Saturday, 15 November 2014

DJ FX Interview for Strictly Nuskool Blog

1.By way of a brief introduction, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My real name is Nick Richmond, and I'm from Kent in the South East of England. I've been using the pseudonym FX since I started buying records and getting into the rave scene around 92 or so - I'm not to be confused with the Scottish bouncy techno jock 'DJFX'!

I've been collecting records obsessively since I was around 14 or 15, having been introduced to the music via the seminal 'Hype' tapes, played in my mate's dad's car (shout to James 'Chunk' Burrows!) on the way to school. I often felt at the time that I got more education during that 15 minute journey than I got during the school day, when the focus would be mostly on making it through to lunchtime to either play footy, or sneak out down to the local record shop (Biting Back Records, big ups Mickey Finn, Doug and DJ Ollie!) to spend our pocket money... I also fondly remember recording crackly tapes of Cyndicut FM of a weekend, then waiting for months to bag the tracks that the DJs were playing on promo. I was totally starstruck when, years later, I finally scored a slot on the station in the late 90's and met some of the DJs that I had been worshipping as a kid.

2.How long have you been producing?

I've been producing for as long as I can remember. I used to have discussions with Chunk and others about how the tracks on our tapes were made and we came to the conclusion that it must be via whatever black magic could be concocted on these things called 'turntables'!

I begged and borrowed to land my first set of decks back then, which were the customary Soundlab belt drives but I remember later, in around 96 or so, saving for a long time to get Technics and feeling like I was ready to challenge Andy C when I first used them- they were so tight!

After realising that there was little you could really do production-wise on the decks, I remember around the same time another of my friends getting a commodore Amiga. I was fascinated by the graphics and sound which were state of the art at the time, so I begged my mum (RIP) to get me one, and for my birthday that year (and several others combined) she did! I spent the next few months bedroom-bound playing Speedball, Barbarian and Xenon etc, until one day Amiga Format magazine brought out a cover disk with a piece of software called SoundTracker on it, which was probably one of the first pieces of accessible music software available... I experimented, and got absolutely hooked! I used to record Colin Dale's techno radio show onto tape of a night, then the next day record samples into my Amiga and rearrange them into basic tracks. I still have copies of those early tunes somewhere, but they will probably remain for my ears only - for the good reason that they are absolutely rubbish!

3.When you did start listening to jungle/hardcore and how were you introduced to the sound?

As I mentioned earlier, my first exposure to hardcore and jungle was in my mates dad's car in the early 90's. We used to listen to Altern8, Rising High records stuff, and The Prodigy. There was another great track around at the time by Blockbuster called 'Give Us an E', and I think the tape was pretty much worn thin on that section!

I was one of just a handful of kids buying records at school, so whenever there was a party it would normally fall to us to provide the sounds, be it it in the back room of the local pub, or a Social Club somewhere. Other kids I was mixing it up with at the time were Dan Daly from Sunshine Records, and my partner in crime to this day, Tim Becker (DJ Becks).

The earliest raves I went to were some of the World Dances down at Lydd airport and Docklands, which really got me into the scene and were a great way to find out about what tunes were coming out, or just to hang out with other like minded people.

4. As a producer, you favour the 'darkcore' sound that was prevalent from late 92 through to 94, undoubtedly one of the most innovative musical periods of the rapidly evolving rave scene, what is it that 'draws you to the darkside' ?

I love the late 92 / early 93 era of the rave scene, because it is a time when I feel that there was most experimentation going on with the breakbeat sound. Producers were really getting to grips with their samplers, and making the tracks very energetic and exciting, literally anything was going and all kinds of crazy sounds were popping up! There is little or no focus on production polish, so it's all about the soul and vibe.

When we were buying records early on, Tim would pick up lots of the uplifting piano tracks, so I would get jungle and the darker stuff. Between us, we have a real solid history of the depths of the rave scene in the 93-98 era, all on wax.

My other obsession, apart from records, is horror films. It's pretty well documented which films have contributed to some of the biggest dark side tracks of the era, such as The Evil Dead (Scotty) and Marked For Death (loads of tunes!) etc, but I really love digging out new samples from others in the genre to make pads, or a hook for a track. There's plenty of legs left in this sound yet, trust me!

5. You must have a few all time favourite tracks from the era, can you name a few?

There are a few tracks that never leave my box. Some of my favourites are: Whitehouse Crew 'Where the Sun Don't Shine'. I use this as a reference track when mixing down my own material, it's so heavy and has all the elements to make a great darkside track: doom-laden pads, deep bass, crisp, energetic breaks and some cool vocal snippets.

Goldseal Tribe's 'You Will Die' is another killer. When I play this out, it either results in a sea of screwfaces and knowing nods... Or the dance floor empties, depending on how hardcore people are! No-nonsense orchestral stabs (I think from a Bond movie), lashings of breaks and the sinister 'You will die' vocal looped over the top, makes for a real paranoia inducing five and a half minutes of pain!

Another great piece of wax is 'Darker Side of Evil' by Mega City 2. I'd recommend anything by these guys, but this one particularly stands out, as the production detail and creativity are jaw-dropping. Way ahead of its time.

6. If you could have produced alongside anyone from the oldskool era, who would it have been?

I think a fair amount of pioneering in this genre was done by the guys up in the midlands and, for that reason, I'd give my left arm for just five mins in the studio with Tango and Fallout! Pretty much anything with their names on from 1993 is essential, and is always going to be a benchmark that 'new' dark side tracks are measured against. I've been fortunate enough to meet both in recent years, and they are absolute legends and really cool to talk to. I'm also incredibly lucky to have Fallout's old Akai S950 in my studio, which is one of the central parts of my rack and definitely an inspiration to use.

7. Tell us a bit about your label, Demonic Possession

I started Demonic Possession simply as an outlet for my jungle musings and a definite way of making tracks final, which can be difficult in the modern sea of production tools and plugins. There's no way of going back to edit a tune once the lacquer is cut!

It's definitely not a money making venture, as anyone else who is running a vinyl label will attest to, but there is something very satisfying about pressing records, as opposed to releasing your creative efforts into the digital void. It's something I will always do exclusively with stuff on the label as l think it stands as a mark of respect to the track, to actually put in onto a physical format.

Running a record label is also something I've always wanted to do, but another factor is that after filling in most of the gaps of my collection thanks to Discogs and eBay, I now struggle to find fresh oldskool material on vinyl for DJing, so I have to make my own!

8. You have a really authentic sound, its as if the tracks you make really are from 93/94 albeit with superior production and sound quality, do you use hardware from that era to get that spot on sound?

The first three releases on Demonic Possession are created purely on software, using a secret formula of plugins to dirty up the sound! One of the key aspects though is that I created an environment in Logic that resembles as closely as possible an oldskool analogue studio. It's strictly limited to 16 tracks, only has a couple of reverbs and a delay on 3 busses, and the sampler uses just 8 outputs at a time. I don't use 15 compressors on every channel and I avoid using modern filter sweeps and effects that might sound out of place in a 93 style track. Working within these limitations really gets you into the mindset of how engineers in bedroom studios back in the day would have to work.

Nowadays I am working on hardware with a couple of Akai S950s, and a few outboard synths (Korg M1, Roland JV1080 etc) for pads and layers. I run these into a 24 channel audio interface for mixdown inside Logic, which for me really is the best of both worlds; authentic oldskool sounds, and all the advantages of a modern DAW for mixdowns. My next releases will be straight out of this set up, so I can't wait to find out how they are received!

9. Why in your opinion did it 'go all dark' post 93? I don't think many could dispute that the ravescene has had one of the fastest developing soundtracks, from the early 90s, right through to the current day. Every year has a different flavour, and the dark side sound was no exception. I think a lot of what had come in the previous year was quite uplifting and musical, and so someone was always bound to flip the switch to make something new and distinct. The healthy competition between producers to really push the boundaries and create something bigger and badder than everything else is still one of the factors that defines the scene to this day.

The fact that the scene was moving so fast musically, especially back then, I think means that there is still probably quite a lot of space still to explore within each of the subsections, although I hate to pigeonhole the music in that way. As long as people are making the style they enjoy making and not following a trend, then the quality of music tends to be a lot higher; the trends will naturally follow.

10. Are there any current producers and labels you would recommend?

Special props to Simon at 7th Storey Projects and Jude at Yellow Machines, who have shown faith (or madness!) and released my stuff on vinyl over the last couple of years, amongst some other seriously credible artist's work. Also Allan and the lads at Kode5, who are doing a great job at unearthing and promoting new artists in the scene.

But also, for quality releases, supporting the vinyl scene and generally keeping the pressing plants busy with oldskool style wax, I'd recommend checking out: Switchblade Vinyl 6109 Records (Blog to the Oldskool) Green Bay Wax Criterion Records Scientific Wax Retro

11. Anything in the pipelines music wise from yourself and Demonic Possession?

Demonic Possession is definitely a 'seasonal' affair, so I've kept it quiet in the summer while the great weather was maintaining everyone's high spirits! Now the nights are drawing back in a bit though, I've been locked in the studio getting a couple more devilishly dark bits lined up for release in various places. The first will probably come in digital form on a special Halloween release that the Blog to the Oldskool label are arranging, and I'll follow this up with Demonic Possession Volume 4 on vinyl in the late autumn. I'm also weighing up some stuff from a few other producers that I think will really add something to the label's scope, but with the focus still squarely on the dark and deranged end of the spectrum

12. Thanks for taking the time to speak with Strictly Nuskool Blog, any last words and shout outs?

Apart from the others mentioned earlier here, I'd like to make a special mention of thanks to my family who regularly put up with all sorts of horrifying screams and torture samples emanating from my studio at all hours! Also shouts to my Rewind! rave gang; DJ Becks, Dan Rewind, Maxim, Maverick and the other regulars at our parties.

Finally, if you like your beats rare and scary, then you can catch me quite often on the weekend on Radio Frontline, amongst some of the scenes serious movers and shakers from back in the day! Big ups! 

DJ FX's next release on Demonic Possession is due out very soon, stream a preview below and check the info for more details


Twitter: @DP_Recordings

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