Before he plays live at the label’s showcase next weekend, we contacted him to hear some of his most influential Cornerstone Tracks. In his list, he described how his taste for minimal and melody-focused techno have shaped his individualist sound.
One More Time – Daft Punk [Virgin]
I have to mention this record, quite simply because it was the doorway into house music and my career today. Previously I was only listening to live bands, mainly jazz and rock, and had been playing guitar since the age of 8. Electronic music wasn’t even on my radar in the slightest. Hearing this on radio and TV for the first time was incredible. The video also helped so much, as I have always been a big fan of Manga, and in love with Japan in general. My best friend in college then played me their music fully, and it was mind blowing. It confused me as I had no idea how it was made. I had no idea what a sequencer or sampler was, at least not when used in this way. That was when my quest to write and produce music in a similar vein began.
Surely one of the most successful electronic acts ever. Do you think they were a gateway act to a lot of the current generation of electronic fans and artists?
I guess it’s hard to tell, I think most of the time it’s difficult to say where music has influenced another artist, especially in our particular genre and scene, which is quite far away from Daft Punk musically. I’m not even sure how much of my own music shows signs of their work, for example. From the perspective of fans, though, I definitely think it would have been a huge gateway.
This World – Zero 7 [Ultimate Dilemma]
The whole Simple Things album had a huge influence on me. I remember getting this album on the day of release, by chance I think. Obviously it became a huge hit; I still think it’s a masterpiece. Not only for the song writing, but also the production quality and engineering skills Henry and Sam achieved. I know they faked so much of the big production sound and value through their own expertise and experience, which they self-proclaim. Back then, it was really impressive, and the album still sounds impressive now. It really opened my ears up to what can be achieved, mixing live instrumentation and electronic sounds so perfectly in a modern era.
This album remains extremely sought-after on vinyl. What do you think has given it such lasting appeal?
Straight up well-crafted songs, using strong melodic ideas. For me, this is long-lasting music that stands the test of time. They can be catchy with their melodies without being annoying, which is a real art in-itself. In my opinion, all of this passes the test, where stripping away all the production and instrumentation to play the music on one instrument, say a piano, would still leave you with a good song.
Do you still revisit a lot of records like this that impacted you two decades ago?
Yes, I do! I’m a nostalgic person, and when I write music, I’m increasingly drawing on feelings from the past. I could start writing a song that perhaps gives me the same feeling or vibe as an old personal favourite like this. Then I love to delve deep into what that connection is, and how I can achieve the same feeling musically. It won’t necessarily be the same chord pattern, or a direct sample, it could just be something small and almost silly that reminds me of an old favourite.
Anytime – Nu-Birth [Nu Jack]
When I first got into electronic music, I was trying to absorb as many different genres and styles as I possibly could. I wasn’t too into UK Garage, but I was listening to a lot of speed garage! To me it always felt more like house than garage. This track is just a classic, but also has so many memories from my early days going to parties.
Were you collecting a lot of the big garage records at this point?
Not so much to be honest, I always found they were hard to come by. Since then I’ve gathered up more speed garage records thanks to Discogs and other second-hand record shops. Basically just getting the records I always used to love and listen to. It’s still an ongoing collection for me, more than any other style I’ve found. For many other styles I like, I’ve stopped collecting records. Thinking about it, knowing there’s such a limited amount of speed garage, I feel it’s a collection of music that could be obtained quite fully.
The UK club scene was quite tribal in the late 90s. Did you usually gravitate towards one type of music or follow a range of scenes?
I was all over the place to be honest, as with collecting music, I spent most of my time absorbing as many different styles, scenes and genres as possible.
All Night Long – Layo & Bushwacka! [XL Recordings]
The whole Night Works album had a big influence on me. This track is just such a party tune, the progression is so perfect! The bassline halfway through is amazing, then the real pay-off comes with that great dubby vocal that comes in towards the end.
Not the biggest track you could’ve chosen by these guys. Was Night Works the first record of theirs you heard then?
No, but the biggest ones are definitely not always the best I feel. I think I had heard a couple of other tracks of theirs that other DJs had been playing, but this album was definitely how I got to know them. It’s still probably the music I know best from them.
The tech house scene Layo & Bushwacka were part of helped inspire the music direction of clubs like ours. Thinking about it, they’ve probably been more influential than many people realise…
I like to think so for sure. It’s obviously a hugely rich history of music for fabric, and many other London clubs. So it’s always fun to try and pin point various artists and their influence on the scene. But I know how much this album and the pair influenced me. Even just for the “dance album” format that this album sits in, something which I think doesn’t exist in the same way it used to. I’m still a true believer that an album should be a journey with a bunch of different tracks to a single release; something to show the artist’s diversity.
Two Months Off – Underworld [Junior Boy’s Own]
Underworld were another huge influence on me, and A Hundred Days Off was always my favourite album from them. I thought as a whole, this album and the songs complemented each other best. I was always more interested in albums as a whole rather than individual tracks. I think coming from my live music background, albums have always been key. This song is just so epic though, such a rave tune!
Would you usually only buy full-length records then? Where would you go to find stuff?
Definitely not only full-length, but a lot of it would be. As I mentioned, I would generally prefer tracks that weren’t released as singles, where the artist was experimenting more rather than doing something that was expected of them. Plus everyone knows and plays the singles, where’s the fun in always hearing the same music over and over again?
Curly Blonde – Peter Dildo (Strange Treatments Reshake) [Trackdown]
One of, if not my all-time favourite minimal track. I still play this today! It has such a great groove, and the use of those encroaching sounds is so great. This really started to show me the essence of minimal music: stripped back by nature, with fewer musical melodies and chords, but by no means sparse. It still has so much detail and musicality though, with implied melodies and subtle basslines.
This one doesn’t look especially easy to find. Do you remember where you discovered it?
No, I can’t remember where I found it! But I would usually buy from Juno Records in the early days. So I guess I found it on there at some point. Or because it’s Agnès, I may have heard it in a mix from him or perhaps Cabanne. I was always listening to a lot of Cabanne.
Do you often rediscover smaller records like this in your collection nowadays?
I try to digitise my record collection as music as possible, as I don’t travel with vinyl any more. So yeah, I always like going back through my collection and finding the ones I used to love. Then of course I always stumble across something else I perhaps did not like at the time, but now it’s more to my liking.
Nutty Rush – David K [Cocoon]
This was the first record I bought on Cocoon! I think that was in 2006. Cocoon always put out a great blend of techno and minimal, sometimes sitting right in the middle so well and hitting that sweet spot. It’s where my heart has always been when it comes to techno. I’m definitely (and obviously) more on the melodic, more stripped back end of techno. I’ve never been one to go too heavy, I think because my background has always been about forefront melodies and song structures. It’s so strange to think how back then I had no idea I would be working full time with the lovely Cocoon family now! It’s still an honour to work so closely with them!
Would this have had an impact on your approach to producing too?
I think I absorb everything, so yes it definitely would have had an effect.
Hispaniola – Minilogue [Cocoon]
Really getting into the more melodic side of techno with this one. Again they just showed me how many things you can achieve at once in one song. Strong, catchy, melodic. Great groove and minimal production with lovely attention to detail. Beautiful vibe and structure that creates tension and a brooding quality. Yet it still works so well on the dance floor with all this beautiful music and production happening! Pure class and song writing! Again, another Cocoon favourite of mine!
Do you find yourself playing a lot of music on the label besides your own?
Not everything for sure, as thankfully the label is nicely diverse. So I’m not into everything they release. The trippy stuff is definitely my cup of tea!
Burnt – Kiasmos [Erased Tapes]
This is the newest record I’ve picked. Again, I think I found this track by chance whilst record shopping. I had heard their music before in other sets and playlists, but I wasn’t aware it was Kiasmos. Their whole first album is still amazing. This track along with the others was so refreshing to hear. It’s so cinematic, beautiful and emotional, yet at the same time it’s got a really gnarly bass line, plus driving drum patterns with distorted drones and pads in the background. They show how it’s possible to be dynamic, musical and still techno at heart.
These guys are still pretty active now. Do you still find inspiration in a lot of new music that’s coming out today?
Yes of course, new music is where it’s most exciting!