For our twenty-second Stamp Mix we revisit a label who are becoming a bit of a mainstay in the series. Cool Kid Music have put us onto plenty of interesting stuff recently, with danglo and Toyboy & Robin guesting for us previously. Now it’s the turn of Werkha, a Manchester producer and DJ who’s Cube and Puzzle EP came out on the label last year. It’s full of interesting percussive arrangements, live instrumentation and a groove equally suitable for sound systems or bedroom speakers. We’ve been in touch with Tom for a while and the many back-and-fourths have really brought across his passion for the music he makes, which, unashamedly, has rubbed off on us too. Recently featured on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Bubblers compilation was a big step in his musical journey and so 2014 looks to be a really promising year. Before that though, Werkha will be playing a few shows across the UK this week, including Mostly Mobo in Manchester and Fabric’s 14th Birthday. In anticipation for these two dates we caught up with Tom for a long-overdue Q&A, accompanied by a mix packed full of African rhythms, contemporary electronic sounds and even an exclusive new one from the man (premiered online here).
For any readers who aren’t familiar with you, can you give a little introduction to you and your music.
Yeah sure, I am Werkha, my real name is Tom A Leah. I am a Manchester born, Cumbrian raised, and now (once again) Manchester based musician and producer who makes electronic music. I grew up with instruments as my musical outlet, it is in more recent years that I have come to realise the potential of the studio as another wonderful instrument with which to create music.
Readers can find out about your influences and inspiration in interviews with Brownswood and Fabric, so we won’t get you to repeat yourself here! Instead, who have you been listening to a lot recently?
Most of my listening is still from vinyl & CDs. I have been rinsing this track Sealed With A Kiss by this dutch duo called The Please all summer. I love the vibe of that whole Gravendijkwal EP, one of my favourite bits of wax right now. Robert Glasper Experiment has had a firm place in my recent listening catalogue too, and I bought that tasty Theo Parrish remix of Mala’s Como Como (feat. Dreiser & Sexto Sentido 10) the other day, love that slow roller. I’m listening to Matthew Halsall’s Sachi as I write this.
Coming off the back of a busy festival season, you’re appearing a lot in the UK this month. First up, is Mostly Mobo in your hometown this week. What can people expect from your sets if they haven’t heard you play before?
Summer was wicked actually! Ultimately, with my sets I want to demonstrate how electronic music (so the music I make) can sit alongside the music I am inspired by – jazz, afrobeat, dubstep, house and trip hop. I like exploring different tempos too, so expect all of the above from anything between 2-step tempo to slow jams and beyond.
The following day you’re playing at Fabric for their birthday. How was your debut back in June? And you’re looking forward to going back no doubt?
Fabric has such a history, it always turns heads when you mention you’ve got a gig down there. I enjoyed playing there the first time, I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in initially, but now I am really looking forward to my second gig. It’s an honour to be playing their birthday!
Coming back to Manchester, is there anything about the city that separates it from other places you play?
It’s home! There’s a history here, and a music scene that is the result of people’s hard work in pursuit of their passion. There’s an atmosphere about the city. I am lucky enough to play different types of nights around the city so I get to see some of the many different faces of the music scene here. Every night is different, but the city has such soul.
Are there any producers bubbling up in the city we should know more about?
Well I hope you know about Walton, good lad, wicked hard hitting productions for Hyperdub. Acre is causing a stir at the moment, more underground than that, I think you should keep an eye out for Contours (last track of my mix), some awesome percussive stuff from his direction. Can I include bands? Because I think Gogo Penguin and The Mouse Outfit are also well worth some of your listening time.
Sidesteppin’ was recently featured on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Bubblers 10 compilation. How did that come about and what’s it like getting involved with such a great label?
Well I saw Gilles was playing in Manchester (I think around January earlier this year). I remember feeling pretty ill actually! Anyway I went down and handed him a CD with some new material on. The next time I was in London I went and had a chinwag with some of the Brownswood guys down there. I grabbed a coffee with Gilles the next time he was up in Manchester, then they asked to feature it on the Bubbler a little bit later which was lovely. It’s been great to have them on side, as you can imagine I have a lot of time for what Gilles does for music, and Brownswood HQ is lovely.
Can you tell us a bit about the mix you made for us? Any standouts for you to draw attention to?
I always think that DJ sets/mixes should be an honest reflection of a musician’s music collection, and when I record mixes I take into consideration that you’ll probably be at home or in transit, so I suppose this mix is made with that in mind. It kicks off with a Fela Soul record I love, leading me into some cheeky Mr Scruff. Further into the mix is a new tune of mine, Tempo Tempo, previously unheard (apart from on GP’s 6 Music show). I love that Pedestrian & Jasperdrum tune Ndizi, and as mentioned earlier, I finish the mix witha tasty percussive number from Contours.
What are your favourite three tracks of 2013 so far?
Edmondson – Don’t Stop…I think it was this year!
Alice Russell – Heartbreaker (Falty DL Remix)…tasty rhythms.
Pedestrian & Jasperdrum – Ndizi…bouncing!
And finally, what’s on the horizon for you in terms of dates and releases? We also hear you’ve got a website launch incoming?
It’s been just over a year since my first release, and it’s been a really interesting one. Over the last 12 months I’ve had interest from labels such as R&S and Black Acre amongst others. The Brownswood bubbler was a lovely thing to be involved with, but I’ve now found a label I am looking to move forward with. We’re in talks and I should be announcing an EP and album soon. There’s a few remixes on their way which have been really fun, I’m looking forward to getting them out and about. I’m also putting together a live show, not just me behind a laptop, but instruments and live kit, I’m really excited about that. And finally, yes, I will be launching a new website soon. Something to keep your eyes out for!
Fela Soul [De La Soul Vs. Fela Kuti] – Breakadawn
Mr Scruff – Ug
Werkha – Bottle Trick
Ambassadeurs – FlyByNight
Mount Kimbie – 50 Mile View
Werkha – Tempo Tempo
Mala – Calle F
Werkha (feat. Bryony Jarman-Pinto) – Sidesteppin’
Pedestrian & Jasperdrum – Ndizi
Titeknots – Mind Open
Contours – Backlatch