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Mixmag Asia Radio: James Selva taps into his Goa & psy roots

"I generally frame my sets within the ethos of 'groovy, cheeky, spontaneous, introspective & psychedelic'."

  • Charles Budd
  • 13 September 2023
Mixmag Asia Radio: James Selva taps into his Goa & psy roots

Versatile and open-minded, Singapore-based artist James Selva embraces a diverse sound that converges into a smooth story for the dance floor.

Known for taking individual listeners on captivating journeys, he's showcased his panache for deep-thought music on the renowned stages of Wonderfruit and Garden Beats, as well as popular local venues such as Ce La Vie and Zouk.

James thrives on crafting fresh and unforgettable sets. He has also supported acclaimed international acts, showcasing his talent alongside names like Sébastien Léger and Hyenah.

For this week's episode of Mixmag Asia Radio, he taps into his psychedelic roots on and delivers them in a nuanced and refreshing set of house and breaks.

Where are you based and how did you get there?

Hey there, thank you so much for having me. I’m currently based in Singapore, and grew up here.

What’s your favourite thing about the music scene there?

The diversity of different sounds that we get on any given weekend. We’re honestly spoilt for choice sometimes, with countless collectives, day parties and club nights providing a truly eclectic sonic spectrum. We’ve also been really fortunate to get top-tier regional and international selectors dropping by our sunny island as of late. To put it into perspective, the close proximity between most of our venues/pop-up spaces allows an almost seamless integration of dancefloor experiences (With most locations being about a 20-minute cab ride from each other). It honestly feels like you’re checking out different stages at a festival whenever you’re hitting up 2-3 parties on a single day.

In five words, what do your DJ sets sound like?

My sets can vary according to the vibe or story that I’m trying to share at a specific time and place. I generally frame my sets within the ethos of groovy, cheeky, spontaneous, introspective & psychedelic.

And in three words, how would you describe yourself?

Calm, colourful & adventurous

What recent trends in music have you been paying attention to? Have you caught onto them?

Truth be told, I’m not sure what the specific genre is called for this sound, but I’ve labelled it as psy-tech in my Rekordbox crates. I feel it’s a soundscape that bridges the house/techno club dance floors with the sand-washed winds of a bush doof. It’s been bubbling beneath the surface for a while now and has been gnawing away at my knobs. It’s been a real pleasure to dig into a burgeoning sound like that. The productions that are coming out of Thailand and Australia are absolutely class.

Are there any producers and DJs in Asia that have recently caught your attention?

I’ve been really digging the productions from Siamese Twin, More Rice & JIN Records. Their producers and selectors are definitely the ones that have caught my attention for a while now, after being spellbound by my experiences at Karma Kastle and Wonderfruit. I’ve included 2 tracks by Sunju Hargun and Temple Rat (Mei Yuxin) in this mix.

Temple Rat (SH) - I’ve really enjoyed listening to her mixes and playing her productions out. The art of subtle hypnosis via aural soundscapes is pretty rare, and I must say she does it extremely well.

Mindaniel (VN) – Just booked Daniel in March, and he played a cracker of a set. He’s rather versatile in the techno domain, and really enjoyed listening to some of his latest productions, which were raw, deep & hypnotic. He’s recently been accepted to the Pete Tong DJ Academy as well, and continues to make waves in his current base of Hanoi.

Rui Tang (TH) – Chanced upon Rui playing a sunrise set at Lost Paradise in Koh Phangan, and was really blown away. Her sound is really unique, it has this trippy Red Axes feel, layered with Asian instrumentals and riveting vocal samples.

I’m always inspired by my fellow selectors/producers here in Singapore. As of late, Joshua P, Maurice Simon, Zig Zach, Sivanesh, Miss Lil, Bongomann, Aman Anand, Ma De, Zushan, Aalely, Yetpet, Leland, Mako & Mari have played some pretty incredible sets. A little over 3, but I’d really like to use this platform to share the amount of talent we have in this little red dot.

Describe one prediction you have about dance music in a post-pandemic world that’s being driven by new technologies.

With the accelerating pace of how AI is being adopted across all industries, I have an assumption that the way electronic music might be played or produced in the future may be altered by algorithms, thus changing the creative process of most musicians. While it may streamline many of the processes that musicians and selectors often engage in, the power to truly shake things up will always fall to the individual, as the key element in a production or DJ set is a creative’s propensity to push the envelope, by daring to be different.

Tell us about the inspiration behind this mix - what drove your thoughts and emotions, and how did you curate your selection?

I felt a desire to share a story of my roots in psytrance, and how my early taste in a seemingly disparate genre created from the hilltops of Goa has now found its way into the tendrils of house, techno and its subgenres. With my selections, I wanted to bring the listener on a voyage through the subtle background elements of psy-tech, blended with the freedom of breaks and the hypnotics of trancey-techno.

The first half is an ascension of different textures, culminating in Morpheus’ voice sample of fighting the machines, right before it drops into heavy, rolling basslines. It gradually evolves into a different phase with Maara’s aptly named 'Spiral 2 The Other Side'. I envisioned the listener entering a portal into the unknown and perhaps entering a state of ethereal introspection. At least, that’s how I imagined it.

What equipment did you record this mix on?

Pioneer DJM-900NXS2 & 2 X CDJ-2000NXS2

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen happening from the DJ booth?

A Nicolas Cage doofstick being repaired in Melbourne at the front-middle of the dancefloor. Couldn’t help but laugh and speak to the owners behind it once my set was done.

*Also, the wolf howling ad-libs that nobody asked for, but are always greatly appreciated.

Where can we hear you playing next?

I recently opened for Fur Coat (Watergate/Oddity Records) & Hidden Empire (Stil Vor Talent/Filth On Acid) with the ArtBeyond crew at MDLR just las week! But next - I'll be doing the programming for a new alternative space called Cherry Kitchen, where I play about 3 times a month. I’ve been booking a number of regionals of late, with Ray Soo from Bali and SvatG from Manila gracing the decks in September. I believe a cross-pollination of culture is extremely vital in Asia, to learn and grow with our brethren.

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