One Records co-founder Subb-an has been churning out quality house music alongside Adam Shelton on their label since its inception in 2009, whilst making friends along the way through their label parties such as Cab Drivers, John Dimas, Jack Wickham and more. His recent releases on Julian Sandre’s Blind Box, which includes a classy remix from Dana Ruh, andhis debut release on Cabinet Records ‘Island Fever’ are both examples of his fine producing talent, whilst his split EP with Adam Shelton featuring ISIS SALAM on vocals, One Records’ 41ST release, is due to his stores this April. With this being said, and with festival season fast approaching, now was the perfect time to catch up with him ahead of his Australian tour.
In this interview, Michael Dowding chats to Subb-an about everything from what he is expecting in Australia, his first ever set at Sunwaves, to what he thinks about the British festival scene and who he thinks are the up-and-coming producers of tomorrow; Enjoy.
So you’re currently touring Australia. How’s the weather, how’s it been so far andwhere’s the next party?
I’m still in Berlin at the minute, I’m about to catch my flight! The first stop is Perth, then Sydney and Melbourne. But yeah, expecting it to be hot as usual,but I won’treally be able to enjoy it as most of the time I’m in, then out and then I’m off to San Francisco. Before the first time I went to Australia I actually had preconceptions of how it would be, but every time I’ve been it’s been pretty wild! The Reconstructed party on Saturday in Sydney with Cezar and the Romanians looks good, so I’m really looking forward to that and then on Monday I’m playing the afterhours at Breakfast Club.
You’ve got a big summer ahead and we’re well on the way to festival season! You’ve got Sunwavescoming up and it’s your first time playing, have you been before? And how do you think it’ll compare to playing at other festivals you’ve played at?
It’s going to be my first time at Sunwaves as I’m always busy in Europe, so it’s not always a wise move to take time out of touring really. But yeah, this is the first time at Sunwaves. Me and the Mrs and a big group of us are going to go. Seth [Troxler] asked me to play his stage, so yeah, I’m really looking forward to going away and taking some time out with a good squad and getting a bit of inspiration. From what I’ve heard about Sunwaves from friends and people going there in their twenties, you always hear stories about it when people get back, so I’m sure it’ll be amazing and I can’t wait!
Onto Sonar, you’ve got Thomas Melchior, John Dimas, Point G and more on the One Records showcase and you’re playing at Unleash x Bass Culture showwhich is also shaping up to be a great party– over the years, do you have any really standout moments of the festival?
Yeah, I mean the first OneRecords party was a real success! I only went to the festival for the firsttime a few years ago. I caught the ChemicalBrothers and loads of others that year, it’s a great city! I always come away inspired by the art and music that Sonar provides, you know, whether it’s the Off Sonar parties or Barcelona in general.
You’re playing at Gottwood too, how do the European settings of Barcelona compare to the likes of the English countryside? Does the setting of the place bring out a different vibe?
Yeah totally, I do find that Gottwood has a very British crowd, whereas Sonar has people coming from all over, so it’s an instantly different vibe, but both good in that respect. For me you can’t beat British festivals, it’s something we are born into, and Gottwood is the epitome of that. It’s one of thosemore niche boutique festivals, and the line ups are always good, the crowd is always good, there’s no nonsense, and the setting is amazing. . . yeah it’s brilliant you know! (laughs) and it always brings out a laryness, so you know it’s going get a bit naughty. It’s always a good time, always a good crew, and you know what you’re going get. I always look forward to Gottwood.
A little closer to home, you have just announced your free courtyard party with yourself, Adam Shelton and Bobby O’Donnell. With the calibre of this free party, do you feel it’s important to throw free parties for your followers?
Yeah totally, I think it’s a nice gesture. The majority of people work hard and spend a lot of money going to see DJs and going to parties, and not everyone has bucket loads of cash. But I think its a nice thing to throw a free party as it can be expensive. It’s a nice thing to do and it always creates a nice vibe.
You recently had Cab Drivers as party of a One Records takeover at fabric after its closure which was a huge knock for the nightlife in England. With the reopening of fabric, what do you make of the opening of Sc:ru Club in Birmingham?
From the early stages all I have seen is the line ups. Think they have a good one with Cabanne this weekend, but it’s hard to say as I’ve been living in Berlin for a few years now. In Birmingham I used to be always partying and pretty deep in what was going on, but its hard for me to say now. It’s like any city though, and Birmingham can be a tough one to crack. You need to educate people, so as long as you’re putting good artists on and taking risks, fair play!
You’ve had some nice releases of late on Cabinet Records, JulianSandre’s BlindBox series, and also the new one One Records with Adam Shelton getting plays from Jack Wickham at INFUSE last weekend. With such great music coming out of the One Records corner at the moment, do you have your eye on any up and coming artist at the moment that deserves some recognition for their productions skills?
Yeah, I mean, in terms of what we are talking music wise; Jack, Yamen and EDA, and Gabriels are all putting music out on One. . . They are friends but the reason they’re on the label is because they’re producing really good music and supporting. So yeah, they’re the ones to watch!
It’s going to be pretty busy for you then! Are you planning on catching some rest after the summer? What are your plans for winter, if you have any?
None as of yet, I’ve not thought that far ahead, just trying to get April out of the way!
If you are, or have been living in London and are part of London’s long term clubbing community, then the chances are that your Facebook news feeds have been taking a nostalgic overhaul in times of recent in newly set up group ‘Remember The End’:
‘I will never forget seeing Derrick Carter play at the Classic Music Company nights. One night, after what I’m sure was a whole bottle of Patrón, he put me in a headlock at the end of his set, rubbed the top of my head with his knuckles and shouted “You’re disco inferno, baby!” Good times’
And if this means nothing to you, yet you love everything about house and techno, then there is someone out there who aims to put that right, spreading knowledge of the dance music scene and doing it all with a social conscience.
We talk to the man on a mission, the person who is responsible for starting the hurdle of rave nostalgia and won’t rest until all the tales have been aired out in public. Adam Mcloughlin chats to us about how he is urging young talent to get involved, and Dig Deeper.
What is Dig Deep TV?
From a public perspective Digdeep.tv is going to be a hub for all things electronic music. But we plan on doing things very differently to other media platforms. Our aim is to bring something good to the table for everyone concerned. Ultimately our main goal is education. This comes in the form of creating work experience and development opportunities for students and graduates as well as educating music fans about the history of the genres and artists. To date there has not been much out there for people who want to know the backstories of the people who make the music we love. It’s all about good vibes and incredible stories that rarely get told.
What was the turning point that inspired you to start a company like this?
I had worked for a children’s cancer charity as a marketing manager and we were donated some money by a small government funded radio station. We went to meet them are discovered that they had been given over £75,000 in funding. The reason being they were creating work experience opportunities for people who were long term unemployed. I struggled to understand where the money was going. It gave me a few ideas of my own and I had a few contacts in the music industry. Essentially I started to think of how I could things better and what would I do? Then my good friend Richard West AKA Mr.C became a catalyst to some pretty exciting ideas. In typical Mr.C style he pushed things a few steps further than I had previously conceived.
A big part of Dig Deep it seems is creating opportunities for post grads and young people in general wanting to get into the creative field. Why do you think it is necessary to create a platform like this now? Do you think something like this would have had as much impact a few years ago?
What needs to be addressed is the exploitation of young people by corporate fat cats. The problem is this goes back much further than a few years ago. The UK used to be the worlds greatest manufacturer and exporter of fossil fuels. When you take those industries away you are left with trades and higher education. But trade training has been destroyed since the days of the YTS (youth training scheme) and companies wont invest in young people like they used to. University is more popular than ever with a decreasing employment market. So you could spend 3 to 4 years at university only to find yourself having to spend another year on unpaid internship just to get the experience needed to move on in life. Even then there are no guarantees. So imagine a low income family who cannot afford to support a young person on an unpaid internship. Imagine having to struggle for 4 or 5 years only to end up working as an unappreciated cog in a corporate machine. Have you ever had to explain yourself to some jobs worth sad case why you have spent over 20 minuets in a month having a piss? I have. I have also had to be put on “absence counseling” because I was off work with a broken wrist. “is there anything you could have done to prevent this”, said my manager. “Yeah I suppose I could wrap myself in bubble wrap outside of working hours to ensure I am a fully functioning phone monkey for you lovely people”. I didn’t last long there to be honest. Nobody who invests in himself or herself should have to resort to that type of bullshit in my opinion. And the thought of being in that position with a huge debt leads me to believe that perhaps this environment is manufactured to keep clever and ambitions people in their place.
The other element of Dig Deep is educating young electronic music fans a bit more about where the culture comes from, somewhat of a ‘raver finishing school’ before they set out into the big bad world of clubbing! Do you think this historical knowledge is something missing from the scene, which at the moment is welcoming in such a huge influx of newer, younger fans?
For some people “the scene” is a place to wear stupid V neck t-shirts, abuse steroids and be a general burden to the rest of us. Orange cleavages with no banter and that’s just the lads. Our target market is the individuals who are into the music not scenesters. I would say we were more like an open university than a finishing school only there are no qualifications for being a know it all. There is nothing worse than a scene geek except maybe the Geordie Shore wannabes. Obviously I have some personal dislikes to “the scene” but we all do. People tend to either exit the scene early on or stick around and become an integral part of it. The technology available has created a lot of overnight DJ’s and digital downloads has seen a decline in quality music. Our aim is to take people back into the past so that they can experience some amazing quality tracks rather than everyone playing the Beatport top 100 at every after party on a midi controller. Younger enthusiasts of house music are going to be in for a treat when they realize that the timeline of great music goes back in time as well as forward. There is a whole universe of tracks to be discovered and a lot of respect is due to those artists. This is where the name Digdeep comes from. The days of hunting in records shops has seen a decline but we think that we are going to assist with the current vinyl revival. When people discover the art of DJ’ing we hope they come to the same conclusion as us. Djing and collecting music as product of passion and an art form, not a product of the ego and a fly by night hobby. And for those who simply collect and appreciate good quality music we have over 3 decades for you to explore. But its not just about the past. Its also about the future of music because you need to know where you came from in order to have a good grasp on where you are going.
In your promo videos I can see that you have Mr C on board for your first documentary, how did this collaboration come about?
Mr.C is from another planet. I approached him and told him about my ideas and he got what we were about from the beginning. The reason I approached him is because 8/10 people I spoke to about him had no idea he was the lead man out of the Shaman. After singing the chorus from Ebenezer Goode the look the faces told me that people didn’t really know much about his past. When I told them he pretty much created tech-house they seemed gob smacked. It’s a testament to his career because he is always 2 steps ahead of anyone else. I got to know Mr.C at a small festival and after that it was his ideas about life and spirituality that got my attention. When I approached him 7 months ago and explained my idea he was on board. When I did some more research I realized we had a documentary on our hands. When I explained that I had never made a documentary in my life and didn’t know how to use or even own a video camera he simply said.
“Don’t worry mate, the universe will provide”.
As predicted the Universe did provide and it provided well! Out of nowhere all the relevant and like-minded people seemed to fall into my lap and we were off.
What can we expect to see in the final product?
Well that depends on your involvement. On the first of October we are going to announce the details of a post-production party. If you experience the final product at that then you can expect to see a wristband in the post and a rave line number. You can expect to relive 1988 / 1989 by following in the footsteps of the first ravers ever. When you get to the secret venue you can expect to see lots of smiling faces enjoying the final product on a huge screen followed by a giant party featuring some of the most important artists from the past present and future. If you experience the documentary from home you will see an raw and no holds bard documentary that exposes the full truth of those times and Mr.C as an important character of those times. You have to remember that this is being broadcast on the internet and we have nobody to answer to. There are some gritty and dark moments and there are some pretty hilarious stories to be told. The plot keeps thickening as the days go by so at this moment even I don’t know! But what I do know is that people who see the finished documentary will witness the post production party and wish they were there. Its looking pretty special J
I also see you’ve set up a Facebook group ‘Remembering The End’ what has been the response to this so far?
The End club was a place that I was never fortunate enough to experience so I set the group as a research tool for the documentary. I added an employee of Superfreq and a former employee of the End Paul McCormack to the group. 2 days and over 1000 requests later the group was buzzing with activity. People posted pictures and memories that to be honest got be a bit emotional. We felt the vibe from the place when we met Richard there and it all made sense when we witnessed the love of the venue and the love that those people shared for each other.
Can you tell us who else you have in the pipeline or do we have to wait and see?
At the moment all I can say is we have contacted the obvious characters and they are on board with the concept of Digdeep.tv When you do things from the heart and not the pocket you find that people want to help.
Your promo video also mentions a campaign to go along with the launch of the first documentary. Tell us more about this please!
The documentary could have been funded by government funding however we may have been restricted by what we could and could not say. So we decided to fund the documentary with crowd funding. This means that people who attend the post production party will be funding it as well as a few sponsors. The campaign we are running through our Facebook page started as a way to let people know about what is in the pipeline so that fans got first refusal to the party. The places are obviously limited so we wanted those place to go to fans and not scenesters. On the 1st of October there will be a short video and a link to a place where you can buy tickets or order limited edition versions of the documentary, which will be much longer than the online version we release. We created an event to alert people a day before a network of international DJ’s tells the world so they can get in first. We expected a good response but what we did not expect was the response from the USA. We ended up having to cater for both New York and Los Angelies with post production parties. We currently have some amazing artists and a film festival manager working on that for us. After all of this hard work I should be able to treat my team to a well deserved holiday if all goes well!
What do you have planned for the post production event?
Only the post production party attendees will know that. We a few different locations catering to the response levels. The more people that come the bigger and better the experience will be. Even at the bottom end its going to be special and unique.
What are you hoping to achieve with Dig Deep and where are your future plans headed?
It has been like a game of chess. We have several goals and several ways to achieve it with some of the music industries most respected individuals taking part. In order our priorities are
Create careers for people who deserve them
Give artists the credit they deserve
Improve the quality of electronic music through education
Help undiscovered artists to develop and create more opportunity
Turn the corporate world upside-down
Finally, what tune first inspired you to Dig Deep into the world of house and techno?
When I was younger it was about glow-sticks and pulling funny faces in chill-out rooms listening to hard house. They I grew up. The first house track that sorted my head out was Derrick Carter “where you at”. That’s a good question and the lyrics seem to ring true with where I am at now.
The world has changed, or is it me that’s new?
A different set of morals from a different set of clues
So still I wonder, is this all there is to life?
The ever changing cycles, of a world that’s damp and ripe
There must more, yeah in my heart I hold to this
I’ve known the joy of love and I’ve seen the peace and bliss
But as you know, all things must end, except the need for faith
And the spirit that’s within to keep you strong
When it seems you’re ’bout to break
Just call upon the strength within and plant it as your stake
Move forward with power, program yourself to feel
With depth enough to know what’s up and heart to sense the real
Where you at?
In a world that’s changing for the worse you have to call upon the strength within. You need to dig deep if you want to climb high.
First off, an invitation to talk to me is not an invitation to put your arm around my waist. I didn’t come to this club to get with someone, I came for the music. I certainly didn’t wear these clothes to get you to stare at me, but let’s face it; it can get really hot in here especially if you’re dancing. Now I’m not saying the male species is the only one that goes after the opposite sex in a club since inevitably you will find your average drug thirsty chick who in during her quest for chemical substances may do anything with a guy to get what she wants.
However, putting aside any confusion of this being a feminist rant, I’m afraid you males are in the majority of this phenomenon. And by phenomenon, I mean the ever persisting conversation you make a girl go through until you finally end up realising you have been rejected. Yes, occasionally some chats in the smoking area are a healthy form of socialising, but what about when those chats start getting out of hand?
There’s several excuses and ways one can use to get out of such a situation that’s for sure, but why does there have to be a situation to begin with? I just want to bloody dance and enjoy my night out with my friends damn it. I don’t need to pretend I have a boyfriend (classic excuse) and I don’t need to pretend I’m crazy like that video by Jenna Marbles.
It’s all fine and dandy when you’re talking with someone at first, unless he seems like a creep in that case he has already tried to touch you. Ah, that hand around the waist. Especially when you didn’t even get to look at the guys face but he’s been staring at your ass the whole night until he decided to act with actions rather than words. Well guess what, both options won’t get you any pal. In the words of MC Hammer, you simply can’t touch this. Can’t. Touch. This.
So mate, I shouldn’t even need to tell you I’m not interested, you should read it in my eyes when I turn to my friends whenever you get annoying, and if you don’t get that, maybe you should understand the phrase ”not interested” and take it for what it is. I’m pretty sure you’re just going to try the same thing on the next girl anyway, so why get upset about it?
And as for the ladies who like to do the equivalent to men, maybe you should either get your own drugs and leave the nice guys alone, or better yet, try going after those who seem to like this kind of shit and leave the rest of us to dance worry-free.
Every human being who prefers dancing to having a creep waste their night.
Having played a pioneering role in electronic underground music for the past two decades, we feel very privileged to be interviewing Ralph Lawson. Apart from being a hero on our Island, he is also widely regarded as the crème de la crème in this industry. Ralph Lawson currently holds residencies atBack To Basics in Leeds, We Love Space in Ibiza and Barcelona’s The Loft as well as regular appearances at Berlin’s Watergate and London’s Fabric. Ahead of his recent showcase at the EGG this weekend, MEOKO chats with him about the highs of his musical career.
Ralph, what is it like being a resident at Back to Basics for years now?
Well it’s been a roller coaster ride, blood sweat and tears and it’s been a very long journey that strangely seems so short in a lot of ways. So much time has past and suddenly we’re 20+ years down the line and Back to Basics in Leeds is still going strong I’m really proud and happy to have been a part of it. It’s like being in The Rolling Stones dealing with Dave Beers, it’s kind of like dealing with Keith Richards as your cohort. It’s always interesting and I’ll always have stories from this time, we’ve had some ups, we’ve had some downs but we’re still here.
Do you find that there is a difference in the House scene in London with the scene in Leeds and hence do you consider that the scene in Leeds is still as strong as it was to begin with?
There’s definitely a difference for sure. I don’t think Back to Basics would have worked for as long in London as the scene move so much quicker everyone wants new things and as quickly as they can get them. It’s very fashion driven and there’s a need for everything to change so quickly. Back to Basics in Leeds is much more like a working men’s club everyone shares the same interests, it’s a place for people to go to week in week out. London is exciting it kickstarts a lot of scenes for the rest of the country and I love playing there. The crowds a bigger mix and much more cosmopolitan so you have to read the room slightly differently.
How did your interest in Djing in particular begin and what were the influences that directed you to that path?
I was drumming and in bands and I went over to Manchester around the time of Happy Monday’s and The Stone Roses and that kind of led to Hacienda and the Manchester scene. It was a real intro into acid house which we then bought back to Leeds which inspired Back to Basics.
When playing live, do you favour using vinyls or MP3s or is it a mixture of the two?
I never play MP3’s, I’ll play Wavs, Aiffs or high quality digital files if I’m going to play them. I try to give the audience the best music quality possible. I love playing vinyl to as it’s got a nice organic sound I like to mix it up and play both where possible.
What makes you decide on playing a particular record during one of your sets? Is there a criteria other than pure subjectivity, for selecting what to play next?
I just think it’s got to have a certain feeling techno, electronic, house, soulful it needs to grab you in a certain way and standout.
How important is it for you to achieve a desirable response out of the crowd you are playing for? Do you believe in the possibility of “reading an audience” and how do you put this into practise?
At the end of the day I’m a massive believer in people as a DJ you can be so up your own arse. but it’s not about just you particularly. It’s about the night and the crowd and the party and what you can contribute to that. People have paid money to be there so even if you’re tired or you’ve got a cold you’ve got a responsibility, you’re getting paid, you’re the guy behind the decks who needs to get people dancing, enjoying themselves and creating the atmosphere. I feel like I’ve left myself down and the crowd down if I don’t achieve that which I normally do.
When in London, what type or which venue in particular do you enjoy playing at the most?
Fabrics the number one isn’t it? It’s the real benchmark for what an electronic venue should be it’s so so important. It’s since spawned this amazing warehouse scene.
Do you feel that a crowd is actually able to appreciate the intricacies of complex DJing, if they don’t actually know what is happening behind the decks?
I actually think people are super clued up now about DJing, a lot of people have had a go. DJing is intricate but in some ways it’s very basic you’re putting on records whether its on digital or vinyl format and you’re mixing between the two. Even if people don’t know what skill is going down, most will appreciate how the music is being presented to the them. DJ’s work on so many different levels some people know the exact level skill that is going on and will be impressed by their technique whereas other will just appreciate that the music is flowing nicely and that it’s making them dance in the club.
Between Djing and producing your own music, what is it that interests you the most and why?
I’m a DJ first and foremost; I never saw myself as some big producer, I like working with bands and producers, I like remixing and learning. I realized I’d learnt more than I thought by hanging out in the studios with these great people and bands. I decided to make my mark later on than most people and I’m really interested and enjoying producing at the moment.
When producing, is there anything specific that you aim for or do you usually follow your intuition as you go along?
I just really want to make the best track possible.
Lastly, other than 2020 Vision, are there any labels which you are really fond of?
Yes, I like a lot of the classic labels that were there when I first started they might not even be around now. As far as modern labels there are some really cool ones; Running Back, Hyper Colour, Barnhouse, that Axel Boman release is really good there are so many.
Ralph is playing at EGG on the 19th of April for Mobilee Back To Back Tour alongside Ray Okpara, Rodriguez Jr, Ejeca and Ranacat.
More information about the event and tickets CLICK HERE
MEOKO chats wit Red D about We Play House Recordings and FCL + Exclusive Mix.
Red D is the seasoned veteran who has been playing house music in its broadest sense all over Belgium and beyond since the early 90’s. He started the label ‘We Play House Recordings’ in 2008 as an outlet for the music of San Soda, a friend he met through football in his hometown located in Belgium. The label soon reached a great recognition in the European House scene, as more artist started to get involved with WPH Recordings. It was only logical that Red D and San Soda ended up in the studio together and started the tandem FCL, named after the local football club they’ve both played at. FCL have been playing their vinyl trade together or separately as Red D and San Soda all over Europe and beyond in the last two years. A true Belgian legend with a voluminous knowledge about music and the industry.
Well, no further introduction needed. First of all let us thank you for the time to have a little chat with us. When you think back about last summer, what has excited you the most?
That’s a very open question 🙂 Last summer has been the busiest yet, especially because there was a lot of travelling going on. In Belgium I’ve been used to playing multiple gigs per weekend for years, but doing three gigs in three different countries in one weekend was fairly rare before 2013, and with the summer festivals adding to that I was kind of curious to see how I would handle that. And I have to say I really enjoy the hectic aspect of all that, although I have no idea if I’ll tell you the same next year… Other than that it’s those quiet moments in between gigs that I cherish the most. Looking for a late night snack in some remote village in the Netherlands on a warm summer night all by myself…and actually finding some Turkish place that was really good 🙂 Musically speaking there were so many great moments, but again most of the Dutch gigs are always among the best ones.
San Soda and you became acquaintances of each other through football. Nowadays your both busy with turn tabling, producing and with the label, do you still have time to meet up?
Well, with all the FCL gigs going on I think we’ve spent more time together on the road and playing than we did when San Soda was still living in Belgium. Of course to do music together we need to arrange it differently, but we don’t release record after record, so that all goes pretty smoothly. For anything we do we usually spend one afternoon together in the studio and then work on it separately, so no real distance problem there.
So, no time to kick some ball together?
No, and that’s his loss and well as the team’s. His loss because his stamina is disastrous by now (he’ll beg to differ :-p), our loss because he really is a great player. I myself am always happy to move my flights and stuff about so I can still attend the games. Way too much fun to miss out!
You’ve started WPH Recordings as an outlet for his music. Do you therefore see yourself as his mentor? How did you help Nicolas becoming the respectable DJ he is today?
Mentor is too serious and too big a word. From the first moment we met I was happy to share all the musical knowledge I had with him, both the creative side as the business side. With every young artist on the label I give them advice when they ask for it, and I give my candid opinion on everything, but in the end it’s them that decide what they do. I myself always loathed older guys waving their finger in my face like a school teacher, so I try and not do that myself. In the process I probably was/am some kind of mentor, but I just try to get people to get the most out of their talent by sharing what I know. San Soda will of course always be a special case, because us meeting each other is the very reason why we are doing what we are doing. I wouldn’t be speaking to you without him, and maybe you wouldn’t be asking about him without me, although I’m a firm believer that if you have talent and are working your ass off, you will end up achieving something.
Do you think it is more difficult for young and talented Belgian producers to make a bust into the international industry in comparison with producers from the UK or other leading countries?
I don’t think so, I know so 🙂 But it’s not a black and white story. You can breakthrough really quickly as a Belgian artist too, but then you need to be on a big UK or other leading country label. I’ve been more than happy however that being from Belgium and doing the label from Belgium as well has allowed us to slowly grow and develop a solid fan base of music lovers who do not really care about hypes or trends. But I honestly have felt that for example San Soda and also WPH as a label haven’t gotten the attention they deserved in the first years. I’ve seen labels and artists from New York or Berlin or any other ‘credible’ city or crew who’ve done two or three releases and who are already doing tours and being hailed as the freshest thing on the block, quoting 1000 euro+ DJ fees and the works. If they get it and prove to be worth it later on, kudos to that of course, but to me it’s not how it should be. But it’s like when kicking a ball at 18 years old and being good at it: when Chelsea or PSG come knocking with a fistful of dollars…who can say no right? So to answer your question: yes, it’s more difficult, but also more rewarding when it does happen. I stay away from patriotism as far as I can, but I can’t help but liking the fact that I/we are Belgian and as such kind of exotic 😉
Where did your love for electronic music sprouted from? And who has been your mentor when you started out?
I have no idea really. My parents didn’t have a record collection and never pointed me in any musical direction. My two uncles were Bob Dylan fanatics, and I hated that. At home it was more talk radio than something else, but for some reason electronic and black music was always better to my ear than anything white and rock or pop based. I recently heard one of my oldest radio tapes from around 1986 and almost all the tracks on there were already electronic or synth pop. And when I discovered both Public Enemy/hiphop and new beat in the same year (1987) there was no more turning back 🙂 Coming from a rural town my enthusiasm and endless searching for ‘my’ music are the mentors that got me where I am today.
I do believe you don’t agree on the fact there are arising different subgenres within House music. There is simply house music, good or bad. What is your opinion on these emerging trends and hypes?
I should even say that there’s just music, good or bad. But for lack of a better description I simply play house, even when it’s not… Hence the name of my label: ‘We Play House Recordings’. Subgenres have only been invented by press and pigeon-holing people. Much to my own joy, whenever something is called some kind of sub-genre…I usually don’t like it. 99% of everything ever put in the tech-house/deep house category on *insert portal name here* should never have seen the light of day imo.
You’ve launched the series ‘Our Beat Is Still New’, in which producers of now pay tribute to the legendary Belgian 80ies new beat sounds. I don’t believe the new beat sound is very familiar with the younger generation these days? How comes?
Because as usual Belgium never truly promoted and exported their sound. People that have been ‘at it’ for years know about new beat, but it never really made it out to the world as a movement, so how could people know? Also when Belgium’s producers moved on and created the ‘hoover’ rave sound they wanted to steer clear of any attachment to new beat, so they specifically didn’t promote their background. That’s the big difference with for example Chicago house, because there any second or third generation was happy to quote their influences.
How’d you come upon the idea to resuscitate this sound?
Well, because I still love the original new beat sounds, and because I felt that Belgium should start being a bit proud of its heritage. Without knowing each other, at the same time where I had my idea, some other Belgians were making a documentary on Belgium’s rich dance music history (The Sound Of Belgium), so now finally it seems we are coming to the world and telling people: “This is us you know!” 🙂
What can we expect of these takes?
What I certainly didn’t want to do was release a compilation with older tracks + remixes. That’s a bit lame and I see it everywhere. Let the past tracks be the past, but do get inspired by them! Hence the idea to ask a bunch of my favourite producers of now to make a new track inspired by new beat. Some of them knew about the sound, others had never heard of it. And that’s exactly what made the compilation special to me, a perfect mixture of new and old. People like myself who lived new beat simply made a track that could have been made 25 years ago, others made something utterly fresh. It also sums up WPH for me: use the old to make the new. No throwback like we’ve been bombarded with these last years. I don’t want to hear a ‘Jersey house chord’ that sounds like 20 years ago, I want to hear what a Jersey chord sounds like now.
2013 is proving to be the busiest year for WPH and FCL yet, with the success of ‘Its you’ and multiple other releases. What do you expect for 2014?
We’ll just keep doing what we are doing and we’ll see where we end up. There is no grand scheme in anything, apart from doing and releasing the music that I like.
You’ve composed a two-hour mix for us, how will you best describe the sound you’ve put together?
I’ve actually made a mix lasting 3,5 hours. I had three different podcast requests so I spent a full Monday afternoon behind my decks and made a mix that should give people a perfect impression of what it could sound like if I/we get to play a club night from start to finish. Building it from an empty room, welcoming people with slow stuff that’s perfect for lower volume and doesn’t demand dancing (although that can of course happen), moving to more housier territory and then building to rougher house and techno, only to end of more end of the night type of tracks. Part 1 is to be found here, parts 2 and 3 can be found through the other podcasts. Just like when digging for vinyl, now readers and listeners should do some searching for the rest of the mix. For the record, I called the mix ‘Monday Clubbing’.
Anders Trentemoller has risen from the shadows once more for his latest studio album, Lost. Released to critical acclaim from both fans of his early techno productions for Poker Flat to his previous LP, the experimental, live focused ‘Into The Great Wide Yonder’, the Danish producer has come a long way since his humble beginnings on the local techno circuit. After the album The Last Resort established him as an exciting talent to fans of dance and electronic music, Anders continues to impress new fans and intrigue long-time fans with his naturally formed and intricately produced hybrids of electronica, techno, live instrumentation and beyond. As he heads to London for his next live show in November, MEOKO sat down with Anders to discuss the bridging of digital and live instrumentation, the mindset of isolated productions and the gradual open mindedness of electronic and dance music in 2013.
You’re known for being quite an intricate producer no matter what style your music leans towards… how long did you spend on the new album?
I think I spent about 15 months on the album – I pretty much begun on it after my last world tour and I started about four days after because I was excited to get started with my new sound; we played more than a hundred shows so there was no time to make music, and I don’t make it on the road. I was hungry.
You’re a big fan of film, visual art and movies – your music often features great videos and artistic aesthetics – does this feature as a prominent theme in your work?
I’m a big fan, but I love my daily life and not doing anything but you know, hanging out. When you are at a point of getting a little bit bored of things in your life, for me, that’s when the inspiration to make music comes. I think I take a lot from being bored, it makes me uncomfortable and it’s that what influences me. That’s the way I work, so as a result there is no theme behind the record, just the zone that I’m in at the time. I let things go naturally and eventually everything clicks together. You have to not be afraid of not being inspired.
But when you hit that point, do you often find yourself going back to productions and recordings to make changes?
Definitely, yes. But for me, I work on my own in the studio. There’s the heavy focus of the band live of course, but when I write, I do it alone. When I’m playing instruments and producing music, I’m in complete isolation usually for about a month. But yeah, sometimes it’s really hard to be your own judge and see your work from another perspective; sometimes after working on a track for a bit you lose perspective so the aim is it to view it from the outside and to take a break when needed. It can be a rollercoaster journey at times.
You don’t approach the album with a pre conceived idea of the music, but you went straight into it after a large tour; has this in some way had a natural influence, your time on the road and being surrounded by the live music world?
Actually, I don’t think so, because there are many live instruments on this new album and I play a lot of live stuff anyway. But for me it was natural thing to incorporate that of course, but I didn’t think about how the tracks would sound on stage at all or if they would work live. So although the sound is more live, I’m working in the same way I have always worked, very much on my own. It’s not just the music, but the atmosphere that I try to capture in my music.
You get used to playing with your band every night, especially sharing a bus haha. On one part, it was a relief to be back and discover my own space again, but on the other hand I miss the whole camaraderie and being with my friends.
The new album is definitely a progression from your last album which was heavily live, but this also sees you return to your more synthetic, techno leaning sound…
Yeah there’s lots of electronic elements in there and also a lot of shoe gazing stuff. Lots of different little bits– I’m trying to let the music dictate the output to me and it all depends on the vibe of that track as to what instruments suit that mood. In electronic music – and even in other scenes like indie – people are always searching to define the new sound – like what people dub the sound from Berlin, for example, to help process it. For me, it should be about music first.
You make music naturally, but your music has actually changed over time and through the curse of your albums – do you think producers can be too genre specific? Is electronic music gradually becoming more diverse?
That was a big part of the scene, but I try to stay away from the ‘scene’ as such; I don’t consider myself to be a strictly electronic musician, just as a musician. Some people do really use their energy sounding like one thing, I think it’s actually a bit better now, and that people seem to be more open minded. Take a huge success like LCD Soundsystem – playing club music, but also playing it live with lots of elements of other music. I like if things have been produced by a computer but sometimes it needs a more human touch too. You can make a run of the mill house and techno track quite easily and be completely removed from it and that’s a bit boring.
From tribal rhythms, broken beat and spaced-out ‘cosmic house’ to Chicago-influenced house and the minimalist of tech, for over a decade Martinez has gone through countless house music styles and labels, incrementally evolving and finding new genres, sounds, and instruments to play with. Born Martin Swanstein, the Danish producer has become a household name for his unique interpretations of these different sounds, and in the process has been snapped up by the likes of Cadenza, Dessous, Cinematic, Moon Harbour, Inmotion Music, Lomidhigh, VIVA and the list goes on and on. When he’s perhaps needed an ulterior platform to push his ever-changing styles, he has founded his own labels, Out of Orbit and Re:connected, which have in their own right garnered massive support and industry respect. Dancefloors across the world are laced with his productions, as well as the man himself; expect to see him even more this year, especially with his Cocoon residencies at Ibiza’s Amnesia and elsewhere. Ahead of his upcoming set in London alongside DJ W!ld, we caught up with him for a brief chat about exploring even MORE new musical territory, why he switched back to vinyl and his love of hardware.
Hey Martin, where in the world are you right now? What are you up to?
Hello…right now I am in Copenhagen where I live, working in my studio.
Where did you grow up? What was the first genre of music that you started to collect? Do you think it still influences your taste?
I was born and raised in the south of Sweden, in a town called, Helsingborg. The first music I collected was UK alternative and indie rock; I was really into bands like The Cure and Joy Division. Later I got more into Depeche Mode as well, before I discovered electronic music and was hooked on that. I am sure all that music still influences me somehow today, but I can’t really pinpoint how or draw direct lines. Though it definitely laid down the foundation for my musical perception.
Your last album on Moon Harbour – ‘The Paradigm Shift’ in 2011 really helped to put you on the global map. How important do you think it is to be able to express yourself over 10-12 tracks? Is there a follow up album in the pipeline?
Yeah, I think that something that comes naturally with time for any artist is that you want to present a full story, go deeper into your sound, and not only make tracks for the dance floor. I am currently working on material for a new album, though I have no idea when it will see the light of day in the form of a release. Hopefully something by the end of the year!
Since ‘The Paradigm Shift’ you have released many EPs and LPs on labels such as VIVa, Etruria, Cadenza, Memoria and most recently on Superfiction. How do you feel your sound has changed since 2011? It seems to have gone much darker, would you agree? Why do you think this is?
Yes, absolutely. I think it’s important to develop your sound and try new things all the time. It would be so boring otherwise. Imagine making the exact same kind of sound and music for 13 years…
Do you pay attention to current trends in dance music?
Is your production technique mainly hardware? You mentioned playing some drum sounds with an Irish Bodhran drum. Have you experimented with any other live instruments recently?
Yes, I use a great deal of hardware equipment. I like to work with real machines and I get more inspired by that. I am a musician and play lots of instruments too, so I often use instruments like drums, guitar, bass and piano when I record, though one of my “things” is to record for example a guitar and make it sound like something completely different. I use instruments as sound sources, but I like to modify them more or less beyond recognition. That was always what I loved about electronic music, the mystique of the sounds.
What is your DJ setup? CD? Vinyl? Traktor? Explain why.
For almost a year now I’ve been back on vinyl records only. I’ve always liked to play on turntables and with vinyl records…this is how I learned to DJ and so where I come from. In 2006, I started travelling more and more, so I decided to use Traktor Scratch with control vinyl, as it was easier for travelling but still allowed me the feeling of playing with vinyl records. But I got really sick of bring a laptop on stage and always having to connect wires and stuff like that. Also the way you choose music for a vinyl set is much better for me, I find far more interesting music and put much more effort into the selection. With Traktor I got lost in those long playlists of the latest promos, which just got longer and longer every week. So I play vinyl and I love the feeling of bringing my records to the club. I feel much more inspired playing music this way.
You have played in London a handful of times over the year, if you had to choose where to go for a night out (without your records) where would it be and why? What makes London different to other cities in the world?
I’d probably go for a nice dinner at one of my many favorite restaurants in the city, have some drinks with friends in east London. I’d probably hit some good clubs and just dance!
It’s with pleasure that MEOKO announce the arrival of what promises to be another great series of events into our booming London scene. Rework are taking over Dukes House in East London, putting its bespoke Function system through its paces…
With their sights firmly set on high quality output, Rework’s policy of underground house and techno see them fly Arpiar’s Kozo into town for their first event on 15th March. Kozo’s stock has flourished with the strength of the sounds coming from Romania over the last few years. A key player in the Bucharest scene, Kozo has also had success from his own Understand imprint which he has been running with Praslea.
MEOKO favourite Rico Casazza plays alongside Kozo, representing his deep and minimalistic take on electronic music. A fusion of futuristic funk, Rico’s sound is best described as ‘music from Mars’. Check out his recent interview we did with Rico below which also includes a free track download…
David Moufang’s musical career, having begun in the early 1990s, has been long and therefore, quite predictably, cyclical in its relevance and reach. Currently, however, the apropos of his work can be felt more than ever, at a time when the pulse of the rest of the world has re-aligned with his own tempo and ethos. His solo debut album as Move D, Kunststoff, is often given the accolade 17 years later as one of the most timeless techno albums ever. Still, it is perhaps his many collaborative projects – from Deep Space Network in the early 90s, to Reagenz (first in 1994 and then recently revived) and his Magic Mountain High live project, through which he has expressed his most experimental and adventurous side. Having grown up discovering music via his stepdad’s record collection and grandmothers’ classical training, Moufang’s work is constantly stretching the boundaries between house music, ambient, jazz, and classical whilst still honouring the essential canon of all things techno. After the release of his Secrets of The Beehive album in 2008, Move D’s legendary status (although he wouldn’t like to call it that) within the scene has been rapidly accelerating and so MEOKO was truly excited to get him on the phone and find out first hand his perspectives on the balance between commercial success and authenticity, the joy of live improvisation and the timelessness of music.
Your first interactions with music, rifling through your stepdad’s record collection at a young age, has been spoken of a lot, but was there a point at which you decided you definitely wanted to have a career in music, and who were the biggest inspirations for you at the time?
Yes, my love for music started very early on when I was just choosing records based on interesting artwork but I didn’t actually start picking up instruments until I was 10. At first I had weird fantasies of playing at City Hall and by the time I finished school I definitely knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. When I was in my early teens, I think I was just taking the turn from ACDC to The Police and maybe Grandmaster Flash – but that’s just a quick sum up. The big moment for me in my relationship with music was really when I was younger, as you said, and discovering The Beatles. They are still a huge reference and inspiration for me.
And how did your relationship with the techno side of things come about?
It wasn’t until the late 80s, early 90s that a friend of mine started putting on acid house parties and I got sucked into the scene. It was huge. One of the really appealing things about techno was that it was so underground. People would just do records, press them up and sell them as white labels with no extra help – that was really intriguing.
From this early involvement and fascination for the techno scene, how has it changed from your perspective and how have you navigated these changes within the industry?
Well it always keeps changing. In the beginning it was an underground thing; big clubs hadn’t heard about it and it mainly happened in warehouses. It wasn’t a money thing – more of a do it yourself thing, all about the decoration and the people. But then it got super commercialized with all the sponsorship of huge events with expensive tickets. Because of this it was easy for me to drift away from the mainstream scene. From ‘93 on, every year in the German press they kept announcing the death of techno and I was pretty disillusioned with it all.
But then new trends kicked in all over again – it always goes in a cycle. England especially was a big inspiration; going out in London where the DJs were playing breakbeat, which you normally wouldn’t hear in Germany. After another dip when the UK was listening to the same boring shit as everyone else, now 10 years later there is so much happening there again. I really think it’s where all the interesting imports come from. In fact it’s always been about London and the UK.
You said earlier you were intrigued about the underground aspect of techno, but now there is so much hype around it, even the mainstream media is fascinated with ‘deep house’. How has this affected the scene?
I think when techno’s popularity dipped dramatically it actually made the scene healthy again. Parties started getting smaller and it didn’t have to be DJs like Ricardo or Sven Vath for a party to take off. Now, I think it’s grown in a healthier way and all the attention it’s receiving in the press is well deserved. It’s still the type of music that evolves most quickly and has the most impact, not in comparison to the superstardom of Madonna maybe, but it is cutting edge and avant-garde.
I read you feel uncomfortable when DJing, is this true?
No, that’s not true I enjoy DJing alot! But, it’s true I don’t feel comfortable with the stardom of DJs. I think the idolization you see at big raves is ridiculous – everything we thought we overcame with techno, like the rock stage, is coming back. I don’t really dig it too much, I prefer being on the same level as people. Sometimes I might not feel comfortable playing too big a venue, which puts an anonymous mask on everything and you cant relate to the people, and visa versa.
Do you get this same feeling when you play at events such as festivals?
Festivals can be great, but I would prefer a smaller one to a huge one and if I played at a large festival, I would enjoy myself more on a smaller stage at least. But I’m in good faith that Gottwood will be exactly the type of festival I’m looking forward to; where I can get a feel for the festival and meet some people. It should be lovely…
All of this is wrapped up in the relationship between commercial success and being creatively genuine. How do you think you’ve kept a balance between your musical purity and your vitality in the industry?
That’s a good question. I really look it as two different things. With DJing, of course I love bringing music to people that they might not have heard or aren’t in to yet but ultimately I’m there to make them have a good time and I don’t want to preach to them too much. But when producing your own material, for me it feels super wrong to look at it in the same way. I shouldn’t worry about the purpose of the song. Sometimes I might leave a track for 10 or 12 years. Good music is timeless but a track could be better if it was brought out later, at other times people might not take notice of it. I think its wrong if you try and stay with the trends too much – it seems to work best if I just do my own thing, and be grateful if it aligns with the rest of the world, like right now. I was lucky to always have some faithful followers but at the moment it is pretty crazy!
In your career you have been pretty prolific and now have a remarkable back catalogue of productions. How much time do you normally spend in the studio working on your own music?
Not enough! Right now, I am playing SO much and as well I have other obligations with a 15-year-old son, taxes to pay and cleaning to do like everyone else. Usually when I do make spend time, there is normally something I can use and so a lot of wasted isn’t time. That’s probably because I’ve never really over-spent my time at the studio – you can’t treat it like a 9 to 5 job and expect things to happen. So there’s not a lot of time, but that’s the way the industry works at the moment and I can imagine my colleagues, so to speak, are in the same position. They have to keep playing to keep the money going so the studio is kind of left alone. Also working now it will be mainly for 12 inches or single tracks – the whole culture of albums seems to be quite lost at the moment but I’m really hoping it will re-emerge, because albums can grow on you and allow you to find new music rather than just waiting for the charts and the same old.
You’ve done a lot of collaborative albums, how different is that process in comparison to producing solo work?
That’s also about the time factor because with collaborations you normally only have maximum 2 or 3 days with someone and after you split, you don’t want to work it over too much, as that would be unfair to the collaboration. So naturally a result comes a lot quicker. Whereas, if I’m working on my own, I might stop to do something else and then the next week I don’t have time so stuff gets left and not worked on for weeks, months, even for years – and by then it might be a different flow. I like doing things in one flow.
Your collaborative albums have sometimes been your most experimental, for instance the Playtime album you did under the Reagenz moniker. Is experimentation the driving factor behind teaming up with another musician?
Yeh, that’s why I thought Playtime was such a fitting title because we really had fun playing with instruments that aren’t just machines; things like guitar, bass, percussion, conga, symbols, our voices and even my wife and son’s voices are in there. We had a direction and a vibe but we just allowed ourselves to play and experiment.
Jonah is especially talented at using hardware, but he’s also solid on most other instruments. On the other hand, I’ve worked with a lot of musicians who maybe don’t have that same background and they just have an idea about music, so they are more directing in the studio, which ends up with great results too. It’s different to when you are more an educated musician, when you are thinking of the boundaries of what you ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ do.
How do you think your own musical background and education has influenced your music?
Well I had my family’s influences around me, and my grandma was a classical pianist but myself I never had classical training, apart from on the drums and the xylophone maybe. But at least I had the patience to listen to an instrumental piece of music which influenced a lot of the ambient electronics, I guess. As well, it crosses over with the work of Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk, who referenced classical music with concept albums and songs lasting half an hour with no lyrics.
Many producers might solely listen to electronic music, or even a specific genre within that, like house and techno. Do you actively try and source other styles and genres?
I listen to anything: jazz, rock, world music…I’ve just been through a serious Serge Gainsbourg phase. I’ve followed him for several years but a real turning point was when I discovered his History of Melody Nelson, a concept album from the early 70s. I could hear so much in there, even Nirvana sounding stuff, and I just wanted to know more about this man. I discovered he’s worked for such a long time and his body of work is amazing, having worked with The Wailers on reggae or his early album Percussions, which has tribal rhythms that sound so timeless Ricardo villalobos could easily play it in a set, I’m not shitting you.
I think house and techno wouldn’t get anywhere if everybody were only listening to house and techno. Artists like Space Dimension Controller, Floating Points, anything that’s good from the UK – you can’t look at them without referencing things from outside of the genre like funk, boogie, hip hop and even classical. And it ends up in this weird, great combination.
In a culture that so rapidly consumes music, how does one work towards making your own material more long lasting and timeless?
Well I think that’s everyone’s aim, but I wonder how to get there. I’m sure its certainly not following the trends, because then what you are doing is always within a context and people will always be able to tell that. If you try to neglect everything and follow your own direction and instinct, you might end up with something unique – and that is timeless. Hopefully that’s something I do quite well with. I look back at stuff I’ve done years ago and it doesn’t seem dated to me. My release on Warp, I think would have done better now than it did in 1996 because back then there was sharp divisions; you either played four-to-the-floor or broken beat, never both. Whereas now, there is such a crossover especially with all the dubstep guys playing house, which I think is great.
Your own music tends to defy and blend genres in a similar way, but is there a continuity overall or anything you like to play with everytime?
Well no, I’ve done experimental stuff and I want to do slow stuff again. But through everything, I think there is some sort of permanent aesthetic value and I guess you could describe that as my ‘style’. It’s important to have this, but you just have to listen to your own beliefs and then your stuff will have a signature of sorts.
There is often a sharp distinction between your tracks that are slower, more experimental and those that a dancefloor-centric. Is this something you start off with knowing is going to be the end result?
Well in some respects there is normally a mood that you want to go into. But in collaborations it varies wildly; there are situations when you just start jamming without talking and other times when you discuss doing something ambient or something more playable. But I love it most when it’s open and unplanned. That’s why I really like the Magic Mountain High project and the stuff we do live, which is fully improvised and unrehearsed. I really never know what to expect, just that the other two guys are great, accomplished musicians so no need to worry.
What equipment are you relying on in these live shows?
It’s all analog. Our aim was to get rid of the laptop altogether. So basically we use a couple of old drum machines and synthesizers, mainly Roland ones. Either we take them to the gig or we try and ask promoters to get them for us, whether it is a Juno 60, SH101, 909. But either way if something isn’t available we can improvise with something else. There’s no staring at screens and the sequencing is all done on the spot, maybe while the others are jamming and so its organic, there’s no need to stop or pause.
It’s improvised, so things must go ‘wrong’?
No of course things go wrong, terribly wrong. Sometimes I have to lie down for a minute and let the others struggle with it, until the storm calms down and I can rejoin! But that’s part of the deal, how it works with people – the audien
e can feel the dynamics too, the whole room can feel it. It’s much different from having pre-programmed material and hopefully makes it a lot more interesting for people…even if they have to suffer for a while, but when it comes together everyone feels the same relief.
Lastly, you’ve been closing a lot of your sets with St Germain classic ‘Thank U Mama (For Everything You Did)’. It’s an astonishing record. When did you first discover it and why bring it back now?
I knew the track when it was released, as I was following him at the time. Ludovic Navarre is his real name and St Germain turned out to be his most successful project but he had many others at the same time. He’s in the same league as Derrick May but I don’t think he gets enough credit – he’s made some really, really great records. But now its kind of forgotten and I like bringing back old stuff that doesn’t sound old, that in fact sounds better than ever. It’s strange for me to think people don’t know it because it’s such a classic, but why should they? I like playing old tracks that matter to me personally – I remember what great times I was having around the time the record was released and then I can see what great times people are having now and so it doubles the fun in a way. I get to be like, “OK I’m going to show you this and I already know it’s fucking great”…maybe that’s one of the benefits of being a bit older.
Thank you so much David for your time, it was great chatting with you! See you at Gottwood 🙂
The house music scene in South Africa recently found itself thrust into the limelight after Resident Advisor did a big feature on it and, as many readers of the piece and fans of SA’s house masters will know, the scene there has been thriving for quite some time now. One of the key artists to have sprung up from South Africa’s house scene is a man whose soulful, tribal rhythms have permeated into the lives of many, many house lovers around the world. Culoe De Song is his name, and MEOKO felt blessed to be able to ask him some questions recently…
Can you tell me firstly when music first filtered into your life?
Music has always been a big part of my life, right from the beginning.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
In the early 90s I was always singing to myself and out loud…you know, all the big songs!
At what stage did you start to gravitate towards making music yourself?
I was 16 when I started learning how to play vinyl and began making music for the first time.
Who/what inspired you to start trying to make your own music?
Well there were so many musical inspirations, both internationally and locally here in SA. More importantly, I really feel like I was destined to do this… my name actually means Culolethu “Our Song”
How did you get started? What instruments or software did you use?
I used FL Studio. I can’t remember the version, but that was my first contact with making music and mastering the idea behind the art.
When did electronic music and house enter your life?
It first entered my life through all of the house music compilations in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I was exposed to all of the cassettes and pirated CDs of the countries biggest DJs. I used to love recording the mixes from the late night radio shows that played a lot of tribal house.
Who were the first house artists you listened to during this period?
Soha, Masters At Work, Osunlade, DJ Gregory, Ame – the list is endless!
What was the house scene like in South Africa at that time?
It was well known I guess, but very much favoured by the youth and the ‘cool’ adults. It’s still pretty much the same thing today, but there’s more young beat makers emerging all the time.
Have politics in SA ever had much of an effect on the club scene?
I guess people would generally party within their circles or cultures. A bit more natural than political, but either way that’s what I’ve seen.
Who were your local heroes and inspirations? Where did you go to hear house music?
I’d hear house music everywhere. Radio & taxis that would drive on with loud sound systems. Pioneers like Oskido, Bop, DJs at Work, DJ fresh had big albums that had music that I really respected.
Nowadays the South African scene has had the light shone on it with people like yourself and Black Coffee et al gaining international recognition. What effect has that had on you, and the scene in general?
It’s been awesome. The scene is buzzing and a lot more young blood is influenced by music to a point of activity. Travelling the world has opened me up and inspired me to explore my talents in music making and DJing. The art is infinite.
Do you feel a certain responsibility for the scene and its growth/development? Do you work with any up and coming artists?
It’s important for me to tell other young artists about my journey and share a bit of how I do things. Knowing the circumstances of what I do and the discipline it requires, they then have a choice to pursue or not. That’s development…you watch, listen and decide.
With regard to that, who’s exciting you from SA’s younger generation at the moment?
I love a lot of music I’ve been hearing from our shores but I’m very much enlightened by the drive & willingness of the duo “black motion”. We need more young people to have a good attitude towards the craft. Also emerging producer “Da Capo”, I love the solo energy from him & he will attract more. I wish them all the best.
What about the rest of Africa (big place I know!) – what are the other hotspots, if any, for house music?
I’ve played in Botswana, Swaziland, and Lesotho & Mozambique. Great vibes there! But I hear Angola is also booming right now!
Thinking back to the beginning, how does it feel to have come so far?
I feel bold; I’ve got so much to do. The more you grow, the more you realise the infinite journey. But I feel great anyway. God has blessed me, I’m grateful.
There’s a real strong tribal and soulful element to your music, where does this come from?
I’m Zulu by culture. There’s a certain rhythm that comes with that.
Have you ever attempted to make ‘minimal’ or less emotional styles of music?
Yes. I’ve made different kinds of music; it has added more value to what I’ve done before. People have a choice with my music. Even though real fans will always feel my natural element regardless of style.
What’s next for you? Any big projects on the go?
Right now in South Africa I’m working on “exodus” my third studio album. I’ve just released “Stig Boardersman” with Innervisions and I’m working on other remixes but mainly surrounding my album.
Where do you see the SA scene going? It seems to be really holding its own right now.