It’s hard to fathom that it’s been almost ten years since the release of ‘I Like The Way’, the breakout smash for Aussie duo BodyRockers.
Far from fading into pop obscurity, however, frontman Kaz James has thrived, going on to achieve a succession of incredible career highlights.
Most recently, Kaz has been flying high atop the ARIA club chart with his new stormer ‘Show Me All Your Love’.
But even though he’s no stranger to chart success, Kaz tells us that he was still genuinely surprised to discover his latest release had found favour with his hometown audiences.
“I sort of didn’t know what it meant at the start and then my record label kept calling and saying, ‘you’re number one again’, so I started to wonder what this ARIA number one business was all about,” he says. “It’s been a while. But it’s been good.”
It might come as surprise to learn that despite its new-found success, ‘Show Me All Your Love’ isn’t really all that new.
“I wrote it a few years ago in Paris,” Kaz tells us. “I always knew it was good, but I just felt that the vibe of it and what was coming out at the time just didn’t suit. So I kept it there and kept it there.”
But, he admits, he did have some big name help in finessing the track into the club stormer it is today.
“Calvin Harris helped me finish it, to be honest,” Kaz tells us, almost nonchalantly. “Calvin said, ‘get rid of that part’ and that was all it needed. To be honest, I felt a bit bad, because I kind of forgot. I had an interview and someone mentioned that Calvin had a hand in it and I thought, ‘oh yeah, shit’… Then I sent it to my label and they loved it.”
Calvin Harris isn’t the only big name Kaz has been rubbing shoulders with of late, after collaborating on David Guetta’s club smash ‘Blast Off’ in the middle of the year.
“I’ve known David for a long time – even when I was doing BodyRockers, so we’ve always been mates and he’s always been a really nice guy. Then last year he asked me to open up for his world tour. So I went on the road with him and opened up for his shows.
“We were leaving somewhere in Germany and hopped on the Guetta jet, as you do, back to London and I was just playing some tracks. There was one that had some guitar riffs and he was vibing on it, so we just started working on it, going to and fro… and we made ‘Blast Off’.”
We wonder, given these high profile collaborations and experiences, whether Kaz sometimes has to pinch himself.
“You don’t actually realise ‘til it’s over,” he admits. “I look back on the BodyRockers days and I think, ‘I closed the Commonwealth Games, oh yeah, I played at Glastonbury. I’m on ‘Top Of The Pops’. But when you’re in the moment, you just think, ‘oh yeah, this is kinda cool’.
“A lot of the time, it’s not even stuff like that that you look back at. To me, it’s always about the experience I have during some of the sets. Or some of the experiences I have in the studio. It’s not always about getting to No.1 or winning an award. It’s not really why I do it. It’s having that moment on stage with the crowd or having that moment in the studio where you make that song. That’s what I get off on.”
And it seems that the crowds are loving ‘Show Me All Your Love’. It’s clearly finding favour in clubs across the country to the point where it stuck in the No.1 position on our club chart for three weeks straight. It’s still in the No.2 spot as we publish. But when it comes to the single’s chances of crossing over into the mainstream, Kaz remains philosophical.
“I think it’s definitely taking on a life of its own,” he says. “Radio One in the UK has been all over it from Pete Tong. It’s getting a lot of plays around the world, so if it goes, it goes. To me, it’s always been that if a record’s right, it’ll find a life of its own.
“You can never bank on it though. In anything, I’m always a bit like ‘until it’s there…’. I don’t want to get too ‘it’s gonna be there!’ As long as I just keep rolling them out. Keep making records.”
Another thing artists like Kaz can’t bank on anymore is making money from the recorded music business. The proliferation of streaming services and the illegal download game decimates any chance he has of potentially walking away in the black. We ask whether he sees the recording side of things as a way of enticing people to come to his live shows.
“I think music now is a great marketing tool for what you do,” he explains. “I remember when I first started in the music business it was the other way around. You made your money from selling records. You had a hit, you sold millions of records and you did a few gigs and the money was alright, but it was more about promoting your record.
“But now it’s definitely the other way ‘round. There’s not much money in sales. You can still make good money, but definitely not like before. The money’s definitely in the shows now.”
In some aspects, the fact that a lot of people aren’t paying for his music leaves Kaz disappointed.
“I don’t really climb over to my next door neighbour’s house and open his fridge and take his food, which is kind of what people are doing indirectly without realising it,” he says. “There are ways they could stop it or they could change it, but they choose not to. Whatever.”
Kaz, however, is a canny operator. No longer relying solely on the miserly money coming in from the recorded music side of the business, he’s diversifying his income stream. Kaz now owns four coffee shops in London that provide him with both a place to create and a place to indulge one of his favourite passions.
“Well it was like a running joke. I grew up in Melbourne and all we did was drink coffee and buy vinyl. You go to the record shop and buy a stack of vinyl, then we’d all hang out and have coffee and then you go out at night. That was kind of the vibe.
“When I moved to London, the coffee was just the most disgusting thing I’d ever drunk in my life. I was ‘what the hell is this?’ and my mates in London were saying, ‘what’s wrong with you? What do you mean what is this?’.
“I was looking for a new studio space in London and my mate had this two floor building that he was going to get rid of, so I told him to give me the top floor for my new studio. He asked, ‘what am I going to do downstairs?’ and I said, ‘I dunno, a coffee shop?’. I had a month off, so the deal was I set it up, I design it, but he had to run it. And we did it.
“When I was away, my studio would rent commercially and we’d have people like Ronnie Wood to Arthur Baker to Kate Nash. Hurts are in there at the moment, MK, then massive producers like Dallas Austin… all these people recording in there and they’d hang downstairs. And that’s how the whole buzz came about.
“It got quite famous quite quickly, because it was this cool coffee bar with all these musos hanging out and recording upstairs. It created a vibe.”
Kaz is clearly a man who knows how to create a vibe. And he feels he’ll be able to do that with a great deal more passion, with a perception that the dance music arena is slowly shifting back towards one of his favourite genres.
“It’s steering more back into the house world, which is really cool,” he says. “Then again, especially in house music, it’s all about a groove. It’s about DJs playing longer sets and being able to hold the dancefloor and to take people somewhere. For me, that’s where it’s moving and that’s quite exciting.”
As such, expect plenty from Kaz’ upcoming appearances at the Stereosonic festivals across the country.
“Listen, whenever I play a set, I always try to play something different to what everyone else is playing. I want everyone to experience something that they can’t get anywhere else. And that’s the main thing for when I play an earlier show. An accessible show. I don’t want to sound like anyone else, so I try to keep my own Kaz James style on it.”
And thankfully, that Kaz James style exists not in the increasingly-prevalent skill-free world of DJ automation.
“I think for me, it’s just trying to express myself creatively behind the decks. That’s the biggest thing I find now. I think that the art form of DJing might be a bit overlooked these days, so I find it a bit frustrating sometimes when I’m playing on four CDJs at once and people don’t really know. They think it’s just the same as a dude who stands there with his hands in the air on automix.
“I think the art moved out of the business, which is kind of a shame. So I’m now fighting to try and bring that back to people… Turntablism as you’d call it back in the day. I remember my mum saying, ‘what do you mean you’re a DJ? You’re not on the radio!’ ‘I’m a turntablist, mum. How’s that?’ Minus the scratching.”
Kaz James’ single ‘Show Me All Your Love’ is available now as a digital single and a remixes package.
Catch Kaz playing at Stereosonic across the country from late next month.
November 29 & 30 : Sydney (Showgrounds)
November 29 & 30 : Perth (Claremont Showgrounds)
December 05 & 06 : Adelaide (Showgrounds)
December 06 & 07 : Melbourne (Showgrounds)
December 06 & 07 : Brisbane (Showgrounds)