Current location: Los Angeles
City you were born in or raised: London
Job title and description: DJ / Producer / Events promoter / A&R
Website links: Superfreq
Tell us about growing up in London. How did the city influence your career and music? Growing up in the greatest city in the world was amazing. London has always been the music capital of the world, with good music from around the world finding its way to London. London is also very multicultural and the people there have always liked different, worldly music. Soul, funk, disco, ska and reggae were always popular and are the genres that most influenced me growing up. It was no surprise that by the time disco had evolved into house and techno music, that I was immediately a fan.
Your career started with you MCing as a teenager. How did that come about? When I was 13 years old, I heard a song called Rappers Delight by the Sugarhill Gang and it blew my mind. I’d rap along to the record and then searched for all rap and old school electro that came after that. By the time I was 16, I decided that I wanted to become a rapper, so I started writing lyrics with a friend of mine called Robert Brown. Robert got his hands on a rap tape from New York, which contained raps from a rapper called Buster Rhymes—who hadn’t had any record releases at that time. Robert copied his raps, which were awesome. I had to keep up with him and did so very well indeed. About 6 months later, Robert came clean and confessed he’d stolen those lyrics. By this time, I’d already written tons of great lyrics and it went from there. I rapped in a proper nightclub for the first time when I was 18 in 1983 in Tenerife. The crowd went crazy. I rapped there every night for a week, which gave me the appetite for more. When I hit 18, I rapped in the legendary Camden Palace. Colin Faver was DJing there and I asked him if I could rap. Once again, I blew the roof off of the place and that was it, there was no going back. In 1985, I rapped with Ron Tom from the LWR radio Soul Syndicate and then in early 1986, I started working a lot with a DJ called Jasper The Vinyl Junkie and occasionally Jazzy M, both also DJs on LWR. It was then I decided that I didn’t want to rap on hip-hop any more as the lyrics were getting a little too aggressive and macho for my liking. I’d always like to rap most on Disco as it was more fun. I’d been hearing house music a little before this and loved it, so I decided I’d write raps about house and jacking your body.
What was the ah-ha moment that you took you from MCing and rapping to DJing? It was later in 1986 that I went back to the Camden Palace. Colin Faver was playing there again, but this time with Evil Eddie Richards. I asked Colin if I could rap again. He said yes but he was playing house music so said I should wait a little while until they played some hip-hop. I informed him that I don’t rap on hip-hop anymore, but now rap on house music. He looked confused and said no one raps on house music. I told him that I do, so he said he had “This Brutal House” by Nitro Deluxe up next. I told him that was perfect and to let me rap on top! Again, the club went nuts. Afterwards Colin, asked me to come rap with him on his Kiss FM radio show and Eddie Richards asked me to come into the studio to make a recording. Of course, I did both. When I got to the studio, Eddie had an extremely deep house tune he wanted me to rap on, but I felt it was too deep, so instead I did a spoken word vocal about meditation and positive thinking. That track was called Page 67 by Myster-E and was released on Eddie’s Baad imprint in August 1987. It’s a shame we hadn’t done a rap song actually, as it would’ve been the first hip-house record ever released. It was when this track was released that I decided I wanted to do more than just vocals—I wanted to make the music, too, and thought the best way for me to really learn about music production and arrangements was to become a DJ. I also loved partying and dancing and knew I could do better than most DJs playing in London at that time. So I gave up my day job, took to the decks, and started throwing my own events. It’ll be 30 years that I’ve been a professional DJ this coming autumn.
You’re about to release an anticipated new album, Incidents. What was the creative process like for it? What about the inspiration? This is my third Mr.C artist album and I really wanted to make my musical youth the inspiration and theme. I also wanted to do a proper artist album and not just a collection of dance tracks, so it was heavily inspired by the music I loved in my teenage years: ska, dub, funk, italo disco, old school electro and of course, being an acid album, it’s also strongly influenced by acid house.
Is there any meaning behind the name, Incidents? Yes, the album is about things that can happen when you go out partying. All sorts of incidents can happen, so I thought that to be a great title!
What kind of sounds can we expect? How is the music different from your past works? Incidents is very much an acid album. However, I didn’t want to simply make a collection of dance tracks, so I made 5 slower tracks and 6 tracks more for the dance floor. The album is a real listening experience. It’s starts very slow with “Entry Search,” with each track being a little faster then the previous track. By track five, it becomes more dance floor-based and then finishes on another slow track, which kind of sets the listener up to start listening to the album again from the beginning. Most music that I make is dance floor-based, tech house and acid house-hybrids with a techno edge. This album with the slower tracks makes it a very different prospect, and because I wanted to make a proper artist album, even the faster tracks are not really what I’d normally do as they’re a little more conceptual.
Favorite track off Incidents? I love them all and my favourite track changes all the time. Right now my favourite is “A Civil Dose,” which is a 105 BPM off-beat acid dub tune.
One of the tracks off the album, Stand Up, was included on the Save Fabric album. Why was that important for you to be a part of that? I do Superfreq at Fabric twice a year and was gutted when I got closed down. It was important for all of London club land to pull together to do what we can to save the club. Nightclubs have been getting closed down so that property developers can move in for at least 20 years. Due to gentrification and the greed of property developers, many clubs have been closed down. In London, we lost The Key, The Cross, Turnmills, Bagleys, The End and many others. In Glasgow, we lost The Tunnel Club. In places like Sydney, they have bizarre lock-out laws designed to crush the scene there as the property developers want to move in and they make huge donations to local authorities—let’s call them bribes. These local councils then use the police, with the pretense of a war on drugs to get nightclub’s licenses revoked so that they can then move in and build. It’s a direct attack on our beloved scene and culture. These people think we’re stupid, but our culture is full of very smart people who will not take this lying down.
What does the situation with Fabric closing (and ultimately reopening) mean for the nightlife business as a whole in your opinion? Islington Council in London knew that they were in the wrong and that the closing of Fabric was unjust. With the evidence mounted by Fabric, I believe that any decent judge would have given Fabric it’s license back. Islington Council knew this, which I why I believe they did a U-turn. It was a very smart move on both on their part, because had it gone to court and Fabric won, it would have set a new legal precedent against bullying from councils and police. As it stands, they still have the power to be bullies and close down club based on lies.
How has the music scene changed since you started? Can you talk to us about some of the pros and cons of the changing industry? The scene has changed dramatically. When I started rapping on house music there wasn’t a scene at all. I had to go to gay clubs like Pyramid at Heaven or Mud Club at Busby’s in 1986 & 1987 to hear house music all night long. Through the hard work of a few individuals, promoters and DJs, rave culture was born in London. Now it’s global with millions of people enjoying celebrating life with like-minded individuals. I’m all about change and, in my opinion, the dance music scene gets better every year. Of course, there are those that will complain that it’s not as good as it used to be. These are the types that probably don’t go out very much are stuck in a time warp. Sometimes due to the commercialization of the scene, it makes it a little more difficult to find the real underground, but just scratch a little below the surface to find it. In my humble opinion, everything is getting better—the music, the productions, the sound systems, the visuals, everything. Those are the pros. The cons are people that are no longer involved are complaining about change and not doing anything about it.
Talk to us about your various labels over the years, Plink Plonk, End Recordings, and finally, Superfreq. What was the vision for each and how are they different? How do you decide which artists to showcase? Since 1988, I wanted to start my own record label but being poor, I simply didn’t have the money to do so until I got my first pay cheque from The Shamen in late 1992. It was then that I started Plink Plonk Records with my then-partner, Paul Rip. Paul was the only person I trusted to do a label with that would be unapologetically underground. The ethos behind Plink Plonk was to make music that was forward thinking, challenging, and timeless—real art. There were no boundaries with the music; it just had to be electronic and cutting edge. To make the music a priority, we wouldn’t let any artists on the label use their known name so everyone had to come up with new names for themselves. I recorded at Mantrac solo, Somnambulist with Paul Rip and as animus amor with Jerry Jones from Heart & Soul.
In December 1995, Layo Paskin and I, along with his father, opened The End nightclub in London. We knew we wanted to do a record label associated with the club and two days after The End’s opening, we launch End Records. By this time, tech house was in full swing in London, so End Recordings was very much a tech house label. When the club closed in January 2009, we stopped doing the label.
In 2002, I started doing my Superfreq events. The sound of Superfreq wasn’t what had then become generic tech house. It was more electronic, less organic, more stripped back and a lot more fun. I wanted to make another label that had the sound of the events and also serve as a platform for new talent who wanted to push the boundaries with dance music. We still hold this ethos today, and the sound is still in some way tech house, but very acid-based with a real techno sensibility and really unlike any other label out there.
The artists I showcase are usually friends that I’ve met when DJing. Sometimes I’ll get sent music and simply have to release it, too.
You take Superfreq events on the road all over the world. Which is your favorite city to throw an event in and why? London is my favourite city to do Superfreq. It’s where I’m from and the London Freqs really know how to have a good time. The London Superfreq crowd is a real community, a family, and that makes the parties very special. I keep Superfreq very boutique, so rarely throw events for more than 500 people. I feel if we get bigger, the crowd may get diluted, which in turn may call for watering down the music and there’s no way that I’m ever going to do that!
Where can we catch you playing this summer? Which show should we not miss? Superfreq in London is a must. Our summer events will be at the end of June in Fabric hopefully and then again at Red Gallery on 19th August. Also,o we have a dope loft space in Downtown Los Angeles where we’ll be hosting a series of parties, the first of which is soon. Doc Martin’s Sublevel and Superfreq are joining forces for these 400 capacity events. It’s called SubFreq and we hope to make a real impact on the underground scene here in LA. I’m also looking forward to playing at Glastonbury as I haven’t played at that festival for many years.
We hear you are also a Buddhist meditation teacher (WOW!). Is there a connection to your passions with music? How do the two help each other? Yes, there is a real connection. Dance music is very meditative and puts people dancing into a trance-like state that connects them to the world of the ideas. It brings people into the moment, forgetting about the problems of yesterday, and the possible solutions of tomorrow to celebrate life. Being in the moment and enjoying what is actually happening now is mindfulness. The technique of meditation that I share is also mindfulness. Meditation connects you to the Creative Intelligence of the Universe, thus making you more creative and giving you lots of great new ideas. This is true of all the arts.
Who or what are some of your inspirations as an artist? Life is my real inspiration as an artist. What’s happening around me on a day-to-day level is what inspires me to make music, to DJ and also express my art. Art should always be an expression of one’s experiences that’s made to challenge and inspire others. Art is the agent of human evolution and therefore, vital for our growth.
Who or what are you listening to in your free time? Free time? What’s that? Lol. When I do get a chance to listen to music at home, I like to listen to ska, dub, soul, funk, disco, jazz and also ambient music.
Dream collaboration? I’ve always been a huge fan of Carl Craig and know we’d make some amazing music together, so Carl would be my dream collaboration.
Can you offer one piece of advice to anyone who wants to have a similar career path, either as a DJ or club owner or record label founder? Be a real artist by not copying others. Integrity is everything, so stand strong by the music that you believe in. This way, you will have longevity in your musical career.
What’s the best party you’ve ever played OR attended and why? That’s easy: the closing party of The End in January 2009. We started at 5pm on the Saturday and finished at 1am on the Sunday night. The club was full of our extended family. The energy levels were like nothing I’d ever experienced before or since. People were shedding tears of sadness, tears of joy and celebrating all that The End had stood for.
Best nightclub in the world right now? Berghain.
Raves in the 90s or raves now, which would you rather and why? It really depends what you call a rave. Raves for me are large events that feed the lowest common denominator in dance music. That being the case, raves are way better now. Firstly, the music at raves in the 90s was as cheesy as hell as were the crowds for the most part. Nowadays, the music at raves is way better as underground music has now become commercial. The sound and production are way better now and the crowds are way more advanced, dress better, understand music more. Of course, others may disagree—this is only my opinion.
What made your raves so special and what can the current clubs and parties learn from them? I honestly don’t think raves were that special back on the early 90s. I played the first big raves back then in the UK. Energy, Biology, Weekend World, Sunrise etc. etc. I always preferred underground warehouse parties back then, just as I do now. If there’s anything that clubs and parties can learn from raves is the quality of production.
Anything else to add, please share!: Just that I love you all. I am another of you and we are one!