B: So I’m curious about the beginning of your sound, or the beginning of the things that you have been doing, and I have heard you mention a couple of times Herbal. Is that a moment that you think is key to the beginning of this?
B: So when was that, where was that, I know Herbal has gone now.
MR: End of 2007, 2008 we started there.
B: What were you playing? What was the night called?
MR: When it first started it was called Church because it was a Sunday daytime party, we would start at 11:00 o’clock Sunday morning and go right through till Monday morning, 1:00, 2:00 o’clock. It was solely started by a group of friends of mine at the time that just didn’t want to go home, just didn’t want to go raving all weekend so they were like, where can we go after Egg? When Egg shut there was nowhere for them to go. They used to go to a thing called Jaded. That stopped. There was another one Raymundo Rodriguez used to do called Wrong then that stopped as well. So they were like, let's start our own party.
B: Who were the residents? Who else played?
MR: Well there was myself, do you remember Keaton from The Usual Suspects from drum & bass? There was Keaton. Another guy… he was only there for a little while but then he left and there was me, Keaton, Lee “B3” Edwards, when he first started, and another guy called Maximus. When it really started going well it was just myself, Lee “B3” Edwards and Maximus were the residents. Then it changed name from Church after a couple months to Cant Stop, Wont Stop, then obviously we had the residency, we were there for nearly two years. Started off with 10 people coming through the door one week, then the next week we would have 20, the next week we would have 30, 40. It just grew and grew until it was packed every week.
B: Compared to where you are now, how would you describe the sound you were initially playing?
MR: What I was playing at the time that party started, I was playing more soulful, vocally house, I’ll be honest… I was a little bit lost musically.
B: It was an opportunity.
MR: Yeah, I’ve played all genres, I’ve sort of grown with the UK scene really, so I played garage for years, didn’t get nowhere in garage, it is so locked off, they wont let no-one in. Same thing with drum and bass, I was only a young kid and I was always just following other peoples sounds, then after garage I went back to drum and bass for a little while, then the whole Marky and Patife come about, because I like the soul they injected back into it, I loved it, so I got back into that for a little while, then I played a bit of both, a bit of that, a bit of soulful house, and my girlfriend at the time, it was her friends that were doing this party, and a couple of parties that I played at they would all be like, because they all used to like the music I was playing, the more funky soulful stuff, but they were like, why cant you play some of this as well?
I remember I went to a club with them once, it was the end, one of Raymundo Rodriguez after parties, went there, that was when it was called Jaded, I went there with them, they were “come down and listen to this music” this was before the party had started at Herbal, we need you to come and listen to this music and I went down there and I was like ‘what the f- is this?’ it was like electro house, a cross between electro and minimal, it wasn’t for me at all, it was like real druggie music. People that had been out all weekend and don’t want to go home, still at it.
But I heard a couple of tunes that he played that night, they were by Booka Shade actually, have you heard of Booka Shade, the German guys? It was that electro beat but the bass lines were so big and powerful and drum and bass influence for me that I thought, if I could make a whole set of music like that, I’d smash it, because every time I played at these little parties, I would drop one or two of those tunes that I had and everyone would go insane. When we started this party I was like, right. Initially he hadn’t booked me for it, the first one, because he was like “you play soulful” and I was like “just let me play, I’ve dug deep, I’ve got a set, I’ve got at least an hour’s worth of music that I know is going to smash it”. I smashed it to pieces. Everyone was like “that is what you need to be playing”.
B: It was like a moment of clarity.
MR: Yeah, I didn’t know what it was I was playing I just knew a certain sound I liked within this genre, no-one else was playing it, you might go out and hear one or two tunes like that the whole night. I just dug deep and I was finding tunes from years back that no-one was playing no more but I started playing them again and everyone was going mad to them, so I thought, if I can keep pushing this direction, I think I’ve got something. Then the more the party grew, the more people come, and I would hear people outside in the smoking area and they would be like “We’ve only come down here for that little white geezer, what’s his name? That Radford dude.” I was like wow, this is what I’ve always wanted my whole life.
B: That was 2007?
MR: End of 2008. Then Egg, they run a yearly DJ competition, at the time they asked me to enter it and I won it, that was out of 2,000 DJs, and that was just with the sound that I was playing in it was like Claude Von Stroke, Will Saul them kind of dark but always bass line driven house. For me, I still say they are soulful, because if it stirs you inside it’s soulful, doesn’t have to be strings and vocals.
B: That’s an interesting idea.
MR: The bass line, as long as it touches your soul, it’s soulful music I think.
B: Yeah yeah, like emotional music.
MR: Exactly. So, it kind of just went on from there, and people started producing music, saying it was my sound, a few producers turned up, we’ve made this tune, what do you think of it. I would be like “the ideas are there” and I started working with a few producers backwards and forwards and it just evolved it to where it is now really.
B: So around those times, I can see the path you described, the things that were going around you at the time, so did you have any interaction with UK funky, were you aware of that stuff, were you into it?
MR: Not really. I was more into the… when I say to people I play funky house they would be “UK funky?” and I was like no, I always play Defective, Shape Shifters, that kind of stuff.
B: The kind of stuff that that stuff came from, like “Cure & the Cause”
MR: Obviously I love “Cure & the Cause”, but for me when it got onto the whole MC thing, I was staying well away from it, because for me it was what killed garage and I just thought it is just going to die it’s own death. Obviously then grime was born from it, around that kind of time that it was dying, so I was trying to stay away from it as much as possible, so I was taking the music darker, while these lot were doing their thing, but then people were coming there, and I would drop the odd Crazy Cousins tune in there, and people would be going mad, but then they would be like “No Mark, that is what we want to hear you play.” That other stuff is better because I would see these ex-funky people turning up, thinking let us just give them one tune, and they would go off, but then I started noticing that the people were coming for the darker music that I was playing.
B: More percussive?
MR: Just dark as you could possibly get it. So then around middle of 2007 the Herbal shut, we didn’t really have anywhere for a little while, so we were kind of doing parties at Egg, this was all with the Can’t Stop, Won’t Crew, it was a little underground movement, so I was getting the odd little booking here and there, but that is who I was resident for and that is where my main bookings were coming from. Then I started getting other promoters that were doing the ex-garage, funky house and they wanted to book me. I turned up, everyone is playing their ex-funky, I come on and half of them wanted to shoot me and half of them were going insane.
B: That is a difficult problem to deal with haha.
MR: Yeah, so it was kind of weird, because then I started seeing certain DJs at the time that were playing the funky stuff, always looking over my shoulder like “what’s that tune he’s playing?” then I would start hearing them playing it, and it was kind of, for me it’s like… to think I have sculpted and changed the whole scene, not just myself, but obviously the people that were around me at the time, I think I can say that I did it because it has taken what was going on there, I didn’t really think it was going to go anywhere, but because I stuck to what I was doing and I thought if you don’t like it you don’t like it, I like it and this is getting me somewhere as a DJ.
B: Of course, it’s important to be headstrong with it.
MR: Definitely, and it’s just gone nuts. It’s crazy.
B: We’ll get to the nuts bit in a minute, because I am curious about them now, but I am also curious about setting the scene, of like hearing about the evolution bit, because it’s the holy grail really. You hear three tunes, you see your path. Those moments come like once in a lifetime.
MR: For me, I honestly think it was Booka Shade when I first heard those tunes, upstairs, did you ever used to go to The End?
MR: You know when they used to do Jaded upstairs, in the…
MR: Yes. I was in there, sitting down, I was knackered, everyone was out of their nuts, I’d had enough, I was thinking ‘just let me go home’ and then I heard it was “In White Rooms,” that come on and I was like ‘f---ing hell, what is this?!’ I’d never heard anything like it.
B: It must be what you’d want as a DJ because you have heard so many tunes over your life, and when you get that moment, it’s like ‘what the f--k?!’
MR: The thing is, everyone was going nuts to that and it just nose-dived again for about another hour, standing there, thinking ‘oh f---ing hell…’ then they played “Body Language” and I was like, wow. ‘What is this?’ Some German guy, Booka Shade so I went home, found every tune they had ever done, downloaded them all, I was like, that is the blueprint for me, everything has got to have that bass line in it, that kind of sound, that energy, it gave me the excitement that drum & bass used to give me. You know when you have been a raving and you’d hear Randal and Andy C drop them big bass lines, that is the vibe he gave me, and I haven’t had that since I was a kid. Even now I get it, when I hear the certain tunes that have them b-lines I’m like ‘yeah, that’s what I do it for.’ So yeah, definitely that moment, sort of beginning of 2008.
B: Also at this time, I’m just curious, I hear your funky thing, would you have any connection or kinship with people like Circle and those parties, the sound, is that different? Completely different?
MR: Right, Circle obviously became aware of what I was doing, at the time it was completely different, they were straight up funky. More sort of… I know Kismet has always championed sort of underground house anyway, but I think at the time if I’m right they were more sort of funky, UK garage, and then they started getting more and more into the house.
B: They got dubbier and dubbier, didn’t they? Since “dubbage” was their thing…
MR: Like you said dubbier and dubbier, then they… I was quite shocked when they booked me, they was like, we can see what your doing, we want to book you as well, so obviously I went there and I did what I did and that kind of opened up other doors for me as well. So we, you know, myself, Kismet and Fever, we had a good relationship at the time when they was doing parties. Towards the end of the Circle things, they were booking me for most of their parties.
B: That’s nice, because they I think were quite, from the interviews I did with them
, it did seem like they were quite concerned about the split with MCs and front men and stuff. Is it, they say, I’ve wondered about this, and it sounds like it is clear that you are doing what you are doing, in the knowledge of what has happened to other scenes before, you’ve seen the cycles, because I am sure quite a lot of guys who are really excited about making beats for Audio Rehab, this is maybe the first time that they have come through, but there are cycles to this, if you have been through it before. Do you feel like you are kind of trying to learn from the actions of the scenes that have come before?
MR: Without a doubt. I look at it and I think, you know, I’m 40 years old now, I’ve been here since I was like 14 years old, I’ve gone out with people who have run labels, I’ve seen someone have one of the biggest potential labels in the UK and they have just flopped it, and I just think, because of mistakes that people have made, the fact that they haven’t just kept the music pure in what got them to what they are, I think that can be a bigger problem sometimes, when you try and dilute it too much and you let other influences come in and take it away from what really got people into what you was doing in the first place.
B: There’s a sense of label focus, and I get that, but from what I understand about funky is like, it was really concerned around what the MCs were doing, everyone talks about “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” and all these sorts of MC tracks as a kind of like a power struggle for the scene, and the same thing with garage, it was a power struggle, who is really in control, the producers/DJs or the MCs? Is it the case with the stuff you are doing where you are saying okay, the focus is DJs and parties and instrumental music rather than hosts and MCs and all that sort of stuff.
MR: The thing is it wasn’t like I ever said to myself… because don’t get me wrong, I love a good MC, over garage, over jungle, you can’t beat it, it goes hand in hand with the music, but what I was doing, people didn’t want to hear it, it was just lights out, dark music, don’t talk to me, just let me get lost in my zone, and that was what I tried to keep, that element, just about music, everywhere I played, and if there was a mic there people would be like “don’t let him on the mic, don’t let him on the mic”, you know, I had to argue with them MCs sometimes, you know, it’s not me personally but it is what the people want, they don’t want singing over this music. A few people have tried to jump on it and do little things, but, you know, if they are going to take it personally then they are taking it the wrong way, because it is not a personal thing, like I said, I know what people want when I go to a rave, they want to hear me playing music, they don’t want people talking over the top of it.
B: It’s very interesting, because if someone comes in and they are they are like 17 now and they making beats for you, if you go all the way back to rave and then jungle or garage, MCs are a big part of it. Now it feels like in some ways the stuff you are doing is the same crowd, the London scene, you have inherited that lineage, you are the biggest thing in London now and have been for several years. But equally the hallmark for the biggest thing in London now, whether it was Rage, A.W.O.L. or whether it was Twice as Nice or whatever, it came hand in hand with hosts or MCs whenever you look at it. Why I think is interesting is you have got this kind of legacy or lineage and suddenly you guys are completely running everything but there is a twist then I’ve not seen before, suddenly it’s like, like you say, heads down, just keep your eye on the music - instrumental. There are a patterns in London music, if you watch long enough you see the cycles and patterns, but this one is different. The stuff your doing for some reason is different, and I’m trying to work out what it means, like, has the crowd shifted? Like you say, you’ve come through it where you have seen what has happened in the past, do you think that audiences also sometimes have seen what has happened?
MR: Definitely, and they don’t want it to happen again, they don’t want. I think that they were sick and tired of going to raves because… even though, I can’t explain it, like I said I love a good MC.
B: Me too.
MR: But there is raves where you can go to where it is out of control, and before you know it, it turns into battle lyrics, and your like, this is dance music.
B: It’s a concert.
MR: Yes. You are losing the concept of what the music is about, and it’s about the music and the MC accompanying the music. Now that might get me in trouble from a lot of MCs, but at the end of the day you can’t MC over no music, and that is the whole point of it, I think they got it a little bit twisted and stuff, they did, they started thinking it was about them, and not about the music. For me that is rap, hip hop or R&B, that is their thing. Dance music is about the music, and a good MC hosting over the top of it. I think because they got a little bit taken out of context with the end of garage and even jungle a little bit and funky, something has got to have contributed towards it, and for me the one running factor that has always done it is that, the fact that MCs can’t keep it to what it should be: a host over the top of the music. They start trying to take over and think it is about them, and then before you know it you have got 50 kids in a rave all wanting to battle each other and a lot of the people are like ‘this isn’t what we come out to party for. We come out to party just to hear music.’ What they can do, if that’s what they want to do, then they can go to do that in that kind of club, but there is no way people are going to want to come and hear it when they come out to a house rave, because they just want to get out of their faces and dance all night long.
B: I think that is also I think the real shift as well, so when I first started interviewing people in London, there were different camps like, there was like Ibiza/Mixmag/DJ Mag/“dance music”/Pete Tong/taking e’s, all that stuff, and on the other hand there was like bashment parties or garage, jungle, all these things, and it wasn’t cool to be off your face at those places and those things gave birth to grime and so on. You say to them, do you take pills or if you said to them do you go to like, Ibiza or whatever, they would be very like “what are you talking about?” or “it’s all a bit gay”, whatever, all those things right, and that split was there for a long time, but what it feels like for now is like your sound or your scene has like blended that again. I’m hearing about ex-grime MCs going Vauxhall and just partying, and that is a real shift in the way things have been for a long time in London
MR: But then what I had to be consciously aware of was the fact that these guys wanted to come to the parties, I mean, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, when we was at Aquarium was a prime example. We were packed out every single week, everyone who was anyone was in there, grime MCs, all the garage guys used to come down there, drum & bass bods used to come in there but I think because we were just keeping it pure, we were just doing what we was doing, and not letting them come in and start jumping on the mic and things like that, it was original, so we didn’t think ‘now we have got this now all them influences come out – don’t get me wrong, influence of the music is within everything I do.
B: I can hear it.
MR: Exactly, so I think that it’s brilliant, but I think the key is to keep it about the music.
B: So the MC thing I get, and I’m sorry to press you on it, but I am just curious about the patterns. There is also the bit about the audience being different, the audience suddenly saying rather than like “’dance music’ is something for other people”, or the whole thing about grime MCs dancing, the people who listen to grime are like consciously showing off and dancing, that is a real shift, the moves… all that stuff.
MR: I think also, you know, drugs do heavily have a big part to play in the dance music.
B: Do you feel there has been a shift in the drugs people take?
MR: Yes, definitely, definitely.
B: Or the people that take drugs?
MR: People who are taking drugs now, it’s not like when we were going out, it was like ecstasy, everyone happy, now you know they are taking all sorts, they are taking ketamine, everyone in the world does balloons now, it’s ridiculous, so I think that’s made them a little bit happier and more open to the music while they were like before, if they were just going out blazing weed and drinking then it would be about them getting on a mic and spitting bars. But now they just want to go out and take whatever and party, so I think that is why the music is getting a chance to breathe as well.
B: I’m glad we talked about that, because it is something that I get slightly ignored, but I think it has got to be a huge factor.
MR: Of course it has.
B: All that ‘88 all raving together stuff, you know, black, white, whatever.
MR: Don’t get me wrong, not everyone out there takes drugs, but it’s dance music and a lot of it is druggie based music that people want to go out to and get off their faces to. I’m not, you know, we’ve all been there, done that, seen it, there is a lot of people that don’t, but I think that might have an influence over… it definitely has an influence over the style of music and the way people act when they are out.
B: This is still the bit I find really funny in the patterns, is like nitrous oxide or balloons that has been around for a hundred years or maybe 50 years, ecstasy has been around since the 80s and ketamine has been a horse tranquilizer for a long time anyway haha, it’s not like humanity have just discovered them. Well, it’s not like the drugs didn’t exist, but it is like somehow there has been a shift where like an audience in London and around London has suddenly discovered it. I mean like house music, this is the thing I find so amazing with what you have done, I get the focus you have done on the zooming in, but house music is fundamental thing, and it has been there since the end of ‘70s disco. Suddenly there is an audience that reconnected with it in London like they hadn’t before. That is an amazing thing to have happened. If you said to these guys who were listening to garage or whatever, would you go to a house rave, they certainly wouldn’t.
MR: But I think it’s, it’s because we took what was there, like the house formula, four to the floor, I mean what I make is in and around in 121-122 bpm so it is really slow, but it doesn’t sound slow because the percussion is like garage percussion, bass lines are driving like jungle, drum and bass, so because it has got all the influences, I think it appeals to a much wider audience than say the minimal or the tech, or even funky for example, because that was very sort of urban London, the outer fringes, they used to go to their parties out of London, but they wouldn’t come into London. I have got friends where I grew up in Harlow would never come to London. I used to come raving on my own, never bothered me.
B: So sort of like the satellite places, separate to the centre of London.
MR: But I think where now, because the music is so, even though it is so niche what we are doing, everyone wants to get involved with it. I have got guys sending me music from all over the country now that are making the sound for me. Wow. Mental.
B: That is the holy grail, right?
MR: I think that is what it is, I think it is there is so many different influences within the music, that more people can relate to it.
B: Yeah, and then that makes it wider, it makes it more and more accessible. So, can you nail some of the key musical elements you look for in tunes, I know there is like a diversity, but there must also be like a common theme, you mentioned the bass lines, right?
MR: Bass line is very important for me. That is what drives any tune. That is what drives me. That is what I play, music with big bass lines.
B: They are also certain types of bass line, always sound quite bleepy to me, I’ve always loved that way, with the Bleep sound.
MR: Yeah, of course. I call them warehouse bass lines.
B: From the bleep/Sheffield thing?
MR: Yes, from the Sheffield thing like LFO.
B: That is the thing that is so funny about Oris Jay/RS4 I always thought it sounds bleepy, but then when Oris was in it, I was like…
MR: Yeah, he has just nailed it straight away. But he does it always, from when I was a kid, I used to love LFO, Unique 3 all them sort of things, that was what I loved, that was, like in boom boom boom bass lines, I call them boom boom bass lines.
B: And Steve Gurley.
MR: Steve Gurley: perfect. What can be as simple as three... well most of them are as simple as three notes, but it’s just how they are put together, and simplicity is the key when it comes to making decent music.
B: What I think is really interesting with the baseline stuff in your sound is that there is an understanding of restraint, maybe that is not for everyone, but I can see that, so like, it’s bass line things, but it’s not like the bass line that is just going totally nuts, so you have kind of said, I want a big bass line, but it is neither so subby that it is kind of like the kind of dub or dubstep things where its 20 hertz, but it is also not so noisy like Skrillex or whatever, drum and bass where the bass line is the biggest thing in the track and there is nothing else. Do you deliberately focus on like that kind of balance?
MR: Do you know what, at first because it was new for me, I even think about my own production and I’m like, when I first started making it, that is all I was concentrating on was the bassline. Nothing else really seemed to matter, but now what is making it appeal so much better is the production is getting so much tighter, and your right, people are thinking about how the bassline is sitting with the kick drum, and how the snare is sitting with the kick drum, and so I think the producers are getting better and better, from an early age, because they are listening to better produced music. Whereas towards the end of funky was all sounding a little bit amateurish. Everyone was just jumping on a laptop or a PC or a PlayStation and making music, and now that is not good enough.
MR: It’s funny though, because I suspect you might find yourself in a situation where it is like you have got so much popular road London support that - maybe you already get this - but everyone is having a go at making a tune for Audio Rehab, you might get that whole Fruity Loops/PlayStation thing happened with grime, but like the 8bar.. surely people must try that with you?
MR: All the time, I get sent music like that all the time. But because I never had no help getting to… I’ve dragged my way here to the point of where I never thought I was going to get here, I had kids when I was young, they were my main focus, I was a satellite aerial engineer for years and I just used to drive round in my car looking at posters and thinking ‘I wish I could get on there one day’, just be happy to be on them in London, so now I’m there where I’m in the position where I can help people. I help as many people, it’s not like I think ‘oh I’ve got to help them’. I just want to, if I can hear something in the tune, even if I can hear it has been made on an Atari, I’m thinking their notation is good.
B: It won’t be an Atari these days, but I know what you mean…
MR: If the quality is not there, but I can hear the rawness, I’m like, try and invest in a little bit. There are a few producers that I work with now making wicked music that is started off that way, and because I have gone backwards and forwards with them and helped them and kind of showed them a little bit.
B: So you are sort of saying it is an essential quality of the tunes and the scene that they have to get past like a production threshold as well as a musical quality.
MR: Definitely, definitely.
B: Because again, the thing about grime is like a lot of people started to like the fact that it was ‘badly made’, and in other words it was raw, it was clipping. Right at the beginning I found it badly made. But it almost became its sound. Brick wall limiter, straight out of Fruity: the fact that it was like cheap and shit sounding is what was part of what was good about it. Now, I’m getting a vibe that even if people came at you with some of that now you would help them towards something better rather than saying we can play this stuff now?
MR: Definitely. Yeah, I think that is why grime was sort of limited to where it was, and what we are doing now is slowly starting to get looked at by the rest of the world, because the quality of the production is so much better, and then we can be taken more seriously. I think if we were to keep the sound, but if I was to let shabby production through, it would only stay in a certain little pocket, the likes of the Berlin and Italy and people like that, look at us now, I get people all over the world are like, what is this music you are playing? It is just amazing, you know people that have been into minimal for years or people that have been into dubstep for years, and they all say the same thing, ‘we were so bored with music until we heard what you are playing on Rinse,’ and that is all they want to do now, listen to what we are doing. So I am conscious, I think of the quality of the rest of the music in the world, we have got to keep the quality high to be taken more seriously.
B: Another thing about the elements in sound in Audio Rehab, at least your set, I’ve noticed the vocal samples, and I spent my time last week re-listening to sets of yours, and I spotted things like Biggie Smalls samples, obviously Little Man samples from Oris, Luck and Neat sample, ‘you got me burning up’ which I suppose is a classic Salsoul sample, Nicole’s Groove, and like a Wu Tang (“hip hop will rock and shock the nation…”). Now apart from one - ‘burning up’ - they all feel like 90s hip hop and R&B samples or a bit of garage, and I wondered whether maybe that, as there any like, was that fluke, or is there any chance that it is like stuff that the producers now, are they sampling stuff from their past, like their childhood and teens?
MR: I think that some, the ones that first started doing it were, because there is so much of it out there now, that everyone is jumping on doing it, and I think the younger kids are just doing it because the others were. The old ones like me, or people that are my sort of era, that know them tunes to sample them, were doing them because I was playing them, and they were blowing up, and then they thought ‘ah, if we sample that as well, or that kind of thing, perhaps now we will get big.’ I mean you have got with the people now have created their whole G-house whole label around a hip hop sample.
It is not something that I want to keep going forever, because there are only so many tunes you can sample, even now with the label I am saying to people, ‘I don’t want samples, I want original vocals, so if there is something that you want in the track, get it re-vocalled’ because a sample, just get someone to do the little hook or, you know, I know the music is really really underground and dubby, but I want to try and open it up a little bit more with the vocals and say to the guys “look, do me a vocal mix but then do the dub mix, which is the one we are all going to play, but then when it gets onto Beatport and iTunes I want to go to the next step now, so I want the music to start selling to a much wider audience”.
B: Would you release a full vocal house track on Audio Rehab, where the primary tune is verse-chorus-verse, that kind of stuff?
MR: As long as it has still got the music with it, that is one thing I have always said, I don’t want to come away from the sound, because that is what has got me to where I am, but I know that for us to get to the next level and to have longevity, and for the artists to grow as well, working with vocalists is a very important thing, because they can then release each others' tracks, we can get bigger artists that if we have got a big vocal tune that they might not necessarily like the music, but listen to the song, then they might come and do a remix, but obviously first and foremost it has got to have that sound.
B: I mean, I guess that is really describing where it can go to, but with the way it’s been recently, do you feel like the R&B style samples or the garage samples play some sort of ‘rough with the smooth’ antidote to the bassline?
MR: Definitely, definitely. It’s those people that were hanging onto garage and they are like, ‘listen to this now.’ So I can see the, when we started doing Audio Rehab parties, the crowd was very dark, it was, you know, this scene started for me after party music, so, after parties a lot of the wronguns turn up, because they are the type of people that go to after parties, or Sunday nights, you know, Sunday nights have always been notoriously quite ghetto in London, and obviously we had Aquarium and it could be quite, if you didn’t know that people were just there for… if you walked in, you would be like ‘hold on a minute, what’s this?’ but there was just nothing but love in there. Then now, Ministry of Sound, we are doing their parties there now, it’s predominantly the younger, middle class kids that are coming from outer London that are coming to our parties, and I think it is because we have opened it up, even though we have kept the music dark, we have added slight elements just to bring it a little bit more to the masses.
B: This is something I thought about a lot with your sound, it’s funny you mentioned Youngsta before we started recording, because he's someone who has got an intense sense of focus as a DJ and I think certainly your sets also have that, like they know what they are, they know what they are about. But that presents a challenge to someone like you who is making decisions about what tracks you play. ‘Do I keep going or do I widen it? What’s in, what’s not? How do I have a sense of focus, but also not just play the same record for the rest of my life.’ How do you deal with that challenge, more deeper, you know what I mean? What would happen if the music ended up stagnating in other words because you were so focused?
MR: Yes, that is something I am quite conscious of. Obviously now with the label, if it was just me as a DJ and that is all I was thinking about, I would probably be a little bit more stubborn than what I am now. I was always very very stubborn.
B: It’s a great quality in a selector and an A&R.
MR: It is, but it doesn’t, sometimes it doesn’t get you far. You might just play in little circles and everyone will be like “oh he’s amazing” but then you have got to think about if you want a career out of it to last a lifetime for me to hopefully take Audio Rehab to where I know it can go, I have got to open up a little bit, but I say this to everyone else who is involved in the label, because I A&R, obviously I make the final decision, and a lot of them are trying to say “no we need to do this, we need to do that” and I’m like no, it’s got to still have that sound.
We can paint it a little bit over the top, but if it hasn’t got that bass underneath I’m not interested, and I think that, for me, when I am DJing, I am always conscious of when I see other kids that might not have necessarily have been there before but they have come here for a reason, they have heard me, otherwise they wouldn’t be here, so even though I might drop something more commercial in one club, when you come to Ministry it is just going to be straight ‘our sound, our party,’ whereas obviously if I play out in Essex somewhere, then I have got to be a little bit PC, otherwise the dance floor is going to clear. You know I do still have that in my head, I have always been one of them DJs where I have got a sound that I want to play, but I will be conscious of what is happening on the dance floor. If I look up and people are moving or leaving, I go “how do I get them back”, once I’ve got them back, then I can take them deep again.
B: It’s an interesting challenge, because one of the things again about the jungle scene, you talk about Randall and influence, but the thing about that stuff - as well as it was percussive and rolling - parts of it were amazingly experimental and that shifted in AWOL
between like ‘92, ‘93 when it went from hardcore/Swan-e and quite nutty to being just like fucking deadly, and unexpectedly experimental. Other scenes have had that … I wonder with your stuff whether, you know, some of it is dark & bass-y line, but other stuff is not trying to be really really weird. It’s trying to roll, and it feels like whether there is a tension in there, or like I say, on one hand you are trying to be like focused, because you also look at the dance floor and are going ‘hang on, why are they leaving I need to keep it going, it’s my job, I’m a DJ’, between experimenting and making people dance.
MR: I think the fact that there is people making music that is really experimental, and ones that are making the more run of the mill safer tunes as it were, but they can still work together, I think that is what is keeping it so exciting.
B: What is the secret sauce there of keeping them together?
MR: I know I keep saying it, but it’s the bassline. It is the bassline. It’s the fact that it’s just, I don’t know how to explain it, it’s like everyone… you know, I get sent so much music.
B: How many tracks do you get a month?
MR: If I don’t go on my emails two or three times a day, the next day I will literally sit there all day and if I don’t do it, if I leave it a week it is just ridiculous, I won’t get to hear everything, and then I’ll miss out on tracks. There is a few tracks that I have missed out on signing that I would have wanted, because the artist didn’t think I wanted them because I never got back to them, but I just never got around to their email.
B: It’s not just downloading them, it’s listening to them.
B: I get about 400-500 a month, and I can’t imagine what yours is like, it must be thousands.
MR: Yeah, and then I get to a certain point and I just have to switch off and stop listening because when you are listening to so much music, you are like, ‘what was that one I was listening to, what was that one before, what was the one before?’, and then it all just, even though all of them might be amazing tracks, I just have to go right, let me just stop, but then the ones that will really stick out have always got that underlying, sinister kind of groove going on, with their dark bass…
B: ‘Would Randall approve?’
MR: Yeah, well, exactly, that’s why I think it still goes back to my jungle days, yeah. Even if it has got pretty vocals or chords over the top of it, it can have a breakdown where it can go piano-ey, but once that drops back in, it’s got to have that ‘grrr.’ If it hasn’t got that growl or that where it hits you in the chest and it makes you just want to… well.
B: It’s funny, the way you physically describe it I get that, but from that, it’s about this point about tension or like the dynamics, your describing that, but many people have gone from that moment and then, right, let’s make the bass line the fucking biggest thing, let’s do, you know, let’s make it jump up dubstep or drum bass, but you seem to both describe the feeling of a great bass line but also keep it just off, just tamed.
MR: Yes, there are some people, younger producers, that send me stuff, it’s not for me, it’s more, there is obviously another side of it where they are making that kind of garagey dubstepy mish mash where the bassline is going all over the place.
B: All your tracks also dont have 30-40 second massive stadium breakdowns, like the whole dance world. It’s got a groove. That’s another way that people make really big statements right? Drum roll that lasts 10 minutes.
MR: Course, then it drops down to nothing. For me, it’s like I said, it’s funny but my brother… my brother doesn’t go out, he’s 42, he hasn’t been raving for years, but he was watching the, because Ministry recorded the set the other week, I don’t know if you watched it, you can go on the Ministry and watch the whole set. He started watching it and he was like “they are not all going mad, are they?” I was like “what do you mean?” he was like “I thought they would all be jumping up and down in the air” I said “you need to watch”. I don’t just come on and go ‘bang.’ I want to build them up to the end of the set where they are all just losing their minds. He watched it and he was like “oh, your right”. At the end of it they are all going mad. So for me, it’s not, the music doesn’t have to just be going mental straight away, as long as it has got that groove going through it, and I can build on the bass lines and it is not all about big drops.
B: Ultimately it’s about longevity… those kind of sugar highs don’t last. You’ll get an impact from the first five times you do it, look at jump-up dubstep now, it’s already unfashionable.
MR: That’s what I mean, one of my friends, it was Maximus actually, we used to DJ at “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” together, and he always used to say to me, “I don’t know what it is Radford, but when you play, you just bring calm to the party”. He says “it can all be going on, but as soon as you turn up and you get on and everyone is just like yeah, we know what is going to happen now, “you make it calm” he says, “and you still smash it, and you smash it in a calm way, how do you do it?”
B: It’s funny, because calm is again, you know, most DJs would not want to be described in as calm, but I know exactly what you mean, maybe it’s about the shape of your sets, the curve of them? It’s like they are going to start somewhere and go somewhere, rather than like, and they are waiting for that tension to build? Otherwise you just go in too hard and it’s all…
MR: Yeah, I mean, there is, what I used to find when I first started my Rinse show, you know I searched, this was before I even started the label, I was obviously… I was known for a sound I was playing, I used to search all week to find tunes Beatport that would fit into it.
B: It’s funny, because I remember the Circle Guys talking about this too, the first time I heard of people looking outside of the UK like, that Rishy Romero tune, “African Forest”, and also that Bassjackers & Apster "Klambu", they were digging through Beatport, which was totally alien thing, because like normally it’s a homegrown, London thing, right? Something had gone-
MR: I was playing like I said Will Saul… like I can’t even think of the names of them, but like real underground you know German producers, where you listen to the whole of their library, and most of it would just be terrible, but one tune that used to fit, so it took me forever to find them, but then what I started noticing was obviously where I was on Rinse and I always say the name of every single tune that I play, I find that I get to the club afterwards, and someone might have been listening to the show, and they would have downloaded all the tunes, and then played every single one of them before I get on. I used to think are you lot taking the piss out of me? I used to get people taking pictures over my shoulder of my CD wallet, I was like no, this can’t happen, so I stopped saying the names of tunes I was playing. But then obviously once the label started, luckily I was getting the music before everybody else.
B: I’ve heard a lot of “forthcoming Audio Rehab.”
MR: Then now I don’t have to worry about it.
B: Because you get in first and you sign them before you play them.
MR: Well no, I’ll play it before I sign it. A lot of the stuff I will test out in the clubs first. The odd one or two I can go yes, straight away, to be honest a lot of them I do, but I like to test them out, and the ones that I really want to push I think that I always have the belief in, that always do the damage.
B: Is this a dubplate culture? Not like literally the 'plates, but the idea?
MR: Yeah, I think so, definitely an extension of that. The thing is for me, everyone is like, obviously, everyone wants the tunes that I am playing, but I have to be selfish in a way when it comes to giving them out before releasing because what is going to keep me different from everyone else? And I fought a long hard time to get to where I am, for me to go “yeah, everyone else can have it now” and a lot of people get the hump about that, ‘you don’t give me no promos.’ I do give promos, but I can’t promo everything and I can only give you them once I’m done with them and they are ready for release, because I am then onto the next batch because what is going to keep me different, why would someone want to book me instead of someone else if everyone else is playing the same music? That is why.
B: That is why I wont really play old school sets. It’s like, if I go to a club, I have paid to go in the venue, the DJ is only playing tracks that I own, why would I be there? I need to go to see you as a DJ and see tunes that only you can play.
MR: That is what I used to love as a kid, you would go and hear Randall and you would be like, you would have tunes that no-one else has got, Grooverider, you know, what? What is this? Mad Metalheadz stuff that you are playing? Fabio with his liquid stuff, even from the early days he used to just have that vibe that was just happier, and that is what makes a scene good.
B: For me it was that to begin with, it was like Doc Scott, then it was people like Hatcha in dubstep, and Slimzee in grime, and nobody has Slimzee’s records, and that is where the levels are in terms of unreleased music. Where all the set was something that only that DJ could have.
MR: That is what I have worked, now I think about it, I never thought it would ever happen, I never thought I would be in that position where I could turn up at a rave and have music that no-one else in the world has got. That is wicked.
B: There was definitely a point that I noticed, just driving around London, it was probably two years ago, that every time I pulled up at a traffic light it had your name on the flyer, and I just sort of like, with the internet now, there is Twitter and all these things, and you can look at that and see who is big, but I always try and look at the posters on the actual traffic lights to see what is actually going on in London. For a long time it was garage revival nights. Somebody was like OK, Mark Radford must be going to some places, because it’s like…
MR: But it’s weird now I’ve had to pull that back and stop having my name put on the traffic board and things like that because the bigger clubs and the other side of the promoters don’t want that.
B: How come?
MR: Because the council don’t like it. They think it attracts the wrong element. Now you can’t really put them hardly anywhere, because you get fined for it. When we did our party at Fire, we got fined a good couple of grand for having traffic boards up, and it, I don’t know.
B: It’s a shame, because that is a real like tradition.
MR: I can’t understand it.
B: Is it just traffic boards? Or like, just fly posters generally?
MR: In general I think, it is just a little bit frowned upon by some people now, and for me it’s, I used to love that. I used to love it. I’d pull up in traffic, if I had the kids in the car they would be like “Dad there’s your name!”. Obviously now my kids, my son comes out now, my daughter come to her first rave at Ministry the other week.
B: How was that?
MR: She loved it.
B: How was it for you?
MR: Do you know what, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be. It wasn’t. When my girlfriend suggested it I was like, nah. You’d better ask your mum. If your mum says it’s alright you can come, because obviously me and her mum haven’t been together for years. She was like yeah, I can come. Because I said to her that day, I said to her “your going to be able to watch me live tonight” and missus said “Why don’t you let her come?”, “no, not yet”. So I was like, alright, my son has been coming out for two years, he comes with all his mates. She was like “can I come?” and I was like “alright, as long as you stay with us”. She was like “okay”.
B: She was getting the VIP treatment?
MR: Yeah, of course, but within 10 minutes she was like “let me go down there!” and I was like “go on then”. Where I was playing I could see them both in the corner, all together with all of their friends and they were loving it, and for me that was like ‘wow.’ What an amazing feeling.
B: That is emotional.
MR: Then they both came up in the booth with me, we got a photo, it was like take your kids to work day on a whole different level, it was amazing.
B: Do you remember maybe, although it’s different ages for your kids, but do you remember when, the point they realised what it was you actually did? What effect it has on people?
MR: Yeah, he was only… it wasn’t even that long ago, I mean Declan he is 19, and he was into, up until his 18th birthday, he was more into sort of hip hop, grime, rap, little bit of funky, never been out to a rave…
B: Not ones he’d tell you.
MR: He’d been to like, not the house rave, he’d been to squat raves, I know he had been to squat raves, who hasn’t? I was going to them when I was 15 years old, illegal raves, so I knew he had been to them kind of things, and he knew what I did, but he wasn’t really that interested in the music, and then…
B: Something Dad does is not normally that cool, right?
MR: Exactly, so I just think it was all his friends were like “your dad’s a DJ!” “whatever, it’s my dad? He just tells me off and gives me money”. So he came to.. it was an Audio Whore rave actually, his 18th birthday, I went out, he came with me, ever since that day he has been like ‘wow.’ Because obviously people, when they realise he was my son, he got looked after by everyone, everyone was telling him how much they like what I do, he could see it with his own eyes and he was like, “wow dad, I never realised”.
B: Presumably that has also been getting bigger and bigger as he has gotten older.
B: 2007, 2008 when you started…
MR: Yeah, he has grown with it, so he goes out now and he can see and he, you know, he has got his own head, he knows what the music is like, and him and all his friends, all they want to do is come to our parties. They go to other parties and like “it’s not like when you play”, he said perhaps it’s because I’ve grown up with you and I’ve been spoilt by the good music that you play. I got to all them and they’re rubbish compared to you.
B: “Right answer, son.”
MR: Yeah, and even my daughter, she is like, all of her friends, I have got a track coming out soon and they all sing it, all her friends loved it before they even knew it was me, and it was funny, when she went to the college, her first day in college, she went to Epping Forest College? We’re from Harlow, no-one really sort of knows, people do know now, but you know, no-one knew that I was from Harlow.
So she was in college, and everyone had to stand up and say their name, and obviously, Epping Forest College is full of a lot of London kids, so to stand up and say her name, she said “yeah, my name is Clarice Radford”. “Radford?” one of the kids in the class went, “that’s my favourite DJ’s name!” she went “that’s my dad”. He was like “shut up, that’s not your dad!” After that she got looked after, no-one ever tried anything, she is amazing, very useful, yeah. Definitely. So the going back to the whole traffic board thing it was amazing for me, like I said, when I was a satellite engineer and dreaming about doing it I used to look at all the traffic boards with Dreem Team and EZ and all that I’d think ‘I want to be there one day’ and when I got there it was just crazy, it went from being on a few to being every single one, everyone wanted me on their parties.
B: It’s mad, because it’s the second bite of the cherry. Normally it’s like, it’s a young man’s game, right, DJing, youth culture, you know, so other people make their names early on, then they are like you can ride through, like Randall will always be Randall, because of the things he did the early part of jungle, no matter what. If you have a second chance of doing it, like that’s great.
MR: I think the fact that I did something different and we created a new scene is why I’m getting away with it at 40 years old, but because no-one knew of me back them, I’m still new to them, so I’m still fresh and exciting as a DJ, because it is a new and exciting scene.
B: This is the thing I was trying to talk about before, it’s just so hard to nail this and express this, but, it’s the fact that house is new to a whole new generation, a demographic.
B: I’m convinced of the fact that a lot of this stuff is blowing people’s minds, because they probably have never heard it before, not just like your type of house perhaps, but like big house clubs generally. I’m sure there has been house parties for different parts of London for all these years, but as you say, you know, there has definitely been a shift, the groups of people that went to them, so it’s new to them.
MR: Now we have got I think, we touched on this earlier, the same sort of people that when I was a kid and you was younger, we were going to jungle, the garage raves, them kind of people are now coming to our raves, people that were going to Helter Skelter in the midlands, they are going to the big house raves, so yeah, we have definitely got them, and when we did the first party initially I was very conscious of that because when we did Fire the year before, obviously it was a bit more mixed, a bit more sort of rougher, we kind of changed our promo tactic slightly, even thought the music was still exactly the same, we didn’t do any traffic boards, didn’t do no flyers, because Ministry don’t want that at all, you know Ministry is like the biggest brand in club land, so no posters, you can do flyers and CDs, but they don’t want to know about it, and I was a little bit dubious, I was thinking, how are we going to get people here? But it was just… 2,500 people in there. All younger outer London kids, no goons at all, no trouble, no-one in … don’t get me wrong, obviously the jungle went hand in hand with the smoking the weed and whatever in there, but these big clubs don’t want it no more, so there was none of that in there, it was just mad. So to know that now that is our crowd which probably if they would have come out raving two years ago they would have been into… I don’t know what they would have been into.
B: There wasn’t any.
B: That’s the thing, it makes me think though, that that crowd wants to have music they can escape to. Whereas before I think with the grime is a concert, or whatever, or at like So Solid v Pay As You Go on stage at Alexandra Palace
and all these things, concerts stuff, it was more in your face, and suddenly there has been a shift and they say “no, we want to get lost in this shit”. Like they say, people say “don’t bother with that until we get our heads down, get lost in the music”. Like some form of escapism is the thing.
MR: It’s weird, now it’s gone back to the bottle of water culture, because it is just full of, even though we are still doing… it’s funny, because I had to say to Ministry “how do we do on with the bar?” they were like “we sell out, we kill it on the bar” but they were just drinking water. You know you have got a good mix, you have got the young kids that are just coming and just want to dance their hearts out, then you have got older people that are sort of like our generation that come and appreciate the music and want to have a drink. It is weird, it is just nice to see, it’s quite humbling, you know?
B: You’re talking about the shift of people as well, I wondered whether like, a couple of years ago, there were sort of various like, disagreements and so on, the sort of shuffling thing, when you look at that, those arguments that went on around shuffling and anti-shuffling, it felt to me like two different social groups blending suddenly?
MR: Yeah, definitely.
B: Like house purists versus new crowd? Can you describe what happened to people who weren’t aware…
MR: Well the whole shuffling thing, like I said, where I have come from has been predominantly mixed genre parties, a lot of black people, a lot of white people, then you had the other side of the fence, the house purists where it was all the trendy Italians, mainly white, so we started coming up, they are looking at us, must be thinking ‘we’re running at full steam’, the are just doing their little thing. You go to one of their parties it’s alright, you come to one of ours, people are losing their minds. So they were like, must have looked at it and thought ‘what are we going to do to stop this? Because once they get level with us…’ I always knew, I thought “once more people know about us, it is over for you lot, you can’t create the vibe that we create in our parties, end of, because you are too pretentious, you are too poncy”. I go in there, my main concern is to make people lose their minds.
B: And that pretentious posh thing is what totally puts me off about mainstream house. It’s so annoying.
MR: That’s what I’m speaking about.
B: The attitude like: “Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.”
MR: Exactly, it’s all been too pretentious, poncy. “You can’t dance like this” You can f- off. You can come wearing whatever you want, you can dance how you want, you can come from wherever you want, as long as when you come to that rave all you are doing is dancing and having a good time. So what they tried to do is say look, “these people are now bringing all these bad people to the rave with them. All these ghetto kids, all these young black kids, look what they are doing, look at how they are dancing.” But I’m like listen to what you are saying. I never got what the whole anti-shuffle campaign on Facebook, there was the guy called Deep House Crew on Twitter, I never got involved in any of it, I didn’t comment on none of it, then one day they attacked, they went after Adam, my mate Adam Cotier, started saying “look at this prick” and I was like “listen, that comes down now, because we’ve not ever retaliated with you lot.” We are just doing our own thing. If you don’t like it, don’t like it. Don’t start naming people. You can slate people for dancing all you want, but don’t start because-
B: Names is a big thing.
MR: That’s a big thing, don’t do it, because we will find you, yeah? You don’t do it. So, then I think in a way they helped us because people who must have been in it were thinking ‘why are these making such a big thing out of these lot?’ so then all that Kent outer London crowd that was going to their parties, started coming to ours, and as soon as they come they were like “what the f… have we been doing going to their bad rave for? They don’t play music like you!” So that whole thing went dead, they can’t, they couldn’t win. They tried to supress what we was doing, I used to look at them and think ‘what are you doing?’ For me, a lot of it stemmed from racial hatred.
B: The funny thing is though, like, it’s really dumb, because look where house music came from. Multicultural and like black people dancing and Chicago and New York.
MR: Exactly. They hadn’t got a clue what they were talking about. They were making out that it was theirs, and that no-one else was allowed to have a good time, some of the things they used to say, they would be like a girl shuffling like that, the comment “hope she gets raped by 10 black geezers in the corner and catches AIDs and dies” I’m like “what are you talking about?!” She is a young bird in a rave dancing, so what she dances differently to you. Every form of music has got it’s own dance. This was just a dance that everyone has adopted. OK so it can get annoyed when they are all dancing the same. But I’m like, ‘just let them do what they are doing.’ I think because we just ignored it and didn’t get into a battle with them, it just went away, they left us alone.
B: What do you make of the “#iGOTSHAPES
MR: It’s just kids having fun, isn’t it?
B: I think they are amazing, and I watch them as much as I can. I even sampled one of them on a track. But the funniest thing about them, is the fact that they had done it in these places that aren’t raves?
MR: Brilliant isn’t it?
B: In the middle of a park?
MR: So ironic.
B: There must be more comfortable places to dance, in a park in the rain… I really like them by the way.
MR: They are brilliant, like I said, all it is, is kids having fun and dancing, so how can that be wrong? I remember one, when it was all kicking off, the only statement I said is ‘all I am doing is playing music to people and making them dance, so how can that be wrong?’ Because they was giving off all this negative ish about me, it was like, don’t let Mark play in your club, he brings all the bad people, and I’m like “I don’t.” All I’m doing is playing music. Aquarium for example, we would go in on a Sunday night, it is one of the only raves I can say I have ever seen people dancing through the door. There was no come in and stand around. They would be in, straight away on the dance floor, there was no hanging around the edges looking at each other, the dance floor would be the busiest place first of all, then it would just spread to the edges. There was no attitude. There might have been so and so from that gang, or so and so from that gang in there, but they were just in there, doing what they are doing, and partying. But it was the outside people that were looking at it going “oh look, all the bad people are going there, let’s put all the badness on that and say how bad that is, oh yeah, he’s the DJ that’s there, let’s tell everyone he is bad, don’t book him”. I was just like what, it’s crazy. Then certain promoters were doing parties at certain clubs, and they were like, we really want to have you in the line up, but the club and the council said we can’t have you in the line up.
B: The council said it?
MR: Why? Because obviously you have to do the 696 forms.
B: I wondered about this. Did that start to affect you as well?
MR: Only if very very minutely, it affected me for a couple of bookings and I addressed it. Then it has gone away.
B: For people who don’t know about this, it’s a form you have to fill in that just describes who you are as a DJ and where you live, the type of music that you play, and presumably sometimes you have to say what your crowd, i.e. ‘is my crowd attracting black people?’ It sounds pretty racist…
MR: Very racist.
B: And if I’d have known sort of like, I haven’t seen it literally in the form, but I know people had to fill them in.
MR: One incident that happened in the very really early stages of me sort of blowing up but that is the only thing - touch wood - that has ever happened in any party I have ever been in, and that was years ago, so I had a little bit of problems at the time, but as long as you work with them, and you can’t be ignorant and be oblivious, you have to understand you are putting on a party or DJing in a public place where there can potentially be trouble if you are bringing the wrong people.
B: But generally these days you are not getting people telling you that you can’t be on line ups.
MR: No, no more.
B: That has always been my sort of problem with that form, is that the police are saying what music we can make, and that doesn’t feel right.
MR: I think what my problem was is that those people on the other side of the fence that were putting on their raves had saw us coming and started bad mouthing me to other clubs, they were like “don’t let him in here with his parties”. This was even well after that.
B: You must have really scared them.
MR: Crazy, isn’t it? I will support and represent, give everyone in the world respect if they are doing something good, but I don’t need to fear anyone or do anything. Everything I have always done, even when I used to run my satellite company, I would always want to promote from within and push people and help people, and I would never look at someone and think ‘you might get past me one day, because if I have helped you get’. There is strength in numbers at the end of the day, that is why I have looked at so many labels that have been like, no, no-one else is getting in, your not getting in, your not getting in, and one day these people are just going to go past you, and you are going to be like, damn, why didn’t I look after him? So if I can have 10 labels, helping everyone I can see that has got talent out I would do. But I just physically haven’t got the time to do it.
B: You’ve got to sleep sometime.
MR: That’s why I started Plus, it was just an outlet for the newer talent that I could see coming through.
B: I do a bit of this stuff with my record label, Keysound, and I try and explain to people how good mentoring feels, because people feel like you are giving to them, but actually they are giving to you as a person. So how does it feel for you to mentor people coming through?
MR: It’s the best feeling for me. Obviously DJing it’s the best ride in the world when you are in a club and people are going nuts, but when I play the tunes by a young kid, and then the young kid is next to me, and he sees what it does and the look on their faces I’m like, wow.
B: Do you get that thing when you play the first tune by a producer on Rinse, like what that means to people?
MR: Yeah. It’s weird, because it is me doing it, and because I’ve always been involved in the music, and because it’s something I have always wanted, but it has taken me so long to get here, I think I got a little bit detached away from how it feels for them, because it has not happened overnight for me, I’ve had to work at it, even when I hear other people playing my stuff, I’m like wow, someone else is playing one of my tunes, so for them that are just new to it, and haven’t had to graft the life out of it like I had to get there, I can’t even understand what that must feel like for someone, because they look at me, they tell me that I’m their favourite DJ, so they must be looking at me like I used to look at Randall, so if I was a kid, and Randall played one of my tunes on the radio, I think my head would have exploded, so I try and think about that one, and I’m like wow, for me to be able to give that to you, that’s an amazing feeling.
B: I remember when my first tune was played on Rinse, it was a pirate, it was a very good day and the first time I had my tune played in a club by somebody else, and they are special moments, and you will never get that first moment again. It is so good to give, and give it to loads of new producers who deserve it, and only do it if they are good enough, and you are sort of telling them. You have made it passed the threshold mate, keep going.
MR: But it’s weird though, everyone I work with and get involved with and I put the time and energy into, when they all meet each other, they are all like, everyone is so wicked, like there is so much unity and decent people that are involved in making music, there is no prima donnas, there are no people who think they are better, because if they are, they can go, I’m not interested. It’s not about that.
B: I find it doesn’t matter how good they are, I have dealt with some people who have some promising music, but they are so difficult to deal with it’s just not worth it.
MR: Definitely not.
B: Look mate, your not that good.
MR: Definitely not, it’s not worth the headache at all.
B: Dudes that want an advance on an album that’s like the size of your annual turnover and you will be like, ‘you are not that big. We are not that big!’ So, I wanted to read you something from an interview I did here at Rinse in 2007
with Super D and Geeneus and Soulja from the beginning of UK funky. So Geeneus says “it’s like a new sound that’s evolving”. Super D says “me, I’d just rather call it house.”, and Geeneus says “the only problem with you calling it house is the serious house people when you call the UK stuff ‘house,’ they won’t take you seriously because the big people in house are big already. But if you were the leader of a thing that has not got a name, you would be the biggest in that whole scene, but you can’t be the biggest in mainstream house, because they are already the biggest, no matter what you do you are not going to beat them”.
So I wondered if that same moment now applies to you. You are the biggest guy in your scene that you have built that exists within house music as a whole. You are talking about where you want to take Audio Rehab. How do you do that, whether you want to keep this thing distinct enough from other house, but maybe that might limit how big it gets, or get bigger but then you are a small fish in their world.
MR: It is something that we’ve, as a label we have sat down and thought about, and I look at it and I go onto BeatPort who is a pain in the arse and I hate dealing with them, but it’s the one everyone goes to, and then I’m like right, where do we put… people say to me, that have never heard the music before - dubstep & drum & bass bods - they are like, ‘what’s it called?’
B: Does it have a name what you are doing?
MR: Who knows what can I call it? It’s house music. Yeah, but what’s genre is it, because it’s not deep, it’s not tech, it’s not minimal, so where can you put it, and for ages, since we started the label I was just, because everyone was just so caught up in yeah it’s deep house deep house, I was like right, because I know that is where people are going to look for it, we’ll put it in the deep house section. But now I’m like no, you can’t have a deep house section.
B: I mean, you know, even with the shades of house, it’s difficult to that.
MR: It’s not possible.
B: It’s not Naked Music. It’s not Prescription or…
MR: Exactly, that’s the problem. Promoters started pigeonholing it, trying to stereotype it, as everyone does, they wanted to name it. I’ve always been like, it’s not that though, you can’t call it that, the closest thing you could call it if there was a genre for it would be deeptech, but there isn’t, even that I don’t like, so…
B: Because there is deep house and techno and tech house.
MR: So now I’m just like, it’s just house music, because that’s all we can call it, so with regards to the label, I have just literally said to the label manager, I’ve said just deliver it as house, we can’t label it as nothing else, because we are getting pigeonholed and people that are making deep house are going to look at us and go “but you aren’t making deep house”. People that are making tech will go “but you aren’t making tech”, so unless they give us a page on BeatPort that says Audio Rehab, I have just got to call it house music.
B: So I wonder if something is happened on the internet where everything is accessible, it is harder to build different scenes, like the way that jungle and some of these things were kind of different, but I’ve been thinking about the idea of whether now its more about smaller labels and camps of people than actual scenes?
B: So you could just say Audio Rehab, and people know what that means. Like people say Night Slugs, and they know what that means. Or Metalheadz sound, you know what that means? You don’t need to call it deep, you just say ‘Audio Rehab.’
MR: That is what a lot of people are saying, it’s just Audio Rehab sound. That’s what I’ve… because I was so focused in the beginning, and everything had to have that sound, I think that is what has obviously given us that platform. It’s not something that you can just force upon people, they have got to like it and it has all got to grow organically, you know like Hot Creations, the Hot Creations sound.
B: Is that distinct from house? To me the stuff I have heard from them, I’m not an expert, to me it’s very ‘classic’ house style.
MR: Yeah, it is, but I can, I think because not a lot of people are doing it now, and Jamie has still got his own twist on it so you can tell straight away that’s it, I can, if it’s a Hot Creations tune.
B: But “Benediction” could have been made anytime in the last decade, it could have been Jamie Principle, it could have been that, it could have been some big warm, classic disco influenced...
MR: But I think they were the ones that brought the kind of discoey sound back to the forefront.
B: Or maybe it never went away, I don’t know? I know what you are saying. But that’s the problem. If you keep going out with Audio Rehab, eventually you are going to get into that world, right? You know, Pete Tong on a Friday night, Ibiza, and so, that is the interesting thing, how you go into that and still stay Audio Rehab?
MR: I’ll be honest with you, I’m not really too worried about what they are thinking or whether they play it. Obviously it would be nice of them to play my music, but I can see the power that it’s got and the momentum it’s gaining and the fact that everyone loves it so much that I don’t think I really need to worry too much about that. I would rather get to where we are getting off our own steam and being our own entity.
B: It’s not worry. It’s the level of what is possible, the scale of some of the guys can do it at, if you want to keep growing, and I suppose that is where the levels are.
MR: Most definitely, that is where I want to be, and that is where I want to get all my artist awards. A lot of it comes down to exposure, I listen to, if you go to SoundCloud or BeatPort and listen to some of the tunes that have had like a million plays, and that is only because the other tunes are dreadful, and I thought if I put one of mine next to that, it would blow it out the water, but it just takes time getting that, you can’t force it upon people, they have got to hear it organically and let it grow, it is just like, it is just like an alien with it’s tentacles going out and touching people, once they hear it, aha, we’ve got them, but it’s just getting them.
B: Do you ever get those emails that are from random Gmail accounts saying they offer a service where they will buy you BeatPort sales.
MR: I mean, what is that about?
B: You will pay as a label manager to buy your own music, that get’s you higher-
MR: A lot of them do it. Loads of labels do it.
B: I had two emails about it, it’s just for a joke.
MR: I think that to get featured in the decent sections on those downloads sites you have to pay.
B: You have to pay people to sell your music?
MR: You have to pay people to get into certain positions on their, not BeatPort directly, but because so many people are doing that through them, like, what was it you said, Sound Cloud plays and things like that you can buy, you can buy like Beatport, you can pay a certain amount of money and they will guarantee to keep you in place.
B: The one I’ve had is ‘if you pay us, we will buy your music on Beatport, enough times in a short amount of time that other people will buy it because it is one of those top tens.’
MR: Exactly, that is what I mean, but it’s just like what, no, it’s wrong, it’s so wrong, I would never in a million years do that because the money that you are paying them, you are not going to make that from the sales anyway, and you are just false economising, your music hasn’t got there because people want it, it’s just got there because you paid someone else to buy it.
B: These days so much music is just a way of people to come to parties or be interested in your sound right, you have a million SoundCloud plays but I am sure there would be a hundred people that would buy your record. One question I wanted to ask, maybe this is a bit old school, but is there any demand in your scene for vinyl? Do people ever ask about it?
MR: A few people have started asking me, not a lot. I think the younger kids that are coming out now and getting into it, they are so… they are so detached from how it was when I was a kid, that they are just like, why would I want to do that [vinyl] which is hard work compared to that [digital].
B: See I get it the other way around, I get the youngers coming through and they are like 20, and they have brought like the first Reinforced Records that they bought off Discogs and they as a producer want that, they want to hold their record next to their copy of “Pulp Fiction” or something, and I think it’s a bit of a retro thing, but I can completely see it the other way round, the youngers from your lot it’s just so alien to them, they have never seen it…
MR: I think there is a bit more of a market for it in Europe I think, exporting vinyls to Europe and places like that, but with laptops and stuff, I think kids don’t even know what…
B: It’s so much hassle, putting on records.
MR: Turntables are hard aren’t they?
B: I had to do it, like, three months release cycle for a vinyl, whereas you could do it in digital in three weeks, if you were just rushing it out.
MR: To be honest, I spoke to my label manager when we did the album, and I said to him can we do some in vinyl, and he just went it would be a waste of money. You can do it to look cool, but you would be spending money that would just be a waste, or you can put that money into promoting some other releases down the road, which would then grow you better then you get to the point where you have got that money to spend on vinyl, and it is not going to affect you too much anyway. It’s still in the relatively early stages of the label, so it’s not really earning any money. It is just ticking over and we are building something.
B: Paying for itself.
MR: Yeah, so hopefully you know the money will come eventually. Everyone thinks I am living in a big house and driving 10 cars.
B: Just the four.
MR: If I was selling vinyl I would be.
B: What about, I know you played the Midlands what about Europe, do you get booked there? Are they interested in the sound?
MR: Not yet, I’ve done Amsterdam a few times, we’re there again, we are doing it at a party at ADE, I have just been booked for the south of Holland in November, because I think in Europe they are closest to us, both in culture, in music, I think they always have been.
B: They are very connected with techno, house…
MR: Berlin, have obviously, Berlin, their thing is very technoey.
B: Would that fit in? Do you think you could connect with that?
MR: Eventually, I think it will do.
B: I mean they ‘got’ dubstep, that is even further away from what you’re doing.
MR: Definitely, like I said, it’s growing, and that is one place we are going to start looking into more is Europe. I think Amsterdam will get in more because more English go there, there are a lot more English that have moved there, so one of the guys that I have got over there is from England and he plays at one of the pirate stations and all of the pirate radio DJs all they want is Audio Rehab, but our sort of age and the younger kids that are playing, that is all they want to play. Obviously EDM is the biggest thing over there, but the underground hate it, they can’t stand it, so the smaller clubs, all they want to hear is the more UK based house. So it is definitely spreading, yeah, I think Europe is going to be…
B: What about the places like Ibiza or Ayia Nappa as party destinations? Do you think-
MR: Ayia Nappa I did last year, it was just dreadful.
B: Revival, is it a bit of a revival?
MR: No, I think it’s well and truly had it’s day over there, to be honest. I think the reason why garage worked so well there is that it is that party vibe, everyone is drunk, MCs are hype, house because it’s deeper, and everyone has got to be a bit more serious, it just goes over their heads, it just didn’t work.
MR: Ibiza I’ve done, a few times now, I’m out there this year, just for Kings of House, but we are looking to obviously take the brand over there next year. I know for a fact that once we are there we are going to blow the place to pieces, it’s just getting in there.
B: Because they do deeper, darker and druggier, it’s definitely that Cocoon, DC4 parties, I can see that being more heads down, darker vibe.
MR: Definitely, but again, it is just building the brand up till we are accepted to be that credible enough to be over there as a brand.
B: Yeah, that’s my point about the bigger house thing as well, it must be making those waves.
MR: It comes down to the thing of having your own sound, which is what is going to get us taken more seriously. The fact that I have stuck to it and built it and now we have just got to make sure that we build our sound up to be on par with them, so we can be talking to them and be like yeah okay, these are worthy of being out here with us now. I never want to be seen as someone the same as them.
B: Otherwise why would they book you?
MR: That takes time, doesn’t it?
B: Yeah, I mean like, I suppose the more distinct you are, the more chances there are that they will book you, because you have your own sound.
B: So finally, there one thing we talked about briefly before I started was Steve Gurley, do you think it would be interesting in your scene too? If at any chance he might read this, I would love to.
MR: I’d love to. Love him to make a tune for me. It would be amazing, but I don’t know where his head’s at, do you know what I mean? Because I’ve tried to holler at him.
B: Did he reply?
MR: I think he might have replied to one message, but then after I explained to him what it was I was doing and what I was after, he kind of just disappeared.
B: That’s the thing about Steve Gurley he’s a mystery. But with Oris Jay around as well, it just feels like a nice sort of connection that some of the dudes from darker garage.
MR: I asked because obviously, when I found out his connections to Zed Bias, I said do you Steve and he was like, no, I don’t know him. So, I thought that would…
B: So again, Oris and Zed of the godfathers of dubstep and the dark garage people, really Steve Gurley is too, but he was missing, he didn’t like, as far as I know, he never came to the very first Velvet Rooms in 2001 or the early foundation parties that are to and dubstep that or Herbal was to your sound, because he was missing, so people played his tunes, like “Hotboys” and these things, but he wasn’t actually, I don’t think he was even really producing, it was people like El-B and stuff were playing those things, so-
MR: But I never used to, he never used to when it come to drum and bass raves or jungle raves where his tunes were killing it.
B: He just evaded them.
MR: Yeah. I remember when I went to his house he was very very strange. Just really deep in himself, really humble, really nice guy, just really quiet, like almost nervous and timid when you spoke to him, and I think that obviously having certain BS go on he’s sort of thought f- it. But certain things go on sort of took over from music, but to get him back in the studio and get him to make some deep underground house would be amazing.
B: I mean again, “Roll” had so much natural swing to it.
MR: “Spirit of the Sun”, “Lessons in Love”, come on! “Renegade Snares”. like, wow. Where does he get it from? He can just do like a stab on a piano and where he’d position it and you would be like ‘wow.’ How can he make one stab sound that groovy?
B: Natural swing. Well hopefully he reads it. Alright, that’s great, I’ve kept you for a long time, but that was a lot of fun.
- Catch Mark Radford on Rinse every Saturday night; for more on Audio Rehab head here.