Pretty FLY: Denis Sulta, Theo Kottis & Jasper James
Jasper James, Theo Kottis and Denis Sulta open up about everything from FLY Club parties and their highlights of 2017, to hairstyles, dress sense and their greatest fears and inspirations
At the beginning of 2017, Jasper James, Theo Kottis and Denis Sulta were announced as the three ‘headline’ DJs of Edinburgh’s FLY Club parties. Sulta (aka Hector Barbour) and James are hugely popular selectors; both charted in last year’s Resident Advisor’s Top DJ Poll (at number 26 and 69 respectively). Kottis made his production debut in 2014 with the acclaimed Waiting Game EP and has since released a number of impressive tracks on labels such as Anjunadeep and Moda Black. Collectively, they represent some of the best emerging talent from Scotland’s thriving clubbing scene.
This year has seen the three DJs head up numerous parties at FLY Club's Cabaret Voltaire home, while continuing to carve out a name for themselves both locally and internationally as both performers and producers. Next year, each resident will also curate their own FLY Open Air Festival line-up. Sulta will curate Saturday 19 May at Hopetoun House just outside Edinburgh, and Kottis and James will each programme a day of FLY's Princes Street Gardens event on 22 & 23 September, respectively.
We spoke to James and Kottis behind the scenes at September’s FLY Open Air event, and to Sulta a few hours before his Sulta Selects event at Glasgow’s Art School in October. We've collated their answers to compare to their thoughts on everything from their highlights of 2017, to their biggest fears and their favourite TV shows – and to find out what they really think about each other.
What has been your favourite FLY Club moment to date?
JJ: I’ve been playing for Tom [Ketley] who runs FLY Club for quite a few years now, and all his parties have been fucking pretty good to be honest, it would be hard to single one out! This year, the parties have been pretty special. They’ve all been sold out, and the crowd’s been really welcoming.
DS: I know this one, that’s easy. It must have been the first FLY party of 2017. There was something mad in the air that night – there was a full moon, the whole shebang – and it got to the point where I was feeling naughty as fuck that night (laughs). I turned around and my rider ice bucket was empty. I was like, 'well I want to get rid of this now', so I pulled the music down and was like: ‘Right, someone do the ice bucket challenge; tip this over your head; the music’s not coming back on again until you do it’.
So everyone in the crowd was like ‘errr…whatever’, and then all of a sudden this girl just goes, ‘Fuck it! I’ll do it!’. So I just passed it over the decks – I could see the sound engineer’s face ‘cos I had this whole big bucket of ice over everything – she takes the bucket and... (he imitates water cascading over his head). The whole crowd went fucking ballistic. Every time she comes now, she and all her pals, they get in for free!
What makes a good resident DJ?
TK: I actually feel really strongly about this. In my opinion if you want to be a really good resident, you don’t want the limelight. You don’t want to steal the show; you’re kind of always in the background. The best DJs in the world for me are the ‘smaller’ DJs, like Harri & Domenic. I played back-to-back with Dom last weekend; they’re the best! For me, being a good DJ is being able to play what you really love and get away with it, and not really care what people think. If you told me I was shit tonight, but I played my favourite records, I think I’d still be happy.
JJ: I suppose to really judge you need to be [living] in that city, and going to that club religiously, to really work out how good a DJ that resident is. You can’t really judge it if you just go on a one-off. For me I guess, a good resident is being able to perform week in, week out... [having] consistency but also being able to keep it fresh.
DS: Keeping it interesting without losing your individual style, maintaining your individuality as an artist, and developing your taste so that people can continue to respond to it. I always think being a DJ is much more about the people in the room than it is about you.
Who is the best-dressed FLY Club resident?
TK: Me, because I like shirts (laughs). I think Jasper’s a good looking guy, he’s a sexy man. And Hector’s one of the best guys, but he’s not sexy (more laughter).
DS: Me (Sulta happens to be wearing a pair of dinosaur-printed socks; a lengthy discussion about socks ensues). I’m bonkers for socks.
And who has the best hair?
TK: Ehhhh… Jasper. I’ve been trying to work this man bun for years but it might be time for a chop.
JJ: Me! Next question (laughs).
DS: (Pauses) It’s me, isn’t it? (laughs).
What do you admire about each other?
TK: I think Denis is one of the best producers that there's been in recent years. And I think Jasper is one of the best DJs in Scotland.
JJ: I’ve known Hector and Theo for many years. They’re both good in their own right. Hector’s more of a party DJ for me; he’s like proper hands in the air, fist-pumping, and the crowd fucking love it. But it always takes off when either of them play, they’re both just doing their own thing and smashing it.
DS: Having played with Jasper a few times, he has an ability to really blend things. They both play with zero compromise of artistic integrity... with a lot of bravery, I feel. And I think they’re just both lovely guys too!
What one track has really blown your mind this year?
TK: Sascha Funke’s MZ. When I played with Dom, he wouldn’t shut up about it. And every time I’ve played it, it’s been so good.
JJ: That’s a difficult one! It’s not [a recent release] but Melba Moore’s You Stepped Into My Life. It’s a fucking belter!
DS: Oh fuck, I don’t know actually! The first one that comes to mind is French Montana ft Swae Lee’s Unforgettable. I can’t get over that song! It’s the best song of the year. It might not be number one in the charts, and I don’t play it in the clubs, but I play it when I get home (laughter). It’s amazing!
Can you play any musical instruments?
TK: Aye, not very well anymore. Clarinet, trumpet, drums; all when I was younger!
JJ: I can play the drums actually! Not very well, but that’s something I used to play when I was in high school. I used to get lessons off a guy who owned a studio above an old strip club (laughs).
DS: Yeah, I can play the trumpet! That’s how I learned to read music. I played in the National Youth Orchestra in Scotland for two years. But then I got braces, and it stops you from playing.
How do you prepare for a FLY Club set – do you have any pre-show rituals?
TK: I always get nervous. I was so nervous today. I always say this to anybody: if you get nervous, it means you care.
JJ: I don’t! I don’t, ever. Back in the day I used to pick out records and be like ‘oh, I’m going to play this’ but I’ve learned over the years you can’t really prepare for a set. I always go into a set and I don’t know what I’m going to play, and that’s no word of a lie. It’s all intuitive. That’s what I enjoy about DJing so much, the spontaneity.
DS: I always go to Glasgow first and then get the train through... it just happens that way. I used to live in Edinburgh, I lived there for two years. And going through, it adds an air of excitement.
Where is the most interesting place you’ve visited for work this year?
DS: Vancouver was beautiful, very interesting. New York was pretty fucking interesting… but without having a prepared answer for this question, it’s all a bit of a blur, to be honest.
What’s the last TV show you got addicted to?
TK: The Sopranos.
JJ: My favourite all-time series is The Sopranos. I just finished the second season of Ray Donovan. The favourite thing, for me, is just a bit of down time – run a bath, get into my bed, stick on my laptop, get a massive bag of Cool Original Doritos, and a big glass bottle of Irn Bru!
DS: Rick And Morty has become such a big part of my life that I haven’t watched the last episodes of the last season, because I just can't accept that it’s going to be over for another season. I can’t do it!
Do you have any phobias?
JJ: I never used to. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a phobia, but over the years, I’ve definitely developed a fear of insects, wasps, anything like that. If there was a spider here, I’d be straight out, I’m not having it!
DS: I hate spiders. And I hate little holes in things (laughs). It’s fucking creepy, I can’t even talk about it. I can’t remember the name for it, but it’s a fear of little pin holes in anything. Like this table: imagine if there were little holes in the top. It’s like, what the fuck is in there!?
Finally, if you could go back to when you first started out in your career, what advice would you give to your younger self?
DS: I would tell myself that the part that everyone sees – the two hours, under the bright lights, hands in the air-type stuff – that only exists for two hours out of the whole weekend. And that when you love something and you want to achieve it, there will inevitably be baggage and shit that comes with it. So I would tell myself to not lose faith, and to don’t give up. Don’t give up, and don’t give in.
The next FLY Open Air Festival takes place on Sat 19 May 2018 at Hopetoun House nr Edinburgh
Jasper James plays FLY Club on Fri 15 Dec; Denis Sulta plays FLY Club on Fri 22 Dec; both at Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
The FLY 2017 Finale | Residents Showdown, Cabaret Voltaire, Fri 29 Dec.