Jameszoo — One man’s journey from DJ, to producer, to fine artist
Picture a scene – a young music obsessive playing around with sounds in his bedroom in a small Dutch town. Now picture another, that same guy playing live to the discerning crows at the Worldwide Festival in the south of France. Just a few weeks ago Jameszoo, aka Mitchel van Dinther, stepped out on stage to complete a remarkable journey from his Den Bosch bedroom.
“It was pretty nerve wrecking at points,” he admits of his transition from DJ to producer to artist. “But it’s very rewarding now that I’ve managed to get a bit closer to where I want to be. It took a lot of time and discipline and I think being a DJ helped in creating a vision of where I wanted to go as an artist.”
That creative vision was unleashed on the world with the release of his first album Fool earlier this year on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. It brought together his eclectic influences, from jazz to prog rock, and blended them into a record that challenges listeners to follow Jameszoo into somewhere enticingly different. It also feels playfully provocative – are we meant to try and make sense of it, or just go with it?
His debut has been really well-received, hailed by one critic as, “a near-perfect album, melding Jameszoo’s sonic eccentricities and experimentation with great performances, stellar musicians, and off-the-beaten-path instrumentation.”
Interestingly, Fool has surprised even its creator. “I didn’t expect myself to end up making what I make right now,” he says. “I slowly moved into liking more and more kinds of music and luckily I still have cravings for new music.”
These craving are apparent when you hear Fool, but the record manages to combine an open-minded, experimental quest for the new and the next, while still playing homage to the musical traditions that inspire and influence him.
‘That was the hardest part for me to wrap my head around. It’s a very nuanced, subtle thing. I feel like sometimes, I didn’t leave a lot of room for nuances before.
“People think you are nuanced if you don’t really know what you’re doing. So it took a while to find the right balance. I didn’t want to claim anything either, to come over as pretentious.”
To avoid this, Jameszoo has collaborated with hugely-respected musicians like Arthur Verocai and Steve Kuhn. These came about pretty organically – he realised one day that he was returning to these artists as references again and again, so why not see if they would come in and join him in the studio.
“They were amazing experiences, both sessions. I’m grateful they ended up on my album. Steve Kuhn’s 1971 and Arthur Verocai’s self-titled record are most likely my favorite albums ever made, so to work with the artists behind them felt like a blessing. Luckily I managed to not crumble under the pressure!”
Rather than being fazed by these kinds of challenges, it seems like Jameszoo is happy to throw himself outside his comfort zone. It’s the same playing live with a quartet at Worldwide Festival.
“It was great but it was our first week of touring so still felt a bit new and scary. It took us some time in the rehearsal room to translate all the compositions to the stage, but I’m happy with the way it turned out.”
This mix of creative energy and humility means we are sure to see and hear lots more about Jameszoo in the future.