With a career spanning fifteen years, James Connolly hasn’t just survived in the volatile world of electronic music, he’s helped shape it. With releases as both L-Vis 1990 and Dance System, and as the co-founder of the highly influential label, Night Slugs, and now System Records, Connolly has left an indelible mark on club culture that stretches globally and has influenced a whole new generation of producers and DJs.
Born in Brighton, Connolly was DJing years before he could legally get into a club. “My teenage days were spent lying in bed with my headphones on listening to Essential Mixes and tape packs” he reminisces, “I was learning how to mix, starting to make music on eJay, and dreaming of raves.“ Once he was allowed in the club, Connolly’s sets would tend towards garage, breaks and DnB, and after the lights came up, he’d drive out of Brighton to find free parties on the Sussex Downs. Those years in Brighton informed the way that he still plays now, Connolly says, mixing Stateside house records with boisterous UK sounds.
Kicking off 2020 fully re-engaged with club culture as Dance System, Connolly released his Relentless EP on Chiwax in February, which he premiered live on BBC Radio 1, as Danny Howard selected him as one of his Artists to Watch in 2020. Widely touted as the breakout star of 2020, his success seemed cemented when Calvin Harris announced Dance System (alongside Special Request) as a major influence for his Love Regenerator project.
It’s an unfamiliar, incongruous time for dance music, as the context and spaces we’re listening in have shifted so dramatically. But, dance music unites and uplifts, and these qualities, central to the System Records ethos,are more important now than ever. As Annie Mac said, this is “medicine for the nation”. Ina time that demands respite by the bucket load, Connolly’s M.O. for Dance System-fun always as precedent-could not feel more timely.