Introducing: Jozif Fist Or Finger
Nestled deep in our underground disco, new friends are meeting every weekend. For some it’s a one night wonder and for others a bond is struck, so strong you’ll be friends for life. This couldn’t be truer for London-producer and Wolf & Lamb regular, jozif and fabric resident/musical director, Craig Richards. Since meeting in our disco all those years ago, the pair has been enjoying a bond of beats and brilliant ideas, on a musical and personal level and it looks like they’ve met their match.
Last year saw the launch of their Fist Or Finger label, releasing small batches on vinyl-only releases, their first release, Fist or Finger Vol 1 – ‘Beats In Space’ was a sell out edition with 300 copies swept off the shelves. Forthcoming, we’ve heard rumours Vol 3 celebrates three different pieces of music for each room at fabric. We love the sound of that and didn’t waste anytime getting the full story from Jozif, as well as a complete history of Fist Or Finger so far.
Let’s start from the beginning- how did you meet Craig Richards and how have you become to be such great mates?
Very simply actually, I gave him some music and my telephone number one night at the club...he liked the music ....and called me. From there we just hung out quite a lot, this was way before I was travelling so much so I used to be at the club every week (something I really miss now to be honest) and from there we just started faffing around in my little studio together.
Where did the idea come from to start a vinyl-only label together?
Well, after we had been making some bits and pieces together we decided we really wanted to put some stuff out but didn't really want to go with anyone else as we wanted to run at our own speed and not have to worry about release schedules, press, remix budgets, etc so decided we'd just do it ourselves. Plus, both Craig & I wanted to have control of every aspect of the label from the musical output, to the artwork, to the distribution (I'm a total control freak!! hehehe).
What’s the musical philosophy behind it?
There isn't a musical philosophy to be honest, we just want to put out stuff that we like no matter what it is. At the end of the day, because it belongs to us and we only have ourselves to answer to, it doesn't matter if we sell 300 units or 3 - we like it and want other people to hear it so ... that's pretty much it.
How did you set about your first release Fist or Finger Vol 1 – ‘Beats In Space’?
I had written it a while ago as a nod to Tim Sweeney's show (Beats in Space) that I'd been listening to constantly at the time and Craig had been playing at the club so we knew that it worked on the dancefloor. Craig had come up with an absolutely bonkers re-interpretation of it so we decided that was the perfect way to start the label - a more dancefloor orientated track on one side and an afterhours / hotel room version on the other....
It was a sell out edition with 300 copies swept off the shelves. How did you find the response?
I was pretty surprised if I'm honest, because although I knew people were automatically going to listen to it because it had Craig's name attached to it, I didn't really expect people to snap it up right away. How wrong I was...
What’s the story behind Fist or Finger Vol 2 – ‘Brick Jane.’ The name rings a bell….
It's a funny story actually. One Saturday/Sunday AM after Craig had been at the club we all went back to my old flat in Bethnal Green before heading to Commercial Road where we were meeting a an old friend of Craig's for lunch.
Unfortunately our little mission to Commercial Road took us through a jam packed, hectic, Brick Lane on a boiling hot summer afternoon - two record boxes in hand - surrounded by crazed Sunday afternoon shoppers. When we eventually arrived at the pub I remember feeling this massive sense of elation and relief that we'd made it alive! So I went away and wrote Brick Jane and tried to make it so that the drums and bass were quite heavy (much like our painful journey) but the break down and main riff were nice and gentle and a total contrast the rest of the rhythm section...much like reaching our destination.
What’s it like when you step in the studio with Craig, the critical and the creative processes need each other, so how does it work between you both?
Well at first it was quite strange to be honest. Anyone that writes music alone will tell you that having someone else / new in your studio can either be absolutely amazing or completely cataclysmic. Having Craig with me was both of those emotions - all the time. Working with someone like him has been like one great big education - he has such an amazing ear for sounds and so much patience. For example, when we’re doing the Brick Jane release we spent about a day on one sound - something that I, being the single most impatient man alive, would never have done had been on my own.
When we work together I try and give Craig as much room as possible really, I try to just get all his ideas/sounds down and put into some kind of cohesive order. After that we can always go back to stuff but it needs to be fairly structured otherwise you loose sense of what it was you were trying to do in the first place. One of the main pluses is that we both have hardware so we're not just both stuck looking at a computer screen.
In what ways do your musical tastes/influences differ & compliment each other?
I think that although our tastes and influences may overlap in some places, they also differ wildly in others. Craig obviously has a much wider and varied musical knowledge that I'll ever hope to have so it’s always amazing when he starts to show me new (or old) pieces of music. I've lost count of how many times he's said "you should really hear this.." only for it to turnout a week or so later to be something that I can’t put down!
I remember he first gave me this blank promo CD that had nothing on it & was just in a black sleeve and told me I really had to listen to it. On the train journey back form his I popped into my laptop and it completely blew me away..I listened to it about 3 times (his house is a long long long way away from mine!!) - it was this kind of stripped back, melancholic, poppy electronic music...
Months & months later I heard one of the tracks on the radio ... it was The XX.
Dare we ask... where did the name 'Fist or Finger' come from?
We’ve heard rumour Vol 3 forthcoming is called "Room 3", a track inspired by our one & only… Room Three of fabric in fact. Tell us all about it?
Vol 3 is Room 3 - I've written 3 different pieces of music, one for each room. Thanks to the amazing support of Craig, Judy and Keith, I've been fortunate enough to play in all 3 rooms at the club at least once and, to me, they all have a completely different vibes, atmospheres and thus, musical necessities. Room one is slow and trippy, representative of my warm up sets I play in there, 2 is just a big room banger and 3 is funky, cosmicy, discoy type thing... they're just 3 piece of music that some up those 3 rooms from my perspective.
What do you think it takes to make a label successful these days?
It's difficult to say to be honest because although we have our own little label and write and produce everything ourselves, I wouldn't say that I'm completely qualified to say what makes something successful and what doesn't. For example, I see lot of labels that are struggling and I simply can’t understand why because their music is so good - the same goes for successful labels... some of them I just understand who's buying their music.
Simply from my perspective, I only ever buy records that aren't available on download and that have a little 'something' about them....nice artwork, a nice vibe or a little story...At the end of the day, I'm going to carry this piece of vinyl around with me for rest of my life, moving it from house to house (complete pain in the ass) so it needs to be something that everytime I look at it holds some kind of relevance/memory/emotion. My records have to work a whole lot harder for me then they did on 1998!
Finally, how do you see the label developing in the coming years, and what direction are you moving in musically?
Good question, I don't think we really know to be honest and I quite like it that way. We try and keep it as fluid as humanly possible - we might get some other artists on board, may start to do some remixes... we just don't know yet. The point is we are open and ready to go in any direction we want to... unlike a label that's tied to a P&D deal, we can pretty much do whatever we like..