Anjunadeep founder James Grant talks playing in Dubai ahead of gig at The Penthouse this weekend
Hi James. Have you been to Dubai before? If not – what are you looking forward to doing?
I’ve only been once, about ten years ago for a friend’s stag do. I remember going to a water park, riding quad bikes on sand dunes and playing a mildly jetlagged but extremely competitive game of five-a-side by the beach. This is my first DJ gig in Dubai though and I’m really looking forward to it. I was told the people love melodic and deep house music – this is great because that’s Anjunadeep’s specialty.
If you had one day in Dubai… would you be in the Burj Khalifa enjoying drinks or riding a camel in the desert?
Tricky one as I love beautiful sceneries, but I also like heights and views - hopefully there’s time to do both!
You’re a DJ, music producer, and artist and label manager… which one do you love most?
My day job is as an artist manager for Above & Beyond and that’s where the majority of my energy and focus goes to. However, seeing Anjunadeep grow to where it is today gives me an enormous sense of personal satisfaction and pride. I’m fortunate to get to wear a few different hats at work and enjoy all of them, so it’s impossible to pick just one aspect!
When was the first moment you realised the career for you was within music?
I grew up listening to electronic music and did a radio show at university, but I never expected to work in music. I was working in tech PR and hit a bit of a wall. I realised that I needed to work in something I was truly passionate about or risk never being entirely happy. I persuaded the Above & Beyond guys - one of whom is my brother Jono - to let me work for free and thankfully they took a punt on me.
Who has been your biggest musical inspiration?
When I first started listening to dance music it was groups like The Orb, Underworld and Orbital but in terms of DJs, Sasha was always a big influence - his Involver series took mix albums to a whole new level.
If there was one song you wish you made, what would it be?
Probably “Tuesday Maybe” by Way Out West (one half of which is my partner in crime Jody Wisternoff)
Have there been any moments in your career when things have gone horribly wrong and you’ve thought… ‘How do I recover from this?’
Touch wood, we’ve managed to avoid any major disasters so far but it’s the nature of live entertainment that things can and do go wrong, so we just try to keep a calm head when they do. Sometimes mishaps can lead to opportunity too - Above & Beyond’s infamous Push The Button moment was borne out of a power cut at a gig and the guys spontaneously inviting someone else to restart the music.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen during one of your DJ sets?
There was a gig in London last year where I’d just finished DJ’ing and headed straight to the dance floor to enjoy a set from one of our artists, Ben Bohmer. A fan came up to me, a big strapping Scandinavian fella, and said “can I ask a favour?”. So, I said “Sure, what can I do for you?”. To which he replied: “can I put you on my shoulders?” It was an unusual request, but I was happy to accommodate and next thing I’m being held aloft by this guy in middle of the dancefloor and high fiving a slightly confused Ben Bohmer in the raised DJ booth.
You’ve worked with loads of artists... Who has been the most surprising?
I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with numerous people who are infinitely more talented than me but there definitely is a great collaborative chemistry between Jody Wisternoff and I. We’re just on the same wavelength musically which makes collaboration flow easily - I sometimes refer to him as my musical soulmate.
We haven’t directly collaborated yet but Yotto has a career in comedy waiting for him if music doesn’t work out. He has this dry Scandinavian (is Finland in Scandinavia? Gonna have to google that now) wit and doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is always refreshing in the music business. He’s worth a follow on Instagram. I’m always traumatised by his lack of socks though so don’t go there if naked ankles make you squeamish.
What’s been the biggest pinch me moment of your career to date?
In 2017 Above & Beyond sold out the Gorge Amphitheatre, one of the most beautiful open-air venues in the world, and on the Sunday we hosted Anjunadeep in the Gorge Meadow. We weren’t sure how many people would stick around for the Sunday but ended up playing to 17,000 people in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable.
With Above & Beyond, it was probably when Bryan Cranston joined A&B on stage at EDC Las Vegas and revived his Walter White character from Breaking Bad.
What can fans expect from your upcoming set?
Well we’re celebrating the release of our Anjunadeep 10 compilation, which I’ve mixed with Jody Wisternoff, so I’ll be playing a bunch of new tracks off that as well as plenty of new Anjunadeep signings that we’re excited about
James Grant will perform at The Penthouse on Febraury 22, 2019. The one-off party – hosted as part of a global launch of Anjunadeep’s 10th compilation album in Dubai, London, and Los Angeles – will feature foodie pop ups from FIVE Palm Jumeirah’s signature restaurants, an extensive bar menu and the very best of Anjunadeep for a deep house party like no other. Minimum spend of AED150 for ladies and AED250 for gents on food and beverages. Head to fivehotelsandresorts.com/nightlife/the-penthouse for more information.