- Words Kaya Martin
- Photography James. J Robinson
- Styling & Creative Direction Julia Kaethner
- Grooming Dan Collins
When jamesjamesjames tells you he’s from Beverly Hills, you believe him. The 23-year- old producer and DJ is surrounded by an air of glamour — bleached blonde, expensive, and always poised for a flashy paparazzi pic.
With all that innate star power, it’s no surprise the numbers are growing. This year alone, he has played a Boiler Room set at Sugar Mountain, toured throughout the United States, and secured placements on Spotify’s taste-making Hyperpop and Portal playlists. His music, hard techno brightened with airbrushed vocals, sets the vibe: non-stop party anthems for the girls, the goths, and the gays.
Leaving Beverly Hills behind, jjj is now based on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, in hot and sticky Brisbane, Australia. And the look of effortless luxury? It actually takes a fair bit of effort. “I guess it is me, but it’s also a role, sort of a character I play,” he tells me. “I’ve never taken anything too seriously, and I hated how formal and commercial the music industry was.”
The jjj persona is an antidote to the industry’s stuffy exterior: dumb and dazzling, drawing inspiration from OTT celebrity culture and iconic 2000s TV shows like Keeping Up With The Kardashians and Paris and Nicole’s The Simple Life. He’s given the glossy Y2K motifs a satirical shakedown — think ‘I Heart Paris’ tees, movie merch, and camo print garnished with a Balenciaga bag.
“Rather than just going to a normal DJ show, I really take the time and effort to curate this little world,” he says. “I guess it makes you stand out from the crowd a little bit. You’re not just some other DJ-producer guy.”
Setting the stage and playing the part is all designed to accentuate the music. On his 2021 track “My Purple iPod Nano”, the 00s influence is clear, with a skittering beat coupled with bass-heavy thuds and throwback synths. It’s hard, fast, and made for dancing so much you sweat through your t-shirt.I think he’d be an incredible and very interesting topic – especially considering his experiences and decisions already in life, as well as his alt sonic. Confidentially we’re building towards a new project in July – I’m happy to send you a sneak peek if you’d like?
Growing up, jamesjamesjames had little exposure to the world of club music. His upbringing was quite sheltered — “Christian vibes”, he says — and he was raised without a computer or a TV. In school, he played piano and percussion in jazz band and symphonic orchestra. It wasn’t until he started going to the library and stealing CDs from the mall that he became exposed to all different kinds of music.
“There was the new releases section that wasn’t in the store, but stood slightly outside of the store,” he tells me, “so it was perfect for 11-year-old me just to come along and grab a CD and walk away.”
One of these CDs was Ministry of Sound: Clubbers Guide to 2011. It featured all the biggest players of the time: Far East Movement, Steve Aoki, Swedish House Mafia. “It was still in that weird era before EDM was a thing, and it was this dirty electro house type stuff,” he explains. “It shook me to my core.”
He’s not exaggerating. In dedication, he now has the album’s entire 40-song tracklist tattooed across his back, with ‘RIP Avicii’ at the top. “That CD basically invented me, and I still have it to this day.”
- Parka JUNYA WATANABE
When he finally did get his hands on a computer, LimeWire and SoundCloud opened his eyes to even more experimental music. There, he stumbled across early work of PC Music, which would come to be another massive influence on his sound and artistic approach. “You could be transformed to this dumb, non-real, hyper-pop, hyper-shiny, rubbery world that just didn’t exist in real life,” he says. Today, the world he is building has clear parallels.
Perhaps part of the reason jamesjamesjames works hard to create a memorable experience for his fans is that it’s just harder to keep the attention of Australia’s club kids. “Clubbing is cringe. It’s so irony-pilled,” he says dismissively. Controversial new laws have forced venues to close hours early, and pandemic-related lockdowns have left local clubs struggling to stay afloat.
He tells me the energy at his New York and Los Angeles shows was so different. “They were there to get down and dirty. They weren’t there to be seen; they were there for the music and it was sexy and dark… It was just something we don’t have here in Australia.”
Here, he says, most people just hit the clubs to hear their favourite Top 40 songs and get “blackout drunk”. Instead, real music heads frequent unregulated events at the forefront of the party scene — under bridges, in warehouses, and in parks.
The other option for fans is the mega, multi-day festivals, one of which the artist is lined up to play in the new year — St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, with six dates across Australia and New Zealand. The rest of his summer plans include hunkering down to work on new material, and continuing to craft the brash and bratty universe of jamesjamesjames.
“You have to work hard to get people’s attention and [maintain] that attention,” he says — not just of the Australian club circuit, but the world stage he’s now occupying — making it clear he’ll keep working hard for our attention, for his fans, for superstardom. “Like… I don’t want anyone going out for cigarettes during my live set.”