‘Sheffield holds a special place for me in my career and life’: An interview with Judge Jules

‘Dance music has changed in every way you can think of’


Tomorrow night (23 March), dance music legend and pioneer Judge Jules comes to Plug Sheffield with a 10-piece live band as part of his most unique tour to date.

Ahead of the show, he sat down with The Sheffield Tab to talk about changes in the dance music scene, his passion for DJing, and what fans can expect from the event.

When did you realise you wanted to be a DJ?

From an early age, I always had a massive record collection and was very fan-like about music in
general. I suppose you get to a point in your mid-teens when you realise that’s actually very geeky,
and want to do something to justify an almost obsessive approach to music – to give it a gloss of
respectability. And a good solution is to start DJing.

You’ve been in the game a long time – how has the scene changed?

In almost every way you can think of, though for me there are three main areas that best represent
the evolution of the scene.

Originally, dance music was very much an underground movement – a
cottage industry with a DIY ethic. Fast forward 25 years and you have the involvement of big entities
like Live Nation and Ministry of Sound. It truly is a “business” in every sense of the word.

Secondly,
the internet changed things massively – or to be more specific, high speed broadband did.

Originally, magazines like Mixmag, specialist record shops and local club promoters made up the
skeleton of the scene. They were where you discovered new music and artists. Now that is readily
available online everywhere, including though portals like Soundcloud. Giving everyone access to
everything impacted on the scene on every level.

Finally, and this is always a contentious topic, but
phones on the dance floor (with people filming or taking photos of the DJ rather than being lost in
the music). I don’t think anyone can deny that it can be detrimental to the atmosphere at gigs.

How are you feeling about returning to Sheffield?

Sheffield has always been a big part of my career and I’ve been back quite recently for some
Gatecrasher shows. This time however, I’m looking forward to returning in a different format for my
own project, launching something quite special.

I’ve had three especially significant DJ residencies
during my career, Gatecrasher being one – probably the most important one. I played there every
other week for many years, so Sheffield holds a special place for me both in my career and my life.

Why have you gone for a live band set up on this tour?

The main reason is to do something different – there have been many well-known ‘orchestra’ tours
which I’ve been involved with, but this is completely different in every way.

The main reason being
that I’m playing in the midst of a 10-piece band and vocalists. Rather than replaying the tracks note
for note, we’ve completely re-arranged and re-imagined each track for this show, and the result has
surpassed all our expectations. The energy and dynamic of the band and myself on stage really
makes this something special and I can’t wait to get the tour on the road.

Which tracks get the biggest reaction in your set?

I’m reluctant to give the game away by revealing the tracks that will be played, but I have an idea of
which songs are going to get the best reaction. Needless to say, the show is filled with classics that
you’ll recognise, but re-written in a way that you’ve never heard before.

Who are you listening to a lot at the moment?

I have a quite weird and varied taste in music; I listen to a lot of chill-out, but it’s harder to pin-point
one particular artist in dance music that I listen to a lot, as so much dance music I hear is done on a
single-by-single basis.

Away from dance music, one band I’m loving is The Marias who have quite a
chilled, ethereal sound – almost like a modern, girly Beach Boys-meets chillout style.

Finally, any advice for budding DJs who may be reading this?

You’ve got to be amazing at everything – a real DIY all-rounder. That means you need an
unquenchable passion for music, you need to be a social media whizz, produce your own amazing
music, be charismatic behind the decks, be good at interviews, understand how to promote your
events and generate your own crowd. If you can be strong in all these areas, you have a chance of
getting noticed in what is a hugely competitive marketplace.