Before house music landed in the UK, you were spinning various records of multiple genres. Do you remember the very first house record that you heard and what were your immediate thoughts on it? Did you know right away that you had to be a part of this new, emerging sound?
I do remember yes. I’d been into the Electro and Soul scenes for quite a while by then so was following James Hamilton’s dance music pages in Record Mirror religiously so I knew of this new “House Music” that was coming from Chicago but it wasn’t until I was at Roof Top Gardens/ Casanovas in Wakefield one weekend that I heard Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s ‘Jack Your Body for the first time. It blew my mind. It was so different to anything else that it really stood out and I immediately went off to search for more. Marshall Jefferson’s ‘Move Your Body’, JM Silk’s ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ and The House Master Boyz ‘House Nation’ all arrived at around the same time. It was pretty obvious that this was the start of something exciting. I couldn’t get enough.
You were also attending many of the early raves during the house explosion. Those parties were quite cavalier in a sense. Part of the excitement was trying to determine the location and playing this “cat and mouse” game. How would you contrast those early raves to the festivals that are happening today?
The early Rave scene was subversive and underground. It was completely new and because of the illegality of the parties had an element of danger. Festivals nowadays are very much a part of the fabric of modern day culture. There’s nothing subversive about them. Latitude (or Latte-tude as it gets called) is particularly family friendly and as middle class as it gets. There’s a great book I can recommend about the Acid House explosion by Matthew Colin called Altered States. It really gives you a great insight to the madness of those halcyon days.
Many people know about the infamous Mixmag competition that you won when you were DJing early on, but what initially led you to becoming the editor at the magazine?
I was initially just doing reviews for Mixmag and maybe the odd interview but when the then Editor left hastily I was catapulted into the deep end. I ended up covering for him whilst a replacement was found but after managing to pull two issues together myself the powers that be just said, we’ve not found anybody that we’d rather do it than you so you might as well carry on. I had gotten my English O level but really had no journalistic experience so it was sheer enthusiasm and passion that got me through. I was living and breathing the scene though and I was very much right time, right place. Right in the eye of the storm as it were. As I arrived at Mixmag- M/A/R/R/S, S Express, Coldcut and Bomb The Bass had all just hit the top of the pop charts. DJ Culture as we know it had just begun.
With the advent of technology, music has become extremely accessible and the lines of genre are increasingly getting blurred. As an industry expert who has been in key positions such as DJ, producer, editor and label boss, do you think music is still at a healthy point creatively?
Undoubtedly. There is always fantastic, creative music being made but with so much music being made and as you say with almost everything being instantly available to everyone, it’s not as valued as it used to be. MP3s are such a disposable medium. So cheap and replaceable, they have no real worth. And so in that sense it’s not healthy. Cheap and disposable is not good. The real problem though is quantity over quality. There’s just too much music being made with no filter system in place like record companies used to provide in the past. Imagine if everyone who thought they could cook were allowed to put their product on the shelves of a supermarket. It would take you a week just to get past the cereals!
I have read that growing up you constantly listened to the radio. Going back to the topic of technology, people have gone on to use the medium of the internet to produce their own shows and podcasts. On one hand, it’s liberating to have the ability to broadcast music, however, does this slowly eliminate the idea of the taste maker, similar to what we used to have on radio?
To a certain extent. You could argue it takes the power out of the hands of a few and spreads it around a bit more but at the end of the day you’re only a tastemaker if you have an audience and the people with real influence still have a lot more listeners than your average podcast.
From working at Mixmag to producing Top 20 hits such as Brothers in Rhythm’s “Such a Good Feeling”, on down to working with acts like the Pet Shop Boys and David Bowie, you have had a continual train of success. Are there ever times when you have had to step back and really take it all in?
Ha! Not really. I’ve always been all about the present and immediate future. Maybe one day I’ll get round to writing it all down though. I probably do have a pretty good story to tell 🙂
More claims to fame are your labels Stress Records and Audio Therapy, which included releases by a slew of top acts in the scene. You now run Selador Recordings with Steve Parry. What prompted you to start a new label?
It’s all Steve’s fault. I blame him! hahaha. It was following a conversation we had where he expressed a long time ambition to run a label that got me thinking. I had been out of the game for a couple of years after Audio Therapy and didn’t realise how much I’d missed it until we spoke further about the idea of Selador and that buzz very quickly returned. It’s a labour of love. It’s not really profitable in monetary terms but you get so much out of it in other ways and I just love the process. It’s a great way to collaborate with like minded artists and put your flag in the sand.
You have the new “Selador Sessions Vol. 1” mix compilation out right now which was funded by the people through Kickstarter. I think this speaks volumes in terms of the support from those who love house music. Do you envision this process to soon be the wave of the future for releases?
I hope so and can’t see any reason why not. It’s a fascinating development and actually more of a throwback to the way things used to get done before capitalism took over the world. This idea of a communal project. And now with the advance of social media it’s so much easier for artists to be able to get together with their audience to make creative projects happen. It’s a win win situation really.
Finally, what projects are coming down the pipeline at Selador?
Our next release is a compilation to coincide with the Amsterdam Dance Event this month which features a lot of the artists that have already featured on the label and a few more besides. Then there’ll be a new single from myself together with Funkagenda called ‘Naughty Forest’ which has been a staple in my sets for the last few months and also features on Selador Sessions Volume 1. And then who knows, there’s even talk that Mr Parry will be getting back into the studio although I’ll believe it when I see it!More news