By: Vanessa Tam
VANCOUVER – “Yo, being cool is overrated,” says Brennan Henderson in between sips of pour-over coffee. “That shit’s dumb.”
Producing music under the name James Deen since high school, Henderson originally grew up in Kelowna, the hometown of electronic music juggernauts Datsik and Excision, before deciding to move to Vancouver a few years ago. “It’s funny because the first-ever article about me — well, not the first one but the biggest one — was on THUMP,” he says, reminiscing. “They premiered a song and I think the title was just like, ‘Hear a song from a Kelowna producer that’s not Datsik or Excision.’ Which is super funny.”
Growing up in such an isolated town in terms of music culture and diversity, Henderson chose to publish most of his work to SoundCloud, which helped him find the majority of his fan base through the Internet. His move to Vancouver, however, really kickstarted the visibility of his music, especially around 2014, when comparable artists Ryan Hemsworth and Wave Racer were experiencing their heydays.
While clearly inspired by the shiny and bright samples commonly associated with 2014’s infatuation with PC Music, Henderson has complete faith in his overall sound and his ongoing growth as an artist. “I think there’s been a natural progression [with my work since then. For example, I] still keep a lot of the elements that I enjoyed from the style of music I made in the past, but I also incorporate new stuff that I like, think and feel now.”
As a testament to his overall development, the young artist prepares to release his debut LP this month titled Never Been Cool. “The bottom line when I make music is that it’s all for myself,” he explains. “I was thinking about this recently while I was listening to the demos of [the album] while I was walking to work and I was like, ‘Is this pompous or is this like narcissistic?’ And I was like, ‘No, because if I don’t like the music I make, then why would I make it?’”
Filled with a selection of inspiring vocal features and moody atmospheric tracks alongside his signature upbeat production style, the album is really an audio representation of how far he has come as an artist. “It’s just like a testament to my life,” he says confidently. “Because, like, I’ve never been cool and I’m also through being cool.”
James Deen’s debut LP, Never Been Cool, comes out April 13.James Deen, never been cool