London is pretty all right y’know? We have our ups and our downs but the reality of what’s going on, week in week out, with the kind of music and our access to dancing in the circle of club music is actually pretty phenomenal. What makes it so exciting and also sometimes hard is the reality that we are all operating in a state of constant change – which is sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. But this is how great things are sculpted and legends are made. The things that will out are often the ones that prove the most vital.
An individual who has born witness and played his own role in the emergence of house music in the UK is Clive Henry, a man who found himself growing up in the midst of what really was the birth of dance music in the capital. For anyone a generation or two behind the likes of Henry, it's always pretty inspiring to hear about how it all came together, the tales of deep after-hours sessions that featured eclectic crate digging DJs where the likes of Andrew Weatherall were rubbing shoulders with people like Derrick Carter.
Henry saw it all first hand and he’s worked to channel his experiences and riotous upbringing into forging his own path both as a DJ and perhaps, more notably, as production unit working under the name Peace Division alongside Justin Drake. With a hefty schedule all of his own Henry already boasts a stellar reputation as an Ibizan icon through his residency at DC10 but the Liverpudlian mUmU collective have elected to bring him back to Farringdon to help them celebrate their 7th birthday in Room Three this Saturday night (28th February). So, understandably, we jumped at the opportunity to direct some questions at Henry and bask in the comforting glow of some of the stories of his past and look forward to what's inspiring him right now...
Can you describe London when you were growing up? What was it like to be right in the middle of what we now look back on an imperative historic moment for music?
I think London was at one of its most exciting and ground breaking eras creatively and musically when I was growing up, with the arrival of hip hop and the graffiti movement, with the soul and funk scene also bubbling away. It was a really good time for me as we were going central virtually every weekend from the burbs of west London and checking out hall of fames (Graff hotspots) across the city and south of England and hitting Covent Garden up near enough every weekend to see the Trailblazers work (who then became the Chrome Angels) and hitting jams at the Lyceum, South Bank and Jubilee Gardens. I was so immersed in it it took over my life, but then I got introduced to house music by Rocky and Diesel in '88 just as I was finding my flow with graffiti (or street art as they like to call it now) and the rest as they say is history.
Plus to have the scene as strong as we did in west London suburbia with Full Circle reppin' hard and bringing in the likes of DJ Pierre, Derrick Carter, Richie Hawtin, Tony Humphries (who I had the honour of warming up for there which is something cool to tell my kids!), Todd Terry, Danny Tenaglia and throwing in local and UK talent its been a major player in the growth of this scene. And to be there from day zero near enough and still be at it is something I'm pretty proud of as I've seen many an artist, DJ and producer fade away and disappear...
When did you start collecting records yourself then, what kind of stuff were you buying and playing back then?
I started to collect records from a real early age from Southall Market in Southall, west London and Stage One records in Hayes Town. I worked after school sweeping floors to help towards paying for them and I was getting the heads up on all the fresh bits by listening to pirate radio. Obviously I was way too young to DJ but I was buying a lot of hip hop and electro ranging from Roxanne Shante, Ice T, Fat Boys, Cybotron, Jonzon Crew etc and quite a few bits on Cutting Records. Was also into the SOS Band and the like but was also bought up on Bowie, Pink Floyd and U2. I’ve got a pretty open mind to most decent music to be honest (although I’d find it hard to agree that U2 are decent nowadays. Sorry, Bono.).
Who would you call the inspirations for yourself to do your own thing in music? Who were you looking up to in those early years?
From a DJ and production point of view I would say Danny Tenaglia influenced us in our Peace Division work in the early years as he was one of the most on point DJs as he could mix disco, techno, house, electro whatever seamlessly and make it all sound connected and not like he was jumping from genre to genre like some 'eclectic' DJs can/do. Plus his productions were pretty next level. We tried to do our own thing to be honest but you do get inspiration from everywhere. Also it was Rocky and Diesel, Danny Rampling, Terry Farley, Derrick Carter, Andy Weatherall, Scott Braithwaite, Darren Price, Craig Walshe and Phil Perry who I feel mainly started the west London/suburban movement with the Sunday sessions at the Queens Sailing Club and then the Greyhound pub near Heathrow.
Was that the West London house mafia?
It was more of jokey thing, it wasn’t meant to be anything serious but just all the original heads and instigators of the house and party scene from areas like Shepherds Bush and Acton stretching all the way out to the 'burbs of Hillingdon, Uxbridge & Slough. Like most of the DJs mentioned above plus the likes of Brandon Block, Charlie Chester, Dave Hedger from West London Deep (who I wrote my first ever track with, 'SAS-Amber Groove'), Dean Thatcher from The Aloof… I think the younger generation (without sounding too condescending) won’t really understand that these people really helped shape what they get up to today.
At what point did you go out to Ibiza and get involved in what was going on out there?
I got taken out to Ibiza in 1989 (I'm showing my age now!) and it blew my mind. It was so open minded from a musical point of view it was refreshing plus with the open air clubs mixed in with the cosmopolitan nature of the crowd in other words working class hooligans dancing next to the super rich it was totally addictive from the first minute. It’s a shame it’s changed to the degree it has but I suppose that’s life…
Can we talk a bit about the residency you hold at DC10, what kind of experiences has that given you?
It’s given me the confidence to carry on with what I do musically and not try and be swayed with the current fads that come round every so often. Like I said, you get influenced by everything around you for sure and you would be silly not to but I’ve always tried to do my own thing. I think us DJs are sensitive creatures and sometimes what I can play at DC10 doesn’t sometimes translate overseas (but only very rarely) and I think 'shit, what’s happened here, it worked last Monday?!' And that’s credit to DC10 for what they have built and the vibe they have tried to keep to.
We should also talk about your project with Justin Drake, Peace Division, which became hugely prolific. What were you both setting out to do with the project?
We were always messing around with drum loops and samples from the get go and it just took shape from that really, we didn’t have any set path. And then the whole tribal thing got ridiculously massive and pretty boring within moments. Everyone using the same loops and sounds and production techniques with vocals. We also always tried to play the music that influenced us to make the music we made but forever got asked to play the tracks we become renowned for and that got frustrating too. Hence why we started Soul Purpose (and yes, we are the original Soul Purpose) for our deeper production ideas and also dabbled in some breaks, tech house and minimal stuff too. We just wanted to show people there was more to us than just the 'tribal' thing and think we did well to not massively get tagged before it became a burden/weight on our shoulders..
What’s inspiring you the most now like what labels and individuals are you spinning the most?
There's loads but off the top of my head, I'm in to Son of Sound just 'cos he's pretty much hard to label - even though it's quite housey and straight forward it’s got elements of oddness and weirdness sometimes, which I like. I'm also into Jovonn who's another one who's stood the test of time and still consistent and having a rebirth as such. Label wise its Tamed Musiq, Clone, One Records, Perlon, Tsuba, East End Dubs Vinyl and UVAR. Anything really that's not too massively big room as such I suppose..
What kind of stuff are you working on in the studio now?
I only just opened our studio in Hackney a couple of months ago and been sort of jamming with FB Julian and Remi Mazet but have a new project taking shape that will be picking up speed when I have more time in March. Its been difficult due to my DJ schedule but watch this space..