|youth - a potted history|
With so many musical influences in your past to draw on, what would u say has most influenced the sound of the album? Is it a departure from the acidy progressive melodies you've written as Transparent?
The album starts out early morning James Munro driving progressive music and then it gets more and more full-on with a lot of guitars. They are a theme I suppose pulling together some of the Killing Joke remix stuff. It gets harder and harder kind of reflecting the DJ set I've been doing in Japan recently but not much in the UK. There is a Transparent track on there but it's much harder than that. I was interested a lot by the festivals last Summer and by Jez Laughing Buddha's sound and Vatos Locus. A lot of the Dragonfly stuff and Astrix and I'm quite influenced by a lot of the Japanese progressive stuff BPM and Freeform Pura and I like the Spiral Trax stuff Thomas Atmos, Son Kite and Anti. He did an amazing set at the Zambia eclipse party two and a half hours of utter bliss. James Munro did the best set for me at Glastonbury this year three or four hours.
I know you have written one track with Serge Souque, any other colloborations and how did that connection come about?
There's an Abacus remix and a colloboration with Jamie Pogo (Wingmakers).
Your Transparent project and The Kumba Mela Experiment has seen you write both progressive melodies and chill-out how easy is it to write so many different styles or does this keep it fresh?
I find it a challenge to write anything worthwhile. I'm always writing but throw a lot away, it's the same as being a DJ or a producer selecting what you really like. It's a bit hard to be objective of your own writing which is why it's good to colloborate with people who'll give you a firm honest opinion. But I do experiment and go into my lab-like studio and play and try different things all the time. I have far more visions of what I want to do and say through the music than I have possibilites to record. I'm never short of ideas but am limited by what I can do with technology. I'm a very good programmer in some areas and engineer in others but I do like to work with people who are really good with what they do and put a team together. The problem with trance is because some people are in Ibiza and all over and getting all of you in the same room at the same time is not so easy.
You're a world-renowned producer give us a few names you've worked with?
the early days I worked with Killing Joke, Kate Bush, 23 Skidoo, Crowded
House, The Verve, Embrace, Kylie, Kub
Being the mastermind behind Dragonfly Records along with Jaz Summers, how do u find the time to run a label alongside your other commitments and what's next for Dragonfly?
I've worked with some really good teams of people from Ian St Paul,
to Darren, Stubbs, Humphrey Bacchus, Jaz and Tim at Big Life all the
label managers have been really good and people like Mauri, now Nick.
I need to do different things to keep me inspired, even if just in London.
If I just come into the studio every day I burn out quick. If I'm doing
this sometimes it's better. With studios you're on an international
audition at this level. International labels don't ***k about anymore,
artists are aware that it's their money you're spending.
Dragonfly are having to downsize and going more digital with people on the technical side like Mark Neal running things more. We've got about four or five albums lined up in production. Suns of Arqu who are real innovators in the dub-fusion arena, my album, Tripswitch, LSD, Timmy B and Laurence's LSD album and hopefully a compilation from Ricardo Castellati. Sign up artists on compilations for royalties. Many labels aren't prepared to front the profit before its been made to secure the license of the track. The artists have to put a lot more on the table than they have before, it's a lot of pressure but they get a commitment to work with the label rather than just for a few dollars more you can have the track which has made the trance scene quite shallow and superficial. There's always something to be said for developing the label which understands your work and can present it properly without your release you can't really operate properly and get gigs so there's a lot of value in that. Until more people buy CDs I can't see how labels are going to be able to give large advances. Even on the commercial dance chart you're seeing maximum sales of 2,000 vinyl records now and most sell 200-300 in this country. Whereas even two years ago we could have sold 2,000 12"s easy. It's weird because the scene's getting bigger but the sales all round are going down, once the downloading kicks in and the labels get their catalogues fully digitalised and downloadable the labels will be able to get some funding from that. The ones that are going to survive are going to have to invest a ,ot of money and not expect a return for a while or are going to have to take up cottage-industry guerilla tactics to survive which is what we're doing. But in no way will the label cease. Some of the artists we would have liked to have put out like Quadra we couldn't. Butterfly records will also be releasing Acoustic sessions Volume One with Dub sessions and Dragonfly parties.
How did you get into dub?
I grew up in South London in the 1970s, with punk rock in '76. Don Letts used to play at the Roxy and dub was the soundtrack to punk in the late 70s and a big influence on Killing Joke records and the Orb is obviously very dub-influenced and a lot of dancemusic is derived from dub and a lot of trance music owes a lot to it also. When Liquid Sounds started, it was a trancey dub label to counterpoint the hard trance at parties and I think we were the first trance label to do that. Now dub has become a steady diet on that scene which I'm really happy about. To have the Turuya dub festival is very important for me and has a spiritual resonance anyway.
In what ways do you enhance spiritually in your work?
Goa has been a big inspiration on many levels for me and the scene. It's not just a place, it's a state of mind and it's an old tradition which goes back to the Stonehenge free parties, the beatniks of the early 60s, the poets, the first acid technicolour parties of the 60s, the poets and artists of 20s Paris, it's an ancient timeless tradition back to the Elysium mysteries and magick and all that. Goa is just part of that stream which you tap into, it's not just Goa that's the dimension level you're into when you're in that space and that is very inspiring. You see it in the 60s as a reflection of that state of consciousness within society and I think you can see it now with the trance scene becoming a culture. And when you take psychoactive substances collectively outside special things happen and life-changing things happen and that creates culture. Culture operates on three specific levels with trance or the Goa spirit, there's the spiritual level, the social and a political level. On a spiritual level it incorporates Eastern mysticism, yoga, new age paganism and especially universal native traditions. On a social level it can be very hedonistic and escapist and there's a lot of people just interested in the drugs and not the spiritual side, although people on a spiritual tip take drugs as well. There's also a social function to it, the gathering an exchange of information, the passing of knowledge and an osmosis of experience inner and outer. Political you see a lot of inspiration behind the anti-globalisation, the humanist movements, the native tradition movements and folk movements. The Turuya festival is a good example of how the scene is pushing out in different ways. The music we do is a vehicle for that, a vocabulary for people to communicate through.
What do you think is important for this scene to therefore remember when it comes to future commercial success?
Well, one good point to remember is that the scene is so still very strong because it hasn't had mainstream commerical success. When it comes to within dancemusic, there are artists who have managed to sell a lot of records and then that's just an expression of how people value it and that's good. For the artists it's a devotional gig, it's not about how many euros you get for your track or your set even though you have to make a living out of it. You have to diversify, make other types of music which appeals to a broader group of people without compromising who you are. As an artist you have to do all those things to make a living, not treat it just as a hobby and that's part of the challenge and that's a long tradition anyway. It's no different to the poet troubadours or the Greek mystics it's the same dynamic that the techno DJ or trance artist has to go through, they have to face those challenges and find their way through the forest as we all do. The whole business, music scene, music industry everything is changing with downloads. These days it's not labels that control the scene, functioning the music in that way, it's the promoters putting on the parties who really decide what people listen to and that's changed things a lot in the last four years. Prior to that the labels did their own parties and found promoters to put them on for them. Now promoters are doing their own parties and the labels are almost insignificant now and that's changing things a lot. I think it will expand and seep through into the public mainstream consciousness when it gets to a saturation point and when that happens the social implications of what the scene provides is far more important than the entertainment factor the disco-like dance thing. Not to undermine the positive aspects of people dancing and communication that brings with that. The sharing of knowledge of alternative ways of living and bringing the magic and soul back into life into the music that's what's going to be of real value and that's what it's really about. For me, that's my inspiration and that's a devotional gig. What money you get it's your duty to use it to assist you in what you want to do and do more of it I think.