We’re buzzing to be welcoming Steve Stamp aka DJ Steves (Kurupt FM) from genius BBC comedy People Just Do Nothing to the building on Thursday 5th March, not least as he’s co-headlining with jungle legend Randall!
Promoters 23 Degrees caught up with him for a quick chat before the gig.
How old were you when you first started learning to mix? Which DJ’s inspired you to start?
Around 15 I think. I had some basic belt drives and me and Beats would go back to back after school. We were inspired by the West London pirate radio DJs. A lot of the time I didn’t really know who they were but I remember people like Oxide were playing the darker stuff that I was most into. I also had one tape with Deekline where he was scratching over garage, that was the maddest thing I’d ever heard. Blew my tiny mind.
Your sets are on ode to the Garage sound, what are your top 3 Garage slammers?
It’s hard to pick but there’s a few that have stood the test of time. Stuff like Roy Davis Jr ft Peven Everett – Gabriel, Active Minds – Hobsons Choice, Groove Chronicles – ‘Hold On’. They always existed on the classier end of the garage spectrum, very sexy production. They’re not tracks you’ll normally hear in a rave though, what I hope I can do with my sets is introduce some of the less obvious party tunes and show people some classics that they might not have heard before.
With Garage fully back on the map right now, which of the new school producers are you feeling?
Ah there’s loads of people making good beats. Conductah, Murlo… In terms of new stuff I’m more into grime: Sir Spyro, Swifta, Rudekid, Spooky. What I love about the scene is that a lot of these guys are selectors and their music emerges out of the radio and rave culture. It’s all connected and that’s what keeps it so authentic.
You’ve played in Edinburgh before with the rest of Kurupt FM, how was it? Are you excited to return?
Scotland is always messy. Weird shit seems to happen every time I’m there. DJs ending up in ambulances, McDonalds lock-ins. I blame the Buckfast. Need to add that to my rider actually…
We had Danny Rankin aka Decoy perform back in 2019, he had some serious Jungle music up his sleeve, do you ever sneak in some Jungle/DnB into your sets?
I’ll leave that to the pros. We’ve got Randall on the lineup with me and he’s told me that I’m not allowed to go beyond 140bpm. I mean he hasn’t actually said that, but he’s a legend and I know my place.
Any dubplates/suprises up your sleeve?
At some point during the set I sometimes like to surprise the audience by going briefly into character as Steves and doing a bad mix. So if you hear that then that’s why. And you’re welcome.
Finally, taps on or taps aff?
Taps aff. Trousers down. Red Stripe in each hand. Eyes closed.
Flexout Audio boss Tom Bassi (DJ/producer/A&R/label mgr) and Charli Brix (DJ/producer/vox) make a formidable duo, with a smooth, polished sound that combines deep, dark moods and techy production. It’s a style of drum ‘n’ bass with a broad appeal just now and has unsurprisingly been peppering the sets of countless DJs in the scene.
So, we’re well pleased to be welcoming them to Scotland, as they make their combined Scottish debut for Midnight Bass, and excited to hear what they’ve gone in store for the Bongo on Tuesday 11th Feb. The Midnight Bass crew had a wee chat with them, to see what’s what in their world…
How does it feel to be debuting in Scotland? Have you been before?
Bassi: Amazing. We’ve both never been to Scotland and are so happy to be asked to perform at The Bongo Club. I’ve always loved all the Scottish people I’ve ever met so I’m sure it’s going to be wicked vibes.
Charli: I’m so excited, I’ve never been to Scotland! I have a friend studying in Edinburgh who I haven’t seen in ages so she’s gonna roll through so that’ll be lush. I’ve had a few punters hit me up on insta telling me they’re excited to see us perform which is always lovely. I can’t wait!
What/who would you say is a key influence in getting you started with your musical journey?
Bassi: For me, it was going to Fabric nightclub for the first time when I turned 18, I knew from then on all I wanted to do was be a DJ
Charli: Watching Sister Act when I was 11 and developing a passion for singing and then again on stage at Fabric in 2015 during the ‘Rituals’ Album launch – I realised then I was never going back to a 9-5!
Best party you experienced / performed at in 2019?
Bassi: That’s a tough one for me but I’d have to say our Boat party at Outlook festival as it was so intimate and the energy was just unreal.
Charli: I agree with Tom, either the Flexout Outlook Boat Party or my Kintsugi EP Launch – both were utterly outrageous.
At the turn of a decade, what can we expect from you in the (20)20s?
Bassi: A lot of my focus is on Charli’s album at the moment but as well as that we have exciting projects from the Flexout gang including an LP from Arkaik which is going to be very special.
Charli: So I’m pretty much on lock for the album this year. I have a few releases coming with some regular collaborators, and my Kintsugi EP has been flipped so that’s coming out over the next six months or so. It’s all incredibly positive and moving fluidly which i’m happy with, I feel like 2020 is going to be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
We’re excited to see you DJ and of course showcase your vocals with a live PA set. We’ve read that you’ve been DJing just a few years. Do you enjoy DJing as much as performing vocals?
Thank you! I’m hyped to perform. So I’ve only been DJing 18 months, which is mad when you think about it! DJing & performing give me a very different high. When I write or sing it’s for me, and it’s a bonus if the crowd is vibing and can relate, but when I DJ it’s for the crowd, and my happiness or love of a mix is secondary – does that make sense?
Charli, we’ve read that you work for Glastonbury, write for In-reach magazine, play with the female super-group KCDC, all the while laying down vocals for so many tracks AND maintaining a busy gig schedule. How do you fit it all in and manage the creative flow? Any tips for anyone working on multiple projects at once?
In all honesty, I took on too much last year. I had to step back from a few projects and commitments, but all for positive reasons. I essentially didn’t give myself enough credit or realise how much would change in 2018/19 and just assumed I’d have to do the ‘broke musician holding down 5 part time jobs’ life forever to facilitate my music.
I spent a lot of years laying good foundations, professionally and personally, and that has allowed me to work as a freelancer, and be more particular with how I spend my time and who I work for – not only in music but my other creative endeavours.
If you’re flat out all the time, just have common sense. Eat, sleep, drink water, make sure you’re looking after your mental health. Get rid of toxic people who hide under the guise of ‘supportive’ during the highs and add to the lows, and most importantly – learn to say no.
What has been your favourite project to date, with who and why?
Charli: It’s gotta be my ‘Kintgsugi’ EP 🙂 It’s such a trip being able to google it (haha) because it still doesn’t seem real. I’ve been doing collabs for so long and despite adoring all the producers i’ve worked with, it’s just different when you’re the one in control and it’s your ideas and your vision. I couldn’t have done it without Tom and Flexout, and I honestly still don’t think he knows how happy it makes me.
Bassi, along with a solid back catalogue of releases under Flexout, we’ve seen you’ve started producing too (we’re a big fan of Reflections). Is there anything in the pipeline that we might catch a sample of at the upcoming show?
In terms of my own production, it has taken a back seat for the time being but I am actively involved in the writing process with Charli and her new album so you’ll hear some new material from that on Tuesday for sure.
Flexout Audio was founded in 2011 and has since become a highly consistent and widely respected record label. Is there a highlight moment or milestone for you in the rise of Flexout Audio?
Yes and most have happened within the last 12 months to be honest. Having Flexout at Star Warz in Belgium was huge, incredible venue and an amazing drum and bass event that has been going for 20 years. Our boat party at Outlook festival was amazing, I’d always wanted to do that and so glad that it happened before they moved away from Pula. Other than that hosting Room 3 and then more recently Room 2 at Fabric was incredibly special for me as that is the club I went to the most when I first started going clubbing.
A 20+ year-old sound that encompasses many styles of music due to the history of sampling and borrowing from other genres of music and working it into a different, faster tempo. It is the origin of what is now known as Drum & Bass. It is a vibe. It was always about the samples and vibes already captured in the music. Now all these years on, artists are writing original works with Jungle and the goal is always to capture a vibe that has soul to it, just like all the samples have.
Has your approach to DJing changed since you first started out?
Yes, when I first was DJing many moons ago now, I used to prepare all my sets and want everything to go perfectly. With more experience of different clubs and set-ups, I realized it was far better to freestyle and go with the flow of the club system and crowd. Some systems don’t produce enough bass, so certain tunes just don’t sound the same and my sets are adjusted to the sound system. I also like to be able to play the odd request, especially if it’s one of our own productions being requested, as I feel that gives a great connection to the fans. Ten or so years ago, I was playing out under my solo name, Vital Elements, a lot. When the Serial Killaz bookings came in, I would change the style I usually played, and I really saw a change in the vibe of the dance floor when incorporating more Jungle style and vocal lead tracks. This was a big influence in the sound I wanted to push more, as that certain vibe captured by Jungle really does make the dance floor a nicer place.
Where in the world do you think the best Jungle crowd is?
I’ve played to so many great crowds over the world, it would be unfair and too difficult to choose.
What’s your top Jungle tune to play out at the moment?
Our remix of ‘Professional Ganja Smoker’ has been getting a great reaction for some time, as is our yet-to-be finished collab with Jaguar Skillz (that) we’ve been testing, but I still think the most powerful track has to be Congo Natty’s “Code Red.” in any of its various forms. We’ve been lucky enough to remix it and have recently updated it too, they always go off, as does the original 20 years on.
What up-and-coming DJs and producers are impressing you?
Upgrade and his brother Limited have been very impressive. And of course our young mentees RunTingz, who have come on leaps and bounds since we took them on and got them in the studio for some vital training.
Describe your creative process in the studio?
It depends on what we are working on but it can usually be boiled down to catching that elusive vibe I keep mentioning: you gotta find the hook, be it a vocal, melody, rhythm, or groove.
How would you describe your sound at the moment?
Modern day Jungle
What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
Classical and differently tuned world music.
If DJing wasn’t your job, what would it be?
A chef, like I used to be.
Any new projects coming up?
Stacks, collaborations, remixes, original works…too many to mention. Just keep an eye out for any release with the name Serial Killaz in it – there will be plenty.
We’re excited to be welcoming one of the founders of the legendary Metalheadz drum n bass label, DJ Storm, as she headlines SSL XL’s NYE event. This recent feature by Becca Inglis for Dazed Digital back in January gives you the full back-story….
The story of Kemistry and Storm, the unsung pioneers of drum & bass. 20 years ago, the Metalheadz duo released their seminal DJ-Kicks mix – here, Goldie, B.Traits, Mumdance and more reflect on their legacy.
In our Under the Influence series, we trace the ideas of underground artists, designers, labels, and collectives, and the impact that they’ve had on pop culture as we know it, examining how the revolutionary aesthetics and attitudes of outsiders make their way into the mainstream – and importantly, how much that should be valued and not forgotten.
Kemistry and Storm hold an almost mythical status in the drum & bass scene. Their mid-90s sets captured their flair behind the decks, defined by an unparalleled track selection, long, carefully crafted mixes, and a potent chemistry between the two DJs that spurred the crowd on. “I knew they were bound for stardom,” says Goldie, who established the Metalheadz label with help from the two DJs and gifted them with their first set of turntables. “They would mix it, man. They were holding shit, arranging the drops, they would drop again into another double drop. They were underrated, and they were just so much darker.”
Kemistry (Valerie Olukemi A. Olusanya, or “Kemi”) and Storm (Jayne Conneely) both grew up in Kettering, a small town in the UK’s East Midlands, and would together help shape Metalheadz into one of drum & bass’s most notorious record labels. They inspired a new generation of DJs with their 1999 contribution to the DJ-Kicksseries, a 17-track, one-hour mix that’s at times dark and dystopian, at others smooth and melodic. But their trajectory was tragically cut short when, just three months after DJ-Kicks came out, a freak car accident took Kemi’s life. “Kemi had always tried to find something where she could be who she was, and look like she was, and achieve something – and that was in DJing drum & bass,” says Conneely. “She’d found it and she was so content. She always said, ‘I just want to make a difference.’ And you know, that’s what we have on her plaque. ‘DJ Kemistry, she wanted to make a difference.’ And she did.”
Olusanya first introduced Conneely to rave culture in 1988, after Conneely, fresh from studying in Oxford, had qualified as a radiographer and moved to London to look for work. In need of a place to stay, Conneely took up Olusanya’s offer to split the rent on her bedroom in a Finsbury Park townhouse, where her friend proceeded to bombard her with the sounds of pirate radio stations. Conneely had so far missed the underground dance scene, but through Olusanya’s recommendations she discovered a love for the art of mixing. Together, they began practising on Olusanya’s Amstrad system, holding their thumbs over the belt drive to get their records in time. “We started getting really obsessed with raving and buying vinyl,” Conneely says. “We were kind of asking ourselves the question, how can we be with this music 24/7?”
Then Olusanya started dating Goldie, after he spotted her working in Red Or Dead on his cycle route to Camden. At the time, he was known as a graffiti artist, and had just returned home from painting and exhibiting in the US. While ravers were holding their second Summer of Love in the UK, he had been busy immersing himself in America’s burgeoning hip hop scene. Olusanya and Conneely took him to Fabio & Grooverider’s party Rage, credited as the incubator for early jungle music, at London nightclub Heaven, where he got his first taste for hardcore. “The tunes that these two were playing were the catalyst for Kemi and Storm,” Goldie says. “Kemi was the Fabio, Storm was more the Grooverider. I realised how passionate they were about these guys. I kind of related to that because of my passion for hip hop DJs.”
Goldie was quickly assimilated into this harder and faster genre of music, joining his friends every Thursday at Rage then piling back to their flat for afters. Olusanya and Conneely dragged their Binatone and Amstrad Midi-systems into one room, where they practiced mixing their huge bank of records. “That was my introduction,” says Goldie. “They introduced me to absolutely everybody that was making music in the way that I wanted to.” It was here, in the small hours, that he shared his dream for the trio: he would make the music, Kemistry and Storm would DJ, and they would all be united under one iconic drum & bass label. He paid for their first proper set of decks in 1991 off the back of his first EP, The Ajax Project, and set up Metalheadz in 1994. A year later, the Blue Note in Hoxton offered Metalheadz what would become the label’s legendary Sunday night residency, where they pushed a tougher sound to an increasingly international crowd. Goldie became busier when London Records signed him to produce his seminal album Timeless, and in 1995, he asked Kemistry and Storm to help manage the label.
“I think they were a big part of me getting on Metalheadz,” says Steve Carr, better known as Digital, who made his debut for the label in 1996 and has maintained a tight relationship with them since. “I wasn’t the obvious thing, and neither were they. I’d make one or two of the regular amen tracks, but then I’d make some quirky stuff. And they were into it, they championed me.” Kemistry and Storm helped foster a community of drum & bass devotees who were pushing the genre in new directions. They handled the promotion and A&R for classic tracks like Dillinja’s “The Angels Fell” and J Majik’s “Your Sound”, and hosted meetings where they offered advice to the label’s young producers, helping to steer the musical direction of a song or deciphering which DJs should be given the next release. “They always looked out for artists,” says Digital. “Not just in a music sense, but the people. That’s what made Metalheadz. They got that family vibe. They literally pulled people together.”
DJ Flight is best known in the drum & bass scene for her show The Next Chapter on BBC Radio 1xtra, but she hadn’t even considered DJing when she first encountered Kemistry and Storm. She was transfixed when she caught them at the SW1 Club in Victoria when she was just 17. “I was just staring at them, watching what they were doing,” Flight says. “One of the guys that I was out with came over and said, ‘That will be you in five years time.’” After that, Flight turned up to every gig she could, and with her heroes’ encouragement, created her first two mixtapes. Her big break came one night at Swerve, Fabio’s drum & bass night at The Velvet Rooms, when Kemistry and Storm asked her to make a tape they could give to Goldie. “They said, ‘We want to bring in a new girl into the camp and we think you’re ready,’” she says. But Kemi died shortly afterwards, and Flight only heard Goldie’s feedback months later when she bumped into him at a Metalheadz night in Camden. “He said, ‘Kemi and Jayne think you’re good. That means you’re good. Let’s give you a go,’” she says. By coincidence, Flight’s first set with Metalheadz was also one of Storm’s first gigs since the accident. At the end of the night, she gifted Flight with Kemistry’s decks.
“For women especially, to see somebody like you up there, it’s definitely inspirational,” says Alicia Bauer, aka Alley Cat, who started DJing in San Francisco and now manages her own label named Kokeshi. She met Olusanya and Conneely when she came to support one of their gigs in Germany, and later moved to London where she and Flight both became residents at Feline, a night promoting women in drum & bass that Conneely ran at Herbal in 2007. Alongside artists like Miss Pink, Mantra, and MC Chickaboo, they targeted the gender balance in lineups by filling both the upstairs and downstairs with women DJs and helped to create a space that prioritised women ravers in a male-dominated scene. “The great thing about it is that a lot of girls came out to our night, so it got skewed more toward the female audience,” says Alley Cat.
“Kemi had always tried to find something where she could be who she was, and look like she was, and achieve something – and that was in DJing drum & bass. She’d found it and she was so content” – DJ Storm
Kemistry and Storm’s contribution to drum & bass is crystallised in their DJ-Kicks compilation, which sits in a club culture hall of fame alongside entries into the series by Carl Craig, Four Tet, and Nina Kraviz. The series curators, the record label !K7, hunted for the duo for two years before they finally tracked them down in 1998, when a mutual acquaintance introduced them while walking the streets of Miami. “I thought they were very brave to back Kemi and myself,” says Conneely. “We were women in a male-dominated scene, even though we were doing well in our careers. It was nice to see that they had no bias and they just thought we were the best at what we do.”
Kemistry and Storm made a bold but fitting move for DJ-Kicks. Not only were they the first female duo to feature, theirs was also the first pure drum & bass and jungle entry on a predominantly house, techno, and downtempo-oriented series. “It was a Metalheadz vibe,” says Conneely. The pair seized the opportunity to showcase their favourite producers of that time. Their friendship with Goldie bestowed them a one-off version of “Hyaena”; a dubplate of DJ Die’s “Clear Skyz” illustrated the Bristol sound; and John B., J Majik, and Dillinja were some of the producers championed at Metalheadz. “It’s a good representation of that time,” says Digital, whose track “Mission Accomplished”, a collaboration with Spirit, appeared on the mix. “They covered a lot of the scene. It’s a good album to look to for a bit of proper history for the drum & bass scene and the different artists involved.”
“I’ve never rinsed a CD so hard in my entire life,” says B. Traits, the Canadian DJ who joined Shy FX’s Digital Soundboy label in 2007 and went on to host her own weekly slot on BBC Radio 1. She had just bought her first set of turntables when she listened to Kemistry and Storm’s compilation. “It wasn’t all the big tracks of that year. Every single track was excellent, and it was blended perfectly. Their skills as DJs cut through on that mix, as selectors and as master mixers. To actually see two female DJs that were successful was a game changer for me, especially when I could literally count on one hand the amount that I knew. And they were united. It was like, you can be a part of this crew and you don’t have to be a dude. You can be a part a movement.”
Kemistry and Storm styled themselves as one singular DJ, each retaining their own distinct style while sharing a box of vinyl between them – Storm was known for her deep, growling tunes, while Kemistry favoured more off-kilter sounds. Ordinarily they split their sets down the middle and they took turns to start or finish, but the DJ-Kicks album led them to create a more integrated mix. “We wanted as many artists that we cared about as possible to be on this album, so we had to break it down differently,” says Conneely. “I think that was a real true idea of how Kemistry and Storm work together.
But that union was abruptly severed just a few days after they returned from touring DJ-Kicks around America. On the drive back from a Southampton gig, a rogue cat’s eye, a reflective device used to mark out the centre of UK roads, came loose and flew through the windscreen. Olusanya was killed instantly. “We were very yin and yang, me and Kemi,” says Conneely. “We balanced each other out. So for me to lose half of myself… it was just so shocking.” When Storm returned to play a night run by V Recordings, she continued to split the set between Olusanya’s records and her own. “It was overwhelming at first,” she says, “but actually, it was the best thing I ever did, because it was the place I still felt Kemi. I’ve changed my style over the years to be more ‘Kemistry and Storm’ rather than just ‘Storm’. We were both brave, but I think Kemi was braver first to play that slightly more obscure tune.”
Conneely’s influence has now spread beyond drum & bass with the help of Mumdance, who saw Storm play with Kemistry when he snuck into Brighton’s Essential Music Festival at 13 years old. He’d never heard a DJ mix tracks live before, or experienced a sound system so loud. “That was probably the first dancefloor epiphany that I ever had. It was the first time I’d been physically hit in the face by sound,” Mumdance says. “The Metalheadz aesthetic, and that dark, dystopian dread that Storm specialises in, is probably the prime influence not only on what I do, but on what Pinch does, on what Logos does, and countless other producers.” Mumdance finally met Conneely at a Boiler Room showcase he hosted in 2014, where he invited some of the artists who’d most impacted his style over the years to perform. “She said it was quite pivotal to the next wave of her career,” he says. “A lot of kids who had never heard of her saw her come on deck and smash it. Now she’s been discovered by a whole new crowd.”
In today’s club culture, Storm gets to spread her dark and wild sound to multigenre events like Dimensions and Unsound festivals, and Mumdance’s label Different Circles’ nights. It’s an apt throwback to the genre’s origins, when Fabio and Grooverider were first mixing rave techno with breakbeat, watched by two fledgling DJs who were trying to emulate them at home. “We were like little sponges at the time,” Conneely says. “Fabio taught me how to tell a story, Grooverider taught me how to select. When Randall came along, he put the mixing into perspective. That is what we wanted to achieve, and I think we did. People started saying, ‘We love your style, it’s kind of the rough with the smooth.’ I think Kemistry and Storm took a little bit of everybody and made it into our own.”
We’re mighty excited to be welcoming (amost) the entire Livity Sound crew, from Bristol, for Headset’s 5th Birthday Party this Friday night. Should be more than a wee bit special, not least as our festive 5am licence kicks in as well!
The Skinny’s clubs scribe, Nadia Younes, did this interview (copied below) with label boss Peverelist in which he talks about the label, the Bristol scene and his involvement in it.
Peverelist on Livity Sound and Bristol techno
This month we take our label series outside of Scotland and look to Bristol’s Livity Sound ahead of the label’s showcase at The Bongo Club for Headset’s fifth birthday party
Edinburgh club night Headset has long been a champion of the Bristol electronic music scene, with previous guests including Peach Discs’ co-founder Gramrcy, Idle Hands’ boss Chris Farrell and DJ/producer Hodge (pic. above). It feels fitting, then, that for the party’s fifth birthday they would celebrate Bristol’s burgeoning scene with a showcase of one of its pivotal labels.
Livity Sound was launched by Tom Ford, aka Peverelist, in 2011 and over the last eight years has been responsible for releasing music by some of Bristol’s most exciting artists. In its early days, many of the label’s releases came from Ford himself, as well as Joe Cowton, aka Kowton, and Craig Stennett, aka Asusu – both of whom played crucial roles in the label’s formation. “I’d been working at a record shop called Rooted Records for ten years, where I founded a label called Punch Drunk which focused on documenting the music around the Bristol dubstep scene,” says Ford.
“Unfortunately the record shop was forced to close and I decided it was time to do something more focused on my personal interests,” he continues. “I’d been working on music with Joe [Cowton] a bit at the time and he encouraged me to start the label. In those early years I worked closely with Joe and also Craig [Stennett] to create the aesthetic of the label.”
Since then, the label has maintained a focus on releasing music by Bristol-based artists, but its growing success has also seen it attract interest from further afield, with releases from Simo Cell, Toma Kami and Laurel Halo. “I’ve always worked closely with Bristol artists and given support to other Bristol labels when they’ve asked,” says Ford. “It’s a cool city for music, although I’m not quite as involved now as when I was working at the record shop; that really acted as a hub for the scene – I miss it.”
Having previously performed at Headset himself, Ford will be making a return to the night as part of the label’s showcase alongside other returning guests Hodge and Roska, in his Bakongo guise. “Hodge is a label regular and my promotion partner for when we run our parties in Bristol – awesome DJ and producer to boot,” says Ford. “Bakongo has just had a release on the label and is a bit of a legend in my eyes for a decade of killer underground releases under his Roska alias.”
Fast-rising DJ and illustrator Danielle Doobay will also be making a return to Headset, having played three times before. Doobay is one of the co-runners of Mix Nights – a DJ workshop series for women launched with the help of Shanti Celeste and local organisation Bristol Women in Music – with Daisy Moon and Em Williams. Meanwhile, Anina (pic below) will make her Headset debut and is proving to be one to watch through her slot on independent Bristol radio station Noods Radio and releases on labels like Tape Echo.
“Danielle is a good friend of the label and a regular at our parties – amazing DJ who’s been really busy this year playing some of the best parties in the world,” says Ford. “Anina is one of Bristol’s most in-demand DJs – always plays a belter. A lot of people will know her from her blinding set at this year’s Freerotation festival.”
If Bristol isn’t a city currently on your musical radar, then Livity Sound’s showcase is sure to prove exactly why it should be.
Headset’s 5th Birthday: Livity Sound Takeover, The Bongo Club, Edinburgh, 20 Dec
We’re more than a little bit chuffed to be hosting this one at the Bongo. Hard to believe Axel Boman hasn’t played Edinburgh before. Even more exciting that he will be making his debut here at the Bongo.
If you’ve ever been out partying with me, you’ll notice that similar patterns emerge in the way I like to enjoy my after party. Firstly, I’ll buy more tinnys than is humanly manageable to drink, because beer is your friend, forever and ever, amen. Secondly, I’ll change into a pair of tracksuit bottoms, because I need to be comfy when I’m dying from beer overdose. Thirdly; and this is the only relevant bit, I always play ‘Hello’, by Axel Boman. It’s one of the most beautifully soothing tracks I’ve ever heard, with its haunting, catchy vocal sample and bassline deeper than talking to Carl Sagan on acid. It’s basically the musical equivalent of a nice, warm bath, which is good because it’s the closest thing I get to washing (if you notice from after party points one to three, hygiene isn’t on the list).
So from that track I became a fan and have been listening to his unique brand of ephemerally melodic house ever since. Then when I heard of his new project ‘Talaboman’; with top producer John Talabot, I was intrigued to see how the tracks would sound. On hearing their first single ‘Sideral’, I wasn’t disappointed. So, ahead of their headline sets at Corsica Studios on the 27th and 28th of this month I sat down with the Swedish born producer to talk about the creative process, his label Studio Barnhus and his favourite purple drank:
Hey man, how’s it going?
Axel Boman: Hey! I’m good man! Really good.
What you up to at the moment?
AB: Just working on a remix at the moment, for a band Hunter & Game a bit like Darkside so like really synth heavy, kinda darkish pop stuff.
Fair play. I saw the last remix you did was Maribou State one, do you push to do them yourself or do people commission you? How do you choose what remixes to do most of the time?
AB: Most of the time, its people just asking me, and offering money! But I do also feel like the tune has to be something I relate to as an artist, I can’t just take any ‘trap’ song off the radio and do it, it has to be something I can work with.
Do you feel more responsible over a remix than your own stuff?
AB: Yeah I feel like sometimes I can’t just strip back a track to just the basskick and hand it back to them and say “Here is what I thought was good of your tune”. Like there was that amazing story of Aphex Twin doing a remix for Bjork in 20 minutes, where he had obviously just done nothing with the original track but just sent over something he had already done, but I don’t think I could do something like that. I think DJ Koze is a remix genius and makes everything better, like “What the fuck was the original? This is shit compared to the Koze remix”, but I do feel more responsible over someone else’s tunes than I would do my own because you have a responsibility toward the original song. I feel that I owe it to the original track to use parts of it in the remix that you can hear, to pay my respect that way.
What your fave remix that you’ve ever done you think?
AB: It was the one I did a while ago for Agaric, called ‘No way I Know I Feel’. I felt I got the melodies really well placed with the original song and it just worked. I added a sample from a completely different track that worked surprisingly well with the original I think. That’s my favourite remix for sure.
I’ll definitely look that one up. So apparently during the second half of June it barely ever gets dark in Stockholm during some weeks due to the midnight sun. What kind of parties do you guys have when it’s always light?
AB: Yeah we have parties in the woods like, every weekend. You just get a text from a friend saying “there’s a party in the woods”, then you get there and just follow the sound of the kick drum, but people can’t last too long cos they drink so much. Like obviously everyone is on drugs but we just drink so much we usually don’t last past the next day.
Is it not like Berlin?
AB: No, not at all. Berlin doesn’t have the same drinking culture, they are sipping on water and stuff, whereas we just get really hammered. We have a natural drinking affinity with the English, for example last night I was drinking 6 or 7 pints of beer, which is quite a lot of beer when you think about it.
And if it was Italians they would be like *puts on Italian accent* “What is this giant beer?”
That’s true! But even though you guys drink the same as us you know that Swedes have the longest life expectancy in Europe whereas in the UK we have one of the lowest?
AB: Oh really I didn’t know that. Well it’s got to be the diet. I’ve seen the full English breakfasts and stuff like that you eat whereas we have rye bread and a lot of fish…
I think we’re just becoming really Americanised with all the fast food that’s coming in…
AB: Yeah but then everywhere is these days, like in Stockholm it’s just getting Starbucks after Starbucks.
Yeah it’s shit. So your album Family Vacation was well received for how diverse it is, how did that kind of sound come about?
AB: Well I actually think it all sounds quite similar, which is like this playful house that has pop melodies throughout. I tried to keep a theme running all the way through the album which I think I managed to achieve. Now there is some distance from when I first released it so it’s easier to look back and think about it more objectively.
But when you are making music do you sample a lot, or is it more live music you use? Some of your music has a live feel to it, like you’ve been jamming as a band when you made it. So do you play as a band or solo and build it organically or does it always have a certain structure?
AB: Well I always have a synth melody in my head for days, and I’ll try and build it around that. I’ll also have about five or six samples that I want to fit in, so it’s a mixture of both.
Yeah like I feel that some of your tracks, like ‘Hello’ can drift in and out of melodies, is that something you are conscious of or do on purpose?
AB: Well I’m not a classically trained artist so I don’t always look for a melody and a harmony. I think it works to my advantage because whereas some people are always looking for the hook that fits a track I can just experiment with different samples and ideas until something clicks.
So are you a perfectionist do you think?
AB: Well I think that some people can be comfortable to put a bassline together and a sample and just think “that’s fine” but for me it’s almost never fine. Whenever I first put something together I never accept the first edit, because I know that if I add different things to it, it can make it into something much more than it originally was. So I keep going at it with different samples or different angles until it becomes something more that I like. Like I love Moodymann and the way he’ll have samples that just don’t quite fit together, y’know? You can hear that they don’t fit but it still works. I love that whole Detroit sound.
Is he a big influence on you?
AB: Oh absolutely, although I’m not just a house-head, I’m just as much of a fan of ABBA as any of the Detroit house guys too.
Are you a fan of Three Chairs?
AB: Three chairs not so much but individually much more. I feel like the expectation of those three together can never live up to anything they produce by themselves.
Yeah I know what you mean, like it’s expected that all three of them together will combine to make a better sound somehow.
So carrying on with your creative process, what about creative blocks, how do you deal with them?
AB: Inspiration is for amateurs!
No well I do a lot of smoking weed and drinking wine. I also go for runs. Also we like to laugh and joke around in the Studio so it can come naturally, but it’s just as likely to pop into my head on a run than when I’ve been smoking or drinking. I just think it’s a matter of persistence. Like, I will just keep going at a track until something comes to me most of the time. But then some of the time I can be really lazy and if something doesn’t instantly come at me I’ll just forget about it but then other times you just have to keep going at it over and over until it works. I know there are some people who are just perfect like Roman Flugel, who just make one perfect track every day, but that’s not me; I have to work at it. It SEEMS that Roman does this.
I’m sure he puts in just as much effort as you behind the scenes though?
AB: No Roman Flugel is just one of those perfect people that does Ashtanga yoga, eats well, looks healthy and im sure he’s a fantastic lover. Every tune he makes is perfect, no matter what. He is just one of those sexy, perfect people.
Sounds like maybe you should try and get with Roman Flugel?
AB: No I am not perfect enough for him. He’s probably think I was too fat or something like that, plus I think he is into girls.
So why was the album called Family Vacation? Is about a family vacation you went on?
AB: No it’s not really about anything that happened in real life or any family vacation I’ve been on, I just like the way it sounds, like some kind of tragic sounding event,
Like a family vacation that went wrong?
AB: Yeah, like some eerie tragic story.
So you aren’t actually the son of a plumber either?
AB: No it’s the name of a Per Gessle album, the master mind behind swedish pop sensation Roxette
AB: Well they are really famous in Sweden, I just stole it off one of their album titles so I wasn’t actually a son of a plumber or anything like that.
Ah OK fair enough. So obviously ahead of your shows I wanted to talk a bit about Talaboman. How did the partnership with John Talabot come about?
AB: Well he is a friend with (Barnhus label mate) Petters, and I always really liked his stuff and when we met we got on really well. I think the Spanish and Swedish have like, this natural affinity so we instantly connected.
Will you be releasing more stuff than the Sideral tune you did?
AB: Yeah we are actually working on an album right now. We have about eight tracks, not really sure if I should be talking about it as an album because it isn’t really that yet, it’s just a collection of tracks, but most of them are finished but like in a raw state.
When will it be coming out?
AB: Early next year, I think John has an album he is working on to release later on in 2016 so we want to get something early next year because I don’t want to get in the way of his album launch and stuff like that.
Will it be more stuff like Sideral?
AB: It will be a lot bigger, it will still have the emotional element that Sidereal has but we have been working a lot with synths so we have been trying to make bigger…
More, epic tracks?
AB: Yeah! Like stuff that is more expansive than some of the stuff I have done before.
So is it going to be like, big lights flashing, eyes closed, hands in the air kind of music at the raves?
AB: I hope so!
Are you going to be playing a lot of the tracks at the shows at Corsica Studios?
AB: Yeah of course! It is the perfect place to do it, I love Corsica and I love the system there and it’s very intimate too which I like so I can’t wait for the shows.
Do you prefer to play in the more intimate venues or bigger mega venues?
AB: Well I am not really used to play in these bigger gigs like John is so he has been giving me advice on it. But I have also been getting advice from DJ Koze, he gives me these classic one liners about handling it; like the best one he gave me was “play songs with less information”. Which I think is so perfect because it’s totally true in those situations where you have thousands of people to play to.
Like maybe the subtleties of some of your music can get lost when playing to bigger crowds?
AB: Yeah, exactly.
So I know you graduated from the Valand School of Fine Arts in 2010, what did you study?
AB: Well I was one of the last people to do the five year degree at the Uni, where they just gave us a studio for five years and let us get on with it, and check in every six months to see if we were OK. Now they only allow three year courses so I was one of the last people to do it.
What kind of stuff did you do?
AB: Well it was everything from painting, to sound, to film. By the end it was purely conceptual, like if I had an idea I would just build around this idea whether it was sound or film.
Do you have any of the stuff to show us?
AB: Hold on a sec…*checks computer for a while* No I don’t think I have any stuff. I think it may be somewhere on my dad’s computer. If I have any bit of advice it’s keep a hold of everything you used to do, keep every scrap book, every file on your computer.
I read an interview with you where you said lost a laptop with all your stuff but you felt it was quite cathartic?
AB: Yeah I had to start completely again. It was kind of like losing your phone though, with all the numbers of everyone you love.
So how did Studio Barnhus come about? And is it better releasing under your own label or just easier letting someone else handle it?
AB: Well we have been living together and working in a studio space, so we just naturally became friends and started making music together. So we moved into this studio which is on Orphanage Street (Barnhusgaten) in Stockholm, and the Swedish for orphanage is actually Barnhus.
In English the closest translation to it means like a shed or outhouse where farmers keep their tools and livestock…
AB: Really? I never knew that. In Swedish it’s less negative than orphanage though, like it’s a fun thing to do with youth, because I know orphanage is more a negative thing in English but in Swedish when a place is fun it can be described as a Barnhus. I’m actually releasing a lot of stuff under my own sub label Barn-Barn which means grandson in Swedish which is funny because that’s kind of how it is to me and the label.
I’ll definitely be looking out for that. So your breakout tune Purple Drank was a banger, so I had to ask, what is your favourite kind of purple drink?
AB: At the moment I really like ‘Sanalepsi’, which is like Swiss anti-histamin drops. But there’s also another American drink I like, it’s kind of like this powder shit…
*asks his mates in Swedish*
Kool Aid! Yeah we got a lot of Kool Aid going on at the moment.
So finally; as your name is Axel, who is your favourite Axel: the Streets of Rage character, Axel Rose from Guns & Roses or Axel Foley from Beverly Hills Cop?
AB: What is Streets of Rage?
Like the old Mega-Drive game!
AB: Let me Google it…Oh yeah this game kicks ass!!! I used to love this game. That guy is called Axel?
AB: Well I’d have to say even though he is a woman beating psycho crazy motherfucker Axel Rose is still my favourite. But if I have to choose they are all number one!
So Axel Rose is first, then Axel from Streets of Rage?
AB: Axel Rose first, then Axel Foley from Beverly hills cop then Axel from Streets of Rage because I don’t know him as well.
Drum n bass duo Hybrid Minds play a sold out show for Electrikal tonight and have just been confirmed to headline the promoter’s Woodland Festival event in May ’20. NB Tickets are non transferable and there will be no tickets available on the door.
For a bit of insight, here’s an interview the drum and bass duo did with the native website, “where they talk production, inspo, and nurseries”:
“Two of the most innovative liquid drum and bass producers on the scene – We caught up with the pair to get a look into the inner workings of Hybrid Minds:
So to start off, what have you guys been up to today? What’s a day in the life of Hybrid Minds?
Matt: It’s nothing very producer-like for me, it’s been more of viewing nurseries – maybe let’s leave that one out. It’s been rock’n’roll really, y’know just trashing rooms, just smashin’ it.
Josh: We did a little bit of work on a new track today didn’t we, we’re trying to get some vocals done for a couple tracks.
Who are you turning to for the vocals?
Matt: Well a bunch of different people really, we’re sort of deciding who we’re gonna send things to – we’ve sort of got an idea in mind but nothing concrete yet. We tend to just send tracks around to different people and if we’re feeling it we roll with it and if it’s not quite right we’ll send it to someone else – we’ve just worked like that for a long time.
I read in one of your previous interviews that vocals aren’t really your area, you give it to other people and maybe have a little bit of input.
Josh: We sometimes give people a direction, but we really appreciate what vocalists can bring – that’s what they’re good at, so I don’t feel like we should get in the way of their ideas and, they sometimes bring things that we weren’t expecting that can really give a track a new life.
Do you feel if you give them directions you’re somewhat limiting the potential output?
Matt: Exactly. Yeah, we feel like we wouldn’t want to be restricted. They do what they do and we do what we do, and we wouldn’t wanna restrict anyone’s creative ability – just let them crack on. It usually works best that way, we usually find they’ll do a good job and we’ll just roll with it basically.
So I’m going to start my actual questions now! Can you guys talk me through your musical backgrounds and how you met?
Matt: Right, how did we meet Josh? We both ran record labels, god knows how long ago, it’s a long time ago.
Josh: At least 10 odd years ago.
Matt: We met through that and we used to do a little radio station together, it was like a little community and sort of how we started out and met each other. We were both into running record labels at the time and we sorta spoke and got to know each other through that really.
When did you decide to DJ and produce as a duo? That’s quite a big commitment.
Josh: We’d been quite close for a while, and then we did one collab that went really well and just enjoyed the process of doing it.
Matt: Yeah we were both really feeling the same things at the time, a lot of the liquid stuff. We weren’t really setting out to go anywhere with it, it was just more for fun really. It all sort of fell into place when we had our first tune released – it was actually under Sensa and Haste, not Hybrid Minds, it’s essentially to us the first release we ever did.
A lot of people know about it, it went up on UKF and did well. It was from then on out we kept on going and that’s it.
I’m curious to know about the creative process when there’s two of you – do you both have your specialities in terms of who provides what to each project or do you do a bit of everything?
Matt: It’s a bit of everything really isn’t it? We both do the same processes but we also have different areas where we specialise I suppose. Josh is a big details man, with me I like to bang out an idea, I get bored of it and then I wanna start a new idea.
With Josh he wants to go in on all the details, he thrives on these things – when we make a quick idea together Josh will go in on it and it’ll go from my repetitive loop to this thing that really comes together and doesn’t get boring.
Josh: We work over dropbox and share one folder that we have a bunch of tracks in and we can just individually open and work on them.
Matt: For instance, Josh could start an idea and if we’re both feeling it we put it in the dropbox but we might not get to work on it until, well it could be years later really. Like today, we’re just going through an old track, I sent it over to Josh, I didn’t actually know what it was and that’s sort of how these things come to be.
Old tracks that you forget about and you listen to a year or two later and you’re you like “actually, there’s something about that”. That one I sent him earlier, that’ll be going into the backlog of things to do. I tend to go through all the old ideas because we forget – there’s so many of them we just forget and end up working on new things instead. That’s how we work really, straight out of dropbox.
Sometimes you need some time to be able to breathe new life into a track.
Josh: Yeah you can get fed up listening to something again and again, like 8 bars. It’s similar to what vocalists do when they bring something new to a track. One of us might start something and fall out of love and the other person will find it a while later and give it a new lease of life.
Matt: Sometimes one of us isn’t feeling it as much as the other, I could send an idea to Josh that he doesn’t really like but give it a few months and we’ll both come back to it and think “actually there’s something about this”. You can’t usually make decisions on the spot unless it’s a really obvious straight up hit. Some things aren’t so obvious and need a lot more work but we get there in the end.
So presumably you both listen to a lot of the same music, but do either of you make or listen to anything that the other finds a bit questionable?
Josh: As we’ve been making music together for so long, we’re definitely not precious, and we tend to focus on the negatives rather than the positives and we’re quick to say what we don’t like in a track.
Whose the harshest critic?
Matt: I’d say Josh.
Josh: Yeah probably!
So you guys started your own record label, Hybrid Music, in 2016 and I’ve read in one of your previous interviews and you said the label had been even more work than you’d anticipated. Now you’re almost two years in, is it still hectic or do you have more of a handle on it?
Josh: If anything I’d say there’s even more work, we’re branching into doing a small club night, working on music all the time, dealing with distributors and whatnot – it never ends. But, it gives us such a drive to continue working hard and trying to put in enough hours every week to making music so it is, I think, an essential part of us working.
Matt: It’s a positive thing, you’ve got no restrictions. On other labels you’re gonna be working to their demands, what they want, what they expect from you. We can just put out anything, even if we don’t think it’s going to sell particularly well, we can still do that if we wanted to. We’ve got a good creative output to do whatever we want. It’s definitely more work but a lot better.
A labour of love.
Are there any record labels that you draw inspiration from in terms of both the music they put out and the way they operate?
Josh: When it comes to promotional approaches, I suppose we’ll constantly be inspired by what we see. We do keep our eye on what other people are doing and what we think are good ideas.
Matt: I think early on we had a lot of inspiration from labels but since it’s got busier we don’t listen to much music really. Well I know that’s the case for me anyway, if I’m doing a set I’ll go through my emails and pick the best sort of thing and most of the time I don’t know what the label is, sometimes I don’t know what the artist is!
So it’s hard to say where we draw inspiration from creatively as producers, but Josh especially listens to a lot of music outside drum and bass and links that to me, so I think a lot of inspiration really comes from outside.
Josh: Yeah, and just individual artists rather than labels, because we’re the only artists on our label, so we don’t want to be some big factory churning out loads of music, it’s not our aim. So I suppose we look up to individual artists rather than labels.
So you guys are playing at Volks on April 20th. Have you been to Brighton before? What’s been your experience in our great city?
Josh: Yeah, we play Brighton at least a few times a year and it’s always awesome. It’s a really nice place to visit, to go out for dinner before a show, grab a couple beers. We usually tend to get a hotel so we can chill out. Crowd-wise it’s always full of smiles which is good and people know our music down there which is definitely always a bonus.
That’s got to be the most important thing.
Josh: Yeah it is, sometimes you can play club shows and crowds can be enjoying themselves but when they actually sing your songs back to you it’s a whole new level, and that’s the sort of thing we get in Brighton.
Couple more questions for you. What other projects are both you working on right now? Music or otherwise.
Matt: We’ve got a few things in the works at the minute haven’t we? We’ve got a collab project with InsideInfo in the pipes.
We’ve been fans of for a while and, even though he’s in a completely different world to us, he understands our world and he brings that into the tunes. With this project we’ve been working on with him, it’s something different, I can’t put it in any category which is always good. Well, it could be bad I suppose, but I like the fact you can’t pigeonhole it and its not really a particular sort of style, it’s just a new thing.
But aside from that we’re just working on finishing a bunch of singles at the minute. We’re just trying to finish all the backlog of music we’ve got, which there’s quite a lot of, get that out to vocalists and hopefully be able to deliver some new music very soon. So the next single is actually going to be with Charlotte Haining, called ‘Paint By Numbers’, so that’s going to be the next thing out that people can expect from us. Then following from that we’re not sure ourselves, we’re just gonna finish the music and schedule it accordingly I suppose.
Josh: And we’ve also got our club night in London. The last one sold out way in advance so we’re quite excited to see where that goes and branching out to different cities and bigger venues hopefully next year, so that’s quite exciting.
So last question, what are you guys listening to right now?
Matt: You’ll be better for this Josh, I’ve been listening to nothing.
Josh: When I’m travelling or sat at my laptop working not on music, I’ve been listening to the album Dawn by RYX because it keeps me calm and not want to shout at people which is good!
Hybrid Minds – Solitude feat. Alexa Harley
AI – True Colours
Hybrid Minds – Never Change feat. Grimm (GLXY Remix)
Dualistic – Station Six
Hybrid Minds – Skin & Bones feat. Grimm & Laurence Baker (Mitekiss Remix)
LSB – Rolling Sideways (Spectrasoul Remix)
Jome – Cinnamon (Hybrid Minds Remix)
BCee – Little Bird
Dawn Wall – Shy
Monrroe – Dawning feat. Emily Jones (Technimatic Remix)
Camo & Krooked – Ember (Hybrid Minds Remix)
Halogenix – Blej Alix
Perez – Forsaken
Dawn Wall – Never Say
Eastcolours – Keys
DRS – I Will feat. Patife & Vangeliez
Hybrid Minds – Skeletons feat. Grimm
BCee – Lost & Found feat. Rocky Nti (Hybrid Minds Remix)
D Kay – Thinner Edge
Indiana – Mess Around (Etherwood Remix)
Jakwob – Blinding feat. Rocky Nti (Hybrid Minds Remix)
Mitekiss – Some People
Artic Lake – Heal Me (Spectrasoul Remix)
Tokyo Prose – Dawn Chorus
Spectrasoul – Remember Me
Hybrid Minds – Pretend feat. Rocky Nti
Mohican Sun – Fixation
Alix Perez – Number feat. Benabu
Tokyo Prose – Saving Grace VIP
Feint – Take It In feat. Koven (Hybrid Minds Remix)
We’re well chuffed to be welcoming Session Victim to the Bongo, courtesy of irregular midweek party-starters Oscillate. More info on the event / ticket link HERE.
Here’s a copy of a recent interview they did with Flux Music to give you a bit more background to this talented pair:
Trump, Brexit, divisive politics, the overzealous policing of raves and this general air of malaise has turned a lot of us into cynical and jaded folk – and in many ways, this seems to be mirrored in a lot of the darker music coming out. But they say you need the rain to have the rainbow, and Session Victim are exactly that – a burst of colour and optimism in a cloud of darkness and grey.
Hauke Freer and Matthias Rieling comprise the self-dubbed ‘2-man house band’, blending the rawness and spontaneity of a raucous live gig with the almost spiritual pulse of a DJ set where the entire crowd moves in unison as a nebulous school of dancing fish.
They are also accomplished solo artists in their own right, with releases on the Giegling and Delusions of Grandeur imprints amongst others – and Matthias’ new EP drops on Session Victim’s own label Pen & Paper this week. We caught up with Matthias and Hauke, based in Hamburg and Berlin respectively, to discuss the German music scene, their Pen & Paper label and playing house music live…
Hi guys. What’s the genesis of the Session Victim name? Is it somewhat autobiographical?
Matthias: Hi! I don’t remember exactly how we came up with it, but it was right before we released our No Friends EP on Real Soon. For us it describes that moment in the studio, jamming, when it transcends from you playing the music to the music playing you – if that makes any sense. When we told [Real Soon label owner] Paul Hammond about it, he instantly liked it so we went with it.
Session Victim often feels a little sunnier and in stark contrast to the darker, more brooding form of dance music Germany has come to be known for – would you agree with this, or is there a thriving Berlin/Hamburg community within which you cultivate this brighter sound?
Matthias: We are and have always been friends with a lot of musicians and DJs in Berlin and Hamburg, and we get to meet new interesting and inspiring people all the time. So, of course there is a bigger, loose community, but this community includes people from everywhere around the world just as much as it does Germany. What comes out of Session Victim is basically just the stuff that the two of us both feel together – that goes for what we write and produce as well as what we spin as DJs. However, we are lucky and blessed to be surrounded by so many talented people and I would love to name them all now – but it would be a very long list and I would forget someone in the end and feel bad about it forever.
Your ‘2-man house band’ vibe really shines through – there is this raw, live feel to it. The jazz club-esque intro at the start of Listen To Your Heart, opener ‘Over and Over’ followed by the sample of Rasa’s ‘When Will The Day Come’ really emphasises this. How do you guys manage to make it so cohesive and organic when collaborating remotely?
Hauke: To be honest, we don’t actually collaborate remotely. Our studio has been in Hamburg for the last 5 years. I take a train during the week and we lock ourselves down for 2 to 3 days. Many people mention that they perceive our music as organic. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but I think it’s a mixture of using many samples that come with their own rich colours, textures and timing as well as attention to layers and details. And really important is to avoid thinking too much within the grid.
What is the impetus behind the live show, and why is it so important to you guys?
Matthias: Because it’s a ton of fun! It’s something we practise but is spontaneous nonetheless, it’s chaotic, it’s emotional, it’s in that very moment, it’s sometimes scary but at the same time something we both feel super confident about… yo, it is a whole lot of things to us!
Your live shows at the Jazz Cafe seem to have gone down in folklore, especially with Matthias’ crowd surfing. The energy of your productions seems to come from both your music and your physicality when performing, an observation that’s drawn comparisons with the Duracell rabbits on YouTube. Where does the energy come from?
Matthias: Haha, that sounds too big and cheesy to me. We just play music, we get into it, emotionally and physically, we give our energy into the audience, and receive energy back. As for the stage diving, when that happened at Jazz Café, I was just overjoyed with the music and the vibes at that moment and the audience made me feel so safe and good that it just happened. However, it is not a premeditated stunt or gimmick, and I don’t do it every other show. It was just a very intense night – in a good way!
How did the collaborations on your ‘Dawn EP’ with South London’s Nebraska and the German Iron Curtis come about, and why/how did you approach it this way after several albums of it just being the two of you?
Matthias: Nebraska and Iron Curtain are longtime friends of ours, and they both visited us at our Hamburg studio last year to jam on music. There wasn’t a preordained plan to do a collaboration EP before, the tunes we came up with just felt right together and when we showed them to DOG they were totally into it as well.
You launched your label Pen & Paper the start of last year with three releases including Iron Curtis and solo stuff from Hauke. Matthias has a forthcoming EP out very soon – what can we expect from this release and what are your broader ambitions for the label in 2019?
Matthias: We started Pen & Paper as our own little playground, and the idea came up after we gave our track ‘Puzzle’ to Iron Curtis and VRIL and they came back with those beautiful remixes. Before we had them, there wasn’t the idea for a release at all, but suddenly it felt like a complete 12” all together. The A side of the second release, ‘Smile’, we had originally planned as part of our third album, but it somehow didn’t feel fitting with the rest of the music, so we decided against it. After ‘Mourn’ was finished, we both immediately thought these two tracks would make a great record together.Hauke’s Higher State of Confidence was a total no brainer for me and I would have probably sent it off to pressing right after I heard the first versions of those tracks. Hyped as I was, Hauke put some more detail work into it and gave ‘Part 1’ to our friend Sam Irl, who did an absolutely amazing job mixing the song. As for my upcoming solo record, I made at least 12 pieces for it of which 3 actually made the cut now, including a stunning Broke One remix of ‘Vibrate’. I’m happy that he pulled the whole EP into slightly friendlier territory with it, as I originally wanted the whole thing to be even darker.
What club or city in the world do you find your music most resonates – what crowds are matching the unbridled energy you bring to your live sets?
Hauke: In the end you can have a great party everywhere, and it’s never possible to predict the outcome of any night. When we play to an audience that appreciates being taken on a journey musically, it’s easier to establish a feedback loop between us and the audience and that’s when we are performing at our best.
What is the summer looking like for you guys? Can we expect some festival appearances?
Hauke: Cannot wait for summer, though sticking to our regular routine of hitting the studio during the week and being on the road on weekends. We are playing around Europe mostly and making longer trips to Mexico, Lebanon, the US and Down Under a bit later this year!
You can listen to and buy ‘The Stone Tape EP’ here.
NB OUR REGULAR COWGATE VENUE DOES NOT BELONG TO US AND THE BONGO CLUB DOES NOT MAKE ANY MONEY AT ALL DURING THIS PERIOD.
The Underbelly is a Fringe theatre/comedy/arts business based in London; The Bongo Club is a trading subsidiary of Out Of The Blue Arts and Education Trust, an independent arts charity and social enterprise based in Leith.
So, if you come down to the venue at this time, you will find none of our events happening and none of our crew here (except those few who have been hired separately by the Underbelly to work for them).
However, you are likely to find more space open than usual – the Underbelly’s licence is much broader than our own – and a thriving Fringe operation in full swing. So, by all means, please feel free to check it out but remember it has nothing to do with us.
To an outsider, South Africa’s music sphere appears volatile and unpredictable. The cultural hangover that the apartheid left in its wake rendered individual scenes divisive at best, and insular at worst. As such, it’s fascinating to hear DJ Lag imply that gqom, the hybrid strain of South African house that he played a singular role in proliferating, had to break out internationally before receiving even a modicum of attention in South Africa outside his home city of Durban, where he and a band of peers laid its foundations.
“For me, it really helped because when the international crowd started taking note of the sound, gqom became a big thing in South Africa as well. People who didn’t know about gqom in South Africa got word of it because of the international exposure, and they started searching for it, trying to get the music, and it became a big thing in the past two years”, he explains.
It’s been a couple of years since gqom first made the headlines. In 2015 its international hype compounded tenfold, as tastemaker and Hyperdub mastermind Kode 9 had begun to incorporate the sound into his sets after an introduction by South African-born Hyperdub signee OKZharp. This push thrust gqom into what relative limelight these pockets of electronic music can offer, and the genre caught the attention of Moleskin, who operates Goon Club Allstars; the London label responsible for Lag’s first release proper. He has previously spoken humbly of his disbelief that a label from outside Durban would even hear his work, let alone release it.
And yet, occupying a void between raw and refined and provoking a more bodily response with each new track, Lag’s brand of gqom has since catapulted him to notoriety on the international circuit. It’s been around two years since gqom broke out, and I’m intrigued as to how it’s international communities of avid fans have influenced its communicative effects back home. He simply states:
“When people from South Africa found out that a South African genre was being played a lot internationally, that’s when they woke up and started taking notice of it.”
This statement speaks to a wider, deeper paradox that seems to plague contemporary musical styles with their roots in South Africa. In a recent conversation I had with DJ Okapi, he spoke of the strange reticence South African music fans have towards music that originates from their home. Perhaps an amalgamation of nuanced sociopolitical reasons is to blame, and yet the same story is told of each widely adored South African export: they must prove their worth internationally before finding their footing in their country of origin.
However, thanks to the tireless graft of DJ Lag and his contemporaries Rudeboyz, Emo Kid, Dominowe and countless others, gqom’s reputation the world over has resulted in its eventual embrace by their home country. Now, “for sure, gqom is getting bigger and bigger. The sound is taking over South Africa. Every club and every radio station – they play gqom” Lag discloses proudly.
The vocal strain of the genre has proven particularly popular, with records by Distruction Boyz and Babes Wodumo enjoying enormous success. The former’s 2017 debut album Gqom Is The Future was even awarded gold certification by the Recording Industry of South Africa as recognition for it having sold over 20,000 copies.
Lag says “there were vocalist growing up alongside Gqom producers, and as we grew, so do they, but I honestly feel like Babes Wodumo brought gqom to the mainstream with ‘Wololo’”. Taking in the trademark gut-wrenching gqom grooves that Lag employs and icing them with impossibly catchy hooks, ‘Wololo’ is a deserving breakout. And yet, once again, this is a success story marred by controversy. I am noticing a macabre pattern emerging. As she released follow-up single ‘Mercedes’, Wodumo instantly found herself the subject of a tabloid with-hunt “The lyrics on the tracks were open to interpretation, and a lot of people thought they had bad meanings, like referencing drugs” Lag explains, which led to the track being banned from the airwaves by the SABC.
In spite of these setbacks, Lag is perfectly optimistic about gqom’s future, and charmingly humble. He’s also refreshingly grounded in comarison to the lavish imagery of the gold-certified producer-vocalists Distruction Boyz. “I can say for myself that I will continue touring the world, pushing the sound abroad. I want to make it recognizable to everyone in the world. I’m dropping my next EP in April under London based label Goon Club Allstars. And of course, continuing my worldwide tour, visiting new countries and revisiting others.”
It’s not all he’s got on the horizon. As he continues his world tour, he has the following to look forward to: “The international crowd is completely different to Durban crowd and how they react to GQOM music is a bit different. In Durban when GQOM is playing, we’ve got a unique way of dancing which is called ‘bang’, whereas all over the world they just go crazy with no specific style.”
The frenzy of the international dancer is hardly surprising. To have led the way on a vital genre borne of a DIY movement at the age of 21 is enough to incite envy and awe in equal measure.