Bristol is currently secretly harbouring one of the most prolific house producers of the last 20 years. When we uncovered this a few months back, we took it upon ourselves to put the word out; the people of Bristol deserve to know who is in their midst. The mystery man walking the streets with them in the day, dancing alongside them at night. His name is Andy Compton, and he is dangerously talented and notoriously friendly.
Having grown up on a farm in Devon, Andy later moved to Nottingham in the early 90s, which is where is love for deep house flourished. His relationship with the sound has since created over 20 albums, his deep house collective, The Rurals, his own label PENG, plus a strongly sentimental musical bond with the South African house scene. Jazz, soul and African music have all been great influences to Andy’s musical work, meaning his productions ensue a soulful and more emotive feeling that is often lacking in newer production. Andy’s musical talent and outstanding work ethic has taken him on tours around the world and excitingly to collaborations with some of the greatest artists of our times, ranging from Motown legends, underground house producers and exquisite Soul vocalists. It is thus with great pleasure that we met with Andy to have a chat about his life and work and host an exclusive mix full of deep house South African jams.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how you came to work in music and your musical projects thus far?
I’m a producer, musician and DJ living in Bristol. I fell in love with music when I was very young, and from 11 started playing the guitar. In 1992 I fell in love with deep house, after relocating to Nottingham with my band. The final straw was the Castlemorten Festival, where I was introduced to the DIY sound system.
Most of the artists we talk to for Spotlights are relatively new emerging artists, yet you’ve been making and playing music for over twenty years. What have you learnt over that time that you feel has contributed to your success and what advice would you pass onto younger artists starting out?
I’ve learned to appreciate the gift I’ve been given, and to spread as much love to the world as possible via my music; be it recordings or live. My advice would be to follow your dreams, anything is possible! If a farm boy from devon can do it, anyone can!
Do you feel growing up in a more peaceful part of Devon versus a music cosmopolitan was important for shaping your own sound?
Devon was such an inspiring place to make music, but i’ve now learnt to find inspiration in other environments. Another positive thing about growing up in the country was that I wasn’t exposed to the trendy sounds which might have been happening in cities, so followed my own path.
Last time we met, we spoke about your gorgeous (and cheeky) little boy! If you had to choose five records to pass onto him, what would they be and why?
I have two boys, but the youngest we were talking about is a big Marvin Gaye fan! So lets start with Marvin’s Live At The Palladium & What’s Going On? The James Brown albums Hell and The Payback, aswell. But I guess before those he better take my huge stack of The Rurals albums.
Todd Edwards recently wrote to his fans about his excitement that for the first time he owned all his own music. It appears music ownership can be problematic and damaging to producers. Do you have any views on how the music industry works in this way and was having autonomy and ownership a motivation to your own label, Peng?
I think ownership is essential! I think this is the future of music, and making a living from it. Although, is seems a shame artists now have to be business wise as well, as it distracts from the music. The main reason PENG was started (15 years ago!) was because labels were so slow getting back to me about releases, also a lot of them didn’t want to pay the royalties, so having a label is the way to go, although a bit time consuming!
With 21 albums and over 100 EPs released to date you’ve been unbelievably prolific. Do you plan to continue this musical productivity in the future or are there any other projects and dreams you wish to pursue?
I love writing albums, I find they’re like chapters of my life. I always write music fast, so yeah I guess i’ll be keeping it up! So I don’t get bored I rotate my projects between The Rurals, L.A.M.P and COMPTON, which all have a different flavour.
Awesome Tapes From Africa had a bit of a kerfuffle recently, when his Toronto show was cancelled after an ‘all-white line-up’ sparked outrage, debate and racism on the event’s Facebook page. What do you think of this and in general do you think appropriation of music from a culture not ‘your own’ can be manipulative and requires consideration?
Wow, I never heard about this, will have to Google it. But, I can tell you something, there’s no racism in the house music I do. I mainly play in townships in South Africa and they look up to me, as my group The Rurals have been the soundtrack to quite a lot of their lives. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve had many a punter over there tell me their Rural stories!
Do you think producers have a responsibility to support and give back to the music communities that gave birth to the music that has greatly influenced their own, or is music open to all that appreciates it?
I think both. My main mission is just to make people happy when they’re listening to my music/sets, that way they can forget their everyday troubles and just get high on music and life.
You recently moved back to Bristol after living in South Africa for a couple of years. Do you feel your time there has influenced your sound and relationship with music?
Hehe, i never lived in South Africa, but people do wonder as I’ve done 12 tours there in 3 years! Everytime I come over here I jam with new artists in the studio, so I’m always picking up new tips and get influenced by the people I’m jamming with.
You’re currently on a tour in S.A. How is it going back? If you’ve played some of the new album, how has it been received?
Yes I’m here now and it’s been amazing. I started in Soweto last friday, did a dope gig there, for the most respectful and polite crowd ever. The sound system was FAT as well, so all good! The other gigs have also been great. I head down to the beach at Camps Bay in Cape Town in a bit to play at the 15 years of PENG and Ubuntu album launch. My albums came out today over here, on Universal…they’ve had me busy! I’ve been on eight radio shows in 24 hours doing interviews!
The feedback for the music has been great! Big congrats on Ubuntu, it’s a great album. It’s great to hear how you teamed up with some local vocalists and musicians on it. Could you give us a bit of an insight into how it all came together and also how you came to work with those involved?
Thanks, glad you like it! The first night I moved to Bristol a friend dragged me out to a gig at The Canteen, to check out a sax player. It turned out to be one of the best gigs ever! The dude on sax was James Morton, playing with his great band. After, I took their numbers and hit them up, and through those guys I started meeting other great musicians. Some of the other vocalists are from abroad, Diviniti and Eric King from Detroit and Ladybird from Paris, and Ziyon is in one of the biggest pop groups in South Africa called Liquideep.
When I watched RA Real Scenes on Johannesburg I was totally moved its the immense and passionate House scene. Can you tell us a bit more about that scene and, having played there, why you think House music is so loved?
Music is the tempo to these peoples lives! They know how to enjoy themselves, and are the biggest house music train spotters in the world. I play to a 90% black audience, mainly in townships. It’s another world to what we’re used to in the UK. I have some amazing friends there now, and there’s so much talent there. A lot of producers start at around 14! Peng has a South African off shoot PENG AFRICA, which has South African only releases. We’ve exposed names like Darque, Kojo, and Nathan X, and given them a launch pad to a healthy DJ career and exposure for their music, as well as a bit of well earned cash! PENG AFRICA is managed my Mthulisi, who actually lives in Leeds! He has his ear to the ground and gets sent hundred of demos monthly.
Which fellow producers and DJs do you respect the most and feel have been integral to House’s legacy. Are there any producers or singers you would like to collaborate with?
Producers and DJs i respect are 95 North, DJ Spinna, all of the DIY sound system (From Notts) who were a huge influence, MAW, Glenn Underground…the list could go on forever! I would love to collab’ with Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and José James, but I’m really lucky already to be able to collab’ with my favourite singers and musicians already.
We normally ask about local up-and-coming producers you’re into at the moment, but could you also tell us about some in South African you’re feeling?
Ok, in no order…Da Capo, Lele x , Kojo, Leighton Moody, and Erefaan Pearce are some currents favourites! Thanks!