This isn’t about nostalgia. It’s history. The New York Dolls sleazy, excitable spirit of Rock n Roll is transmitted directly through time, right now, to your volume control. Play it loud, turn down the lights and swig at something to get you tuned in to their way of thinking. Glad to report that the trashy, breathy beauty of it all remains resolute, conveying precisely the same feeling emanating from the city that informed them then as now. The very one that was inspired by what went before and then helped shape the future, blasting the way forwards. Music works by causing a reaction and the Dolls cause all sorts of reactions – not all them pretty. However, this hugely wonderful boxset highlights their youthful zest for life grabbing and shaking it to the very foundations. It’s a collection of studio recordings starting in June 1972 that predate their debut and follow-up album for Mercury Records capturing a rawer, more real experience than perhaps those ever did. Add to that a number live performances from 1973 to 1975 and you’re all geared-up, ready to go. Accompanying it all are inspiring sleeve notes by David Wells which include some great photographs, while also detailing the New York Dolls roller-coaster ride of up’s and downs. An essential in every way.
Hello Al and welcome along to Magazine Sixty. What have been the highlights for you in the past 15 years, as 3am Recordings has been releasing music since 2003!?!
Hi & thanks for having me! There have been several along the way, I guess the ones which stand out are the first time I heard something off the label being played by DJs we really looked up to (that was Silicone Soul playing a track from TAM001 at Basics in Leeds in 2003), then Rob Da Bank playing Alex Moran’s “New Fish To Fry” on Radio 1 too, a pretty cool moment. I think at that point I expected to take over the world haha. Gig-wise really the highlight was having fabric host us for the label’s 10th birthday – it seemed like a real recognition for the hard work put in, plus naturally it’s such a brilliant venue to play at.
How have you seen the ‘industry’ develop in that time for better and worse – which I guess may run parallel to the rise of the Internet, easy access and streaming?
I believe there are pros & cons to how it’s changed; in one respect, the internet and digital aspect has really blown open the old level of ‘control’ (for want of a better word) that labels had, for all genres, whereby artists needed a label to get their music out there. People can really follow a DIY path now, so it’s much more democratic in that sense – you don’t necessarily need thousands of pounds to get something out there now, via digital platforms. However the flip-side of this is that artists don;t seem to take their time now; as soon as someone has finished a track, they’re desperate to get it out there, so the number of demo emails I receive which have one track on there, CC’d into about 4000 email addresses, is ridiculous. This leads to a huge amount of disposable music and what seems to be a bit of a desperation just to get stuff ‘out there’, rather than developing a selection of sounds and targeting labels which are appropriate to what you want.
What is it about four on the floor that still ignites your excitement after all this time?
Good question and I don’t think I have a real answer! I bought my decks in 1991 and thought it’d just be a passing fad, but here I am 27 years later…. There’s an energy in house music, people are still reinventing how it sounds, new people (much younger than me!) find it and want to push it forward and create fresh excitement, so there are constantly changing nuances in the sound; I guess those are the reasons it still has a hold on me really. There’s just something about getting some records & putting together a mix, playing in a club, or just checking out new music with a friend to compare what we have, when you hear the beat and the energy contained within, it just still works for me. When I received the TAM088 vinyl, which had my first ever track on 12″, I got all emotional when the first kick on my track played throguh the speakers. It’s a bit ridiculous really, but that’s the kind of hold it has on me!
Celebrating the anniversary is the labels next release on June 4 which features four tracks by four artists. How does the release represent 3am’s direction in 2018 and can you tell us about how you choose these productions in particular?
The release I feel showcases what the true ethos of 3am has tried to remain true to over the years; it’s not easy pushing new artists right at the start of their careers, but it’s something I’ve tried to do throughout. So on this release it has Ceri, whose debut ever release was for 3am (a remix of Askani), plus I’m giving Helsinki-based Twisted Puppies their debut on vinyl. Michael Lovatt is an artist who has become close to the label in recent years, representing us at gigs in Berlin several times, plus he’s an artist who is on the rise, so it wa the right time to get him on the label. Danny – aka Dubble D / Moodymanc – featured on 3am a few years back, so he is making a return as a long-time friend of the label. So this EP represents artists who’ve been involved with the label one way or the other over recent years, plus for Ceri she was always going to be back on 3am and it’s a pleasure to get her onto a 12″, likewise for Twisted Puppies – they’re the fifth artist making a debut on vinyl from the last three 3am 12″s, so that’s something I’m really proud of. Especially after I was told I couldn’t sell records without big names…
How did you first get into Dance Music? Which clubs and DJ’s initially inspired you? And how would you describe the scene in Leeds now?
I’m originally from Stockport so it was ventures up the road to Manchester which kick-started it all; predominantly the Hacienda but also The Boardwalk & Konspiracy (!!) were places I went. The Hacienda was the main influence though, I was actually there on the last night it was open too, I’ve got the ticket framed in my hallway even now (geek alert…). Outside of Manc, Leeds was a regular place I visited, Back To Basics and the residents there really adding a new dimension to the music I play; Ralph Lawson & James Holroyd in particular really showcased sounds which still influence to this day. For a relatively small city-centre, there is so much going on – you’ve got smaller places such as 212 & Distrikt which have great DJs on and free entry, then venues such as Wire & Mint which showcase a brilliant selection of styles and nights, up to Church and Mint Warehouse, which have the A-list DJs housed in much larger venues. So there really is something for all tastes; it’s a very strong city for electronic music right across the board, definitely.
Can you tell us what inspires you outside of the world of House Music. Any authors, artists, musicians, writer’s etc you would care to share?
Well my favourite writer is George Orwell; people immediately think of “1984” by him (which is, for me, the best book I have ever read), but his fantastic use of language and his clear distaste for the upper-classes (despite coming from a well-to-do background, which he shunned) is evident in his writing. “Coming Up For Air” is another of his books which still has a relevance in its story today, plus “Down and Out In Paris and London” is a really amazing insight into the North of England at the time of writing. I’m also a bit of a film geek; I tend to watch more films than general TV really; I’d say some of the films from the 70s would be my choices (Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Serpico etc), but more recently films like Shutter Island & There Will be Blood are favourites too. I listen to plenty of other music too, there was particular excitement when confirmation of Arctic Monkeys live tickets was sent to my friend Lyndsey, who managed to sort us two for Sheffield! Really looking forward to their new album, their previous one “AM” is an absolute gem & up there with my favourites of all time.
What are your feelings on nostalgia? Does such great emphasis on the past stifle creativity or enhance it?
Another good question! I’m not too keen on the word ‘nostalgia’ really; what has happened in the past of course is hugely important (otherwise why would I have a Hacienda ticket framed on my wall, from 1997 haha!), but I suppose it’s how these things are done. For example I’m not really a fan of “classics” type nights, where all the music is from say 1989 through to 1991, primarily because that’s not a true representation of what was played, it’s just the biggest/most well-known tracks from that period and it wasn’t really like that at all. I play old records in my sets, I love old records, but I play them within all the new stuff I have – I’ll do it as a little reminder of something from the past and also because it’s something I like and it fits with what I’m playing, but I wouldn’t want to do a whole night of “Hacienda Classics” for example. it’s correct and important to learn from the past, but don’t get stuck in it… When people say “the music’s not like it used to be” or whatever, that does bug me a bit – of course it’s not what it used to be, if it had stayed the same since 1988 then it’d be a bit stale! The whole reason I believe electronic music remains so vital is because it changes and progresses. Yes look back and get excited by old music, see what the early tracks were, that’s valuable and crucial to involve yourself in, but treat it all as an ever-expanding and changing sound – that’s the key for me.
And finally. Can you talk us through the process of creating music for you, from where an initial idea might spring from to how you then produce it, including a favourite piece of hardware/software you like to refer to?
I guess it just all comes from the music I hear and have heard over time – whether that’s consciously or subconsciously. As I’ve been buying records since the mid-80s, It probably explains why I’m rubbish at sticking to one sound. Production-wise I use Ableton; I tend to just muck about with basic ideas of drum/percussion and bass initially, then go from there. Software-wise I do tend to use Sylenth a lot, it’s something of a go-to bit of software for me really. The Eventide plug-ins have also been regular favourites, easy to use and great sounding. I’d love to say I have a studio full of expensive gear and name-drop some super-expensive synths, but I’d be lying I’m afraid! I can’t remember who said it to me, maybe Rob Small who does the 3am mastering, but it was something like “it’s not the gear, it’s the ear” – I’ll use that line anyway 🙂
The power of music never ceases to amaze or transform the simple everyday into something else entirely more inspiring. And that’s the feeling captured from the first number of this five track release from DJ Deep and Roman Poncet. Envole, opens its arms to you care off a succession of finely tuned percussive rhythms, and late-night Jazzy warmth which soon has you wanting more. The haunting, exciting ambience of Eclipse follows suit, as the exotic essence of the drum driven Le Reveil happens next. The more playful Jazz of Max and then the awe-inspiring atmosphere’s of Procession end this first rate release of sound, movement and conversation.
Of course, Plant 74 feels like a return to nature in contrast. Not so much organically but certainly in an emotionally honest sense. This collection of five tracks from five artists begins with Sapurra’s brutal realisation in Somnambulant which delivers hard on floor kicks plus bass alongside tense atmosphere’s generated via waves of smoky synths. Koett’s ultra-hot Space Invaders brims with Acid excitement and whirring bass next, as the excellent Can’t Control by Denis Shubin fills the stereo expanse with life-affirming pads and yearning vocals. Peter Lankton’s Dub One then adds a grainer resolution to his production fussing compelling moods together with shuffling drums and melodic punctuation. Leaving the undulating funkiness of Rawman & Inga! Breath to complete this cool collection of music with minimal, repeating rushes of emotionally charged notes to heighten satisfaction.
Time flies. Or at least it feels that way. Ever since the gorgeous Fall For You hit the airwaves back in 2013 I’ve been waiting for something as perfectly formed to arrive. And once again its April Morgan’s beautiful, heart-warming vocals that set the fires alight, although of course Sandy Rivera’s tastefully crafted beats plus richly, soulful chords are all an essential part of the equation too! Put it this way. You can sense that warm glow of sunshine rising across your face when you listen. It’s good to hear a song like this again.
Ouch. When the bassline is played on the delightfully titled Where Are My Panties you just know you’re in for trouble. Following up from their debut release all the way back in 2015 Delicate Droids have no shortage when it comes to brilliant titles for tracks. But more on that later. The missing item(s) cleverly has an array of distraught synthesized electronics all jamming together over insistent drums, leaving your mind in a pleasurable disarray of sound. Then, The Room Is Spinning creates an aptly unsettling sequence of events that result in something you will need to hear all for yourself. The self-explanatory I Peed In Your Boot leaves its own indelible impression via twisted Detroit bass and accompanying undulating synth lines which are uncompromisingly sizzling, fusing a strange sense of melody together over nine plus minutes. Excellence.
The third release from the label I’ve reviewed in as many weeks sparks the reoccuring thought that Visonquest remains an essentially important imprint to the fabric of club culture. Not least of all because they unleash music such as this defiantly futuristic number. Creatures Of Habit are in reality Shaun Reeves, Maher Daniel and Amir Javasoul and the title track they have created asks probing, mind enhancing questions while delivering taught, tense bass amid deliberately electro drums plus an intensely invigorating selection of keys and punctuating sounds. Cumulating at two thirds via a heart-warming rush of emotive pads. Blink, occurs next creating a darker impression as nervy synthesizers wriggle over brutal beats, leaving Out Of Orbit to complete with rumbling bass aimed at pointed drums feeling stripped down yet fully formed.
Behind schedule. But bang on time. I’m reviewing this latest gem from youANDme post release simply because life doesn’t always allow for being precise. Though never mind that, it sounds as vibrant last week as it does this and will no doubt continue to do so ad infinitum. Stare at the artwork. Does it remind you of anyone? Or is that just me. Raw, loose fitting drums add fuel to the fire as throbbing bass plus gritty stabs ignite what is essentially first- rate, audibly fiery House Music on Common. Audiojack supply the remix which feels that bit more energised reworking the elements into a differing and very satisfying conclusion. Meanwhile, Orange Loop sees Heidi enter the frame as tough edged rhythms are underpinned by tribal flavoured beats plus suitably atmospheric keys, again adding grit and grain to the sequential electronics.
Engage. Insanity Dub rushes over you like turbulent water. Cleansing yet energising. Felling like a hint of Disco is buried in there somewhere, not quite revealing itself, but leaving the impression it once happened. Looped, rigorous and defiantly funky the excellent track also captures a sense of striving, gliding ever forwards. Next, Rusty Flashback sinks deeper with melodic traces amid Detroit pulses, while Garden of Corrosion adds smoky Dub sensibilities into the equation. The curious Pepper Jones ends via shimmering, undulating stabs echoing into the beyond on this fine release.
Number 18 from I Love Acid has Argentinian producer Nehuen inject a whole heap of attitude into the genre with four equally invigorating productions vying for your excitable attention. The apocalyptic, Not For Me begins with incendiary Acid simmering over brutal beats and feverish (most expertly programmed) hi-hats. Next, Shadow Aspect adds a darker atmosphere to the sequence as gritty sounds are offset by sleazy melodies, although the intense reality of Wake Up Luis Ricardo makes the previous almost pale into the ether. Can’t quite get past that experience either. However, finally Negative Mindset digs a funkier Chicago flavoured groove to end another uniquely distinctive set of sounds from the label. As per there are only 303 hand-numbered and stamped pieces of vinyl available….