Welcome back to Magazine Sixty, Sean. Let’s begin with the styles of music which initially inspired you growing up and how they shaped what you are about today?
There was always something about dance music that struck a chord for me, even from about 9 or 10 years old. I just connected to it and it was a golden era for popular dance music too with lots of tracks in the charts from the likes of The Farm, Blackbox, Adamski, Massive Attack – it was that era that grabbed me first and its never really let go.
Then at about 12 or 13 I discovered hardcore and I was an obsessive collector of the flyers and tape packs. Then I started buying 12 inches and I would travel all over the south to towns and city centre record shops (pre internet) Reading, Southampton, Basingstoke and sometimes London buying hardcore and what was to become drum and bass. Then by 15/16 I was getting into House and Uk Garage. The love for Disco came after, once I discovered all the records that I loved were actually remakes or sampled from disco records. Then it was like wow, there’s a whole other universe of amazing music.
I also just loved the culture of dance music, not just the music itself, but what it represents. I love the idea that anyone from anywhere and any background was into the music and sharing that passion. It didn’t matter if you were male or female, black or white, rich or poor – it was this unity over the music and there were opportunities to be a producer, create a party or start a magazine or label. I found that quite liberating and interesting.
Especially recently I try and remind myself of that passion and innocence. A lot can be discussed and debated about success in music, but if I take myself back to when I was in a record shop aged 13; I would drop the needle on a record or you would hear a snippet play and you knew after 1minute if it was special (or you had to gamble because they would sell out). I try and keep that excitement, that need for great records at the centre of what I do.
Your next Future Disco compilation: Dance Club features some nineteen tracks, most of which are vocal based. What is about the human voice and melody that stands the test of time?
I compiled this one in lockdown so it’s ironically called Dance Club. I wanted it to be a feel good party album, hence lots of vocals and an uplifting vibe. I wanted it to be the remedy to a year without dancefloors, to isolation and so it’s fitting that it drops just before we are allowed out in force the UK. I love the name Dance Club is just feels positive – a place where you can be free.
I’ve always loved vocals and songs too. Great songs live on through generations and while I’m a fan of a dub mix for sure, Disco is so much about great vocals and emotion, so I’m pleased to put together an album pointing in this direction.
Future Disco – Dance Club is out now via the Future Disco label.
We last spoke back at the beginning of 2014. What highlights and personal achievements are you most proud of over the last several years?
I started Future Disco in 2009 so that’s twelve years of albums. parties and records. I think the biggest achievement of the past few years has been moving Future Disco from purely compilations into releasing singles and soon artist albums. It’s a natural transition but to make that successful is an achievement.
As a label and along with the other labels I run, we’ve grown the team and the number of releases and I think the quality of what we do to.
Dance Club, is set to welcome back dancing again into the collective consciousness. While dancing together in a space full of people is undoubtedly a communal act do you think it is more about personal liberation, or does Disco/ House still have the ability to transform society? Seth Troxler made a recent observation of some European dance music being more cerebral than tuned to the body, do you think that’s true?
I think there’s always a balance and everyone responds differently to different music depending on their tastes or the time and place. There are some tracks that can move nearly everyone at anytime, that are so special. For me Disco is dancing. That’s what was so strange about lock down. Disco or even house music didn’t have the context anymore.
I’m not judgemental in terms of what makes different people move, as a DJ you are always trying to judge the crowd and what’s right in one environment won’t be right in another. Some of the best moments I’ve had DJing are at 5/6am and it’s a totally different mind set and a deeper musical output that’s required at that time.
In terms of transforming society, I’m not sure any music genre can do that now just because of social media and musical landscape. Saying that there’s no doubt that dancers have and can be a force for good and can make change. Like the points above I feel like dance music has changed society for the better with more acceptance and more creativity. If you think about many topics we discuss today Disco and Acid House were very progressive and I think a whole new generation will find their own way to be even more progressive, maybe in a more digital way too in the future.
Tell us about the album’s funky cover art?
About three years ago I worked with a very talented designer Simon Moore and we went on a journey to create a new look and feel. It felt like time for a refresh. We commissioned a photographer called Emily Cole. I think I found an image of glitter on the tongue and we thought why not give it a try. The day of the photo shoot it was about 40 degrees in this studio in Tottenham and the model couldn’t swallow for about 10 minutes. Top marks for dedication for the shot as I think it looks great and suits the uplifting party vibe to the album.
A criticism of House-Disco is that is feels stuck in a time warp repeating the same sounds, words and arrangements? How do you see it?
I’m not sure why we instantly fall in love with those 808 sounds, certain drum breaks, old strings or certain arrangements. There’s just something about an era of music that created certain sounds and then they become part of the fabric and a reference point for dancers. There are times, especially when going through demos you do think ‘give me something new’ but I think dance music is much like digital culture. You are taking the inspiration from the past and adding and morphing it with some new technology that’s available to you. But also paying homage to the past.
I think it’s harder with the internet for things to incubate. Dubstep and Grime, maybe the last big musical emergence and that was just before the internet and social media were big. But maybe we haven’t yet seen what the future holds for music, maybe in a purely digital environment it could get really experimental. I have a feeling that in the future, the next generation is seamlessly moving between online and offline worlds so I feel like there could be some mind bending trends coming from this in the next decade.
What changes, if any, would you like in club culture as a result of the fracture caused by Covid-19?
I would love to see everything less headliner driven. The obsession with one big DJ or act is a relatively new thing in dance music, fuelled by the EDM boom. There is nothing wrong with it as many people deserve to be huge. Yet sometimes it feels like it gets in the way of the party, the line ups become a bit similar and it’s harder for up and coming talent to break through.
I would love to see more local talent emerge. People to party in their communities more and build up a more local network around dance clubs. Big isn’t always better and I guess that’s one thing I hope may change. Also everyone just generally being positive and kind to each other. Thankful for what we do have and how lucky we are to dance again on the other side.
Likewise how would you like to see the industry reset in terms of how artists and labels generate income. How do you see the future in that regard?
The big talk is of NFT’s, hard to tell if that’s to stay or not, but that feels like a bit of a gold rush. I think it will remain fundamentally the same, so streaming and ticket sales. There are always new models and conversations but they tend to favour big artists with big fanbases so they have more options. If you are an unknown artist in particular, a label plays an important part in getting you out there.
I do really like bandcamp though, and I think the last year has shown anyone can sell direct if you have an idea, talent and the energy.
Outside of music which artists, writers, painters etc have inspired you most?
I’m definitely inspired by art, but more just immersing myself in it, rather than specific painters. I often feel like art is everywhere if you look for it. I have quite a lot of art in my office and house to keep me inspired.
Actually, it’s travel and places that most inspire me. I’m like a yin and yang, I like the city and countryside in equal measure taking inspiration from both. You can find me zipping round London but same time I love walking by the sea.
And finally. What are you looking forward to most for the remainder of 2021?
Travelling and seeing new places. Dancing and having a good time. Actually if 2020 has taught me anything just seeing some friends and hearing some music in situ will be great. 2022 mind you, I’m really looking forward to going to Ibiza, I’ve spent a lot of time there and I’ve definitely missed visiting this year.