Friday, August 13, 2010
Early this year I did an interview with Kismet from Circle for the sleeve notes of his Rinse mix CD, which remained unpublished until now. For my Pitchfork column this month I interviewed Tippa. It felt wrong that these interviews would not be published in full: find them both below.
But before that... lots of the things they said fitted patterns I recognized but the conversations really clarified this cycle in my head:
The cyclical relationship between ownership and definition that drives the nuum…
1. Distant from the mainstream music industry, nuum members find a defined genre they like (often an overseas one) - but don’t own - and adopt it.
2. The process changes from adoption to reproduction of their own versions of the genre – accurately or inaccurately. This imprecise mutations causes new variants and at this time definition is low i.e. the sound is undefined and the rate of mutation is high. This is the “Wot do U Call It?” moment i.e. jungle ‘93, UK garage ’95, dubstep ‘01, grime ‘02, UK funky ‘07… dubbage in 2010?
3. As more and more mutations appear they begin to cluster and have higher definition separate from the original, adopted genre and this attracts external interest from early adopters i.e. forward thinking DJs, interested producers, bloggers, on-it A&Rs, club promoters…
4. As the mutations become more defined, they are more easily exported, finding a new audience beyond the core nuum – this process is often driven by a financial and reputation economy. Yet the process of finding a new audience for this newly defined sound also decreases the ownership by the core nuum members as external players take a business or leadership interest. As ownership is fundamental to the original nuum players, they then return to step 1., driving the cycle around once more.
I guess I see the dubbage sound at stage 1 and edging into stage 2, whereas dubstep has gone through 4 in recent times and some of the participants are at stage 1 & 2 now, perhaps even 3. Anyway, enough of my cycles and patterns...
Blackdown: So is it true Circle started on a Christmas Day and can you describe why you began the party?
Tippa: 2006 Xmas day was the first Circle event. We had all spoke about doing our own event from around Sept/Oct but just didn't have the time to sit down and plan. I decided December that year to see if there were any venues about and available, me and Nadeene found a nice intimate restaurant large bar in City road. Liaised with Feva at length, told him xmas day would work because those days none did anything on a xmas day. You eat and relax, I couldn't see why we wouldn't be busy or why it wouldn't be a success.
He agreed we went ahead, decided we would try to keep it a personal affair and give people invites to attend. That way we could kinda have a influence on the people that were attending making it easier to control any problems on the night should they occur. Rest is history.
Circle came about because of certain individuals who were running a pirate radio station that we appeared didn’t like the fact that some of the scenes leading DJs were linking together, building something that they could not control or be a part of. They labelled us in a station meeting 'that little circle' simply because we didn't want to share tunes we bought and shared with each other, with the whole station as other DJs were complaining...
B: Can you describe a typical Circle rave and raver?
T: Typical Circle Rave… erm… a new generation of 20-early 30 somethings raving to music & atmosphere that was very similar to UK garage at its peak, but with a sound that has been around for years but re jigged, refreshed, and re energised into what we call dubbage.
Typical raver: people will say our crowd’s ghetto, but really, there are no ghetto's in the UK there are poor parts, but nothing on the scale of the states or parts of third world countries. We’re middle class, our people are middle class. Some are aggressive, some are super cool, 80% are super sexy girls, who pretty up themselves in the most expensive dresses and shoes they can get from west end to rave at Circle. They express themselves in ways other house raves/events before could only dream of.
I can say hand on my heart, you come to a Circle event, you will turn round to me and say ‘Tipaa.. where the fuck did all these girls come from? Thats what type of party it is.’
B: Why did you decide to have Circle parties as ‘invite only?’
T: I think it’s because of that first event, that worked so well in us controlling the people and issues that goes hand in hand with events like these and idiots intent on making trouble. It just helped us in a really big way because of this we have never really had any over probmatic problem at our events.
If I’m honest I personally want to get rid of it or review the whole mailing list/invite system as it works in parts, but now because we've grown to a 700-1000 people event, It’s hard to keep control of people that come, so we have to look at it as a big event now and not a intimate party as more and more people want to attend because all their friends are talking about it, or the younger heads hear their older siblings gassing about how good the last event was etc... We have to look at it together and decide.
B: How would you describe your MCing/hosting style?
T: I just talk to the people man. Plain and simple. I get to the venue, have a walk around, have a look, judge to myself what can work, what cant, grab a drink and go from there. I like the fact that at the min, I'm like the only one in this new generation that can hand on heart claim to be a host. EVERYONE in funky claims to be a HOST but ask them what they can do without the 8 & 16 bar lyrics and the answer will be fuck all. This is not me being big headed, this is me being real
B: I love how you say ‘our style/our music’ – can you describe what that means, musically? How is it like or unlike other types of house right now?
T: Just means it’s something that we brought to a new generation. This is what we push, what we fully believe in, what we want to create when making music but with our influence, and not influences from the states like most UK artist portray in their music. Because let’s be honest, a lot of deep house can be boring and shit, a large portion of it.
B: Who is the full Circle crew and what DJs do you rate at the moment?
T: Circle in full are: Supa D, Kismet, Feva, IC, Tippa & Gemini. I don’t overly rate any DJ's to be fair apart from Kismet Feva, IC & Supa. For me that's a dream team. Away from Circle, I've been listening to a lot of different DJs producers not just from the house scene but dubstep, crossover etc. Martin Iverson, Osulade, TMB, DJ Sneek, Shur-I-Kan, Zinc, Emlkay, Magnetic Man. I think at the min I'm trying to get a wide overview on music in the UK as a whole, but I think that's because of all the alternative bookings I've been doing as of late with Geeneus & Katy B
B: I’ve heard about the Circle, Yellow, DPMO and Adultz Only parties, are there any other raves you see as part of the Circle family?
T: Its My House is probably the only other one you could add I guess. The only thing that links these events is that they are run buy or connected to someone within Circle and works to a similar ethos of Circle.
B: I’ve heard talk of DJs like APlus spending loads of time listening through hundreds of new releases to fit the right tracks for the Circle sound, is this one of the main ways tracks get sourced?
T: Yeah most defo. I used to buy vinyl for Myself, Feva & IC and it was the same then, searching all the sites and shops for new tracks and hard to find gems, paying over the odds sometimes on eBay etc. Its filtered through to MP3 and the same ethos... between April - June they was like 17-20Gb worth of music downloaded by Kismet & APlus to sieve through, which we all have a go at and then pass on to each other... its part & parcel of staying on top and playing sounds that we feel fit into what we want others to hear and follow.
APlus was one of those DJs that we instantly got on with when we made the move to Rinse, he was in a similar mould, he was learning, he openly admitted that he followed us and was happy to let that be known. We took to him, he helped us, we helped him. He brought something to the table. If he was about those days when we all first come together he would probably be certified Circle. He's family, he knows he is. It’s all love when it comes to Aplus.
B: Kismet has been producing recently, how would you describe the results? What style is he coming with would you say?
T: Kismet's sound is straight dubbage. Because he downloads so much music his sound knowledge is amazing at the min. Every tune he has made is complete different from the one before. But he always keeps it dubby, dubbage. IC is also producing, he's style is dubbage, but its more rollers that roll continuously. Kismets will actually take you on a journey at times. He's got that early WBeeza mould going on. That's probably because there actually good and close mates. He just needs to push the music out and sort his paper work and legal stuff with PRS and musicians union etc.
B: Some people might not be clear how your house sound is different from UK funky because they both come from house and from London, could you describe how you’re different?
T: Its just deep house but from a younger generations prospectus. We sieve through loads of shit, pick out the best, add energy through being technical on the decks CDJs, myself on the mic doing what I do and pow.
Well that's how it started, but now were running with this dubbage sound, IC & Kismet are actually making music using our influences and no-one else's. It’s not just your basic tribal beat then any old melody, bass line and dead-singer-that-cant-sing-live-to-save-her-life like most so-called UK Funky. It’s more intelligent, more of a experimental dubby ting that you will actually feel on a decent sized sound system.
B: Why is it important to have things like “over 23’s” and “Smart Casual Dress Code: No Hats, No Hoods, No Hooded Jackets” etc?
T: Then it was, now it’s not really important to be fair, it’s another thing we are looking at reviewing... Its evolution, it might change, it might not... it’s getting harder to control, but like at the start it was implemented to help us control the type of ravers we desired. Now with so many different followers from all walks of life in theory it should change but again it’s something we all have to agree with.
B: Can you tell me about the role of MCs within the scene? It’s quite different to, say, grime or UK funky right?
T: The role of a host, if that's what you want in your event is to compliment the music. As simple as that, from when it gets about them, and all attention is on them and not the DJ and the tune that's playing then you've gone wrong. I always make it about what the DJ is doing, the tune that's on, and the people’s reaction to that tune. End of.
(Conducted earlier this year.)
Blackdown: So how did you go about picking the tracks?
Kismet: It was just a collection of tunes that I was playing at the time that I felt, that I was into and liking at the time, that we generally feel on our radio show and out in the clubs. You might have heard them on a few of my mix CDs that we give out. So it’s just a collection of tunes really.
B: So did you try and play particularly upfront or classics or…?
K: Nah, it’s more upfront. Because I feel in a sense, the sound that we play is more upfront, more pushing the newer music and a lot of newer producers that are coming through. Most of them I put on the tracklist I’ve probably never heard of, but it doesn’t matter if I’ve heard of them or where their music comes from, it’s just a case of ‘I like it?’
B: For your sound, where are the hotbeds of talent, where are the places where a whole bunch of producers are coming out of right now?
K: I wouldn’t even say there’s one particular place because when I was doing a bit of research to find out where they’re coming from they was from all over the world: Europe, South America, Argentina, South Africa. South Africa the scene is obviously big there at the moment, it growing and I do actually speak to a couple of people from over there.
B: Is that the kwaito thing or more traditional house music?
K: House music, in general in South Africa that’s growing at the moment. So I’ve got music from there, Amsterdam, UK of course, just all over. No one particular sound. A lot of people think that a lot of house music is US dominated because obviously those are the main guys and where a lot of it stems from, just the main players in the game tend to be the US artists but I don’t even think there’s one US artist on there, though I could be wrong. There’s no standout names that everybody would be familiar with. Not to say I don’t feel their music and I incorporate it in my sets but I dunno that just happened to be the collection of music that I was feeling at the time.
B: So would you think of your sound of being more of an international or a local sound…
K: I would say it’s an international sound, and that kinda shows in where the music is coming from: all over the world. As long as you make good music, there’s a worldwide market, it’s not really UK based.
B: It’s interesting because you came on board to Rinse at the same time as lots of the UK funky producers and they talk about their sound as being very local, it’s a London thing.
K: Yeah I would say that the funky is a London thing. To me how I look at how it’s gone is it was always house in the beginning, from back in the day 94-95, before that, and then the English caught onto that and it became “house & garage” and we grew our own sound from it again. It then became UK garage which evolved to grime, dubstep… and it’s done the whole cycle again when house has come back in. From that has stemmed UK funky, whereas last time it was “house & garage,” now it’s “house & funky”. So to me it’s followed that same pattern. It’s just one big cycle and who knows what’s going to evolve from UK funky? Something will. So that’s how I see it happening, it’s just all happened all over again.
B: So how does your sound differ from UK funky?
K: I would say it’s more intelligent – not every house track has a certain intelligence about them, some house tracks you can listen to and it’s simple but effective and does the job – but for me it’s more better produced, it generally seems to have more soul as well, in the music. Generally if I listen to a UK funky track I don’t hear enough soul in the track, and generally I’m a very soulful guy. Obviously I do play deep stuff, soulful house but I love all forms of house. So it differs: the whole quality of the sound and production is not the same.
B: To me a lot of the stuff you guys play seems to avoid bassline drops, is that fair?
K: Yeah it doesn’t have to have a bassline it can have all different kinds of stuff, we love all of it. It could be keys, piano, saxophone going on – as long as it’s got a good musical element going on, then it’s something we can bump to, for whatever reason. Sometimes I’ll play a track and I’ll be listening back to it over and over and I’m like it doesn’t do much but it gets the job done. The key elements are just there to make you move and make you want to dance. Other tracks can be more involved with more in the track and we love it for the real musical elements.
B: So I interviewed Geeneus and Supa D about three years ago when the funky thing was first breaking and Marcus NASTY about a year ago for his Rinse CD and one of the things they say they like about UK funky – regardless what you might think about the music – is the ownership of the scene. So with this house sound, do you feel you can have your place in this global house sound?
K: There’s a lot of competition but house appeals to millions of people and so there’s more of an audience, whereas the UK funky there’s not really much of an audience, it’s not a globalised music. So you’ve got millions of people out there that some way, some how, you will end up, perhaps by chance their friend recommends listening to their mixes. There are ways into it, but now I’ve been into it for a bit I realise a good way of getting into it is to make music. It’s a global music so if you can get it to the right places and to be heard then you can generally create an interest. So I’ve started to dabble in the productions of things. It’s the way into the market. First coming into the scene years ago you come into it one way and you see, these guys like Dennis Ferrer, Osunlade, Luis Vegas and they are the main guys that you hear about but as time goes on you go deeper into the music you see that that’s a lot more happening that what you just see there. But there’s a lot more other DJs with different styles of house music. They’ll still getting the same about of love and bookings all around the world. A prime example is a producer who I obviously play all the time, W Beeza and I featured on of his tracks on the Rinse CD. I kinda discovered him in his bedroom years ago and I kinda said to him ‘you are gonna do well.’ Now he’s gone with a label, Third Ear, and the label is not a mainstream label that everyone’s more familiar with but they’ve got their own thing going on, their own scene. So he’s doing alright now, playing Japan, Ireland, Vienna, festivals in Barcelona and he’s just come off the back of two or three releases.
B: Can you tell me more about him because he’s probably my favourite producer from the more straight house sound?
K: When I first met him he was in his bedroom making house in his headphones and that. This is going back for or five years now.
B: How did you meet him?
K: I met him through a friend, who said he was really good. We met up and he played me loads of stuff and I was amazed. At the time I think he was 18, and I was amazed. I was like ‘your sound can appeal to.. anyone.’ Since he’s had his first released its kinda opened his eyes. He was kinda in his room and not really had a lot of confidence, he wasn’t out and about and he didn’t know what was going on, on the scene. So I actually brought him out, took him to places made him see what was going on, made him meet couple people, and they were like ‘yeah we’re feeling your music’ and then he’s had a few releases and it’s just taken off from there. And the scene he’s playing to is not the major forefront , he’s not playing with your Louis Vegas and such and such, but he’s still playing on a good scene that I would enjoy playing on. So it’s just where you fit in really.
B: Do you know how he came to produce for Giggs?
K: Beeza, he’s multi-talented, he doesn’t just make house music. House is his first true love, but when I met him years ago he played me rap beats, r&b, jazz beats, drum & bass... everything. And he makes all this music to a good, good quality. It makes me think ‘hold on a minute, you can actually make any style of music.’ He’s that talented. You’ll just sit in the studio with him and he’ll play any kind of music and you’ll think ‘wow. ‘ But Beeza’s from Peckham, and Giggs is from the same estate that they grew up on. So they kept in contact, Giggs asked him for a beat and found one he liked. And at the time, Beeza said the beat was four years old. He gave it to Giggs not thinking it would attract the amount of interest and what it was gonna do. It was his first release of his album, called “Mmmm…” or something like that.
B: So which producer after W Beeza are you most excited about next?
K: To be honest with you, there’s someone on the station called Lighter, he does Rinse Monday 3-5 and he’s multi talented. He reminds me of Beeza but he’s just not that dedicated, onto it, but the talent’s there. Whereas Beeza was just locked into the studio… I supposed you got to be like that to master it, perfect your skill. But for me Beeza was a special moment, I just knew from the first five tunes he played me.
B: So to someone’s who’s never been, can you tell me about the Circle parties and how they started?
K: It was more of a collective of people that came together. We just shared the same interests and music. I think at the time we came together there was a lot of the same stuff going on, a lot of DJs were playing the same music. Not really no one differentiating themselves from anyone else.
B: So what kind of sound were you looking for?
K: I dunno, just whatever we liked, whether it was soulful, whether it was deep, we just rolled through it. Cool, this is what we’re gonna do… and we done that. It’s funny because it started with people kinda making a joke ‘oh yeah, those circle guys…’ That’s how it started. ‘Those guys in that circle’ because we were buying tunes together and sharing tunes. So we just took the name and ran with it. The parties and raves and that, we just tried to take what we do on the radio and mixes and then take it to the clubs because we thought that wasn’t really happening at the time and everything was the same.
B: When was the first Circle party?
K: Christmas Day 2006
B: Christmas Day? That’s a brave day to start!
K: Yeah but it was good, that’s probably the most memorable one and what started it all off. That’s the one that lives in everyone’s memory to this day. It was in Young’s Wine Bar in Old Street, like a little Chinese restaurant, bar. We just wanted to start out small. It was a memorable one to go down.
B: I spoke to Tippa about it a few years ago and it seemed to be invite only, and to attend you had to give your phone number, your email, your home address etc
K: We just wanted to give people a bit of exclusivity. Normally you can just go, buy a ticket and pay your money. But we wanted people to feel like they were part of something. It wasn’t just any rave. We wanted them to feel part of something and actually create something and help it grow. That’s how we looked at it. And all the members who joined we wanted to create a following where they knew what they were coming to hear and knew what they were going to get. There were people who were following what we were doing and appreciated and how we were doing it. When we’d do an event we’d never promote it, you’d just get an invite through the post. Most promoters would have flyers outside raves, promotional mix CDs but we never went about it that way. The exclusivity is what drew people as well as that wasn’t really being done at the time. It worked and it still works to this day. A year ago we decided to have a Circle two weeks before the event and we didn’t even send out invites, we just sent it out to the emailing list and 500 people turned up. That was just off the mailing list. We try to run them three or four times a year. The problem is with venues now. Coming from 150-200 capacity people to now where we can expect 500 people, it’s a problem in London finding a venue. But we have one scheduled for May.
B: So you use MCs or hosts right? That’s different to mainstream house…
K: Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being in a club and hearing straight house music, I don’t have a problem with that, but obviously the crowd we have… when I’m on the radio most times I’ll have K or Tippa because sometimes I find being on the radio and just playing is boring. People like to interact. When we are on the radio we get people messaging from all over the world. They like to interact with us and speak to us, and me as a DJ I want to just get on with playing the music so moretime I like to have a host on my show to man the phone, interact with the people, do the shout outs…
B: Feedback: it’s a circle!
K: Whereas being on the radio for two hours, some people come on the mic every half hour and that’s it. But when I’m on the radio or in a club I’ve got an energy, I’m on a vibe. So the host gives shout outs to people on their birthdays. But there are also events that we do that there are no MCs and there’s just straight music all night.
B: I like it because the music you play is closer to a global house sound but this adds a local, London twist to it.
K: Yeah the people generally do like it.
B: With all the data for the invites, was it also so the parties were safe?
K: Yeah you make it all safe, know your audience and who’s coming and who’s not coming. But its leaning more to the exclusivity and making it more personal. Obviously it’s good to know who’s coming to your party, good to be able to say this is how we conduct our parties.
B: I just ask because with grime raves and some UK funky people are worried to some extent about the ‘road’ element and I get the sense that maybe the housier stuff wants to get away from all that, though perhaps it’s the other way around…
K: Erm, I dunno, the Circle parties are all safe. And obviously we play out all the time so there’s no problems like ‘you can’t play at this event or that event…’ Thought they were doing that in London for a bit. But it’s more quietened down. But it’s weird, it’s just something that’s part of the scene that’s happened, that’s come along due to certain situations. I dunno I think it will happen with any urban scene. So whatever the next music is gonna be and that the urban scene are following, then that’s what’s gonna happen. It’s just a constant circle that whatever the urban scene jumps on, they’ll be on it.
B: So what does it mean to you to be on Rinse?
K: Ah I love being on Rinse, I think it was the best possible move that I made at the time. It’s a wider audience and they’re more open to whatever’s been played on the station, they take an interest and they listen. Obviously there’s the global thing. It’s nice being on the radio and you get people messaging you from all over the world: Australia, America, Europe.
B: What station were you on before?
K: I was on Déjà before. But I think being on Rinse has made me realise they have more sense of direction. They know what they’re doing and they always want to be at the forefront of things and they always want to make things happen. And it’s not just about being on the station, playing some music and paying your subs. Leaving Deja and coming onto Rinse made me realise all that. I’m not saying I’m not grateful to Deja – I had a nice show and it was popular – but it was just time to go forward.
B: Tell me about the term “dubbage” what does it mean to you and your sound?
K: Haha, we get this a lot… Not everything we play is dubbage, but certain tracks that we play, it’s just a term that we use to describe that sort of beat, that sort of sound. Certain bits are real deep, yeah it’s got a bass thing going on. So yeah, we say it’s just ‘dubbage.’ It’s not nothing new, it’s not a new genre, it’s not a new sound and it’s not like we’re trying to create something new, it’s just a term that we use to describe what we’re playing and what we like. We don’t just use that term: sometimes we say ‘that’s crackish!’ Because that’s got a mad little crackish sound to it.
B: Did Geeneus’ tune “Crackish” get named by you guys?
K: What happened that day was Tippa went to the studio and Gee said ‘what do you think of this?’ and Tippa said ‘oh yeah, that’s crackish…’ And it just stuck, there. That’s how it went down. ‘Yeah that’s crackish…’ and it just stuck with the tune.
B: How did you choose the name Kismet, because the word has a lot of different meanings?
K: To be honest with you I used to go to one rave a long time ago, an old school garage rave back in ’98-99 at Grays Inn Road [read more about how influential Grays Inn was to Soulja and Supa D here], 6am until 4pm, every Sunday, raving. And that actual night was called Kismet. My friend started taking the piss out of me, like ‘ah, you’re Kismet now…’ and I was stuck with the name. I researched it, I liked it and then went with it.
B: It sounds like a junglist name to me, I don’t know why.
K: One day I was in a cab and the Asian driver said ‘oh in our language it means luck.’ They’ve got Kismet radio in the Asian community.
B: Grays Inn Road seems pretty influential as a club.
K: Yeah that was probably some of the best - coming through to now - raving times of my life.
B: Funny because ’99 was quite late in the UK garage cycle.
K: Yeah, it was late, ’98 and ’99, because obviously I was in secondary school in the early times of ’94-’95. You’d sneak out to your odd few raves, whatever you could get into. I properly started raving when I was about 17, in 1997. Sun City.
B: Who are all the members of Circle and tell me about Tippa?
K: Fever, IC, myself, Gemini, Tippa and Supa D. Tippa is just a personality, he’s the crazy one. He’s the spokesman. A lot of people just see him as that. He’s the main one that people interact with on the radio shows on the mic.
B: I think he got turned into an all time legend with that Rinse + FWD>> @ Matter advert: “photographers take your pictures! This is Rinse!”
K: It’s just taken off for him, he’s doing well, doing bookings with Gee and Zinc, just done Bloc Festival in Manchester, so it’s all a good look. People click onto Tippa, he’s a part of Circle, then they know about us. He’s just good at the whole interaction thing, that’s why we say he hosts, you don’t have to spit bars to get a reaction – he clearly shows that. He’s good at what he does.