INTERVIEW ::: Geddes

Geddes is that rare commodity these days: a true pioneer. Whether it be through the legendary Mulletover parties, his wonderful Nofitstate record label or his own fantastic productions, his is a name that rings loud in London’s underground and resounds far beyond. We caught up with him recently to chat about his latest EP, ‘Suzie Boo / Baby’, his early clubbing days in London’s drum & bass scene, why he thinks the city isn’t able to support a fresh underground movement any more and a whole load more.

What are you earliest memories of music?

Listening to Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ while travelling in the car with my dad through Europe when we used to go skiing. Also with my grandparents, who used to have regular parties with the soundtrack being Grace Jones, Barry White, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart and Tina Turner.

Why do you think it captivated you so much?

It was the social gatherings round my grandparents that captivated me, the idea of playing music within a social environment made sense and was something that stuck with me. Then having an older sister who turned out working in dance music was a huge inspiration for me in the path I decided to pursue.

When you started going clubbing, it was London’s hardcore and D&B scenes that first drew you in. What was it about them that got the young Geddes hooked?

It was the culture and music behind clubs; I was really into it and wanted to explore what was on offer. It seemed exciting and in my teenage years I was more interested in things that got me excited and into trouble than geography or maths.

When did you start getting into the house scene? What was it that attracted you over to that side of things?

I was going to quite a few raves at the time and the hardcore, drum & bass scene had some attitude. We would go to these events at the weekend not knowing if we would get mugged, as we were often part of a small minority of white kids at events like AWOL or Sunday Roast. I remember the music being great, but the atmosphere was pretty dark. On my first visit to AWOL someone was shot outside the club. One weekend I was invited to a club called Peach and the vibe was completely different; people where friendly, the music made more sense and I knew it was for me. I like to be enticed by a groove, hypnotic scenes that lock in me and house offered that.

How did you get into Djing? At what point did you realise you could make a career out of it?

I got my first pair of decks at the age of 13 and I knew it’s what I wanted to do. I was a bedroom DJ until the age of 16 and played my first gig aged 16 at a club called Strawberry Sunday in Vauxhall, now called Area Club.

What type of music did you used to mix with back then? Does any of it still creep into your sets these days?

I started with hardcore, drum & bass and then moved onto house and trance music. I wouldn’t say any of that music, apart from some of the house records, would work for me in one of my current sets. It was a great learning curve listening and clubbing, but, to be honest, it was a stepping stone musically to where I’m at today.

What do you look for on the dance floor to know you’ve made that connection with the crowd?

I’m ultimately looking for a connection between the crowd, music and myself. If I feel its not quite there, then I’ll try to move the music around until we’re firmly on the same page. My job is to filter the music and do the best I can to create an atmosphere and coming together of people with the music I choose. I’d say I react to what’s in front of me, and I’m not someone who sticks to solely the music I’m into. Some DJs do, and that’s cool, but I’m there to entertain and take people on a journey.

You were responsible for the legendary Mulletover events, which started back in 2004. What are some of your favourite memories from them?

It was a special thing in my career and something I’m extremely proud of. There are so many memories, and I’ve spoken about so much in the past, I prefer to look forward now. It’s just one big memory.

Mulletover was born out of a desire to get away from the super clubs of the time and get things back to the underground. Would you say that dance music has once again reached such levels of popularity that there is a need for someone to come along and do what you did back then all over again? Or would you say that the main stream and the underground now co-exist alongside each other more comfortably in a way that has broken that previously cyclical relationship the two endured, where the success of one was often at the expense of the other?

I don’t think London is able to offer itself to a new underground movement. London is too developed, and property and warehouses are worth too much money, inviting the greedy property developers to come in. Basically, the venues are no longer available. What we were doing 7/8 years ago was underground and part of that was down to East London being an area that not many people went to. Now, the warehouse party is the club. Look at the weekly events on RA (Resident Advisor) and nearly all of them will be held in temporary events spaces. There’s still some underground parties happening, there always will be, but I don’t foresee there being a movement again anytime soon.

You’ve talked about how what we understood as club culture has once again shifted, in that “as things get more and more popular, the culture I was part of doesn’t really exist.” These views were expressed in relation to the scene in London, so is there anywhere in the UK, or around the world, for that matter, where ‘club culture’, as you know it, is still thriving?

Club culture changes, as does everything; the street you grew up on isn’t the same as it was. I think the culture is still happening everywhere, it’s just different. We need to move forward to learn, as with everything. London is just as important now as it was then. Let’s look forward and enjoy those things we experienced, but not try and compare it too much to what’s happening now.

You started Nofitstate as a reaction to the huge success Mulletover was enjoying. Can you tell us more about that and how the ethos behind the two parties differ?

Mulletover became a machine unexpectedly, and I found myself losing a connection to what we were doing. The parties became about the headline acts and everything we were doing was “big”. I wanted to do something smaller for the music, love and that was Nofitstate. It’s easy when you take a hobby from when you were young and turn it into your career; you lose sight of why you started doing it in the first place.

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As well as DJing, you produce your own music. How did you get into that?

I never thought about being a producer until much later, around my early twenties, through a desire to make my own music. I went to SAE college in London to learn EMP (Electronic Music Production), although after completing the course I wasn’t making my own music for years to come. I discovered it was a long learning curve, so I started collaborating with friends, which is how I learned the majority of what I know today. My first few releases were under the guise of Rekliener with Audiofly, a solo EP came around 2007 and I’ve been producing solo material since then, with a few collaborations along the way. It’s been slow, but going forward its something I have more time to concentrate on.

How did you feel after you’d made your first track?

When I was working with Audiofly it was great. The guys have a lot of experience and as a result the tracks sounded great. When working on my own material I’m a little more critical and I appreciate what’s required to make records sound good and how much effort and dedication needs to go into your own style and sound.

What type of stuff were you making during your first forays into music production?

Deep House as dirty as the genre might sound!

How has your production style evolved over the years?

I’ve learnt a lot and my style has definitely evolved. My confidence has grown and the understanding of structure and FXs has enabled me to produce and engineer my own music from start to finish. Its not an easy process. For others it can be, but I need to constantly improve and tweak my tracks until I’m happy, then, more often than not, I’m still not satisfied! But there comes a point when you need to let go and move on. I think it’s good to appreciate that music is never perfect, nor can it be, otherwise you’d be on an endless search for perfection, which in my opinion is no good for the soul.

What technology out there has had the greatest influence / helped with this evolution in style?

Ableton, for sure. It helped me understand the structure of 4/4 music. Before, I’d been into Logic, and I still am for its processing power and sound quality, but often when working I’d get stuck not being able to extend the loop I was working on, whereas Ableton is a little more creative and allows you to understand the flow of a track.

What bit of technology would you like to be invented that would help you to get the ideas out of your head and into people’s ears?

A technology that would answer your question!

Your next EP, ‘On The Streets’, is due out soon and you’ve said that the tracks “are my best studio work to date.” Can you tell us a little more about the release?

From an engineering point of view, they are certainly the best things I have worked on. You learn something from every release and, over time, you perfect your skills. The tracks are more in tune with the music I play, a little more groove based. Its weird, I don’t ever play my own records, as I feel what I produce isn’t necessarily what I play; I’m still to nail that part of production! Or maybe it’s just having the confidence. But this EP is the first time I’m really excited to play them and can fit them into my sets.

You set up your own label, also called Nofitstate. Is this something you’ve always wanted to do? How difficult has it been to get started? What would you say the ideology behind the label is?

I wanted to have a label that tied into the events that I organise. With Mulletover I never did that, nor did it feel right. I’ve ran a label before and know what’s required; it’s an enjoyable process but a labour of love. For me, the ideology is to mix visual pleasure (art) with dance orientated music. The whole thing is a creative process that I enjoy. I don’t like things that become part of a conveyor belt, which isn’t easy in today’s environment.

You’ve said before regarding the label that it’s about quality, not quantity. What is it you’ll be looking for when you select a track to release on the label?

Attention to detail from the producer so that the tracks can be timeless and revisited again.

Do you think that the way people now consume music, cherry-picking what they want in the search for instant gratification, has had an adverse influence on the music that is being produced? If so, who out there, for you, is fighting in the vanguard against this?

I don’t think anything has changed apart from the popularity of dance music. It’s easier to access and everyone, in my opinion, is just doing his or her thing. If anything, you need to make sure what you’re doing is as good as it can be to stand out from the rest.

Who are the major influences on both you as a DJ and a producer?

I’d say Danny Tanaglia, MAW (Masters At Work), Ricardo Villalobos and my mates have had the most influence on me. Every day I take influence from music and from what’s around me.

Have you any advice on how to get noticed for the aspiring producers out there?

Dedication and crafting your trade like anything else, try not to follow trends, do your own thing. If you lead from your heart you’re coming from the right place.

You’ve also built a solid reputation as a remixer. How different is that to producing your own tracks? Do you take a different approach to each?

Lots of producers complain about remixing, but for me I find it inspiring to work with someone else’s parts and ideas. Saying that, I haven’t remixed anything for a while and concentrated on original material. I think remixing is about putting your spin on something with original ideas taking more time effort.

What constitutes a good remix to you?

A good song.

Who out there is floating your boat remix-wise these days?

Roman Flugel’s remix of Daniel Avery was next level.

Where in the world is your favourite place to play and why?

P Bar in Berlin, as there are no rules.

You’ve played in a lot of legendary clubs around the globe; where’s left that you’d still like to tick off the list?

D Edge in Brazil.

Hasn’t Nofitstate got a huge party planned for the first May bank holiday? Can you tell us a little more about that?

We’ve got a special event planned with Point G (live), Franck Roger, S.A.M., A1 Bassline, Remi Mazet, Konkret Cutz & Mohson Stars. Super excited about the line-up and what’s in store. We haven’t done a bank holiday party before, and, with it running for so long, no doubt it’s going to get messy.

You’ve said that “Its not always easy following a passion, we’ll often make a whole load of mistakes and those mistakes define who we are.” What mistakes have you made that have ended up defining you?

You’ve been doing your homework! 😉 We make loads of mistakes and its about recognising those mistakes on a daily basis and putting the outcomes and what we learn to good use. Drinking Tequila from the bottle at Burning Man in the middle of the Playa during midday heat isn’t the best idea; year two lessons learnt.

You’re a big fan of vinyl. What is it about that format that attracts such devotion, even in this day and age? Have you got anything special lined up for this year’s Record Store Day?

It’s how I started buying records, going to Black Market on Saturday and soaking up the vibe in the shops. Playing on a pair of turntables makes sense and feels natural. For some reason it lends itself to telling a story, which is what playing records is about.

Do you still go out record shopping, or do you do most of it done online now?

Bit of both.

What are you top three favourite record shops from around the world and why?

Black Market its where I started buying records (RIP). Freebase Records in Frankfurt, as I’ve shopped there many times when playing at Robert Johnson. A1 Records in NYC, as it’s my second favourite city in the world.

You’ve lamented in the past about how the music industry revolves around hype. Is there too much style over substance?

Always!

What’s upcoming on your horizons? What about for Nofitstate, both the label and the night?

So far I have four EPs planned for this year, so my time is spent mostly in the studio. Label wise, we have an EP from myself, with remixes from Alex Kid and Snuff Crew, an EP from Dan Beaumont, including a remix from Mr Tophat & Art Alfie, our good friend Hugo Barritt delivers three original tracks digitally and we’re just talking to Alex Arount about doing an EP, which I’m well excited about! He’s a good friend and is someone I’ve wanted to work with for a while.

OK, a few fantasy questions now. If you could remix any artist out there, who would you go for?

Earth Wind & Fire would be pretty cool.

If you could team up with any other producer to make a track, who would that be? Or they be, for that matter?

Tom Yorke would be up there; he’s pretty epic.

If you could sign up any artist to Nofitstate, who would that be?

Brian Eno.

Who makes it onto your fantasy line-up for a club night?

Ricardo Villalobos, Matthew Herbert (live), Move D, DJ Harvey.