James Ash breathes new life into ‘Right in the Night’

James Ash has had dozens of hits as a member of Rouge Traders, and he’s also a successful club DJ who has travelled globe bringing parties to life. Over the years he’s put out music using different pseudonyms but now he’s starting to release more tunes under his own name.

His latest offering is a rework of Right in the Night, the song was a breakthrough hit for German duo Jam & Spoon in 1993 and topped charts around the world. The tune was filling dancefloors when Ash first began working as a DJ and it’s always been one of his favourite songs, but he explains to Graeme Watson that updating it for 2020 was a challenging task.

What made you want to put out a new version of Right in the Night?

That’s such a good question to ask because the original is so perfect, why would you want to draw a moustache on the Mona Lisa, right?

I’m going to disagree, because even though I have to original single and all the remixes, it’s not a record I would put on. It’s one of those songs that, even though I loved it when it came out, I’d definitely fallen out of love with it. When I first saw you’d made a new version my first reaction was… really? Then when I played it, I totally loved it, you’ve created some magic here.

Well thank you, that’s very generous of you. I hope so, although I’m a producer whose made lots of big records for the dancefloor, I’m a very romantic fellow and the music I listen to tends to be more emotional electronica.

I guess during Covid times we no longer have to make records that are firstly, solely, about the dancefloor. We can make records that function as something beautiful first, so it was an opportunity to do something like that.

To be honest I had about five or six things which I was playing with and Right in the Night is one of those songs that I’ve actually tried to redo lots of times over the year, and I kept fucking it up to be honest with you. I couldn’t get it right, but I knew what is was that was needed to bring that song forward for today.

Like you, I recognise the original was a long time a go, it’s a hard record to play out even today, even though it’s so special to all of us. I guess I just wanted to bring some new life to it.

It’s got a very smooth edge now, I went back and listed to the original trying to work out what was different and it’s because it doesn’t have the prominent flamenco guitar.

It’s at 140 bpm, and my version is at 118bpm, so it’s taking it’s time, and the biggest difference and the thing I needed to do to make it work was to take the flamenco guitar away. It felt like sacrilege, but once I did that suddenly the record could breathe and sound like a modern record.

Even though it’s a cover I wanted to make it sound like a modern record. One I was brave enough to let that part of it go, it suddenly crystalised to what it is now.

It’s interesting because once you do remove that flamenco guitar, you hear so much more of the tune and it’s lyrics and what it’s actually saying. 

The lyrics are beautiful. Fall in love with music, how many times have we done that in our lives, and it is a lovely melody. I thought I was going to cop a lot of hate for taking it out, but so far the response has been positive.

I’ve got to say though, if you listen to the JPA remix, which is terrific,  he’s put them back in a little bit. He’s found a way to make it work. By my version is a lot cleaner.

I’m really liking what I’ve heard of the dub version too.

Thanks, the song has a lot of mystery and it creates a special moment. It’s vey nice that people are enjoying it but I have to come back to Jam and Spoon and Plavka for writing such a great song.

There’s going to be a whole generation of people out there who have maybe never heard this song. 

Yes, I started Djing in 1993 when it was released and it was the biggest track in the world at the time. For me it was like I had entered this amazing secret world, I was like “Wow! clubs! everyone is happy, the music is incredible and we’re all sharing it.” It defined that moment for me.

Your teenage years saw you moving back and forth between England and Australia several times, what effect did that have on your exposure to music? For me as a kid I remember going to London in 1988 as discovering acid house, and then returning to Australia where all my friends listened to Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham and The Hoodoo Gurus.

I kind of feel lucky that grew up in England in the 1970’s and 80’s. My favourite band of all time is still The Human League and that was my childhood. It’s like my own personal Billy Elliot running in my head when I hear those songs. I came across club music long before I could go to clubs, acid house in the late ’80s and then the early kind of breakbeat and rave music at the start of the 90’s lead by people like The Prodigy.

When I came back to Australia permanently in 1993, like you I experienced that shock, you turned on the radio and it was Huey Lewis and the News, and Katrina and the Waves.  The dance music world existed here but it was much more underground.

If I found out a friend of mine was going to London, I’d give them $100 and ask them to go to Tower Records in Piccadilly Square and ask them to find the coolest looking shop assistance and ask them to choose the music. I really had to stress that I didn’t want my friend to buy the music, it was always a great lucky dip, that’s how I first heard The Prodigy. 

How cool is that! Back then music was so much more about where it was made, cities had sounds, and I guess they still do to a certain extent, but now all music is international and it could be from anywhere. I think that’s a good thing.

There’s definitely a halo around that scene in the UK in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and we must not forget the Americans and the scene in Chicago – they created house music, but Europe in at that time had taken it and was certainly running with it.

How are things with Rogue Traders? There were rumours of new music, but we’re still waiting. 

We had written new music. We got back together a few years and have been touring and it’s all amazing, we get on really well and all love each other, and all that boring stuff.

We’ve tried to write new music three of our times, and we actually do have two or three tracks. Nat Bass and I did a gig, that was like a night club PA where I was Djing and she was signing. We previewed a new track called Love Drunk and that was just before Covid hit. So maybe it will happen.

While new music from Rogue Trader may be further down the pipeline, James Ash shared that he’s got more solo material to release in the near future too. Right in the Night is available now.   

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