Electro Mecca

Decades after defining bass, Miami's Maggotron is a god

At the height of Maggotron and DXJ's fame (DX for the classic Oberheim DX drum machine; J for James), a dream team of collaborators gave McCauley's tracks their signature sound. DJ Claudio, who also recorded with respected local electro outfit Dynamix II, dropped recognizable chunks of funk songs and oddball vocal snippets into the mix, while José Martin riffed on his electric guitar quasi-arena-rock style. It was a jubilant carefree take on an already rather free-and-easy genre, and it never stooped to booty obsession to get laughs.

For his most recent studio work, McCauley has adopted a more stripped-down aesthetic he hopes will better mesh with the purists' Kraftwerkian tastes. "I'm not using any samples," he relates. "The working concept is pure and natural: just the [Roland] 808 drum machine and synths. I'm trying hard to bridge the gap between the old-school people and the more contemporary bass music fans, which is actually pretty broad. Because the car audio crowd, all of them might not know that the 808 started the bass sound; they've sort of gone off on a tangent with all the bass tones and the competition stuff. For the most part, it's going to have an older sound, because there's no way I'm going to bring in the German guys without that -- they're way too picky."

He's not even sure they'll be interested at all, since he's releasing the new work on CD. Vinyl is the absolute gold standard. "But I think that if push came to shove," he says, "they'd break down and buy the CD."

James McCauley in the relic factory
Steve Satterwhite
James McCauley in the relic factory

McCauley himself broke rather messily with Pandisc last summer (he now refers to the label as "those bloodsucking thieves") but retained the rights to his manifold pseudonyms. He's planning a compilation of unreleased tracks from his golden age on the Bassmekanik.com label owned by bass music and car audio heavyweight Neil Case (a.k.a. the Bass Mekanik and Beat Dominator). In recent years McCauley has hit his stride in the production process and has been able to punch out new LPs on a fairly frequent basis. For the new "old" style material he's producing now, however, he's taking things much slower.

"I'm spending like two or three times more time on the stuff I'm working on now," he explains, "going over and over it, trying to make it sound like the old stuff, but also trying to make it sound like new stuff." Religious zealots, as everyone knows, make strict demands of their sacred relics.

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