The XOYO resident DJ on their club night Pleasurehood, releasing his own music and the best parties he’s played.
Joshua James has the kind of stories you could listen to for hours. Since moving to London for uni, the DJ has experienced, played at and put together some of the best parties the city has seen in the last decade. He might not remember them all, but along the way James has picked up exactly how to work a club like no one else.
Now mixing and releasing his own tracks, James currently hosts a bi-monthly Rinse FM show, as well as holding residencies at underground queer party Savage and XOYO. Right now he’s playing the Shoreditch club’s weekly Pleasurehood night every Saturday, alongside DJs Coco Cole, Luke Solomun, Eliza Rose and HiFi Sean, as well as XOYO’s infamous troupe of dancers.
We chatted to the DJ about the best parties of his career, upcoming music and why we should make it down to catch him play.
Hi Joshua! Let’s wind it back. When did you first get into DJing?
It was about 11 years ago (thanks Facebook memories). I was a gobby, campy club kid. I was hanging out at The Ghetto in Soho, a couple of nights a week at The Cock, and religiously at NagNagNag for peak electroclash. The managers asked me if I was a DJ and I obviously said yes – I had no clue. They gave me and my mate Titus a little weekly night on a Tuesday we called ‘C U Next Tuesday…’ Really good flyer. I started collecting records and taught myself to mix.
Where are you originally from, and why did you decide to move to London?
I grew up just outside of Southampton, so my early clubbing experiences were sneaking into the Rhino at 15 and hearing drum & bass for the first time. A club called Unit 22 opened when I was 17 or 18, and it was here I found my tribe. Room one was indie and room two electro, with me in a winkle picker and a polka dot shirt twirling to LCD Soundsystem. I moved to London for university, but obviously found nightlife way more appealing. I lived in Surbiton in my first year, and me and my best mate would take two hours of buses to get home from Shoreditch… Fully committed.
How did that time in your life influence your music tastes and what you wanted to do?
These spaces I went out in were queer havens, where I met my London family and got my musical education. I literally played everything and gained a really broad knowledge of dance music history and it’s origins.
Can you talk us through the different residencies you’ve held over the years?
Savage Disco is one of the stand-outs. It started as a sleazy late-night party, every Saturday night: double-height poles and dark booths… The things gay boys dream about, right? It became the first club I really felt that I had come into myself as a DJ. I took over the bookings with Jonjo Jury and we created an amazing party. We’ve taken it all over the world, sharing the sleaze. I’ve also been part of Sink the Pink from its early days at Bethnal Green Working Men’s, to playing main stages at festivals. Drag carnage.
When did you play your first show for XOYO?
We’d been doing some parties with The 2 Bears, and XOYO had just landed them for a 12-week residency, so we, as Sink, took over room two. I went in to play and had a thought of not playing a classic Sink set, but to really go in. It was mental, an army of queens climbing the walls. Thank god for pictures, as I have little memory of it! It was my first set in what you could call a ‘proper’ club.
How has your residency there evolved over the years?
From the first 12 weeks of parties with The Bears, we started a monthly night at the venue called Gloria’s. It was bonkers. I’ve got a video of Lucy Fizz, our dancer, riding a confetti cannon. After Gloria’s ended, The Black Madonna had just been announced as the next resident. I phoned the guys immediately and asked for room two… After this, the club kept me on playing weekly as the clubs’ room two resident, playing all night long. It was about six months ago the guys came to me with the plans for Pleasurehood, and we started looking for some of London’s best DJs to come join the team.
How did DJing evolve into making your own music?
My best mate KDA told me to come into the studio with him and watch how he made music. I watched for a few months and saw how he worked, then I started to make really rough demos and going in with an engineer and learning on the go. Being a DJ first taught me how the elements of dance music work on the floor.
Can you tell us about your latest track “Coarse”?
I sent a couple of demos to Erol Alkan last year after meeting him at Savage and XOYO. Phantasy was my dream label to be involved with, and when Erol signed the tracks I think I nearly exploded. Working with someone so hands on to the releases has been such a great experience. We asked NYC’s Justin Cudmore to remix and he really delivered! It’s been great watching the record grow over the last six months.
Have you got any new music in the works?
My second release on Phantasy is out at the end of the month. It’s a really special record called “Journeys in Love” and I can’t wait to share it. Also, one of my musical idols Joe Goddard has remixed it… Still feels a bit mad.
What do you look for in collaborations with other DJs/performers?
Unstoppable energy. If you see our dancer, Lucy Fizz, her energy is electric. When you see a DJ with that energy, you know it’s going to be great.
How do you want people to feel during your sets?
I get no greater joy than watching the energy in a room explode, playing all night long you get to go on a full journey with the people. I dance and sweat just as much as them.
Why should we come down to the next Pleasurehood night?
It’s really amazing. We’re two weeks in and the crowd have been great. There’s something disarming about it not being a big headliner; the crowd don’t just face the booth, they’re lost in party. It’s a total pump.