Sunday’s EDC Neon Garden experience kicked off with the debut festival set from Declan James. He’s known by friends and family as Declan Williamson and to Technoheads for his newest series of mixes, VOIDWARE. The hour long journey featured a brand new side to his aesthetic as an electronic musician. James expands on the intention behind his series ahead of his first Tecnho EP:
VOIDWARE is a mixed media experience centered around the concept of a retro-futuristic computer program that generates an infinite number of unique digital worlds. VOIDWARE will attempt to embody what that would look like through the use of a myriad of different mediums. It will not be confined to my DJ Sets, but they will undoubtedly play an integral part in telling that story. My hope is to continue expanding the project into fashion, experimental films, and much more.
James debuted in 2016 as an artist in the music world producing Progressive Trance that caught the ears and radio support of DJs like Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten and Armin Van Buuren. A short few months ago, he played his first set of “Surrealist Techno.” This sound is comprised of minimal beats that invokes feelings of looking at visual art of the same name.
James’ evolution comes in part from his new experiences at venues that play dance music. “I wasn’t old enough to go to nightclubs, so I never really got to experience music in that setting,” he says. “Once I was able to it really changed my perspective. It’s something that’s really helped develop my sound as an artist now.” He hasn’t completely spurned his older style though; several samples he had from his Trance days are still on his computer. Moreover, the techniques he established and developed from early on in his career remain strong. “When it comes to my approach, while I’ve changed some things, ultimately my techniques are the same. So you’ll hear commonalities between the styles because it’s still me producing it.”
There’s no better place than under the electric sky to debut a new direction. Those filing into neonGARDEN as doors opened on Sunday had a treat to set the tone for a full night of Drumcode artists. James has a good handful of strong original tracks from this and his first VOIDWARE sets. The identity of said tracks are staying a mystery for now, increasing thier appeal as timestamps on both of his mixes. He applies a heavy hand to fill the rest of his record pool with music that best fits his style. Listening to tracks mixed in from Blawan, Spektre, Dhillon gives us a good idea of where he fits within the Techno ecosystem.
James’ influences for making Dance Music come from his adventurous beginnings at an early phase of his life. At 12 years old, James started his beatmaking journey. He spent time before this this training as a guitarist. As his tastes expanded, the song that steered him into electronic music was Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” EP. This combined with an even earlier exposure to artists like BT was an ignition for James to produce his own work.
Fast forward to 2016, when he released his breakout track “Orion” on Nanostate Music. From that point he proceeded sign to world class Progressive labels like Enhanced and Armada. To this day, he draws musical inspiration across the board from classical to Hip-Hop. His latest project draws its inspiration from some homework James did on older Trance.
“When you look go back far enough you start to get into Techno through Trance. I listened to Sasha, John Digweed and Sander Van Doorn back then [as Purple Haze]. Then I found artists like Spektre and Pleasurekraft who were doing Trance-y Techno and I thought ‘this is really interesting stuff.’” He credits Porter Robinson’s Virtual Self project as a recent inspiration to do this deep diving and take the leap. “It opened my mind to how many possibilities there are in terms of turning to more pure electronic dance music, which I think Tehcno is.”
James also finds significant visual influence for the music he’s making under his Techno monicker. Namely, in the surrealist paintings of artists like Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp and Frida Khalo. His publicist Valerie aided his influence by introducing him to one of his favorites, Argentinian artist Pilar Zeta. “[Zetta] was inspired by what I’m actually inspired by; these new age films from the 1960’s. They’re these really surreal art films,” he says. “Things like that have been really inspiring and opened my mind to what is possible with music…all of a sudden it became a mission of how to put these two things together.”
This aesthetic provides a strong foundation for his music going forward. It will also likely be a factor in the artists he hopes to mentor one day. “Eventually I want to start a label to help people on the way up,” James says, “but [for now] I’m going to just keep trying to release really good music.” The beginning stages of an incredible journey for VOIDWARE was one of the best looks into the future of Dance Music one could have asked for. We hope to see another musical power hour or two from him at a Techno event somewhere in the west coast again soon.