One of the king’s of Ibiza’s early trance scene, Judge Jules still flits between home and ‘the island’ dropping records and exploring newcomers to a scene he helped create. These days, though, DJing’s for the weekend: he’s a specialist lawyer, too.
Judge Jules was always a tongue in cheek name; a nod to the trance-scene mainstay’s decision to set aside his law degree and head for the hedonism of the 90’s most notorious dance scene. These days, though, his life’s gone full circle.
Listening to Jules describe his manic schedule is enough to make your average person wilt: long weeks as “probably the only person in my field with real-life experience at the top end of the music industry;” weekends on the decks.
Jules spent fifteen years as one of the main DJs at Radio One, and his passion for what he does still shines, not least through his syndicated radio show Global Warm Up, now more than 700 episodes old.
“It’s a background thing, but it’s syndicated to lots of radio stations, so I think of it a bit like the radio,” he says, recalling his time on BBC Radio One. “I’ve nothing negative to say about Radio One, it was an amazing experience and everything runs its course. This is a great way to showcase stuff I like.”
“DJing for radio and DJing live are similar in name only really. Of course, you’re playing records, but there’s no immediacy from radio. You might be aware that you’re playing to lots of people, but there’s not that live immediacy to react to. That always influences you.”
Live, Jules does different types of sets these days: those in the style of his 90s heyday, a loving throwback to the highs of 25 years ago, which he calls an “exhibitions,” and those with more of a modern tinge. With the latter, he’s come to view the world in a distinctly modern light. The exhibitions “focus on 30 years of music, and they’re always mad. It’s important to push onto new stuff, though, not just to stand still.”
“The focus now is very much on the record, not the people,” he says of today’s scene. “My playlist this week is almost entirely full of people that I’d never heard of six months ago. It’s very difficult to build a career, and very difficult to find people making a lot of good records in a row.” The internet, in a sense, has handed over a kind of equality alongside the potential for viral promotion.
Oddly, in Jules new world organisation amid the chaos has also become critical. “I might do an 18 hour day sometimes with the law and, usually over the weekend with the music. Before I retrained in law again, the only time I ever used it was in knowing what to say to the police when they turned up at illegal parties. As dull as it sounds, organisation has become really important in my work, as I have so many things on the go, particularly on other people’s careers.”
“I have a unique expertise now because I really understand the industry, and I can give people the advice I wish I’d received. It’s very easy to get messed around in music, especially when you have a contract in front of you that you’ve worked a long time for. I understand after all this time what it is to live and die by your reputation. There might be some other lawyers who have been on the fringes of the scene, but I think I’m the only one in law who knows what it is to think like a big artist. People are ready to exploit you. I wouldn’t advise signing anything without a lawyer, there are so many bad people out there in the industry.”
He’s also expanded into his own record label, Judgement Recordings, a hobby that he somehow squeezes between his near-weekly DJ sets and full-time law work. “I just put out records that I like,” he says of the venture. “I’m not trying to make a huge brand, just to give exposure.”
As for that world back in Ibiza? “The main difference today is it’s very much about the day clubs,” Jules tells us. “It’s a bit more traditional and corporate than it used to be, and a lot of the best stuff happens at pool parties. It’s still huge.”
Judge Jules plays The Button Factory on May 6 as part of Affinity’s 4th birthday party, alongside Marco V, Scot Project and Paul Denton. Tickets start at €28.
This article is a greatly extended version of my weekly music column for the Dublin Gazette, reproduced here with permission. Note: this column is published in the Dublin Gazette several days ahead of on this website. The Gazette is a freesheet paper available across Dublin, published on a Thursday. Pick up copies at these locations.
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