Where are you based?Brixton, London, UK
Is this your home town?Nope, but I’ve now lived here longer than anywhere else in my life, so I guess it’s now earned the title of home. I was born in a little town in the North East of England called Hexham, but moved around a lot when I was young.
What is your first musical memory?My eldest brother, who is 14 years older than me, was a bit of a vinyl fiend when I was young, and I used to crawl into his room and look through all his albums. He had a wall of them. Occasionally he’d let me pick one out, and I always used to pick out the “Joker” album by Steve Miller Band. I liked the cover as he had a painted face, so I guess looked like a clown, and there was this track called “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma”, which was the kind of lyrical content I could connect with back then. I think that’s my earliest memory, I can’t remember how old I was, I guess somewhere between 1 and 3.
What was the first record you bought?Madness “Absolutely”.
What was the last record you bought?Luminodisco`s “Diavolo Di Un Disco” on Hell Yeah.
What inspired you to start DJing / making music / the label?Going to Tonka parties inspired me to start DJing, and I suppose DJing in turn inspired me to start making music and running my own label.
The Tonka parties and crowd have grown into something of a legend. What other DJs, music makers, artists, promoters do you know that were Tonka regulars? I think theres a clip of you on Youtube just after you had to shave your dreads off. Who are you still in touch with? From the outside it seems very much like family.Haha, that video’s pretty classic, I think that was from about a week after I’d shaved my head, what do I look like, haha, just goes to show fashion wasn’t that important to me. Tonka were the first proper parties I went to. As well as inspiring me to the life I lead now, I also made loads of good friends who I still see today. Those of the crowd who went on to be DJs, music makers, artists, promoters? I guess all the Wicked crew from San Fran, Jeno, Markie, Thomas Bullock and Garth, over here the Idjuts, Ray Mang, Gerry Rooney, Placid, Nick the Record, DJD. Of course there are loads of others who since Tonka went on to run labels or put on there own nights but these are probably the most well known of people who are still doing things at the moment. Harvey’s the only one of the original Tonka DJ’s still plying his trade, although I have heard Choci’s got himself a radio show now on Kane fm.
How long have you been DJing / making music / running the label?I’ve been DJing since 1990, running labels since 93, and producing since 96.
What was your first gig? Can you remember the kind of music you were playing? Did Cynic start in 93? Do you have a preference for DJing or production these days? Do you get offered a lot of remix work? I love what you did with Almunia, and Paul assures me it will get a vinyl release soon.The first party I played was a squat party in Camberwell, I was young and didn’t have a lot of records, probably just about enough to play a set. I played all kinds of stuff, some House, some Acid, probably some Rap, Disco and a bit of New Beat. I remember nervously asking Harvey what he thought afterwards, and he very kindly commented about how good it sounded when I dropped Joe Smooth’s “Promised Land”, rather than drawing attention to the numerous clangers and bugger mixes I must have dropped. I didn’t start Cynic till 2004, in 93 I started Ugly Music.
I prefer DJing, it’s what I did first, and I still think I’m a better DJ than producer. It comes a lot more naturally to me. I get offered a fair amount of remix work, but don’t get a chance to do half the things I’m offered as the way I work is quite labour intensive. I’m really pleased with the remix I did for Paul, probably one of the best remixes I’ve done. A lot of labels will ask you to do a mix in a week or two, and I’m never that pleased with the results when I’m rushed. When I originally did the remix for Paul I rang him and said “I finished your remix, but I’d like to sit on it for a week or two and give it another listen”. He was cool with it and when I came back to it I had loads of changes I wanted to do. I think I did that mix over a year ago now, so there obviously wasn’t a major rush! Apparently the vinyl is due out in September.
How would you describe your sound / the label`s sound?I hate pigeon holing myself musically, but someone in Berlin a couple weekends back described my DJing as Disco/Acid/Rock, which I guess sums up my DJ style quite nicely.
Which production / release / remix are you most proud of?I’m really pleased with the Dedication album which I’ve been working on for some time now, I’ve had the pleasure to work with some really talented musicians and vocalists and it’s pretty much there now. Just need to find a suitable label to put it out.
Which production / release / remix would you most like to have done?I get inspired by other people`s music all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever listened to something and gone “I wish I’d made that”.
What are your favourite places to play / hang out in?My favourite destination used to be Japan, but I haven’t been there for a couple years now, and I’ve heard it’s changed a lot since then, with Osaka and Kyoto trying to stamp down on the nightclub life and rumours of Tokyo and the rest of Japan following suit soon. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s still the best place to play. Other than that I really enjoy the Bring It! parties I do with the Idjut boys and the Bad Passion parties that I’m resident at.
Where are the Bring It! parties held? We did them for just over a year in various warehouses, studios and railway arches around Brixton. We’re going to start doing to do them a bit more regularly now at a spot in Stoke Newington with the rather unfortunate name “The Waiting Room”, which used to be The Drop. We’re doing them monthly on the second Thursday of the month starting on the 13th September, we’re all pretty busy with overseas gigs, so doing it on a Thursday meant we could do it regularly without fear of having to cancel too often.
What is your favourite place outside of a bar / club / record shop?I love surfing although I don’t do nearly enough of it, something I plan to make a conscious effort to change in the next couple of years, so my favourite place is probably out back waiting for a wave.
Where`s your favourite spot to surf?My friend Ed, coincidentally, the guy who designed the Cynic logo, has followed his dream out to southern India to set up a surf and yoga retreat called Soul and Surf, I love it out there, the waves aren’t too gnarly, which is good since neither am I, but they’re regular and the beaches are pretty deserted so you have it all to yourself.
Do you see yourself as part of any scene?I guess the list of people I mentioned earlier of people who used to got to Tonka parties make up a pretty good scene. Not sure what we’d be called though, ‘Tonka Graduates’ sounds pretty shit, but I guess I feel like we’ve all got a good bit of common musical heritage with all that lot.
Who does your artwork?My friend Ed did the Cynic logo and label template years ago, and we’ve just stuck with that.
Is a visual identity important?Not really, although I suppose it should be. When I set up Cynic it was just really a place that I could put out my own music, although over time I’ve managed to put out a couple records by my friends, so I just had a bare bones label template that I could fill in each time.
Which artists are you currently working with?I’ve been working on an album with some musicians in Japan which I started years ago, which is pretty much near completion now. I started the album with Tsyoshi from Cro Magnon and this great keyboard player called Botch, but we’ve had a few other featured musicians on various tracks. I then bought the stuff back to London where I’ve added vocals from Robert Owens, Dannielle Moore, and a few others.
How did the Dedication project come together? How did you meet the Cro-Magnon guys? Was the recording done in Japan?I first met Tsyoshi from Cro-Magnon when we did a party together in Tokyo. I was staying with a mutual friend called Mikey Yamada down in the seaside town of Kamakura,another spot I like to try surf, and heard some music they had been recording together. I wanted to get involved and ended up recording a session that night with Tsyoshi and Botch. I bought that recording back to England and Kyle, Sly from Foolish and Sly, sang some vocals on it. From then on, every time I went to Japan I would stay with Mikey and he’d get some local musicians round to record a few more tracks, I’d then finish arranging and producing them back in England, and occasionally record some vocals on some of the tracks back here as well.
I’ve also got another little project going with Nick the Record, which as things stand will probably see the light of day before the album. Then there’s the stuff I do with Jaime Read as LHAS Inc., their should be a few more things from us seeing the light of day soon, although it’s harder to get a chance to work with him these days as he’s in Brighton bringing up his herd of children.
The music you make with Jaime references 80s Detroit and Chicago but manages to come up with something new. How would you describe the stuff you are doing with Nick?Our fist E.P. has a couple very different sounding tracks on, one slow weirdo kinda Afro thing with a big wobbly bass. The other is more of a traditional spacey dreamy House number.
Who would you most like to work with?I’ve worked with a load of people over the years and it always seems to work best when we have different skills. I’m not good enough to really get up on stage and sing or play an instrument, although at a push I can bash something out in the studio given enough takes, so having any really talented musician on board who I can just record and edit helps. Saying that though I heard Holger Czukay talk once and he seemed to have the same kind of cack handed “I make music, but can’t play an instrument approach”, so I would love to work with him as I’m sure he could teach me lots, and I reckon it would be really fun working with him.
Does playing and making music pay the rent?My father died when I was relatively young, and left me enough money to buy my flat, so thankfully rent hasn’t been something I’ve needed to worry about for a while.
What sites, if any, do you regularly check on-line?Some sites I like / use in no particular order are:
What was the last book you read?“Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall.
What is your favourite book?I don’t think this is my favourite book, but it’s one I seem to be recommending to people a lot, I think this says more for my friends than for my literary tastes, “The Scientist” by John C. Lilly
Isn`t he the Scientist “Altered States” was based on?Yeah that’s the guy, I’m pretty interested in all that psychedelic research stuff, and he did some pretty interesting experiments, so I like to point people in his direction.
What was the last film you saw?“Chronicle”
What is your favourite film?Tough call, I really like Jim Jarmusch’s “Ghost Dog”, enough that I haven’t deleted it off my free view box yet, but I’m sure there’s better films out there, it`s that just my memory is so shot these days nothing comes to mind. I don’t buy DVDs so it’s a bit of a disposable art form for me. Once I’ve seen a film I usually forget it pretty quick.
What is your favourite piece of music? If that`s too difficult, what`s your current favourite piece of music?No idea on favourite piece, but I got given the Idjut boys new album “Cellar Door”, and it’s bloody lovely.
You can catch Felix and the Idjut Boys at Bring It! at The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington, Church Street, this Thursday, September 13th.