Photo: Brett Vilena (James Bangura)
Whether as a solo artist or as a member of Black Rave Culture, James Bangura has been both prolific and multi-faceted, exploring different facets of dance music on releases for labels such as Art-E-Fax and, recently, a compilation put together by DJ Python and Anthony Naples for Air Texture. His mix for our Groove podcast is dedicated to bouncing, joyful techno by masters such as Robert Hood or Joey Beltram and rising talent like Clotur or Risa Taniguchi.
After a string of releases, compilation tracks and remixes since the mid-2010s, you put out your self-titled debut EP in early 2020 and have been very prolific ever since. What impact did the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have on your work as a producer?
I’d say that the pandemic really helped my creative flow. I was able to tap in more effectively and look inward more so because we were at home and could silence a lot of the outside noise you get from work, travel, etc.
In an interview with Alicia Steanson from Origins, you talked about starting out producing music “in the box”, i.e. primarily on your computer, but then gradually investing in hardware, too. How has this shaped your working process and sound, and which pieces of gear play a key role in your work nowadays?
These days, more of my work is done with the hardware pieces I have more than being in the box. There’s a lot more freedom because you can experience raw creative expression instantaneously. You can’t replicate that feeling in the box. The results are always a surprise too because you don’t think as much as you feel and so you get to see that.
One of your latest releases was the track “Per Ounce” for DJ Python and Anthony Naples’s Air Texture VIII. How did that particular track come together and what led to its inclusion in the compilation?
That was a really interesting project because the majority of my previous work is really percussive heavy and with “Per Ounce” I focused a lot on melodies and sound design. I used a few Rob Papen plugins along with Serum. The drums came together rather quickly but I spent a few days playing around with melody ideas that felt fun and bright.
In 2019, you started the label PercussionFunctions, however the last release came out in late 2020. Do you have any plans to reactivate it?
At some point I’d like to switch focus back to running the label. As of now I’m really focusing on my personal project and my project with Black Rave Culture.
You have also lived elsewhere throughout your life, but are currently based in Washington, D.C., a city that is often neglected in discussions around the US-American dance music scene. What developments have you witnessed there in the past few years?
D.C. Is one of the most vibrant musical cities I’ve ever been to. That it’s known for being the “Capitol” could overshadow the rich musical history of the city. The influence of D.C. and its music history reaches far beyond what people see. I think that people have this perception that what’s going in DC now is this new revelation but it’s been happening. So many new crews and collectives have developed over the past few years that are really highlighting the best aspects of D.C. dance culture. You have artists like Beautiful Swimmers, Juana, Clarissa Kimski, Djoser, SoSo Tharpa, Jackson Ryland, RushPlus, 1432R Crew (Joyce & Sami), Dreamcastmoe, NativeSun, Amal, Syd, The Khan, Auto LoLa, Sir E.U., Nappy Nappa & Pat Cain as Model Home, Get Face, Gabber Bitch, The Black God, NotEnoughSoul, and so many others. The reality is that D.C. is finally getting the attention that it deserves.
You are part of the trio Black Rave Culture together with Amal and DJ Nativeson. How was the project originally conceived?
That project really came together out of this need of community, especially at the beginning of 2020. The world was hit with the pandemic, racial injustice was back on the rise, and we couldn’t go anywhere due to lockdown. We just wanted to hang, share ideas, and support each other. It eventually became something else that really resonated with people.
The three of you also DJ together. How do you approach those gigs, do you prepare differently for them than for your solo sets?
(laughs) It’s funny that you ask that because we get asked this alot. There isn’t any real preparation. We spend so much time around each other and DJ together so often, we just go off the natural vibe that develops through the set.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I wanted to make the mix with my current tastes in mind, I love tension so I wanted to focus on that.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
Honestly I want to play as many shows as humanly possible and just continue to write and put out music. I have some really dope releases coming out in 2022 and 2023, so keep a look out for those.
Stream: James Bangura – Groove Podcast 343
01. J. Albert – God Said
02. Kanyon x DJ Swisha – Untitled Ambient Jam
03. Hassler – How Good Were The Parties
04. Floorplan – Learn
05. Bodzza – 909 Call (Original Mix)
06. Mister StickTalk – Hood Mentality
07. N. E. S. – Big Red 1
08. Risa Taniguchi – This Guy
09. Ben Klock & Fadi Mohem – Prefix
10. Samuel L Session & Van Czar – Omnipresence
11. Uncertain – Accelerate (Original Mix)
12. Clotur – Driven By Particles
13. Bidoben – L’Ère du Fragment
14. Komo B – Orbit
15. Jordan Peak -Würk
16. Joey Beltram – Work Dat (Original Mix)
17. Uncertain – Renegade
18. Tony Tyson Skeptic Tank
19. AKA The Alien & Chase – The Bitch (Fhase 87 Remix)