James Curd (website, facebook, discogs, twitter) has made quite a name for himself this past decade. Also known as the mastermind behind the Greenskeepers band, James tells us about his near-death flying experience, why you might know of his dog and how he’s responsible for an entire House Music movement.
Greenskeepers started out as just you and went on to eventually become a full band. Now you’ve downsized and it’s a solo project again. What led to that decision?
Greenskeepers is a name that represents the music I make as a solo artist as well as collaborations with other musicians. I began to separate the music that I make as an individual now by releasing it under my own name and keeping “Greenskeepers” for my collaborations.
My decision to distinguish the name was through a natural course of working with people who have different paths to follow. It’s tough to keep more then a few people on the same page for an extended period of time when different artists have their own obligations, goals or priorities.
Are there plans for more releases or performances as a band with previous members or new ones?
Right now, I have a new Greenskeepers full album coming out on OM Records worldwide and with One Love in Australia. It’s a record I wrote with Nick Mauer, the original Greenskeepers singer. It’s also co-produced by Tommie Sunshine. Currently I have just finished an album featuring Ziggy Franklin who has been featured on some Greenskeepers songs and was the radio personality on the first album. Derrick Carter has come on board to mix, master and do some finishing touches for it. I’m also doing a really fun live show with J-Dub and Mike-Steve. We do a mix of old Greenskeepers songs, my solo work as well as songs from the upcoming album. The show is an hour long but we fit around 22 songs in that time. It’s non-stop from start to finish.
We used to work together at the record store Supreme here in Chicago. I distinctly remember in 2001 when you said that if nothing big happened for you in a year, you were going to quit DJing and making music. Coincidentally that same year you signed “What’s Your Man Got To Do With Gan?” to Derrick Carter’s Classic label. “Low & Sweet” gained huge popularity and even got licensed to a Levi’s commercial. Do you recall that and how do you reflect on that situation now almost 10 years later?
Ha! That’s funny. I don’t remember saying that but it definitely sounds like something I would say. I remember Supreme employees were die-hard Chicago House Music lovers, so I used to say ridiculous things just to get a reaction and a rise. Reflecting back, those days were filled with good memories. I had a fun time working in that shop with you and Malik (owner of Supreme Records). It really pushed me to dig for music that I liked and had an impact on the sound I had then. I feel very lucky that all the hard work paid off.
You are largely regarded as being responsible for the Swing House movement with your G-Swing label. What was your motivation behind that and how did that come about? What are your plans for the future of G-Swing?
I always liked jazz and swing music ever since I was a child. As I started to make music I realized that swing music was always fun and happy. You couldn’t help but dance to swing so I infused it into my music. My roommate at the time played the saxophone and always had an obscure jazz record playing in the house. A lot of swing songs are right around House tempo so I started chopping it all up in the MPC and just having fun. There were a couple of years that you couldn’t go out and not hear a G-Swing song and I’m happy it’s making a bit of a comeback. I used to run the label with my friend Romain in Paris and I have just recently brought the label back to the States and am in the process of lining up some new releases!
What is the most memorable experience and place you have been either with the band or solo?
I’ve had so many great experiences that it’s really hard to pick one. There are so many different reasons why they stick out and stay with you over the years. Certain shows are amazing purely because of their location. Others stand out because of the enormity of the event, while certain ones I remember because of the great people I come out for. I would have to say playing Park Life festival in Australia for crowds over 35,000 people was intense. I love playing places that have supported my music, from Yellow in Tokyo to Fabric in London.
What was the most dreadful moment having to travel as a band?
This one is easy! On our way to Manchester one of the engines in our plane died. We had to make an emergency landing in Halifax right on the east coast of Canada. It was pure fear to start with, but then it developed into some sort of unbelievable and surreal joke. Thankfully we landed safely. We were all given $10 vouchers in transit to make up for the near death experience! After sitting in the airport for ten hours and flying another eight to Manchester, we had to go straight to sound check. Sound check was a disaster and ran all the way until the club opened. We were delirious while doing that show.
Do you feel that making videos for your music helps to expand your audience and what other benefits do you feel it provides?
I like doing videos for fun. I enjoy editing footage to music. The video I did for “Lotion” started off as something I did just for the band and for our friends. Once it was up online (before YouTube existed) it spread like wildfire and was downloaded almost a million times in the first two weeks. That video definitely expanded our audience!
Your dog Gan is referenced in many of your tunes. Do you have similar plans for Herbie?
Morgan (Gan for short) is my first dog. He has been my sidekick in life and has been lying around pretty much every studio session. He has to be the world’s only Boxer with such knowledge of House Music. Gan is 12 years old now and we wanted to get him a little brother in hopes his personality would rub off on the little guy. We got Herbert (Herbie) who is now 12 weeks old and he is an absolute mad man. He bites and runs around the house tormenting Gan and anyone in his path. He is really cute and sleeps in the strangest positions. We have him enrolled in puppy class and the family has put up a united front praising him for his good behavior and ignoring him when he is bad. I would like to put the two of them on a record cover together, though I think the only type of song that would do Herbie’s character justice is some hardcore gangster rap.
What do you want to tell us about your new album?
Just that it’s coming out in April and I hope everyone gives it a listen and likes what they hear!