Jay Wearden’s fascinating new telling on his life as a DJ captured in this 24 chapter coffee-table book, along with playlists and artwork, is a vital companion to the story of Manchester club culture. The title alone explodes: Going Underground could mean a number of different things at any one time. Like a myth shattered, dreams unexplored. We are where we are, after all. 2020.
The background to his story begins with the gang ‘culture’ of east Manchester provoking mixed feelings of anger and a sense of wasted time yet ends with one of the finest DJ’s the city produced. Hip-Hop was the starting point in 1985. As it was for so many and the early influence of the DJ’s from local radio has been namechecked in full. From an early experience DJ’ing at Glastonbury to days filled with vinyl at Eastern Bloc Records this all sparks the warmth of familiarity to me. The description of E Bloc and its constituents brought back a lot of good memories from those times placing that locations story at the heart of it all.
Which leads us on to one of Manchester’s most significant clubs The Thunderdome. You will have your own theory as to why it gets left out of the endless history, perhaps overshadowed by The Hacienda, but Jay’s description of it seems crazed and somewhat magical. From there a string of other residencies fill the pages such as The Banshee and Hippo’s. However, the one thing running throughout is dedication to the music’s integrity and its underground ethos – perhaps not paramount to some other DJ’s. By the early 90’s we arrive at STREETrave at Ayr Pavillion which sounds like life on another planet. Another time and place.
Filled with the story of experience you get a real sense of a life lived through it all, evolving with the excitement of each new club eventually landing on Sunset Radio with the Clash FM show afterhours. I’m guessing you can only picture the scene!
By the second half events take a different turn with Jay’s thoughts on Rave and how things developed cutting to the chase: ‘For me personally by ‘91, the authenticity had gone. The purity had gone.’
After stopping DJ’ing not long after another chapter opened. In the meantime Jay’s thoughts on being a DJ, etiquette, guest lists and so on are then generously explored. I love the chapter titled: DJ’s are not cool. But despite the hilarity / irony of what that suggests it’s actually a full bodied critique on life and happiness in general, offering a wealth and warmth of advice.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Steve. You are about to unleash the labels 99th release: Selador Showcase – 8th Wonder, which features new music from several different artists. Can you talk us through how you choose the tracks for the compilation – what specifically makes a production right for Selador?
10 new tracks, all from different artists. We make a ‘showcase’ approx every 9 months, a various artist release of tunes that we like. It’s a good mixture of Selador artists and new faces to the label. We find a lot of people who release on the showcases deliver more tracks for EP’s later on, so it works really well for us. Dave and I often have tracks on these releases too.
Our only criteria for signing a track, is that Dave and I both like it and would play it. We don’t really have musical boundaries. It’s just music we like and would play, which is why some of our output is so varied. Over the years we’ve had music from Jimpster to dubspeeka, Danny Howells to Sasha Carassi, Joeski to Wally Lopez, Cristoph to Pirupa, and so many more. We don’t play one particular style of music when DJ-ing, and so we sign tracks that work for us, that we like. It’s a PR man’s nightmare trying to categorise us… but to us it just seems right.
For this release we had been sent just about all of the tracks as demos, and a few of our label friends we messaged to let them know we had a release and can they make something for us. It’s very useful being able to test the music out in clubs, in its natural environment, as sometimes tracks you like, suddenly become tracks that you love!
The release also features a great track from yourself: Michelada. How was the track produced and can you tell us about the studio set-up you use?
This one was a very unusual affair. It started off as a remix a year or so ago for another label, but then due to label problems, they still hadn’t released a year later. I’d started making it with Paul Nolan, who engineered it for me. It was made with Ableton, push 2 and a shed load of plug in’s and Paul’s technical knowhow. I know how to produce a bit, but I find my workflow so much faster working with an engineer. It’s also great to hear advice from a producer, and somebody to bounce crazy ideas off, that’s sometimes work! Ableton for me is very good, as I’m a ‘fiddler’ when making music. I try something, and then adjust it to see how it sounds. I drive engineers crazy. But sometimes it’s that fiddling and tweaking that can elevate a track.
I say it started as a remix and with Paul engineering, however a year later and as I say the remix hadn’t been released. I’d always wished it was an original track. Paul had started working on his own projects and his album, and I started working with Jay Gilbert at Scrutton Street Studios in Shoreditch, and I asked the label could I take the parts out from the remix, and make the track my own… and a few days later with Jay, this is what came out! Again a similar set up with jay to Paul and Ableton the DAW of choice. And some more fiddling.
So basically a remix that became an original, engineered by two different people.
You are also offering a DJ mix alongside the tracks. How would you describe the art of DJ’ing in 2019? And how would you compare it with the past?
The digital age has changed D J-ing a lot. The equipment has aided the DJ a lot. The ability to loop, use FX, basically re-edit the track on the fly has certainly helped my style of DJ-ing so much. I absolutely love using CDJ 2000’s and Pioneer mixes when playing out. It suits my style of DJ-ing. I DJ in a progressive style. I don’t think that I am a progressive house DJ, as I don’t think I actually play ‘progressive’… but I start at one point and like to build, to increase the energy as the set is flowing. It’s great for adding cheeky fills and FX on the fly.
DJ-ing for me has always followed that pattern. Even since I was a mobile disco DJ at weddings and the likes. I knew to start subtle and the evening should flow. Much in the same way, you wouldn’t go and see your favourite band, and they lay all of the big tunes early in the set and then leave you a bit underwhelmed. Musical programming is an art. I am a geeky nerd with stiff like that. I use to stand and study DJ’s in clubs like Cream for years.
I think other musical genres don’t have this musical flow so much, and its ‘let’s play as many big tunes in a row’. If it works for them cool, but its juts not how I like to do things when I play.
Can you tell us about how you first got into Dance Music, which were the most important clubs for you at the time, and how would you describe the club culture in Liverpool today? (Where can people get to hear you play?)
I wanted to be a radio DJ. I was about 13. I had no idea what it entailed, but it looked great. This was about 84’ish. Around then I was listening to a hand full of radio shows on BBC radio Merseyside. James Klass who played Hip Hop and the likes and Terry Lenanine ‘Keep On Truckin’ (and then later Kenny James who presented that show). I was buying Electro albums, and had discovered listening / watching DMC mixing championship videos!
As time went by, must have been 86/87 my friend Rick Houghton got a Mcgregor double deck system, and we started doing mock radio shows and running mobile disco’s. I spent all of the money I earnt buying records that I loved and building up my classic disco/soul collection and of course this new stuff to me called house music.
I ended up stalking radio DJ’s like Kenny James and Pete Waterman, and used to go and sit in on their radio shows, it was amazing! I was this fresh faced kid (no chance of me getting in to clubs) watching live radio shows and chatting to the presenters and learnt so much.
The label is following all this with release number 100, again featuring a number of impressive artists. Tell us about what it means for you and Dave Seaman to reach that milestone?
It felt like it was a thing to celebrate, it’s quite an achievement I suppose in this day and age to hit 100 releases. Its never been about the money for us running a label, which is a good job really..! It’s certainly a labour of love. Another string to your bow so to speak. And so it seemed right to make a big thing of it.
What is quite odd, is that I still feel like we are a fairly new label – time flies when you’re having fun I suppose. This is my first label, and so I’m constantly learning. I’d done a lot of things in the music industry, but it was the label that was the big one for me, the thing that eluded my musical and I love doing it. And I know Dave does too. We both wish we could spend more time running the day to day things, but we both sandwich the work for the label in between our other jobs and family life, which I suppose thinking about it, makes the achievement of 100 releases quite a milestone.
So we thought we needed to light a bit of a firework with this one – so we used 5 tracks from our 5th birthday release – where we asked lots of artists to collaborate to make us a track – and we hand-picked some of those gems, and got some hot new remixes made, which all in all ends up being a rather big team assembled to help us celebrate.
Andre Hommen and D-Nox & Beckers remixed Mine and Dave’s ‘Repeat Offender’, Doc Martin remixed Gorge & Joeski’s ‘Jogo’ track, Petar Dundov remixed Luke Brancaccio & Tim Healeys ‘I Hear Voices’, and Moonwalk have remixed Cristoph & Quivvers ‘In Name Only’, and Kotellet & Zadak have remixed Guy Mantzur & Lonya’s gem ‘Dynasty’, which aint too shabby a collection of musical friends if we do say so ourselves.
How do you feel about the overall quality of electronic music, given the competition generated by the internet and the easy access people now have to becoming producers etc?
It’s a double edged sword – there is so much terrible music, on half-baked labels with no quality control, made by people who don’t know much about making a tune, who don’t make it sound good, and use pre-sets galore and loops, with shoddy artwork and no promotion – which is all fine – however those said artists get annoyed when their music doesn’t do well.
You have to put the effort in. You don’t have to release every track you make. You don’t have to throw out half-baked ideas. You make a statement when you release a track – as an artist, a label and a remixer. It’s your musical legacy. I have tracks that are finished that are decent but I won’t release as they don’t reach the standard that I want to achieve.
I said it was a double edged sword – as on the other hand, there is so much great new music coming, that it is overwhelming. Week by week there is enough great new music lands to almost completely change your set. Masses of the stuff. And across genres too. Especially for somebody like me who like Hot Toddy’s nu-disco grooves, Patrice Baumels dancefloor energy and drive, Jon Hopkins chilled flavours, Matadors epicness, and Renato Cohens dirtiness. There’s so much, it’s difficult to keep up, but what a lovely problem to have!
On a personal level producing wise, it makes me really push myself to put the additional work in. If you don’t think your music can compete alongside this great music we have in abundance, then there’s no point releasing it.
You also run SMP3 Music Promo and SMP3 Music Management. Can you tell us about those and the other things you are involved with? How would you describe a typical working day (or night)?
Its music all day and every day for me. I run SMP3 Music promo – i work with 40+ labels, and new ones starting weekly, getting the music they release to handpicked DJ’s that are suited t the music for that specific release. It’s a skill I learnt working in record shops. The personal touch, it makes a lot of difference to the DJ, who is more likely to react to a promo if they know I only send them suitable music… and so better for the label, as this gets them better DJ feedback. I work with Sudbeat, Selador, Hope/Soundgarden, Replug, babiczstyle for the melodic vibes… Oscillate, Frau Blau, New Violence and Yousefs Carioca for the deeper stuff and a whole stack more.
I also use my same trainspotter / record shop skills in another part of my job – I am a music sourcer for Sasha, Dave Seaman, Behrouz and Sander Kleinenberg, where I basically find them music to play each week. I sold them all music when I worked in 3 Beat – so it’s basically the digital version of that. I listen to promos, chase labels for exclusives and buy at Beatport plus vinyl at 3B records to find the freshest new music for these guys. I’m not picking what they are playing – I am just filtering down the best new music weekly, much ion the same way I gave them a stack of vinyl to check each week when I was in 3 Beat.
Then I have my weekly radio show on Bliss Radio called ‘The Factory’, so i spend time putting that together, and it’s something that I Love doing. I love live radio. I love chatting about music and mixing live, I have always found it very exciting. Maybe when I finally grow up, it’s what I’d like to do all day every day, a full time radio DJ… but obviously I’d want 100% free range of the music I played!
And then I do all of the Selador stuff – Dave and I don’t have rolls as such, we each do a bit of everything. We are both busy doing other things alongside the label, so we seem to know when the other one is manic, and run with it. We love it. We really do. Again, something I’d love to do as a full time job…
And finally. How do you see the future of Dj’ing, record promotion and the results of music streaming?
I think everybody needs to embrace technology. The vinyl only purists or people who look down on people that use CDJ’s for example are just going to fade away, times change, and if you don’t, you’re going to be left behind. If you look back through history, the invention of vinyl upset people, as radio stations thought that nobody would listen to radio if they had vinyl… people said cassettes would kill the music scene… people said mp3’s would kill the scene… and streaming again would be one step further to putting a nail in the music industries coffin, and yet here we all are, still loving what we are loving and still listening to music.
I now send promo’s in my day job, from my mac, that people can react to on their phone while offline sitting on an aeroplane, and have the tune waiting for them in their dropbox when they get to the hotel for a gig… technology is great, and yes it can be scary, but you have to embrace it.
Surely one day in the not too distant future, you’ll be able to mix on your phone in a club, streaming tracks from Beatport streaming (or wherever) over Wi-Fi/5G to your crowd, whilst also doing the visuals for the venue on the same phone, that is live streaming to other venues, while other people watch it streamed in their home, while the artist is interacting on social media with them all at the same time, whilst also sending the metadata so the artist and label get instantly paid for their music being played. It’s probably not that far away when you think about it.
You’ve already probably heard all about this latest collaboration because the end result is magnificent. Not a word I use often though it feels right here. Förbindelse, has an anthemic quality that sees its rolling bassline and sassy percussion drive home across the warm envelope of shimmering keys and soaring notation. Blissful might better a better description if it were not for the tough, almost brutal beats which underpin it all. Next, and for me even better, is Rooned which somehow suggests an almost melancholy refrain, yet as the undulating pads reveal themselves, accompanied by a sprinkle of uplifting keys and pounding Acid styled bass, it all translates into a heavenly scenario.
Singularity has to be the perfect title for this latest production from Sasha. The arrangement of pulverising drum-machines lend themselves notably to the concept of fierce repetition and a singular, unsettling expectation. Which at almost ten minutes in duration leaves no aspect unturned. Underwritten by a fevered hit of Acidic bass what welcomingly becomes apparent are the warm, lifelong rushes of expanding keys that hit the emotional button full-on by mid-point. However, without doubt the more you listen to the totality of this constantly revealing number the more you are rewarded. Complementing the original is an excellent remix from BAILE who proceeds to squeeze an eternity of atmospheric resonance out of the deeper aspects on offer, resulting in an all-encompassing trip of heightened atmosphere’s and infinite moments.
Really enjoyed reading Brendan’s book which brought back many memories from the nineties and beyond. It was really refreshing to read the perspective of someone from the dancefloor and what excited them. I loved the way he has evoked good times…
What for you makes Sasha such an influential DJ and what compelled you to write this book?
Sasha’s influence on house music in particular the UK had an amazing effect on me personally due to the musicality of his sets from as early as 89. Being classically trained pianist I think he understood better than anyone out there at the time, the subtle key changes that crowds reacted to and how to make the most of those effects. Having followed him relentlessly into the early nineties, by the time I actually met him and became his friend I was already enchanted by the music he played and what he listened to. I really enjoyed writing the book and recalling the fantastic nights out we had had over the last 20 years.
Your book generates the real sense of excitement from clubbing in the early nineties. How do you compare then to now?
The early 90’s still held a sense of euphoria for me as every track that was released had a brand new sound and the accessibility of house music back then meant there was a real urge to get your next fix of house music. I think that’s why nights like Circus and Most Excellent could be a success because there was still that craving for more. Now the music is still as exciting and fresh to me and I still crave new sounds however the fact that you can access it 24/7 in whatever format you fancy and there are soo many genres of house to choose from that it takes away that craving and build up of excitement there was back then. Like the national lottery. Because it was only played every Saturday it generated a buildup of excitement throughout the week whereas as soon as they introduced a midweek one and some different guises of the game, everyone became bored because it became tedious and easily accessible.
How would you describe Sasha’s evolving sound in relation to House music?
Of all the DJ’s around the world, no one has ever embraced new sounds and new technology more than Sasha. He has always been a pioneer amongst DJ’s willing to take a risk and a chance on something new that was unlike what had gone before. He still remains faithful to his house roots and retains that thirst for breaking new music in all formats. Still to this day he never ceases to surprise me with tracks he gets away with so to speak. You think they wouldn’t work yet when you hear them played out they become a different animal that only he could foresee?
What are your favourite records?
My favourite records in house music terms are ones that bring me the fondest memories so off the top of my head I would have to say:
1. Sunscreem – Perfect Motion (Boys Own Mix)
2. Sasha – Expander
3. Inner City – Pennies From Heaven (Tunnel Mix)
4. Mory Kante – Yeke Yeke (Hardfloor mix)
5. Mighty Ming – Brothers Loves Dubs
Ha the last one made me smile! I could give you a different 5 tomorrow but we’d be here forever!
What does Sasha think of the book?
Sasha being the person he is, is surprisingly embarrassed and uncomfortable reading about articles and reviews written about him so tends to shy away from sitting and reading it from cover to cover so it may be a while before I get an honest feedback from him but everyone who knows him who have read it really love it. I think the fact that he is quite a complex and ubiquitous character only adds to his mystique and although he has millions of fans all over the world, they know very little about him. Even I still find out stuff about him I had no idea about.