Can you tell us about your early musical memories and later on about the first clubs you went to in Manchester and the DJ’s that inspired you?
My earliest memories are of listening to my mum and dads’ jazz and soul records, bashing away at a pair of bongos I nagged them to get me after seeing Elvis playing them in the movie “Blue Hawaii”, and making up tunes on the bashed up piano that was in the cellar at home. The first clubs in Manchester? Band on the Wall (my Dad took me!), Precinct 13, Legends, The Thunderdome, Konspiracy, the Man Alive, The Hacienda, The Boardwalk, Oscars, the PSV, The Venue and PJ Bells to name but a few… and VERY inspirational for me were the parties at the Kitchen in Hulme. DJ’s at the time? Chris Cruiks, Colin Curtis, Hewan Clarke, the Jam MCs, Trafford, Dean from Expansions, Nipper, Dave Haslam, Justin Robertson, Greg Wilson, Madhatter, yourself of course, and John McCready over at Dry… again so many. The interesting thing was at that time (88-89) that the nights and the clubs were bigger than the DJ’s. I’ve learned who quite a few of them were after the event!
You produce under a number of different guises can you explain the idea behind each one?
I’ve always been involved with a lot of different and quite diverse musical projects, particularly because of my background as a musician, so I’ve never really had any problems drawing the lines. When I started to produce as “Dubble D” I did really want to try to pull everything together in an artistic way. That first album, “Reachin’ Out” was an honest attempt at that: House, Hip hop, Jazz, Latin, Techno, Reggae, Breaks…. I’m not sure everybody really got it, I don’t think I realised at the time just how much of a Mancunian thing it was to mix up styles like that. These days within what I do as a producer, sure I like to draw the lines a little more, especially if it involves the concept of making a record, “moodymanc” has been very much a House project of course, I’m still doing beats and funkier stuff as “Dubble D”, I have some darker beats going on as “Vault”, and some earthier stuff as “Balaphonic”, plus a couple of other aliases but it all really comes from the same place ultimately, (I’m not that clever!!), it’s just easier for some people to digest that way!
Can you tell us about your studio set-up and any favourite pieces of equipment?
Like most people my studio revolves around a computer but I’ve been lucky enough to amass some useful equipment over the years: I have a BIG collection of drums and percussion instruments, a couple of cheapish but interesting keyboards, some nice (and not so nice) mics and pre-amps, some Roland V drums, an old analogue desk (that I mainly use for monitoring these days tbh). Record decks and cdj’s, an Allen and Heath mixer, Dynaudio and Genelec monitors… Software wise I really love using the UAD plug-ins… I’m not sure if I have a favourite piece of equipment as such but the most integral parts of what I have for what I do are my record collection and my drums. It’s where it all starts and ends for me.
As a (very talented) musician how would you describe what you bring from that ethos to Dance music, both as a DJ and producer?
Ha! Well I’m definitely a drummer first (the “musician” term is perhaps questionable hahah!), but I think that does bring a lot to the table in terms of both production and Dj’ing. The drum kit is the only instrument where you are playing across all the frequency ranges; from the bass drum at the bottom to the highs of the cymbals. In an acoustic setting you are often the one instrumentalist who has such control over the dynamics of what’s happening too, and so much about playing drums and percussion is all about attack and release. All of these concepts are intrinsic to both production and Dj’ing for me. As a musician you also bring the ethos of practice; I love to spend hours doing what I do, sometimes focusing on the minutiae for ever in order to progress. Most of my heroes were, (and are) making the best music of their lives as they got much older too and I think that on the DJ/house producer side of things, especially at the moment, that is something that is often overlooked. People are in a rush to achieve everything very quickly, and there’s a distorted value put on what or who might be new on the scene….
You have toured all over the world with 2020 Soundsystem. What are your concert highlights?
It’s hard to pick, we were really lucky in with that project to travel all over the world and play everything from huge festivals to dirty clubs. Standout gigs off the top of my head though were perhaps playing Creamfields in Buenos Aires to a ridiculous crowd (They told us around 30,000 I think at the time though I couldn’t see them all!), closing Camp Bisco in the States was a pivotal gig for us too, and musically some of the earlier gigs we did at Fabric in room 1 were a real joy. Sunrise at Sonar in 2007 was another highlight and very much a pivotal gig again….
Tell us about some of your favourite drummers?
Now this is another one where I could go on all day, seriously.. but a few of the main ones? Art Blakey for his swing and sound, Elvin Jones for his unmistakable time and phrasing, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes, Al Foster… all the funky guys: Zigaboo Modeliste with the meters, Clyde Stubblefield with James Brown, then there’s the Latin and Brazilians-I’m a massive Airto fan, some of the newer guys-Jeff Watts, Bill Stewart…Steve Gadd on all those great CTI records and more, John Robinson with Rufus, and of course Michael (Jackson) etc etc…There’s a drummer here in Manchester who is a hero and mentor to me Mykey Wilson who is quite unique and definitely a huge favourite…..
What are your predictions for Dance music in 2014?
I think we’ll see a continuing polarization as “House” music stays fashionable for the moment (again!) and people jump on the bandwagon(s) but I’m sure that the underground will continue to flourish, and I’d like to think that people doing more interesting things will continue to be inspired and might be found by some of the people buying into the mainstream….but let’s see. I don’t think about it too often to be honest. Perhaps that’s a bad thing?
You recently signed with Berlin’s Jackmode agency. What plans do you have for 2014?
Yes, I’m with Jo Hunter at Jackmode who I really like. She’s lovely and a pleasure to deal with. It’s nice to have an agent like that in a world where most you encounter aren’t necessarily! (Is that diplomatic enough?)I’m hoping that I can generate enough interest and work for her! (and me!!!). I have a long awaited e.p to drop on Local Talk, with Kyodai on re-mix duties which I’m very excited about. A couple of re-mixes to drop too, but the big news (for me anyway) is that I’m launching my own label, “Well Cut records”, primarily to release my own material on vinyl, though with a couple of mystery guests on there too (!). I’ve been really busy writing for that and have a really strong concept of how I want to present it with a great designer on board. It’s going to take time to develop but I’m hoping we get the support to realise the full potential and am looking forward to putting out some records that are exactly how I’m feeling things at the moment. Don’t expect anything but honest House music in its broadest sense though… Very much “Passion over Fashion”….Plus there’s the side projects… I’m really looking forward to it all!