Judge Jules interview: the legendary DJ on fusing music and law

Judge Jules is a man of many talents. Most famous for his career as a DJ, Jules also owns a record label, Judgement Records, and works as an entertainment lawyer. And he still found time to chat to us...

You are an international DJ and entertainment lawyer. How do the careers connect?

Everything I’ve done in my career to date – as a DJ, label owner, A&R, radio, promoter, music producer etc – combines to give me a very broad understanding of the industry. When you add legal skills to that mix and back it up with my industry experience, it’s easier to understand how my two careers are quite closely connected, making me more of a trusted advisor than just an everyday music ‘lawyer’.

How do you switch from corporate to clubbing mode?

The two worlds often intertwine: I can be redlining contracts on the plane and step off straight into a club. But – and perhaps this isn’t a sexy thing to say – most successful musicians tend to be very business-savvy and have a good understanding of the wider corporate world, so the line between those two modes is often blurred.

Can you give us an example of when the two worlds have clashed or collided?

The most obvious situation would be when, in lawyer mode, I’ve been asked to act and have turned down acting against venues or promoters who I play for as a DJ.

Do you think that having a slightly different background to other DJs gives you an edge when it comes to your music?

As a music lawyer, one needs a broad overview of the wider music industry, even though the majority of my legal work is dance music related. Most specialist DJs are pigeon-holed and are primarily exposed to a very particular genre of music, whereas I have a bigger perspective across music as a whole. This is valuable.

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Can you tell us about a memorable DJ experience?

There are countless experiences that stand out every week, and if I wasn’t still having them I wouldn’t be a DJ any more. It may sound like a cliché, and I suppose it is to an extent, but when you’re behind the decks and have that connection with the crowd - when they’re locking eyes with you, dancing and lost in the moment – it’s an experience that you never forget.

Can you tell us some highlights from DJing at Radio 1?

A lot of the live R1 events stand out. When you’re on-air in the studio you’re away from your audience, perhaps with only one or two producers in the room. Whilst you know you have a vast audience listening, you can’t see them. When we did the Radio 1 live events, that audience was suddenly put in front of you and the two worlds – as a radio presenter and as a DJ – would collide. I’m fortunate to have done well both as a radio presenter and as a DJ, but they are usually very separate jobs.

What type of music do you enjoy away from the DJ scene?

Soundtracks and chillout mostly – anything with minor key moments but without the beat that dance music provides. There’s a particular station on DAB in London called Chill FM which I listen to a lot, and when I visited my father in West Yorkshire recently I was disappointed to find that it isn’t a national station.

Last year saw the launch of your own record label, Judgement Recordings. What inspired you to make this career move?

I suppose, rather obviously, primarily through my passion for music. That, and a desire to provide exposure for certain artists and tracks who might not otherwise get heard; alongside releasing my own productions. Being able to bring new talent to the table is a privilege that I’ve enjoyed throughout my career, and a label is an important tool to achieve that.

Your schedule can be pretty hectic as you travel globally as a DJ whilst maintaining a 9-5 job as a lawyer. What’s your secret?

Neither feel like work. The old saying “choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” is very apt.

Who parties harder – lawyers or DJs?

With the exception of myself, I’d have to say lawyers.

Were the 1990s more fun than 2017 – it certainly seems that way...?

It’s very difficult to compare. The 90s were an exciting time for dance music as it was a relatively new scene. It felt like those who were “in the know” had a secret that they were able to enjoy away from the outside world. There was no high-speed internet back then so the accessibility wasn’t great – you had to be moving in the right circles to find new music and hear about DJs and gigs. High speed internet changed everything – you can now access millions of tracks at the click of a button and there are thousands of artists all trying to promote themselves to a global community. The scene is very different in 2017 without a doubt, but if you love music then that accessibility isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different.

Other than yourself (naturally), who is your favourite DJ working today?

Carl Cox – I love his energy behind the decks.

For more info, see judgejules.net