Interview with Graeme Clark aka The Revenge

Ahead of The Revenge’s debut LP release our intrepid reporter KMG caught up with Graeme Clark for a chat about what brought it all together…

It’s 16 years since you set up Five20East and began releasing material… can you tell us how it all started?

I was working in a call centre in Dunfermline for Sky TV at the time, and me and a couple of mates at work got talking about starting a label. As a group of naive 19 year olds we just decided that we would go and get a record pressed… as we had a few tracks that we had been working on together. We took it (and a bunch of other white labels) to the Miami winter music conference in 2001, and also down to London in an attempt to get it out there. If was a lot more difficult back then though as the internet was still in it’s infancy, and if you didn’t get a review for example, it became an uphill struggle to get the necessary traction. It was certainly a lot of leg work to be doing based in Dunfermline!

In that short space of time you must have seen a big shift in the way music is produced and released?

Oh yeah… looking back on it though it was good that we’d put our selves out there in that way, we were so young and didn’t necessarily know what we were doing. Not that I know what I’m doing now! But to think that we just got on a plane and went over there seems crazy to me now, and although it’s now easier to get your stuff out there, it’s not easier to get heard to be honest.

You’re also engineering other artists work, such as Harri & Dom’s 20 years of subclub mix. Is this a natural progression from your production work? or born from an early ambition?

I’d applied to get in Art College when I left school, but that didn’t work out. My dad’s a bass player and he suggested that maybe I’d like to do sound engineering, as he knew some guys who were doing a course up in Perth. I’d been making tracks and buying equipment for years but hadn’t really considered engineering up to that point. It was a really good way for me to learn about other aspects of the music industry though, and I met my label partner Paul McGlashan on the course, and he plays live with me now. Without that connection I’m pretty sure things would be different.

Yourself and Paul have also progressed to playing live now too… can you tell us a little bit about how that came about?

Paul and I had just moved to Glasgow where Optimo had been going for a year or two on Sundays at the Subclub…. Paul was a regular attendee, and we had a lot of gear in my flat, so we were experimenting with a set-up. Then out of nowhere Paul managed to get us a gig at a Glasgow techno night in the Soundhaus called Monox, which was a popular club at the time. We’d made a record together under the alias ‘Deportivo Street Team’ which was getting played by the guys at Monox, so that got us the gig, and off the back of it we played a few more, even supporting Calvin Harris(!) in Edinburgh. It was at that time when I met Harri and began to work in the studio more, and the Revenge stuff was beginning to get going, and then Paul got a job too, so the live set-up was tucked away for a while. To make it work you need all the gear together in one place, and both of you need to be able to rehearse at the same time.

… so what’s brought about the return to the live set-up?

Well, it was two years ago and I had finished my old label, Instruments of Rapture, which was beginning to morph into a label in its own right, when it had originally been a platform for edits. So instead of letting it evolve and drift I decided it was better to end it on a high and start something new.

I was doing so much remix work at the time, and having not put any original Revenge material out, I was beginning to get boxed into a corner, so I felt is was important to step back and get a new start. That way I could get reinvigorated in the studio, and just start jammin’ with some of my old gear again.
To celebrate the end of Instruments Of Rapture we did a live set at the Subclub on the Queens Jubilee bank holiday… so that weekend we just took out loads of equipment to the club, and had an improvised jam for an hour. It was a real baptism of fire! We had hoped to go on a tour with the idea of improvised sets but quickly realised that it would be very difficult to sell without having any material. So that’s when I decided to start the new label, as a vehicle for the new work.

therevenge

So the new label was created as an outlet for your new album ‘Love that will not die’ ?

Doing my own music, on my own label, with a live performance element around it, and to be doing it with my mates Paul and Julia is great.
For me its symbiotic, and it was a realisation I had a couple of years ago. Beforehand I used to separate the idea of DJing, the live performance, the label and the studio… as individual entities. I now understand that they are all part of the same thing for me. If they all lead into each other it allows me to express myself more fully, whether its live performance, the artwork, the music… and means I get to invest a part of myself into all aspects of the job. This has enabled me to be more passionate about my output, so that it doesn’t become… just another track… just another record.

Has this new found approach to your work had an influence on the title of your album?

Yeah possibly. The title actually came from the name of a Johnny Guitar Watson track, a great funk soul record, and the title had stuck with me for years. But I think also because it’s got love and death in the title, those are the things that define us all in some way. Without trying to get too deep!

You collaborate with Sister Sledge on the album track ‘Stay A While’ – how did that collaboration come to pass? And how were they to work with in the studio?

They were great, and it came about quite bizarrely over twitter. They posted something about being into an edit I made years ago, and it was at a time when I was dreaming up ideas for the album. So I decided to respond with thanks and asked if they’d be up for collaborating and it just snowballed from there, before you know it we’re in the studio for a few hours jamming in London. They have some new material soon as well, so hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to return the favour on their album. It’s refreshing to know that someone like myself who’s working an indy label can make connections like this, and that there’s still hope for other people who do the same.

Do you think this will be the first of multiple LPs, or is Love That Will Not Die a labour of love that you just needed to release?

The LP format is one thing that I’m not sure about at the moment. I certainly did take time to make this into a cohesive piece of work, with the intention that it’s read as a whole. I’d like to make more, and in some ways it’s made me more interested in expanding upon it, with an ambient cassette version to be released in the summer to coincide with the summer solstice. The thing that sometimes irritates me about my own work is when a track’s finished it becomes set in stone, and I often find when you come to the end of producing there’ll be another element come to the fore and you think, ‘well if I did something with this there’d be potential for another great track’ and you never really get the opportunity to explore it, it finishes there. So by doing another version, and also playing it live where it can evolve, I’m finding greater opportunity to give the album material a further lease of life.

With a new album, and refreshed live set, does this mean we can expect a summer show?

Yeah, we’ve got a live show in Fabric on Saturday 4th July, and that’s the main London gig in the diary just now, with more stuff in the summer currently TBC.

THE REVENGE’S NEW ALBUM ‘LOVE THAT WILL NOT DIE’ IS AVAILABLE TO BUY ON 12” NOW AT BELOW LINKS

The Revenge
Roar Groove

Interview: Dave Lee aka Joey Negro

We were lucky enough to catch up with one of dance music’s longest serving producers and DJs just before Christmas… We then went off to eat and drink for 2 weeks. But the transcript of our chat is now beautifully typed up and relayed in full below. The hat loving Londoner, and moniker aficionado has a lot to say!

KMG – What’s your ideal breakfast?

DL – Serious answer? I love a soft boiled egg with soldiers and avocado…then a coffee.

KMG – Originally from the Isle of Wight, How was the music scene on the isle growing up?

DL – Though born there, I moved by the age of two so I didn’t get to experience much of it. I actually grew up in Essex after my dad got a job at the university and we were living in a village called Thorpe-le-soken near Clacton on Sea. I stayed there till the age of 18/19 before moving to London. In the early 80s there were still a couple of decent clubs nearby that were playing interesting music. However, the main source of music at the time for me, was Radio. Iit was the disco era and every local radio show had soul/disco type shows on weekend evenings. I tended to hear more records I liked through radio as opposed to clubs; it was after hearing the records on the radio that made me want to find them, and learn more about the acts.

KMG – Would you say that your principal musical influence growing up was the radio then?

DL – Yeah I guess, and TV as well. I can remember hearing music I really liked and then have no real way of being able to track it down afterwards, it was frustrating. I’d watch Top of the Pops every week without fail. You’d hear a song on there once, but if the record didn’t keep going up the chart then that was usually it, you’d never hear it again. Sometimes you’d not be sure of the act name and there was no shazam or internet to search on. I remember once there was a cartoon Chivers Jelly advert that had a song I really liked, which I worked out was always in the ad break before the ITN news so I used to make sure I switched over to ITV just to hear the ad. I also love lots of TV themes – Weekend World, Starsky & Hutch. Man alive, the Fleetwood Mac track used on formula 1 (which I only found out years later was them). So effectively you’d hear scraps here and there with no real way to track it down. I started buying singles by the age of 10 though, and the first music I can remember getting properly excited about was glam rock!

KMG – You mentioned Top of the Pops, which of course you would later go on to appear on a
number of times. What was that experience like?

DL – Having watched it so many times I did feel like I had achieved something when I appeared.
Obviously with so many of these types of things, the experience is completely different than how you would imagine it. You have to run through the song a few times whilst they get the camera angles they want, so there’s not quite the same sense of fun as when you’re viewing it on TV, as it’s filmed over a whole day. Then for large portions of it you’re just waiting back stage. You might bump into the act on before, or after you, but you don’t generally all hang around together. Most of all I wasn’t wearing a blue satin jump suit or holding a silver star shaped guitar as I always thought I would be :-)

KMG – It must be slightly strange to play dance music on a format as orchestrated as a TV show, when principally the context it’s designed for is a sweaty club, …

DL – A lot of disco music and the like was made for use in clubs, and it enjoyed good success on the TV, and of course then crossed over into the mainstream. So once that crossover has happened it’ll end up in a lot of places it perhaps wasn’t originally intended. I think some of the best cross over dance records, say for example Voodoo Ray, were made to be nothing more than an underground club record, yet you end up hearing it at the local service station.

KMG – Jakatta could be perceived as your most successful alias, commercially speaking. When you
set about making those records was it a conscious decision to try and cross over? Or was it just a
happy accident?

DL – For the first record, American Dream, I loved the film American Beauty and I bought Thomas Newman’s original score because I enjoyed the atmospheric music. I listened to it a lot at home and I thought the marimba riff in one of the songs would be good to sample, and that it might sound interesting over a house beat. So in the some studio downtime I did it and I put it out as a sort of white label type release as “American Beauty”. The initial track without the Indian vocal was quite easy to make as it was pretty basic and it did ok without going crazy. Over the course of the following months DJ friends were telling me that they were playing it every week, and that the barman always asked what it was, or the security guy kept bugging him to play it. So it became apparent that it had some sort of appeal beyond that of a normal club record. After a while I thought “why don’t I try and do a mix of it and make it a little bit more accessible?”…So I recorded the Swati Natekar vocals and spent a bit more time on the drums. Paul Byrne from JBO was managing me at the time so I sent it to him, as he had Pete Tong’s ear, and I thought it might be something of interest to Pete. He really liked it and played it on his Radio One show. Almost immediately lots of labels were interested in signing it. I’ve been involved in a few tracks that got signed onto majors, and often they have a big club buzz but that doesn’t sustain or transfer over to the pop audience. American Dream was one of the few that didn’t plateau and kept building until the final release. Once I’d had the hit then there was some pressure to have more hits, but it was cool. The A&R at Ministry (who signed it) Ric Salmon was really hands on and helped me enormously making the album ‘Visions’.

KMG – You’ve collaborated with a whole host of people over the years… who has been the most
inspiring to work alongside?

DL – One of the people I really enjoyed working with was Thelma Houston. She was one of the first
really amazing diva type singers I had in my studio and it was just like wow! This is somebody whose records I bought! She had this most incredible voice, and it was exciting to hear her when she went into the booth and let rip with the ad-libs – almost everyone was a winner. It was a pleasure to work with someone a talented as that, it made my bit so easy. Another vocalist who made working together a dream was Diane Charlemagne. I loved her song “Inspired” on Satoshie Tomie’s album. We ‘ve written quite a lot together for Sunburst and other projects, and it’s an unmatchable feeling when you’re working on the creative aspect of making music, and you know something has that magic you need for a great record. However, I can’t leave out Taka Boom Seal, Pete Simpson the Chic girls, Debbie French….there’s been too many!

KMG – I find it interesting that you mention a pair of vocalists. From the production side of things it’s more straightforward to produce a drum/sample led track, particularly if you spend time and care on it.
To use a vocal artist is a different kettle of fish however, how do you go about making that work?

DL – It’s entirely dependent on the vocalist, and if you’re working with good people it’s not actually difficult at all and can be a very natural thing. Though it’s never an exact science and sometimes it doesn’t come together as you’d like, no matter how hard you try. I’ve come to accept that is just part of the creative process. Thankfully over the years I’ve been fortunate to work with a host of talented people, and if I need a brass section, or a good bass player, I can call on the right person. However, it doesn’t matter how good your musicians are if the song they are playing isn’t any good to begin with. When you go into the studio it’s also important to keep an open mind, especially when working with musicians, as they may elaborate on your idea and improve it…or come up with something completely different which is better. And above all else, it’s important to be critical of your own work. If you don’t love something, it’s probable no one else will either…

KMG – Over the years you’ve produced programmed tracks, and also with live musicians as The Sunburst Band. Do you have a preference for working one way or the other?

DL – Whatever I’ve just been doing, I tend to want to move onto something different, particularly if I’ve just done a whole album. For example, if I’ve just done a Sunburst album I’ll look to do
something electronic thereafter. It’s also important to break your own rules, and try and do things you wouldn’t normally do, as it helps stimulate new ideas.

KMG – Which boundaries are you looking to break down at the moment?

DL – For the last six months I’ve been doing remixes of these old disco and soul records I’ve managed to get the parts for. A few years ago I decided it would be really good fun if I could remix some of my old favourites from the 70/80’s but from the multitracks – not just sampling them. A friend at Warner Brothers helped me get hold of some and last year I released the first volume of REMIXED WITH LOVE. I had to pay out my own pocket to get the 2 inch tapes transferred, and some were incredibly hard to track down… one even being under the original producers bed! That’s the thing with this project, acquiring the multi tracks, and getting the artists to agree to let you remix their song is often the hardest part. A lot of the time you’re dealing with major labels and they’re just not used to letting their multi-tracks leave the tape library with an independent label releasing remixes. Then you’ve actually got to do the remix which can be a lot of pressure if you’re dealing with a classic song that’s never been touched before. After that it’s back to the label to get approval on the new version. Which can take forever sometimes! So it’s more a labour of love than a big money spinner, but it’s a great way to spend your time, and I love the buzz of hearing the 24 track on a favourite tune for the first time.

KMG – If these are some of your favourite records do you feel the need to raise your game further as a result?

DL – Or course, but it’s a double edge sword… on the one hand you have dynamite material, live strings, brilliant performances, so you don’t want to do a perfunctory remix. But on the other hand, the original version was pretty good to start with, so on occasion it’s hard to manipulate it for the better. Ok you can make it more dj friendly, but that’s not enough. Also, some multi’s can be quite messy with lots of bleed from other instruments. You might have ideas about strings being used on their own or starting the song with just the piano, then you get it and find there’s no way you can do that. There can be lots of headphone spill on the strings, bleed from other instruments all over the drums. The nicest surprised is to play a new multi-track and there are lots of extra parts which weren’t used – like the end of Kleeer “I love to dance” from volume 1. Normally once I start playing around with something I can come up with some ideas, but it’s a slow honing process. I can get a track to the point where it’s ready to play out, and I do so, and of course I’ll
realise there’s a few aspects which aren’t sounding quite right. So I’m constantly revisiting them until they sound as good as I think I’ll ever get them…. The best thing about it though, is that it gives me the opportunity to keep these brilliant songs alive.

KMG – When will you be in a position to release these tracks you think?

DL – Probably June 2015 depending on how long they take to clear.

KMG – We’ve seen studio technology advance considerably during the last 20 years. Is there anything you think we’re losing during the production process? And conversely, is there anything you think we’re gaining?

DL – back in the 90s when I was making tracks, unless you mixed something and it was tragically wrong, that was it… it often went off to get pressed almost immediately. Today I can play something out, and the bass is slightly quiet. I’ll then revisit it in the studio and sort the bass. You now have the ability to tweak and tweak and tweak things forever… Personally I think that’s for the better, but in other ways you lose a bit of the spontaneity. It can be the same for any era though… we’re hearing music that’s limited and compressed in the computer into this solid block of sound, and I don’t know if years from now people are going to say, “oh that sounds so squashed” or they might just say “well, that sounds of that era”… I do think that the shift we’ve seen recently away from the computer, back to real synths and reverbs in the studio is for the better though. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you use… if you’ve got a good track, you’ve got a good track…. And it doesn’t matter how much gear you have, if you’re tracks not happening… it won’t become great because you mixed on an analogue desk!

Dave’s latest compilation offering, Defected presents House Masters Joey Negro‏, is out next week

If you want even more chat with Dave then checkout the little video he did recently with the Defected crew below:

KMG’s Hot 12 Inches for Autumn

I’ve been busy getting married and starting a new job, so it’s been a while since my last selection, but the nights have well and truly drawn in now, so hugging speakers and digging now provide the warmth I crave. The past couple of months have provided a fine selection of 12’s, and the ones which I’ve enjoyed the most (that are also available on juno) have been compiled into a chart below.

Queen of Hoxton – Summer in Outer Space

AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY SUNDAY SPECIAL

“When the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars. Then peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.”

We’ll be adding support to a distinctly Pan-European lineup…

A three floor bank holiday, silver-lined, cosmic special for dancers and dreamers. Starting up on the rooftop Queen of Hoxton have a BBQ & frozen Space Slushies from midday before we are let loose inside with tripped out visuals and light displays to a soundtrack of disco and house music from Lisbon based special guests, Moullinex (Disco Texas/Gomma) and Roche Musique label boss Kartell from Paris.

7pm – 4am (though the rooftop is open from 12 if you’re not headed to Carnival)

Funktion 1 Planetarium:
Moullinex (Disco Texas/Gomma)
Kartell (Roche Musique)
✬ Punks Jump Up official
✬ Luz

Cosmos:
✬ Brooks b2b Tim Hinson (lucid / troupe)
✬ SlothBoogie (that’s us!)
✬ Luxar
✬ Axel Moody

✬ Planetarium visuals and cosmic lights
✬ 70s cosmic disco attire encouraged!

✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬ ✬

Free before 7pm / £7 after on the door

Limited £5 advance