Sitting down for a Zoom call has been part and parcel of life for many of us in the past year, but few have been as captivating for our residents Call of the Void and FETCH* as the recent retrospective with Just Nope!, a.k.a. James Maidment. Before his genre-spanning set on Bleached Club’s latest livestream, James took us through the journey he’s been on.
Given his current apathy for the dance centric genres he’s known for, we were curious as to how Just Nope! got started. “I used to be a massive punk rock fan. I used to never ever listen to electronic music. Like it just wasn't a thing” he recalls. So how did that transition happen? “I have to name drop this guy because he did make an impact. Seeing Skrillex videos on YouTube, as tragic as it sounds now, actually back then made a huge, huge difference for me.” he admits, grinning slightly. “Just the energy and the connection between him and the crowd was something quite exciting to witness as a 12-year-old.” James naturally progressed through dubstep and classic UK bass music, using the modern equivalent of digging through dusty record crates: “I spent ages going through Spotify at that point, going through the old discographies of Mala, Coki, DMZ, and the like.” Another major influence similar to many DJs taken by the early dubstep sound was Fabriclive 37 by Caspa & Rusko: “that CD was… pathbreaking,” and became a hallmark of his 140 love that only spiralled out from there.
https://store.fabriclondon.com/products/fabriclive-37 (sadly not available on streaming services)
It was initially tricky to try and bring this dark and otherworldly genre to his friends’ house parties of the early years, “cause although I was listening to dubstep, everyone else was listening to what they called ‘normal music,’” he laughed. “It's so ironic because everyone was deriding me for listening to all these weird tracks that just sounded mental. And now nine years later, everyone's going out on a Friday and listening to the exact same. So, it's the coolest thing in the world and they've just discovered it, you know?” Therefore the challenge of getting a positive reaction from the crowd became a driving force of his style, whether in house parties or a club scenario. His approach has always been to delve deep into tracks people are most likely hearing for the first time and blending them with well-known tracks. “It’s always about bringing new music to two people,” he explains. This approach has enabled his transition out of the house parties to the club. “Obviously, I can't play an hour of the tracks I want to play because people don't like that. So I just quickly preview the track and see what I could work into it.” This gave James time to cut his teeth, crafting signature blends on the fly to keep the dancefloor moving, aiding his natural progression onto some of London’s biggest dancefloors like XOYO. “I was just playing very standard stuff, early Mall Grab, Redlight, that kind of stuff. Then I brought in an acapella (DJ Pied Piper – Do You Really Like It?) because, just, I thought, well, why not? The reaction I got from that everyone's singing along and then cutting out the backing track and just having the acapella. That was amazing. Those sorts of memories bring back goosebumps, either DJing or being on the dancefloor. Yeah, the way you can get a reaction out of a crowd. I suppose it was validation of my project, that it was working.”
Since, James has collaborated with fellow DJ, Minimz, [Manjosh Gharial], under Jarial. “Manjosh had such a massive impact on my development as a DJ, he was great at navigating what can be at times an extremely frustrating industry.” Their style is hard to define – sitting between genres rather than something easy to place – and Manjosh has been pivotal in helping both Just Nope! and Gharial’s position in the market. “It was so lucky,” James reflects. “It was just intuitive, because he had a very similar story in terms of come up. At school he'd been a journalist, he'd had a lot of interaction with bass music. He was a massive nerd when it came to dubstep and 140 stuff as well.” The pair therefore quickly established common ground upon which to create meaningful sets as a duo. “While his mixing style is slightly different to mine, it very easily combined,” James explains. “But we both wanted to do these crazy blends, and an hour of that can just sound like a mess. So, for that, we had to sit down and work out, okay, you've got to change your style and I've got to change my style. It was okay. How do we take what we already have and enhance it?”
The duo are clearly doing something right, having now opened twice for bass heavyweights My Nu Leng. “I mean, playing for My Nu Leng has to be up there. The first time we did it was through a connection with the promoter, because they wanted greater access to students. So, they did that through us. Then we opened for My Nu Leng & M8’s tour in 2018, after winning their mix competition,” he explains. “It was surreal in itself because they announced it live on air for, I can't remember, Rinse FM or Radio 1, but anyway, hearing our name was unreal.”
So many of James’ highlights have emerged from the memorable moments conducting dancefloors across London, something lost to most of us over the last year. James likens the weird grey space we’ve all been inhabiting for so long to ‘standing on a precipice.’ As we emerge out of lockdown, then, he’s unsure what’ll we’ll be left with. “Whilst the super clubs and the underground clubs have both have been equally impacted in terms of sales over the pandemic, the larger clubs like fabric have obviously been helped by that funding,” he says. “Those small venues are actually my favourite to play out in. The more intimate places, they're going to have suffered so much more.” So what’s James’ musical forecast? “My nemesis, tech-house, is probably going to make a return, unfortunately. I guess we all have to deal with that,” he says. But perhaps it won’t quite be a dystopian tech-house nightmare for Just Nope!: “I do think that the future is bright. I'm going back through music that was made during the pandemic, you know, artistic efforts during the last year. I’ll combine those with some of the records I've got here already.” James’ ability to link music, culture and popular culture has therefore been integral in defining his sound, and is a tool he’ll no doubt wield as he progresses up the ranks. Keep an eye out for Just Nope! across London this summer, and catch up on his live set for Bleached Club via Twitch.