Meet the man who brought Hardstyle to Alberta

With Q-Dance's first event in Canada set for this October, I figured it would be the time to take a closer look at someone who helped bring hardstyle to Alberta/Canada and turn it into one of the most sought after genres in Western Canada. Enter James Bayliss, who through his tireless work and determination played a major part in introducing hardstyle to thousands of now devoted fans in Alberta. He's the only Canadian artist to have his own radio show featured on the coveted Q-Dance radio roster, and remains one of the go to acts that perform in all of the hardstyle massives in Alberta. If you're a hardstyle fan in Canada then you've got to read this interview on how the path to success isn't always straight as an arrow, but when you've got passion and determination, anything is possible. Enjoy: 

Who is James Bayliss?

James Bayliss: He is a 26 year-old, 6'6 tall DJ from Alberta who loves hardstyle.

What's your style in the genre?

I don't know man, I play everything. It all depends on the mood. A lot of people think that hardstyle doesn't have a lot of styles to it, but honestly it's a pretty diverse style. You can play anything from really melodic to super raw, or really clubby. I don't stick to one style as it depends on the night and who else I'm playing with.

You're a DJ and not a producer?

I'm a DJ but not a producer, not yet. I am working on producing but it just takes time.

Hardstyle has taken off in Alberta in a big way, what was your role in making it the scene that it is today?

7-8 years ago I got brought on with Boodang spinning hard trance back in those days. That was the tail end when hard trance was truly king and then everything went house music. That was the time when I found hardstyle and fell in love with it. I became good friends with the owners of Boodang and was an active member of the team. I just kept on begging them and begging them that hardstyle was going to be the next big thing. I told them that they had to jump on it and be at the front of it. Eventually they put their faith in me we brought Lady Dana to our afterhours in Edmonton at the time. It did really well. Then the guys at Boodang put me right after Cosmic Gate at one of their big raves in Edmonton. I was put on the mainstage and that was the first time to my knowledge that hardstyle had ever been played anywhere in Canada. This happened around 6 years ago. Some fellow promoters told me to tone it down so you don't turn fans away. To be honest I had to change my dynamic because I didn't play the same way back then versus the way I play now. I played it with the intent to attract people to hardstyle. So I slowed it down a bit, played at 145 bpm instead at 150 bpm. I stayed away from the raw stuff, where at that point it wasn't around.

After I finished my set, the owner of the building came up to me and asked “What the f*ck was that? That was nuts!”. Prior to that I only played in the third room where it had only a couple hundred people capacity. Everytime people came to me asking what they were hearing and everytime I told them it was hardstyle. I was making 2,000 – 3,000 Cds every month and was handing them out to big raves and was getting people involved. I was making them aware of what hardstyle was. As time went on, the guys at Boodang continued to have faith in me and the bookings and shows continued to get bigger and bigger until we started doing Shaw Conference parties. They decided to bring in a hardstyle act to finish the night at one of the huge parties. I believe it was Headhunterz and it did extremely well. I kept pushing, Boodang kept having me back, and together we created the largest, most dedicated Hardstyle community in North America. Blackout 2013 was single-handedly the largest Hardstyle party in North American history, beating SOQD in LA. And now in 2014 - Q-Dance has seen our potential and is joining Boodang Music Canada and doing The Sound of Q-Dance right here in Qanada on October 10th in Edmonton. Its crazy if you think of where it started and where it is now. I'm beyond proud.

As it stands, Alberta has the biggest hardstyle scene in North America as far as I'm concerned. Really I was just a guy with a lot of passion for hardstyle and wanted to see it grow. Nothing's changed in that regard but now I understand the business side of it a lot more now. I'll still keep on going until we start doing massive shows at least somewhere in Canada. We'll have to wait and see.

Is there something special about the Alberta crowd that really allows them to prefer hardstyle?

If you were to ask Paul, who is one of the owners of Boodang, he'll tell you that Alberta used to be all about hardcore. Now this is way before my time so I have to take Paul's word on it. So that might explain why Western Canadians might be more attuned to it. I think what it was that it was presented to people in a certain way that appealed to the general audience that listened to electronic music. If they like trance then they're going to listen to hardstyle because that is how I presented it to them. I didn't just show up and pound their faces into the ground with a heavy beat and expect them to like it. I played sets that appealed to them and get people involved. I made them wonder what they were listening to and asking what song was being played. They might have not liked the entire set, but they might have liked that one song. You give tracklists, and you get them involved. I think that's what built it out here. You need to have a company that's at least willing to throw their back into it and start working to build it. I don't think you can walk into a city and immediately have a hardstyle scene.

I think L.A. is one of the best bets for Q-dance and it's going exponentially there. But it proves that it's going to take time to build. It's a rough style and not everybody is going to like it right away. It's very appealing once you get used to it and more than likely people won't be able to handle it for long periods of time. But we're building a scene that's going to get very very large and hardstyle is going to be one of the contenders in the realm of electronic music when it comes to big festivals. We're pretty close to it.

There is success in hardstyle in Alberta and Vancouver, but what will it take to bring hardstyle to other big markets like Ontario and Quebec?

You gotta have a good promotions team that has the know-how and connections in the city to do good events. If you look at the parties held here in Alberta, these are top-tier parties. You will not find better parties anywhere else in North America, short of 150,000 person festivals. They are high calibre productions, the sound is exponentially good and the experience is there. What you need is someone able to do that, to create an experience. It doesn't have to be on such a big scale, but their standards must be extremely high to attract people to go to these events to begin with. Regardless of what style of music you have, if the production sucks and the company has a bad rep for throwing crappy events, nobody is going to go.

You need a good venue and you need people to work for that style of music. Get the hardstyle fans going out and promoting the events. I didn't have that luxury when I started, it was just me and Boodang, who was reluctant at first to do anything with it. It took a lot of work, a lot of promoting, and a f*ck ton of Cds to make it happen. You also have to book DJs that people want to see. You don't want to be booking B class DJs to build a scene because people want to see A class DJs. It's also important for promotional companies to know how to do the basic social media stuff. The success of a company rests in the fact that they know how to reach their fans.

If there's a company that's currently throwing house and trance shows, put a hardstyle on at the end of the night which will build people's attention towards hardstyle. Eventually the interest will grow but it won't happen overnight. Calgary and Edmonton are the biggest hardstyle scenes as far as I'm concerned, Vancouver is definitely right up there with us. But all of them took time to develop. It took patience and you gotta know what you're doing.

Q-dance coming to Canada for the first time, got any advice for them?

I think they know what they're doing. They've got enough experience, especially dealing with L.A, New York, and TomorrowWorld – they've got a good grasp on what they need to do. They're going to bring the heat.

For ticket information: Click on the poster. 

For ticket information: Click on the poster. 

Tell me about your radio show on Q-dance.

There was a guy who was a close colleague who works with Q-dance that came over to Canada for one of Boodang's shows when we booked Technoboy. I kind of nagged him to see me play because I was so excited to see that I was there. So he saw me play and he said it was really good. Technoboy was even there sitting down having a beer. They thought it was phenomenal
and I had a decent crowd and they were pretty impressed with it. So I got to talk to this particular gentleman, and got to know him for about 1-2 years. The next time I saw him I got talking about doing a radio show and how it would help build the North American scene. So I
flew out to Holland, went to their headquarters, and sat down with the people that did their radio stuff to give them my spiel and that was it.

I've nothing but benefited from that show and it's vaulted me into the stratosphere. Once I start producing it's going to change dramatically as well. Before I went to Holland I created a bunch of demos and they just weren't good enough. My buddy kinda turned me down and told me
“Yeah man, this isn't going to jive bro”. I was pretty let down but I didn't give up and I went on and perfected it. Finally I sent him one after spending 6 months working on it and he told me that it was really good. He then sent it off to Q-dance and that's when I went there. So I sat down in Holland and tell them about my concept of bringing a progression into hardstyle within the show. So people who aren't fans of hardstyle will have a chance to warm up to it, get used to it, and tell themselves that hardstyle isn't so bad. I don't expect people to go on listening all the way to the end of podcast on the first listen but they will listen to it 2-3 times and by the third time they're really going to get their taste of hardstyle. They're going to become fans.

My aim with the podcast is to please hardstyle fans and most importantly put the people who aren't hardstyle fans and start attracting them over to hardstyle. It doesn't benefit the scene to
attract fans that already into hardstyle. I need people that aren't fans, who aren't aware of it, and to slowly integrate them into it. That's the exact same business model that I used with Boodang to build the scene over here.

Did you fly over to Holland on your own coin?

Yeah. I don't mind spending the money to put myself forward.

What can we expect from James Bayliss in 2014?

You can expect me to push Hardstyle into the f**king sky is what you can expect. I'm beyond excited for Q-Dance to come and experience what it is we as Canadians have built. Im not convinced who's going to be more satisfied by the end. The partiers or Q-Dance? Cause they haven't seen f**k all yet. Just wait and see!

I'm in the process of getting the Polar Express onto Youtube. I know that doesn't sound too exciting but I want to do it differently than the other hardstyle podcasts on Youtube. I'm not saying that it's going to be better, but it will be different. I'm really looking forward to it. It's been a long process because I had to find the right reliable people to do the right things.

Besides that there will be a lot more shows coming up, and producing is going to be my main focus besides promoting and DJ'ing. I'm in the studio almost everyday getting better and better. I'm in talks with some artists to do some collabs, But the Polar Express on Youtube is the big one because I'm going to take the show which is already doing extremely well and it's going to propel it into an entirely different market.

When can we expect to hear your first release?

I'm hoping sometime this year, if not, it will be early 2015. I have alot of shit going on right now. I do have a few collabs setup in the near future, with some bigger names and also up and coming stars. I'm super excited for these projects. But all in all, I'm not to concerned about it yet. My career has a habit of just taking me where I want it to. I just let things unfold as they should. I just focus on my love for Hardstyle, and it focuses on me.

My thanks to James Bayliss for this excellent interview! 

Make sure to check out his monthly radio on Q-dance radio as it's an excellent way for newer fans to dive into the hardstyle genre: