James "Pants" Singleton
More than 2,000 vinyl records line an entire wall of the apartment studio of James Singleton, '05. Placed in no particular order, these classic records of disco, electro, Latin, rap, Miami bass and reggae fill milk crates from floor to ceiling. These are the tools of Singleton's trade as a professional disc jockey.
Singleton's DJ name is "James Pants," a nickname given to him by his wife, Kat (Carter, '04) Singleton. As a DJ instantly recognized in Spokane for his unique style, Singleton uses his vintage records at local clubs and venues. He says he feels called not only as a DJ, but in a range of artistic fields.
"He's kind of a Renaissance man," Kat Singleton says. "He's really into cooking and painting. He makes something new and puts it out into the world."
Singleton doesn't just sit back and press the Play button at his performances. He uses his collection of music equipment and his sense of rhythm to reach audiences. The style and beat of the music increase or decrease, according to the audience's mood. Singleton gives the crowd dramatic shifts of emotion. With a microphone he adds pieces of his voice while editing on the fly. Songs are blended together, shifted and recreated numerous times within a four-hour show. Singleton says James Brown is one of his inspirations for his music-composition style and flair.
"I do whatever is fun for me, and it usually works," Singleton says.
During a typical week, he performs two or three shows in the greater Spokane area. Singleton avoids big clubs and sticks to smaller venues such as Baby Bar and Prago Argentine Cafe. A small room crammed full of people appeals to him. He stays away from songs played constantly on the radio and plays less familiar tunes. A wide variety of '80s R&B and hip hop comes from his sound board, while he adjusts the music to fit the genre of the customers he entertains. Kat Singleton attends nearly all his shows and constantly supports her husband.
"He really has a gift for knowing trends and a knowledge of pop culture," she says.
In the past two years of his career, Singleton has won numerous local awards. In 2005, Singleton won an award for Best DJ, presented by the B-Side, a local club in Spokane now known as The Spread. He also received an award for Best DJ from Isamu Jordan, the music critic for "7," the arts section of the Spokesman Review. Despite all the praise showered upon Singleton, he remains quiet and never wants attention for his accomplishments. Kat Singleton says he affects people more than he realizes.
"Seeing a crowd react to him is fun," she says. "It's great that he is being exposed."
On top of being a DJ, Singleton extends his talent by performing a lounge act inspired by the late Andy Kaufman. Standing on stage dressed in a trench coat, a furry Russian hat and oversized sunglasses, his alter ego, "Mr. Golden Voice," performs a mix of comedy and music. The show is interactive, as Mr. Golden Voice is not afraid to yell at the audience if someone tries to leave through a side door. He poses as a burned-out DJ, dancing and adding other entertainment forms to his performance.
Along with a gift for entertainment, percussion has always been a part of Singleton's life. When he was a toddler, his parents, James and Sara Singleton, gave him his first drum set. From then on he quickly acquired a sense of rhythm and became involved in his high-school jazz and marching band. At Whitworth he steered clear of majoring in music because of the time commitments involved. He decided that journalism and mass communication would be the route for him.
"Majoring in music would have taken the fun out of it for me," he says. "I didn't want to get bored by putting all of my time into one thing."
As part of his extracurricular activities, Singleton performed as a DJ at shows mostly off campus. He also was the music director for Whitworth's radio station, KWRS. His passion for writing has not changed since his days at Whitworth . He works freelance as a show reviewer for music magazines; he also creates publication layouts and designs. He is a frequent critic for "The Word," a free music review distributed to coffeeshops in Spokane. "The Word" includes stories about local music, national news and fictitious writings about arts and culture. Singleton says he hopes to help make the 24-page review similar to "The Stranger" in Seattle. And in addition to being involved with writing and disc jockeying, Singleton has his sights set on a bigger goal.
Ideally, he would like to own his own record label someday. In a city the size of Spokane this would be difficult, so he sees himself eventually moving to Los Angeles to look for more opportunities. In the meantime, Stones Throw Records will distribute his first album "Welcome," in the summer of 2007. The record will feature a blend of his favorite songs, rearranged and remixed with added splices of Singleton's performances on percussion, making it original and in his own word, "creepy."
James Singleton would like to disappear from the Spokane entertainment scene for a while so that his performances can stay fresh to his audience. He expanded his identity by touring throughout the Pacific Northwest, doing shows in Los Angeles, Salem, Seattle, Texas and Vancouver. There is the possibility that he might tour in Europe in the near future. His ability to relate to others is present in his keen sense of musical styling.
"He's a good producer and has always had an ear for talent," Kat Singleton says. "He touches people in ways he doesn't know."