Catching up with Asad Rizvi (+ Exclusive Recording)
Photograph by Jan Iveta
Skipping classes so he could play with the in-house synth, at school Asad Rizvi preferred to study beats than to be lulled into the confides of the classroom. Fast forward fifteen years and his affair with making music has been a lesson to us all, as we’ve followed the London-based producer through the deepest layers of house music - it’s always a special occasion when Asad steps up to the fabric decks. Putting on parties with his Reverberations label at some of the most exhilarating venues across the globe, whether it’s on the foot of a volcano in Hawaii, the top floor of a skyscraper Brazil or returning to his primary country of origin, for a beach party in Pakistan- it’s not about the destination, but a labour of love that keeps Asad moving.
After a few months’ hiatus from running parties and the label, Asad & his Reverberations crew are back with some super fresh music and parties planned for 2011. We caught up with the house master to find out exactly what’s in store, as well as getting his remix tips, thoughts on London’s current music community and why fabric resident Terry Francis gave him the best advice of his music career. Amping up the tempo for his Room Three takeover alongside Joshua (Iz) and Russ Gabriel this Saturday, we also have an exclusive download of his live set last week at the legendary Get Down rave in San José, California.
DOWNLOAD: Asad Rizvi - Live at Get Down
You have been in the music scene since the early 90’s, how did you get in to it and what inspired you?
It was somewhat accidental. I was quite the nerd extraordinaire when I was at school and could often be found geeking out with the in-house synth and four-track during lunch-breaks, with increasing frequency to the point where I was even skipping classes to make music. I think one day, I was listening to the Orb and made a vow to myself to make music that was as downright out there as theirs, and thereafter began search for more music that was similarly downright out there. Thereafter, I started to go shopping for that ilk of early to mid nineties electronica. Soon enough, a friend of mine who played on a local pirate approached me to play the Sunday morning chill-out show, given that I was the only person they knew who owned vaguely suitable records. I had only practiced on belt drives before this so the first time I’d played on a pair of Technics was live on the air. Thankfully, the music being ambient in nature meant I could just mix long sounds, but this forced me to start learning to mix, and I got the bug for it. I started getting more into Detroit techno and French deep house and when I left college, I finished my first record – one side of which I collaborated on with Ian O’Brien. I signed a pressing and distribution deal for the first incarnation of Reverberations - then Re:verb - and here were are, more than fifteen years later, somehow still at it.
Tell us about the Reverberations family - we heard it started when Tom Gillieron and yourself decided to throw a ‘knees-up in a grotty London pub back in 94.’ Since then how has it evolved and what’s the voice behind it?
Indeed, the first party preceded the label by a few months and all of a sudden people were taking interest in what we were doing, were booking us for gigs around town and magazines were writing about us. A couple of years in, we were playing internationally and throwing parties at Tom’s studio space to which 500 people would somehow appear after one just email. It all happened so fast and it was quite surreal for all us given that we were barely out of college and really didn’t know what we were doing. Reverberations has always been about family, and it’s why we’ve always worked with artists with whom we have a warmer rapport. We have never been a label to knock out release after release - we’ve always preferred to work meticulously on every release, the artwork and the sound before putting things out. After the distributors crashed, it took the wind out of our sails for a while having lost quite a bit of capital, and so we have spent more time focusing on our own music. However, we’re presently rebranding and have lots of fresh music and with a newer aesthetic but with the same homegrown ethos as ever.
Where's your main focus at the moment, DJing or producing?
Well to both of these passions I try to apply almost equal import. It very much depends from month to month how busy I am in the studio or on the road, but I try to maintain a creative flow in both. It’s not only important for me professionally, but also on a personal level as producing is a far more solitary, almost meditative process, whilst DJ’ing is a far more social and interactive experience. I find that a healthy balance between the two does me good.
You are renowned for your bold & brilliant remixes- who at the moment would you like to collaborate with & what remix tips can you share with us?
Well having spent a couple of years focusing more on instrumental tracks, I’m really more vibed up to work on vocal tracks again, so I would really remix anyone who has got a strong song and a belter of a voice. It would be a dream come true to get hold of original studio tapes of early 80s discos tracks, but I think for the moment, that’s likely to remain wishful thinking on my part. Who knows though!
As for remixes, I try to approach them laterally rather than literally. I prefer to follow the essence of the music, than adhering only to the original sounds and melodies. For example, I may record some additional spoken word to compliment the original vocals; or I may have a part that was originally a synth replayed on guitar or hummed. The nature of electronic music is such that you can morph original sounds beyond recognition, but I believe it’s better to do this with some purpose and theme in mind. The final result should have your signature on it, whilst honouring the ideas of the original. You just have to be open to using every tool available to achieve this.
So do you think the house music scene is healthy right now?
I really feel we’re in very positive time for house music right now. There’s so much great music being made with authenticity and creativity. I am also finding more and more DJ’s playing with more diversity and journey than during the majority of the last decade. The focus is back on musicality, the dancing and the realness. There may not be as much cash going around from sales, but this has weeded out the elements who were in it for the wrong reasons, while those who are here for the true cause are still able to live and breathe it.
What are your thoughts on the current music community in London and how connected do you feel to it all?
Almost every time that I’m out in East London I find out about a new crew of DJs throwing parties to a new, younger crowd. There’s no shortage of parties and there’s no shortage of heads to fill them. It’s a vibrant time, and whilst not all the music being played may be to my personal taste, all angles of house are being represented. Ten years ago, one could probably count around 10 key party collectives throwing events, but now there are a just so many, and given the transient nature of London, there are always new people to fill them. London remains one lively beast and it’s yet to be tamed.
You’ve played at some of the world's most well respected venues across the globe, playing to crowds of up to 20,000 people. What are some of your fondest memories to date?
I have so many great memories from my travels but here are some off the top off my head:
Parties in all manner of stunning locations around the world: atop a mountain in New Zealand, at the foot of a volcano in Hawaii, the top floor of a skyscraper Brazil, besides waterfalls in British Columbia, forts in Croatia, a cathedral in Mexico, to name but a few.
Returning to my primary country of origin, Pakistan, after over 25 years to play at a well-produced beach party, attended by a clued up, and somewhat decadent party crowd. All is not how things may appear in the news.
The burgeoning underground scene in East Berlin between 97 and 2000, parties in courtyards, front gardens, factories, even laundromats. What I loved about it was that no one took themselves seriously back then. It’s a shame that the Berlin vibe that soon was to be exported took its aesthetic as an image culture rather than the freestyle attitude that it was originally all about.
The seemingly countless parties in Balkan countries such as Bulgaria and Croatia where I’ve been given free reign to play what I want for five, six, seven hours to a crowd who really listen to every beat. Some nights in those parts have been truly magic.
Reverberations parties in studios, boats and clubs, over the years. Home is where the heart is!
And, of course, FABRIC!
The list could go on and on though…
We’ve heard you’ve been working overtime on new originals and remixes, a compilation, as well as travel plans to rock yet more dance-floors across the globe. Can you fill us in on all the juicy details?
Well the compilation came out earlier this year on a Croatian label called Home Made. I’ve also been working on remixes of Matteo and Matos, Joeski, Harlem Knights, Damir Pushkar amongst others. Have also just completed a track for Nottingham’s Drop Music, and have a few more originals due out soon on various labels. As for gigs, I’m presently in the States on a two week tour, which thus far as been fabulous. The Summer is looking very exciting with a great run of gigs at home and abroad coming up.
What are your top five tracks for the summer?
A top thirty might be easier at the moment, but these are five I’m into right now:
André Lodemann: “Where Are You Now?” (Best Works)
So Phat!: “A Love Bizarre” – Solomun Remix (Peppermint Jam)
Freaks and 012: “Conscious Of My Conscience” – Johnny D Remix (Rebirth)
Martinez: “Basic Structure” – David Squillace Remix (Moon Harbour)
Tiger and Woods: “Gin Nation” (Running Back)
What’s the best advice someone’s given you within your music career? Any mentors we should know about… ?
I think it was Terry Francis who told me around the mid-nineties that in the beginning, one should take every opportunity to DJ, irrespective of financials. Every gig is a little more experience with crowds, different set-ups and systems. I wholeheartedly pass that advice onto anyone who is starting out.
As for other mentors, I will never forget the confidence that Colin Dale gave me when I first started. Having given him a tape of my early tracks at Club UK, he invited me to play them on his show. I was 17 and had been listening to his show religiously for years, so when he gave me a shout the following week to arrange an interview I almost dropped dead.
You’ve been kind enough to give us your exclusive mix from Get Down at San José this month. Can you tell us a little behind the mix, set the scene if you will….?
Get Down is fantastic little Tuesday night party in San José, California run by two stalwarts of the Bay Area house scene, of Gabriel Black and Arturo Garces. For an intimate Tuesday night, it is remarkable that they’ve had the likes of Roy Davis Junior, Fred Everything, Diz, Phil Weeks, Halo amongst many others pass through there. This was recorded live in the thick of the party last week. The recording peaks a little bit at a couple of points but the vibe is intact. Thanks must go out to Fred Everything for helping me master it at his studio whilst I was in San Francisco.
This Saturday is your last chance to take advantage of our June fabric first offer - all members get in free with a guest for £10. Join now and get a copy of Craig Richard's The Nothing Special, the latest in the fabric and FABRICLIVE mix series. For more information click here.