The force behind the SXM Festival and an intrinsic part of Montreal’s thriving nightlife, Julian Prince makes his Loot Recordings debut. As well as being one of the team behind the Caribbean festival paradise, Prince has been releasing slick house and tech on labels like Mile End, Nurvous and Kindisch. He has a widescreen, always innovative sound that is influenced by growing up in North America. The EP which is out today features three tracks. After listening we decided it was time to get behind the headphones with the man himself.
You have your debut release coming out on Loot Recordings including a remix from Daniel van der Zwaag. A question we often ask when it comes to your productions, do you choose the label or does the label choose you? In this case, how did it come about that you joined the Loot Recordings team?
I actually met Derek, the label owner and A&R, first through his music productions, a long time ago. There was this amazing record, “Kai vs Kered” called “Believe” that was out on Azuli Silver Records and I was playing it all the time back then.
Next, I decided to put it in a promo mix for Stereo in 2006. I don’t remember exactly how it happened but we became friends. He came to play in Montreal a couple of times when we were running Velvet. He’s been a friend since and comes to Montreal now and then. We both started our platforms around the same time.
Naturally, when he started, he put me on the promo list. I was really impressed by the quality of every release on the label and last year, after making those tracks, I sent him a couple. He said that he really liked “Orign” and “Smoking in the Girls Room” and that he’d like to make an EP.
Talk us through the title of ‘Smoking In The Girls Room,’ is there a story behind this?
The track’s sound is smokey and atmospheric. What I am trying to express is that, while the ladies’ room is a mysterious place for men, I am comfortable with my femininity. I have three sisters and I surround myself with alpha women. This is a homage to them.
So there are many faces to Julian Prince. Promoter, producer, remixer and you even score television and movies. Each of these alone is fairly big tasks. How do you balance your sanity, workload and personal life?
These projects have happened over the course of many years. If you want to review my career over the past 20 years, there are so many things that I’ve pursued. I do believe that your work is your salvation but I always make time for what’s most important, my family.
You first got turntables at the age of 16. Was this the start of your infatuation with music?
As far back as I can remember we had a lot of instruments at home that I would play with my sisters and cousins. My uncle worked in a record store so we had a really big collection and we constantly played music at the house that varied between classical, rock, funk, disco, reggae.
Growing up I have always had a favourite band and I never stopped listening to music. There’s music playing while at work, at home and anywhere… you know? It is just that I hate voids. Music and people fill those very well. There has never been a time when music was not a big part of my life.
You have been brought up on the Canadian and North American dance scenes. How would you say these scenes differ from the UK and Europe if at all?
I’ve partied in the UK and Europe a lot. I don’t know how I would differentiate. I meet people. I have fun. I dance. I do shots. I mean… I see more similarities than differences. Some DJs have more market there and vice versa. This is where it varies the most, I guess.
You have partied at some legendary clubs, Stereo, and Sona as well as New York institution Twilo. Do you think these venues have sculpted you as an artist and do you look to bring elements of these parties into your events?
At Stereo, I learned that 4 pm was the best time of the evening; when David Morales or Danny T would play their extended sets. At Sona, I never missed an international DJ set in, probably, 8 years. I would literally go there alone if no one wanted to go. I would sleep early then go at 5:00 am and listen to the whole set.
At Twilo I learned, from Jimmy van M, how to warm up a room properly, and from Paul Van Dyk, how to keep the emotions and energy up. I learned, from Sasha and Digweed, how two artists can create a journey playing back to back. There were amazing moments of partying, of learning and of sculpting myself as a person and also as an artist and, further down the line, as an event producer. The inspiration for events came mostly from my experiences at WMC, ADE, BPM, Ibiza and Burning Man.
For those that do not know you are the founder of SXM festival which is largely responsible for the growing demand for destination festivals. What inspired you to produce an event like SXM?
I grew up in the travel and hospitality industry. My mother worked for Air Canada and my father always owned hotels. As an adult, I became a professional in music, promotions and also in food and beverage (I own a couple of bars/restaurant/nightclubs in Montreal). I was really comfortable with all the skills this project needed to see the light of day. It really felt like it was meant for me. I also knew the global market pretty well and especially the North American market.
I felt and saw that destination music festivals were going to explode. It was the next logical step in the expansion of electronic music. Consumer behaviour started to change with Coachella, Bonnaroo and Burning Man. People were travelling from all over the world to attend. The market, in general, started growing exponentially and I believed that the island of St Martin /Sint Maarten had every element needed to host the perfect destination music festival. You define this type of event by having a majority of foreign visitors in contrast to local attendance.
What is the greatest challenge with an event of this scale?
The challenge is really at every level really. Out of all adversities, logistics remain the greatest challenge. Saint Martin is a very small island. It takes an hour to drive around it. There is one road and no highways. It is isolated in the middle of the sea. There is limited communication with slow internet and cell phone service.
There were no sound systems or enough of the gear, that artists demand, and no international festival specialists either. We have had to import everything. Luckily, every year we train more and more locals and we’re hoping that, at some point, the team will consist of a majority of locals and fewer international consultants.
Also, we deal with two different governments and laws, two different power outlets and 3 different currencies. Putting such an all-star line up together wasn’t easy. When agencies hear “festival,” they think big numbers but SXM is a boutique event. The first year we were 2000 people. The second we had 5000 and last year was about the same attendance. The maximum the island is able to host is 8000 people, so we will always remain exclusive! On the flip side, this enables us to maintain the magic, which is a festival’s biggest challenge!
You have been working in this scene for several years now in one form or another. What would you say has changed the most between the start of your career and now?
What changed the most is the number of acts, the demand has grown but not to that extent! When producing became accessible to all, it had a great impact on multiplying talent because you don’t need 100K to record music anymore.
Also, social media has changed a lot. When you’re a 20-plus old DJ… I’m not talking about age but in terms of experience, you are not used to having to be as good in marketing as you are in your craft. The turnover of artists is really quick now. Even artists that, just 6 or 7 years ago, were fixtures on the scene and we thought would never disappear as they were considered established, now see the difficulty of staying relevant. This is especially true if they haven’t been able to create a side brand like Do Not Sit or All Day I Dream for example, which have given both Behrouz and Lee Burridge a huge boost in their careers.
If you could play b2b with anyone in the world who would it be and why?
I’ve had the chance to play back to back with many amazing artists and friends. Sharing music is heaven to me and a part of what motivates me to keep on djing. I get a kick from producing and listening to music but I still want to play with the homies and enjoy that side of the turntables. To answer your question, I am actually am a big fan of Axel Boman whom I’ve never met. I was really bummed that he cancelled his performance at SXM this year. I have been collecting similar records as he as, for a long time now, and it would be so much fun to be able to play b2b with him!