Jan 18, 2022
8 min read
Before I die, I want to…
How might you finish that sentence? Most people might share a grandiose dream they seldom dare to speak into existence. Or a flashy, larger-than-life final deed for humanity.
When asked to finish that strikingly open-ended statement, James Edwards —aka Made By Pete— pauses, shares a sheepish shrug and a laugh before explaining.
"Maybe I've done everything I want to do, or I'm doing everything I want to do. There's nothing I really want that I'm not doing or already have at the moment… I'm not rich either, it's nothing monetary," he chuckles, "I'm just living life the way I want to live life."
Edwards's peaceful space of gratitude has steadily grown after years of following a distinctive path. He's had a journey full of lessons, self-growth, and a steadfast commitment to what feels right in music and life. The result? He has a growing reputation as a master producer, a performance schedule that takes him all over the globe, and an infectiously healthy perspective of the art form he loves.
Before Edwards traveled the globe to perform sets in exotic underground locations as Made By Pete, he started as a grade school kid wanting to try out an instrument.
"My earliest musical memory is probably wanting to learn how to play the saxophone but being forced to play the clarinet instead in school, which lasted about three months because the clarinet was boring," he remembers.
Despite his apathy for the clarinet, his musical curiosity still yearned for an outlet. Various styles punctuated his early teens, from Nirvana to oversized, overpriced Moschino shirts. But when family vacations to Ibiza started to include adventures to its world-famous clubs, his life would forever be changed.
"Eventually year after year we would go back and me and my friend started to adventure up to the clubs and that's when I got into electronic music and started thinking 'Hey I want to start mixing two records together.'… By the time we were 16 or 17."
"I think Es Paradís was the first club we went to. We got there at like 11 o'clock, and there was no one there. In the UK, when we were going out as kids, it would be 11 o'clock. And I think by one o'clock the DJ had started playing the same music again so we thought, 'Oh it must be over now,' and we left as people are just starting to go in. But we would go back every year and started going out to all the other clubs and just experiencing it all."
His experience in the clubs of Ibiza captured his imagination. From the music to the people, he was hooked.
"I have quite a vivid memory of being in Pacha in Ibiza… Where I grew up going out as a kid you would be worried about getting on the bus, who you gonna bump into, is there gonna be any trouble that night. When I was in Ibiza, you'd bump into someone on the dance floor and they'd be, 'Oh sorry mate! How ya doing?' Everyone was friendly, lovely, everyone was really cool. I was just like, 'Wow,' man. This music is amazing. The people are amazing. I wanna do this. This is where I need to be."
It didn't take long for those adventures in Ibiza to start bleeding into Edwards' life back in the UK. While his friends would frequent other venues in favor of popular music and chasing the ladies, James happily frequented the UK's vast array of Dance clubs like Ministry of Sound, even if it meant going by himself.
A friend soon let Edwards borrow turntables, and a dive down the DJ rabbit hole began. He set them up wherever he could: the kitchen, the garage, a basement, and started to set up parties at his local pubs. There was no denying he had found something he truly loved, and with his family's stamp of approval, he enrolled in a music production and business school.
"My mom's always been really encouraging. She saw that I had an interest in something and instead of discouraging me, encouraged me to do it properly…. She was the one who sort of encouraged me to go to college and learn how to make music. That was the thing that sort of turned it from just DJing and hobbying, to something like hey I can try and turn this into a career."
Edwards continued to polish his craft after finishing his coursework, his DJing abilities now accompanied by a capable working knowledge of his production software, Logic. And rather than jump headfirst into the exceedingly ruthless music industry, he picked up extra side-work and took time to methodically find the most authentic expression of his creativity.
He wisely shares, "Nothing in music is guaranteed… I've always had something else I was doing, be it tennis coaching or other things. I work as a digital designer now as well. Another way to earn money, I think it's really important to have that… If you're relying on the money in the early stages, you probably end up making wrong decisions with your music. You might take the wrong remix or the wrong gigs, ya know if you need that 300 quid to pay your gas bill, you're not gonna turn down that thing," he laughs. "But that's not always the best way to go when you're trying to create a brand, a sound, and a vibe. You want to be free of any limitations or needs financially and just go with the flow."
Now, over a decade removed from those music courses, artists from around the world convene in his garden studio to create new sounds. His studio is a producer's dream come true. His socials brim with the top-shelf equipment lining the room. From his new IGS Tubecore vari-mu compressor to the Moog Matriach analog synthesizer and the Allen & Heath GSR24 M mix board that puts the icing on the delicious sonic cake, every piece of hardware has its role.
Edwards is the first to admit that he continues to learn every day. He says he gets better every three to six months. His passion for music allows him to retain the role of an excited student exploring new possibilities with his gear and appreciating the talents of fresh artists.
"I love working with anyone who's got a talent that I don't have. I like to be the guy who's at the desk producing and getting that final sound together but I'm not a musician myself," he humbly explains.
"Anyone like a vocalist or anyone who can play different instruments, it's great to get them in the studio because they often tend to have the skills that I don't have and I tend to have skills that they don't have and we work really well together… You can't do everything yourself."
He doesn't subscribe to the prevailing attitude in dance music that producers must do everything to be considered an artist.
"Traditionally, the role of the producer is to get the best out of the artist. We just happen to be the artist as well as the producer and the engineer. You gotta find a way to work, don't limit yourself to just the things you can do, so why not experiment and bring in other people.
"I tend to come up with things I would have never come up with myself, which is great because you just found something new there… and maybe you make a friend as well," he finishes with a smile.
Each Made By Pete track pulls on different sonic threads. "Sign Of The Times" and "Drunk In Chicago" are head-spinning bangers primed for a steamy dance floor. "Aikido" and "Rhythm Fabric" lean into his lifelong love of percussion. And magic bubbles when vocalist Jem Cooke hops on the mic for tunes like "I Am Not Afraid" and the 2018 hit, "So Long."
His music finds harmony between organic, analog material and electronic proclivities. Much like his approach to life, balance is the keyword. A brilliant sonic pallet of distinct melodies skates across an always reliable groove. A vibe that's never uncontrollably aggressive, with an energy that's far from sleepy. You can lose yourself to it in the club or keep it steady in the headphones.
The music of Made By Pete is the meeting point of the many strings of James Edwards' life. Through career ebbs and flows, donning different monikers and sounds, and starting a family, the music has always been his north star. Patience and passion have led James down a path that regularly fills his heart. His face beams with love as he speaks. And while he'll tell you music hasn't made him rich, it unquestionably has made him rich in spirit, wisdom, and experience.