Wednesday, 28 December 2011
In the run up to the Christmas holidays, a number of musical goodies dropped into both the physical and electronic mailboxes at Beyond The Stars Towers. The quality of these treats and has driven me to review them all for your delectation. First up is the new release from Moton Records Inc.
Moton is Dave’s long standing collaboration with the more handsome half of X-Press 2, Diesel (sorry Rocky x), starting, albeit with a different line up, in the 1990s when disco edits were some way from most people’s minds. Now, after a break of almost 2 years, they’re back with their 30th release.
The first track, ’Love and Money’, is a slo-mo Italo chugger that quite definitely tips its hat in the direction of Herb Alpert’s ‘Rotation’. In fact if you can imagine a spacey, slow, dubbed out electro version of ‘Rotation’, with wailing echo soaked guitars and a girl breathily panting about money and love over the top, you’ll be well on the way to understanding what this sounds like. Actually, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well it is.
Things get more up-tempo with the second track, kicking off with a heavily edited choppy, staccato percussion intro, before the beats start rolling with a healthy smattering of cowbell, then when the bassline drops and starts to sound s bit like a long lost Ian Dury dub before the slick female vocal slides in and we’re in some sort of left field boogie wonder land. He’s on the run apparently. He’s out there just for you, in fact. Edits like this drive me round the twist. Why have I never heard the original? How can a track this good not be well known? Have I been living in a disco cave? Have they created a silk purse out of a pigs ear? There’s those choppy drum edits again. Then it‘s over. And I want to go straight back to the beginning.
Great track, great record, great to return to form from the Moton boys. The vinyl should be in the shops around the middle of February.
Konk are one of my favourite post-Punk New York bands, listening to their records always evokes images moments I never actually experienced on the dancefloors of The Roxy, Danceteria and Save The Robots. Pretty much all their records are great, but ‘Konk Party’, ‘Your Life’, and ‘Love Attack’, which is featured in this video, all come highly recommended.
Tompkins Square is just one of those really interesting places New York. It nestles between Avenue A and B in the lower East Side of Manhattan, in an area known as Alphabet City (because the avenues are lettered rather than numbered) just north of Houston Street. But when I first visited, there wasn’t any sort of NoHo vibe going on, east of Avenue B Alphabet City was pretty lawless - derelict buildings were abound, third world-esque shanty towns of homeless people existed on bulldozed blocks, projects bordered the area and drug dealers openly plied their trade on street corners.
Tompkins Square was also favoured by many homeless people and has a history of being a breeding for protest and public disorder, with it providing a back drop to the American Civil War draft riots in the 1860s, the infamous Tompkins Square riots when workers clashed with police in he 1870s, through to clashes in 44 people were injured, when the police tried to clear the square of homeless people in 1988. And the following year the ‘Butcher of Tompkins Square’ fed the homeless people, who were still there, soup made with human body parts (look it up if you’re ghoulish enough).
This video was made 3 years prior to that and 6 years before my first visit, so it was a pretty edgy place you probably didn’t want to hang around too much at night. I’ve been back many times since, not least because the now defunct Dance Tracks record store was a couple of blocks away, and Alphabet City has been massively gentrified and the only thing you need to worry wandering those streets after dark now is which coffee shop to buy your tall skinny frappucino from…
Anyway, the video is great and from another, more interesting time and if you watch the whole thing you get a few glimpses of world in in hard to imagine in existing in the heart of Manhatten. Oh and the music is great too!
Thursday, 10 November 2011
So with just over two weeks to go until second THUNDER party with Liverpool born and bred Chicago house wunderkind, John Heckle, here a chart of stuff I'm enjoying this month, which includes John's new release, the hot new Strobelight release from Solid State, which Beyond the Stars talent scouted(!), a pair of Omar S double packs, a slick Chez Damier joint, the return of FCL and Storm Queen, a wonky effort from Lone, and the last release from up and coming UK house label, Feelharmonic, which I only just discovered. All brought to you by the late, great, Mr Saville - and no, I don't care what Paul Merton says...
>>Click here for a direct link to the chart on Juno<< or click on the player below
Thursday, 3 November 2011
About a year ago, I found myself scouting for venues and in the basement of a sushi bar at the Clerkenwell end of Old Street. Whilst standing at the bar, in this small but perfectly formed underground space, a poster a party on the wall caught my eye, with a line up boasting 20:20 Vision act Crazy P, one half of the Unabombers, Luke, and Sheffield house legend, Chris Duckenfield, amongst others. Pretty impressive such a smaller venue, off the beaten track. Almost a year on, ‘The Idiots Are Winning’, have got a series of parties under their collective belts, all with cracking line ups that have included the likes of Luke Una, Rob Mello, Luke Solomun and I:Cube, and they are now preparing for their first birthday party, with bona fide house legend, Chez Damier.
I’m pretty excited, to be honest. Chez Damier is a fantastic DJ, has made some of the best house records ever committed vinyl and ran one of the best house labels in history, Prescription. So, I took the opportunity to catch up ‘The Idiots Are Winning’ resident and promoter, Jake Manders find out a bit more about these parties.
So, who are the brains behind ‘The Idiots Are Winning’ and inspired you get together to do the party?
Both myself and 'Idiots' cohort Louis used to run various parties in a Labour club in our hometown of Hebden Bridge. Having moved to London a number of years ago, I guess we were always potentially looking to get back into it. What tipped us over the edge from 'thinking about it' to actually 'doing it' was a chance encounter with Chris [Duckenfield] on one of the infamous Petrcane boat parties. With no little sense, he agreed to get involved - probably much to his regret as every other month I'm hassling him to do promo of some sort!
Does the party have some sort of underpinning ethos?
There is an ethos, so to speak, but not a particularly ground breaking one: Informal, infrequent parties with the odd red light thrown in. I think being from the north with it's various esteemed nights - Basics, Electric Chair, Scuba et al - played it's part in how we view a decent party.
Life really provides a great basement for your red lights - it’s a real gem of venue, isn’t it?
Definitely. It's a great little venue and works very well for us. We originally heard of it as Gilles Peterson ran a Wednesday night there whilst Defected also use it for one-offs from time to time - Frankie Knuckles recently played down there which as you can imagine, was a bit of a roadblock. On a more visceral level, there's just something immensely appealing about partying in the basement of a Japanese restaurant.
For such a compact space you’ve had some amazing guests - I remember seeing the posters for the first party down there and thinking “Wow!”, it most be a bit of labour of love getting such line-ups together?
We're in a very fortunate position of being able to call on friends and ask a few favours here and there but from a DJ's point of view, I'd take a punt and say that most would prefer playing at more intimate events. Part of the reason we've managed to book Chez Damier for our 1st birthday was on that basis and you only need to look at other parties in London such as Electric Minds' loft parties, Bad Passion and The Lift Party to see that small venues are appealing to both DJ's and punters alike.
Having someone as established and respected as Chris Duckenfield involved in a London party is pretty special, eh?!
Having Chris involved is a huge plus for us and somewhat of a coup. Considering how saturated London is with good, quality parties, I don't think we would have taken the plunge without him onboard. As you know, it's incredibly difficult to carve out a niche and as The Idiots Are Winning is Chris' first residency since Scuba, this has really helped us gain some semblance of a foothold.
Now you‘re almost one, are there any moments from the first year that particularly stand out?
Personally, Crazy P was a particular highlight. To see them play in a venue of that size is practically unheard of these days. There's so little space behind the decks, Danielle was having to sing whilst standing on a little chair in the corner! Seeing Chris, Luke Solomon and Rob Mello going back-to-back was another rare treat.
You’ve got Chez Damier playing too, a true house heavyweight, you most be pretty excited about having him play?
Absolutely. He's flying in from Chicago so as you can imagine for a party of our size, the bare economics of it are difficult but well worth the effort! It's not often you hear a set from a DJ that you know very little of and Chez is one of the few out there that can deliver that.
See you down the front!
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Saturday, 8 October 2011
New Juno chart chart with hotness from Mark E Evetts. John Heckle, Carl Craig, Modernista Records, Neville Watson, Beond the Stars, and more.
Check the next THUNDER party on SATURDAY 26 NOVEMBER, at Visions on Kingsland Road, Dalston, with the amazing JOHN HECKLE (Mathematics Recordings/Tabernacle Records).
You can also catch me playing with TERRY FARLEY at the Gentleman's Pinch (@ The Griffin) on Friday 21 October.
And th new edit I did with Neville Watson of Jamie Principle 'Baby Wants To Ride' out now on Harmless. It's a rework of an obscure version from 1988 rather than the original mix.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
So it seems barely more than a blink of an eye ago that Boys Own hosted a construction party at XOYO, with Weatherall wowing people in the basement alongside Vera and Dorian, whilst Hippie Torales and Severino putting on a disco and house master class in the oh-so-hot and not yet complete bar room.
But it was a year ago, it must have been, because XOYO has reached the grand old age of 1 - and its having a massive party to celebrate!
Even in its semi-finished state it was clear XOYO was going to be quite a special venue. The bar room, which I am pleased report was fully functioning and beautifully air conditioned by the formal opening night, is cool and intimate, offering respite from the throngs downstairs. But downstairs is what XOYO is all about.
You descend down the stairwell onto the edge of a dancefloor that looks very much like someone has cut the end of a circa 1993 Sound Factory and transported to large Shoreditch basement. The iron pillars are there, the high ceilings, and even the herring bone struts (that one for the carpenters) between the beams in the ceiling above, all of which were present at the legendary New York venue, along with the other key feature the two venues share - a killer sound system.
Since that autumn opening night, XOYO has established itself not just as club but as a live music venue, hosting the likes of Mos Def, Jessie J, Friendly Fires, Gold Panda, Skepta, Zongamin, Egyptian Hip Hop, and Matthew Dear.
Club nights are its meat and drink thought and there’s been a few crackers - The R&S parties with James Blake and Hessle Audio, Bugged Out with Tiga and Erol Alkan , The FACT parties with Jamie XX and Joy Orbison, and the fast becoming legendary Boys Own party with Frankie Knuckles, which ended with Faith’s Dave Jarvis acting as cheerleader to the crowd, pumping a giant Frankie poster in the air, as the crowd chanting the Godfather of house’s name.
The 1st birthday on SATURDAY 17 SEPTEMBER looks sure to follow in the footsteps of these fantastic forerunners, pitching techno legend Juan Atkins into the mix with the up and coming XxXy, and the slightly mysterious Radionasty.
Atkins needs little introduction. Alongside Richard Davis as part of Cybertron, he pushed the boundaries of electro music in the early 80s before going onto create a range of bona fide techno classics, such as ‘Nightdrive’, ’No UFOs’ and ’The Chase’ amongst many others, as Model 500 and numerous other aliases.
It is almost impossible overstate his importance in the history of electronic music and it’s rare to get a chance to catch him play in London.
Joining him on the bill is XxXy, who is highly regarded and whose tracks overtly demonstrate some of his influences -‘Know U’ drawing on drum ‘n’ bass and ‘Ordinary Things’ on UK Garage. Kind of like post-dub step with a non-house twist.
Radionasty are also on the bill. Who, I hear you ask? Well it’s Keith Tenniswood (Radioactive Man and one half of Two Lone Swordsmen alongside Andrew Weatherall) has UK techno legend Billy Nasty. Which is some fairly hefty pedigree to with the rather nifty play on words they used for their name.
If you fancy it, advance tickets £8.00 or it’s £10 on the door
You can get them tickets right >>here<<
And here's to many more happy years - London needs special venues like XOYO.
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Back in Novmber 2009, I wrote about the first release on Modernista Records. The quality was impressive - music, mastering, pressing, design, packaging - and Beyond The Stars waiting excitedly for the follow up release. Now, almost 2 years later, it’s here. And boy, was it worth the wait.
Whereas modone drew more on Paul’s Chi-Town influences, this release clearly has its roots in the productions of Detroit’s most famous techno sons, the Belleville Three. ‘After All The Tomorrows Became Yesterdays’ it a long, multi-layered, and beautifully detailed production that might evoke memories of Derrick May’s mix of ‘Sueno Latino’, with the loop laden ‘Heavy Red’ sounding more like Kevin Saunderson in his more underground E-Dancer mode, and ‘Peculiar Movement’ tipping its hat in the direction of the Juan Atkins. It really is completely different in style to modone, with Paul, who was also behind many of the early and now infamous Moxie edits, showcasing his versatility as a producer.
The attention to detail is still there too - mixed in collaboration with Nick Moore of Linkwood and Firecracker fame, mastered and cut by FST at Dubplates in Berlin and more original artwork and design by Finnie Harrington.
It is both musically brilliant and a physically beautiful product that collectors will want to own. In fact, I can’t wait to buy one and I’ve got a test pressing! If you feel the same way, it will be in the shops later this week.
Paul Bennett - After All The Tomorrows Became Yesterdays by modernista
Paul Bennett - Peculiar Movement by modernista
Paul Bennett - Heavy Red by modernista
Saturday, 10 September 2011
After I played at the inaugural Thunder party back in August (summer nights seem so long ago already, eh?), quite a few people were jolly nice about a number of the records I played, so I thought why not cobble them together in the form of a DJ mix but record it for posterity? And just to remove any further doubt I had in my mind, my good friends the Legendary Children asked if they might host it on their fabulous website. And thus the dye was cast and not long henceforth, one cloudy Saturday forenoon, the dark deed was done and the resulting mix be found >>>here<<< or by using the black magic that is soundcloud below.
Nope, no idea what I’m going on about either, but here’s the tracklist:
DJ Nature - Celebrate Your Life
Catz N Dogz - Excape From The Zoo (Carl Craig remix)
Paul Bennett - Heavy Red
FCL - Let’s Go
Virgo Four - It’s A Crime (Caribou remix)
Brawther - Ron & Chez D's Kms54
Precious System - Voice From Planet Love
Romathony - The Wanderer (CD Remix #9)
Milton Jackson - Dimensional (Romanthony's Romix)
The Gathering - In My System
Ron Trent - Pop, Dip and Spin
Storm Queen - Look Right Through (dub)
Freedom - Closer (Late Night Blast mix)
Thursday, 21 July 2011
After much procrastination and some pontification, Beyond the Stars has teamed up with some old friends and is finally getting a night that reflects the musical persuasion of the blog off the ground.
The night is THUNDER and is ostensibly about house, underground house and variations thereof . Think Chicago and Clink Street, Detroit and Dalston, SoHo NYC and Soho LDN. Think bass, think basements, think sweat, think smoke and strobes.
It will not be a retro party though. Good music from across the ages will be played. 1985 is relevant but so is tomorrow.
We hope to have a party around four times a year. The DJs will be Beyond the Stars friends Joseph Apted, Rick Hopkins, and of Miles Simpson, along with one carefully chosen guest for each event.
The first THUNDER party will happen on Saturday 13th August with Neville Watson as guest. Fresh from conquering the Panorama Bar in Berlin last weekend and Bob Beaman Club in Munich this weekend, it will be a pleasure to hear Neville’s trademark jacking sound, which has brought his recordings acclaim on labels such Rush Hour, Clone, Poker Flat and Dissident, in small, sweaty Dalston basement.
Rick Hopkins was previously resident at Andy Weatherall’s nights Blood Sugar and Haywire, and has played more techno influenced sounds all over the country and beyond. Joseph Apted was resident at the long running disKomatiK parties. And Miles Simpson? Well the less said about him the better.
The first party will take place in Visions Video Bar, on Kingsland Road in Dalston, is a classic East London acid house venue. Compact, low ceilinged, underground, and with a realness that comes with being owned by a former DJ since the late 80s. It’s the sort of venue we always hope to use.
We will also behaving a FREE pre-Party at the great new pub Junction Room pub, almost next door from 8pm-11pm, with music supplied by the Legendary Children.
There is an invite on Resident Advisor >>here<<
And you can join our Facebook Group >>here<<
Oh and the amazing artwork is from the very talented Neil ‘Best Ever’ Edward
Hope to see you at THUNDER soon.
Friday, 24 June 2011
January 1990 - a cold, dark month and Britain was a cold, dark place. Thatcher’s reign now spanned three decades and like millions of others, I was unemployed again. Heeding Norman Tebbit’s advice, I got on my bike, well the Tube, and headed to the West End, dog eared CV in hand, to offer my services to any menswear stores that might consider employing me. Having trudged around Oxford Street with no luck, wet and miserable, I decided to cut through a still sleazy Soho en route to hustle and bustle of Covent Garden. But down at the end of Wardour Street, in amongst the seedy clip joints, run-down peep shows and dilapidated pubs, there was a shop and it had a sign in the window, inscribed ‘staff needed’. As I stepped into the brightly lit interior from the damp gloom of the street, little did I know that things were never going to be quite the same again.
Until then I had been a typical London rave kid. Swept up in the suburbs by the backwash from the summer of love in 1988, I was propelled into 1989 on a wave of baggy sweat shirts, brightly coloured wallabies and bad haircuts. No hanging out with Boy George, Paul Rutherford and Martin Fry at Shoom for me - it was all Centre Force radio, raves in yardie clubs in Wood Green, and wild goose chases around the M25 in a beaten up Escort van. I thought I was the epitome of cool but Boys Own fanzine might have described me as the epitome of an ‘acid ted‘. But all that was about to change, because Soho was where the heart of London‘s nightlife beat.
Soon after I started another young man came to work in the shop too. Similar background as me, same sort musical taste, clothes and even hair. Other people I knew had been reluctant to travel ‘up west’ to go out but the new guy and I quickly became friends and now I had a willing partner in dancefloor crime.
Initially, we went to Rage on a Thursday. Held at Heaven, a cavernous club under Charing Cross station, it was a logical progression for us – essentially a weekly rave in one of the biggest clubs in London. A few years later, Rage went on to give birth to drum and bass and as the house orientated DJs like Colin Favor and Trevor Fung had been replaced by orbital scene stars Fabio and Grooverider, break beats had already become more prevalent. The vibe was edgy, the music quite moody, the crowd ethnically diverse but this made for an electric atmosphere.
Along with Heaven, we were going to places like the Crazy Club in the equally vast Astoria. Bigger seemed to mean better for raves but the cooler promotors were downsizing. Nicky Holloway was part of the vanguard, opened the Milk Bar on the road next to the Astoria. Tiny by comparison, holding around 150 people, with its white on white interior, it was a world away from the increasingly lurid coloured rave world as it started to go mainstream.
Not long after it opened, we headed along to a night called Pure Sexy, which in the summer of 1990 was as about as alien name for party as one could possibly imagine. Danny Rampling ran the night with his wife Jenni and they were now reacting against the rave culture that they had helped create with their seminal night Shoom, so it was held on a Wednesday to scare off ‘lilac clad camels’ from the suburbs.
We were blown away - cool people, white Levis, Michiko, Destroy, Sol with lime, and DJs whose names we’d only seen on flyers hanging out at the bar. It was like a social club for London nightlife faces and still the best party in London, sound tracked not by the faster, break beat driven sounds that were predominant at raves but by slower UK music, real house music from the USA, and the flavour of the year, Italian house.
We eagerly signed up for membership (a fiver) and happily returned a number of times that summer until things changed at the shop. My friend went to university and I was left without anyone to hit the town with. Then one morning, an envelope landed on the doormat and it contained a coverted Pure Sexy membership card. By this time people were queuing down the road and round the corner to get in. You had to be taken in by someone in the know or queue and get knocked back by Jenni until she started to recognise you.
The following Wednesday I made the journey back into Soho on my own. Strange as it sounds now, it seemed normal then. The same people were there every week many of whom arrived on their own too, because for regulars it felt like one big special gang. Walking around town you would see people from Pure Sexy and give each other a knowing look or a little nod, the girl in John Richmond, the lads on the Berwick Street stalls - and everyone in Soho’s numerous record shops were regulars, Breeze and Dominic Moir from Quaff often warmed up for Danny, Lewis from Bluebird, and Craig and Oscar from Trax could often be found propping up the bar.
Quickly, people you nodded hello to became people you stopped to chat to became people you regarded as mates became close friends you hung out with.
By this time a proliferation of small clubs had established themselves in the area – Flying, Yellow Book, Ophelia, and things had reached fever pitch at Pure Sexy. That Christmas the Ramplings took some time off to go to Miami and there were ridiculous scenes ahead of the last party before their break. I turned up at Sutton Row and could hardly get into the street as hundreds of people blocked the road outside the entrance trying to get one last fix. Eventually the police were called to clear a path for cars to get but before they arrived, I was squashed next to Jon Marsh from The Beloved, in the melee about 20 yards from the door. Jenni pointed in the direction of Jon and shouted "Him! He can come in". Two bouncers then waded out into the crowd, grabbed me by the shoulders and hauled me, beaming, through the throng to the door. "Glad you could make it" said Jenni as I headed down the stairs to the dancefloor.
Clubbing rather than raving was now what London's clued up kids wanted to do. This popularity meant promoters were looking for ways to capitalise through bigger clubs and larger scale one off parties.
Kinky Disco, housed in the large, fairly tatty Shaftsbury’s probably led the way, providing a haunt for every bloke from the home counties with a King Charles perm and pair of leather trousers. The parties were fun but without question, it was rival night Love Ranch that gained the most notoriety.
Promoted by Sean McLusky and Mark ‘Wigan‘, fresh from their exploits at The Brain on Wardour Street, it took place every Saturday in a chrome and mirrors abomination on Leicester Square called Maximus. It really shouldn’t have worked but somehow, with strikingly designed flyers and a ‘fuck you’ attitude, it captured the zeitgeist perfectly. Whilst long locks still flowed at Kinky Disco, the clippers had come out at Love Ranch and ID Magazine ran a whole article on ‘psychedelic skinheads’ ostensibly because three people in one club had cut their hair.
But the affected Love Ranch attitude was a bit much. They had a banner on the dancefloor that said ’This Is Where It’s Fucking At’ but if you were where it really was at, you didn’t need a banner to tell everyone.
London was now in the grip of progressive house, which has become a byword for boring, convoluted music for blokes but there was actually some very exciting records being made at the beginning. It was a really a reaction to the more slickly produced music from New York, Rome and Rimini. The early progressive house producers started to reclaim harder edged sounds we had grown used to the days of acid house, set them in a new context, forging a distinctive English sound. And in these earlier days, DJs mixed this up with European and American records. We went to one of the early Puscha parties and heard Andy Weatherall, Danny Rampling and Sasha dropping new progressive house, alongside Belgium techno, and Miami deep house. And for brief a moment in time, it really felt like the future.
Puscha really ruled the roost when it came to one off parties for about a year or two. There were others, Sign Of The Times was good, as were the Deluxe parties, and Love Ranch even got involved in few, but Puscha ruled because the parties were special. Each was themed ‘Spend, Spend, Spend‘ dedicated to 1960s pools winner Vivienne Nicholson, ‘Oh So Surreal‘ dedicated to Dali, and the more obviously styled ‘Elvisly Ours’. The décor was lavish for glorified warehouse raves. On entering ‘Oh So Surreal’ you passed giant Dali chairs, before entering the main room which had hundreds of picture frames hanging from the ceiling, some of which had ‘art’ projected onto them. At another, people without tickets were fighting to get in and inside, we heard Milk Bar podium dancer John of the Pleased Wimmin’ play records for the first time.
Whilst Pushca was consistent, the best one-off I ever went to was Extravaganza De Paris. It was meant to take place in the then disused Café De Paris but upon our arrival, we were greeting by a lone long haired chap standing in the doorway who informed us that it had been moved to Old Street. In 1991 being told to go to Old Street was like being told to go to the moon - it was miles away and there was absolutely nothing there. Undeterred though, we jumped into a taxi and headed East. Old Street was empty save for the odd crisp packet swirling around in the wind on City Road but we found the fitness centre and entered what was to prove to be the closest thing to a Roman orgy I have ever witnessed.
There were three rooms, the first a bar where the drinks were free as they had been included in the price of the ticket. I went into room two, which was the gym, with all the equipment stacked in the corner and Kid Batchelor and Phil Perry playing acid house. I was oblivious to room three until a wet girl walked past me in her underwear. I went to explore and found a swimming pool and Jacuzzi! No one had brought any swimwear and as things got messier, more and more people started to strip and dive in. Someone had smuggled some ecstasy back from Amsterdam but they weren’t like anything we’d seen before they were big, brown and looked like they should be administered to horses. The locker room had turned into a drug cubicle room and the whole place seemed to half naked, wet and off their heads, with little or no security to keep anyone in check. It was just brilliant.
Another direction changer for London was the Rampling’s venture into the one-off scene. They brought New York DJ legend Tony Humphries over for a then rare appearance on UK shores. Held in some North West London backwater, pretty much everybody who was anybody in London clubs turned up. I’m not sure how anyone else threw a party that night because every DJ in London was there, eyes fixed on The Hump and his mixing. As a party, it never went wild, but musically, Tony delivered a master class in both mixing and programming, demonstrating a level of sophistication we weren‘t used to in London.
London was now looking in the direction of America again and in this was fuelled in no small part by the Ministry of Sound, which had opened in late 1991 with huge financial backing. Apparently it was based on the Paradise Garage but the Paradise Garage was in Manhattan not the Elephant and Castle. Although ‘The Elephant’ may have been apt location because no matter how much money was thrown at the venue, it could never buy soul and it proved to be a bit of a white elephant for serious club goers. We went on it’s second weekend. Early in the night we were confined to the huge, cold, high ceilinged bar which at the time, only sold juice. That might work in New York clubs where the punch is full of acid but it proved to be less of a success in South East London. We weren’t allowed on the dancefloor to start with and when the time came to let us in, it was pure theatre. The entrance to the room was blocked off with closed, venetian style blinds. Security eventually turned up en masse to open the two door ways, and eager dancers waited with anticipation, the keenest of whom ran through the door and down the short corridor to the main room as soon as blinds were up. I followed and entered the room to find the over enthusiastic ravers running around waving their arms in the air in what looked to me like a big school gym. A proper alcohol license arrived soon enough but the club remained a soulless hall.
Manoeuvres after dark were not just confined to London though. Down the M4 corridor lots of clubs had sprung up - Shave Your Tongue, The Full Monty, Check Point Charley, and infamous Sunday session, Full Circle, that saw the likes of Danny Tenaglia playing in a suburban pub.
Further a field, like minded clubs across the country were be brigaded together as some sort of national Balearic network. Road trips followed to places like Most Excellent in Manchester, Venus in Nottingham, Zap in Brighton, and eventually, Back To Basics in Leeds.
However, clubs like the Ministry of Sound and Back To Basics, were ushering in the era of club brands. The innocence of the Balearic Network would soon be replaced mass marketing, coach tours to likes of Gatecrasher in Sheffield and Cream in Liverpool, package clubbing holidays to Ibiza, John of the Pleased Wimmin’ on Top Of The Pops, and magazines like Mixmag, DJ and Muzik screaming about the latest superstar DJ.
This was big business and London clubland was disappearing rapidly into a vortex of handbag house, feather boas, and shiny shirts. More and more money was made until the bubble finally burst on New Year’s Eve 1999, when greedy club promoters finally throttled the goose that had laid the golden egg.
For many people, overpriced clubs, rubbish music and crap clothes has been their experience of house music in London but for those who were lucky enough to be there to hear Seechi and Blunted Dummies played in small Soho basements, we really had been where it was fucking at.
The Sound Of Soho
1 - Blunted Dummies - House For All (US Devinitive)
2 - Seechi - I Say Yeah/Flute On (Ital Energy)
3 - Shay Jones - Are You Going To Be There? (US ID)
4 - Sheer Taft - Cascades (UK Creation)
5 - Inner City - Pennies From Heaven (US Virgin)
6 - C.J. Bolland - Horsepower (Belgium R&S)
7 - Photon Inc - Generate Power (US Strictly Rhythm)
8 - Soft House Company - What You Need (Ital Irma)
9 - Liberty City - Some Lovin’ (US Murk)
10 - Acorn Arts - Silence (UK X-Gate)
11 - D-Rail ‘Bring it On Down’ (Ital DDD)
12 - React 2 Rhythm - Intoxication (Guerrilla)
13 - The Traveller - Just Me (Belgium Wonka)
14 - Yo! Bots - I Got It (US RCA)
15 - Nightlife City Rama 'Running So Hard' (Ital Mighty Quinn)
16 - The Good Men - Give It Up (Dutch Fresh Fruit)
17 - Phoenix - Plaything (US Big Beat)
18 - Johnny Parker 'Love it Forever' (Ital C.B.R.)
19 - Leftfield - Not Forgotten (Outer Rhythm)
20 - A.S.H.A. ‘J.J. Tribute’ (Ital Beat Club)
With love and thanks to Jamie Fahey, Jason Hughes, and all at b Store Magazine - http://www.bstoremagazine.com/
b Store Magazine is available in half decent newsagents right now.
Thursday, 16 June 2011
I’m not really a Sasha fan. The man like just never really got me hot under the collar. And I’ve found a lot of his music to be over blown and maybe even a little pompous. The hyperbole surrounding him, such as the infamous 'Son Of God' Mixmag cover, could be quite off-putting too but there is no denying that few DJs engender such an obsessive following.
Sasha has always been a great DJ technically but there was a period, after the piano anthems of the Shelly’s era but before he got bogged down in 5 minute breakdowns that became synonymous with epic prog house, when he really was spot on muscially too. And this time is perfectly summed up by a show he did on London’s Kiss FM in 1993.
‘Giving It Up’ was a regular 3 hour slot, in the middle of the night, midweek, where the chosen DJ just got to do their own thing and Sasha really seized that opportunity. Not throwing records together on the fly but a carefully programmed set, perfectly mixed, with Sherlock Holmes clips, Ronald Reagan toothpaste adverts and an Islamic call to prayer worked in to provide extra atmosphere. It is a beautifully crafted set and whilst it hints of where he was heading musically, it combines a certain energy that probably linked closer to his time in Stoke than what he did at Twilo with a trance like quality that was probably more akin to the sort of thing Sven Vath was playing at the time. Indeed European techno/trance records feature heavily.
There’s also a pretty awkward sounding John Digweed coming on at the end to play a few records, including one of his own that eventually got released as Bedrock and the truly fatastic 'La Musika Tremenda'.
Fortunately, one of my mate’s stayed up till 4am that Wednesday morning in 1993 to tape it all and those tapes provided many a happy hour on the old Sony Walkman. Now I’ve dusted off those TDKs and via the wonders of modern technology, they’re now up on Soundcloud.
I'm sure the Sasha fans out there will be able to fill some of the tracklist gaps.Tape One
Keiichi Suzuki - Satellite Serenade (Transasianexpress Mix)
Eagles Pray – Reverse the Silence
Eden – Do U Feel For Me
Spooky – Schmoo (Steppin Razor Mix)
Moon Child – V.O.A.T (Variations On A Theme)
Virtualmismo – Mismo Plastico (Virtual Mismo Mix)
Virtualmismo – Mismo Plastico (Original Remix)
Helicopter – On Ya Way
?? - ??
Fluke – Slid (PDF Mix)
Funk Machine – Lets Get This Party Started
Fluke – Slid (Scat and Frenzy)
Hysterix – Talk To Me
Disco Evangelists – De Nero (Spaceflight Mix)
LA Factory – Synth Problem
E-Lustrious – Givin' You No Rest
E-Lustrious – Givin You No Rest
?? - Hey-ba-bab
Alexander O'Neil - Love makes No Sense (BIT Dub)
CJ Bolland - Mantra
Esoterix - Void
??- Only You
Golden Girls - Kinectic (Frank De Wulf mix)
Barbarella - My Name Is Barbarella (My Name Is Barbarella / Spaceship)
69 - Ladies ands Gentlemen
Bedrock - For What You Deam Of
Emojonal - Silence of Water
?? - ??
Ramirez - La Musika Tremenda (DJ Ricci mix)
Sasha - Giving It Up, Kiss Fm, 1993 (tape 1) by Sasha Tape One
Sasha - Giving It Up, Kiss FM, 1993 (tape 2) by Sasha Tape Two
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Beyond the Stars heard from another old friend recently, DJ Nature, who I was luck enough to interview last year. Back home in New York he had unearthed an old mix tape he had made in late 1992 and he was kind enough to share it. It is absolutely brilliant and despite being almost 20 years old, is easily the best mix I have heard this year.
It actually coincides with my first trip to New York and includes many of the records I bought from places like Vinylmania and Eightball that November in 1992. But emotional attachment aside, it is a perfect snapshot in time of the truly golden era of New York house music, Nature’s selection is spot on and the mixing both creative and tight.
Nature has now made it available on Soundcloud for everyone’s listening pleasure - and I’ve had a go at cobbling together a tracklisting, with a few notable gaps which hopefully others can help fill in!
Dj.Nature_house tape 1992 pt.1 by dj nature
01 - Ellis D - My Loleatta (Dish Apella)
02 - ?? - ??
03 - Michael Watford - Holdin’ On
04 - ?? - ?? (love this one *NEED*)
05 - Aly-us - Follow Me
06 - MK - Burning (Gump mix)
07 - Dreamer G - I Got That Feelin’
08 - Instant Exposure – I Need A Little More
09 - Urban Soul - Alright
10 - Cajmere - Perculator
11 - Instant House - Over (Instrumental Remix)
12 - Green Velvet - Preacherman
13 - Dajae - Brighter Days
14 - Cover Girls - Wishing On A Star
15 - Djaimin - Give You
16 - Hermann - Tumblin’ Down
17 - MK - You Brought Me Love
18 - Karen Pollard - You Can’t Hurt Me
19 - Mission Control - Outer Limits
20 - Track Masters - The Basement Jam
21 - Trey Lorenz - Photographs of Mary
22 - Pal Joey - Drum Major Instinct
23 - Lectroluv - People Don’t Believe
24 - Lil’ Louis - Do U Love Me
25 - Cajmere - Coffee Pot
26 - Sax - Jazz Anthem
27 - Club Ice - Manhasset
28 - Jovonn - Flutes '92
29 - Sandy B - Makes Me Feel Like Singing
Back in early 2009, Beyond The Stars was lucky enough to be one of the first to interview Mark E, who hot on the back of the success of productions like ‘R+B Drunkie’ on Golf Channel and his edits on Jisco, was blowing up not just in the field of production but as a DJ too, with his very distinctive style and sound.
Mark was never comfortable with the association with edits, as his productions offered so much more in terms of originality and musical craft. Now, two years on, Mark can hopefully shake that monkey of his back for once and for all with the release of his first album, the fantastic ‘Stonebreaker’, on US label Spectral Sound.
The album is entirely original material with even a sniff of an edit, it takes in slo-mo house, sub-aquatic techno, and dream-like house, with the common denominator being the hypnotic feel Mark has made his trademark sound.
It a whole album worth of crackers. I think my favourite right now (will probably change tomorrow) is the Detroit-esque house cut ‘Oranges’ which you can check below.
If you like that and fancy a bit more in the same vein, you can purchase the Album on CD and vinyl from Juno buy clicking >>here<<
You might also want to check the fantastic mix Mark has done celebrate the record's launch, available to play and download below.
GhostlyCast #43: Mark E - Stone Wall Mix by ghostly
Friday, 27 May 2011
This is a mix I did when I guest on Andrew Panphlett’s show on Six Million Steps Radio. Andrew is a key member of Six Million Steps crew, who are a London-based collective of DJ's, record collectors, and enthusiasts of soulful black dance music. His show reflects this collective interest but Andrew is a also a fan of house music and encouraged me to do a straight house mix. Not that I need much encouragment! In 30 mins, it takes in more than 20 years of house, covering the influential cities of Chicago, Detroit, New York, Manchester, Berlin and Frankfurt. Mixed in one take with records, it’s quite fun.
Six Million Steps are still going strong and catch their radio shows, live and archived >>here<<
Saturday, 30 April 2011
Surreal. It had been a long day and surreal is really the only way to describe it. Gone midnight in a leafy London suburb, I’m sitting in front of my laptop and via the wonders of internet technology, Frankie Knuckles, house music legend, is staring out from the screen live and direct from his living room in Chicago.
Earlier that day, notepad in hand, I’d rushed home from work to make the call at the allotted time. Skype was set up, test calls made, nerves were jangling but we’re ready to roll. I log on to get the man’s number, and there’s an email from him saying time’s up. Panic takes grip and I got on the phone to Chicago. The first time I speak to Frankie it’s to say sorry for the clocks not having gone forward. Unsurprisingly, Frankie is busy a man, making music, jetting from gig to gig and he’s moving house too. The moment is gone, for now, but Frankie promises to reschedule. I put a call into Faith/Boys Own HQ to relay the bad news and I head down the pub to drown my sorrows and talk about what might have been. First drink in hand, my phone buzzes, it was a text from Faith HQ saying Frankie hopes I’m not put out! Feeling a little perkier, I headed to the bar for a refill and my phone goes off again. This time it was a call, I didn’t recognise the number, “Hi, is that Miles? It’s Frankie”, who was calling me, in my local, just to check I was okay about what happened earlier. I dashed outside and chatted to The Godfather of House for a bit about vagaries of British Summertime Daylight Saving and what an almighty pain in the arse moving house is, whilst leaning against a life-sized fibreglass cow…
Soon after I head home, fire up Skype, and there’s Frankie, The Godfather of House, looking relaxed in his Chicagoan chair virtually just across the table from me. In my North London kitchen. Surreal.
Beyond The Stars: So, the first time I heard you DJ was back in 1992 at the Roxy in New York - that era in New York, was it a great time?
Frankie: I think it was like a golden era in New York as far as clubs and dance music is concerned. I think it was a pristine period, because it was like the last days of what was really good about dance music, house music, and nightlife in New York City. New York City will never see that it will be that way again, ever. I don’t think it will ever come again.
Why do you think New York has changed like that? Some of the best nights I’ve ever had out were in New York then, but I’ve been back since and the vibe’s gone.
It’s dead! It’s dead, it’s pretty much dead. I think that… well you know, recent events — I’m talking about 9/11 and the scares that followed it, and the way the government here in the United States has beefed up security, not to mention, the Disney-fication of New York City. When the Disney Company bought into New York City, they whitewashed the whole town. They cleaned it up. And the thing about it is, all that little, dirty, gritty stuff that was going on in the periphery, it added character to the city. And the minute Disney bought into 42nd Street, Times Square, that whole area, it just came in and it just hosed everything down and left it sparkling clean, and that takes away from it as well. After 9/11 and everything else, it just will never be the same. Nightlife can’t flourish the way it did before because the powers that be don’t believe in it. The thing about it is, I think that New York and probably this country, period, could do really, really well if it followed the UK and the European lead when it comes to knowing how to regulate this kind of business. Because there’s so much commerce in it, there’s so much money to be made. All you have to do is look at the UK, look at Italy, look at Germany, all these different countries where nightlife is regulated in a way that the money is there. It adds to the economy and it helps bring it up. This country has a stick shoved so far up its ass, it just can’t come to terms with it. They’re so afraid of everything else as well.
That’s such a different atmosphere - it used to be quite edgy.
Yeah, but there was so much you could do. There was so much to do as far as nightlife was concerned, there were so many places you could go, there was something for everybody. And not just a club here, a club there, but LOTS of them. There were a bunch of different house clubs, a bunch of hip hop clubs, that was scattered about the city. There was so much to do, but now? Please. It’s not happening.
There were also a lot of big rooms back then. The Sound Factory was a big room, The Roxy too, and even Zanzibar out in New Jersey, but now they’re all gone. Do you lament the loss of the big room and do you think it’s affected house music generally?
Um, no. The Warehouse was only 3000 square feet, so it wasn’t that big a club. I think, after Paradise Garage closed, to me, that was pretty much it. Sound Factory was great, and I had a lot of fun while I was there, but Sound Factory Bar was so much better. It was a little bit smaller, a little bit more intimate. It could only house like 1,200 people versus Sound Factory that did like 4 or 5,000. Sound Factory Bar was really more of a neighbourhood club, if you will. It really was, because it was right there in the heart of Chelsea, and it really catered for the whole neighbourhood, and the whole neighbourhood came and hung out, which was nice, you know? When you have these big super clubs, you have to rely on so many numbers to make it feel good and be right. Because when people walk into a club that size and there’s not enough people in it, people tend to not have a good time, because they mentally have it fixed that this room needs to packed in order for me to have a good time. There are DJs out here who play but cannot play for an empty room or play for a room that only has a few people in it. Nobody started at the top, no one that I know in this business started at the top, everybody had to start somewhere. Believe me, when I first got there, I worked the Continental Baths almost, I would say, probably five days a week and there was nobody on the dancefloor in front of me. But the club didn’t give up on me, the guy that owned the place didn’t give up on me, and hey, so I’m playing for a bunch of guys that are roaming around cruising in towels, but hey, one thing I knew for sure — they were listening!
So do you think that sort of experience is a good grounding for a DJ? To learn to work what you’ve got rather than just playing peak-time music?
Absolutely, you have to know where you came from and you can’t forget, you just cannot forget. I tell people all the time — sometimes I’ll go and play different events and things for people, big clubs, small clubs, medium clubs, it doesn‘t matter, and they may not have the turn-out they expected, and they’re more upset for me. And I tell them, “Listen, I’m here for you. You hired me to come here to play, five people, five hundred, five thousand, it’s all the same, I’m here for you. If nobody shows up and you the only people that’s here, I strongly suggest you get on the dancefloor and have a damn good time, because you just paid me to come this far!”, and it’s not like I’m not going to play for them. I have to give them the same thing, it doesn’t matter how many people are in the room. Even if there is one person or two people in the room, they expect me to at least give who I am. It’s not their fault no one else is there, somebody just didn’t do their homework and they dropped the ball, but I am there, they’re there, and [I’m still going to play].
I don’t think you’ll have that problem when you come over to London for Boys Own, there’s a lot of excitement about you coming here. But you came to the UK for the first time in 1987, how did you find that?
It was exciting, I thought it was great. The first time I came there I was supposed to be there for two weeks. I come and find out when I first got there, and I got to immigration, that the necessary paperwork hadn’t been handled, so I had no work visas or anything to be there. And I’m travelling — and this goes to show how green I was when it came to travelling — I had a steamer trunk, a foot locker full o’vinyl! And I showed up at immigration and they want to know why I was there and did I have the paperwork, where’s the paperwork for the visas, and stuff, and I didn’t know what the hell they was talking about. So, of course they’re holding me up in immigration and try figure out whether they should send me back out. But I told them there were people waiting for me and they were outside, and those guys, they spoke to them and I eventually got into the country — I was only supposed to be here for two weeks and I stayed for four months!
Where were you playing?
I was playing at Delirium at Heaven, every Thursday night, and once a month on Saturday.
How did you find London clubs at that time?
I thought they were fantastic, I thought they were really fascinating. When I came in 1987, during that period, the most popular music in the UK, was anything by James Brown. Anything by James Brown, the JB All-Stars, anybody that worked with him, if you played anything by them, it was on. So for me to come over there… and house was only working in really, really underground, deep, off the beaten path clubs, or the really, really big fluffy commercial clubs back then. But for the most part, you went to places like The Wag and it was anything by James Brown. So I’m playing Delirium and at the same time, they’re periodically trying to drag me into The Wag to play there because they’re really trying to bring The Wag around, so they take me in there to play. They were all for it but I’m constantly up against all these guys that’s playing nothing but James Brown. Or the All-Stars. It was a treat but by the time I got ready to leave there, people didn’t want me to leave, they wanted me to stay and I really considered moving there. But I got back to Chicago and I made a decision, before I move to London I think I should I go back to New York, and that’s how Def Mix got started.
You touched on what it was like in London on the cusp of the rare groove scene and when house exploded, but in Chicago you would have experienced the transition from disco through to house. In London, that felt like a revolution, it felt like it was beamed in from another planet. As somebody who lived the early days of house’s life, how did that feel to you, was that a natural progression for you as a DJ or did it feel like a revolution in Chicago as well?
Well, when I look back on it now, yeah I can see it where it felt like a revolution or something new was bubbling on the horizon. Back then? I was just happy to be there, I wasn’t giving it that kind of thought. I’ve had people say “Did you know exactly what you were doing when you created house, when you were at The Warehouse?”, how would you know that? I’m a kid, I’m a kid playing records! I’m lucky to have a job doing this. I’m lucky to have a job period, but the fact that I have job that’s paying me for what I want to do and have a good time, and show people a good time, that’s the icing on the cake. What do I know of the technical end of it all? That this is something major, that’s eventually going to blow and it’s going to be everything in the world to everybody else? No, you don’t think about stuff like that, you’re too caught up in what you’re doing. I’m a kid and that’s what it was. You have to remember it’s 30 plus years later, it’s easy when you look back and remember all the innocence of it, exactly where I was at through all that period… yeah, I played around with drugs just like everybody else did. I did all the same things that everybody else did, but I didn’t get caught up in it to the point where it’s wiped half my memory away.
Now, that didn’t take its toll on my health, but things happen as you get older, for whatever reason. Everyone thinks they’re invincible when they’re a kid, they may not say it out loud, but everyone carries on like they’re invincible when they’re children. And before you know it, by the time you reach middle age, between 45 and 55 years old, your body stops talking to you. Your body is talking to you all the way up until then but by the time you reach 45-55 years old, your body stops talking. You don’t hear, you don’t realise it’s stopped talking and then your whole life begins to spiral. If you’re lucky enough to come out the other side of it, then you do what is necessary to pull yourself together and just keep moving forward. Not everyone is as lucky as that, not everyone survives it. But I have. And at the expense of not sounding too deep, it’s never been nothing but fun to me and I have to keep it fun. That’s the reason I get a little guarded sometimes and don’t always want to talk about it — people want to pull it apart. It’s like they’ve found something that’s really, really rare and then they want to pull it apart to try and dissect it, to get to the core of what makes it work. Why can’t it just be what it is? You can see it for what it is, you can hear it for what it is, it’s got enough of a legacy that people can bite into and taste exactly what it is. It’s bigger than what I ever expected it to be and I think it’s going to be even greater than that, long after I’ve gone. But at the core of it all is a good time and that’s the only thing that’s important.
I think in England that transition felt more pronounced. England had that rare groove thing, so it went backwards before it went forwards. Like you said, it was all James Brown, all Maceo and the Macks, so when we heard acid tracks it was like “Wow! Where did that come from?”
You guys had something that was completely different to the music industry in the United States. Music like that gets a second life, a third life — a fifth life! All of a sudden someone can play it, it will spark interest and it gets a whole new life in the UK. Not here. Once it’s flared up, hit its mark, reached its peak, it goes away, it’s buried. You might hear it on an old disco radio show or throwback radio show, but it never sees the light of day or the type of success it can do in the UK, two, three, four, five times around. And that’s what so great and unique about the UK versus the United States or anywhere else in the world — because everyone else was following, musically, what happens in the UK.
On the subject of recycling older music, at the moment there’s a little bit of a resurgence of 90s New York house. You go to a party in a basement in East London and there’s all these 25-year-old kids playing old Hardrive records, MK records, your records. Do you feel that sound is still relevant today?
It must be! I think there’s a certain romanticism about that music from that particular period. It’s interesting because back in the 90s, when everyone was playing classics, they were playing everything from the disco period. Basically from the 70s upwards, not even anything from the 80s, whenever they were playing classics or you went to these classic parties, and you find sometimes at the Sound Factory or at Zanzibar, they were pulling out all these old disco records. Fine. We’re now living in the millennium and now the classics that everybody is romantically involved with, is all this stuff from the early 90s, which is the same thing that happened in the 90s about everything that was in the 70s, 20-25 years before. And I think it’s great! I especially think it’s great because I’ve got some music in there that people have gravitated towards. People have discovered this, especially a lot of these young people, when they’ve discovered it for the first time, their approach towards it in the UK is so completely different than it is here. It’s like finding a rare gem to them and then they treasure it. They play it like it was played back then. Then it inspires all these guys that are making music in their bedrooms, to try and build and make tracks that sound like the stuff we were making back then.
I think that’s right. I’ve spoken to guys 20 odd years younger than me, they’re discovering this stuff now and find it so exciting. There was actually a poll on www.faithfanzine.com to find the greatest house record of all time and you were involved in three of the Top Ten (‘Your Love’, ‘Tears’, and ‘Let the Music Use You’). Then we did a poll at the end of the Noughties for the greatest records of that decade, and your mix of Hercules and Love Affair ‘Blind’ was in that Top Ten too, so you had from the mid-80s till 25 years later covered.
I think that particular song has had something to do with this whole resurgence and renaissance feel everybody has about that early 90s feeling, because ‘Blind’ sounds a lot like stuff from back in that period. A lot of the new music that I’m doing now has the same feel to it. It’s kind of a bit of a throwback but sonically it fits and matches everything that’s going on now.
What I took from those polls and the popularity of ’Blind’ is that you’ve managed to stay fresh. There are references to your influences from the past but it’s not overtly retro. Do you feel keeping that freshness is important, rather than just making a bunch of derivative records that sound like the ones being made 25 years ago?
What I’m doing now production wise, I haven’t tried to recreate what happened back then, I’ve not purposely tried to do that. I’m just trying to make music the way I know how. I think one of the greatest things anybody that’s making music can do is home in on a sound that become a signature and people recognise you for it. You can walk into a club blindly for the first time and you listen to the tracks that’s playing and you know exactly who that is, because you recognise their sound. Or you can walk into a room where a DJ is playing and there could be a bunch of other DJs playing as well, but at the time you walk in, you can tell if that’s the person you came to listen to playing or not. I’ve managed to do that, I’ve created and built a sound for myself, this signature, and it works and people recognise it. Other songs are compared to it, other productions are compared to what it is, which is really, really flattering and I think that’s really nice, but actually trying to revive that? I’m not purposely trying to do that but it is nice that people have that to reference, and compare it to and say “This is like the old stuff but it’s great! It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s like what it was but it’s like the next thing or it’s better!”. But that’s fine by me, I’m just trying to stay in the game, that’s all.
So you think it’s important to keep moving forward rather than dwell on the past?
I think if you’re going to do this, you should be serious about it. I think music is really, really serious, because it’s so personal, it’s so personal to everybody and everybody likes what they like for whatever reason. If you’re going to do it, you have to take it serious. On this particular side of it, especially when it comes to being a club DJ, you have too many people that count on you, to help them escape from whatever bullshit they’re going through in their lives. People can have messed up weeks, working on jobs that they absolutely hate and living with people that don’t give them any kind of peace of mind whatsoever, but then one day out of the week, they go to one particular club and get on the dancefloor and completely lose their mind because that music is the thing that takes them away from all that.
I think you're talking about me when I was younger!
I think everybody to a certain degree can relate to that, especially when you’re growing up. When you get into this particular business, there are guys that get into this business strictly for the women and the money. And there are people that do it because it's such a part of who they are, they can’t imagine themselves doing anything else, even though they probably can, and nobody wants them to anything else. I’ve produced a lot of records, I’ve mixed a lot of records, and my approach towards each and everyone of them was not to do cookie-cutter, not to make it what everyone else is trying to do, not to follow trends.
So as a DJ you think that staying fresh is important as well, to play new music? I know you’re not a fan of wheeling out all the old classics when you play.
That’s not necessarily true. When I get booked to do a gig, if I only have three hours to play then I have to put together the best possible show I can give in that three-hour period. Now, what’s consistent in that show might not necessarily be what you think might be the best of me to give, because you might have certain expectations about things you want to hear, that you think I’m going to play but I’m not predictable in that way. But when I have the luxury of five, six, eight hours to play, which is where I come from, then I have the opportunity to really stretch out and go there. I’m going to take you on a journey musically, that’s going to take you back to them periods, but I’m not going to get locked into doing just one thing or playing one particular way all night long. Or people are going to come in and say “He’s gonna play nothing but the old retro stuff now” or “This is the retro period”, no, no, no, I’m going to sprinkle it here and there to give you a rush. You’re not going to know it’s coming, you’re not going to know what it is — that’s the way it’s done! All these other guys, you have to remember they’re younger, they did not live through that period, they don’t know how that works, they will lump it all into one particular show. And for me, it’s just a bunch of old music being played all night long. I’m too busy trying to work in the here and now. I have to live and work in the here and now, or else I’m going to get pegged a retro DJ. I’m not. The work I do is much too current and much too relevant, right now, to have to wear that kind of moniker round my neck. I’m at that age where I could easily be misconstrued for that but I don’t want to be known for that, which is why I keep writing and producing new music, and working with people.
What do you think about the quality control of house these days? Good vocals seem to be fewer and further between.
Well, you know why that is? It’s because the majority of these guys don’t know how to work with a vocalist. They don’t know who to produce a vocal, they don’t know the first thing about song writing, so you know, it is what it is. And most of that music is disposable, it might have the shelf life of a week, if that, but the minute a new song cuts through, that has a great vocal, is really saying something and on top of that, the production is the icing on the cake, it blows up and becomes really, really big, because it sticks out like a sore thumb and everybody can see it, versus all the other disposable tracks that are played all night long.
I think that ‘Blind’ was a good example of that - it really stood out at the time.
I agree. It stood out at a time when there was nothing else out there like it.
What about quality more generally? Will we get that quality of production back into house, especially in light of the upsurge of interest among younger people — will that fresh blood improve the quality of production?
Yes, I think so. I think one of the things that helped to chase it away was when people like myself and some of my other colleagues just stopped doing the remix thing and producing thing, and got more involved in travelling and playing. But to some extent we were forced to do that, because when you’ve got the industry dictating it’s a DJ culture and it’s all about the DJ and what the DJ’s doing, and you’ve got these DJs who are trying to become producers and they’re only making tracks in their bedroom, and we’re talking about disposable tracks and nothing of any serious quality is coming out — what happened in the industry for the last 10 or 12 years, is what you get. So people like myself and some off my other colleagues, the only thing we can do is just retreat, try and continue to work, try and stay relevant about what we’re doing. And then, when you feel good enough and you feel inspired enough about wanting to do something, then do it. I had completely got out of the remix game and was borderline about to get out of the whole production thing, until Hercules & Love Affair asked me to do ‘Blind’ for them. I didn’t want to do it, I really didn’t, I didn’t hear it at first. But they kept saying, “We need you. Ain’t nobody can do it but you. There is a certain sound that you have, there’s a certain retro feel, a period we’re trying to recapture with the song and it wouldn’t sound as good any other kind of way”. Okay fine. I did it, sent it to them, went on about what I had to do and didn’t think about it. I went on tour down to Australia, I get down there and everybody‘s talking about it, because they had put it out just that quick. Everybody’s talking about it and wait a minute, I just finished that record before I left home! And so by the end of that year, when I find out it’s the biggest record, all I could is sit back and scratch my head, it’s like “What the hell is going on?”, it took me by surprise. Then on the heels of that, Depeche Mode came after me to do ‘Wrong’ for them. I’m like, “Aw, just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”, and while working on that, I had to give it some real serious consideration to whether I want to do this again or not. Only if I can do it at a level I want to do it at and produce things at the level I can do it, and present that quality. My only fear was that, is there a market for it? Would anybody be hearing it? Would anybody recognise it? Would anybody buy it? Would it be viable enough anywhere? And thank God I stuck with it because now it is. Hopefully, what I’m doing will inspire these guys who have been sitting in their bedrooms playing with themselves to take this shit to the next level, that’s all.
I’m not trying to discount any of them when I call them ‘these guys playing that are in their bedrooms’, I think they’re very creative in what they do. But you have to challenge yourself, when you’re being artistic you need to challenge yourself. These DJs, they will find a certain kind of mixer that they know that they like that they probably played on in their bedroom until they started working in clubs, and then they don’t want to work on any other mixer than that. When they walk into a club when there’s a mixer they’re not familiar with, they get nervous, they’re afraid, they don’t really want to play on it, simply because they’re not familiar with it.
My train of thought is that, every time I walk into a club that doesn’t have a mixer I’m used to playing on, I have to adjust. Because I could be playing with five other DJs and they’re all fine with this one particular mixer, but if I wanted to put my foot down and say “Well no, we only going to have one kind of mixer in here and it’s the one I want”, they’d be pissed and at the same time they’d also be afraid, because they’d be afraid they can’t work on the mixer. Out of consideration to all of them, and none of them ever think about this, I’ll work on the same equipment as they do — whatever makes them comfortable, fine, I’ll do it, no problem. Because when you come into my arena, you’re going to play the way I play.
I rise to the occasion, I have to. Because, at the end of the day, all those people that are out there in that room, they don’t know none of it, they don’t care. All they know is you’re here and we want you to give us the best of what you’ve got. All the other DJs that I’m playing with, they’re nervous as hell, but you have to remember they’re not sound educated, all they know is to put it on, turn it up loud, and leave it to that. I have a sound education, that’s where I come, and there’s certain kinds of mixers that work in rooms and make music sounds beautiful. If I’m going to play, it’s got to sound better to me than it does to you.
So do you think DJs today, the younger generation, are a bit pampered? That they haven’t had the hard-knocks education that some of the old school had?
No, I think they just don’t challenge themselves. What’s the point of doing anything if you don’t challenge yourself? You get complacent, that’s the bottom line. You get comfortable, everything is the same, you get complacent. And when you get complacent, people get bored.
Modern technology swings both ways on this, doesn’t it? It’s cheap and readily available, so it opens things up to more people, and some of those will be hugely creative, which is great, whereas others won’t be creative at all but will still be able to churn out any old rubbish.
We’re talking about music. I’m not discounting any of these other genres of music but you are talking about music. Okay, so technology has helped you along and taught you how to do all these incredible things, okay, what else you got? That would be my question, if I walked in on a child of mine, and he had taught himself all this brilliant stuff with computers and how to make all these fabulous and dynamite tracks, okay great, so what’s next? What else you got? What else you going to do? You can’t tell me about the next technological wonder, “I’m going to be able to this with keyboards, and mix something live, and remix things live in front of the room”, that’s not enough. Where’s the vocalist? Where’s the human condition in the middle of what you’re doing? You can’t just say it’s you, because if you’re just standing there staring at a keyboard or a computer, and not even looking at the people in the room, you’re going to take a second and look up, and the room’s empty — everyone will have left!
Do you think that some DJs get too hung up on the technology? Almost like it is more important to have the latest kit or wizzy software, and be playing in some certain way, rather than focusing on the importance of the music itself?
Yes, absolutely. It’s really interesting, for all technology has done and how DJ s are playing now… I was just in Miami last week and I showed up at the Def Mix gig, and there was some guy who was outside the club as I was going in. And he ran up, said hello and all the rest of it, asked if he could take a photograph. He said “Where’s your CDs, where’s your vinyl?”. I was like “I’m only playing a couple of hours, I didn’t bring any CDs with me, and I definitely don’t travel with vinyl anymore”. He was like “Aw man, that’s disappointing, it’s not the same thing unless you’re playing with vinyl.” I was like “And where do you play records at? And you’ve been playing how long?”, I said “Let me tell you something, I carried vinyl for years. I hired people to carry vinyl for me for years. Technology keeps changing and unless I rise to the occasion and change with it, I’m gonna be one of those guys that’s going to be limited to where they can go and what they can do.” I have to stay involved, I have enough people around me to keep me connected to what’s going on, however, I have to keep the real side of who I am involved in what it is that I do. There’s one thing that I know my audience expect from me whenever I’m playing. They expect me to look up at them, they expect me to make eye contact with them, especially the women in the room. People feel really good when you connect with them in that way, because they feel like “He knows that I’m here, he may not know me but he knows that I’m here”, and if I look up and I smile at them, it makes them feel like they’re at a private party, versus just in somebody’s club. So many guys that are playing on laptops, they are so locked into their computer that they never look up. One of these days they’re going to be surprised — they’re going to look up and the room’s going to be empty!
So technology is great when it pushes things forward but when people get too hung up on it, it can become a barrier?
I think a lot of times it’s a social thing. So many of these kids and these people that are locked into their computers, they have no social skills. They don’t know what it is to go out and sit and have a conversation with someone about absolutely nothing. They’re so used to working in their bedroom by themselves and doing things by themselves, when they get in a club in a DJ booth, in a real club, in a real arena, with thousands of people in front of them, they don’t connect with them. And that’s the sad thing, that’s the sad part of it, because as far as they’re concerned, it’s alright.
That might go a bit beyond the technology though, maybe they just need to get out more?!
But you can see how technology plays into it? Because they’re so used to doing everything in their bedroom by themselves. The human voice never comes into it, unless they’re sampling someone else’s vocal. They don’t know the first thing about producing a vocal, they don’t know the first thing about really writing a song, and to me, if you’re going to challenge yourself, that’s the next step. You know to produce tracks, you know how to lay out a production, that’s great. Now put a voice to it, put a song to it.
You were saying about Miami and the Winter Music Conference, how was it? Do they still have big conference tracks?
I think those days are pretty much over. The internet has changed that, so it will not be that anymore, not the way it used to be, like there would be one particular song that was the highlight of the conference, because everyone’s on the same page, pretty much. But it was great, it was a great buzz, because Def Mix hasn’t had a party there in the past couple of years. I have a new project I was presenting and people were eager to hear it. Morales has a new album that is coming out, we had his album and his party as well, so there was so much focus on Def Mix and the both of us. I think you would have really appreciated it if you were there, it was kind of like a throwback feeling to way back in the day, the early days of the Music Conference, when it was like that — there were certain songs people kept talking about throughout the whole conference, which was nice, and they were songs of mine and David’s, which was cool.
You’ve just done something new with Jamie Principle, is that right?
That’s the first single that’s getting ready to come out, it’s coming out while I’m [in London] as a matter of fact.
And was that one of the songs being talked about at the Conference?
Well, Jamie Principle performed while we were there, so people got to see him for the first time.
So finally, what should the people coming to the Boys Own party expect?
I can show you better than I can tell you!
And with that, Frankie plays me his new single, very Blind-esque, with a nagging, almost tracky feel, a beautifully crafted, delicate piano line, and polished vocal performance from Jamie. Classic Frankie — but I’m not doing it justice, you should check it out for yourself.
Frankie Knuckles featuring Jamie Principle ‘I’ll Take You There’ is out now NOICE! Music.
This interview first appeared on the new, improved www.faithfanzine.com website and appears here with Beyond The Stars' thanks to the Faith Team for making it happen. Check out the site more more great reading.
Sunday, 10 April 2011
The Sound Factory is simply the best club I've ever been too. This is some rare footage from around the time it was at its most popular. Junior was playing Friday and Saturday by this time and the club kids had rocked up - you can see them throughout this video in their outlandish attire. A year or so before, Junior was just playing Saturdays, the crowd felt a bit more street and the club a little rawer. However, it was still the best club in the planet in 1993 and was the fiercest of ruling divas.
Read more about my first trip to the Sound Factory >>here<<
Read more about my first trip to the Sound Factory >>here<<