With his 3 Degrees family and his Mi Casa Enterprise, Julius the Mad Thinker has put in his time and work in representing Chicago’s House music. And while most DJs jump into the production game at the blink of an eye, Julius has deliberately held back, waiting to hone his craft and come out with a unique and memorable way in presenting Perspective, his first album.
Julius can you tell us when you got the impetus to begin the daunting task of doing an entire album? I remember (was it several months ago?) when you had mentioned having a listening party for your new track. Now you have an entire album!
Perspective has been five years in the making. I knew at some point, I wanted to produce an album in my career, I just didn’t know when the time would present itself. It took me a long time to proceed, because I’d seen how easily music could get lost with the abundance of releases in the age of digital media. However, although I wasn’t releasing anything, it was recommended by one of my mentors, RC, that I continue to make music. He also recommended to stay focused on building the Mi Casa Holiday community.
Two years later, Chicago legend Lil Louis booked me to DJ. It was his first time hearing me play. After the event, he asked me if I produced music as well. After listening to my music, he loved it, but the music I’d produced at that point was more on the pretty and melodic side of my DJ sets. He then said “Wait, in your DJ set, you played some of the hardest, raw edged shit that I ever heard. I thought you were going to fly out of the DJ set! You need to give your fans and the world access to that side of you, and produce original music with that energy as well, and think ‘album.'” So, Louis was the second influential industry person in my life to reaffirm the idea of an album. Being that both RC and Louis were very innovative and forward thinkers, something clicked inside of me.
At that point, I knew I was going to produce an album. Louis also believed strongly in a great roll out and also some of the traditional methods during the process, such as having a listening session when a large body f work was completed. So, Jan 2016, I conducted my first listening session with rate sheets, similar to the way Louis had learned through his years as an A&R. Looking back, it was a great experience and gave us lots of valuable insight. Now it’s crazy that the March 1st release date came so quickly.
Ultimately, it took me so long because I wanted to create an album that would never die, and would be remembered forever.
When did you start working with Pleasure Prince and who else is involved in this album project?
Interestingly enough, my original production partner, DJ Emmaculate had been trying to convince me to release more music for years. In fact, me not releasing was a running joke among my all my producer friends. Every time producers would discuss hearing one of new songs in one of my sets, they would always elude to, “I don’t know why we’re talking about this, cause this shit ain’t ever coming out any way.” We would always laugh. However, right around the time I was speaking with Louis, I ran into Russoul.
Actually, funny story. I was in San Francisco going through music before a gig, and I ran across “Love is You” produced by Russoul. I was like damn, I totally forgot he made this. I was so excited that I called him at that moment. Russ answered the phone, and we talked about the song for like 45 minutes. At the end of the phone call, Russ says, “So, who is this?” I almost cried I was laughing so hard. Anyway, soon after that, I’d run into him at one of my friend Eric Williams Silver Room functions. Russ and I spoke a long time, but mainly I wanted to know what he was trying to do. This was about 3 years ago. In that conversation, I learned about him and his phenomenal history. He also mentioned that he had recently added DJing to his skill set. He went on to explain that he didn’t quite get the welcoming reception that he would have imagined. Well, my thoughts were that this guy is going to be a triple threat.
Russ invited me to come over any time if I wanted to make music. So, a few weeks later, I took him up on that. I laid out my intent, which was to produce an album. I asked what production alias he was considering, and Pleasure Prince was the one at the time that he seemed most passionate about. Since that conversation, we never looked back, and now it’s exciting to see people around the world start to recognize the producer Pleasure Prince.
Pleasure Prince and Emmaculate co-produced the project with me along with production assistance from Shebazz Curtis, and it’s being released on ATTS MUSIC (Aid to the SouLLess Music.)
Can you tell us a little bit about the different songs and how long did it take you to work on each one? I think you said these will all eventually be part of a movie soundtrack?
First, know that this is a concept album. I asked myself, what was the commonality between all of the music. The answer was my perspective. For years, friends have contacted me for my perspective on various subject matters, so it was perfectly fitting. Fast forward, Russ and I started working. One of our first few sessions, I gave him two options, and he choose “Born to Do It.” I’d originally wrote this song for Peven Everett. That didn’t work out, so then I tried to do it with Nathan Adams, but I wasn’t to keen on Skype production sessions, as he lives in the UK. So, it fell right onto Pleasure Prince’s lap, feat. Russoul on vocals. It’s a beautiful song about understanding that you have a gift, and to appreciate the possibilities of that gift. “Born To Do” It was our first single released in January off of the album.
The next single, and the title song “Perspective” is how the entire story of the album came about. I asked myself, what is my perspective of life. It’s intense and can be tragic, however, there is lots of opportunity and great possibilities. The goal is to not drown from the tragedy, so you don’t miss opportunity. Once I identify the feeling, I then create a story that would generate those feelings. The first story that generated that exact set of feelings, was our current story about a young female music prodigy, who suffers this great tragedy in losing her family. The possibility then presents itself when she agrees to perform five years after the accident.
Again, being that I’d produced some music before the actual story, I decided to write an entire screenplay so that I could properly arrange all of the music. So, essentially, the music became the soundtrack of this story. So, then I had to settle on the exact direction of the story, and what question could I pose to the potential audience. I settled on giving away that the young girl (Jasmine Pharrell Love) has a heroic performance. The question then became, would that one performance be enough, or would the same best friend (Lisa) who convinced her to perform in the first place, influence her into pursuing a career in the unforgiving music industry?
The third single is called “Life Line.” It’s a three-part electronic orchestra that is as intense as it gets. There is no existing lane for it, in fact it was created as a WTFIT (what the f*ck is this?). However, I won’t tell you what influenced the direction, because Jasmine reveals the answer in the script during the interlude before the song comes on in the album 🙂
What kind of equipment did you use in the making of these tracks and I’m sure you used some live musicians?
This project was mixed in both Logic and ProTools run through a bit of vintage hardware in some of the songs. We used mostly live keys and synth sounds, with some very elaborate drum programming by Pleasure Prince and Emmaculate. Both Kaye Fox and Russoul perform live vocals, and I wrote all of the songs.
I love the idea that you had dancers come in and do an entire performance to your music! Tell me more about that!
For me, before there was DJing, and and producing, then there was DANCE! You probably notice when I’m DJing, I’m dancing. So, since I’ve been so inspired by the art of dance, I decided to get the, (pun intended,) perspective through movement, of some of my favorite dancer choreographers from around the world. Friends like AJ Dance(Atlanta), Rebecca Tsao & Scotty Heish and the Lotoeira crew (LA), Coflo & Ucid (Oakland), Bravemonk & Zuri (Chicago), DJ G (Brazil), Future (NY), Andrea Franco (Argentina), Gabysihna (Mexico), Julie B (Costa Rica), Houssni Mijem (Morocco), my man John Agezilas (Amesterdam) to name a few. It’s quite humbling that everyone took the time to produce such quality for the project. I can’t thank everyone enough, and I will never forget this for the rest of my life.
Where would you like to go from here? I know you have your Mi Casa Holidays as well… do you want to continue making music?
A world tour is up next. As far as the music we have an amazing line up of releases to come, and I will also executive produce the next two album projects by Pleasure Prince and Emmaculte coming 2018.
As for Mi Casa Holiday, I intentionally took advantage of the short window after MCH Season 8 to finalize the “Perspective” album. Original was the final piece of the MCH puzzle that had yet to happen, and in order to bring another level of excitement to the event. The Perspective project will stimulate MCH in ways that will create more opportunities for DJs and producers. I think in terms of community. It’s no fun to reach the top if you can’t help anyone else. There is so much talent in the MCH Community, and together the world will experience this through music and through their selfless charity efforts and brilliant minds. My MCH partner and sister Jenn Hurst and I, have been so inspired by the MCH community, it tugs my heart to even talk about it.
What are some lessons you’ve learned from taking on this kind of project?
Be careful what you wish for lol. Once you take on a project like this Perspective project or Mi Casa Holiday, you become 100% responsible for every outcome good or bad. When you project a big vision, the effort required to produce results on that level grows exponentially as you get closer to the finish line. I don’t know why, but I’m driven by possibility, especially in areas where I know I can make a difference. This project will be know where near perfect, but I am certain that it will be beautiful.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that I might have missed?
One of the most interesting parts of this process was the interview series. We interviewed 100 friends, fans, and family to get their perspective on what the album would turn out like, but based on their experience of me since no one had heard the album yet. I mention this not only for the entertainment, but to give some insight as to how many people contributed to this project. Kahlil Nommo shot all of the scenes for the movie trailers. Kennedy Bryant (Jasmine), Alex Callejo (Alex), Tais Kotova (Lisa), Uzo Udo (Tom) spent hours shooting and doing voice overs for the script. I mentioned the dancers and their crews earlier. Keith Muratori & Gerry Hartman on the drone footage, Kim Smith and Jillian Griffith on production and wardrobe design. Friends like Asya Schein(Fusicology), Pia Lurisen, Rescue Poetix spent time to have valuable conversations leading to the roll out. Art directors Joel Mendez and Adam Gibbons helped bring the visuals to life. Friends like Sal Camarda & Moe (Miami design house) taking the time to listen to my ideas with an open mind regardless of how unconventional they were. Natalie Hail for consulting on the Album synopsis. My wife for tolerating every stage, twist and turn this album presented. My sister, mom and dad along with Russ and Eric’s parents for their support. You Czarina for taking the time to present such an important part of my 25 + year history in the music industry. The 3Degrees and Mi Casa Holiday community for their unwavering support & I could go on!
In the end, this project doesn’t even belong to me, it belongs to 100’s of people who played a role in making this all happen. To all of you & Chicago, this one if for you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!