One of the true masters of the underground, Mr. G’s mesmerizing funk-house sound has become his trademark. After setting up his own label, Phoenix G in 1999, he’s created tracks with a unique blend of soul, techno and heavy basslines- winning over the love of his peers and the public. He’s also gone on to achieve success through his work on labels such as Defected, Duty-Free and Skint/Loaded. A true Philly-soul fan, Mr G has delivered an exclusive mix to celebrate five years of MEOKO, this particular mix is driven by expressive grooves and tantalizing melodies, with basslines like butter. From funk-driven rhythmic dance tunes, to laid-back lush instrumentals- this mix has it all. For those who love the classic 70s vibe, Mr G masterfully blends the sound of disco with a modern attitude. The result is a fresh new sound, and a gift to all who listen; as he names the mix, ‘From the Heart‘. MEOKO caught up with the G for an intimate chat about all things music.
So how are things Colin, what are you up to man?
Well Thursday is my diggin’ day, so we can’t be taking too long! Every Thursday… Even when I was living in London. I’ve been doing it, I’d say, twenty, twenty plus years?
So you used to live here?
Yeah I lived here for thirty years, but it was always my dream to get back out. I’m a country boy, so I moved back to the country… Middle of nowhere… Quiet… It was the best thing ever, and it shows because the production is much more interesting.
Completely. I’m relaxed… not worried about the neighbours…
And when did you move back? Cos I think the first track of yours I heard was ‘My Sound,’ and that was about four years ago? Did you make that up north?
It’s been nine years since I moved and yeah, definitely… ‘More Warm Than Fuzzy’ on Monique Musique!
(The waiter brings a soy latte for G and me some dried tea in a cup. I look confused whilst G and Ercin reminisce about Junction 2 Festival where they met in the summer.)
Yeah you put that in there (leaves in the pot)
Yeah go on. Go on… the whole lot!
E: So are you playing at any festivals next year that you can say?
I’ll probably do Free Rotation. There’s also a big one in London in June and the Afterhours is at Global Underground. I’m not sure – I’ll let you know when I look at my diary.
E: Because you’re not playing so often at festivals?
I don’t play anywhere so often. I don’t play two times at any one place either.
I like that man. You don’t need to…
Yeah cos otherwise… You know. I’m 55.
Imagine if you were doing that every single weekend?
I’d be bored. I’d really be bored. I don’t wanna be like that. I wanna know that when I come to town, people are like ‘Ah we haven’t seen him in…’
Also it was cool to hear you do something different for your MEOKO mix – I was expecting all Mr. G records, or a live set!
Yeah it’s a good mix you know. It’s interesting. Sometimes a cast is functional, but this one I was like yeah! There was no planning – I pulled a box of rare records out, went through them and kind of thought yeah ‘you, maybe you.’ but the rest was on the spot. So I started with the first two or three.
And just let it go… yeah… that’s cool. Do you like to listen to a lot of podcasts as downtime as well?
Well Friday is my music day so I’ll get up clean the house, walk the dog…
Haha I clean and listen as well!
… I’m not so keen on listening to podcasts though, because for me podcasts have gotta be left, right, centre, you know, upsetting, whatever… I hate when someone does a mix and it’s just like that (flatline) – because you as a person don’t shine. You know more about me just by my podcast. People are like ‘Oh, wow, he likes that!’ that’s the fun of a podcast, but most people don’t use it as that.
I was surprised actually, like I said, I thought it would be all your own records, like housey, but then it was like…
But house is like this big (small). I like indie, rock, funk, blues, reggae, classical – it’s just music. I grew up where you could go to a club and the guy would play… (everything) Whereas now everybody wants to play like THAT (house). It’s true – Nobody takes any risks anymore.
Yes, that’s the nature of it.
Well if you take a risk and it doesn’t work, the promoter will be like ‘Well I’m not booking you again’ and he tells everybody else.
E: And when you go to play is it two hours? Five hours? What do you prefer?
Listen I play live, one hour. If I’m happy, and there are a few places around the world – I think I played Bogata, I did two hours… Japan two hours. There are places where if you’re relaxed and free to do as you please, if it’s someone I like, or someone who says just play… I just do my thing. If after an hour, I’m not happy? Thats it. But if I’m relaxed? I just play. But I don’t like to be told. You either let me play or not.
And when you are in the studio, are you playing like in your live set? I can envisage you playing at home like you do on stage!
Yeah the same! And I’m dancing – and if I don’t dance (at some point), the track doesn’t get released. Never. No dancing, no release.
Haha brilliant. And you started it all with the MPC right?
Yeah I just had an MPC. I spent years… two years in a dark room… I almost went mad. Yeah. You know you make something today, you go tomorrow, turn it on, nothing. You didn’t save it properly so you learn, okay, this is how you save, then you go away and a week later the same thing happens, or you catch your foot in the cable. You’re making the most amazing track and as your walking out the room you take the plug out and its gone.
E to me: Are you ready to face that pain?
… I am facing the pain haha
… I’m not sure yet.
Hmm I find the whole thing a bit difficult. Music making is hard, but the actual creative process is even more difficult. There is no path you know, you gotta find your own way and get better at it, get shit, get better, then I listen to someone I love and I go ‘fuck I’m so far away’ haha
But you’re slightly deaf already you know. You listen to too louder music
Yeah I have tinnitus already
Yeah I can hear because your tone is like slightly higher. It’s fascinating. Straight away.
You can tell that I’m deaf because my tone is higher?
And because you speak louder. Because you don’t hear it so well, you speak louder. I’m the other way. I like to whisper. I want you to listen to me. If you have clear ears and I speak slowly and clearly, you’ll take more notice. Try and work the other way. I don’t work loud, at all. I work the whole day, so quiet, it’s stupid. Like I’m trying to make a bass … out of no volume, because if you can make anything, if you can hear it low, when you expand it, it’s gonna be amazing. Whereas everybody that makes it loud…
I had tinnitus in 2000. And I had it really bad – and I read some articles at the time and all of them said you can come back from it, you can retrain yourself.
… And how is that going?
I don’t have tinnitus now, I haven’t had tinnitus for five years. Even now if I go in a big club with a big system, I don’t wear earplugs… you just make sure the monitors are never directly there (in front of your ears). So mine are always going directly behind me… It’s just learning your craft. The more you know about it, the more you protect yourself.
And what about your routine? Like you said you have Thursdays for diggin’, Fridays for listening, are you quite strict with studio time? Do you make tunes on specific days?
Yes, if you work from home in this industry, you have to have routine. The minute I started to get up early, exercise, walk the dog, have my porridge, in the studio by ten thirty, work straight until six, it started to work. It’s like a job. Also though I know that some days I’ll go in and I’ll think … No, there’s nothing here today. But I don’t waste time trying to find a solution – I might listen to some music, I might play a game, I might go for a walk… Because you need sometimes that gap. A quiet period, so that you’re hungry – it’s like a game, if you’ve ever played a game that you love every night – you leave it for a week and when you come back you think ‘OMG this game is better than ever!’ It’s like that in the studio. Sometimes you take some time out, then start again, get a new patch of samples, you make some new sounds and you’re like ‘Oh man, I’m in love with you again baby ooooh (rubbing hands together) here we go!’
Yeah that’s cool. It keeps your quality high as well – especially if you are always keeping things new.
Exactly. And if I don’t feel it, why would I release it? I don’t release for you remember? I mean if you’re making music for other people, you’re in the wrong place. I got here today, not because I conform to nobody. I had this blinkered vision of myself… When I started, people used to come on stage and say ‘Yeah it was a nice show man, but it wasn’t continuous’ and I used to be really upset and go back home and think ‘Well I don’t want it to be continuous. I don’t wanna be like everyone else where you press play and it’s like this. I want it like – this is one track – this is another sound, I wanna go disco… deep, techno… soulful. But yeah, as the time went on, people understood that this is the only way he does it.
Yeah, and they accept you, and that was for me the most important thing of my learning in this industry. Stick to your thing. I’m not following anybody. I listen to it all, I listen to everybody. There’s people I love. There’s surely sounds I’d love to copy, but that’s them. And like all the articles I read when I was younger, all the greats they worked. All I wanted was to make music and release records. Its just steely determination. You have to believe in yourself – and trust me, there’s times when even me gets insecure.
Listen MR. G MEOKO Podcast
Thanks very much man, I hope you enjoy your diggin’ day and have a wicked Christmas.
Interview by Marlon / Ercin