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Interviews

Layo & Bushwacka!

The key to longevity in the “blink and you’ll miss it” world of electronic music is adaptability, and doing your own thing. That’s whyLayo and Bushwacka are still headlining their own residencies as well as various clubs and festivals around the world. They’ve seen it all and done it all on their own terms: their journey perhaps the blueprint for the idyllic DJ career. Since meeting through mutual friend Andy C, they’ve survived the original acid warehouse raves of the late ’80s, running the institution that was The End, and making top ten hits but still maintaining credibility underground; producing three albums and on top of all that, running End recordings, and now Olmeto Records.

When I spoke to them, the initial answers they gave were vague to say the least, one brief sentence per question, two at a push. After pressing for elaboration, Layo’s closing comment explains why: “I’m in Ibiza and I’ve had too little sleep to come up with anything else”. Still enjoying it then!

What sets them apart from the rest is just doing their own thing, keeping an open mind, and knowing when to move on. Inspired by anything from “a high hat to a jazz track” they encompass what they consider to be the fundamental aspects of electronic music in their production and their epic live sets: “the feeling of warmth, strong rhythms, energy and emotion”. With the evolution of a zillion sub genres of dance music, could they attribute any to themselves? “Space disco, deep house, techno, tech house and some minimal”. In terms of other acts, an enduring fondness for Richie Hawtin is apparent, which is entirely mutual; he cited the last Shake It! event as his favourite gig of the year.

It was a sad day for house lovers when The End shut: thousands of revellers who flocked there over and over again were in despair. As the conversation flows, it would appear that the place still features heavily in their hearts and minds, as Layo cites the opening and closing nights as the two best nights of his life. Why indeed would they do such a thing? “After playing 13 years at The End, it felt right to do something new”.

This Friday sees the latest edition of their bi-monthly Shake It parties, run by the same team behind The End. This one will be held at a rather more intimate location than the previous warehouses – a photography studio in fact, not the most obvious place for a rave, but “Jade Jagger had a party there” a while back, and I understand it was rather good. So why not stay in one place? “We didn’t want to just take up residency in another club, that would’ve felt very wrong for us and for the people who used to come to The End”. Apparently, there wasn’t really a plan, except for it to be their own residency, not tied down, and with “top, top guests that we new would completely rock the party” and, of course, “the best crowd and electric atmosphere.” So essentially, their party, their rules: a tried and trusted formula.

Adam Beyer – Swedish Techno Pioneer

Adam Beyer is a name synonymous with techno, and has been a big influence on defining the genre since the early ’90s. He began working life in the Planet Rhythm store in his native Stockholm, and somehow came to working with the affiliated record label. Apparently, he says, “things just fell into place” as he was surrounded by like-minded creative individuals, which “makes it much easier to have your sound recognised if several of you are pushing for the same”. Back then, the Swedish techno scene was “new and blossoming” and “very exciting”. They used to go to secret warehouse parties in the outskirts of Stockholm, but not many people knew about them which added to the buzz of the underground.

So who inspired Adam Beyer to get into techno? “Mostly myself actually”. I guess you don’t get to his position by being modest. He does also pay credit to the “guy in the record store” (I’m sure you know who you are) since he helped him find the cool records. “I was DJing already and started to buy records before I actually started going to the parties. There were no techno superstars back in 1990.”

So Drumcode is his label, and it seems to be the authority on all that is good in techno, above and within the underground. The ethos of the label is pretty straightforward: keeping the DJ in mind, making every track playable, and no fillers. “I tend to pick music for the label with some sort of theme in mind – it might be something very subtle, but it makes the track special in one way or another. Drumcode as a label defines what the more popular side of the underground scene is all about: not too hard, not too trendy. It’s definitely not cheesey; just really good party techno that appeals to a wider audience.”

One thing they don’t do is compromise. When it comes to his own DJing and sound, he’s slightly more diverse and likes to play across all the dance music genres, but of course adapts it depending on where he plays. He wouldn’t describe himself as a perfectionist, (“that depends what defines one”) but goes on to ask, “what’s the point in not being satisfied in what you create and what you stand for?” So, yes I think he probably is. He admits he’s been rash with decisions in the past and lived to regret it, so these days he takes extra care to avoid such mistakes. I wonder: does he ever step back to take it all in? “I am just very happy to be able to live my dream and work in music”.

Recent recruits to the label have included the likes of Nihad Tule, Nima Khak and Patrik Siech, but what exactly does Adam look for in new signings? “They all have their own distinctive sound, which is still quite raw. I can see the potential in them and they have a great chance now to develop and evolve.” In addition to Drumcode, he also runs sideline labels Truesoul, which is more open and allows artists to various genres along the electronic music spectrum, meaning the singles are usually “a bit deeper and clubbier”. Madeye is just for Adam and his collaborations. He uses it to explore techonology and takes influences from other genres like minimal and tech house; usually the tracks on Madeye are more complex in terms of their sound and arrangement.

It seems true in many music genres that trends come about in 20 year cycles, so is it a similar story in the world of techno? Are a lot of the features that characterised it back in the early ’90s coming back into effect now? “I think they’ve been back in for quite some time. There’s a lot of old school sounding techno being played by the likes of Ben Klock and the Berghain people for example. Not to mention the good old ride cymbal – finally back with a bang” (pun probably intended).

Highlights of the summer this year were Drumcode at Space, Ibiza; and the Drumcode arena at Sziget festival, Hungary. Saturday 25th September sees Adam bring Drumcode to Ewer Street car park, London to showcase the label in all its glory. Sharing the headline spot is Chris Liebing, as well as a host of fellow Drumcode label mates including Cari Lekebusch and Joel Mull- the who’s who in techno really. What should people expect? “A great show, hopefully. We’ve put a lot of effort into sound and visuals, and the line up is insane. A big night out basically!”

Catch Adam on his radio show at www.drumcode.se/radio

Damon Martin from Disco Bloodbath

Disco Bloodbath began life as an irregular speakeasy party in the basement of Passion, an old Caribbean restaurant with a 150 maximum capacity, in East London (the dodgy end). By word of mouth promotion their parties have outgrown various venues and seem to be packed to the rafters time and time again. They’ve remixed for the likes of Franz FerdinandLittle Boots and Monarchy among others on an extensive list, and they’ve taken the Bloodbath sound to some of the UK’s most discerning dancefloors, includingFabric and Bugged Out; this summer even saw them holding the El Salon in Space Ibiza. They’ve gained notoriety for their unique blend of raw disco, spaced-out Italo, vintage house and proto-techno, and played an essential part in the Italo disco renaissance that seems to be catching on among discerning party-goers seeking the kind of unpretentious and carefree atmosphere that their nights endorse.

It’s all too tempting to sit here making analogies associated with the word ‘disco’ – such as images of pointing hand dance movements and men with hairy chests wearing white suits (Ok really I’m just describing John Travolta here) so when I spoke to Damon, I had to initiate by asking him what attracted them to start a night based on disco, rather than going in the direction of, say, house or techno. “We enjoy the eclecticism it offers. One thing that attracted me to the idea of disco is, rather than the genre, it was the approach to music, and the type of music you can play in the club. I suppose dance music can be seen to take itself a bit seriously sometimes, whereas disco has more of a sense of humour. It’s generally more positive and upbeat”.

How would he describe a Disco Bloodbath set? “It’s a fairly broad sound, that changes throughout the night… at the beginning, it’s more music to listen rather than dance to; then throughout the night the tempo increases. It can be high energy Italo, early Chicago house; then as it gets to the early hours of the morning, more spacey and weird.” As a clubbing writer, the word “eclectic” can be grossly over-used when in want of a better word, but in this case, it does seem most appropriate. With regards to the guests who join them they “just let people do what they want to do, meaning we get an eclectic range of sounds each night, which is great”.

As part of a new music initiative by Bacardi to help pioneering new music acts in the UK, the guys recently travellhttps://rocksandgravel.wordpress.com/wp-admin/edit-tags.php?taxonomy=post_taged to Puerto Rico. Here, under the guidance of legend of the game Norman Jay, they created a track incorporating the traditional Latin American rumba and placing their own style and influence onto it.

Laurent Garnier

Laurent Garnier is the first man of French electronica. Learning his craft up in pre-acid house Manchester at the tender age of 19, he has continually risen up the ranks ever since. Twenty odd years on, he’s still in demand as a DJ, although nowadays he focuses the majority of his time on production. He’s renowned for his conceptual sets and experimental ethos, putting out track after track combining different elements of the electronic music spectrum; from acid house all the way to Detroit techno.

He’s in town this Friday for the London leg of his Live Booth Sessions tour – gigs that’ll see him accompanied by a live band behind the mixing desk, consisting of Benjamin Rippert and Scan X. He took some time out to talk to me about the days of acid rave, French politics and getting lost in translation.

What was it like being involved in the height of the acid/rave days?

It was great at the time, and I’m very lucky to have been a part of it. We were like a big family, discovering something new together, and we had a lot of fun. I’m not nostalgic for it though – I’m still doing a lot of things I find extremely exciting.

How would you compare the dance music scenes of London, Paris and Manchester? How are they different?

Paris is an amazing city for jazz and live music. For a city so big, the Paris (dance music) scene is small and there is nothing in the suburbs. There are three small clubs that are trendy, and maybe a couple of big parties, but the rest is pretty pathetic.

I witnessed the rave scene in Manchester explode, and the place went from not much compared to London, to absolutely amazing. Overall, England is a real party place and there are great clubs to go to in every city.

Musically, who or what inspires your work?

I listen to everything. For instance, I’m currently recording my radio show, and in just the first hour there’s techno, drum ‘n’ bass,David Bowie, and salsa. I’m someone who just likes music, full stop. If something makes me feel good, then I like it, if it doesn’t, well then I don’t. Music is pretty much the only thing in the world without rules, where we have the freedom to think for ourselves.

You seem to give your songs interesting titles, such as ‘Crispy Bacon’ and ‘A Bout De Souffle’. Is it to do with the textures they evoke or were you just hungry and stuck in the studio at the time?

Textures, and funnily enough, I actually meant to call it sizzling bacon, because I thought it literally sounded like something cooking in a pan. It wasn’t until six months later when Jeff Mills was remixing it that he pointed out that it didn’t make sense and then I realised. So yeah, I fucked up with the name. People don’t even notice that though, so it still works.

You famously made reference to the Iraq war a few years ago, an act that has gone down in dance music folklore. Are there any particular issues in politics or culture today that you’re passionate about and may include within this Friday’s set?

There’s a lot of scandal going on in France, and I like to keep track of it. Politics over there is all becoming show business and entertainment. I mean, the first lady of France is a singer. That’s weird!

Are there any artists that you would make for a dream collaboration?

There is a young English jazz musician called Malla Chai who I’m in talks with. I love hip hop, especially the Foreign Beggars – I could really do something with them. I’m always talking with Carl Craig, but somehow we’ve never found the time to make something together. I also love PJ Harvey. Just listen to her albums – her voice is just, wow.

So you’re back on the road with your Live Booth Sessions. Could you tell us a bit about the concept of L.B.S.? What should we expect from the live shows?

Going back to the ‘wheels of steel’ after the previous series of live shows made me feel like I was regressing. I’m 44 now, I can’t go back to just playing records on my own. I wanted to still be essentially playing records and making people dance, but also to give them a unique experience – there are things to see as well as music to dance to.

Catch Laurent’s radio show on www.pedrobroadcast.com

Carl Craig

Did someone say techno? Well, I’m on the phone to Carl Craig, who’s sat in a deli somewhere in the States (it’s breakfast time over there) with his mateDerrick May, who seems to be talking to him in his other ear at the same time. This could be a tiring fifteen minutes. But fortunately I’m rather charmed by his Michigan drawl and he’s not put off by my inexplicably high pitched phone voice.

This March in Ewer Street Carpark, Carl’s label Planet E are hosting their first party, to celebrate reaching the grand age of 20. This is the first time the label has thrown a showcase party in London, and as Carl explains it’s simply because “20 seemed like a good number”.

The rise of Planet E is well documented – Carl got his break when Derrick, his ‘mentor’ brought him to his label party to play in support of Inner City in London back in 1989. Upon his first visit to the UK acid rave was exploding, so I wonder if he has any stories to share in the hope of an anecdote involving glow sticks and Andy C (or something), but all he cares to tell me is that he “got a really bad haircut”. Somehow I think it may all have been too wild and inappropriate to discuss at this time of day.

I’m also intrigued as to why to this day he still resides in Detroit, a city reported so negatively for its high crime rates and derelict landscape, after all these years. “It’s cheap.” Eh? “I can have a great lifestyle here. I can live as an artist and do what I want to do because it’s just so much cheaper.” OK, but… what about the music scene in the city? “Well, we don’t really have that many clubs or anything. People keep to themselves, but it’s a city full of artists doing their own thing, expressing their own individuality, and I like that.”

As well as the label party, Carl is also releasing a Planet E compilation album, entitled ’20 F@%&ing Years of Planet E’. So is he feeling too old? “No, I just didn’t expect it to have the longevity it had. I’m fortunate enough to have never worked in the real world.” Other projects include various community projects to help disadvantaged young people in the city, giving them access to music education. His label seeks to nurture young and local talent too – as long as they have “passion and something new and good to bring the table”.

Carl leads by example, and although he is a renowned player in the world of techno, he’s in no way limited to just that. Sometimes deemed an ‘experimentalist’, his portfolio ranges from jazz ensembles (check out ‘Bug in the Bassbin’) to beatbox loops, to epic house tracks as well as the exquisite techno beats. Each track is new and very different from the last. There was also the Grammy nomination for his remix of ‘Like a Child’ by Junior Boy.

So, what should we expect from the night? Besides of course, some delectable techno from the likes of We Love resident Paul Woolford, Radioslave and Francois K, as well as recent signing Psycatron. “Well, we’re all friends, ya know?” Carl replies, which I guess means it’ll be just as much a party for them as it will be for us. So he still goes raving himself? “Well, of course! I love music, and yeah I get out there from time to time. My real place is behind the decks though”.

At this moment, Derrick interrupts, in a rather bemused tone: “Are you, like, some kinda rock star over there?!” and they break into infectious laughter. That’s what it’s all about. I wish him and Derrick a lovely day, and I tell him I’ll see him soon… maybe I could be his friend too?


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