Monday, 10 July 2017

Does your garage have a swing in it?

Swing n Bass maestro, film maker and Jack the Cad contributor Fizzy Gilespie, aka Max Golfar*, has made something a little bit different. We're all about showcasing the really interesting stuff, the innovative and the new, so this is a bit of a no-brainer.

Fizzy: This mix has been a project of mine I’ve been putting together for quite some time now. This is probably the longest I have spent on a mixtape before. The hardest part of it was finding the tunes - this is probably the most obscure and niche side of the Vintage Remix spectrum, even more so than Swing Drum’n’Bass.

I was initially turned on to this sound by the Catjam boys, so a big shoutout has to go them. Without those guys, I would not have discovered this sound. Dutty Moonshine & Extra Medium are also pushing this sound, so I implore you all to go and check these guys out. These are the people really trying to expand the scene into a new and unique sound. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the mix, it ain’t your typical Swing mixtape! ;-)

*Which is your favourite pic of Max? I think we might have to make the one in the Soundcloud embed his official byline pic...[Ed.]

Friday, 7 July 2017

Caravan Palace Live Review - Syed goes weak at the knees

Syed could barely contain his excitement when one of the world's top electro-swing acts swung into his home town of Toronto.

Caravan Palace are one of the giants of Electro Swing who hail from Paris, France and have placed flags of their fame all over the world. One just can’t expect to buy a ticket on the day of the concert if you are going to watch Caravan Palace perform in your city. If you hear that Caravan Palace are coming to your city, you must buy tickets as soon as you get an internet access and a credit card.

A few months ago I heard that there would be a TD Toronto Jazz Festival during the months of June and July which sort of interested me because of my recent love of vintage music but I prefer a very specific sub-genre of jazz: swing music. Little did I know that Caravan Palace would be one of many performers participating in TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

Among my 500+ list of ‘friends’ on Facebook, only a few people seemed to show interest in the upcoming Festival. If I had not added the main vocalist of this band, Zonia, on my Facebook, I would not have known that Caravan Palace were coming to Toronto and were part of the festival. TD stands for Toronto-Dominion and it is one of the 5 major banks in Canada. If TD sponsors an event, it got to be worth it.

I was very excited. Caravan Palace had come to Toronto before but somehow I missed it. I purchased the ticket which was a pretty decent price considering how famous they are – just about three times expensive than a small regular Electro Swing night in Toronto. After buying the ticket, I found out that one my close friends (not just a Facebook ‘friend’) was also coming which got me even more excited and motivated. I think the excitement and motivation was a result of the fact that she was the only other brown person who knew what electro swing was!

I have been closely following Caravan Palace for almost 6 years and am well aware of their music style. Except a couple of songs, e.g. Beatophone, they don’t really rely on house beats to make their music known. Their use of vintage + modern instruments in a very inimitable way makes them really unique – some of the examples, which come to mind, are Rock It For Me, Jolie Coquine and Dramophone. Their music is also very vocal heavy and Zonia really can sing at any pace while the band members keep up with their live instruments.

Parking was impossible to find outside Toronto’s The Phoenix Concert Theater – where they were performing. After driving around aimlessly, I managed to find a spot after getting some assistance from a couple who also going to see Caravan Palace. However, they did not know what electro swing is [(!) Ed.]. When I entered the theater, I noticed hundreds of people standing and dancing to Benny Berigan’s Snake Charmer and, later, some songs by Parov Stelar. It was an empty stage and Caravan Palace, who were supposed to begin at 9:00pm, were still backstage. The standing crowd shouted for them while they danced to house beats being mixed by DJ Richard Medicineman – one of the few organizers of electro swing nights in Toronto who also runs Toronto Vintage Society.

Eventually, the seven-piece band appeared on the stage which was introduced by a host with the words including “electric sound” and “music from 1920s”. The term “electro swing” was never used and I wish it had been. This could have helped some of the unknown, but boundary-pushing, producers from all over the world. Oh well, I think it was still somewhat accurate description of Caravan Palace who can’t REALLY be called an electro swing band because of their musical style even though they are one of the most well-known among electro swing fans.

Despite I have been following their music for a long time and even have bought their CD from a now-closed called HMV, I could not recognize their first song. But, God, their performance was amazing! The DJ had a giant LED-based Caravan Palace’s logo in front of his cool and complicated equipment which lit up as the beat dropped or as the tune glitched (during Je M’Amuse). It really added to their performance I must say. Zonia was high on electro swing and gave a mind-blowing performance in every song she performed. There was even a slow Jazz track during which she sat on a chair with her legs crossed and basically turned on every person in the audience with her voice!

I had seen some of their live performances on YouTube and Rock It For Me probably has highest number of views. As soon as that classic swing tune began, I knew they were going to rock it for us. I literally yelled out, “Whooooo!” during the very sudden and unexpected quiet moment in the audience (while they waited for their next song to start but they were still quiet). Many people turned around and looked at me and I yelled out the next word, “Finally!” This was during the middle of their performance and the word “Finally” sort of expressed my frustration. I had gotten a bit disappointed by then. My disappointment was not due to their performance (which was out of this world throughout) but was with the use of really heavy house beats in almost every song. For ONE second I started to wonder what would happen if I had hacked their DJ equipment and played my really amateurish house track which I made in few minutes. I was sure that people would dance in the same way knowing Caravan Palace were standing in front of them even though my shitty beats would have been playing through their hacked system.

Rock It For Me had more jazz in it followed by their signature solo + pair swing/Lindy Hop/Charleston dance routine which they had done to this song around the world. The timing was exquisite and that was probably my favorite performance of the night. Later, the songs turned back to them singing-their-guts-out-while-band-members-played-their-hearts-out-through-not-so-dinstinctive-musical-instruments-but-people-only-danced-hard-when-the-beat-dropped.

All in all, it was still one of the best experiences of my life and the best experience since Swingrowers visited Toronto. People absolutely loved them and there was so much noise, when they did the final pose before leaving, that I was almost certain I had lost my hearing. People would not stop cheering for them and they deserved it I must say. It would have been nice if they had finished with Dramophone (their most celebrated song probably) and Lone Digger (one of the most famous electro swing tracks from last year) but they still finished it on a high and with audience full of insatiable energy.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Julien IncontroL - Syed meets a pioneer

Julien IncontroL was one of the first artists that this blog ever came across, and his take on the swing-house sound has informed many copy-cats, surely a mark of greatness. Here's what happened when Syed spoke to him about his latest project.

In one of my earliest posts, I went over my specific musical journal as a listener only. After living for six years in Canada, when I discovered House Music, I went crazy and listened to every 4x4 beat I could get my hands on: classic 1980s through newest releases. When it started to bore me and when “We Speak No Americano” went past my listening limit, I turned to Saxo-House. There was not enough good Saxo House out there but it kept me hooked for a while.
The first ever track, I heard, by IncontroL, I took it as a Saxo House track but better than anything I had heard in a very long time. I listened to it so many times but I never got tired of it. It is called Le Swing Ist King. It was right up my alley. I should have tried to listen to more stuff by IncontroL and Wolfgang (the duo behind the making of Le Swing Ist King) but, by then, the electro swing world had already opened up to me and, without caring who the singer/band/producer was, I was already living in a modern swing era, but, as a tourist.

Over the time, I came across many electro swing tracks by IncontroL and, as a swing house fan, he became one my favourites of all time. Julien IncontroL is a French producer + DJ, a former French resident who lives in New Caledonia, Canada now. Though some of his swing house tracks (some with Wolfgang Lohr, a German electro swing DJ/producer) made him really well-known in electro swing community (most of its newest members mostly start with swing house), he has taken upon various vintage music styles/genres including minimal swing, swing hop and electro blues among many others. His brand new album, Let’s Fall In Love, contains something for every electro swing listener. Every song is refreshingly unique and no two songs sound the same. He really has pushed the boundaries when it comes to blending different elements of vintage musical styles even including the vocals.

He got a chance to speak with me about his personal musical journey as a listener and as a producer/DJ and, also, about his new album, Let’s Fall In Love, which will be released on June 30th, 2017 and has been available for pre-sales since June 15th, 2017. It can be found on Itunes, Spotify, Bandcamp and Google Music.

Here is the transcript:

Syed: Thank you so much.for speaking with me.

Julien: Thank you. You taking (out) time for me. I appreciate that.

S: No no, not a problem. Thank you. Well, it’s a bright new day in New Caledonia, eh [it was 7:15pm in Toronto and sun was setting in about 2 hours].

J: Yeah, when I moved in with my girlfriend, there was a lot of light so we have to put on glasses [shows me view outside the window]

S: That is very nice. Oh my God.

J: That is Nouméa, you know – the place I live in. It is cloudy but there is so much light that you need to put sunglasses (on). [laughs]

S: Just want to start here: I have been listening to your music for a very long time. You know one of your songs, Le Swing Ist King – I don’t know if I am pronouncing it correctly – that was the first song that got me into electro swing in the very first place a long time ago. Back then, I used to search for Saxo House music and then you used saxophone in this (track) and it really opened my path towards electro swing because of that. I have noticed that you and Wolfgang Lohr worked on many songs before. You, as a New Caledonian resident, and him, as a German resident, how did you guys meet?

J: Actually, I just came back to New Caledonia two years ago. When I met Wolfgang, I was living in France actually. I was DJ’ing in Switzerland and Germany very often. I just sent a message to him: “I really like what you do (so) maybe we can do a track together”. It was very nice and easy. He said, “Yeah, come to my place and we can start a project”. We started on internet and, then, when I went to Berlin, we worked on this song: Le Swing Ist King. This is between French and German – French and German words in the same sentence.

S: Oh, I see. I never caught that.

J: « Le » is french, « Swing » is universal, « ist » is german and « king » you know… Le swing ist king !

S: [Looking at IncontroL’s earliest post on Soundcloud which is an electro swing mix] Were you producing when you got into electro swing?

J: Yes, yes. I started to produce when I was maybe 18. It was the beginning of Soundcards and computers – you know you could buy a Soundcard for cheaper price. It was home studio when I started to play with different things. Yeah, sure, I did.

S: Many of your earlier electro swing tracks can be put into the category of swing house, especially You Got me Voodoo, Indian Chief, Baton Rouge, etc. I am personally a huge fan of your swing house tracks. What attracted you towards Swing-House in the beginning over other sub-genres of electro swing music in your earlier days?

J: Do you mean what track inspired me?

S: I mean, what inspired you about Swing House as compared to other forms of electro swing music in your earlier days? Why did you begin with swing house?

J: When I first discovered it – do you know G Swing?

S: Yes, definitely. For sure.

JIt is in my CD collection here. I bought the CD and I was with one of my best friends. The first time we came across electro swing was through Caravan Palace. I was living in Paris and a few people knew them. We just went to a show and we saw them live. It was very exciting and it was very good to see this music being played this way. I really thought that this was a great (way of) mixing: DJ’ing and mixing with swing music at the same time. [Julien is also looking for the album through his collection] I don’t know where the album is. It is somewhere in there. We discovered Caravan Palace. Then we looked on internet and found G-Swing – that project really inspired me the most. Most of the tracks were swing house and swing hop. I don’t know when I started to produce [swing house]. I like all genres of music.

S: For sure, I noticed. You have many variations on your Soundcloud page.

J: My album is also very different.

S: Exactly, I was going to talk about that actually [laughs]. Before we get into that, you probably see the posts on Electro Swing public page (on Facebook), many electro swing artists have criticised the 4x4 swing house music and they have claimed that, because of this, electro swing may die one day or it is not evolving when everyone keeps making swing house. What is your personal opinion on that?

J: I think that in some way they are right. I like swing house. For me, it was natural to make swing house music. There are many great artists who make great swing house music but I also think most of the artists making swing house music are not taking it very seriously. They don’t have much of jazz and swing culture. They are doing it like McDonald’s songs – doing it very quickly, and just taking a loop/sample and putting it together. 

I think most of the people do not know the story of jazz. They just do it because it is trendy and they want to do something which could have play counts on the Soundcloud and ‘likes’ on Facebook. I think they [electro swing listeners/artists/DJs criticising excessive production of swing house music] are right in that way. I think people who criticise swing house music also like and play some of these tracks (the nest ones). There are great tracks in swing house. I would say 90% is not good.

As a DJ, when I look for swing house, it is getting harder and harder to find good tracks. If you are open minded and a music lover and a good DJ you just select good music, call it swing hop, swing hop, electro jazz or whatever… [laughs].

S: As an electro swing artist, how hard is it for you to remix or cover the older swing tunes as compared to creating brand new swing tunes with the help of people who can play musical instruments? Some artists are taking older swing tunes and some artists are actually hiring people to [play musical instruments for their tracks] or they play [instruments] themselves including piano, trumpets, sax, etc.? What is your approach towards [making] electro swing music these days? Do you think it is more effective to dig the older tunes or spend some money and hire people [to have a bigger band to play the music]?

J: I like to do both. Sometimes, I play the guitar and get friends playing saxophone or [other] instruments. But, it does not really matter. If it is good, you are happy with it, people like it and have a good time listening/dancing to it, it is fine with me. To me, it is not important. I think, if you are using samples, you can play on the samples. Then, it creates new harmonic landscapes and you can go in other directions. It is very interesting to have samples in the beginning, take them off, play/get inspiration from the samples, and go in different directions. This is something I personally do sometimes but there are many different approaches. If the result is good, whatever you way you get there…

S: What are some of the challenges you have faced as an electro swing artist?

J: Maybe, [one of the challenges] is getting new ideas and make them grow – not stay in the same [for example] swing house like you said. You could make more than one tracks easily but try other things. When we started, we were very excited about electro swing. [After making] more and more, [now] it is more like global beats, world music, [special] kinds of old tunes, special vibrations – I think I would not even say that I am [an] electro swing [producer/artist/DJ] only. The challenge is to make new songs and keep being happy making them.  The best challenge for musicians/artists is to just do new things and not [use] the same recipe: “Oh, this is working so I will do this, this and this again”. In Swing House, maybe that is [what the] critics [are saying]: “[They] just add the noise and just do the same thing over and over”. As a good artist, try different things. Songs are evolving/changing and that is what I am trying to do.

S: Thank you for sharing your album with me. I really appreciate that. Thank you. I did listen to it and it is beyond amazing. I have noticed that your new album has a very refreshing unique style of electro swing/vintage music bordering electro blues with some swing hop in it and some minimal swing. There are a lot of different/unique and refreshing styles merged/blended together. Tell me a bit about your new album and what kinds of surprises the listeners can look forward to?

J: If they know me from before, the surprise would be that it is not really club music. It is more downtempo. This is the kind of music you want to listen to in your car or at home. The surprise is that every track is different. There are different styles of music [in the album]. I really hope that people take time to listen to it from beginning to end because when you are doing an album, you are trying to imagine a little story. I am trying to create a journey.

S: It’s a great album.

J: Thank you very much. I hope people enjoy the music because that is basically what we try to do: make people enjoy the music. It was great to work with all the musicians [involved in this]. It was really nice to meet all these people and do all this together. More importantly, many artists contributed to this album.

S: Was this album, if you don’t mind answering, self-funded?

J: Yeah. I got money from a music contest in New Caledonia. [As] I told you [that] I came back 2 years ago to New Caledonia. When I came here, there was a music contest here. I won some money in that because I applied at the contest and they liked my project. I got some money which allowed me to make some CDs and pay for good mastering. Mainly, it was from that money that I won and the rest was [paid] by myself. There was no fund-raising.

S: Could you please tell me about your any upcoming tours or future plans – maybe to play some of the songs from your new album around the world? Do you have any plans?

J: I have some friends who asked me to come back to play in Europe. For now, I am going to stay in New Caledonia. Next time, when I come to Europe, I will get some shows like a mini tour. I think I can organize something. But, right now, I am doing a live set to play the album here in New Caledonia. It is a small country. There are not so many people but there are good musicians [here]. It is more like experimenting stuff: how to play the album with this kind of setup [showed me his setup] including mixer, loopers, turntables, a guitar, etc. I want to leave room for live improvisation. I will use loopers too. I will take some elements from the album and try to play it live. This is big challenge for me, something exciting and maybe I’ll come to tour in Europe or somewhere else. Ever since I came here, my life has changed so much. I am going to bed early [laughs]. I got away from the clubs because it was too crazy for me. I just want to take time and live with the nature. It is a different lifestyle totally. I really enjoy making music. For touring, I don’t know – I have no plans yet, we’ll see…

S: I know your album has been released on bandcamp. Has it been released on any other places where we can get it from?

J: It will be everywhere: Itunes, Spotify, Google Music….everywhere. There will also be some CDs from CD Baby. They are not made yet. I think I will get them in 15 days or a month – I don’t know.

S: Will your CDs be available in the other countries as well?

J: You can buy CDs off CD Baby and they can send it anywhere in the world.

S: That’s perfect. Thank you so much Julien for speaking with me. You are one of the earliest electro swing artists I know of. There are a lot of new people/DJs and copycats but you, Wolfgang Lohr, Parov Stelar, etc. are one of the earliest ones who brought this (music) around the world. I remember one of your songs was posted on the electro swing page (called Big Voodoo) and everyone was going crazy trying to figure out who made that song. You had shared that song a long time ago. It has been an honor speaking with you. I hope you have a good rest of the weekend.

J: It is my pleasure. Thank you so much for taking time and doing this. Just keep on listening to good music.

S: I will. Thank you so much. Have a good one.

Please, give his album a listen when it gets released on June 30th. I was lucky to hear it earlier and loved every bit of it. There are some mind-numbing brilliant tunes in there. Please, as Julien IncontroL said, take some time to listen to it. You will enjoy it and will want to play in your car or to just dance to it!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Passed Clouds - A Story of a Dying Club Culture

Tally ho, you lot. Normally I like to keep this blog fairly lighthearted and try to avoid getting too political about things, but today is a bit different.

Below you'll see a short film made by one of our talented correspondents - Max - about the steady decline of club culture in the UK. I know that a lot of you are based overseas (bad luck), but the principals discussed in this film are pertinent to all big cities.

The last few years have seen a number of famous and not so famous clubs close their doors in the face of heavy handed local authorities, outdated licensing laws and the predations of planning authorities.

The club that this film focuses on, Passing Clouds, was the sort of venue that our scene relies upon. We're never going to be in a super-club like Fabric, which can rally the support of thousands of passionate followers. We need these open-minded venues to support our scene, which the mainstream are not going to back.

In fact, Passing Clouds was one of London's top vintage remix venues - in my top five places to check if I wanted a last minute night out. Around the same time that PC closed its doors for the last time, another of vintage remix's first homes shut down, the Bedroom Bar.

As Chris Tofu indicates in the film, the developers and incomers are not interested in preserving cultural hotspots if they can make more money by turning them into flats, while in the unlikely event that a venue doesn't disappear during a 'regeneration' project, the chances are they're going to want to play mainstream, middle of the road music. They're risk averse, these developer types.

Anyway - Check out the film, and have a read of Max's 'Director's Notes' below. And if there's a venue near you that's under threat, stand up and do your bit to protect it, lest we all have to listen to Deadmau5 and his ilk forever more.

Toodle pip

Jack the Cad

‘Passed Clouds: A Story Of A Dying Club Culture’ is a documentary about Club Culture and the closure of clubs throughout the UK.

This documentary was originally made for my final university project, and it is about an issue which is very close to my heart. Nightclubs and grassroots music venues are seeing their doors shut, up and down the country, many of which receive no fanfare at all.

The documentary intends to bring a focus on to clubs such as Passing Clouds and bring attention to other grassroots venues that have faced similar fates. As a DJ myself, I performed at Passing Clouds and Bedroom Bar only a few weeks before they each had to shut their doors. I had some of my first ever gigs at those venues, and to see them get shutdown was totally devastating.

It is fantastic to see people rally to save clubs such as Fabric, but unfortunately most clubs don’t have the following or financial capabilities to keep their doors open in hard times.

The closures come down a few key reasons: the price of property, increases in rent, drugs, noise issues, as well as local councils enforcing difficult to meet restrictions & being unsupportive of the nighttime industry.

In the documentary I speak with a number of industry professionals who share their thoughts on the closures and the reasons behind them, as well as sharing their personal anecdotes of what club culture means to them.

I also explore how clubs and music venues play an invaluable economic role to our society, but even more importantly, how they play a significant role in bringing people together and creating communities which otherwise might not have existed without these venues & spaces.

Last year the BBC made a short documentary on the topic of club closures, but I felt that it trivialised and failed to truly show the meaning that club culture plays in many people’s lives. One of the key problems I found with was their choice of interviewees. One on whom was Steve Aoki, an American EDM DJ. I felt he was highly unqualified to speak on the topic of UK club culture, and that his fame was the only reason for being in the documentary. It ends up coming across as very corporate and unrepresentative of real underground scenes. My documentary attempts to try and look at the topic from the people who are really involved in the scene, and to give an unfiltered view into how the people who are really being affected feel (Rather than a multi-millionaire DJ who doesn’t even live in this country).

The main purpose of the documentary is to inform people about the significance that club culture plays in many people's lives, and to show that it is more than just going out and getting pissed with your mates on a Friday night; but rather it is about music, love & human connection.

It doesn’t matter what music you like, whether it’s Electro Swing or Jungle or Techno, if you care about your subculture, it is time to stand up and protect it, because if things keep going the way they are, there will not be anything left to protect.

If you are interested in reading more about the topic, here are a couple different reports which I used in my research for making this documentary:

Nighttime Industries Association: ‘Forward Into The Night’:

Mayor of London’s ‘Rescue Plan For London’s Grassroots Music Venues’:

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Swingamajig 2017 - part 3 - Chicken Brothers

Last but not least in this year's Swingamajig preview are the mighty Chicken Brothers - pioneers of the scene in Liverpool and festival fields around the land, scratch maestros and all-round good eggs. One member of the flock has just flown back in from Oz, setting a new world record for 'Longest Flight by a Chicken' in the process, so the answers are a little brief, but entertaining and informative none-the-less.

Jack: You’ve played a few Swingamajigs now – can you share your best memory of the festival, if you can remember any of them?

Our favourite memory would have to be at the first ever Swingamajig — playing the closing set with an audience made up of loads of UK producers, DJs and performers all getting down and interacting. A particular highlight of that set was when Odjbox approached us to request some Odjbox... He also went on to say that we were top of the list of people to play the electro swing office Christmas party, being "the dj's DJ..."

Jack: The Chicken Brothers have a habit of popping up during other people’s sets – have you got any guest appearances planned?

Not due to do any cameos at Swingamajig this year as we will be working all day helping to run the event in different areas. But we will be on hand to play the opening set at the after party, and as a reverse cameo we have our newest member Mike coming down on rooster duties [I think that means MC duties. Ed.].

Jack: You have a hand in loads of events and festival stages and so on. What is it that sets Swingamajig apart from other festivals?

Swingamajig is special to us because we have been involved in it from the beginning, and now help to run various areas of the production as well as perform. It's filled to the brim with our favourite acts, producers and DJs. Plus the crowd are next level awesome! It's a solid date in the diary every year.

If you've got your ticket yet, I think there's still a few left, but don't delay. There's so much more to do in addition to the music. I've been asked to take part in some sort of table-football event, so watch out for that; there's dance classes, something called the Bacon Cheeseburger Pie which sounds life-changing (or perhaps life-ending), and performances from the likes of Oh My God It's The Church, magicians and all sorts of scantily clad ladies. The festival's tagline is 'A show like no other'. They're not wrong. It is, as Odjbox said, the vintage remix world's office party, so there'll be some tired legs and sore heads come Monday morning.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Swingamajig 2017 - Part Two - Dutty Moonshine

Next up in the Swingamajig preview series is Mike aka Dutty Moonshine. Mike is not only a pioneer of the vintage remix sound, but he's also one of the most energetic and innovative people in the scene, always pushing boundaries. He's got a reputation as a shit-stirrer and a party-starter, is wanted for crimes against electro-swing, nature and common decency. Approach with caution. 

Jack: How important a role has Swingamajig played in bringing new vintage remix acts to the world?

Dutty Moonshine: The vintage remix worlds owes a lot to two places, the Mayfair field of Boomtown and the big, bad and heavy Swingamajig.

Swingamajig is one of those places that when you get asked to play it is a nod of recognition. The guys running it have such a finger on the pulse and they're providing such an amazing platform for some of these artists - to play in front of 4000 fans of the scene - that all the acts should be turning up with chocolates and flowers for the production team.

When Swingamajig says you're good the world listens.

It's also a who's who of the scene, so many people in the crowd run events or are acts that may have played previous years or the near future, bring your A game or don't bother coming.

Jack: Youve played at Swingamajig a few times, but i gather this time its not a swing set... what can people expect?

Dutty Moonshine: They can be expecting what I'm good at, mash up DJ-ing! It was mash up DJ-ing that got my early contacts which helped me launch Dutty Moonshine; it was mash up DJ-ing that gave me the idea of fusing big dutty basslines with swing music and it is mash up that will forever push me forwards to work out what you can and can't do.

I'm going to be rocking a big-ass-multi-genre party set and I'm bringing backup in the shape of DJ Binge. He's the DJ in the big band on stage and he's the DJ that inspired me hugely back in the day with his style.

Tom (of Electric Swing Circus and Ragtime Records) specifically asked me do a party-style set because while Swingamajig is a vintage remix festival it's also so much more. Hence seeing acts like Document One and Freestylers on the bill. Tom knows this is what I'm best at and he's asked me to unleash the fucking mayhem!

He also knows Dutty Moonshine is one of the few acts that can follow the Correspondents when it comes to high octane energy music. I hope you're getting your cardio in now, you thought my vintage remix sets were good wait until you hear this set!

We're going to be slaying party and bass tunes on 4 decks like there's no tomorrow.

Jack: Describe Swingamajig in three words.

Dutty Moonshine: Decadent Dastardly Mayhem

Next up, find out what the motherclucking Chicken Brothers have to say...

Monday, 24 April 2017

Swingamajig 2017 - Part One: Madame Electrifie & Emma Clair

When I was asked if I wanted to cover Swingamajig again this year there was only one sensible answer. A big fat, hairy yes.

There'll be the usual JtC review appearing at some point after the event, [watch out for the traditional 'I don't remember what happened after this...' line] but by way of a preview I've been in touch with some of the people playing at this year's festival to ask them what makes it such a special event.

Speaking for myself, I love any event where a huge chunk of the vintage remix family are together in one place; I feel sure that having all these amazing artists together in the same place has provided the catalyst for some cool collabs and innovative projects. The crowd at Swingamajig are always a super-friendly, stylish and hard-partying lot, the importance of which cannot be overstated. But what really makes the event special, for me, is the time, care and attention that the Ragtime Records and ESC put into it all - they love this scene, they love this sound, and that really shines through.

First up, I spoke to Jo, aka Madame Electrifie, who played at the first ever Swingamajig way back in 2013.

Jack: What was the best performance that you’ve seen at Swingamajig over the years? 

Madame Electrifie: There are too many to try and remember, it’s been great to see electric swing circus grow and develop into the amazing live act they are now over the years. And Smokey Joe and the Kid are a definite contender, I’m really looking forward to seeing them again this year.

Jack: How has the festival evolved and grown over the years? What have been some of the changes that you’ve liked most? 

It’s quite crazy how long it’s been running, I just had to check back and see that the first one was 2013 which is mad. I remember the first year was like a huge meeting point for all these artists that I was aware of musically but had never seen in person, I made so many long-term friends from that event, people I’ve since had the privilege of playing alongside many times. I was unable to make it last year so I am really interested to see how much it has grown since my last visit.

I like the fact that although Vintage Remix and Electro-swing are still at the heart of the event, the festival has grown and adapted as the scene has. There are some people who have been involved in the scene right from the start, so of course their sound and influences have developed over that time, which is great as it would be a bit repetitive otherwise. The festival has developed to accommodate that development whilst still offering a good slice of vintage action for the new comer. Bringing in acts from the Ghetto Funk and Breakbeat world really helps add another dimension to the programming, which is important to add some variation to the event and keep in interesting.

Jack: What has been your own personal favourite set (i.e. that you played), and what do you think you’ll be spinning this time around?

My first ever swingamajig set was so much fun, way back when! Although I couldn’t see over the decks if I remember, which happens far too often!

This year I’m playing before The Freestylers (WAAAAA!), one of my favourite acts of all time, so I’ll be visiting some old-skool breaks influences and splicing these with my all-time favourite floor filling electro swing tracks that have rocked previous years at Swingamagic – it’s one place you know the audience will want to hear them, so it’s going to be a bit nostalgic, but in a good way, and you know, banging too!

Next I spoke to one of the UK's most up-and-coming electro-swing DJs, Emma Clair

Jack: This is your first year performing at Swingamajig – have you been as a guest before?

I’ve never been to Swingamajig, as I have always been tied up with DJ gigs! So the fact it’s my first time performing and my first time experiencing the wonders of the festival itself, is unbelievably exciting!

I’m honoured to be playing the closing set on the Vintage Terrace with my partner in crime, Andy McBain who will be bringing an element of live performance to our set with his amazing clarinet skills! (shameless plug haha)

Jack: Who are you most excited about seeing perform?

Argh.. there are so many amazing acts on the lineup, it’s hard to single anyone out! But, for me, it has to be Elle & The Pocket Belles! I’m in love with their song “Swinging Together”, and I still regularly play it in my DJ sets.

I’m also really excited about seeing Sam & The Womp – they definitely bring the ‘fun’ element to Electro Swing, which is something I always try to push too!

Also The Electric Swing Circus (honest – Tom didn’t ask me to say this, it’s actually true) – They absolutely blew me away when I booked them to play at Prohibition earlier this year, so I can’t wait to see them in action again!

Jack: What about the sideshows and other entertainment – what tickles your fancy there?

Ooh again, this is really tough, there is so much going on!!!

I’ve heard good things about Vicky Butterfly, so I am looking forward to seeing her do her Burlesque thing.

The Swing Era Dance workshops are definitely on my list of things to check out!! I’m hoping to pick up some moves to bust out on the dancefloor… that’s the plan anyway…

And finally.. I will be paying the food court a visit! I’m hoping for some vintage treats to satisfy my extremely sweet tooth! 

Watch this space for Part 2. dropping later this week, and featuring the Chicken Brothers and Dutty Moonshine!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Laidback Mr Woox

Syed meets one of the most interesting producers in the Vintage Remix scene, Croatian born Mr Woox, aka Milan Vujnovic, whose unique take on swing-hop has earned him a reputation as a maker of some of the most evocative retro beats. In this wide-ranging interview, which is reproduced verbatim, we find out what makes him tick.

Recently, I wrote about the specific journey that I went through, which started from songs of Jennifer Lopez through to UK Garage swing. The journey has continued. I have been listening to a lot of Swing House and Swing n Bass but a Vintage Remix artist made me curious about slow jazz music with soft downtempo beats. I looked more into it and also found some similar songs by Boogie Belgique and Neroche who also specialize in blending Jazz music and hip hop beats. I started searching for similar music and found myself listening to a lot of Trip Hop, which originated from Bristol. UK. I asked on the public Electro Swing group on Facebook if the birth of electro swing had anything to do with much older trip hop sound.

In my last post, I mentioned how I was able to connect to electro swing music because of thousands of movies I’ve seen since moving to Canada in 2004. However, only certain kind of music could give that warm vintage feeling evoking New Orleans and New York City: music by Mr. Woox and Laidbackz.

Mr. Woox is a Croatian producer and DJ, who is known to make really warm jazzy, yet funky, beats which I like to think as ‘porn of electro swing’. Recently, I had a pleasure of speaking with him:

Milan: Hey man. Can you hear me?

Syed F: I can… Thank you so much for giving me this time. I really appreciate it.

Milan: No problem, no problem.

SF: I guess you don’t have a lot of time so I will get right into it.

Milan: Actually, I do have some time. We can have a casual Sunday conversation. By the way, it has been a great Saturday. The gig was really good.

SF: I saw your Facebook post.

Milan: It is actually…do you know the city where is the city I played? Do you know where I am now….besides Serbia? Do you have any idea?

SF: I don’t know.

Milan: Actually, there is a really big world famous festival called Exit Festival. Do you know about it?

SF: No, actually no. I wish I did.

Milan: It has been going on for 10 years now. It is one of the major festivals in Europe.

SF: So, people from all over the Europe were there?

Milan: Yeah, yeah. If it is the festival and it is during the summer then everybody comes to it. It is right beside the city where I am now. I just wanted to tell you that.

SF: That is amazing. I am sure many people already knew and some did not. Thank you for letting me know.

Milan: No problem.

SF: I know exactly what kind of music you make so my questions will be very specific.

Milan: Yes, sure.

SF: I know you represent a specific sub-genre of electro swing which is why I think your music has been really unique. I am going to be very careful when I use the term “Electro Swing” because I know you prefer the term “Ghetto Swing and Swing Hop”. So, I know, instead of using the term electro swing, you say that you make Ghetto Swing and Swing Hop. What got you into this music? Did you start your music career with this type of music? What were your early influences?

Milan: Basically…I think you were also in that conversation where we discussed…I think Michael Rack from Dutty Moonshine had some post regarding…I think you actually did comment on that. We mentioned the Trip Hop and whole Hip Hop, the roots of Jazz and Swing. What can we say about that? My late mother introduced me to the whole Jazz records…Jazz and Swing story and also funk and soul. She introduced me to the good stuff – the classic and original stuff. When I was 11 or 12 years, she played Aretha Franklin’s records, she played Billy Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald for me. I listened to a lot of that music when I was a little kid. And then, of course, there is Tom & Jerry music. I kind of grew up on that. Later on, you know how life goes and you meet with certain people in your life. A really good friend of mine, who is older than me, introduced properly. I listened to a lot of Hip Hop before by myself of course. When I was growing up….how old are you? I was born in 1988.

SF: Same here. I was born in 1988.

Milan: So, we are from the same generation. Then, I don’t have to tell you how we grew up. There was not so much internet. We really had to dig in order to find the stuff. It took half an hour to 45 minutes to download one .mp3. You had to really connect with people, from the music, to actually gain access to the quality stuff. Then, he introduced me to the labels like Ninja Tune and artists like Kid Koala, DJ Krush – all that Trip Hop/Hip Hop stuff. And, then, when he introduced me to those artists, we told each other to listen to songs, I was like: “Man, this is really good stuff”. That was like the melting pot of the music. I was introduced by my mother and this was like the upgraded version where it combined those styles. And, then, you have all these…you can probably tell by my music, I am a huge old hip hop fan – the golden era sound of the 1990s. (Some of the) hip hops groups were House of Pain, Funkdoobiest, Cypress Hill, DJ Premier  - that is the sound I was after.

SF: You had a very specific journey to get to this point, that’s is amazing. In your opinion, why do you think that revisiting vintage sounds, by an electronic music producer, work so well? What makes it so effective? Why do you think it works so well?

Milan:  You asked me about revisiting vintage…I can tell you why I started with production of that music. I needed that sound. I needed to hear it. I heard it from other producers and I liked it. I really needed to put my imprint on this. I liked the story of electro swing. It was a totally new genre which was representing the combination between old and new which was really….I was like, “Oh my God, this is it!” This is what I do. This is what I like. I like the classic stuff. Now, we live in 21st century. That really brings me back. It gives you a feel that you live in that time because I am really a huge fan of 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. I can see (some good material from) 1950s but that would be like mid-1950s. Till the end of 1950s – that is it for me as far as Jazz and Swing is concerned.

I just wanted to mention a couple of things I have in my mind about this subject. For me, I love that organic and warm sound. For me, jazz and swing were warm music. When it is Christmas time and it is winter, it has that something… I love (that) romantic dreamy abstract vibe. Of course, I love to dance. I played some dance tunes yesterday. That is not what I, Mr. Woox, am trying to do as an artist. L’Orange is one my favourites. That sound, he is after something – of course, I am going to do my style, my imprint but that is the vibe I am after. I love the noir. I love noir movies. I have seen The Godfather 500 times. When I was 11 years old or younger – Casino and those movies, I really loved. It is kind of like natural thing (for me).

When I was starting out or, I shall say, when I joined the electro swing circle about four or five years ago, I found it mega-dope. I listened to UK Garage-based electro swing bands which I found to be good. After a year or two, I could not really dig it. I was searching for certain vibe. That music was too aggressive for me. I am not all that bass heavy or dubsteppy. I want you to get a feel what vintage revival means for me. It is about keeping the warmness and authenticity of that era through organic drums, etc. but not too much electro stuff: crazy synths, etc. It has to preserve that (warmness).

SF: I understand what you mean. If you watch the older movies, they captured it really well. When I listen to your music, I really go back in time. Literally, I feel like I am there.

Milan: Thanks. On the other hand, I understand that every genre has to go pop at some time. Same thing happened to hip hop. Look at the hip hop now. It is fucking ridiculous. The trash, they call hip-hop these days, make me sick.

On my Soundcloud, I have this saying, “Swing is maybe the only music where suffering looks glamorous. We think that a certain song passed through our life, but it's actually the other way around. We passed through its eternity." This is where I have the moment of inspiration. This is what really matters to me. I do music. I did all my stuff ever since I made my Soundcloud account. I did this from the heart and my soul. I really wanted to do that so they can be eternal and classic. I don’t want hype. Of course, positive hype is good but I will not follow the trend just so I can be: “SUCCESSFUL DJ BIG MR. WOOX” who needs to play Trap Swing to be booked. I like to be honest. I like to say what is on my mind.

SF: In your live sets, do you play any other forms of electronic vintage/swing music, e.g. swing and bass, swing house, glitch and swing?

Milan: I wanted to clarify that when I say “Ghetto Swing”, I know the term “ghetto” is used in “Ghetto Funk” but actually “Ghetto Swing” should be like heavy bass sound.

SF: I know what you mean. I did hear a song on your Soundcloud page labelled as “Ghetto Swing”.

Milan: I just took the term “Ghetto” because I feel that this term is about ghetto music: I think of Brooklyn, I think of Bronx. (I think of) old neighbourhood (and) old ghettos. Then, this would be my soundtrack for that (setting) when you see it in a movie or music video. It is from the ghetto or for the ghetto. It does not necessarily have to involve heavy basses. It is kind of my own interpretation of that word.

(To answer your question), in the beginning, when I was doing my first mix, I was messing around with Swing and Bass and everything. As I told you before, I am not getting too old but I think of myself as a prolific listener. I make music. I play my music. I play music from other people. I am still a listener. I can dance to it (new music) but, as I am growing older, it is not my vibe anymore. In my hometown, my crew (from Yugoslavia) is known for doing some really good drum and bass. I went through that phase. I feel like it is for kids (laugh). It is like Call of Duty and Modern Warfare stuff (laugh). I am not saying that this is bad music. On the contrary, every now and then, I can listen to jungle but this is not something I like in terms of production and DJ sets. I play hip hop, house tempo and everything in between: from 80bpm to 126bpm maximum. I don’t like 128bpm – the standard club BPM.

For sets, I can tell you what I played yesterday. I started with classic stuff: jazz and swing records. Then, I went into my production which was jazzy and swingy. Then, I played some unreleased beats which were soulful, funky and jazzy. They were not deep and jazzy but more like funky and jazzy. Then, I constantly was raising the tempo up and then I finished up with funky/deep/jazzy vibe. I love to do a special intro song and a special outro song. It is very important to me – which song I begin with and which song I close my set. I did it all night yesterday but it was not for 8 hours. I played for four to five hours. You can tell a story, man. I had five hours. I had so many tracks I played. It has ups and downs. It is not like that I am playing a deep house set and I have an hour and the half, and I am going to drop bombs at you. It is all quality music but it has a story.

SF: I like the way you think. Where does your name Mr. Woox come from?

Milan: My last name is hard for you to pronounce but it is pronounced as ‘woo-i-no-vich’. It has that ‘woo’ in the beginning. I know you guys cannot pronounce it. My nicknames are “wooky”, “wooxy” – in high school, I was “wooxy”. Then, I thought that this could be really nice. I imagined it visually how would it look like on a billboard. Then, I thought that everybody has that prefix “DJ” in front of their name. “DJ <this> DJ <that> He is a fabulous DJ <blah blah> or DJ <flamingo>”. There are too many DJs. Naturally, I am a DJ. Also, one of my biggest influences was Mr. Oizo, who is a French electro pioneer and really dope, and, of course. Mr. Scruff. I had a pleasure of meeting him two years ago. We were playing at a festival in Croatia which had nice music and good crowd. I admire him a lot and it was an unbelievable feeling when I met him. He is down to earth and a really amazing person. I had a chat with him. I told him that I had “Mr” in front of my name partly because of him. He was cool. Everybody has “DJ’ who play techno or tech house music.

SF: “Mr” sounds classy.

Milan: Yeah, I am trying to get that vibe. So, I thought that I could take that and take something from my last name. Does it sound good to you?

SF: It does. It sounds very cool to me. Your name has that vintage vibe in it. Woox is derived from your current nickname and “Mr” has that vintage vibe. In my opinion, it perfectly describes the genre itself.

Milan: Yeah. If you look at my soundcloud profile picture and see the cover… of course, I could put out a picture of me DJ’ing as shown on Skype (the picture of Mr. Woox DJ’ing on a boat). This was like paradise. It was a cruise shop floating on Croatian islands. My friend, if you ever come, it is unreal – it is like Eden. For example, If I put that picture, many girls would like it (laughs). I don’t want to achieve that. I want you to listen to music and not look at me.
If you look at the guy (in my soundcloud profile picture), I like that shadow. Do you know the game, Fallout?

SF: Yes, I do.

Milan: Do you know the story of it? The whole sound is jazz and swing. You also have Bioshock and some other good games that use jazz and swing music. I am trying to get that abstract feel. You see the guy with a coat and a hat, and there is a clock. I talked about eternity before and this guy (in the picture) is trapped in time. Then, you look at the cover and you see this big city from the future but it is from the past. It is all blended together. Then, the music is the soundtrack for my imagination I have/had.

SF: You mentioned earlier that the (music) genres die eventually. There was swing. Then, there was rock and roll. Then, there was disco. Then, there was house. Even house music is unrecognizable now. I am a huge house music fan.

Milan: The track you linked me (Sisko Electrofanatik - Cocaine (Original Mix)) was awful. I need to link you good stuff. Of course, there is bad material. I tell everyone that you have to dig. There is so much dope music that you would not believe. You just need to dig. Of course, you need a proper source. I have tons of great music coming out. I am most grateful of my Soundcloud stream. Whenever I am down, I go there and I find gems. Also, I can tell you that, for my productions, I use hardware but, at the moment, I don’t have turntables at the moment which I want to change, of course. I am going to get me a pair of those. I download the original tracks. I found really cool sources where I draw my samples from. Also, I find such great things which I cannot find anywhere except fucking YouTube (laugh). By listening to my music, it is hard to tell where the samples are from. You listen to it and like/dislike it.

SF: Where do you think this scene is heading in next 5 to 10 years?

Milan: There is a small digression. I am optimistic generally in life. I like the movement which started electro swing. But, as we discussed many times before, I think it is starting to maybe run out of the good ideas. Let me break it down so you get a proper feel of what I am trying to say. I think most of the classical stuff has already been sampled. Now, worst producers will try to flip that sample and it gets worse. In most cases, I rarely come across something which is new and makes me go, “this is the track I want to have in my set”. Soundcloud had groups before. Nowadays, they are related. Now, for example, when I click on my track, on the right side, it says “related tracks” (not groups anymore). I think those tracks are listed by the tags. I would not agree that they are listed by tags because if you listen to those tracks, they don’t have any resemblance. They are not the same vibe but they are being put as related tracks.

Before, I was really following and was active in those groups. You had groups like “Swing Hop”, “Electro Swing UK”, “Ghetto Swing” and “Swing House”. Producers would upload their songs in those groups. As far as I am concerned, it was better. If I wanted to listen to Ghetto Swing, I would go into that group and pick good songs. I think that nowadays it is really hard for me to come across (good songs). If you take a look at my sets, Nick Hollywood said under one of the songs: “Really good work…” I think that the obvious was being missed here that the tracks in my mixtapes are rarely online. For example, I played Parov Stelar yesterday. I will do the afterparty of Parov Stelar. He will do the concert and then he will be in Belgrade. I will play in the after party. I am just going to try and not be better than him. I love him. He is the godfather of electro swing. Now, he has gone to pop (music). He is doing filling up the concert rooms. He has 5000 people, minimum, when he is doing the concerts. I think industry does that to you. At some point, you have to (play for) masses/wider audience. My stuff is for concerts.

I think this scene has potential but it lacks some really unique and fresh production that will be constant so that, in one week, you have at least seven dope beats to play. There is that lack of tracks. I played so many times where I was booked for electro swing. If I play for more than 2 hours, I have to mix it with something else. It feels boring. It started to feel boring especially those happy trumpets for those crazy drunkards who just want to dance (laughs). Sometimes, I am not happy. For me, Jazz is that mellow shit when I am in love or broken-hearted or when I want to dream.

SF: I do get that feeling. One time, I said that your music is like the porn of electro swing.

Actually, one of my favourite comments I ever received was from Mexico. He said, “Dude, this is awesome! I got laid to this shit” (laughs). For me, this is the feeling of (watching) football in Europe. In the Champions League, the feeling you get when the striker hits a goal, that is why I like music.

SF: That was a great comment and very funny.

Milan: That kind of emotion is what drives me to make music. Somewhere or some part/corner of the world, two people in love are making love to my music. Now, I am immortal and can die (laughs). That is my biggest ambition actually: to become immortal and die.

SF: Do you have any new stuff coming soon or any surprises coming?

Milan: Well, with regards to what is going on in my life music-wise, I will be heading to Belgrade in two to three days where I am going to meet with my partner in beats and my good friend: The ROA. We are Laidbackz. He is the other half of Laidbackz. We called ourselves that because we did not want to put “Mr. Woox and The ROA”.

SF: So, Laidbackz is you and The ROA working together, right?

Milan: Yes, yes. If you look at my Facebook wall, you will see that he is a really dope graphic designer. You can check what he did. We were sitting and talking about music. We are both big fans of Gorillaz. We wanted to do that too with Laidbackz. We are trying to get that. He is the left one and I am the right one. It does not necessarily have to be like that but I have seen it a lot that, when you are on stage, it is good to have something which makes you unique.

If you look at the actual swing scene these days, everybody puts suspenders [that’s braces to us Brits. Ed.] – the stuff which hold your pants – and immediately, you are an electro swing DJ. I am trying to somehow stand out from all that. I am trying to be very unique and I know it is hard because there is always something which cannot be avoided.

SF: I think your music is going to last longer than the current electro swing trend because you are very unique. Whenever people join the Electro Swing group, they are looking for mostly swing house. When they see something different…

Milan: Yeah. They are looking for the stuff that is already being put out there. I don’t understand either. They want to listen to Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace. Goddamnit, we have been listening to that stuff for six years. I understand that some people are new to it but it is fucking crazy. They don’t need you to like them. They don’t need you to repost their tracks. They have made it. I will always support and will return the comment under my songs. I love to find many people in my hometown and other places who come to me because they know I am about music and respect my work. Many rappers ask me about opinion and I always give honest feedback. I never lie to them. I won’t call them dope if I don’t think they are dope. If you ask for an opinion, I will give it to you and will give it honestly. This is how it should be done...

I am enjoying this conversation.

SF: Where are your future gigs? Are you going to play in other countries?

Milan: Today, I am going to head to Belgrade. I am going to spend a day with my partner. We are going to finish a couple of tracks. We have a 7-track EP which is so good. I think, you will be blown away. I am being modest, they are very good. Each of them is a story for itself. It is unbelievable. If I do an EP, it is seven tracks. In most cases, (for example) House EP has 3 tracks and that is it. Their lengths are different but you hear the same kind of sound. I love that we can make soundtrack EP and all tracks are connected in a certain way but they are all telling a different story. We have that EP ready. I am waiting for C@ in the H@ to respond. We talked about releasing it on his Ragtime Records. I feel it is a very good label to do it especially because they don’t have such kind of vibes on their label yet. C@ in the H@ told me that he liked the tracks very much. We are waiting - he has sent a couple of tracks to High Focus Records. They are really big. We are waiting for the answer in general to see who will do it. We are going to record that and master it. I hope it will be out in some day in April (2017).

Then, after Belgrade, I am going home to Velika. I think I am crossing my towns. I should be a resident DJ at a very nice location at sea during the summer. If that comes in, I will be settled for an entire summer. However, they are very backed up. I think they liked my story because they have that lounge bar and I am the guy for them (laughs). If I become a resident there, I would give my best to the owners and to bring somebody as guest to do sets – so we can do a good story. For example, Kiwistar comes from France who makes really cool stuff. By having an international guest, you can make a story with it. He popped up in my mind because we are friends. I will play at some festivals maybe and some single parties every now and then.

SF: Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Mr. Woox and his partner in crime, The ROA, have been making some really unique and sexy music, which is guaranteed to make you all travel back in time and to the old streets of New York City and New Orleans.