Garage artist on his hip-hop roots...

Imagine throwing a house party and, instead of just inviting your pals round, you invite the whole of the Internet. And it’s not your mate’s 12-year-old brother DJing, but instead you’ve got Mount Kimbie, Jessie Ware, Eliphino and IS TROPICAL taking centre stage in your living room.

That’s essentially the premise of the ASOS All Nighter: December 12th will see them hosting the world’s first global online bash in Australia, North America and the UK. With the living room, kitchen and bathroom to explore, there are sets, artist interviews, dance-offs and competitions – as well as the chance for partygoers to unlock a set from Jessie Ware, featuring a brand new track.

Clash caught up with Leeds-born garage house mastermind Eliphino prior to his set to find out what he’s got in mind for his slot, uncover his best DJ disaster stories and swipe a couple of music recommendations.

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What can we expect from your set at the world’s first global online house party?

It’s kind of representative of what I do normally when I go out to play, which is mix up new stuff from new artists with really old stuff from the early ‘90s. I’m doing two 20-minute sets, the first one is more melodic and a bit more headphone-y, and the second is more for the dancefloor.

So a bit like your recent two-tracker on Hypercolour then, where one’s really clubby and the other’s a bit more introspective.

Yeah, good comparison! It’s exactly like that.

I imagine you must’ve played mates’ house parties in your formative years? What were your first-ever DJing experiences like?

Yeah, I definitely earned my stripes playing house parties when I was 13 or 14 years old, just high school house parties. And then I remember when I was 14, lying that I was 16 so that I could go and play the sixth-form ball, even though you were supposed to be 18 and over anyway. But I managed to get in and play records… so that was my first club experience!

Have you got any DJ disaster stories that you can share? Has anything really traumatic ever happened to you mid-mix?

I have a few every now and then… most recently, I was on a garage tour with Sticky, Roy Davis Jr and Shola Ama, it was a throwback thing – was wicked. About halfway through this girl who I could tell was smashed came over, looked me dead straight in the eye and dropped her cup onto my laptop. It wasn’t full but it had enough in there to be like, what the f*ck are you doing! I didn’t know her, I was just like what is her motivation? So I picked the cup up and was like, “No,” like she was a bad dog or something!

I guess also pulling the needle off the wrong deck is not cool. Cos when I play Serato, sometimes I start playing one track then just pulling the needle straight off it as it’s dropped. So it’s just gone from, “Aaah, good track,” to just… silence. So you can’t really recover from that, it’s even worse than doing a bad mix cos you’ve gotta say, “Sorry!”, put the needle back on, start the song again. So yeah they’re pretty traumatic, but you gotta get over them I suppose.

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Many people these days gripe and moan about how it’s far too easy to DJ, that if you can count to eight then you can mix. What do you say to that?

I hear what they’re saying. I think maybe that argument comes from when people use stuff like Traktor and Serato, to an extent. With Traktor there’s a sync button so you don’t even need to spend time learning how to mix, even if you can’t count to eight you can still mix! The basic structure of DJing is essentially pretty easy, but I guess some people do excel at it so there must be some level of skill. I’ve seen people clam and not concentrate on what people want in the crowd. You can definitely f*ck up. Even just doing a straight mix, you can have all your songs perfectly in time but knowing how to play the right stuff for the right time, keep the crowd involved, keep energy levels high. It all sounds a bit clichéd now because DJing’s been around a while, but it is important as you can lose a crowd’s attention pretty easily.

So now that you’ve learned to keep beverage-toting girls at arms length from the DJ booth, how do you feel that you’ve progressed or changed as a DJ over the course of your career?

Quite drastically, I suppose. When I started I was playing what you might call ‘90s hip-hop, so a lot of American stuff. I was playing around the time that UK hip-hop was getting quite big so a little bit of that. I’ve always had an interest in all kinds of electronic music, so after playing hip-hop for so long I felt I wanted to find another avenue, so I got my friends who are encyclopaedic about house music to bring me in and show me what was going on. But I like to incorporate all my tastes into my sets, if I can.

Your first productions were hip-hop, too. And recently I saw that you played a Wu-Tang tribute night. Have you always had a lot of love for the Wu?

Yeah, always been massively into all that kind of hip-hop, still am. Even though release-wise it just seems like I changed completely, when I’m at home I listen to hip-hop as much as I listen to house, as much as I listen to other weird, ambient stuff. People always think that once you start releasing a different kind of genre, then you’re like, that’s over, that’s done, now I’m a house DJ. But it’s not like that at all.

If you had to pick, where’s been your favourite ever event or venue to play at?

I think this summer topped it at Outlook festival in Croatia (Clash review). Cos it wasn’t rammed at the start – Maribou State played then Ossie played, and I came on after that. It was filling up steadily, cos I came on at about half past 12. Then about 15 minutes in I looked and it was just a pure sea of people, right to the back. And it was so flattering. That set went really well – I think. I’ll have to listen to the recording!

Going back to what you were talking about before about dipping into different genres, although now you produce house/garage-style tracks, would you ever consider going into, say, hip-hop production?

Yeah, definitely. All avenues are open to me, I try to limit my output. So people are still interested in my house that I do, and I’m really blessed for that – really grateful that people are into it. I’m not gonna stop doing that. I also have a big back catalogue of more weird, ambient stuff and hip-hop-tempo stuff. Something I’m gonna work on in 2014 is a six-track hip-hop headphone EP, so that’s on its way. It’s still the music – the Wu-Tang thing that you were talking about, just being at a night where we played pure hip-hop for hours took me back to my youth when I was 18, and there is something inside me about that that moves me. It’s your formative years, when you’re finding your feet, music taste wise.

You’ve been getting out quite a few remixes recently, there’s that Naysayer & Gilsun one which I had on repeat for a good while. I wanted to ask about your individual approach to remixing, because obviously it’s different for every artist.

I guess, initially when I get offered remixes I have to sit on it for a while, listen to the song a few times and just decide if there’s anything I can do with it. And if there’s not then I’ll just turn it down, regardless of money or whatever. Because it has to be right for you. So I’ll listen to it a few times, get the parts, then just strip it back to almost nothing. Then I’ll mess around with it for a while and if something comes on the first session, then that’s the basic idea for it. I’m really bad at procrastinating, so I’ll probably leave it for a week or two. I’ll go back to it, and if it sounds like it’s got something to it, then that’s when I’ll really sit down and make it into a work. That Naysayer & Gilsun one, I think my version was substantially different from the original. But you can still tell that it’s from the same track.

I guess it’s always a tricky balance to know how much you should keep or take away from the original.

Bit of a balancing act, yeah. But I’ve spoken to the producers who always just say you have to do your own remix, even if it ends up sounding nothing like the original, you can’t just be polite to the original artist. You can’t just lay a beat and then drop the vocal in. There’s that story about Aphex Twin – dunno if it’s true, might be pure rumour. He was doing some big major-label remix, and he hadn’t done anything on the remix, hadn’t worked on it at all. And the label guys were bashing down his door. So they came round to his house and he just gave them a CD with one of his random beats on there, saying: “Oh yeah that’s the remix.” And it had nothing to do with it, which I love. I would never do that, but I think it’s incredibly cool.

Which artists, tracks, or labels are you really into right now? Any recommendations for the Clash stereo?

Mr Beatnick just put out this trilogy of three EPs that he’d had out on vinyl (‘The Synthetes Trilogy’) – he put them all out as an album on CD, and I thought the quality of music was really high. Medlar as well, which I’m into, he’s quite soulful. He’s another producer who has massive hip-hop influences so I think I can hear that we’re on the same kind of track. Then there’s the obvious people, but ones that really deserve it, like Midland who’s just consistently dope. Then there’s slower stuff, FKA Twigs, then Kelela. Her mixtape was really good.

Finally, you mentioned your upcoming six-tracker which sounds very exciting. Have you got anything else in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

Other plans… I’ve never really collaborated with any other producers. So I’ve been putting the seeds in place to get into the studio with some other guys. Nothing’s confirmed yet so I probably shouldn’t announce it. I’ve been in touch with friends who are producers who are interested in collaborating so that might be fruitful. And then I’m touring and DJing a lot at the weekends so it can wipe you out in terms of studio time, so I think I might take a little break from DJing. Not a big one, but just so that I’ve got some blocks of time to get in the studio and get on. I’ve got a lot of ideas that are half-baked. So hopefully in 2014 I’ll have a lot of EPs out.

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Words: Felicity Martin

You can attend the house party of your dreams by heading to the ASOS website – HERE – at 6pm on the 12th December, when the action will kick off. RSVP on Facebook.

Check out the new issue of Clash magazine here.


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