Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thee Kaleidoscopic Rebellion: 22/2/14

Last night's show was a joint venture between myself and Mr Harry Sword. The two hours passed quickly, and hilariously, enough, but we had one or two minor setbacks which i shall bring to the attention of the management. Some great music was played, as can be expected, but such was the level of frivolity, and devil-may-care ambience in the studio, that neither of us wrote down a track list. Harry occupied the second half of the show, with a mix he'd recorded a day or two before, while I  did the first half. Artists included in my bit were DJ Spider, JTC, Tony G, Dakini9 and Precession, amongst others. Harry's mix contained both sides of Sir Joseph of Anderson's recent release on Dekmantel.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

February Chart

4/2 EP – Kouji Nagahashi (Iero)

Mecanica - 33 10 3402 (ESP Institute)

Shinjuku – Creta Kano (Pinkman)

Ecliptic View EP – Healing Force Project (Eerie)

Pressure – Anthony Parasole/Phil Moffa (The Corner)

Inner Visions – Brad P (Innre Shift)

At Disconnected Moments – STL (Smallville)

Simple Dreams – Tony G (Infinite Juju)

Easy Knocking EP – BLM (Saints & Sonnets)

Cumberl & Spaceman EP – Himan & Temma (Release Sustain)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A Chat With Russ Gabriel

One of British house and techno’s great unsung heroes, Hampshire native Russ Gabriel’s greatest claim to fame, in my humble opinion, was being label manager of Ferox; an imprint which, for me at least, was essential during the mid-nineties and responsible for unleashing a wave of home-grown, quality funk-infused electronica, the like of which has never been heard since. Russ recorded under his own name for the label, as well as that of Too Funk. So, as Ferox has just been revived, and Too Funk has been chosen to reinaugurate it, I thought I’d get in touch with him for a chat and see if I could shed any light on his methods and philosophy. This is what he had to say.

I didn’t give Russ much time to relax, getting straight into interview mode from the off and quickly establishing his whereabouts which is Stuttgart, as oppiosed to Portsmouth which is on his Skype id.  “My girlfriend’s living in Stuttgart, but I’ve actually been in Germany for twelve years. I was in Frankfurt originally, then Ulm . . .” and was moving to Frankfurt a musical decision? “Partially. I just wanted to get out of the UK, learn a new language, I was working with quite a few people there . . . and I wanted to learn a new language, which was relatively easy because I had so many connections. I was working with a DJ agency there, plus doing non music-related stuff.”

I then liberally lick Russ’s boots by stating that Ferox was/is one of my all-time favourite labels and was largely responsible for turning me on to a very particular brand of house and techno. Also, that the new Too Funk release on the label shows that he hasn’t lost his touch. Then we get down to business and he told me how he started running Ferox. “I’m not from a musical family at all” he says. “But I’ve always loved music. “I got into electro initially, but the poppy stuff, some Chaka Khan stuff. Not being from London or a big city it was just stuff I could hear from the charts, but that’s what I was going towards . . . synthesiser pop, anything with synthsisers in really, I just got really into the sound. I really fell in love with sythesisers and got really interested in sound. And initially I wanted to start making dub, I got into reggae and ska and experimental dub and then discovered 
Colin Faver’s show on Kiss FM . . . it must have been in 1989, and just fell in love with electronic music, so I ended up getting obsessive about it and after a year or two wanted to put some stuff out on my own label.”

I mention that  Faver’s show was just broadcast in London and the surrounding area . . . “It was and it was really difficult to get hold of it. A few friends had tapes of the show . . . it was quite common in those days . . . I mean Iused to drive up to the top of a hill and listen to it in my car, I think it used to be on until two in the morning, I used to have to be up for work at six the next day, . . . a friend would tape it in London and I’d meet him in Guildford, get the tape off him and listen to it for the whole of the next week.”

Such is life when you can’t take such things for granted. In those days you’d be happy to listen to anything, no matter how bad the reception, in the hope that you’d catch something potentially life-changing . . . “I used to listen religiously to Faver’s show," Russ says,  "and then I started listening to Colin Dale, then I started travelling up to London, which was only about an hour away, so I travelled up quite regularly.” I then enquire about the “Portsmouth scene” of the time, but Russ brushes notions of this off, saying that “there wasn’t a scene as such, just some people who happened to know each other and share a common interest.” So, what was the catalyst for Ferox? “It was probably after I’d released a couple of tracks on an old hardcore label. I agreed with them that if I could have a techno side then I’d do some more hardcore stuff; and not coming from London, and not having the connections, the best way to get my music out was to start my own label. So, how did hardcore metamorphosise into what you were producing on Ferox, which often has a very jazzy tinge to it?  “I was just starting out, and looking back on it now I don’t think I was ready to release a record, I just wasn’t good enough, but hardcore is where I started, and you’re right, it seems miles away from what I started out doing on Ferox, but some of the guys from Detroit, particularly some of the early recordings on KMS is kind of between Detroit techno and hardcore . . . with breakbeats, etc . . . but I could easuly be embarrassed about it now, but we all start somewhere.

So, if you had to define the sound of Ferox, how would you do that, is it possible?
‘No, I wouldn’t bother, that’s just the sort of thing that magazines do. It’s just music that I like, that’s just about all I can say; it’s music that I  like and music that I think should come out. I wanted to get my own stuff out but I used to really like discovering new artists and listening to new music that hadn’t been out before so now it’s kind of  mix of established and new people, or it will be over the next couple of years.” I then ask Russ if he has a schedule worked out for this latest incarnation of Ferox. “It’s pretty full over the next year, he says, “it’s kind of flexible though. I’m working on a project with Move D, which is almost finished. That’ll probably be the next one afterAubrey, (the next release after Too Funk), or the first one after the summer. Fred P’s recording something for the label, I’ve got a couple of new guys . . . I’m trying to work out if I’m going to release something by the end of the year . . . some Spanish guy’s just sent me some really good stuff, so it’s pretty flexible but it’s also pretty full.”

When I ask Russ who he’d really like to have recording for the label, he’s reticent saying that it’s more of a “ . . . track thing. It doesn’t matter if the artist is established or new, it’s the music which counts. . . . There’s loads of people doing really good stuff at the moment, I think the scene’s really healthy.” I ask him about the whereabouts of Synchrojack, who, apart from a release on SteveO’Sullivan’s Mosaic, I only really heard about via Ferox. Russ says that they put something out in Canada for Miguel Graca, but that he doesn’t think they’re making music at the moment. Talk turns then to O’Sullivan who Russ says he’s in regular contact with, and that it would be “excellent” to put out some new material by. He’s also talking to Lee Grainge, who was behind the Ephebe releases, with O’Sullivan, and “he’s going to send me some stuff, when he’s got some finished.” We then discuss the precarious existence of the full-time underground electronic dance music producer. How many of the artists that Russ was originally involved with does he think are still doing it full-time? “I don't think many are. They’re older and they need more money to live on. Theoretically you could still live off it without having to be a big, cheesey DJ, but you’d be pretty poor.”

I hear Soul On Wax is also coming back? Russ answers in the affirmative, saying that the next EP is “pretty much finished. I then ask him to contrast the sound of SOW to Ferox. “Soul On Wax is a pure house label with strong jazz and  funk influence. A couple of the early tracks were really live sounding, borderline live disco and house . . . basically really deep, jazzy house.”

A lot of Russ’s recent time and energy has been taken up with his film company, 
Funky Barber, who have a film coming out this year. “I spend about half my time with it” he says. “It’s only about a year old, but I’d been involved with film for a couple of years before that and photography for a couple of  years before film. I got really involved in photography and it just morphed into film.” I then ask him about ‘Golden Era’, his techno documentary which is due for release soon, and describes the very fertile period for techno/house in the early to mid-nineties. I say I couldn’t agree more with the description of this time, and ask him what made it such a special era for the music. He seems non-committal though saying that he’s “ . . . not sure if it was such a special time, but it’s my golden era and it was a very special time for me personally. I think it was all about just coming of age at that time and starting to make music. For others it will be different.”

Russ’s positivity regarding the amount of good music currently being released echoes that of Laurent Garnier, who says the same in the interview clip below from ‘Golden Era’. How much room is there still for innovation in house and techno? “History plays a really important part” according to Russ. “Even the really early techno records still had a history, standing on the shoulders of what went before, so reference is still being made to what wwent before. Also, recording techniques have improved and if you compare what was made twenty five years ago, with what’s coming out now, the difference is massive. It’s still moving forward, but maybe in ways which aren’t so obvious. Therer’s not so many brand-new sounds, but the bar’s been raised as far as recording quality and studio methods are concerned.”

This then makes me recall something which Miles Serge says in another ‘Golden Era’ excerpt. He remarks that “Computers limit creativity.” So I ask Russ if he agrees and how he manipulates software. “I understand 100% what he’s saying. You don’t feel so creative when you’ve got 100m things you can try, whereas if  you’ve just got one thing, a drum machine or a synth you learn every little nuance about it and you use it much more creatively, and that’s how I make music. Rather than surrounding  myself with millions of synths I just stick to a few things and learn them really well.”

Finally, I ask Russ how he feels the Internet has changed things for artists, as it’s arrival has been, by and large, since Ferox started putting records out in the mid-nineties. “That’s an impossible one to answer,” he says. It depends on my mood. It can be infuriating and amazing.  The communication aspect is obviously beneficial. “It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off one another from opposite sides of the globe,” he says. “The negative side is that it’s too easy for people to release music which is a long way from being ready. People who aren’t really passionate about it just banging out tunes and clogging up the market. This is one of the reasons why Ferox is now a predominantly vinyl-only label. This isn’t because “I love vinyl.” I play a mixture of digital and vinyl. I just think that the way the market works it’s nice to be awy from it. Vinyl isn’t perfect, there’s still good and bad stuff released of course, but you feel that with it a lot of time and money is being invested in releasing it. But there’s no filter at all with digital.”

And with that, we’re out of here.

Here’s an all-time jazz top five from Russ:

1.Zakir Hussain - Making Music (ECM)

2: Bill Evans - Symbiosis (MPS)

3: Eric Dolphy - Out To Lunch (Blue Note)

4.Miles Davis - In A Silent Way (Columbia)

5.Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage (Blue Note)

Monday, February 03, 2014

House Phillerz - Phlash (Archive)

Read my review of this massive collection of versatile, deep grooves from the redoubtable Phil Asher here.