Go in-depth with Blue Amazon as we get ready for the launch of his new show “A Rec” on FRISKY
It’s always a pleasure to learn from those artists who have experienced the emergence of the electronic music scene, their thoughts on the music creation process, community, and industry provide valuable insights into today’s scene. Blue Amazon is one of those artists, his never ending passion and talent for the music continuing to expand his influence into today. While many may know him from his classics including “No Other Love” and “The Javelin Album”, and remixes for the likes of Sasha, Skunk Anansie, New Order, Madonna, Blue Amazon has been producing some outstanding recent releases on labels like Pro B Tech, Mirabilis, Asymmetric, and his own A Rec.
With decades of experience directing the dance floor as a DJ and producing the tracks that have reached the hands of legends, his understanding of what makes for exceptional music keeps his name known around the world. Now he will be opening up another opportunity to spread the sound, with the launch of A Rec on FRISKY. Based on his own imprint, A Rec will feature mixes from himself as well as exciting guests who prescribe to his philosophy of “music that builds dynamically with mood and energy”. Check out his Artist of the Week mix now, and get ready for the launch of A Rec:
I’d love to hear about your beginnings with electronic music, how did you first discover the music and when did you decide to start producing your own tracks?
Hi first of all thanks for having me,
My first introduction to electronic music started when I was at school around the age of 13. I was lucky enough to have a classmate who would bring DJ mix tapes in to school that were a mix of 80’s house music, Hip-hop and bits of what was tagged as soul at the time. Artists like Public Enemy, Ice T, Loose Ends, Adonis, Liz Torres, Robert Owens and heap more.
The tapes were compiled and mixed by a DJ collective from the north of England called “Unique 3”, who also went on to record singles and album projects with Virgin. I was eventually introduced to “Unique 3” and I would literally pester them, knock on their house doors on a Saturday morning and ask them for more mix-tapes and quiz them about what they did and how.
The guys were actually really cool and I think on reflection they saw my obsession and introduced me to DJ equipment, synths and lots of forward-thinking artists. Acid house started to explode shortly after and I was addicted to it. I started collecting records myself and got involved with DJing on pirate radio stations.
Producing and recording music was really a natural development from this, being intrigued and curiosity from what id seen via the ‘Unique 3” guys. I wouldn’t say I was really producing music but after leaving school I managed to hobble some money together and started buying a few bits of music equipment, a sampler, a synth and other bits and started experimenting with ideas.
It wasn’t really until I met “James Reid” in the early 90’s (originally part of “Blue Amazon”), that these ideas were put together and formulated into actual tracks. I think people would be surprised if they heard any of the music we recording at the time and it wasn’t really like anything that you would identify as Blue Amazon – the Blue Amazon sound was a gradual development over a period of time and improving until it was time to bite the bullet and start releasing something.
What was your original studio setup like?
In the early days we never really had a studio of our own we just owned a few personal pieces of equipment like a couple of synths and I also had a sampler. We developed what we did by going into commercial studios, learning very quickly and working on the fly whilst also being time conscious. We engineered all our own music too and had to learn and be proficient in that area. It’s wasn’t till after signing our album deal with Sony that we had the funds to invest into our own studio and we did go a bit crazy buying everything we could.
We added to our little equipment collection, which was a Roland Alpha Juno 1 synth, Novation bass station, Roland SH101, Roland 106 and added – Korg touchscreen keyboards, more Roland synths, one of my favs – the Clavia Nord Lead, Akai sampler, latest sequencing via Cubase, a Mackie mixing desk, outboard Fx units like lexicon, Drawmer compressors, 3 sets of studio monitors at one point including Genelec and the list went on a bit. We had some really cool bespoke equipment too like outboard compressors that were modeled on classic equipment and made by a local electronics engineer, purpose-built as one-offs.
Even after adding this type of equipment would still often go into commercial studios to mix and provide final touches to tracks.
How about getting your first track released on vinyl, that must have felt amazing!
Having music on vinyl for me was always a mixed feeling, there were a few vinyl releases and offshoot projects released before any of the Blue Amazon releases and again like most things in my life it was a gradual introduction.
My initial reaction is to checked out how the vinyl sounds sonically compared to what you recorded in the studio, then look at the sleeve quality and art etc it is a nice feeling but then I kind of put on a shelf like a book and I probably won’t play it much.
One thing that was amazing about vinyl was being stood in record stores and seeing people buying your music and their reaction. Also funny that sometimes you could be buying records and the DJ at the counter would pull out one of your own releases and say – have you heard this without knowing it was you who recorded it.
I guess having music released on great physical formats compared to the modern digital domain has spoilt us, I have the majority of my own music on vinyl and CDs stored away.
Has your approach to DJing & producing has changed since that time?
Certainly, Vinyl DJing was always a practised skill in terms of being technical and could be quite demanding if you were very mix focused.
I’ve always been a bit of a “The mix of the tracks and set is more important than the individual elements” type DJ. I guess it comes from originally mixing hip-hop together many years back and in a club environment it was often quite hectic in a DJ booth switching records quite quickly and cueing up the next ready to mix. Now with digital, it’s made the process a bit easier and more efficient to do that and it really suits the way I like to DJ in the majority. If I’m playing techno, for example, swift mixes, cutting between sections of tracks and often without the audience realising.
Recording and producing music is similar in a way, we have so many tools available at our hands digitally that it speeds the process up to get the desired result quicker. If I think back to the 90’s I could have been sat for hours punching buttons on an Fx unit to get a special vocal effect or editing synth patches for hours to get something unique.
In what ways has it stayed the same?
Errmm, this is kind of a slightly debatable topic because it opens up the discussion about “we have all the technology at our fingertips but are we really using it to our advantage and creatively?”
I think ultimately good DJs principles haven’t changed, it about providing a source of entertainment and listening pleasure via sequencing music. We all have different thoughts and process on this should be done, and I think they are all as valid as each other and a lot depends on the style of music you are playing. Some music is designed to breathe over time and over complicating it would spoil it, then some music is less detailed and evolving and can be played around with technically.
On the recording and production side again it’s the principles of what we do when making music that’s ultimately important. I’ve been in recording studios with great producers and sometimes there’s a discussion about how many tracks we should output in one year as opposed to let’s try to make the best possible track with intent today.
It’s a kind of marketing based idea taken into a studio, which personally I don’t think the two should mix in that environment.
I think we are all, including myself, guilty of the convenience of being able to record easier verses really pushing the boundaries of what we can do.
Sorry for the diverse answer but it’s something I’m very conscious of and I’ve actually taken a step back recently from recording music to re-evaluate the motives and what should be my own attitude towards it moving forward.
What have been some of your favourite moments as a DJ?
There are so many moments I’ve enjoyed and that stand in good memory.
I once played in Mexico (Monterrey) with the DJ Tini Tun and the late Bill Hamel (bless his soul) and it was in a disused steel mill with all the old machinery in the building and painted. The audience was amazing and it was hyper cultured with many of the people attending with creative face painting and masks – wow.
India has always been a special place for me when DJing as it was one of the first places outside of Berlin where I really felt I could express myself as a DJ and stamp my own style. I’ve played there so many times, great parties and amazing hospitality that warms the heart. Massive respect to the guys out there from Rummy who first gave me the experience, Prince Phili, Ajit Sarathi, Vikram and also a massive fan of Arjun Vagale.
There have also been some cheeky moments over the years like playing high energy techno influenced sets and stopping all the music dead and playing – Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf in the middle of it, getting a great response as almost like a statement of my mindset.
What do you feel is the most important thing for you to share through your music?
I’ve always been a bit thoughtful of what the music is intended for and sharing a balance in what you do. It’s great to make music that is of personal value to yourself but that’s not the whole world out there. Different people have different tastes and connect in different ways, so it doesn’t always have to be about me.
As an example and I might be ridiculed for saying this – The Blue Amazon track No Other Love which a lot of people know is far from one of my personal favourites and I dislike a lot about it, however I appreciate why people do like it and why they would enjoy it, so in that way it was good enough for me when recording it.
Where are you drawing the most inspiration from lately?
I’ve actually been blown away recently by the quality of the progressive and melodic music that’s being released. I have to admit even though I have an association with that sound it really didn’t inspire me for a long period and I devoted my energy more towards my love of Techno.
I really love what’s been outputted on the label katermukke, artists like Sascha Cawa, there’s been some great music on Pro b Tech of late, Dave Seaman’s & Steve Parry’s – Selador, music from Lonya, We Are Here Mexico and more.
Music that has great listenable value as well as club intent – Studio wise I really love the latest Akai VIP software and its capabilities, I get quite deep into technology sometimes and that can also inspire me to record music.
What can you tell us about “A Rec”? I’d love to hear more about the concept and am curious about the name too. 😉
A Rec is the fastest record label project I’ve ever been involved in and still a gradual early development. Its rate of movement is quite astonishing in reaction compared to other projects I’ve worked on.
It started without the name A Rec as an experiment with Self Release options using portals such as Bandcamp, Tunecore and Distrokid. I really wanted to explore these types of release portals vs being a record label or via a record label. I took a bunch of my own back cat releases that had been released prior but some only on vinyl for example and compiled them into releases with new artwork.
The results from doing this were amazing and so quickly populating that it really opened my eyes to a shift in focus and development in the electronic music domain. It’s an idea that I really embrace that we can move the focus of label releases back to being more artists driven rather than label branded. Due to the way music is also being consumed in the majority and streaming being so popular, it leaves the door open for more variation and in electronic music and artistic expression. It takes me back to the original focus of the 90s and being more adventurous and balancing music releases between listening value and also club intended.
This is the focus of and concept with A Rec in long-term and essentially to provide that balance between the dynamics of artist music and club / DJ fuelled music. If we can get to the stage where we can have a leftfield type album or even similar to what we did personally with the “Javelin album’ that would be a fantastic achievement.
Taking all this on-board and what was essentially just an initial experiment it was decided that it should develop into a full label working alongside – Ampsuit who is a world class distributor.
The output needed a name and decided as A Rec – which some have said you have named it after your own act as in – “Amazon recordings” rather I just see it an A comes first in alphabetical ordering and more prominent in listings.
In regards the show on FRISKY I’m looking at bringing this kind of philosophy to the show with music that builds dynamically in mood and energy. I want to bring in some exciting guest to the show, some who are already the masters of this like Anthony Pappa, Barry Jamieson who’s been phenomenal for years and now with is new – mono electric orchestra project, Moonface, Lonya I’ve spoken to and of course lets hear some new talented DJs and artists who are making waves.
Exciting times ahead 🙂