Saturday, 12 December 2009

Mix - The Wedding Disco

I got married in the summer. It was a lovely day and great party with a bunch of mates playing records, everyone dancing on a flashing disco dancefloor. Before they went on though I did a mix to be played as a warm up so everyone could have a drink and chat, even the DJs. Unfortunately, I was enjoying myself so much I forgot to put it on...

Seemed a shame to let it go to waste, so here it is! Has stufff like Dee Bridewater, Claudja Barry, Logg, Minnie Riperton, D-Train, Change, Jimmy Ruffin and loads more.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Hot Newness! Modernista Records

In the last week or two Paul Bennett’s Modone EP has been making a bit of an impression on music fans of the housey persuasion. With its old school Chicago sensibilities and new school production values, pressed up loud as hell and in lovely packaging too, clearly a lot of effort had gone into producing what it is very polished release - one that new label Modernista are making their bow with.

Modernista is the brain child Paul Bennett, Dan Harrington and Chris Blaik. All three have musical backgrounds, with Paul’s possibly being the most enigmatic. The boys are playing there cards close their chest but apparently he has a shadowy past as an incognito disco re-editor, possibly of a horse related nature, and these tracks on Modernista debut are his first original released productions.

London record shoppers will probably remember Dan ‘Steely’ Harrington from his time behind the jump at Vinyl Junkies, trying to bring some order to the chaos. And Chris, who has been being collecting records since he was knee-high to a grass hopper, was apparently renowned during the 90s as one of the great unheard house singers of his generation. Dan says, “Like an out of tune Robert Owens!” Whether this is true or not remains to be seen!

Dan and Chris met Paul in the mid 90s and clicked immediately through their shared love of music. After Paul moved to Greece, they hatched the idea of creating the record label during a visit to Athens in the summer of 2007. Despite all the doom and gloom in the record industry, dwindling record sales, crumbling distribution networks and a splintered dance music scene, they decided the time was now right to pitch in with their own imprint and their own style.

They say it was a simple plan - to make music that sits outside the slipstream of the latest hyped style or micro-genre and release it in lovingly constructed, high quality packaging.

But simple as it may seem, getting noticed in the hectic dance music market place these days requires a strong vision for the label. Dan outlined what Modernista is trying to achieve, “I know everyone says this but... we would like to work with all types of music, as we've all got varied tastes. 'Dance music' in the absolute widest sense. The first release has a real Chicago influence, but the next one is moving on from the windy city. We're just taking baby steps at the moment really, we'll see which way the wind takes us. The vision we have is grand but too grandiose for me to say now or we'll end up with egg on our faces!”

The quality of every physical aspect of the release has also helped it get noticed, with it being mastered at Dubplates in Berlin and the records themselves being pressed up at MPO in France. It seemed like a lot of effort to knock out a 12”, but the boys explained “We decided to use Dubplates very early on for just a couple of reasons - its association to Maurizio and Basic Channel, and the sound of so many productions that come out of there. They have an incredible depth and space in the sound that bring out. Ultimately, we love records. Vinyl is the best sounding medium for music reproduction, in our opinion, but it has to be manufactured to a certain level of quality to get the best out of it. If the mastering process is done by experts like Dubplates and Mastering then you're giving the music the chance to really shine and so we wanted to make sure we got the release to be as spot on as possible... Paul's effort in creating a lot of his own sounds, rather than using sample sounds, has helped as well. When we got the masters back from Dubplates it sounded like they'd sprinkled magic dust on the tracks!”

So none of the music contains samples then? “There are no samples. All the sounds and song parts are created on modern synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers, then recorded and mixed in a studio alongside an engineer.”

The packaging is also top notch. Great design, well made sleeves, something with tangible quality in these disposable times of ours and a world away from the white labels in paper sleeves that seem so prolific in our record shops these days. I asked Dan why they bothered, “Cover art is really important to us. I absolutely love the aesthetic of a label like Factory who allowed Peter Saville's designs to become a fundamental part of the labels output. [My wife] Finnie designed this cover - its quite obviously (and purposefully) modernist in style - which is something that influences us a lot, hence the name of the label. But, like the music, we'll be putting the effort in to do something different for each release.”

The debut single has been getting support from the likes of Dixon, Ame, Henrik Schwarz, Tama Sumo, Rocky & Diesel, James Priestley, Giles Smith, Prosumer, Terry Farley and, err, me. Terry Farley glowing described it as sounding like it was 22 years old but with modern day production levels. Dan said “That’s a great compliment to Paul's hard work. Terry put it in a nutshell, that's exactly what we were aiming for. Trax / DJ International etc, those tracks are incredible and truly ground-breaking. And though their rawness is part of the appeal some of them could have benefited from some of modern electronic music's production levels. Of course the pressings were hit and miss in that era. Some classics like Virgo 4 will for ever be heard through a veil of crackles and hiss. I think Paul has managed to tease out a bit of a modern edge to that early Chicago house sound.”

You can make your own mind up by checking the sound clips below.

I don’t think Dan and Co need to worry too much about ending up with egg on their faces at all. And having set such high standards, with a second release lined up for early next year, Modernista really does prove what the team behind it believe - the death of the independent dance music label hasn’t happened just yet.

Paul Bennett - Modone EP
1. Backbreaker
2. Royce Road to Peter Street
3. Fifty One
4. Last Dance of the Galaxian

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Mix - You Belong To Me (for To The Bone)

I've gone done a house mix for the To The Bone crew. The boys, Steve Believe, Charlie Bennnett, and Rik Moran, have been putting on parties around London for a good few years now, bringing the likes of Rick Wilhite, Sven Weismann, Marc Scheider and the awesome Prosumer to these shores, not mention giving Mark E his London DJing debut.

More recently they have found critical acclaim via their podcasts on To The Bone Radio, in they meld a heady and eclectic mix of electronic music from across the ages with semi-coherent and often drunken rambling to great effect!

It’s a unique style that has won them fans across the country and even led to them being featured as ‘Podcast of the Week’ in The Times. The boys can be found DJing around town most weekends and much as it pains me to say it, are actually quite a talented bunch, so when they asked me to do a mix for their website, I was honoured to obilge.

The mix takes in Chicago, New York, Hamburg, old stuff, new stuff, rare stuff, obscure stuff, and stuff you probably know. Here's the tracklist:

M.T.S. - Time Warp
Rio.D - I Got to Make It (I Got to Acid)
The Get Down Gang - You Belong to Me
Pierre's Fantasy Club - Dream Girl
Project Democracy - Is This Dream For Real? (Psychedub)
Phuture Scope - What Is House Muzik?
Nate Williams - Club Patrol
Damian Schwartz - Plastico
Vincent Floyd - Technology
Mood II Swing - Call Me (Mood Remix)
Kenlou III - Sensational Beats
Total Maddness - Lawanda Big Bottom
Kenlou III - Sensational Beats
Watanabe - Odoru
Ferrer & Sydenham Inc. - Timbuktu
Armando - Don't Take It (Thomos Edit)
Sten - Way To The Stars
Rythim Is Rythim - The Dance
S.L.Y. - I Need A Freak

You can check it out on the To The Bone Mixes Page here or you can stream it by clicking play below:
Miles Mixx - You Belong Me by Miles Simpson

Monday, 19 October 2009

Mix - Boys Own Book Launch Party, 5 hours of Music!

Way back when, 1986, a bunch of suburban lads from somewhere down the M4 corridor hit upon the idea of knocking together a fanzine. Covering the sort of stuff they were into - music, fashion, politics, London nightlife, football and all the tales that can be told about the last too, they called it Boys Own.

Running from 1986 to 1992 the fanzine became a bit of a phenomenon, despite the fact only 12 issues ever made it to print, spawning t-shirts, stickers, courier bags, at least two record labels, and paving the way for the likes of Gear, Herb Garden, Chortlers, etc, to have a go too.

I’m not sure of the secret of their success but maybe the fanzines tapped an almost virgin market, young people, young men in particular, who weren't catered for by mainstream publishing, were drawn to the irreverent humour, lists of records they hadn’t heard of, dodgy night club incidents alluded too, nicknames of geezers in cliques they knew nothing of but probably wouldn’t have minded being part of, piss takes, and even poetry, all of which was pitched at a level they could relate too, unlike, for example, The Face. A lifestyle for little herberts done on a photocopier.

All of the protagonists went onto bigger and better things, like producing Primal Scream LPs, managing Underworld stadium tours, running record labels, owning big old rave boozers, eventually earning about squillion quid and retiring back to the ‘burbs to chat Chelsea on the internet... but in between logging onto chat rooms and watching Loose Women, they’ve also managed to collate all 12 original issues of the fanzine in one hefty hardback tome, so whether you were a top boy or a massive ted at the time, it's an essential slice of acid house culture and a tip top read.

And to launch literary masterpiece, the boys held a little party over in Smithfields last Friday. Terry Farley, of Terry Farley fame, was kind enough to ask me to spin a few platters that matter (well that mattered about 20 years ago anyway), and as it can never be said that I would readily spurn the opportunity to dust off some, erm, dusty old records, I was more than happy to oblige.

I had a ball, warming up for about an hour and hour, before handing over to young Mr Farley, who was followed by one of the original Boys Own crowd, Plug, then Rocky out of the popular music combo X-Press 2, then Stripey, erstwhile resident (and ace) DJ at Yellowbook, and finally Terry’s old partner in crime, Pete Heller.

The party went with a bang and anyone who didn’t wake up with a stinking hangover the next day probably wasn’t there. Fortunately for those too drunk to remember, I recorded the whole night and here it is for your streaming/downloading pleasure.
Boys Own Book Launch Party - Me, Terry Farley, Pete Heller, Rocky, Stripey & Plug by Miles Simpson

If you like the sound of the book, you can download a free 44 page sampler as a PDF >>here<<

And if you really like the sound of it and just want to get your hands on a copy of it in its full hard back glory, you can purchase one via DJHistory >>here<<

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Sabrynaah Pope - Love and Light

4 years ago today, 24th September, Sabrynaah Pope, one of my favourite female house vocalists, sadly passed away at a criminally young age, in her home town of New York City.

Sabrynaah made her name her singing for some of the cream of 90s US house producers, with her debut single ‘It Works for Me’ on the legendary King Street label, being pretty much the perfect example of what was then a fresh, soulful brand of house with crisp beats and plenty of punch, a sound that became synonymous with producers like Victor Simonelli and DJs like Paul ’Trouble’ Anderson.

There was also reoccurring themes to Sabrynaah’s work. First and uppermost was overwhelming positivity, but she also sang of a desire to be free to express one’s self and live without fear of judgement - which as a slightly obnoxious and occasionally spikey young man, resonated with me at the time!

Sabrynaah was born in Brooklyn to a very religious but musical family. Her mother was a gospel singer and of her two aunts on her mother's side, one was a backing singer for Ray Charles (a Raylette!) and the other was in the popular 1960’s group “The Cookies”. Sabrynaah was a regular church goer and admits that she was only allowed to listen to Christian music at home as a child, so unsurprisingly she ended up singing regularly at her church. As she grew older, Sabrynaah progressed into professional gospel singing and signing in musicals on the National Black Touring Circuit, something she continued to enjoy doing up until shortly before her death,

Through her work as a professional gospel backing singer, she came into contact with Kevin Hedge of Blaze fame and they hit upon the idea of making a record together. Kevin wrote the music, Sabrynaah wrote the vocals, they got in the studio and produced her debut single, the aforementioned ‘It Works for Me’, which King Street snapped up readily and Victor Simonelli went on to remix.

This opened the door of the world of house for Sabrynaah and she went onto to perform with Smack Productions, Louie Vega, DJ Pierre and Kings of Tomorrow, amongst others. She was already a regular on the dance floors of the New York and spoke of warm affection about the first time she performed at the Sound Factory Bar, and the positive reaction she got from her fellow dancers when they saw her up on stage.

In 1995 Sabrynaah collaborated with Washington DC’s 95 North to produce what is undoubtedly my favourite record she worked on. Similar in style to her debut, it was a request for people to be allowed to be themselves and not to waste their time trying to please others - a plea for acceptance and respect. Moreover, it’s absolutely SLAMMIN’!

Round about the time this came out, I remember DJing at a party in a massive old house over Haggerston way. Back then Haggerston wasn’t about design students and pavement cafes, like it is now - it was rough as hell and you genuinely took your life into your own hands if you walked down the wrong side street at night.

The DJ ‘booth’ in this place was set up in the kitchen and by 4am, it was just me and about a dozen 30 something (seemed well old at the time) local rude boys. Big, burly blokes, all gold teeth, missing teeth and scars, smoking lots of potent smelling weed and drinking brandy.

I felt like I was in my groove and ‘My Life’ was the stand out record. Rather then feeling uncomfortable, I was getting slapped on the back, drinks passed to me and in between hollering, big ups. It was one of those times when you think you’ve really found ‘your’ sound and Sabrynaah Pope will always be a part of that memory for me.

However, unlike me, Sabrynaah didn’t want to live in the past and in 1999 she moved to Europe, living in Munich for some time, and recording with numerous European producers including Milk and Sugar, who she had a No1 club hit with in the form of funky houser ‘Higher and Higher’. Sabrynaah returned to America to work and shortly before her death sang backing vocals on Blaze’s ‘Most Precious Love’. A true modern soulful house classic, it would prove to be her last recording and her only Billboard Dance No1.

But for me Sabrynaah will always be about that early 90s sound, tumpin’ beats, soaring vocals, kitchens thick with dope smoke and drinking neat brandy with complete strangers in the wee hours of the morning.

So as the boys in the kitchen might have said, BIG UP MY GIRL SABRYNAAH!

*get's bit of grit or something stuck in eye*

Monday, 7 September 2009

Sunday Morning Music

Over at Beyond the Stars Towers we’re quite the fans of a bit of potter about on a Sunday morning. Up with the larks, like all good cleaning living folks, whack on the kettle, fire up the toaster, and get some Sunday morning music on the record player. Many final day of the weekend has started this way round ours, with numerous cups of tea, old LPs, and a read of the papers, a decent magazine or even a music fanzine, like the ever excellent Faith/Strobelight Honey (great article in the most recent edition about supporting your local record shop...), as we gently ease into the day.

Getting up to change LPs is a bit of a bugger though, especially if you are even half as lazy I am… so I did a little mix to capture the mood of those mornings and ensure extended sofa time.

It’s a bit of a hotch potch including artists like Bill Withers, Art of Noise, Marvin Gaye, Taana Gardner, Thompson Twins, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Judie Tzuke, the Korgis, Outkast, The Grid, Primal Scream and Madonna.

You can stream or download using the player below - but only if you’re eating toast at the time...

Miles Mixx - Sunday Morning Music by Miles Simpson

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Support Your Local Record Shop

Every time a record shop closes its doors for the final time, internet forums are alive with people moaning about how mp3 downloads and internet shopping are killing music. These gripes are normally interspersed with tales of great shopping trips to the now ex-record shop, reminiscing of the time “that Captain Sensible dub was in the bargain bin for 50p” and the like. It’s a mixture of outrage, disappointment but there is also an acceptance of the inevitability of these closures - the shops concerned didn’t move with the times, they didn’t have online shopping, and of course, the kids can’t play a dusty Canadian import 12 on their mobile phone at the back of a bus.

Many of these moaners can also be regularly found on the same forums talking about Badelli play lists, the latest batch of Black Cock re-re-presses, or the same 5 new disco edits/house records everyone else likes this week, before with a click of mouse, they are off to Juno, Discogs or eBay to try to buy records the being discussed.

Well the news just in is it isn’t technology or a disinterested youth that are killing specialist record shops - it’s dicks like these.

There are more than enough vinyl and CD buyers and collectors out there to sustain real life record shops, it’s just many of them are too bloody lazy to go out on a rainy a Saturday and spend the afternoon sifting through piles of dusty old discs in search of a bargain or something original. They’d rather drop 50 sheets online on a tune someone else has popularised and made a safe bet.

If the internet was around at the time, do you think Ron Hardy and Larry Levan would be on it all the time checking what other people play, making a list and buying those records off Discogs? Do you think that is what Harvey and the Idjuts do that now? Would Alfredo have been poring over internet forums checking out what some bar DJ from Slough had bought from Phonica that week? And do you think Mark Seven paid a £150 for a his copy of Javaroo after hearing it on someone else’s internet mix?

Of course they didn’t and of course they don’t. These people put in the leg work required to own an original record collection. They made their own signature tunes. They took risks. And they forged their own path rather than following the well trodden track.

The internet is a wonderful tool, if used wisely, but it can also make people lazy and lead to homogenous record collections. Great record collections aren’t necessarily expensive record collections, they’re original and interesting record collections. And you’re only going to have original and interesting records than to get down to some record shops, dig through some crates, and listen to some music you’ve never heard before.

Okay, maybe your local shop doesn’t stock what you normally listen too, so get out of your comfort zone and listen to the stuff they sell. In my local shop I’ve seen the Idjuts buying world music, Rahaan’s been in buying UK pop 12s and Ashley Beedle buys reggae there. Maybe not that surprising but a lot more interesting than the latest edit everyone else has.

Maybe your local shop doesn’t have a listening post? Well buy a portable record player. In short, just get out there. The excitement of finding a pristine copy a tune you’ve been after for years at the back of a rack is a thousand times better than it turning up on a eBay search. Equally, picking up something fresh straight off the import van before any of your mates is a right buzz too. As is actually meeting and chatting to real life like minded souls, in real life situations.

And that stuff ain’t ever going to happen on the internet, so turn your laptop off and go and do something less boring instead..

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Feel Up Podcast Mix

Kerry Jean Power and Billie Jean DeVoil, the lovely young ladies that run Feel Up, were kind enough to ask me to do a mix for their podcast, and I was only too happy to oblige.

Feel Up in a monthly party that takes places in East London, most recently at 3 Blind Mice (formerly Ravey Street, soon to be Kingsland Road). Kerry and Billie regularly invite their friends down to play and your likely to hear sounds from a fairly broad pallet - disco, boogie, afrobeat, deep house, acid, techno, blue eyed soul, funk, pop, jazz, reggae and loads of other stuff too. As the girls says, "If you can dance to it - it'll get played!!"

As well as the parties, there is also the Feel Up pod cast, which has exactly the same ethos - mates playing a wide range of music. Previous contributors have included Joey Negro, Mudd, Greg Wilson, The Hardway Brothers, the late, great Simon 'Freaked' Brant, along with Feel Up stalwarts, Jim Lister, Dayo and of course, Kerry herself.

So I feel like I'm in fairly esteemed company!

My mix, 'All Moths Must Die', is one of deep, modern house music. I have a tendency to bang on about old house and disco records (see this blog for evidence) and I thought it would be nice to play a few of the newer records that have been floating my boat in recent months. I actually think house music is as exciting as it's been for years and I think this is born out by the amount bright, trendy young things you see out in house clubs and house records shops these days! Well, maybe.

You can listen to the mix here:

Monday, 3 August 2009

Those Obscure Objects of Desire (pt.2) – The Legendary Adventures of a Filter King

This is the second instalment in the occasional series of rambles about stuff I want and in all likelihood, can't afford. And quelle surprise, it's another box set of records!

Hitting the shops later this month, the 26th August to be precise, is 'The Legendary Adventures of a Filter King', a collection of Carl Craig's releases under his '69' moniker, which include what is widely regarded as some of his best material.

The box set contains all of the original 69 EPs: Sound on Sound; Lite Music; Pungtang; and 4 Jazz Funk Classics , the first ever release on Planet E records. In addition to this there is also a bonus Disc with two previously unreleased versions of "If Mojo Was A.M." and "Poi Et Pas."

What’s all the fuss about then? 4 EPs you already own and a single bonus disc?

Well, apart from the lovely packaging, each track has been re-mastered at Berlin's Dubplates & Mastering studios, there are only 500 copies in total, and 100 of those come with a limited edition tee-shirt by San Francisco designers Nice Collective (whoever they are).

The down side and why this package on my ‘unobtainable’ list, is it costs £150 with tee and £130 without. Re-mastered in a nice box or not, that is a lot of dough.

But they ARE re-mastered…

And it IS a nice box…


Well, if like me, you might not be able to resist the allure of this package and fancy investing in one of the 500 copies (and it will be an investment…unless you trash them doing drunken spin backs) , rather than wait for the 26th to come round, you can pre-order now from Phonica and Rub-a-Dub, amongst other places.

To whet your appetite, here's awesome 'Ladies and Gentlemen', which quite simply one of the greatest techno records of all time.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Summer House Chart

I’ve been kind of busy recently and I’ve been neglecting the blog. I thought it needed a quick update and a chart or two seemed to fit the bill, kicking off with this one full of housey its that I have found appealing over the summer.

1 - Pepe Bradock ‘Route of Most Resistance’ (Atavisme) - One of my favoutrist producers ever (but don’t mention bloody Deep Burnt, for Pete‘s sake) and quite simply has to the record of the year so far. Really upbeat, it skips along with a sense of urgency and real energy, as the fresh keyboard hook and nagging vocal snippets carry you deep into its heart. When it finishes you instinctively reach to put the needle back to the start, it’s a hard record to follow and you’ll still be playing it in 10 years time.

2 - Leif ‘Designed with that in Mind’ (Fear of Flying) - The original mix of this is pretty dull but when Giles Smith (Secret Sundaze) and Martin Dawson get hold of it in the guise of Two Armadillo’s, they really bring home the bacon with their ‘Tribute To Trax Remix’. I’m not sure it sounds like any Trax record I’ve ever heard but that is a mere aside, as they ditch the boring bits of the original track (i.e. all of it) and construction something completely new. A deep bass line is complemented by a piano that has a dream like quality you might associate with the memory hazy summer evenings or even hazier early morning dance floors. It’s a wonderfully crafted, subtle and intelligent house track that I can only hope is around for some time to come.
>>listen to clip<<

3 - RNDM ‘Third Hand Smoke’ (Dial) - To be honest, the artist name doesn’t bode well and suggests the listener will be subjected to some sort of MNML dirge. But that could not be further from the truth, as this so deep you’ll need an aqua lung to listen to it. This is Efdemin collaborator, Oliver Kargl’s debut solo release on Dial’s new vinyl only off shoot Laid, and it’s cracker. Coming on like a cross between ‘Morning Factory’ and a Schmoov record, but still sounding fresh and totally relevant.
>>listen to clip<<

4 - Patrice Scott ‘Excursions’ (Sistrum) - One of Detroit’s men of the moment, along with Omar S and Keith Worthy (looks like Keith lucked out in the cool techno name stakes though), Patrice is back with a bang after a couple of less spectacular efforts. Evoking memories of early Fade II Black and Octave One records, this is a wonderfully emotive electronic masterpiece. And like Fade II Black’s ‘In Sync’ it’s got a corking reprise too.
>>listen to clip<<

5 - Isolee ‘Albacares/Les Andalouses’ (Mule) - Ha! Another one of favouritist buy-on-sight producers ever! ‘Albacares’ is real skanking dub feel to it, if you like the Isolee mix of ‘Africa/Brasil’ on Vega from a fewrs ago, you’ll like this. I prefer the more clubby ‘Les Andalouses’ which seems to be built around train horn noises. Not as bonkers as it sounds but typically Isolee. Fantastic.
>>listen to clip<<

6 - Cabin Fever ‘Work It/Let’s Play House’ (RKDS) - This is the sixth release in the Matt Edward’s (of Radio Slave fame) Cabin Fever series. I think most of them use other tracks as their basis, hence the ‘unofficial’ nature of their release. ‘Work It’ is just plain fierce, has plane noises, someone saying ’work it’ a lot and that heavy percussion you've come to associate with Radio Slave. ‘Let’s Play House’ is an altogether different proposition, with hissing hi-hats and Victor Simonelli-esque drums complimenting the looped up piano line, it really could be a dub mix of a US house record from around 1994. And that’s a good thing in my eyes!
>>listen to clip<<

7 - Sven Weismann ‘Shove’ (Artless) - Whilst this is on a Mojuba sub label, this is a bit of a departure from Sven’s output on that label. Rather than 2 long sides of US influenced deep house, we get 6 tracks of almost ambient soundscapes and straight-up techno. A truly wonderful record, especially the ambient bits, and probably my favourite thing Sven has done to date.

8 - Reggie Dokes ‘I Wear The Mask’ (Clone Loft Supreme Series) - Two sides of goodness from the Chi-Town nu-skool on this new Clone Records sub-label. ‘Chicago Pimp’ has got people talking with its deep late night loopy groove, which I think sounds a LOT like a Scott Grooves record. But for me, the stand out is the flip ‘I Wear the Mask’. Much more going on and very dramatic, with all sorts of strings and pianos flying around. Really infectious and I can’t see how this would fail to make people move, although, thinking about it, this track sounds like a Scott Grooves record too…

9 - STL ‘Silent State’ (Smallville) - Anthea from JC Freaks put me onto this. Well when I say ‘put me onto this’ I mean she played it to me Phonica and then I bought it. If you’re regular reader of this blog, you may remember that JC Freaks debut release, ‘The Rock’ made it into my chart last summer, and in a way this track is reminiscent of Oracy’s mix of ‘The Rock’. Not that they sound the same but they creep up on you. If you were to skip through ‘Silent State’ you might think it a tad boring but it listen to the whole thing and you are slowly enveloped in the hypnotic groove. Just beautiful sparse, deep, dubby house for serious house heads.

10 - Steinhoff & Hammouda ‘Touch’ (Smallville) - Also on Smallville, I picked this to listen to the Jus-Ed ‘Euphoric’ mix of ‘You Are’. Much as I’m a Jus-Ed fan, I’m not sure what he thought was euphoric unless he thinks euphoria is triggered by fairly pedestrian plodding deep house by numbers? Anyway, I digress, because as luck would have it ‘Touch’ on the other side of this record is great. Snippets of laidback jazz piano, ever so overlay driving percussion and then you find moody synths slowly sneaking up. I’m thinking if Moodymann was German he might sound like this, but this doesn’t sound like yet another Moodymann off. If that makes sense?

11 - Tony Lionni - Found a Place (Osgut Ton) - There’s a lot of fuss around old Tony at the moment. He’s the hot new kid on the block, although Liverpudlian DJ ain’t no kid and had probably been round the block a few times first. ‘Found a Place’ has been around for a while now, I heard it few times online and everything, and didn’t feel it at all. Then I went out to Sonar and at the Rekids party at about 6am Spencer Parker dropped it and all of a sudden, soaked in sweat, surrounded Spanish clud kids, models and early morning freaks, it made perfect sense. A record made by a DJ clearly knows his stuff, for the dancefloor, I suppose it’s only right it makes sense on the dancefloor. 21st century piano house the way it should sound.

12 - Theo Parrish ‘Space Station’ (Sound Signature) - Theo teams up with one of Detroit’s other men of the moment, Omar S, who maybe repays the favour for 'The Grand Son Of Detroit Techno' by helping to deliver a sublime modern day acid classic. Starting off all floaty, with delicate keys, the clam before the storm is broken as the huge acid b-line comes thundering over the hill, interwoven with melancholic synths, weird high pitch noises, and WALLOP, it’s time to your rave on. It reminds me somewhat of Gherkin Jerk records, in that it has a quite experimental feel to it. Don’t expect to hear this on a Hed Kandi comp anytime soon.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Golf Channel Records

The summer before last a New York based friend was kind enough to send me a copy of the first release on his new label. When the package arrived from the States, I was pleased to find it contained a lush, quality pressed, heavy vinyl 12”, individually numbered and with hand stamped artwork. Now as regular readers of Beyond the Stars will know, I’m partial to a limited edition 12” and if the music is good, hey, that’s even better!

And the music was good indeed. A tracky, looped up Mark E edit of Janet Jackson’s ‘R&B Junkie‘, that reworked it into what is essentially a killer house track. I took it out with me a weekend or two later and dropped it a party I was playing at Notting Hill Carnival. The reaction was instant, as the people the room hit the dance floor and teenage boys that looked like they should be extra in Skins were even taking pictures of it with their phones. One year later, ‘R+B Drunkie’ was still getting played, as the last record at the Secretsundaze bank holiday ending mega-rave, demonstrating both its unusual longevity in this age disposable digital music and the undoubted arrival of Golf Channel Records.

The baby of New York based Brit, Phil South, Golf Channel acts as a vehicle for Phil to put out a wide range of music made by people he has hooked up with directly or indirectly through the successful No Ordinary Monkey parties he runs in the city that never sleeps with a couple of close friends, Anton and Carlos.

Things really kicked off when Rob J, of the now late but utterly fabulous Bam Bam parties in Birmingham, sent him fellow Brummie Mark E’s edit of the aforementioned Janet Jackson song. Simple but hugely effective, Phil knew it would make a great debut release and despite serious interest from the likes of Prins Thomas and Running Back Records, Mark stuck to his word, gave it to Phil and Golf Channel was born.

Initially, Phil just pressing up 100 copies, embracing the old school concept of vinyl promo copies rather digital files regardless of expense, hand stamping and numbering them himself, and then distributed them to friends and people he thought would appreciate them rather than the usual DJ suspects. It proved to be a winning formula, tapping into people’s desire to own something tangible and even collectable rather than another mp3 on the hard drive, and combined with the quality of the track, the hype inevitably built.

This initial pressing was eventually followed up by a full thousand record run and when they hit the shops, BOOM! ‘R+B Drunkie’ blew up, crossing over between teenage hoodies, house heads, disco beards, and eventually proving to be popular enough to require a repress.

One place it didn’t end up readily though was people’s ipods, because in keeping with the traditional ethic of the label, no Golf Channel releases are currently available digitally. In fact, they don’t even exist in digital form. Phil cuts straight to lacquer when mastering for better quality and a warm analogue sound, so there‘s not even a digital master file. Why? Well Phil feels he is putting his money where his mouth is, by supporting a format he holds dear and doesn’t want to die out just yet - which is great news for vinyl luddites like me!

So how to follow this up? Another obvious edit? A catchy floor filler? Nope. The next release was anything but. Produced Phil’s No Ordinary Monkey partner, Anton Esteban and his friend Alex Posell, better known as drum’n’bass DJ Abstract, under the name Ghost Note, ’Holy Jungle’ is kind of spooky. In fact it has been rather neatly described as Juju disco, and if a Hammer Horror film about a country gent who returns to his secluded manor house from travelling the dark continent with a ghoulish man servant who it transpires is now his partner is some sort of voodoo cult before a giant moth eats everyone, could be turned into a disco record, then this would be it.

Anton and Alex wanted to produce something more substantial than yet-another-edit, so they made sure pretty much every sound was played and original - banging radiators and bottles for percussion, getting friends to play bass and guitar, and possibly hanging out at the Bronx Zoo with a tape recorder…

The finished product sounds unlike pretty much anything you’ll hear elsewhere but for the 4/4 fans out there, Mark E is back on the flipside, this time on remix duty, turning in a fantastic yet floor friendly remix that is more akin to sub-aquatic techno than the disco sound he is renowned for.

Hot the heals of Ghost Note followed ‘Try to Find Me Vol.1’ a slightly more trad edit two sider from an anonymous artist, whose identity Phil is not prepared to reveal . Apparently he is an established musician who normally edits for his own use only but following a bit of arm twisting, a bottle of bourbon or two and a few compromising Polaroid snaps (maybe), Phil convinced our mystery man to share them with the world.

As the run-out groove legend ‘Trash to Treasure’ suggests, the only records this man will touch are ones he thinks are rubbish and would really benefit from a rework, eschewing the safe bet route oh-so-many aspiring editors choose to take. First up is down tempo moody rework of Chic. Hold on, what was all that about no safe bets, I hear you say? The track in question is ‘Flashback’, which it is fair to say most people don’t know. For good reason.

Then on the flip is the clincher. A proper one-buck-in-a-thrift-store-ash-in-waiting, reworked so it sounds like, in Phil’s words, P&P meets King Tubby in 2008 New York. Very New York in fact - and very, very good.

So with these first three releases under the belt, what’s next? More of the same for now but, in time, Phil wants to expand the label to take on fully formed bands and put out albums. He has eclectic taste in music and he wants the label to always reflect that. This is born out by the next scheduled release (due out round about the time you read this) which is a collaboration between Australian DJ duo Hey Convict! and krautrock hero Dominik Von Senger, who was part of the Phantom Band, Dunkelziffer and The Unknown Cases.

This slightly bizarre partnership came about after Hey Convict! played an obscure track called ‘No Name’ from Dominik’s only solo LP on the Beats in Space radio show, Dominik heard about it and got in touch to say thanks. The boys suggested a remix, to which Dominik readily agreed, only to find the master tape had been wiped of the original recordings. Refusing to let a little thing like not having any music to work with hold him back, Dominik has remade the track from scratch, Hey Convict! are providing one remix and Justin Vandervolgen of !!! and Outhud fame the other, with Rosko Gee, formerly of Can and Traffic, roped in to play bass.

A little bit more imaginative than another Sylvester re-edit, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Interview - Mark E

Given that it’s the second largest city in the country, from Londoner’s point of view, Birmingham’s contribution to acid house culture feels a little light. Whereas Manchester has given us the Hacienda, Leeds Back to Basics and Glasgow the Sub Club, Brum is more commonly associated with fancy dress clubbing at Chuff Chuff and the trance nightmare that is God’s Kitchen.

However, unbeknownst to the casual observer, over the last 10 years or so, a small but perfectly formed underground scene has developed in this otherwise barren land. Taking over the back rooms of pubs, dinghy basements and tiny club spaces, nights like Leftfoot, Jigsaw and Bam Bam have carved a musical foothold for lovers of deep house, disco and Balearic sounds.

And from this scene has emerged producer and DJ, editor and producer Mark E, who came to prominence when Gilles Peterson started to champion his edit of Womack and Womack’s ‘Baby I’m Scared of You’. The distinctive low slung, looped up style fast became his signature sound, as more releases followed on Gerd Jansen’s Running Back and then notably, on New York imprint Golf Channel, where Mark announced he is here to stay with his Janet Jackson edit ‘R+B Drunkie’.

Beyond the Stars caught up with Mark when he recently played the Warm party at London’s Plastic People. It had been a busy day, so we didn’t get to talk until Mark had a 2 hour break from the decks in the middle of the night, by which time a few beers had been drunk... This is what was said.

Starting at the beginning, how did you get into DJing?
How I got into it all, into the music, was my brother was 4 years older than me and he was going off to all these parties, well not parties but club nights in Birmingham - I’m from Wolverhampton originally, I think a lot of people think I’m from Birmingham - he would have been 18 and I would have been 14, and he’d going off to clubs nights like Love Revolution, at the Institute, and Snobs, and he’d be coming back and telling me about the amazing nights he’d had listening to people like Sasha, Tony Humphries and Frankie Knuckles. And they were all on at the same night, you know nowadays you get nights where there are a certain type of DJs, now you wouldn’t have Sasha on the same bill as Frankie Knuckles or at the same club week after week, but then it was just house music and they all fell into the same category, there was no different genres of house music. So that was when it all kicked off, it would have been 1990, he was going off to all these nights and I was too young to go, I couldn’t get into the places and I was just into the music, I just had all these mix tapes like everyone used to have then - Graham Park, Frankie Knuckles, Sasha, Jon DaSilva, Mike Pickering and all that. And I bought a single belt drive deck and my brother had one as well, and we were living in this house, both in our rooms with a belt drive deck, no pitch control, just a standard record player, and the first record I bought was ‘Playing with Knives’ by Bizarre Inc. I remember watching that on Dance Energy with Normski and seeing all that Dance Squad and all that, and that is where it all started for me.

Bizarre Inc are Chicken Lips now, aren’t they?
Yeah, they are and The Emperor Machine is one of them too, so they’re still going. And then we put our two decks together, my brother came home work one day with this sort of £5 mixer, which was absolute crap, which buzzed and everything, and then we put them together and we were mixing tunes together and we thought we were it! We were like proper DJs, in our bedrooms playing, couldn’t mix two records together, it was just fun, having a go. And that was it really, that’s how I got into it. I went through the whole Bizarre Inc thing, then Italian piano house stuff, like Last Rhythm and all that, that was my basis for getting into house music, listening to tapes by people like John Kelly – I used to worship John Kelly!… By that time I be 18 and I would be out and I was old enough to get into the clubs and could listen to the tunes, and religiously I’d try to find out what John Kelly was playing and I’d buy all those tunes. And you listen back to those tunes and he was playing some wicked proper old disco - he was playing disco tunes!

It’s hard to believe that John Kelly was alright!

Yeah, it is!

Have you heard that mix of G-Love he did for 8 Records? It’s wicked.
Yeah! I can’t believe the way he’s gone now. But we’d travel the country, me and my mates, we’d get together and go to this night in Stafford a lot, we’d go to Liverpool, we’d go to Nottingham, that was where it all go started. People might think that I’m some sort of disco ‘don’ but my thing is house music and that’s what got me into it, that’s my background.

So how did you make the progression from being a bedroom DJ with your brother on rubbish old mixer, to being a proper DJ on the scene?

I was pushing myself, I was doing mix tapes and stuff with a couple of mates, and I was quite lucky because one of my good friends Danny, his brother owned a club in Wolverhampton and he put us on, so I was getting experience at 18, playing out in clubs.

What club was that?

It was called Slam. It was this tiny little place, it had a wicked basement, it was one of those you remember from your youth and it was just great - all your friends would be there and it was just perfect, I wish I could go back to those days - playing all old piano roarers, you know what I mean?! Big piano tunes and everything, and just going for it… So yeah, that was how I got a bit of experience playing out in front of people. I always had this sort of bug, I just wanted to play my records, that I was buying, spending my hard earned money on, out to people. Wolverhampton was this place where there was a small alternative dance scene and I tried to play out there a bit, at various night clubs, pubs, parties we’d put on, we’d try to do our own thing. There was me, Dave and Rod, there was a trio of us DJing, we’d put parties on for our friends and but it never made it into anything big, never made any money, it was just a laugh really, playing out to people - we’d hire a place, get our friends in, fill it full of a hundred of our mates and their friends and it was great, good little parties… and then you get a bit older, into your 20s and people go their separate way. I was always buying music, just constantly buying music. I went to Ibiza in ‘94 with my mates, it was really before it really blew up, Radio 1 didn’t go there until ‘95, so we just caught it when it was just good and that opened my eyes. John Kelly was there, we went to see him! But it was really, really, really different. That was when I was 18. Then in 1995 I went to University in Birmingham, that’s why I’m in Birmingham now, I did a furniture design course. And I couldn’t find what I was into, because you’ve got all these different influences, you’re away from home and you meet new people. There were night clubs on in Birmingham playing big beat and all that sort of stuff, and it just wasn’t for me but that was the only good thing that was on. Then the whole deep house thing happened as I left university, in ’97/’98. There were various nights in Wolverhampton, like BFG, that were really good - they would get people like DIY, Charles Webster and Paper Records, and it was just perfect, that was the music that linked what I was buying early on to what I was really looking for - that whole deep house sound, it was spot on, it was just a great time. Wolverhampton had a little scene that was really good, and Birmingham had a little scene with nights like Flotation and nights on at the Medicine bar that Leftfoot were doing, and I thought that’s the sound, that’s it, that’s the house music which I like. And then I guess that was where it just went into the disco thing - deep house, disco.

So you didn’t cut your teeth as a DJ in Birmingham?
No, it wasn’t Birmingham, I didn’t really play out in Birmingham. Birmingham hasn’t really done it for me at all, really. It is now! But it wasn’t then. I was just one of the many people that was buying records from Massive Records, Tempest, Hard to Find and whatever, and just into that sound, I never made a name for myself DJng there. At this time, I had a computer at home and I was just into the music. And I was thinking I can do my own thing and have a go at this myself.

You’ve now got a name as a Birmingham DJ, playing at places like Bam Bam and Jigsaw quite a lot, so how did that happen?
Playing at those places only happened after ‘Scared’ came out. I was just friends of people who were doing the parties at the time. I was banging these tunes out and Jigsaw were these people I sort of knew, I was a face there, I’d go to all their parties. The thing is, backtracking a little bit, Leftfoot was the only alternative dance music night in Birmingham, and everyone would go there but there was nothing else. Then Jigsaw started and all of sudden there were these young guys, younger than me, who were doing something I was really into. And we’d go to their little nights, these little parties and it was like, man, this is really good, where did these people come from? I thought me and my mates and a few people that went to Leftfoot, were the only people into this music! Woody, Dave and Rich came from nowhere from my point of view but they were putting on these wicked parties and putting on DJs that Leftfoot weren’t. Leftfoot were doing DJs like Jazzanova, Gilles Peterson, Kruder and Dorfmeister, that sort of house, nu-jazz, whatever you want to call it. Whereas these guys were putting on people like Domu and the Idjut Boys - it wasn’t heard of in Birmingham. And they were doing it, it was small little party, they were doing it small scale. Leftfoot was larger scale, about 500 people, whereas Jigsaw was a hundred people and it was really good. So I started going to their nights, getting to know them.

So moving into production was the turning point for you?

Oh definitely. I was always doing stuff at home on my computer, I got software together, just learning shitty programs, trying to work them out, and putting loops together, sampling disco records and adding my own elements. At this time I was going onto the Jigsaw forum and they were going to start a new label, and I was like “Fucking hell, I want to do that. I’m gonna do that!”. And I’m really putting music together and sending it off to Dave and Woody. They were like “yeah, it’s good” and they never really took hold of it. I thought it was good enough - I did the Womack and Womack edit and I remember thinking “That’s really good“. I put it on the DJ History forum and people came back to me saying that it was wicked. So that spurred me on to send it to Gilles Peterson. You know, who else do you send it to? I you want to get some coverage, if you want to get it on the radio, send it to him. So I sent it to him and about a week later, I’m sat at work, the phone rings and it’s Gilles Peterson saying I’ve got your music and it’s really good, I’m going to play it on the radio. And I was just blown away! Made day, made my month, made my year! It was just totally out of the blue.

This is before it came out on Jisco?

Yeah, yeah!

So they didn’t know what they had?

Yeah, they didn’t know what they had! They thought it was good, but they had some Al Kent edits being pressed at the time. But as soon as Gilles played it on the radio, they were like, right, we’ve got to get this out as soon as possible. That was how it happened. It was mad because I gave Gilles Peterson a CD of about 10 tracks and Scared must have been about number 6, so whoever listens to his stuff, all credit to them, they listened each one all the way through, because you know how long that tune is, it goes on forever and only really hits it at the end. So that person listened all the way through and picked it out. And all thanks to him, he sort of broke me, in way, he said “I’m going to play this” and that was it. It was played on the radio, it was summer 2005 and it was class!

It came out on Jisco that summer, didn‘t it?
They wanted to get it out as soon as it had been played on Gilles’ show, it took about 2 or 3 weeks, maybe a month, but it was out there and he was hammering it. I went to the Big Chill and he played it on the main stage, I was there with my missus, it was the first time and only time I’ve been to the Big Chill, so that weekend was wicked - the weather was great and Gilles Peterson played my music! I remember he was just there, the sun was going down, he was doing his thing, he had his guy there with him, Earl Zinger, is it? MCing all over it, totally ruined it, haha, but he played the tune. I remember thinking he might play it, he’s bigged it up on Radio 1, so he could play it - and he played it!

So that first production was a key moment for you and you went on to play at places like Jigsaw and Bam Bam quite a bit, so what is the Birmingham scene like?

At that time it was really good, Jigsaw would be on once a month, Bam Bam would be on once a month, two weeks separation between the two, and then you’ve got Leftfoot happening at the Medicine Bar, and it was great, for a period it was absolutely fantastic. Now it’s not so good. I don’t know why, lot’s of people have left? Jigsaw was really good, it was like the best party in Birmingham I thought, it just edged Bam Bam. Bam Bam was great, great venue. The venue helped Bam Bam, because the Rainbow was good, especially in the summer out the back [Venue Ed: a sort of alfresco semi-warehouse space]. With Jigsaw, they started out in small little basement that would about hundred people, then they went to another venue, it was bigger venue and it didn’t quite happen. The thing is with Birmingham, it’s all down to the venue, people get into the venue for a while and then they lose interest. It’s a shame but looking back it’s probably a good thing that it finished when it did because we had some great times. Now you’ve got Adam Reagan still doing his Leftfoot thing, he’s really holding it together, he’s really good at promoting and he has his following. It’s small but he’s still got it going. Rob J (Bam Bam promoter and DJ) and I do our thing at Adam’s pub.

Is that a new residency then for you then?
It is, yeah. We’ve our first birthday in March. Called Drop Out Boogie, Rob came up with that one! It’s getting going, we’re getting people in and I think the second year is going to be the good one for us. We need to push it more but I find it hard to get the time to do it.

What’s the venue like?

It’s a small upstairs room in an old boozer - and it’s perfect!

So are there any other good clubs or promoters coming through in Birmingham?
Yeah, there’s stuff going on, you’ve got Below at the Rainbow, they do some good stuff. They made their name doing the minimal thing. Birmingham is based on minimal techno and bands. House music is very much niche and you’re lucky to get a hundred people out every other month to listen to it. It’s an older generation thing. We play disco, we play house music, funk, soul, what and we can fill a hundred and fifty capacity place doing it, but that’s it, there’s nothing more than that. You’ve got lots of smaller, younger promoters coming through the minimal, electro house thing, but that’s it really. Adam fills a 200 capacity place with Gilles Peterson, Norman Jay, Ashley Beadle, get’s bands on, does a live thing, but he’s got a following, he’s got a good reputation. So there is something ticking along, there is something to go to, but that’s it. For a city that size, the second city, the alternative dance, leftfield, house music [scene], it’s very minor, it’s very small.

You’ve got a bit of a reputation for playing ‘Slo-Mo’, how did that come about - where there any particular influences that led to you DJing that way, because it‘s quite a distinctive style?
I think my productions are like that but my DJing isn’t necessarily. I can DJ like that but when I play out, it’s more four to the floor house music, with some disco.

Do you think you pitch down the tempo a bit more than your run of the mill house DJ?
I do like to do that. It makes you stand out a bit more if you can take the tempo down and change things a little bit, so I do like to do that. Production wise, I don’t know why I did that? I got well into what the 3 Chairs, Moodymann, Theo Parish were doing, I don’t want to say that is my main influence in doing that but I guess it is! All the Sound Signature early stuff is this sort of monotonous, slow, dirty, deep house music, and I guess I took a bit of influence from that. And also the choice of stuff I’ve chosen to edit or remix has always been at that tempo. It’s not a conscious decision I’ve made, like right, I’m going to make a slow track. It’s just the way it’s happened.

Listening to some of your mixes, I was wondering if you were a bit of Luther Vandross and Loose Ends fan as a young teenager, as it feels like there is almost a bit of that 80s soul influence?
It hasn’t come from anything I was into as a youngster or a teenager. Not at all. That’s come later, I got into that whole neo-jazz thing for a while, I got into the whole soul thing, Erykah Badu, Common, Platinum Pied Pipers, and all that Ubiquity stuff. I went through a period of being into that and there was soul music there that which was slow house music. People over look it but there was a track on the Erykah Badu album Worldwide Underground and it’s just the best house tune ever, but slow and it’s soul music. It just goes on and on, taking that soul mentality and making a bit more techno-y.

How do you think that slo-mo style translates to the dance floor, do you need to educate people into it?
I was playing in Hamburg a few weeks ago and I played this set, it went really well, disco, house, probably about 115-116bpm or something like that, and at the end I just slowed it right down, and everyone went for it. I think it’s the context you play it in, if you’ve built it up and you got the crowd, they’re all with you, they’ll go with you. Or you come on after someone and you think I’m going to educate these people, I’m going to slow it right down, and they’re not with you an you’ve read it wrong and then you’ve fucked it up!

Do you think that slo-mo style travels well then, or do you feel more comfortable playing it on your home turf in Birmingham?
No, not at all. My typical DJ set is not slow. I think people have got this perception me - looped up, slow disco and stuff. Whereas if you hear me play out and some of the mixes I’ve done, it would be quite different to that, although I do play a lot of looped up house tunes. I guess my sound could be likened to what’s happening with Philpott’s, they do a lot of these disco-y, very deep sounds.

Actually I was listening to an old record by The Mole on Philpott the other night and thought that the style must be right up your street.

All that Mole stuff is class. Funnily enough I got in contact with The Mole - Colin his name is, Colin the Mole! And we were going to do something together , we were both up for doing stuff. He liked my stuff, I’d been buying his for years but it never happened, it just never came about.

Given your recent success in the studio do you now see yourself as primarily a producer rather than a DJ?

No, it’s both - one feeds the other. You get more DJ work when you’ve got your music out, that’s how it works. Once your name’s out there and people are buying your stuff, you get DJ work, so I have to do music to feed the DJing. And that’s how it is, sadly, because everyone’s a DJ now, you can’t make your name just being a DJ. I have to stress I need to thank the whole edit thing for putting me where I am now - although at the time, when I did the first tune, I didn’t set out to do an edit, I was sampling music, which people like DJ Sneak have done for the last 15 years, but he’s not called an editor, he’s making music. And that’s what I set out to do, make some tunes, sampling a little bit and make track out of it. I did that first track and I didn’t know how to end it, so I just put the original track in. And I was totally oblivious to this edit thing that was going on. I wasn’t part of it, but when ‘Scared’ came out, I don’t think that the edit thing was as big as where it is now? I had finished that track, I had a really good beginning but I didn’t know how to end it, and the only way I could do it was to put the original tune in and it just worked! It was by mistake really, and then I’ve been thrown into this whole re-edit culture thing.

I’ve read that you think edits should primarily be DJ tools, how do you feel about the glut of basic edits - looped up the intro, looped up the outro - of obvious tracks that seem to have flooded the market over the last year or two? And do you think they are legitimate stepping stone for DJ/Producers trying to make their name?

I don’t want to start slagging off people who are editing stuff because that’s how I’ve done it.

At least with your edits you do something different with the track, take a snippet, loop it up and turn it into something different, whereas a lot of edits are really good disco tune to start with anyway, with a bit stuck on the start, another bit on the end, and they’ve lost the cheesy bit in the middle!

I couldn’t put my name to anything like that and say that’s my work. I think when I did it, subconsciously, I had to add elements of my own to it, so I could put my name to it - it’s by me, it says Mark E, and called something different to what the original track is. Most of the track, the Mark E tune, is totally new to what the original is. You might get a couple of minutes at the end of the original track, and it just sort of makes sense. I couldn’t release anything, I couldn’t put my name to anything if I hadn’t done anything to it. I couldn’t put my name to it if I’d just looped it, I could do that on a CDJ in a club. It’s a form of bootlegging. I think with what I’ve done, I’ve made new music out of old music. A new interpretation of something - and that’s good. And that’s why I’ll put my name to it because I think it justifies it.

Do you think the ease of access to cheap technology has dumbed down the creative process of making music or has it created opportunities for talented people to get involved who would never have done so in the past?
It’s a great thing, it’s fantastic. It’s meant that people who otherwise wouldn’t have the ability to do anything with music, they go along and do a boring job for the rest of their lives, whereas technology has come along and it’s easy to do. I think it’s a good thing technology gives people access to make music - if it’s not good music, then people won’t buy it!

So you think there is more creativity coming into music because of this?
Yeah, of course, definitely. It’s got to be good that people can get access to software and computers and have ago. It might open their whole lives up to something that otherwise wouldn’t happen. It’s got to be good. There a lot of untapped talent out there that would go unrecognised if it wasn’t for that. And that’s exactly what happened with me! If I wasn’t messing around on my computer, and because of technology I can sample something without buying an Akai sampler or something, I wouldn’t be sat here talking to you now. It’s good! It’s just ideas and how people interpret them - people have got ideas about music. I think of myself, that it’s luck. It’s nothing new what I’m doing, it’s just a different interpretation, anyone can do it, anyone can learn what I’ve learnt. I don’t think I’m special, I don’t think I’m especially talented. It’s just having an idea, having some experience in buying music and listening to lots of music and thinking I could do this but like this. It’s just those ideas - it doesn’t matter who knows what to do with what equipment and what the equipment is - it’s having the ideas and knowing what to do with them. I’m not going to say I’m some sort of wiz kid on technology and computers, because I’m not, it’s just having an idea and knowing how to use a bit of software.

What software do you use?
I’m not going to go into details, but I use a basic wave editor and a sequencer, that’s all I use. There’s a lot of snobbery in what you use, I don’t care what people say, it’s how you use the equipment you’ve got. If you’ve can use a Mac and you’ve got Logic, then good for you, use it, it’s a massive program, I haven’t got time to learn how to use it, I’ve got a family, I haven’t got time to sit behind Mac all day and learn how to use Logic. I use what I use and I use it to the best of my ability. It’s the idea that counts not the equipment.

Is there a particular process you go through when identifying and creating an edit?

I don’t think to myself I’m going to find a tune to edit tonight, it’s not like that. A label doesn’t come to me an say, “Mark, I want an edit, can you get it done really quick”, it doesn’t happen like that. I’m not going to do anything that is going to compromise me in quality of music, it has to be something where I find something in a track which I really like anyway and I think could be good. A tiny little snippet, it doesn’t have to be a major part of a track. The first Running Back release I did, Beat Down, must have been 3 or 4 seconds worth of one track at the beginning, the rest of the track doesn’t bear any resemblance to it. It’s got that “It hurts so much now” and the little bit before that - that’s the track, there’s no other bits to it, the rest of the track doesn’t bear any resemblance to what I made, and it’s just finding that little bit. I’ll listen to something, it could be anything, and I’ll think that could be really good, I’ll sample that, I’ll manipulate the sample, I’ll take the bass out, I’ll isolate the bass on its own, then loop them up together in a different way. So it’s not as if I’m looking for a track to edit, it’s just I’ll hear something and I’ll think that could work on a different level, totally.
You’re now getting quite a bit of remix work, things the Detroit Experiment where you retained many elements of the original, but also stuff like Holy Jungle where didn‘t. So, do you approach remixes in a different way to edits?
The difference with remixes is you get all the parts separated on their own, so you’ve got total control over what you do, you can create something totally new. With the Holy Jungle mix, the original track was great, totally weird ju-ju disco or whatever people liken it to! But there was the bass line [sings bom-ba-boom-ba…], it had these sort of up and downs, and I thought it could be something really special, it had this Carl Craig feel.

I’ve actually described it as a techno record - it wasn’t like anything else I’ve heard to do.

Totally. I just saw something, you could do something really good with that and I think it really worked in the end. And with the Think Twice thing, to be asked to remix that track, a track which I played and played and played out… you can’t better it, you can’t better the original tune, and people will probably think why even bother trying to remix it. I was worried that I would do something poor and get really slated for it. I shouldn’t worry about what other people think but I did with that track because it was such a big tune. And it was really hard, but I think did something good with it. I think I did something which was deeper, I wasn’t trying to make it better than the original, because you can’t, I did something that was a different take on it, more strings and along drawn out groove rather than an instant, modern day, disco-y house track. And I’m really pleased with the way it came out. I added elements to it, people might listen to a snippet of it off a website and think it sounds exactly the same, but if you listen to it all the way through, you’ll get a different feel for it. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out.

I’ve heard that you now want to concentrate on original music rather than edits, do you have anything in the pipeline?

Yeah, I want to do my own label. Hopefully that’s going to happen this year, I’ve got distribution set up for it and I’ve got music ready for it. I’ve got to thank people for wanting to put my music out, it’s brilliant, I still can’t believe it now. But I just want to have a bit more control over it - when it’s released, the artistic content. I could do it myself, I haven’t got time at the moment because I’m up to my eyes in it all over the place, but ultimately I want to do it myself and have total control over everything. I’ll do the artwork myself, I’ll do the music myself. It’ll be an outlet for my own music and if it leads to it, then other people - if it’s good enough, great! That’s what I want to do.

Do you have anything coming out soon our readers could look out for?!

I’ve done a track on Mule from Japan, something on their compilation. Another Jisco, another Running Back. The Running Back will be original and Jisco will be an edit. The Jisco is imminent, it’s going to be the edit of Grace Jones ‘La Vie En Rose’ I did that’s on my Resident Advisor mix. And maybe another Golf Channel, who knows?! I haven’t spoken to Phil [South, Golf Channel head honcho] for while but I’m going to New York in May.

That take us nicely to R+B Drunkie on Golf Channel Records. It really had a wide appeal, from the DJHistory lot through to being played as the last record of the night at Secretsundaze. I remember playing it at a Carnival party and had teenagers that looked like extras from Skins taking pictures of it on the decks - were you surprised by its success?

Yeah. It was quite different for me that tune. I don’t think I’ve ever played it out myself. It was totally different for me, it was a totally different type of track, some people got it, some people totally didn’t, so I’m quite amazed it had the cross over appeal. Although it isn’t really attributable to me, it’s by someone else, someone called M.E…

I hear there was lot interest in it from the likes of Running Back, why did you decide to put it out on a fledgling New York based label?

Well he was the first one who said he wanted to release it. Rob J (Bam Bam) sent it to Phil, Phil emailed me and said he wanted to release it, and then phoned me up, told me what wanted to do, how he really wanted to do it and that it was great, so I was like yeah, go on, do it! I didn’t see the potential in it, so if someone wanted to release it, great, have it! If we make some money and make something out of it, then even better!

So you didn’t see it as a little gem you should hold back for the best offer?

No, I don’t think so. Actually, I did play it out and everyone was going mad over it. Gerd (Janson, of Running Back) wanted to release it and I said I’d promised it someone else and he was like “Ahhh, man!”, then Prins Thomas was interested in it - I went to a Faith party, a couple of years ago, Rahaan was on with Prins Thomas, Karizma, Idjut Boys, and I remember going down into the basement to listen to Rahaan, and Prins Thomas came on. His first tune was this track, and I recognised it, it was my tune, R+B Drunkie, and went up to him and asked him how he got it, and said Rob J sent it to him - the bastard! So he was interested in it too, which was unreal.

So do you see R+B Drunkie and Scared being big the two big pivotal moments in your recording career?

I don’t see R+B Drunkie as. It didn’t really get any radio play like ‘Scared’ did. It sold quite a lot but I see that as a separate thing really, I don’t see it as my main musical body of work, I see it as separate. I called it something separate, it was under a different pseudonym. It was just to create a little bit of hype, it was more a party tune really.

Finally, is there anywhere our readers can catch you playing in the near future?

The Garden Festival in Croatia, Faith are there the first week and I’m there second week. Then Fabric in London on 18 April and Cut Loose in Manchester the night before.

Thank you Mark.

With thanks, as ever, to Nick Ensing for the pictures

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

London House Tree, 1987 - 2008

(click on image to enlarge)

This map is my attempt to chart the history of house clubs in London. It starts with the earliest house clubs like Delirium (after it moved to Heaven) where the Watson brothers plied their trade and the returning Amnesiacs haven, The Project which was born in a grubby little dive in Streatham called Ziggy’s, and follows the logical progression through to the acid house explosion of ‘88, the orbital scene of ‘89, onto the move back into West End clubs with the likes of Rampling’s Pure Sexy, through to the super club phenomenon and finally ending up at modern day East End clubs like Secret Sundaze and Buzzin’ Fly, taking in Balearic house, progressive house, techno, leather trousers, long hair, feather boas, handbags, metro sexual clubbing and acid teds along the way.

I'd like to say I knocked it together in a hour down the boozer one lunch time but it was actually given a little more consideration than that - and I am indebted to Alan Arscott and Grant Berry (who runs Enjoy) for their efforts in getting the map right, and Alan again for his superb design work making my rough drawing look so lovely. I also owe a pint or two to Dan Beaumont (who runs Disco Bloodbath) for helping get the gay clubs right, and Rick Hopkins (who runs Dream Machine) for his input on the techno side of things (love you all x).

A printed version of the map appeared in Faith Fanzine, which can still be picked up from cooler shops around London or by going on the forum >>here<<