On the eve of the fabric 48: Radio Slave US release, which takes place on 20th October 2009, I’m pleased to give you an interview I conducted with famed DJ and producer Radio Slave aka Matt Edwards back in August.
Soft-spoken and modest, Matt talked as easily about his recent trip back to Brighton as he did about his mixes for London’s legendary club. We meander through life in Berlin after Brighton, love, music and what’s driving his new creative projects, which include the fabric 48 mix CD, new releases on his Rekids label and a top-secret art project.
Although from South London and infinitely lauded for his many projects under his various guises (Quiet Village, Sea Devils, Matthew E, Rekid), there was little talk about his past achievement, focusing on the present – and the future.
The fabric 48 mix, which came out in the UK last month, includes the Steve Lawler remix of “Koma Koma”, tracks from Baeka, Nina Kraviz, Spencer Parker, DJ Boola, Brothers’ Vibe, Michel Cleis, Dance Disorder, 2000 & 1 and Nate William’s Club Patrol – and of course Radio Slave. Five of the 13 tracks are exclusive unreleased material.
Radio Slave’s selection of house floor fillers are truly representative of the sort of quality sets he plays; if you’ve ever been to a night where he’s playing, you’ll know that he delivers the goods and at length. The mix is quite chilled out in places, but builds up nicely with some stand out moments with “DDB” and latin-doused “La Mazcla”.
Enjoy the interview and check out fabric 48 on the Fabric site.
Interview with Radio Slave
Amy Riley Hi, this is Amy, phoning from you from Brighton.
Radio Slave: I was actually visiting Brighton yesterday.
AR: What were you doing?
RS: I was visiting, well, I guess my ex wife, and having a look round town.
AR: Oh cool.. did you pop into any of the shops?
RS: I did actually. I bought two paintings from Art Republic and then we went to the cinema, to Duke of Yorks and saw the Coco Chanel movie.
AR: How was that?
RS: It was amazing. Yeah it’s really good. Really slow, it’s very moving, but very slow.
AR: I love how you can take booze in the cinema (laughs). I’m just trying to remember what the weather was like yesterday.
RS: It was pretty good. I used to live there so I haven’t been back for quite a while. It was good to wander round, see some friends.
AR: How long ago did you live here?
RS: I lived there for eight years, for pretty much from 1998 to 2006.
AR: That’s pretty cool. Did you play out at clubs down here?
RS: Yeah, I used to be resident at Stompaphunk. It was with my friend Anthony at Funky Buddha Lounge – I used to hang out with those guys for years. It’s a good place to live, but it ended up being too much like a small town for me. There’s too many people in each other’s business and it’s incestuous and it caused a few problems in my life.
AR: I used to live in New York and I’ve been waiting for Brighton to lose it’s thing – it’s charm – maybe but it’s thing – maybe I’ll move to Berlin.
RS: Well if you lived in New York, you’ll like Berlin – there’s a great comparison between the two cities.
AR: I’ve been going over the past two years, to visit friends, go to the clubs and take in the music. Do you go over there a lot?
RS: Berlin? I live there!
AR: Oh sorry.
RS: I’ve lived there for two years.
AR: How’s that?
RS: It’s amazing. I’m not there very often, but when I’m there, It’s a very free city, it’s so bohemian, in Kreuzberg where I live, they’ve got everything you need from a city, but it feels like a village. It’s a beautiful city.
AR: When I’m there, it really reminds me of New York. I used to live in Williamsburg.
RS: Okay, I know it very well. Some parts remind me of Brooklyn, with the overhead subway train line.
AR: So do you want to tell me about the Fabric mix?
RS: It’s long overdue. The mix is a reflection of the sets that I play at the Fabric club. There’s only 13 tracks on the CD, which isn’t much compared to the other CDs but it was really to play the whole songs and carry the story of the artists and musicians who made the music rather than just make this one continuous blend, which a lot of people seem to be doing these days with modern technology such as Traktor. I guess we’re moving away slightly from the era where people are making more songs or tracks with a start and an end. There are so many great tracks out there and I wanted to make a mix that reflects what I play. It’s quite dubby and spaced out, which is more of a reflection of the sets I play at Fabric. The soundsytem is so amazing that you can really play the songs. You get this sense – well I do anyways – that you can really let the music do the talking, rather than tweaking or adjusting and EQing all the time.
AR: What sort of system do they have there?
RS: I couldn’t tell you really. I always use the Allen & Heath mixer, which is a valve mixer. It’s probably one of the only clubs in the world that has that mixer in the booth, and I think every channel has a valve. It’s very sensitive, but incredibly rich and warm. It sounds nothing like a…I guess a comparison would be in most clubs the Pioneer DJ 800 and this is like a million miles away.
AR: You’re a bit of a legend – where are you getting your influences these days? What’s sparking you off?
RS: I still get influenced by my peers. People like Carl Craig – I’m intrigued by his career and what he’s been doing. He’s been doing stuff with the Innerzone orchestra and I think his next performance in England will be with 16 performers on stage. People like that. I like visionaries, people who stick to the same path, who make their own way, through music. I think this can be a real problem, not just for journalists, but for record buyers and media. It’s great when people do completely different things. Like Carl, he does techno but he also does jazz and at the moment he’s making a classical album with an Italian pianist. Things like that inspire me. People like Villalobos, through his DJing. I always get surprised by new artists coming through, which is great.
AR: Can you name any artists?
RS: Like this guy Michel Cleis who’s come through over the past couple of years. I don’t think he’s particularly young, but his music is amazing and he had a bit of a hit with the xx single. I think he’s coming through as a remixer and a producer and he’s got a unique style.
AR: Where’s he from?
RS: He’s from Switzerland. Also some of the artists we work with on Rekids. Spencer Parker and this Canadian guy called James Pase – he’s a real interesting character. He sings, he’s a multi instrumentalist – and I find these people inspirational – they make straight up club tracks. I get inspired by all kinds of music.
AR: What have you been doing in the past few months? Have you been producing?
RS: Yeah, I’ve been trying to do some remixes while I’ve been touring. Over the past 12 months to 2 years, I’ve been heavily concentrating on DJing, but recently I’ve been doing some remixes for DJ Hell, Josh Wink, which should be coming out soon. I’ve also been working on a new album project, which will be released on Rekids, now in the new year. We’re also doing a Radio Slave works compilation, which is a best of remix compilation, which will cover the last three years of my remixes. I think it’s going to be two double CDs.
AR: Where have you been DJing over the past few months?
RS: Over the past few months I’ve been everywhere, from touring in Japan, then in May I was in India, doing some sessions with kids at the Record Academy, then DJing in Goa and Mombia, which was increidbly intresting. Then I’ve been to Ibiza three times – I was there last week to do Cocoon. So yeah, I’m constantly flying around places. Later this year I’ll be doing Colombia and Mexico – all of these places I’ve dreamed of going to. I’m incredibly lucky I guess.
AR: How long are you going to be out there for (in Colombia and Mexico)?
RS: What I try to do now is to stay somewhere for five days so I can really take it in, rather than fly in and fly out. That’s what I tend to do in Europe and it kinda makes sense – at the end of the weekend, I can’t think of a better place to be than at home. I always try to get an early flight on a Sunday, even if it means having no sleep. I’d rather sleep at home than stay at a hotel.
AR: In terms of your new productions, are there any new frontiers for you?
RS: Yeah, totally, like I said I’ve been working on this new project which should hopefully be coming out next year. It’s more of a cerebral – I guess head music – it’s less club oriented. It’s more a home listening experience. The tracks are incredibly long and there’s lots of detail, it’s more soundscape, more cinematic – still with a techno/house slant. They’re particularly slow.
AR: Do you mean a longer development period?
RS: I’m really into taking dance music into different areas and pushing it as much as you can. I’m really into these soundscape inspired tracks that still have elements of the dance track in them so DJs can still play them and yeah, they’re still playable. Which is kind of important to me. I always like to be able to play my tracks, even if they do get kinda weird, I can still find a place, maybe like Fabric where the soundsystem is so amazing that you can still play these things.
AR: That reminds me of music from the 90s.
RS: In the early 90s I was really into the ambient and chill out stuff like Peter Hamlet, Mixmaster Morris, a lot of the shoegazing stuff, like Slow Dive and Seafield. I guess what’s missing at the moment is that in clubs you don’t really have a chill out room. You have house or techno in one room and house or techno in the other, and there’s no real difference. With this project, I’m trying to make something more cerebral, more horizontal, but still dancefloor (laughs).
AR: Do you find when you’re making stuff like that that it’s more in an artistic vein? I mean, is it something you could connect more with visual or film?
RS: For this project, I’ve already commissioned a friend of mine to make a film. One of the tracks is 16 minutes so he’s making a film for this track, with the idea of maybe doing an installation to put in a gallery to show the artwork, which is done by a friend called Misha from Pam, which is an Australian clothing company. Misha from Perks and Mini. They don’t have a website but they’re a really influential brand from Melbourne. Misha’s already been trying out some ideas, weird tribal stuff, some sculptures – it’s going to be interesting anyways.
AR: It sounds like you’re wanting to go more into the creative vein rather than commerical stuff.
RS: I’ve always been fascinated with art, collecting art, and it’s a way of bringing everything I’ve always been into into one thing: music and visual stuff, which I haven’t done yet. Hopefully this is something we can release as a DVD.
AR: It sounds very multi-media.
RS: I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into this project. We’re nearly there. I’ve written three or four tracks of the album already.
AR: Do you have a vision for this project?
RS: I dont want to give it away. (laughs)
AR: That’s okay.
RS: I mean we’re not even telling people the name of it or anything.
AR: Oh, it’s nameless?
RS: It does have a name and a whole theory behind it, but we don’t want to pre-empt or give anything away before we put it all together. I have this phobia that the more I tell people, the less it will actually happen.
AR: That’s true. So I’m interested to hear more about Berlin – why did you choose to move there?
RS: After Brighton, I really needed to get away. I had a lot of friends living in Berlin and it’s just a great cheap city to live in. If I’d moved to London, I would have been spending a fortune. I wanted to get away from England. I’d had enough and Berlin seemed like the right place. It’s not just the music and the clubs – it’s a huge place and you can get lost in it. I have a huge apartment and there’d be no way I could get close to it in London or in Brighton. So it’s given me a lot of freedom to make music and to find out what I want to do, to find myself.
AR: Are there certain aspects of German culture that you’ve gotten into?
RS: Uh, um, not really (laughs). Where I live is predominantly Turkish so everyone speaks in Turkish and where we live in Kruezberg, we have one of the best Turkish restaurants in Germany at the bottom of our road. So not really. That’s the thing. A lot of people ask ‘why haven’t you learned German?’ but all of my German friends, all the guys who work at Hardwax, people I know, they all want to speak English. They all want to practice, so it’s pretty difficult. My girlfriend’s Spanish as well….
AR: So there’s not a lot of point? I was talking to my friend’s sons and I asked them ‘do you think I should move to Berlin?’ and one of them said, ‘yeah, but don’t learn German – it’s too hard’.
RS: It seems like an incredibly difficult language to learn. My girlfriend tried and it seems really difficult. I can get by but that’s good enough for me.