“For me it’s always been pretty straight forward; I just wanted tospend my life doing something I was passionate about, for me that’s the only way as I never thought I could be good at something I didn’t love.”
Birmingham must feel a million miles from your life now in Ibiza, what are your most vivid memories of the Brum scene? Did your 15 year old self feel the pull of Ibiza as a response to what Birmingham had to offer?
Not at all. I had an amazing time going out in Birmingham when I was younger. It started after a trip to Ibiza in the summer of 1989 where I went to a club for the first time in my life, when I got home me and all my mates went to a weekly party at The Hummingbird called The Snapper Club, this was very influential for me, listening to DJ’s like: Lee Fisher, Jock Lee, DJ Dick, Neil Macey and others. Tracks like Frankie Knuckles ‘Your Love’ and Rhythm Is Rhythm ‘Strings Of Life’ were the big moments that convinced me to start buying records every week from shops like Don Christies, Summit and later Pure Records. By the end end of 1989 and going into 1990 I had started going to all the illegal raves around Coventry and Birmingham like Amnesia House and R.A.W, amazing times. The following year in 1991 DJ Dick’s Breathless night at Snobs was also amazing, so many great times and many fond memories. A bar called 49ers was also a big thing for me, listening to an amazing DJ called Nathan Gregory play an eclectic mix of Acid House, Jazz Funk, Rare Groove and Disco, which went on to shape my musical taste in a big way.
The Birmingham music scene has stepped up a bit recently, after a bit of a lull, with the rise of Rainbow and other venues pulling in big names, a change from your time at Rafael’s, do you think the city has what it takes to be a centre of underground music?
I hope so, there are new venues opening up near the Rainbow now so I hope this builds into a proper scene again and really starts to attract people from out of town again like it used to. My only recent experience of playing in Birmingham was for Renaissance’s 20th birthday recently with Sasha, Dave Seaman, Anthony Pappa, Guy Gerber and Josif, which was at the Gibb Street Warehouse, which was fantastic. And to be honest when I started playing in the city around 1993 there was lots of great stuff happening with the likes of Miss Moneypenny’s bringing in all the biggest names and also clubs like C.R.E.A.M, The Steering Wheel and Wobble all having their own sound.
The city seems to have taken to Deep House, what genre do you see as being in Brum’s blood?
Early on, like everywhere else it was Acid House, then clubs like Moneypenny’s made it more girl friendly and sexy. Following that you had parties like God’s Kitchen who bought a harder sound and now I’m pleased to say deeper sounds seem to be in favour at places like the Rainbow, so like most places around the world it changes with the times and fashion. Deep House is cool again now which is great and it’s nice to see more grown up intelligent sounds being so popular.
What parts of life in Ibiza should Birmingham adopt?
Well that’s just not possible, Ibiza works so well due to the fact that everyone is on holiday, no one has work the next morning and the sun is shining, so you can’t really replicate that anywhere in the U.K, sadly.
For us students, who don’t know where we’ll end up in a few years, what advice would you give to achieve our dreams, like you have?
For me it’s always been pretty straight forward; I just wanted to spend my life doing something I was passionate about, for me that’s the only way as I never thought I could be good at something I didn’t love. As we spend so much of our lives at work, it makes total sense to enjoy this as much as possible, life’s too short to wish it away dreaming of doing something else.
For our students, to whom sunsets in Ibiza seem like another planet, what tracks would you throw on to chill us out a bit?
I have so many amazing tracks I play at sunset, I look for tracks that are packed with emotion, so here are a few of my favourites:
Craig Armstrong – Weather Storm
Ennio Moricone – Deboarh’s Theme
Salt Tank – Saragasso Sea
Thomas Newman – Revolutionary Road
Vangelis – Love There
You’ve travelled the world with your music, and checked out all the scenes in the all corners of the world. Where would you advise our students to visit, for those who might want to go somewhere other than Ibiza, or on a bit of a shoestring?
So far I have played in over 70 countries and places like Brazil and India are amazing right now, there is so much to see, and so much culture, especially in India, and a great music scene is building in both places. For example I have played at the Sunburn festival in December every year for the last 5 years on the beautiful Candolin beach in Goa, it’s gone from about 3,000 people in the first year to 25,000 last year. In Brazil you have D:Edge in Sao Paolo, which is amazing for underground music set over 3 floors with an great open air roof terrace and then in the South clubs like Warung Beach and Green Valley are incredible. Green Valley holds 8,000 in an open air venue surrounded by forest and Warung is slightly smaller but every bit as impressive.
You pride yourself on ‘not pigeon-holing yourself’ musically, anything you would never, ever play?
Yes, bad music. I really only see 2 types of music, good and bad, so I play anything if I’m into it and would never play anything I’m not in to.
What should we play at our parties at the moment? What labels should we name drop?
You should play music you love, and not worry about what other people think is cool as fashions come and go all the time musically. In my opinion, right now labels like Futureboogie, Apollonia, Culprit, International Feel, Brownswood Recordings, Melodica Records, Rebirth and Dynamic are consistently releasing great music and of course my new label Secret Life Records is about to start- we have signed some great tracks with the first coming out this autumn!
Are your Mixtapes the DJ version of our essays? Do you have to have a plan, an angle and a conclusion?
I simply go through all my favourite new tracks, then put them in order of tempo and key – that’s the starting point- then go from there. It’s about matching the moods of tracks, though, more than anything, but the idea is that it’s a journey and tells a story. A more alternative mix would start relaxed and easy, then build up in tempo and energy and cover: Chill Out, Electronica, Balearic Disco, Deep House, Drum n Bass and anything else that I fancy. With a straight up club mix I would start with Deep House and build up to stuff with more energy so that again it tells a story.
I’ll see you at Bestival, really looking forward to your set. Can you bring the sun and the beach with you, please?
Based on the weather so far this year we shouldn’t get our hopes up, but fingers crossed things pick up- as I write this the sun is shining, so let’s see!
Words by Laura Harris.