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Breaking down barriers: a year with Corona and our mental health

By Industry Insider

Within a year we’ve seen the world we know and love come to a complete standstill. It’s hard to pinpoint anywhere across the world that hasn’t been affected in some way by the Corona shit show over the past 12 months. With many of us now out of work and an industry that has come to a complete standstill the effects on all of us have been unprecedented. It’s no wonder that Mind spoke to 16,000 people during the last national lockdown and found that nearly two thirds (60%) of people said that their mental health got worse.

In our industry mental health is already so prevalent, it’s something that needs to be addressed and talked about more often. From erratic touring schedules to late nights and the excess that goes with it as well the pressures that artists and others involved experience in bringing amazing parties together for us. It’s no wonder that many across our industry can suffer.

In times of struggle, it’s fair to say that sharing each other’s experiences can be a real help. It’s important to talk and be there for each other. With this in mind, we’ve caught up with some of our favourite selectors and promoters to ask them to share their experiences, the ups and downs of the pandemic as well as turning our attention to mental health awareness and wellbeing.

DJs //

VOIGTMANN

The UK at the moment is rock bottom with its nightlife industry. What repercussions can you see for our culture and the industry moving forward if nothing is done?

Lots of people will be struggling to keep their businesses open and keep their staff as for most of them there is 0 income and very little to no government support. Esp. the nightlife industry has been left behind by the government and many freelancers/self-employed artists fell through the net of support and are struggling to stay afloat. There’s is a huge dent in the ongoing rich development of UK music/club culture.

 

Can you share your own experiences and struggles at this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

I feel I am in a fairly good position compared to others –  I carved out a solid position in the music business over the year and know it will return to it to some sort of degree after all is back to normal. Yet, I felt onsets of mild depression creep up as people like us are always busy and thrive off that. Suddenly, we had weeks of no business and simply sitting around waiting for ‘better times’. These are quite existential worries as I had left a solid job in architecture to be a self-employed musician. Scary to have all outlook taken away after years of fighting to establish yourself and earn a good income from it.

How do you think people reading this article can help stand against what is happening to our industry at the moment?

Generally, stay POSITIVE! I can only urge people to support their local scene, pubs, DJs, clubs etc…These are creative people are trying to keep the scene alive and can do with any support. Go see your fav DJ play even if it’s a sitdown gig when you can. Fight back – together we are strong!

 

SILVERLINING

Mental health for many has declined over the past few months. Can you share your own experiences and struggles in this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

Lockdown was / is, without doubt, a challenge. We’re social animals and the extended time away from friends and family members felt alien and definitely caused different forms of anxiety. Firstly, there was the cabin fever of being at home for so long; then so many of us were unable to do what we love and enjoy music communally; and there was also all the professional uncertainty for creatives such as myself. We had Zoom calls and mix streams, but we found ourselves on them every day in some way or another, whether for work, kids’ schools, family, and friends. You end up existing as a miniaturised, pixelated, avatar of your real self. I recall a moment during one live stream over the summer when I looked up from the DJ booth only to see a single red light of the camera ogling at me eerily, like Hal 9000, and had into a moment of pure existential funk, wondering how we got to this. It is all completely unprecedented, and we are not equipped for these circumstances.

Overcoming this kind of negative headspace requires some work so you really have to fight lest it takes over. I’ve found that cardio exercise, yoga, meditation, eating well, reading books, being creative, all help to keep those happy hormones flowing. You don’t even need to do a lot to make a difference to your wellbeing, but it can take some effort to get over the mental barriers to do them in the first place. It’s also important to talk to friends and share feelings as everyone is going through this together.

What do you think are the main factors contributing to a decline in mental health in the industry currently?

The uncertainty has definitely been a huge challenge for so many people I know. This has also opened up a host of questions as to what one’s purpose is in life, especially when being met with the apathy — and even hostility — in government policy this year. Those events that have been able to take place did so under surreal conditions. The scene is not even a shadow of what it was a year ago. All this has come as a shot out of the blue at time when music was really thriving, so it’s definitely taken its toll on many people.

 

What positives if any have come out of this period for you? How have you been spending your time?

I’m glad you asked this, as I think there are a lot of positives that we should embrace. Spending much more time with family has been really rewarding. I’ve also enjoyed taking things more slowly production-wise, and not feeling rushed to get things done. You always get there in the end. With two album projects and tons of remixes coming next year, I’ve had plenty to keep me on my toes. I’ve cut back massively on social media use, and recently deactivated Facebook. I have to say that not being on that newsfeed has been a real godsend. This has freed a lot of spare time for more productive and rewarding things like reading, cooking, and organising records.

Any other comments you would like to make…

Linked to what I just said about social media, I have read several studies and articles* that establish links between social media usage and mental health deterioration. During the pandemic, social media use has skyrocketed as a coping mechanism as it’s natural that people want to connect with others online while in isolation. However, due to the addictive design of sites like Facebook and Twitter, increased social media use is likely to exacerbate depression, anxiety, FOMO and feelings of inadequacy. Much like a slot machine, the dopamine craving sends us back to these sites in pursuit of a feeling that may never come. On top of this, we have trolls, bots, misinformation, and targeted advertising to further lighten our moods! I shudder to think of the amount of time I’ve freely volunteered to Facebook, feeding their AI for this company’s benefit and not my own.

So I would make a few gentle suggestions if these harms resonate with you: you can limit your time by deleting smartphone apps, and setting timers on your computer using apps like Hey Focus. If you can, deactivate your personal Facebook and keep your page active via a second account. This way, you still keep your connections and artist/business page, if needed. Instead, give your friends a call or text, and use the rest of your time more creatively.

*For example:

http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7338858/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200929152149.htm

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm

 

REVIVIS

 

Mental health for many has declined over the past few months. Can you share your own experiences and struggles at this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

Covid has certainly had an impact on my own mental health. Having restrictions placed on how you live your life has meant I’ve found myself with more time on my hands which has generally meant more time on my own and with my thoughts. I’m mostly a positive person and I’m extremely lucky that generally, I don’t suffer a huge deal with mental health, but with more time to think, and being overwhelmed with negative media and covid stats/deaths via social media, etc, it’s not always easy to stay positive and motivated. I could find myself overthinking things and being overly sensitive.

 

 

What positives if any have come out of this period for you? How have you been spending your time?

Covid has given me more time to work on my own productions and to experiment with the different styles of my sound, I feel my sound has evolved a lot in this period. I’ve also taken the time to learn my equipment in more depth – lots of time on YouTube!

I’ve been listening to more music of various genres and I’ve tried to educate myself more on the origins of house and techno and the sub-genres in particular. Away from music, I’ve been cooking more and studying German. I’ve also realised that I can live a much simpler life and figured out what and who is important to me

 

How do you think people reading this article can help support what is happening to our industry at the moment?

I think supporting music firstly is the most important thing. If you’re able to buy music directly from the artists, that’s great, if not sharing music online and via social media helps.

If you can, donate to any of the clubs, labels, parties, etc. that are struggling. If not, share and spread the word.

Finally, educate yourself and try to understand the different types of mental health problems, and be kind.

 

MILLER – REAL GANG

Mental health is something you guys have really pushed to raise awareness off over the past 12 months. Why is that?

Life as a modern day adult has its struggles as it is, when you mix that with restrictions and repeated lockdowns, we feel we are at a time that we are unaware of the effects this is having in the long run. Being solely involved in an industry of events, most of my network has been suffering with the crippling obvious loss of work, cancellations and also moments of connecting. We feel like the dance floor has gave us an extended family, for these people it is a huge part of their lives and celebrating at shows is their freedom. We wanted to step out of comfort zone and push a message that we as Real Gang want to send a genuine and message, rather than always positive when in reality life is not built on these times alone. Our intentions of bringing people together with a message to “save our people” has been our push to do our part, to highlight the matter of normalising mental health within our industry and our people.

 

Tell us more about your ‘Save Our People’ campaign?

The Real Gang “Save Our People” campaign was our input to mental health in which we have partnered up with the Samaritans charity. A clothing line with bold statements in support of the cause. The clothing can be found directly from our website www.realgang.co.uk with 100% of proceeds going to Samaritans charity.


How have you kept yourself active and positive during these times?

Music is my life so as long as I have my studio, my machines, my ears, I can always have my safe place. It has been tough without the usual inspirations around but it has been a time that has challenged me with a nightmare scenario and I have kept myself going, growing and I chose to spend the time on myself. My learning will keep me going as I smile at the thought of brighter days

 

DAN CURTIN

Can you share your own experiences and struggles in this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

It has been a rough time with the loss of gigs and income for sure.  That has been my main trouble, we can all imagine what it means to a family to lose a good portion of income.  So I’ve had to work in different ways to try to make up for it all and I’ve had to stay mentally strong and optimistic in order to be able to handle the extra stress.  This means more work than before and the need for extra determination, more discipline, and more passion.  It’s hustle time!  Hustle harder than last time for sure.

How have you been spending your time?

I’m naturally an optimistic person, always looking to find the silver lining so it hasn’t been that tough on me apart from the added stress as a result of loss of income and future income.  With no traveling I’ve been able to work more in other areas and develop my music career with a tighter focus on production work.  So I’ve actually been busier than ever in that regard.   I’ve been laser focused on my health and fitness (although during the first lock down I drank waaaaaay too much!) so that helps tremendously.

Not making that mistake again during this current lockdown! Bodybuilding is a serious hobby of mine and that has really been an asset to me during this time.  Even with gyms closed never skipping training, never falling off the nutrition plan – never, not once – that really helps.  Healthy and strong body is the foundation for a healthy everything else.  Additionally when schools were closed we had to home school our daughter which was incredibly time consuming but very rewarding, again this was a big help to maintain the focus and have purpose.  Even now, the schools are open but in a limited fashion so there is always school work to occupy our time.

 

Any other comments you would like to make…

Stay strong, stay positive, stay determined, try to get outside, and try to move, seek out help if you need it, don’t stay alone. There is always somebody around who is willing to help.

 

PROMOTERS //

OLLI RYDER

ANIMAL CROSSING

You guys have been one of the very few promoters who have managed to pull off events during this period to really high standards! What was your vision for these when you planned them?

Firstly, thank you for the kind words! It was something we were super proud to have worked on and delivered to a standard that created similar energy and atmosphere to what you would expect at any AC party. Music is all about connecting likeminded souls and I feel as if we successfully achieved that from the feedback we received. It was just amazing to hear music blaring from a function one system and see people dancing again after such a long hiatus.

A lot of energy and resources always goes into ensuring the experience is unique and remembered. The regulations didn’t interfere in that sense, your eyes and ears were engaged at all times. It’s by no means what we’re all used to but in these times we can happily say we were able to adapt, innovate and grow.

This whole period has allowed us to reflect further and grow an even deeper appreciation for what we do. We just love throwing parties for the people and getting the opportunity to showcase our favourite artists in the City we love, we will always find new ways to dance no matter the circumstance and we can assure anyone reading we will be coming back bigger, bolder and better than ever before.

 

You recently did a live stream from your new venue The Loft and worked closely with MIND to help raise awareness of mental health. Tell us about this?

 Giving back is something we have always wanted to put at the forefront of the brand, as we grow we want to help as many people around the world as we possibly can. There are wider projects and concepts we’re working on behind the scenes that we’re super excited to share when the moment is right.

This period of self reflection has again been so helpful for us, if you sit back and really analyse what you have, a wave of gratitude hits and it opens your eyes to a much bigger picture. Mental health is a topic that affects so many in our industry and is more relevant now than ever before; to be able to utilise the Loft and collaborate with MIND to get people dancing and donating was something we’re proud of.

Sending another massive thanks to Michael James and Josh Baker for performing and to everyone who tuned in, we couldn’t have asked for a more meaningful response.

We just love our community, people share the same caring ethos that encourages you to keep progressing.

 

One thing we love about you guys is how positive you have kept over this year. It’s refreshing to see. Any tips to keep spirits up during this time?

A smile a day keeps everything okay my man haha!

We have always been a firm believer of radiating the positive and fun energy with everything we do. It’s easy for a negative thought process to take over your day, so if we can do anything at all to bring a smile to someone’s face then we’re utilising our platforms in the right way.

Positives can be taken in any scenario, the more you focus on them the more you can be at peace, be happy and continue to grow internally. Don’t worry about what you can’t control, work on the internal self and the rest will come.

 

EOIN SMYTH + DAVE BROWNING
FOUNDERS at GAME OVER (One Night Stand, Wildchild)

Mental health for many has declined over the past few months. Can you share your own experiences and struggles in this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

ESWe’ve gone through the ups and downs of COVID from both a personal and business standpoint like everyone else. 2020 would have been our biggest year to date at Game Over with over 120 shows planned across our event brands and client operations. I think personally the uncertainty of the future has been the hardest pill to swallow. We spent months working out ways we could pivot to work within the rules but alas every step forward was met with two steps back as the rules kept changing. The continuous speculation definitely takes its toll. There’s been plenty of times where we’ve sat there thinking. “WTF is the point, should we just throw in the towel now and move forward”. Those dark moments are usually fixed by digging a little bit deeper, playing a few bouncy records remembering that we absolutely love what we do and this should all be temporary ☺

 

What positives if any have come out of this period for you?

ES: For the first time in a long time. I’ve allowed myself to have a break. Re-focus my attentions on myself, my relationships, family, friends etc. We’re usually in a strange bubble where we are 24/7 on the go. Time has flown by over the past years working in Ibiza and it’s rare I’ve taken a moment to press pause and reflect. It’s nice to be able to explore new ideas and opportunities while having some physical downtime. I’m definitely back in the game fitness wise so can finally see that Mens Health front cover on the horizon. You heard it here first hahaha!

Workwise we’ve found ourselves in so many exciting projects over the past 6 months. We look after the marketing and digital side of things for Carl Cox and a host of other clients and the shift to online overnight was incredible. With Carl we’ve helped put together an amazing weekly live stream series called Cabin Fever where Carl gets a chance to dig deep into his 150k Vinyl’s and really showcase his taste in music from funk and soul to 90’s rave and every in between. The response has been outstanding and it’s been real pleasure to work on. We’ve also raised thousands of pounds for varying charities over the course of lockdown with the many live streams and projects taken on. So that’s been a plus and something our industry is magic at.

 

How do you think people reading this article can help stand against what is happening to our industry at the moment?

DB: People who have been around as long as I have remembered we were faced with an assault on the scene in the 80’s . At that time concerted and collective action was the way sense was restored. As human beings we have a right to congregate, to dance and to socialize. All of those rights have been taken away and with that a whole sector of the economy has been destroyed, if swift and concise action is not taken now it may never recover. This is not a time for apathy , this is not a time to blindly obey this is a time to question , understand and then act. At the moment we are being very skillfully divided and confused , a leader need to step forward with the ability to galvanize people into collective action before its to late and we will be the generation who stood by and watched as our world imploded

 

KERRY WALLACE

S.A.S.H

Mental health for many has declined over the past few months. Can you share your own experiences and struggles at this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

Personally I’ve been fine, I think I was well overdue a rest after almost 10 straight years of S.A.S.H every Sunday, so when COVID kicked off & everyone was locked down, initially I was happy to take the break. Of course, like everyone else, I had no idea that it would be almost a full year my business would be shut down & if someone had told me that from the beginning I’d say my mental health may not have been as good as it has the whole way through.

What do you think are the main factors contributing to a decline in mental health in the industry currently?

I think the uncertainty, financial worries & lack thereof from different countries governments support really would be the main factors. When will my venue open? When will my gigs/bookings start again? Is the third wave about to begin & put us back to square one? How the hell am I going to pay rent? Obviously everyone’s situation is different, but I think the above points have all come into play for most of us.

My personal situation here in Sydney is that I’ve been lucky enough to have had some savings to keep myself & my staff afloat. We’ve kept active with the brand all the way through & just recently started back with COVID safe events under the brand S.A.S.H Social. The government too here has been helpful with a wage subsidy called “Jobkeeper” which of course helps, although doesn’t touch the sides in way of monthly costs we’ve had to keep up. But things for us are on the way back & I feel lucky that we are in Australia right now.

 

 

How do you think people reading this article can help support what is happening to our industry at the moment?

If you know someone within our arts & music scene check in with them, make sure they’re not secretly suffering & if you have an inkling they are, do something about it. I’m sure the smallest gesture would go a long way for anyone in a bad headspace.

Otherwise, if you can’t do anything right now, once the venues are back open & your friends are out playing gigs – GO OUT & SUPPORT THEM. Pay double if you can for door entry, re-post your friend’s gigs, do anything you can to support those once they are back open/working!

Any other comments you would like to make…

A little msg to my friends around the globe in the industry that have had it tough hang in there…. It’s been a complete shit show for everyone. But there is light at the end of the COVIDE tunnel & we’ll get there at some point together. Just keep in the back of your mind how fucking EPIC the parties/gigs will be once we are all open/working again…. That’s what’s kept a smile on my face – Stay strong peeps xxx

 

WILLIAM POWER

TRMNL

The UK at the moment is rock bottom with its nightlife industry. What repercussions can you see for our culture and the industry moving forward if nothing is done?

Many people who have committed their lives to the industry are questioning what the future holds. The government appear to have turned their back on us and we are already at a stage where some irreversible damage has been done. Whether you’re a creative, artist, venue owner/promoter, security guard, production team etc – next time around would you make that same commitment to your trade? If you have a family or people that rely on you – are you even able to make that same commitment knowing that there would be no support for you? I think we will have lost some great contributors to local & international scenes. The longer this goes on, the more we will lose.


What do you think are the main factors contributing to a decline in mental health in the industry currently?

Media. Social and mainstream. We are living in the age of misinformation. How do we distinguish what is true and what is false? Everywhere you look there is a mainstream media outlet pushing a fear campaign. They are closer to a government or corporate PR company than an impartial voice for the many.

Socially everyone has a viewpoint (which by right they are entitled to) – but how has that been construed by a 4thhand article with a click bait headline. Or a conspiracy theory posted by an “influencer”. What about the stories based on actual first hand experiences – then slammed by a mob of keyboard trolls. The confusion alone is dividing people more than uniting them.

 

What positives if any have come out of this period for you?

Spending time with my family and 18 month old daughter. Spending some time doing other things that I enjoy and catching up with friends that you don’t get to see when you work every weekend.

I love that feeling of working under pressure and being part of things that come together in the 11th hour. When you’re in that zone, you can achieve a whole different level of productivity. But, you can also make the wrong decisions at times. This period has made me take a step back and look at things differently. What is important, who is important. How can we do things better, more efficiently, work better as a team.

 

INDUSTRY HEADS //

ANDREW LEESE –
SOCIALLY SOUND

Any tips for people who may be struggling with their mental health at the moment?

Cleanse your social media feeds. I did this with my Twitter account during the lockdown and honestly, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. So many people are going onto social media and coming off it angry with what they are reading and who they are engaging with. Social media timelines are a toxic place if you let them.. Take control of them and use them with a purpose and you will be amazed what inspiration you find.

Two other things I need to do a lot more of is exercise and drink more water. That’s the negative side of lockdown and being inside so much, our bodies can survive on a lot less.

 

What do you think are the main factors contributing to a decline in mental health in the industry currently?

I think a lot of people who are involved in our industry whether professionally or as a clubber use music events as an escape from reality. Now, the dance floor has been taken away from people. We are constantly facing what is a very grim reality.

Obviously, what some people consume on those nights out can affect mental health in so many ways, but it’s those memories and stories that we live for and right now, we’ve got nothing else to look forward to. Something so trivial as having nothing to look forward to can also negatively impact your mental health, especially so during a global pandemic.

Money is another factor, probably now more than ever. We’re either saving money by not going to gigs and festivals every weekend or we don’t know where our next penny is coming from.

 

Can you share your own experiences and struggles at this time? 

Furlough and lockdown in a weird way have been a blessing for me personally. Last year, I’d definitely gone way past the burn-out phase. The start of 2020 was a rocky one,  I was working outside of the music industry for the first time in over six and a half years.

In late February, I started a new role back in the music industry – three days before the furlough cut-off point. If I started a week later, I’d have been in a really bad way financially and even more so mentally.

What lockdown and furlough gave me, was time to think, reflect and be honest with myself. I was made redundant from my role in August but those four months of free time gave me the chance to build a business plan for a new company, be financially stable and move out of London because right now, I don’t need to be there.

LOOKING AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH //

 

If you’re struggling yourself at the moment what can you do? We caught up with Stephen Buckley from MIND charity to see what advice he can offer. Mind, the mental health charity provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problems.

What advice would you give to anyone struggling at the moment?

“It’s important to remember that there is no normal response to the pandemic and your feelings may change day to day. Because of this, it’s important to maintain your wellbeing during this time and connecting with other people is a vital part of this. Talking to someone you trust can help you manage your feelings, as many people find that sharing their experiences can help them feel better. If you’ve noticed changes in your thoughts, feelings and behaviour that are having an impact on your daily life, last two weeks or longer or keep returning, speak to a GP if you can.”

Are there any tips on how to look after your mental health?

“Our physical and mental health are closely linked so it’s important to eat well, stay hydrated and to try and take part in some physical activity, if possible, outside, as being in nature can really benefit our mental health. You might also find that it helps to express how you are feeling about the pandemic creatively. This could be writing, drawing, painting or any other creative way that feels helpful to you. Journaling can also be helpful, as keeping track of what you’ve been doing and how you’ve been feeling can be helpful in identifying what helps improve your mood.”

 

What do you think have been the main causes of a decline in mental health during this time?

“People are really struggling with isolation, stress, grief and fears about the future, and for those of us who were already experiencing mental health problems, things may feel especially difficult. We also know that there is a strong link between issues like financial difficulties, poor housing and poor mental health. So, factors like job insecurity, unemployment, low paid work and redundancy could have a knock-on impact on mental health.”

 

What services does Mind offer and how can Mind help?

“Mind has lots of information and advice on how to look after your mental health during this time available on our website at mind.org.uk and our Infoline is open 9am-6pm, Monday-Friday (except Bank Holidays). Side by Side, Mind’s online peer support community, can also be helpful in getting support from others who have their own experiences of mental health problems. Side by Side is available to all, 24/7, and is moderated daily from 8:30am to midnight.”

One thing that is clear from all this is the importance of being there for each other, showing compassion and care for others and standing united. It’s ok to not feel ok. What’s important is you reach out and share your struggles.

Sending love to everyone from us all here at Meoko. Please don’t be afraid to reach out and stay safe X

Words by Jordan Diston

INTERVIEW W/ AKUFEN

By Interviews

There are not many artists who manage to define a particular era in music, and there are even fewer who know how to evolve beyond such achievements and find other creative paths down which to travel. We caught up with one of industries finest to learn more about his new EP, sampling tips and much more…

Photo credit: Petronille Gontaud-Leclair

1) Thank you for joining us today. How are you?

– The pleasure is all mine and I thank you for the invite to speak. I’d like to think that I’m doing alright overall, considering the rather challenging and uncertain times we live in since last March. Although I must admit that the complete standby of performing arts events feels like an unforgiving cleaver for many artists, including myself, who made a living from touring.  It’s definitely a major game-changer, but we’re in this together and I’m hopeful that we will overcome this situation in the end.  Meanwhile, I’m taking things a day at a time, focusing on my family which keeps me grounded and helps me in embracing resilience.

 

2) I think it’s safe to say you are very selective with your releases and labels that you work with – how do you decide what labels are right for you?   

– I wasn’t always selective, to be honest. I had my fair share of unfortunate experiences, which made me grow eventually more cautious and more selective over the years. When you’re a newcomer, it’s easy to succumb to the temptation of spreading fast by releasing on as many labels as possible. Which is understandable. But to be fair, I had more pleasant experiences as my career blossomed. Nowadays I don’t release much, but the labels I choose to release on are the ones that I feel understand where I’m coming from and where I wish to go. In the end, I just wish to collaborate with good and reliable people and feel like I’m part of something greater than just a commercial output, Perlon being the finest reference I could cite. When I met Thomas, Markus and Chris in Montreal in 2000, we became friends at first and then I had the wonderful privilege to become a part of this family of fantastic artists and very lovely human beings, which is Perlon.

3) Your new EP on Onysia Records is another fine example of your work In the studio, What did you use to produce it? – First off, collaborating with Joseph at Onysia was a true pleasure and I salute his generosity and kindness. Joseph gave me complete freedom, which is a rare thing these days when you deal with labels. What I found exciting was his sustained enthusiasm, which is very similar to mine when I started. Now, I rarely if never discuss gear, tools and tricks. I think every musician in their own right and for their own good has to figure out for themselves what works best for them. There isn’t one way to do things, and the most effective one will always be your own. We never ask kids to list the type of crayons, paint, paper and glue they used for tinkering in school. All I could suggest is, try out all sorts of stuff, never restrain your imagination, don’t think of the trends and just play around and have fun.

And I had fun recording this one.

4) Your use of samples in your work is some of the best in the game and so distinctive. Any tips for upcoming producers when working with samples and crafting their sound?

– Just be attentive and listen very carefully. Wherever we are in our daily lives, sounds surround us. The most insignificant noise can become a part of something beautiful and unique. Listen to them and what they are telling you. The art of sampling is partly intuitive and partly reflexive. In the end, you’ll figure ways to connect them and hear them converse.

5) It’s not very often you do interviews and you are very much famed for letting your music do the talking – do you think the media has become too much of a focal point around electronic music and artists?

 

I’m always glad to open up when I feel it’s relevant. Other than that I don’t feel the obligation to unnecessarily fill the corner of a page of some DJ magazine, to sell my mug, share my tricks and brag about my lifestyle, which isn’t very glamorous. I am as selective with journalists as I am with labels, and friends. The journalists I respected over the years have become friends. There is nothing wrong with the media becoming the focal point around electronic music and its players. What’s concerning is the focal point on the glitter rather than the music itself. I just despise the star rating, following and liking culture, and journalism in general which is validating and discrediting often without discernment. You’re either in the game or out of the game. Art is too personal to give it a thumb up or down. This is straight out of the Roman Empire playbook.

6) Back in your early years you were active in the scene in Montreal under many other aliases. What made you move to your Akufen sound?

– So much! An insatiable appetite for music, films and books. Years spent in art school, and most of all, a constant need for change. The idea primarily behind the Akufen sound was to work from my intuition and subconscious. It was also very much inspired by the “automatic writing” and “cut & paste” methods, which was developed by the surrealists, the beat poets and the automatists collective in Canada in the forties and fifties. These techniques have been at the centre of my creativity since as early as my childhood. I have fond memories of meticulously crafting large collages of pictures cut from magazines and working with double tape decks in my bedroom, rather than playing with other kids outside. It’s about creating an unpredictable, and unique sound environment, and a story which leaves more room for personal perception and interpretation as it unfolds. I believe that my generation was lucky as we came at a time when everything was possible, and people were ready and all ears. You could throw a Tito Puente piece in a set and the crowd would go nuts. Today, there are too many politics and laws to embrace in order to fit in. There are still some oddballs out there who amaze me, but the music sales business has made their music less accessible to the general public, sadly.

7) You’ve graced your presence at some of the world’s best clubbing institutions and have seen many changes in our industry and clubbing landscape over the years – where do you see it going from here, particularly with the current situation having such a significant impact on venues and promoters?

– I could not say honestly. We are all still in shock, trying to adjust to this new reality. Options and ideas will unfold as we start healing and getting our lives back to some kind of normalcy. The pandemic has put on the back burner all public music activities and I believe it will affect not only the scene but the music itself. I have a feeling that the music will evolve in unexpected and surprising forms, and it will be interesting to see how artists will adapt and overcome this situation. I for myself, don’t want to speculate much, I am not even sure that I will pursue my career on the road. I will, however, remain active as a musician, there is no doubt about that, but I’m contemplating other avenues such as film scoring, art installations in collaboration with artists from other fields. I might as well return to visual art and graphic design which I studied in school. It’s clearly a time for radical changes, and I’m hopeful we’ll figure something out. Having said that, we must not look back in nostalgia, because things will never be as they were. Clubbing or not, music will prevail, one way or another, and that’s what’s reassuring in a way.

8) Your live show is something which has brought a lot of attention. What is your set up for this and what made you want to move into a live setup?

– I’ll be bluntly honest, playing live is what puts bread on the table for most of us. I was able to feed and provide shelter for my family and send my kid to school with touring. I am overly conscient of the luck I had to be able to travel doing the greatest job. It had its flaws at times, but overall I can only be immensely grateful. I’ve always made it a priority to be as generous and available as possible for those who support me and who will sometimes travel miles to hear me. So performing is not only a way of making ends meet but also a responsibility and an act of loyalty. Night after night you have to leave the rest behind and give your best, no matter how tired or sick you may feel. We must never forget that without the record labels and club owners, the promoters, bookers, agents and the public we wouldn’t have the privilege of doing what we love most. As for my set up, there’s not much to brag about, I use a laptop, a soundcard and a couple of controllers.

9) To stay so relevant for so long takes a lot of drive and passion.  How do you push yourself to achieve your goals and keep creatively motivated?

– I believe honesty and integrity were the main keys in remaining relevant, in my case. Being stubborn and uncompromising creatively comes at a high cost, but I agreed to pay that price at an early stage in my career, and I don’t regret it. I couldn’t live with myself otherwise. I rather enjoy a more modest success based on loyalty and which will last after I’m gone. What’s left of us, is what makes us immortal. Not in a glorious historical sense, but rather in a humble inspirational way, primarily for my daughter, and the generations to come. Not only as an artist but as a man of my times. No matter what you do, you got to have faith, you also got to have doubts, never take anything for granted, and be grateful for everything you got. I have to remain continuously.

Photo credit: Petronille Gontaud-Leclair

10) Where does 2021 take you? Do you have any new projects on the horizon you can tell us about?

In January, I launched “Ourway”, my new record label, introducing a first Akufen release which you can currently listen to and purchase online at Juno.  The name of the label speaks for itself. I’m aware that starting a new label is a bit of a gamble right now, but I thought it was worth giving it a shot.

I finished recording the new Horror Inc. album last year, and I am in the process of discussing its release in 2021, on “Anoma”, a Montreal based label run by my buddy Ohm Hourani.

There is also a possible 20th Anniversary re-issue of “My Way” on the new label, but it has to be confirmed. As for the new Akufen album, it’s done, but I don’t see it happening until next year.

2021 isn’t gonna take us anywhere. We will have to take 2021 somewhere. Sadly, I had to let go of my studio when the pandemic started, and everything’s been sitting in boxes since July of last year. Relocalizing is complicated for now, but I have faith that I’ll find a new place when the social restrictions soften. As for now, all music work is on hold. Stay tuned, we will return after this pandemic.

Words by Jordan Diston

Catching up with Subb-an: from Australia to Anglesey

By Chats to MEOKO, Festival, Hot Off The Press, Interviews

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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!

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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!

Adam Shelton MC

 

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!

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Interview by Michael Dowding

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Delving into Digdeep.tv

By Chats to MEOKO, Festival, Hot Off The Press, Music Through Pictures, News

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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.

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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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8_xk6dgW-4

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!

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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.

Find out more about DigDeep.tv here.

 

Interview by Eileen Pegg

 

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An Open Letter to: That Guy Who Can’t Take a Hint

By Chats to MEOKO, Hot Off The Press, News, Open Letters

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Dear Guy who can’t take a hint, 

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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

Yours sincerely,

Every human being who prefers dancing to having a creep waste their night.

Written by: Thalia Agroti 

 

Ralph Lawson: A Roller Coaster Ride

By Chats to MEOKO, Hot Off The Press, Interviews

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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 at Back 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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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ARM wrestling with Red D

By Chats to MEOKO, Festival, Hot Off The Press, Interviews, MEOKO Exclusive

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

https://soundcloud.com/we-play-house-recordings/our-beat-is-still-new-mini/

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.

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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’.

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Links:

WPH Recordings: https://www.weplayhouserecordings.com/

WPH Soundcloud: https://www.facebook.com/therealfcl?fref=ts

Words by Paul Fluks

MEOKO chats to Trentemoller

By Chats to MEOKO, Hot Off The Press, Interviews

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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.

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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.

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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.

By Joe Gamp

MEOKO chats with Martinez

By Chats to MEOKO, Hot Off The Press, Interviews

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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.

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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?

Honestly no…

 

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!

 

Catch Martinez playing alongside DJ W!ld and Outart at nouveau & Musiq Concrete on Saturday 11 May. Buy tickets here.

Check out the event on Facebook here.

Rework preview w/ Kozo (Arpiar) and Rico Casazza live

By Chats to MEOKO, Event Previews and Reviews, Hot Off The Press, Reviews

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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.

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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…

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Rico Casazza chats to MEOKO

 

Limited tickets are still available for purchase here