No plans yet for tonight?
Why not sit in, in-front of your computer screen?
Well of course not but in case you do find yourself at a computer come midnight you should be excited by the news that Radiohead will be broadcasting a live performance of ‘In Rainbow’ to celebrate it’s physical release .
Point your browser at radiohead.tv at midnight GMT to catch the show.
It’ll thankfully also be repeated the following day to be enjoyed through dark glasses with the volume turned down.
On his recent return to UK shores for sell out gigs at Manchester’s Warehouse Project and the Ministry Of Sound, Clash caught up with the DJ legend for an upcoming feature on the development of the Mancunian Acid House scene and the conversation aimiably turned to his new bespoke label, Emfire, and it’s first two releases “Coma” and “Park it In The Shade”, his current thinking on his seminal debut album, “Airdrawndagger” and his feelings on the state of play of the dance scene nowadays.
Sasha, after nearly twenty years at the top of the international DJ mega-star game, dating from his early days as a “Northern Icon” at clubs like the Hacienda and Shelly’s onto his prolific remixing and recording career onto his present jet-set status, it’s good to know that he remains as approachable and down to earth as he was back in the day when he was starting out.
On his recent return to UK shores for sell out gigs at Manchester’s Warehouse Project and the Ministry Of Sound, Clash caught up with the DJ legend for an upcoming feature on the development of the Mancunian Acid House scene and the conversation amiably turned to his new bespoke label, Emfire, and it’s first two releases “Coma” and “Park it In The Shade”, his current thinking on his seminal debut album, “Airdrawndagger” and his feelings on the state of play of the dance scene nowadays.
So here in an up-close excerpt from the extensive Q&A of the interview Sasha here holds forth on all manner of topics in his typically direct, straightforward, forthright and thoughtfully intelligent style.
I remember when drum & bass happened and I was like “How the fuck did records get this fast”
So Sasha, why after all this time have you decided to establish your own, personal, artist focussed label?
“I just wanted somewhere to put stuff out. I’m working in the studio and I have been this year for the first time in a while looking towards putting out the next Involver record and we just started writing and came up with ideas and we had about four or five pieces of music and I was like “Well what do I do with them?” Ten years ago it would have been like let’s go and get a record deal. I just thought that there was an opportunity to do something a bit special. It’s just an outlet for me and there’s been a lot of good little gems popping out of the studio over the last year so I wanted somewhere to put them. I’ve never really had my own label in the past and the time felt right to do something and the people that have helped us put together are making it work.
You’re bucking the trend a little and putting tunes out on specialist, bespoke, well designed vinyl packages. What’s been your thinking behind that?
“Now unfortunately vinyl’s lost its allure and music in general I thinks lost that craving. That’s one of the reasons that we’re doing limited edition vinyl with beautiful lazer etching on one side with Emfire, we’re trying to make them collectors pieces. I think nowadays if you see a piece of vinyl, you know it’s gone through that huge process it takes for someone to get a piece of vinyl out. To get a piece of vinyl in a record shop, that piece of vinyl’s obviously gone through a lot of people’s hands and there’s a lot of people who think that piece of music is worthy of getting to vinyl. If you get bombarded with a cd with ten tracks on it that’s been burnt off someone’s computer or if you go to a website and download a load of mp3’s, they haven’t been through the same sort of quality control.
Your first release on Emfire, “Coma” is perhaps more minimalist than people who’ve followed your career would expect, combining influences of Ritchie Hawtin, Tresor and Vangelis. Have you deliberately gone towards a more modish, stripped down sound?
“Y’know it’s definitely got melody to it and I think if you played it to Ritchie and told him it was minimalist, he’d probably laugh. I think that German sound and the minimalist movement that’s happened in the last few years, that’s influenced all club music, less is more now and I think you don’t have to cram your records full of sounds to make them sound big. When you listen to some of Ricardo Villabos’ productions they’re so sparse but they’re so brilliant it’s all about detail in the sound and that’s definitely influenced what we’ve been doing.
What are your release plans for Emfire, now it’s up and running?
“We’ve got these five or six tracks ready for release on Emfire and they’ve all got a completely different sound to them. It’s all stuff that’s popped out in the studio like “Park It In The Shade” has a completely different feel to “Coma”. The track after that is quite banging. It’s just an outlet for me really. It just feels good that I’ve got somewhere that I know that whenever we come up with stuff in the studio it’ll have a home.
The Emfire output marks your first solo releases since Airdrawndagger. Looking back on your debut album, what are your thoughts now and do you feel you took too long to deliver that album?
“I pretty much dug my own grave on Airdrawndagger. There’d been hype on me putting together a record for years, I’d signed a big deal and but what happened was I had to learn my way around a big studio which just took me a lot longer that I expected. And to be able to put that kind of record took a lot more work and preparation than I ever expected it to. I think it became a victim of the fact that everyone had been expecting this record for so long. When records come out like that which have got so much hype surrounding them, they never live up to people’s expectations really. I’m really proud of it and I think that it was a rite of passage for me doing that record. It taught me a shitload about myself and the industry and also I think it dropped just at that period of time when downloading was just kicking in and the whole industry was going through changes but I do look back on that period and recording that record with great memories.
I’m glad that the whole dance scene has gone more underground recently
Do you find it difficult combining the demands of international touring and working in the studio?
“Absolutely. That’s the eternal problem I’ve had in my career. I’ve spent so much time on the road, my studio work has always suffered. With Airdrawndagger, I locked myself in the studio for almost a year and then going back out on the road was really difficult. It took me a good six months to a year to get back into the touring frame of mind, having been away from it for so long. It’s hard to balance the two because they eat into each others space a lot.
So, some nearly two decades later, do you still get the same buzz out of the DJ lifestyle that you did when you first got into the game?
“It’s hard to say that I’m buzzing the same way that I was when I was 18 years old, walking into the Hacienda and just that innocence and naivety and that wonder of what the fuck is going on, what is this music about, of course things are different now but I still get an amazing buzz out of DJ’ing, I love what I’m doing, I love discovering new music and especially at the moment where I’m making music and testing them out for the first time. There’s an experience that I’ve been through over the last 20 years. I’m maybe not jumping up and down like an 18 year old kid but I still massively enjoy what I’m doing.
With the recent resurgence in guitar bands, it would appear that dance and electronic music has gone more underground again. Do you agree that this is infinitely preferable to the vain excesses of the scene in the later 90’s?
“I’m glad that the whole dance scene has gone more underground recently. I think the situation where it got to in around the year 2000 was just nuts. There were just enormous parties everywhere, all the big superclubs were packed every week. It was a bubble that had to burst at some point. Yeah, the clubs went underground, a lot of labels, clubs and DJ’s kind of went by the wayside but I think that the people who’ve survived that and got through it are still going strong. There’s a new generation of DJ’s and kids that are coming through and that’s very strong for the continuation of the scene. There’s a couple of 18 year old kids that we’re looking to sign to our agency at the moment that are just brilliant.
“To me, that’s what’s really important. I think that’s the important thing about electronic music is that it’s always eating itself and spitting out bastard sons and a new form of music comes out of nowhere. I remember when drum & bass happened and I was like “How the fuck did records get this fast” and it seemed to come from nowhere. Of course, you trace it back and that’s the great thing about electronic music is that it’s always doing that. As soon as it gets comfortable, it eats itself again. As long as it keeps doing that and people are interested in it, I think the scene may go underground and then pop back up again.
Thinking of the benefit and advice we’ve all received over the years from older heads and promoters on the scene, does it behove one to pass on that knowledge and experience to the younger generation coming through?
“Yeah absolutely and if there’s ever a scene that’s gone up the fucking swanny it’s usually you can see that there’s been a greedy promoter who’s been ripping people off or something’s happened where the punters have been fucked over or they’ve let it get out of control, like unfortunately like’s happened in a few clubs people get hurt and then places are getting closed down, like what happened in Twilo in New York. So there’s definitely a responsibility there, particularly from the people who’ve been on the scene for a while to keep passing it on.”
A selection of images taken during the photo shoot for the cover of issue 23
Photos from the 16th December Clash Sunday Sessions event featuring The Magic Numbers, The View, Pan I Am and The Metros
Just added, we chat to Maxïmo Park’s Paul Smith about his favourite author, the first book he read, his current reading matter and how literature influences his musical output.
When given the chance to interview an artist about their literary influences, the first person that came to mind was Paul Smith of Maxïmo Park fame.
His lyrics are inventive, empathetic, and eloquent, and his stage persona is one of the most unique and impassioned likely to be witnessed. Clash got the chance to ask him about his bookish tendencies upon his return to Newcastle for Christmas in the first of our new feature, ‘The Library’.
What’s your favourite book and why?
It’s tough, but I suppose ‘Tender Is The Night’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald -we ended up using a quote from it in our second record sleeve. It feels like a big statement without somebody saying ‘this is about life’. There are tiny moments where it sums up the dissatisfaction that you have with life, especially everyday life. Things are being thrown at you from all angles and not many of them have any real worth and that’s quite confusing. There’s this questioning nature to the whole plot, and yet on a purely textual level, the words that have been put together create these beautiful sentences that are fairly unparalleled.
“We’re all swarming towards the same things like a bunch of ants”
What other authors are you into?
I like Cormac McCarthy, an American writer – ‘Blood Meridian’ had a big effect on me. It wonders whether there’s this overarching theme to life, whether it’s religious, a government in charge of what you’re doing, or whether it’s just all of Western society. We’re all swarming towards the same things like a bunch of ants. And yet it’s about cowboys on the borderline fighting each other, tremendous struggles, and everyday life is this one big desert punctuated by horrific incidents. Things just occur. On our latest record, ‘Karaoke Plays’ is one of those songs where there’s no point in trying to question when chance intervenes in your life.
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
I suppose the more I read, the more I know what I don’t like and what I do like. It feels fresh and new even though people have written so many words over centuries. You can read a Samuel Beckett play, yet you don’t feel like he’s repeating himself, and the same thing with a Fitzgerald book. It’s suddenly like you’ve entered his world and there’s a pleasure to be gained from that familiar voice.
What are you reading at the moment?
At the moment I’m reading the diaries of the playwright Joe Orton, who was about in the 60s. He was bludgeoned to death by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, and they lived together in a little flat in London. The guy uses words in a really fun way and yet he’s not hiding his intelligence. It’s got that informal quality that a diary has got, that confessional tone to it.
What was the first text you remember reading as a child?
It was probably ‘Peter and Jane’ books! I was reading quite well by the age of four. I was more of a bookworm than I am now. Now I’m too into music, and when its time to read a book I’ll put on a record instead. I’ve got loads on my shelves – I assume that one day I’ll end up in an accident or something at home in a not optimistic way!
What’s your take on libraries?
In my youth they were my salvation, my mam used to read Roald Dahl to me. I remember going to get Tin Tin and Asterix books, I used to love those. I wasn’t allowed to play football which the other lads used to do, because they used to go over the big road, so instead, my mam used to drop me off at the library and I would read things. I remember reading things like the poet Shelley, and thinking ‘this is alright but it’s a bit boring, a bit too flowery for my liking’. The shelves are full of things and it’s up to you to find your way through it, it’s an escape from the world you’re in. Even the smell of the place…it was cool, kind of musty. I suppose maybe Billingham library was slightly different to the Newcastle central library which had quite a few smelly fellas in it. Billingham library was good!
How do you think literature acquires timelessness?
I think if it says something universal in its own way. It’s got to have an individual quality but also, to even use the word timeless – it’s something that says something about its age but about other ages, like ‘The Great Gatsby’. Every crash of house prices and all the new commodities that you can buy are still totally relevant. It’s still about one man being the architect of his own downfall and whether it’s that, or Madame Bovary, stuff that was written ages ago, it still says something about the way that human beings act towards each other.
Do you read book reviews?
“Authenticity doesn’t come into it; it’s more about whether you feel something for the characters.”
I tend not to. There are other ways of finding out about, be it a new record or a new book. Like there was an article about Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American writer from the 30s and 40s who had an influence on people like Toni Morrison, and it was really interesting, with poetic passages. Or if you read a first page you know what you’re going to get. I tend to use that as my test.
Would you ever re-read the same book?
Rarely. Certain things like compendiums though, I’ve got the Faber Book of Pop. I really like John Savage’s writing on music and he did an anthology called Time Travel and so things like that you tend to go back and read articles but I’m too young to have re-read.
Is there a character in a book that you’ve ever most identified with?
When I was 15, reading Albert Camus’ ‘The Outsider’, I was like, ‘that’s me’. And two years later you think ‘actually no, that’s not me at all’. You take something from each narrator. We’re all capable of disgusting thoughts and loving thoughts and there are writers that encompass all of those things and it can be quite uncomfortable when you realise you’re thinking them too. Then there’s John Updike, his writing is astounding. The guy has books with some amazing descriptive sentences and paragraphs that blow my mind. I think he feels quite disgusted at the world but you get to the end of a book by him and you go ‘blimey, it’s pretty dismal’, but at the same time he’s celebrating these things. I suppose when I read some of the Rabbit books by John Updike I get a bit alarmed by how closely we’ve got parallel minds.
Are there certain qualities that you look for which will draw you to a book?
I think empathy, or if you can think ‘this situation seems plausible’. There’s a guy called Russell Hoban, and he writes fantasies where ludicrous things happen. There’s one called ‘Amaryllis Night And Day’ – it’s about a girl who meets a guy in her dreams and then he actually appears in her dreams. I don’t need to think that it happened to believe it. Authenticity doesn’t come into it; it’s more about whether you feel something for the characters. In fact that’s the only requirement that I have. If it doesn’t move me in some way – it can be a two minute straight edged punk thrash by Minor Threat, or a long folk song by Bert Jansch, or books wise it could be something that’s really hilarious or it could be something that’s a bit more profound.
Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
More than one and its quite frustrating. I end up half finishing and I put them down because I’m like ‘ooh I want to read this now’ and it’s the same with a record but unfortunately with books you need to spend a lot more time with them to actually get anywhere with them. I end up taking four or five books on tour and then only dipping into one of them and then not really touching the other three.
You’ve mentioned Peter Guralnick once in an interview- what’s your take on his work?
I’m in the middle of reading is ‘Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke’. I’m interested in Sam Cooke because he’s an amazing singer but I knew that with Peter Guralnick he’d have the context of the time. He does what the best biographers do; he relates what the famous person was doing with the social milieu around them, though I think his writing sometimes strains into a little bit of the sentimental – you know sometimes, I wish he’d get on with it a little bit more!
What made Maxïmo Park get involved with www.walkmanproject.com?
They asked us to explain about one of our songs, how it was written and what we do as songwriters. We did the filming down in the Head of Steam pub in Newcastle, and. I was trying to explain a bit more about how ‘Books From Boxes’ was written. We put a lot of effort into each individual song as well as trying to keep that mysterious element to a song where you just go ‘that sounds good, let’s do it’, instead of thinking ‘what key is this in?’. But at the same time that song is really layered and there are loads of little features in it that we thought ‘that’d be a really cool thing to do’. Tom English thinking about the tom-toms on the middle eight, the way that Dunc’s guitar fits in with Lukas’ keyboard, and the fact that the lyrics are about time slipping away from you before you get to know someone.
Maxïmo Park are currently promoting walkmanproject.com – a new interactive site which lets you collaborate with musical talent from across the world, by mixing up different musical components to create your very own multi-instrumental track, which you can then download for free.
See more info please go to www.walkmanproject.com
Swedish garage poppers The Hives will return in the New Year with the infectious “We Rule The World (T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S)”. Details of the B-sides have emerged, with exclusive remixes galore. Fans have a chance to preview new material by downloading the Nick Zinner remix of “Tick Tick Boom” – taken from the new album – from u-download.
The new Hives single will also have its artwork drawn by fans. Entries must be submitted to the official site by January 21st, with the winner featuring on both the 10 inch and digital bundle.
The comeback single from the Hives – “We Rule The World (T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S)” will be released on February 25th.
Photos from the 16th December Clash Sunday Sessions event featuring The Magic Numbers, The View, Pan I Am and The Metros
Last year German dance label Compost Records set about rediscovering some lost European disco classics with their first Elaste compilation.
2008 sees the release of volume two but a pre-Christmas treat is this preview EP featuring three superb tracks. First, and best, is the slick, low-key funk of Belgium’s Two Men Sounds. Their 1979 track, Que Tal America?, is an epic disco gem that oozes Latin charm and still sounds fresh. Gluckskugel, by the duo Panoptikum, is a gripping reworking of some early techno from Swiss composer Bruno Spoerri, while final track Nepa Dance Dub is a minimal Afro-dub piece from the mid-80’s.