I always feel that as a DJ, my music, my style, and the way I play is very unique. Ive got my own thing and I would think it would be a crime for me not to be touring the world on a weekly basis.
Chatting down the line from his office at The End, acid house pioneer turned elder statesman of dance music Mr C is characteristically confident about his abilities as hes been since the start.
I think its important for me to be sharing my music and my style because it is very forward thinking, its very up front, very futuristic and very innovative, he insists, And I think that needs to be shared with as much of the world as possible.
Making his name as one of the original rave DJs on Londons nascent acid house scene of the late 80s, he went on to front The Shamen and their infamous number 1 hit Ebeneezer Goode before opening up the End in 1995 with Layo, soon after coining the term tech-house. Ten years on, he remains closely associated with both tech-house and the End, though has just switched his Saturday night party Superfreq to AKA every Sunday, a move hes equally bullish about.
Ive always played at The End once a month up until now and now that Ive switched to Sundays this is actually my first weekly residency in London since 1989 which is exciting, he says.
Its very different from the Saturday club and I think Im already enjoying it more. I miss obviously playing down in the main room on the main system, but theres something about a Sunday where the crowd is just that bit cooler. They are a little more specialist and tend to be people coming down to the club because they really want to be there, rather than just going out randomly on a Saturday night.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): What are the other key differences doing Superfreq on a Sunday night brings?
Mr C: We can also make the night a lot cheaper, the DJs playing for me, for example, charge a lot less. Its a fun thing and more about having a fun get together and enjoying a good vibe. For us DJs its always on the Fridays and the Saturdays that were looking for the biggest gigs in the biggest clubs that have the most profile and the most money. Thats the norm of being a DJ and thats what our careers are all about. But when it comes to doing midweek gigs or Sundays, it becomes more about doing something for passion and for fun. I think this has really helped with the club, I think people are finding the vibe more friendly.
Skrufff: Musically, where are you at, at the moment?
Mr C: The same place Ive always been at, playing modern, forward thinking, psychedelic, sexy electronic dance music. If you want to call it something you could call it minimal-maximal, or electro house, acid house, or tech house without the bongos and the congas thats not so organic. Or you could call it electro house with a punky, rocky but very fun edge. I play all forms of music that are forward thinking, innovative and sexy, thats the best way to describe it.
Skrufff: How do you balance the commercial demands, commitments and opportunities with keeping the underground ethos of it?
Mr C: I dont really. Good quality underground electronic house and acid house, people are saying its the new funky house. Lots of people that were into more commercial music before are now developing their taste and getting into something altogether more specialist and I think thats why electro house and minimal is all really exploding on a global scale. So I think the music is underground in itself and the fact that the underground is becoming commercial is great so I dont really have to do any work to make a balance. The Dolls At Play (his resident Superfreq female DJs) are very, very attractive good looking girls that mix up underground music and theres a great balance in itself. I think the style and the fashion side of what we do at Superfreq is very, very important but I think as long as we keep the music underground and forward thinking and innovative I think we wont have to make any other compromise. I think it can balance itself out with a good looking, well dressed, up for it, crowd with good quality music. I think its about time those two things joined together.
Skrufff: What do you make of rockstars and celebrities DJing these days?
Mr C: I have no idea who you are talking about so I have absolutely no opinion.
Skrufff: What do you make of todays political climate towards dance culture, do you think it has stayed the same as ever or has it changed?
Mr C: No. Its changed. We are allowed to stay in clubs 24 hours and drink now. Six months ago you couldnt drink past three oclock in London. I think that just that single law changing has added so much fuel to the dance music fire. I think it was a great move for the dance music industry generally. It will make it stronger, it will make clubbing stronger as it has at The End, there will be more people going out, there will be more people enjoying the music, therefore there will be more people making music, more labels coming through, I think it is all fantastic now, for the UK, now the UK has got into line with the rest of Europe it can just be a positive thing. London is already a Mecca of dance music and is the dance music capital of the world. People from Berlin would want to put their boxing gloves on and argue that, but its been like that in London for the last 25 to 30 years, ever since people were dancing to Kool And The Gangs Get Down On It. The fact that dance music in London is still going strong shows it will always be a leader and an inspiration to other cities around the world. Now its getting stronger I think that can only help on a worldwide level, because people look to London for their inspiration.
Skrufff: You are clearly as passionate about club culture as ever, have you ever had periods along the way where you have become jaded or lost heart?
Mr C: Never. Though in 1989 I nearly quit but not since then.
Skrufff: Why was that?
Mr C: Because I worked really hard through 1987/1988 to help build something like this acid house movement which wed built up really well and it was really kicking in and everything was really fantabulous, then all of a sudden, I was asked to play at the Astoria at Trip or Sin, not sure which one, both were really the same thing. I said no, I dont really want to play there and they were like why not? We hear you are really, really good. I said Well, thats a matter of opinion. I dont think Id be good for your club, because yours is a commercial club, it was basically copying what we were doing with the acid house scene, but with all the commercial hits.
So I said My stuffs a bit more underground, I dont think youd want it, but they insisted so I said OK, Ill play. Then forty-five minutes into my set they kicked me off the decks. I asked why and they said because our friends dont know the music and they cant tell where the joins are. I was like Ah, OK. I came off the decks and the next DJ, who shall remain nameless, came on and played six of the records that I played in my forty five minutes and it went off. When I was playing it took me fifteen minutes to get the crowd to sort of think, hold on a minute, whats this? Then another fifteen minutes to establish a groove. Then in the last fifteen minutes I had them dancing on the tables, it was starting to kick off in there. There was a proper underground vibe going on. It was at that moment, when it was the last moment I should have been kicked off the decks that they kicked me off.
At that point I just said to myself what the f++k am I doing this for? If its just going to be cheese, this is not what Im in this music for. Im not doing this to be a cheesy big-name DJ. Im doing this to play quality music to people that want to hear something innovative and different. At that point I was like: Im quitting. I decided to stop and the next two or three weeks after that basically all my mates wouldnt allow me stop. They were like; What about us? Who are we going to listen to now? Where are we going to go now? What about everyone that is into it? What about the underground crew you have built up for the last two years? They persuaded me not to quit and since then Ive never had the same problem.
Skrufff: Do you meet many producers or DJs these days who remind you of yourself on your travels?
Mr C: Not really. Im quite a unique sort of person. Sometimes I see people that have a fun attitude. Im an individual so I have never really thought, Oh wow, hes very much like me, that person. No. That goes for as well, Ive never really heard a DJ and thought Wow he sounds like me.
Skrufff: Can you recognize the same passion in many people? Or drive?
Mr C: Oh yes. All the big DJs that are up for a good time have the same passion as me, whether it be Damien Lazarus, Layo And Bushwaka,, whoever it is, all the DJs that are up for enjoying the society in which we have created have the same passion as me.
Superfreq takes place every Sunday night at AKA (The End), London
Jonty Skrufff (JontySkrufff.com)