James Teej Talks My Favorite Robot, the Toronto Scene, and His New Solo Album
The Toronto-based producer has been busy burning up international dance floors as one-third of My Favorite Robot, while curating some of the international tech-house charts' most forward-thinking releases on the act's eponymous label.
But Teej is a veteran of the electronic dance music scene -- a seasoned soloist whose lyricism and soulful yet gritty vocal style put his work a few notches above the uhntz-uhntz fold.
Ahead of his gig at Treehouse on Saturday alongside UK progressive house legend Sasha, LINK and Miami Rebels, Crossfade caught up with Mr. Teej to chat about the Toronto scene, My Favorite Robot, and his new album due out in early 2013.
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Crossfade: Your production work is very sophisticated, not just dance floor-functional. Were you classically trained? What is your background in music? And how did you first get into electronic dance music production?
James Teej: I've been studying music since I was a little kid. Always been in love with it. I took lessons on a bunch of instruments until the end of high school -- all experience that has helped me develop the tools to materialize my vision of electronic music, which coincidentally I've been listening to and making since my early teens as well. As much as I tried to fight it early on, this really is what I've been meant to do with my life.
You also have a very distinctive vocal style. Did singing come naturally to you? Or did you hone the skill through training?
Vocals were something that I never really played around with much until I moved to Toronto. I didn't know many singers and other musicians in the city at that point, and was wanting to incorporate some vocal elements into the music I was making. So it kind of happened naturally, and I really got into singing after that. There's something really spiritual and trippy about putting that level of emotion into music. I'm definitely not the best singer out there. But I know my voice, and I'm honest with what I sing. So I think it comes across in a way that people apparently have connected to. In my eyes, a dash of soul can never hurt anything.
Toronto's electronic dance music scene appears to be in full bloom with international stars like Art Department, Azari & III, Nitin and you. How has living and working there informed you as an artist?
Well, Art Department and Nitin are definitely my family. We've all been working on music for a long time. And before everyone started to tour more internationally, we were all playing together a lot. I met the guys from Azari a few years later, before they blew up, and there are others around as well that all were the fabric of Toronto's scene -- basically, a lot of people that are really into music.
The scene itself is deceptively small, considering the size of the city. But it's Canada's music hub, and a lot of artists travel through here. So finding inspiration was never really that far away. The city really defines my sound at least, and is why I've chosen to stay here. It's a beautiful place to live, in an amazing country. I guess I've gotten more patriotic as I've gotten older.