As a teen in the late 80s, James Kumo’s world was opened up by Kiss 100FM - still a pirate station at the time. “I don’t know how I got to know about it, actually. It was probably through a friend or someone’s brother,” he recounts. Recording shows on cassette decks and envying the friends’ older brothers who were old enough to get into clubs, he was enthralled by the rhythms of dance music straight away.
Beginning in the mid 90s, Kumo’s burgeoning DJ career took him around the London club scene, becoming a fixture at the likes of Ben Watt’s Cherry Jam (Notting Hill) and Nuphonic Records’ Bridge & Tunnel (Shoreditch). His broad range of sounds, from techno and house to funk and disco, allows for a bespoke approach that has kept him reliably in tune and versatile. Over the years, he’s appeared as far afield as New York and Cape Town, illustrating the dedication to his craft that has endured several decades. Most recently, while based in Manchester, he’s teamed up with fellow Manchester DJ Stef Da Rogue to create the collaborative club night Bear Left - an ambitious yet intimate event that marries the genesis of house music with its present.
In 2007, while expecting the birth of his son, Kumo ventured into production for the first time. Though still learning the ropes, he drew from his lifelong immersion in dance music and quickly landed on his feet; his first releases, Kumomusic Vols 1 and 2, appeared on the Delsin Records imprint Ann Aimee. Since then, he has committed himself to constantly expanding his frontiers, through curiosity and perseverance. “I learn on the job, basically,” he explains. “There’s always stuff you can learn.” His techno-driven releases as James Kumo include ‘Paradise/XX’, recently unveiled on Steve Lawler’s iVaV Recordings.
In more recent years, Kumo has introduced K.Mo, a new platform with which he explores deeper, more soulful house sounds. Under this alias, he released his first LP ‘Vision’ in 2020, followed by an impressive run of EPs. The Space Funk EP is the project’s latest showing, which features instrumental contributions from Byron the Aquarius, Tim Jules and Chris Bruining. All of this has been under the banner of Wayout Records, Kumo’s own label, which he envisions as a vessel for community and collaboration. “I want it to be not like a label who’s churning out music all the time, more of a collection of people making music we like,” he says. “More of a friendship group of sorts.”
“The people I’ve been working with - either releasing their music, they’re remixing my music, or the musician side of it - I wanna work with them again, rather than get another 15 people involved. I’d rather work with certain individuals over time,” he expands.
This approach harkens back to the glory days of record shops as hubs for building relationships; a human touch that is often missing in the age of cold social media interactions. With K.Mo and Wayout Records, Kumo is building a new warmth, one which he infuses into every groove of his productions. It’s a new era of an artist always evolving.
Mia Hughes, June 2021