Sure, he has a million records and knows a lot about music, but James Singleton (sub. "Pants" for DJ persona) is Spokane's best DJ for one reason.
"James brings the party every time," says former B-side owner Ben Cater, now a local talent booker at Raw Sushi. "I've seen him walk into a room where people are just casually having a cocktail or whatever, and then suddenly there's 30 people shaking their asses."
Gesticulating and grunting like James Brown, Pants rocks '80s/Michael Jackson/electro dance parties like no one in Spokane. He'll also play themed sets (like all hip-hop, all rock, or, notoriously, all metal). While Clear Channel DJs pander, James Pants plays to crowds, matching energy levels with huge favorites and obscure gems alike, doing the thing all great DJs should do: keep you dancing even though you don't know the song.
The Baby Bar and Prago are the types of small venues he easily packs with appreciative followers. The cult of James Pants is pure, built solely on music and dance. Cater points out Pants' appearance and moniker are unassuming, even dorky, out of step with self-aggrandizing DJ stereotypes. He's not out to be "Mr. Cool." He's out to be "Mr. Really good at being a DJ."
That's refreshing, because nobody in Spokane can pull the cool card like Pants, who recently signed a three-album deal with the best hip-hop label in America, the beyond-cool Stones Throw Records.
Blending recorded and live sounds, James Pants makes original dance music. It has a stitched-together vibe that feels like hip-hop, but sounds much more adventurous. In Cater's words, "to call James 'hip-hop' is paying a really big compliment to hip-hop." Pants' style at once conjures damaged, indoor-sunglasses cool and wide-eyed joy, radiating a unique charm as sophisticated as it is amateurish. The debut album (originally slated for Aug. 12 but since pushed to January) is called Welcome, an invitation to a place where genres don't matter nearly as much as the beat.
After releasing Welcome (he already has a track on Stones Throw's Chrome Children and on the freely downloadable Chrome Children 2 compilation; www.stonesthrow.com), he'll tour. First America, then Europe.
Now, he's looking for some people to rap over his tracks. "High-school kids, hopefully. Even junior high would be cool," he says. Having seen way too many "thugged-out kids really concerned about 'repping the five-oh-nine'," Pants is hungry for levity, and he's leading by example.