A bio I wrote for James Friedman's upcoming mix, Go Commando!:
While you can pick up a minimal techno 12’ inch with your latte to go in Berlin, and dine to a soundtrack of click house in Montreal, the US electronic music scene is far less overt. There may be a demand for the more mainstream, big-room jocks and bad Ibiza comps, but the strength of the remaining scenes are reliant on a series of dedicated individuals. They are the ones booking the acts, breaking the new records and keeping the enthusiasm up. It can be a thankless task, but one that can also reap the dividends of memorable performances and the satisfaction of discovering and debuting new talent.
James F!@$%^ Friedman is undoubtedly one of these individuals. He’s been a tireless supporter for all that is fresh, forward thinking, and inspired in electronic music - a fact that’s not exactly surprising, given his history and wide-ranging enthusiasm for all types of sounds. After playing in a few bands and getting interested in the mid-nineties Mo’ Wax sound, his proper introduction to dance music came through the DC rave circuit with then-legendary parties-- Buzz, Fever, and Bassrush, among others. His first experiences Djing found him mixing breakbeats and jungle, but his palate then expanded as he sought to educate himself further, buying records ranging from raw Detroit techno, various permutations of house, and all sorts of hip hop, funk, soul and reggae.
"This part of my musical development was really important to my Djing today," says James. "I really learned to appreciate disparate sounds and focused on combining and re-contextualizing them in an interesting way.”
His interest in rooting out new sounds also found him writing as a freelance journalist for publications such as the Fader, XLR8R, Vice, URB and the now-defunct Flyer, also working for !K7 records and later, as the US label manager for Trevor Jackson’s influential Output Recordings imprint.
In New York, James has hosted a series of influential parties that have increasingly grown to be known as stateside domiciles for the world’s left-of-center DJ talent. His long-running Refuse! Party at APT (with partner Ben “Dirty Dirty” Dietz) has brought over the likes of DJ Kaos, Juan Maclean, Dexter from The Avalanches, Matt Safer of The Rapture, Jackson, and Ewan Pearson, as well as Tiefschwarz, ATOC, Joakim from Tigersushi, Manchester legend Greg Wilson, Luke Vibert and Kompakt label boss Michael Mayer.
Through the recently established All Wrong night at the Tribeca Grand, James has emphasized bringing over live acts, and since its inception in early 2005, Annie and Tom Vek made their respective US debuts, with other performances from Cut Copy, Hot Chip, David Gilmour Girls and more.
In addition to this drive to help acts from around the world find a lively and receptive crowd in New York, James has grown into a truly eclectic, technically skilled DJ. On any given night, sounds run the gamut from punk-funk bass lines to spaced-out Italo disco, rock, and acid-tinged techno that could strip the polished veneer off of APT’s basement walls.
With this mix, James has assembled a series of his favorite tracks that represent where his head's at right now. Like his live performances, records are pulled from various styles and genres; The grating electro of Franz and Shape makes way for The Rapture/ HushHush’s melancholic pop schaffel mix of Who Made Who’s “Space For Rent,” while later, Tom Vek’s low-fi rock structures get re-fit by DJ Kaos and mixed into the cosmic, swirling arpeggios of Zombi’s “Sapphire.”
“Go Commando! is representative of what the sound is like at one of my parties, where I try to avoid the sort of too-cool exclusivity that makes nightclubs so repellent,” says James. "The music is upfront but eclectic, folding the sort of universal threads of pop and traditional rock instrumentation into a really "what's next" selection of beats. This is a collection of music that inspires me—I want to bring it to a wider audience, and continue to help unearth up-and-coming talent wherever it may be.”