 70s. He's just so forward-thinking, it sounds like striving to expand and push boundaries to warp your mind. I love people like that.”
“Finding that balance is difficult.”- James Cottle
James Cottle is now on tour, he is performing at two iconic Ibiza clubs, Eden and Privileg. Plus, the Ministry of Sound UK, and a few trance festivals such as Marquee Mini Festival “In the summer, I’ll play down in Nottingham in England, it's like a mini-festival with Piotivari, Bryan Kearney, and Will Atkinson. I'm excited about that.” His most recent release is with one of his favorites and close friend Craig Connelly ‘Got to Give’ along with two new tracks still in the works. “I've got two new tracks signed. I believe it's early summer, but I can't say the record there was at the moment. I'm very excited about that. I've been working on a vocal project together with a singer from England.”
“Inspiring words for producers, we're just getting started! I would say YouTube is our friend. There are more music production or trance production tutorials than ever on YouTube. So I would go and check them out. Also, I think it's very valuable for new producers to go and spend time in the studio with a professional and I think it's a great thing. Also, if you're struggling, don't be afraid to ask your peers. The colleagues for help and guidance. So I'm going around, circles on your thinking, you know, you shouldn't ask for help because of the song you're lying and complaining about it. I want to thank everyone so much for their support over the years. I can't wait to show you my new music.” - James Cottle
Coffee or tea?
Normal hours or after hours at a club?
Club sets or festival sets?
Be on stage or in the crowd?
Social media or not at all?
"Not at all."
Sneakers or sandals?
Soda or soda or beer?
"Beer, of course."
Cheers to that!