Kaz James is world-renowned for his DJing and music production – so what is he doing launching coffee shops across London?
Whenever I am at Old Street station, I do pop into Shoreditch Grind for a coffee – not realising that a top DJ was the co-founder… How did the coffee business come about?
It was a happy accident to be honest. I was looking for somewhere to move my recording studio when I moved from West to East London a few years ago. My good friend David [Abrahamovitch] approached me about turning his Father’s phone shop into an espresso bar knowing that I love coffee. The recording studio followed upstairs a few months later. I had never done anything else besides music, so adding something different that I already had a passion for seemed like a great idea. So in 2011 Shoreditch Grind was born.
Why Old Street as the location for the first coffee shop?
We never intended to open more than one shop at the beginning, so Shoreditch Grind’s location wasn’t a strategic move to build a coffee empire. To be honest everyone thought that we were crazy opening next door to Starbucks on Old Street roundabout. I thought it was genius!
What kind of experience did you want to offer at Shoreditch Grind?
We wanted people to feel comfortable and at home. Coffee is part of people’s everyday routine, so you need to create an environment that keeps them coming back. A place you would want to hang out in everyday.
Was the response good right from the off – and if so, why do you think that was?
The response from day one was really positive. What we did was really new and different for London. We were one of the first proper espresso bars in the UK and people really liked what we were doing.
Were you always planning to open up the space upstairs?
Yes we wanted to create a creative hub in the area and the studio was always going to help us do this. We have had so many amazing artists record in our studio from FK Twigs, Jungle, Tinie Tempah, MK, What so Not, to name a few.
Are you surprised at how quickly you have opened up other Grinds around London?
Yes definitely, if you had told me four years ago that we would have six venues with a seventh on the way I would have told you that you were mad.
How does this business fit into your life as a globetrotting DJ?
I’m in a very lucky position because I travel so much, I can take a lot of inspiration and ideas from across the world and use it to help us constantly evolve and grow as a brand.
You have been DJing since quite young haven’t you?
I started DJing when I was 14 playing at the local underage discos, so yes it has been a while. I still love it which is the main thing its part of who I am.
How has the music industry changed since those early days?
It has evolved massively, not sure for the better, but it’s nothing like what it used to be. Technology has played a massive part in all this.
What would you say has been the highlight of your DJing career to date?
There have been so many different moments in my career that have been a highlight. You achieve one thing and think ‘wow that’s amazing’ and then you do it again and again and it becomes normal. So you look to achieve something and keep ticking those boxes off your list.
What’s your best anecdote relating to your music career?
I have seen a lot of crazy stuff over the years touring mainly in Ibiza to be honest. But one that stands out was nearly being killed in Brazil with Macy Gray after doing a show for a shady promoter!
Who has been your favourite person to collaborate with?
I really loved working with Chad Hugo from the Neptunes. He is always a lot of fun.
Finally Kaz, what does 2016 have in store for you?
Well the start of the year is going be crazy! I have my annual New Year’s Day party in Melbourne with guest DJ, Seth Troxler, followed by a heavy 22 date tour in America starting in mid January to mid February. Plus I’m releasing a bunch of new tunes that I can wait to get out!
Shoreditch Grind, 213 Old Street EC1V 9NR; shoreditchgrind.com