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John Askew chats about his career and his new three part album

Reported by Jess @ Trackitdown on March 7, 2006

So John, you’ve been involved in music in some shape or form for most of your life, you were firstly in a rock and roll band but then decided to grace the decks instead of the stage – what made you make this decision?

I grew up in the Wiltshire countryside where the likes of Universe and Fantasia were doing their massive raves every weekend so it got to the stage where loads of people I knew, who had previously been into rock music, were changing into full on ravers. I was in a band at the time and we had a big bust up one night. In a rage I went out and got smashed at the pub and some other mates were all off to Cornwall for one of my oldest friend’s birthday party which they planned to celebrated at a bit rave. I went with them and it blew me away. I sold my guitars and bought decks the next week. 

You’re involved in the music industry full time - does it have its trials and tribulations or would you not change it for the world?

I think every job, regardless of what industry you are in, probably has its highs and lows. Luckily, after 13 years of stuggling to get somewhere there are more good days than bad ones. Even if it was shit everyday though I would still be here. The one thing that keeps you going is the music and that is something I couldn’t live without. 

You’ve played at some of the biggest and best events the capital has to offer, as well as getting to travel all over the world and play abroad, what gigs can you say have been the most memorable and enjoyable and why?

At the moment my favourite gig in London is probably The Cross. I absolutely love that place. The atmosphere is incredible, but it’s the crowd that make the night. They are hugely receptive and little older than most other clubs making them slightly more open minded to different sounds. Abroad I love playing Monday Bar in Sweden, Ministry in Tai Pei and Afterhour Power in LA is also always fucking huge.  

You are involved in a string of different record labels and different sectors of the industry – which part do you find most enjoyable, performing and producing music or being involved behind the scenes?

I love it all, but the djing has to take poll position with making records closely in tail.

This is your first artist album – what took you so long to release it – are you just a perfectionist at heart?

Not at all. I’m just fucking lazy in a way. I can’t make a track in 2 or 3 days like other people. I get a certain way into it and then get bored out of my brains of hearing the same thing over and over again, so I have to leave it for a few weeks and then come back with fresh ears. Therefore the overall process take a lot longer….

The first cd is a totally un-mixed compilation of all your favourite productions – did you find it hard to choose the final track listing for this cd or have you always had your own personal favourites?

It was very hard actually. There were some more tracks that I really wanted to include, but when I decided I wanted full length unmixed tracks on there I obviously sacrificed the additional room that would’ve made it possible to get a few more tunes on there.

What factors made you choose those particular tracks and why?

I guess they are the tracks that I still play out the most.

The second cd is a totally live mix recorded earlier this year at The Gallery. What made you decide to go down a route that usually so many DJs opt to avoid and take the harder option by not mastering live mixes and leaving it exactly as it sounded on the night…?

I am not a big fan of DJ led albums mixed by computers which unfortunately most are these days. I think the fans of that dj are being conned. What I can’t get my head round is the fact that there are djs who are out there commanding huge sums of money to perform in clubs and yet they don’t feel their mixing abilities are good enough to use when it comes to putting an album together. This really gets to me.

I want my mixes to have the 100% live feel complete with any mistakes/imperfections – just like on all the old mix tapes I own from raves in the 90s. I wanted the Gallery crowd to listen back and know that they are hearing an EXACT rerun of what they heard on the night. No polishing, no editing, not airbrushing of imperfections. 

Were you nervous before doing the set as you knew it would be recorded and then there would be no going back?

Fuck yes! I was shitting myself a little, but as soon as the first mix was done and a few drinks had been sunk, I then relaxed and forgot about the recording and just got on with it.

The final cd is something that people usually don’t see on an artist album – let alone a debut -  a cd of poems, more alternative tracks and even a recording of some after-party banter! What made you decide to release a cd like this?

Well there are so many other sides to the clubbing experience that are rarely covered on albums. Especially trance ones. It’s all about making music for the dancefloor but there are so many other things that we have all experienced; come downs, depression, fear, paranoia, incredible highs, etc etc that don’t often get a look in. I wanted to make a collection of sounds that reflected my own experiences of these…. 

Perhaps the most stand out track on this cd is the 20 plus minute recording that you made of you and your friends at an after-party…total comedy and it just couldn’t have been rehearsed – was it really just a spur of the moment thing or did you have to do a few a recordings before you hit the jackpot?

I presume you are joking? I would never dream of doing anything rehursed or scripted. That would go against everything I want this album to stand for. What you hear on the track is 20 minutes of a 2 an a half hour conversation which I recorded and then edited down to size. I wanted to have 40 minutes of it on there but there wasn’t room. I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people who come back from a club to continue the carnage at someone’s house and just sit there talking utter bollocks for hours. We were at a mate’s house who lives next door to my studio, so I just nipped next door and got a mic and a minidisk recorder and sneaked it on the table between some cans. The sound quality is not amazing because of the mic placement – it picks up all kinds of sounds that resonate though the table, but I think it adds to the raw feel of the session.

And has your very mad friend now returned to earth and normality?

Ha ha! He’s actually really well behaved and health conscious in the week, but then when he gets on it, he really does the job thoroughly and goes fucking bonkers. Like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde he just switches into insane mode and does not stop spouting shit for days. It’s wonderful to watch, although it has confused some people who don’t know him and who have therefore made the mistake of thinking he is serious about some of the crap he is saying. Which is totally absurd. I mean, how could anyone believe a man who talks a great length about the painful emotional time in his life that he endured when he split up with The Jolly Green Giant – the character from the side of the sweetcorn tins.  

Thanks for your time John, will we be seeing you around in the near future or will you be taking a well-deserved break now after the release of this album?

I’m going to visit a mate in Cornwall for a few days over this coming weekend and next week, but then I’m back on it next week. I can’t be away from it all too long or I go into cold turkey mode.