Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Stupid Human Guest Mix

It's been a long time but I'm back (briefly) and as if that wasn't exciting enough I've also got an exclusive guest mix from Stupid Human and a little Q&A with him.  As a producer Stupid Human has released some fantastic edits over the last few years, his rework of The Average White Bands 'Star in The Ghetto' being a particular favourite of mine, and more recently the label has moved onto digital releases (more of that later).  If you're in London next weekend you can catch a DJ set from Stupid Human at Zonk.Disco (X), entry is free as well so you'd be a fool to miss it. 

Was the name Stupid Human inspired by anyone in particular?

Not really, more a social statement.  We're not as clever as we think we are, so its more a statement reflecting on the state of humanity 

Who does the artwork for the label?

A guy called Matthew Hunt, he's now been lost to a big corporate advertising giant so i wear a black arm band when we go out together which we only seldom do now we both got kids. To be Fair Matthew was fairly instrumental at galvanising my love for music once again and should be credited with pushing me in the right direction back when i started the label in 2009.

What are you plans for the rest of the year?  Are there any more edits in the works?

I put my foot in the water three months ago with a digital label to see how that works ( it doesn't) no one wants to write about digital releases, and they get lost in the mountain of stuff that is released weekly. There are more edits in the works although these will probably be given away as promo tools. Since we found that digital is only a complement to vinyl we are gearing up for a vinyl release sometime in October which i am really excited about, it's a dual Artist release with System Status on the A side with accompanying Inkswell remix and myself providing two tracks on the b side as Hugh Mane 

Is this mix similar to the kind of tunes you play at Eccentric’s Disco or do you take a slightly different approach for those parties?

It is very similar in fact, Eccentrics is a really lovely occasion once a month where there is no pressure to fill a club and make people dance, we play a very eclectic mix of music Will Overill is a die hard collector of very fine music  and with myself we have built a great following for the night. The pub is tucked away and is somewhere that you can properly relax, its well known for doing killer pizza's so what more could you want on your doorstep !  Recently we have had the pleasure to have had Phil Mison, Severino come and play for us and next month 27th Sept we have the wonderful Frank Tope. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Ruf Dug Interview

Interviews aren't a regular occurrence on this blog but I really wanted to chat with Manchester DJ/Producer Ruf Dug after I found out about his Ruf Tapes mix series.  Each mix has a theme and unlike most of the mixtapes around at the moment it's actually recorded onto tape.  Regular readers will know I have more than a passing interest in cassettes so I was keen to speak to Simon aka Ruf Dug and find out why he'd decided to go down this route.

Tell me a little bit about the Ruf Tapes mix series, what was the inspiration behind that? 

I have a pal, Marcel Vogel, and he said to me a little while ago I needed to work my Soundcloud more and should put more mixes on there. So I made a resolution for 2013 to put out more mixes and to get them all on the Soundcloud.

At the same time, I'd been getting into some old Broadway Sound (Manchester reggae / streetsoul crew) mixtapes that were on YouTube and I really wanted to make a tape in homage to that sound, and had managed to get hold of a nice Denon cassette recorder for a tenner off eBay, and my girlfriend found a load of blank TDK FE-90s in a charity shop for a few quid.

So all the elements were in place - it didn't take too much thinking to develop things a little further and come up with the Ruf Tapes concept (a mix on one side of an FE-90 every fortnight, themed, all vinyl). Much credit to Hunee for coming up with the name as well… It's mad you know, Marcel Vogel and Hunee are between them responsible for so much that is good in dance music culture today. Like, massively disproportionately so… MEGA DONS!

You have certain rules in place for your mix tapes, do you find that working within these rules has pushed you into areas you wouldn't normally go creatively?

Well the only real rule is that I'm only giving myself two takes for each mix… The thing which perhaps is most particular to cassette as a format is the lack of instant random access - you're locked into the flow. When you're recording a mix into a computer, if you crash a mix you can just keep the thing running and go back and re-do the mix knowing that you can edit it out afterwards - on cassette it's just not so possible - you have to rewind all the way back to the beginning and try again. And I'm the kind of person that would bust 17 rewinds just to make sure I got the beginning alright so I needed a rule there to make sure I could get out a mix a fortnight!

So far it's going OK, on the last one I recorded I used up my rewind before I even played my first track as I set the tape recording too early. It certainly keeps things exciting, and it feels more like playing out, that "edge" is there… I haven't popped a total train-wreck on my second take yet though so let's see how rigidly I adhere to the rules should one crop up!

You also did a live set recently using cassettes, what kind of set up did you use and was it difficult to pull off?  Did you get any feedback from the crowd about it?  Is it going to be a one-off or have you got more planned?

The live set came about again through a need for speed and efficiency; I had the call 2 weeks before the show and at that point I didn't have a live set, had no plans to ever perform live - as far as I was concerned the tunes I make are tools for DJs to use on dancefloors and that's about it. But it was a good show (Maria Minerva at Kraak) and Jayne the promoter is a legend and when she asks something you don't really say no!

From the outset I was determined there would be no laptop in my setup at the show, and I started to wonder about how I could pull this off. I've been using tape in the studio for a LONG time… I used to have a Revox B77 1/4 inch reel to reel back in Sydney, and for the last 18 months or so every tune I've made I have finished off by recording it onto a 4 track Tascam cassette recorder - each tune is recorded as 2 tracks of drums and 2 tracks of everything else. So I have in my studio a big stack of cassettes which are the master recordings of all of the last year's output.

Now pretty much any mid-90s "electronica" act that performed live basically took a multi-track ADAT of their tunes, ran it into a mixing desk and dubbed it out live (or just straight up mimed over the top of it), so I figured well if it's good enough for all that lot then it's fine for me, plus the cassette angle is a bit fresh… I got Tapeline to make me up some cool yellow custom blanks, spent a night making copies of all the masters, one tune on each tape, and the live set basically consisted of the Tascam four track going into a mixer with an echo box and dub siren on it, and I twiddled a bunch of knobs Mad Professor style and tried not to make the feedback sound too harsh…

I think it went down pretty well! I was super nervous it being my first time, and also being a little concerned that people might not buy into the concept of some dude playing cassettes on stage as being a "live performance". Speaking to people afterwards though, the two main comments that came through were 1) people really enjoyed the action of me changing cassettes between tunes, it sparked something fondly reminiscent in their minds (or for the younger ones just confused them completely), and 2) everybody remarked how warm and crunchy the sound was - the DJ right after me played a CD as the first track and loads of people commented on the immediate difference in sound quality. That for me is an affirmation that cassette tape is a viable and vital format that transcends gimmickry.

Anyway, I was encouraged enough by the whole thing to do it again, and the next Cassettes 'N' FX show is gonna be for Wet Play at the Sounds From The Other City event in Salford on Sunday May 5th.

Why do you think there’s been such a renewed interest in cassettes, even Juno Records have been writing about tapes and they don’t even sell them? 

I think there's a few reasons. It's been long enough since we abandoned cassettes as a medium for them to return in a more considered fashion, much in the same way as the vinyl revival occurred. That most people listen to music on YouTube these days shows that crisp high fidelity is not the paragon it once was and besides, we've got such digital clarity now with in-the-box producing that a -inf db noise floor is easily attainable and also BORING AS FUCK. So given that crisp fidelity isn't necessary, cassette can be re-considered.

Also, the sound of cassette is really nice, and people have been using it in productions for a number of years now - especially artists that The Wire and all that mob get well excited about. And you know how it goes, something that's hot in The Wire ends up filtering through to the hipsters and then the mainstream eventually.
Furthermore, it's really cheap to put stuff out on cassette. For vinyl you're looking at a grand minimum to press something. OK you can do it a bit cheaper but it's still hundreds and hundreds of pounds. You can bang out 100 cassettes from Tapeline for about 80 quid. And yes, you could just release your music digitally for minimum expense but that's just so mundane, isn't it? If you put out a tape you've the tangible physical fetish object like with a vinyl release ya know…

As an addendum - Juno sell tapes now!!! I managed to get them to take 10 copies of my Wet Play mix tape and they sold them all!!!

What are your plans once the Ruf Tapes series is finished, have you thought about starting your own cassette label or do you want to move onto something else?

Hmm I haven't really thought about the end of the Ruf Tapes series yet! I don't know if I would go the whole hog and start up a cassette-only label, but Tapeline is literally 3 miles from my house and I have been involved in putting out a few cassettes last year - we did the Wet Play Tape-Casts and also did a limited Seahawks release just before Christmas. I definitely think I will pop some more tapes out, probably just under Ruf Kutz if I do though. I'd like to do a compilation pack of the best of the Ruf Tapes once I've got a bunch done, like the old 6-pack mix tapes they used to dish out at the big hardcore raves...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Second Summer

There seems to be an unusually large amount of good music released this week, December is generally a never ending flow of end of year lists and not much else .  I'm not going to have time to write about all of them so I thought I would just to post some of the highlights, I'm guessing most of you come here for the music and not the writing anyway so it's a win-win situation. A Christmas miracle if you will.  Right, that's quite enough of my nonsense for one day, here's some music to enjoy.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Adventures in Dubbing Presents Scaramanga Silk

As I'm sure you know by now I'm not averse to a little bit of shameless self-promotion, especially when it comes to my cassette label Adventures in Dubbing.  For the second release on the label I've enlisted the skills of London based producer Scaramanga Silk who as well as creating sublime electronica also holds the World Record for the Slowest Techno Track. A pretty impressive accomplishment, especially when the closest contender was Daft Punk!

For ADUB002 Scaramanga Silk has put together two fantastic tracks, the A side ‘Merengue Squiggle’ is an infectious slice of electronic funk that combines old skool breaks, acid wobbles and 80s synths to create an irresistible groove.  There’s a shift in tone on the B side as the shimmering ambient electronica of ‘Her Eyes Are Filled With Dreams’ slowly unfolds, revealing a track of stunning beauty that is guaranteed to melt even the coldest of hearts.  

As with every release on the label, each cassette is hand dubbed, hand stamped and lovingly packaged in the bespoke artwork of Baltimore illustrator Donald Ely. The cassette tape may be a dying format but that doesn’t mean it has nothing left to offer.

As with every release there have only been 100 copies of this cassette produced and they're available to buy direct from the Adventures in Dubbing online store so grab one while you can.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Auf Togo

Leng Records is a label that seems to have quietly snuck it's way into my affections and deservedly so when you take the time to look through their back catalogue.  They've been releasing some ridiculously good records over the past three years and I don't think they've had nearly enough praise for their efforts.  Production duo Auf Togo are behind the controls on this latest offering which boasts some deeply warm analogue grooves on both 'Second Left' and 'Member Talk'.  This is proper late night music, the kind of thing I used to listen to when I stayed up 'til 5 or 6am for no reason other than I didn't have to get up in the morning. If only I could still do that!  This is already available on vinyl here and you can get it digitally here from Dec 3rd.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Drifter

There are always certain labels you can rely on to release music that will grab your attention, for me Permanent Vacation is definitely one of those labels.  Their latest offering is a three track EP produced by The Drifter who has been involved with various bits and pieces over the last few years but I won't bore you with all that David Copperfield crap, to paraphrase Holden Caulfield.  I've only heard one track from the 'Lovers' EP but it's more than enough to convince me that The Drifter is capable of producing music of quite astonishing depth and beauty.  I saw someone describe this track as eerie and blissed out which seems way off the mark to me.  There is certainly nothing to suggest either of those descriptions here, this is pure heartbreak, the vocals filled with sadness and regret.  It's deeply melancholic which is an emotional state that seems to combine perfectly with house music, surrendering to the groove because you've got nothing left to feel.  There's limited release details for this at the moment, it's out on Nov 16th which would suggest it'll be available digitally but that's an educated guess. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

& It Was U

Every now and then when I'm listening to the radio I'll hear a song that will stop me dead in my tracks, no matter what I'm doing, no matter how important it is, it'll have to wait until the song is finished.  I love moments like that, the excitement at hearing something completely new, trying to commit every single second to memory just in case you never hear it again.  When I was younger I would always have a blank tape in my stereo, ready to capture those moments.  Things have moved on a lot since then thankfully, so when I hear a track like How To Dress Well's '& It Was U' I can easily track it down and listen to it as many times as I like.  To be honest it's been on repeat since I heard it yesterday, everything about this song feels perfect to me.  The production is beyond sparse but that just amplifies the emotional pull of Tom Krell's vocals, by the time the beat kicks in I'm well and truly hooked.  You can download it here and I'd recommend checking out the the album it's taken from which you can download here.