Where did your interest in African music come from?
That's a good question. I definitely have, in the last five or six years, gotten into a lot of particularly old African stuff, and a lot of the Ghanaian funk bits. But I guess it was always there. I was really obsessed with Hendrix when I was a kid, and a lot of that drumming is jazz based—then I got really into some jazz stuff. So I guess through jazz, but I always listened to jazz as a kid [and still] I never really discovered much African music.
Definitely when I moved to London, there were little bits that I picked up on here and there. I don't even know how I discovered that track, but a lot of it's the sound and the spirit that I like. It's very percussive, and very earthy and rootsy. It's like old stuff, live music—that's the sound I like.
How did you go about discovering more of the African stuff after you first got into it?
I've been fortunate to have been in London for 11 years. The Sounds Of The Universe record shop, that's a really important place for me discovering bits, and not only necessarily discovering, [but] getting hold of it as well. The internet is great for one thing, and that's getting hold of information just from searching through YouTube and Discogs and doing little bits of research here and there. For me, once I had discovered something, chances are I'd always be able to pick it up because [Sounds Of The Universe] have really amazing taste in a lot of that stuff as well.
Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey often recorded in London. Do you feel like this UK/African dialogue is still going on today?
Definitely, 100%. There are loads of forms of music that you hear it in. Everything, man... the way people program drums now, even broken beat and funky house and stuff, a lot of that stuff is very African-sounding. There is definitely a dialogue there. It's more the technology that changes, and that's what changes the sounds. I don't necessarily think much of the rhythm has changed a hell of a lot in the modern type of sounds. You [have] that thing called Afrobeats—with the s—which is more the modern stuff that's going on, as opposed to the word Afrobeat, which covers a whole bunch of stuff. The Afrobeats scene, that's really big, and it's really big in London as well.
This sounds like something you could maybe throw in DJ a set and get away with it. What's the audience reaction when you play a song like this?
At the moment, great, because a lot of my sets have been going that way. You know what it was, I think about a year ago I became obsessed with Ebo Taylor, and from that point onwards it really spurred my interest in a lot of old African music. As a result, I started dropping loads of stuff like this, and a lot of it is new discoveries to me. I've been playing it for about a year, but I haven't done much investigation as to who they are or anything.
What kind of stuff do you mix in and out of that when you play it in a set?
You can go from house to broken beat, or soul and old funk music as well. There's definitely some common threads in a lot of music from around that era, and a lot of influence from African music. They say James Brown stole quite a lot of melodies for tunes, and even hooks and stuff were taken from quite a lot of those funk bands, so there's obviously a back-and-forth a lot in the styles.
I just remember I must have been nine or ten, just being obsessed with Hendrix and Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. My parents had a few records, nothing too crazy... [but] they had loads of old Motown, Otis Redding and stuff like that. My dad probably had about 20 soul seven-inches, but for some reason I really took to Curtis Mayfield, and then from that point onwards I started doing a little big of digging at that age. I got two older brothers as well. My middle brother skated, so I was always hearing stuff off his skate videos, like Herbie Hancock tunes or whatever, and I would always go out and just pick it up. I used to go and run through the CDs at the local library.
What is it about this track? It's the only real jazz track on your list.
It's just a beautiful song. I mean... Cannonball Adderley full stop. At the moment there is a little thing with more spiritual stuff, I just take a lot of pleasure in listening to that kind of stuff. Even from the hip-hop days, I knew about him from when people used to sample him. Madlib samples him. That name was always about, and those albums were always about, but maybe more so now I'm just more attracted to deeper kind of things, and Cannonball Adderley goes pretty deep, you know what I mean?
Why does the spiritual thing appeal to you right now?
Because I think it's missing from a lot of contemporary music. I think music definitely reflects the times. I can't hate on a lot of the music that gets made now because I think these days and times are quite cold. There's a lot of bullshit, it's very surface value, and that [gets reflected] in the music. I don't mean that in a bad way because it's good, that means the music is actually reflecting the actual atmosphere of this day and age, but I don't particularly like the way that things are going and the mentality of things.
I love Lil Wayne, I love Rick Ross, I love Drake, but I know all that shit that they're talking about is just nonsense, and that's the way people are thinking these days. If you're listening to Sun Ra, or you're listening to The Pyramids, or some spiritual stuff, it's different frequencies, different types of vibrations. I certainly react to it in a different way, it gives me a different emotional feeling and a different type of state, and that's what I appreciate. That's not to say there aren't people making music like that now, because there are.
I find hip-hop really weird these days. Part of it is getting older, but part of it definitely is the mentality, and the place it's coming from, certainly the spirit of it. That's why I think what we do, the Eglo stuff, it has an element of spirituality to it.
Especially Fatima or Floating Points, that stuff has the same quality to it.
Yeah, it's all coming from the right places, everyone's doing it for the right reasons, and they're expressing themselves and expressing their emotions. No one is actually thinking about, "What should I do to get into the charts?" "How can I make this DJ happy?" The shit that gets turned down is crazy. Floating Points, or Fatima, will get offered some really good situations... but it's not right for them, or it's not their thing, and I really respect that. Anybody else would be like, "Oh, that's a great stepping stone to get a song playlisted on daytime radio," or something like that, but everyone in Eglo has always been a bit like, "No, but that's not what I want to do," which I respect a lot, and which I like.
I've never heard this before, but it has a kind of science fiction element to it. Does that appeal to you as well?
100%. That whole album by Andy Bey, Experience And Judgment, that's sort of littered with spacey things. Again, it just comes down to the mentality. For me, without getting too deep into it, the way people think in regards to religion or their place in the world, it's all linked to the universe. From the first people, and the first civilisations, and where it all evolved from, it's from people looking at the stars in the sky. From the pyramids, to Stonehenge, it's calendars for the universe, so that's important to me.
Everything got confused along the way, but that was really where people started questioning life, and where they live, and their position in the universe, and who they are. I don't think it's a primitive thing, or a primal thing. It's a good thing, and that's what I like.
I wouldn't say I'm on some mad sci-fi tip or anything like that, but I'm definitely interested by nature. I mean, look at the sounds of Floating Points: he's a neuroscientist. He's so interested in the world and how it works, that he's breaking atoms down and looking inside them. He's got next[-level] knowledge of all this.
I guess it's safe to say you're a pretty big fan of Moodymann?
Yeah, that's the track that goes on for like ten minutes and goes on a mad one at the end?
What is it about Moodymann that you connect with so well?
I guess a similar thing to what I was saying about everything else. You can take the technology of the day, and obviously there's a lot of drum machines going on, a lot of sampling going on, but it's a different take, which has still got the soul to it. Contemporary dance music that's done in a new way, it's not like disco where you have a live band. In terms of being a DJ, it's always great to be playing Moodymann tracks because, again, that's the sound I like. I like dusty soul, I like that old vibe, and so do other people. It seems to always go down well.
That's pretty much the only house track you picked. What are some other house artists that you like?
There's obviously all the house stuff surrounding Moodymann, like Theo [Parrish] and then the whole Rotating Assembly thing, and people like Omar-S. All that stuff is beautiful, and you know, Kyle Hall and them boys. It's got soul to it; it's got spirit and a good vibe. In the UK there is that history of American soul and northern soul, old R&B and blues and funk. It was big over here in the UK, and it still is—you still have crazy northern soul and Motown nights, so that's very much the vibe of the D. Even if it's Marvin Gaye or Otis Redding, those were the sounds I was used to hearing from a young age, and I guess when I hear it twisted and updated and put through a drum machine, or chopped up on an MPC, then it makes even more sense to me in a way because that's the age that I come from.
Do you prefer your dance music a little weirder, like this, a little bit offbeat.
Yeah, I definitely enjoy it. I don't really get a hell of a lot of kicks from quantisation. I love that feeling when... something is offbeat or off-kilter. I love that feeling, if the kick is out of time or the snare is just a little bit too late, it makes you kind of screw up your face and lean sideways. Obviously it's easy to achieve that with live drums, but I mean, you can do it just as much by sampling or on drum machines. This track is weird as well, I do like a lot of Sheffield post-punk music, and Cabaret Voltaire and New Order and people like that, but this is even weirder than that. Funnily enough, this track I often mix with a lot of Ghanaian funk. For some reason they seem to work together.
You don't find it tough to mix that un-quantised stuff when you're playing out?
No, you can just switch between them. If I want to play a song, I'm not going to think, "Oh, I have to mix it together." I'd rather just find a good point to switch between the two. I'm happy DJing like that, just as much as I am trying to beatmatch or anything. I wouldn't try and force them in, they always work. I have funky timing I guess.
Come With Me
She's a pretty famous Brazilian singer. How did you discover her?
You know what, that's definitely through Floating Points. He's crazy into Brazilian and Latin music, and for some reason that song has stuck with me. I guess it's because of the way she follows the piano perfectly. It's beautiful, it's recorded beautifully, she's amazing. But that comes from [Floating Points], he kills it with all that stuff, that's just one of them tracks that's always in my head. I'm constantly singing it to myself for the last six months.
It's the kind of thing that a lot of people might find too cheesy.
Yeah, I'm always saying to Fatima, "Oh fuck it man, fuck it being cheesy." If I like it and it's giving me that feeling, I don't care if anyone thinks something's cheesy. I like lots of cheesy shit. [laughs]
Heavy Duty Dub
Are you a big fan of dub as well?
Definitely. Going back to everything we were talking about before, it's roots music. That's what I really enjoy at the moment: going to soundsystem nights. I much more enjoy that to being in a normal club. The beauty of seeing someone DJ with one turntable is amazing. I do like my dub and reggae and new stuff. I like dancehall as well, but like I said, it's about going back to that roots vibe, and it giving you that good feeling.
Have you tried that whole soundsystem, DJing with one deck style?
Back in the day, you might go to a house party and someone only has one turntable that works anyways. It's the same now, if you go to a nightclub, and they say, "Oh the turntable is broken," and there's [only] one, I'll be like, "Fuck it, I'll play on the one turntable, man, that's all good!" As long as you're pulling out good records, then it's all good.
What A Wonderful Feeling
This one is roots with some electronic, computer stuff on top of it. Does that clash appeal to you?
Yeah, the early digidub stuff. That sound is amazing as well, you know, that's when things really started to change, when modern technology started to really become present. Those sounds are so charming. I think there's a lot of old Casio sounds, I know there's that one particular Casio keyboard, I can't remember what it's called, its just this little tiny thing. There's so much of that sound that has gone into the early digi-reggae stuff. I love that sound.
This is a great track. How the hell did you find it?
You know what, that's a good question. So I'll dig, and buy something based on the cover, sometimes I might not buy it for any reason. It might be 50 pence and scratched, and I think there might be something on there, so I'll check it. And for whatever reason, I bought this and found this track. Then, for the first time ever, I listened to it and I was like, "Wow! This is an amazing tune!" I don't know who the hell LJ Reynolds is, I've never heard anybody else play it, but every time I play it, everyone is asking me what it is. This was a recent discovery, probably about three or four months ago.
It kind of sounds like a disco edit, the way it's mixed, and the synths.
Yeah, it's beautiful. It's perfect and it's got the killer intro. If you've never heard that track, for the first time you're going to stand there and listen to a second and go, "OK, what's happening now?" and then the drum just cracks in and then it's like... perfect for the dance floor.
It's pretty safe to say that you're into the whole rare groove and crate-digging thing?
Always. You know, I'm 30, and I've always hung around with older people and I'm from a small town where back in the day there was probably only two record shops, and a couple of second-hand charity shops, and I'd just be in there all the time. Certainly the charity shops. I love charity shop digging, and I still do. I'm not the guy that will go and spend £200 on a record—I'd like to, I aspire to that—but that's not the way I grew up. I grew up getting my fingers dirty and in weird little shops out of town.