York Spotlight: Asimov

STW PHOTO

STW PHOTO

York has never had a reputation for being a party town. If you go there in the daytime you will be surrounded by pensioners and tourists looking for a spot to feed the geese, and the city is quiet by 7pm on most evenings. However, tucked away just within the historic city walls lies Bar Lane Studios, where Sam Jefferies divulges his passion as a painter by day and a DJ by night under the guise of Asimov.

In a turbulent scene which heavily depends on the flavour of the month at York University, his party Rhumboogie has transcended the boundaries between locals and students; partially filling the gap left by house music institution Freakin and bringing together the underground clubbing community of York in the name of charity. Often playing for hours on end at the vinyl only party, Sam is fast establishing a reputation for having a musical knowledge beyond his years and a record collection that could outmatch selectors well into their 30s. Aside from DJing round York supporting everyone from Jerome Hill to Palms Trax, he has been gaining plaudits for his work as an artist, with one of his paintings gracing a recent release from Dutch techno producer Orlando Voorn.

Here he has offered up a marathon six hour mix and answered some questions about Rhumboogie, his art and his home city of York. Scroll down to the bottom to check the 103 strong tracklist.

First, our usual ice-breaker. What’s your first musical memory?

I can’t believe I’m typing this but my first musical memory was Corona ‘Rhythm of the Night’. I seem to remember my mum had a bit of an obsession with it, as I definitely remember her playing it in the car when we lived in Derry. It evidently rubbed off on me because I even had it on cassette!

Musically, I’ve always taken quite a lot of influence from Mum, she got me into new wave when I was about 13, I remember being sat down with her on the computer and she was playing Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams’ and I fell in love with the genre there and then. We spent the rest of the day going through all the synth pop from her youth downloading everything from iTunes and LimeWire (the shame!) and ignoring the passport application that we were meant to be doing.

There is a real emphasis on strong residents with Rhumboogie. Can you tell us how the party initially came about, and who is involved?

Fil and myself had wanted to start a party for ages. We’d played together a lot before, mostly at student house parties in Leeds, all night affairs where we’d just bang it out until everyone had finally gone to bed at 8 in the morning. But Fil was the person who properly got me into house music; I was listening to minimal stuff before, but the old crackly tracks he was showing me were old Chicago and Detroit records from Theo Parrish, Omar S and Terrence Parker. I’m not sure I’ve ever told Fil but he played a big part in the tunes I’m buying now, a massive part in fact. He used to work with me at a shop in York and as someone a bit older than me I always listened when he gave me things to listen to. So basically, I trusted Fil to play wicked tunes and he knows his shit better than most. I know it’s a big claim, but if you were to put him up against the eclectic DJs like Theo Parrish, Hunee, Rick Wilhite and the rest, I think you’d be hard placed to say who was better. That was what we wanted to do; to show that you didn’t have to go and see some big shot selector to hear some of the best music you’ve ever heard.

I feel like there are so many incredible DJs who aren’t well known, so I’m not sure why people even bother paying extortionate prices to go and see ‘big name’ headliners sometimes. After the second party we had Anthony Dobson to come and join us as our other resident. Much like Fil, Anthony has had a massive role in my musical education from his time DJing at Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds where I used to work. Being the musical obsessive I am, I used to badger him for tunes all the time to the point where I used to get bollocked on a regular basis by my assistant manager. She just didn’t get it haha! Anyway, we bonded over Drexciya and he’s been a close friend ever since.

Although residents have played most of the parties, I understand you’ve had some guests over the last 18 months. Can you tell us why you chose them and who we might expect in the future?

We’ve had two guests down at Rhumboogie. The first was Jeanne from Phonica who was recommended to us by a friend who used to work with us in the shop in York. Once we found out she worked at Phonica, we had a quick glance over her DJ charts and listened to a few of her mixes, at which point we all knew that Jeanne was exactly the kind of person we wanted to DJ down at Rhumboogie; eclectic selections, no pretense, just tunes she loved. She was absolutely fantastic when she played, I remember having a list as long as my arm of records I needed to buy when I got home which is always a good sign. Our other guest was Luv Jam who’s a regular around York. He’d heard about the party and asked us if he could come play for a taxi fare. Normally bookings aren’t something we do as we like to keep the resident focussed approach, but there have been thoughts of getting a few other people down to play in the next few months. I just don’t want to take away from the essence of the parties as the operation is so small and community driven. Any of the names we’ve got down are secret, even if I do blurt them out while pissed! But for the moment they are firmly in the vault, no amount of peach schnapps will get them out.

All the proceeds from Rhumboogie are donated to the local Choose2 charity, why did you pick this particular charity and how do they operate on a day-to-day basis?

We heard of Choose2 through our friend Dan Axon who was complaining that a certain music shop was refusing to give him free cables for a charity he worked for which turned out to be a disabled Youth club just outside York’s city centre. We got in contact with Dan to see how we could help and have ended up donating every penny of cash we make on the door to the charity, helping to pay for some of the often specialist gear needed to help young disabled children feel independent. Dan used to do DJing lessons with a few of the children, so the fact that the charity housed a musical element was important, but at the same time not essential.

Having been down to the club to see the charity in action it was really heartwarming to see what a happy place it was. There are two sessions a week both catering to a different set of needs and from what we’ve gathered the youth club is underfunded and oversubscribed. You can thank eight years of cuts for that… There are plenty of activities to keep the children entertained for hours on an evening which cover a range of sports and arts, one of the best includes some truly incredible bikes, which enable even the most severely disabled person the thrill of the wind in the face as they ride. It’s a really mega place. It’s just sad to think that there are plenty of other youth clubs in a similar place financially.

How much of an influence was the Leeds based Cosmic Slop in terms of its musical ethos, and its philanthropic role within the wider community as a source of funding for the charity MAP?

Musically, I think some of what Slop does has evidently snuck into my noggin in the sense that Tom and Mike just play whatever the hell they want. I absolutely love Slop, it’s given me so much joy over the past five years and the fact that it sets out to do something so positive is an inherent part of what makes it such a joyful place. We always wanted a music policy that was as eclectic as Cosmic Slop, and it’s a great feeling to make a difference on a philanthropic level, even if it’s on a smaller scale than Slop.

Your party is held in Bar Lane Studios, where you also rent your own private studio for your work as an artist, how important is the space for creating the right atmosphere at your parties?

So important. I feel very at home at Bar Lane and the room we use for the parties, although being cold in the winter, is perfect for a bit of hedonism. From a practical point of view the floor is entirely stone and there’s nothing breakable in the room whatsoever, which helps as BYOB parties get very messy! It feels like an interesting space, it’s got high ceilings, a huge old-fashioned window in front of the decks that we hang multi-coloured cushions over to block the noise and prying eyes. At the end of the day Rhumboogie is a DIY party for friends, so it’d feel weird if it got taken into a club environment.

 

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Orlando Voorn recently commissioned one of your paintings (see above) for the artwork on one of his releases, how do you see the relationship between your music and your art?

Again, really important! I’ve always pictured music and art alongside each other and my paintings take a huge amount of influence from the music I listen to. For example, the painting that Orlando is using on the cover of his new album has figures from some images I managed to obtain of the Muzic Box in Chicago. I listen to a lot of music while working but I have to listen to albums, new mixes are an absolute no-go otherwise I end up spending the whole day on Discogs trying to find tracks and end up making fuck all progress my work. I’m easily distracted.

We also understand you have been buckling down in the studio on making music aside from working on your DJing and painting. What do you have in the pipeline?

Yeah I’ve been making tunes for some time now, often in a totally crude simplistic manner. I’ve got a couple of bits of gear I use to death; an old and battered Kurzweil K2VX (famous as the synth Mad Mike used on the Galaxy 2 Galaxy and Martian records) an XOXBOX and a Roland TR-8. Most of the music I make is trying to hit the feeling that there’s a live element, even if there isn’t. I like to think of a successful track as something that makes it sound as if I can play an instrument, which I can’t very well but I can pretend I can through plenty of takes. The mix actually contains two of my tunes which I cut to dub plate. The only other person who’s got a copy of these is Objekt who I gave a plate too at Freerotation last summer. I’ve no idea if he plays them at all but I got a lovely text off him a few days afterwards to say that he’d never been given a dubplate before and said they reminded him of melodic Underground Resistance tracks which I was very happy with.

Each of the tracks I’ve been working on are based on certain sections from the foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. They’re incredibly self indulgent, often ridiculously long and connect my love of funk and techno together in a way that has to the most part been massively satisfying. There’s a huge amount of influence from the Submerge crew in my music. I’m got so bored of tacky techno recently that I’ve just steered well clear of it in terms of production. I’m currently saving (very poorly I’ve got to say) to start up Mind Static Transmissions, which is the label I plan on launching in the next few months. I wanted to set something up that was mine from start to completion in terms of creative input putting out music with a slightly different sound to what is coming out of lots of techno labels. Where’s the funk gone people?!

How and where was the mix recorded? Can you give us an idea about what you wanted to convey with it?

The mix was recorded in my bedroom in York through two turntables and my DJR 400. I’d wanted to put an overly long mix together for a long time and didn’t have the time to do one, but when you asked it gave me the impetus to get off my arse and get it done. So thanks for that! It was originally meant to be five hours long. I tried to calculate how many records I’d need to fill the time period, however that didn’t go so well because I’ve accidently ended up adding an extra hour to the whole thing. It’s easily done especially as the unused record pile was full of beautiful music I wish I’d been able to include, but unfortunately you can’t use everything.

I’m used to long sets, I genuinely love the challenge of curating the whole evening’s music for someone. You have the opportunity to shape the whole dynamics of somebodies musical adventure with you. I find myself picking a beginning and an end record and challenge myself on how I’m going to get there. I was lucky enough to play plenty of nine-plus hour parties in Leeds and Liverpool when I was a student and I always loved doing them, but it’s also a bit of a middle finger to promoters who are obsessed about getting 5000 DJs to play over eight hrs. I don’t think that any DJ should be playing for less than three on an evening. If promoters don’t trust a DJ to play for that long they shouldn’t be booking them. You can set tone in three hrs. In one hour slots you end up with everyone trying to out do each previous DJ with as many bangers as possible. You lose the ebbs and flows that can make a DJ set out of this world. Give us some variety, give us the music that makes you tick. That’s the whole point surely?

I wanted to take the listener on a journey of my musical favourites, from live jazz funk through to the most banging electro record ever made (I reckon so anyway). There’s plenty of oddities in there I’ve found through digging and some classics. All wicked records though and for the first time I actually sat down and planned the mix from start to finish. Usually it’s done on the fly but I thought I’d see how it flowed by being a bit more rigid with my selections. I hope you all enjoy it. I’ve always found I’m a pretty rough mixer; the physical mix is and always will be one of the least important parts of DJing for me. As my pal Turner always says “the tunes always trump the mix” and he’s dead right. You could be the most technically skilled DJ in the world and play the most boring records ever, what would be the point?

Where’s your favourite place to buy records in York?

Easy, Earworm Records. It’s always a pleasure walking through the doors although I’ll admit I haven’t been in much over the past few months if only to make sure I don’t end up spending my entire savings pot. I’ve picked up some of my favourite records from that place often at incredible prices, and now that I look back on it I can’t believe the level of quality releases that I’ve plucked from the racks. Obviously I won’t bore you with everything I’ve ever bought from there because you’d probably have died by the time I’d reeled of the list but for example the Lofthouse EP by Clark, Stasis Inspiration and E-Smoove ‘Down The Drain’ have all come from Earworm’s incredibly well stocked racks. I think about a just under a sixth of my 2000 strong record collection has come from Earworm.

York has a notorious reputation for being a residential tourist city, despite the number of quality DJs, producers and parties that have thrived there over the years, can you see this changing?

Unfortunately no time soon, York’s tourism and economy in general revolves around hen parties and stag do’s. Luckily the Council is pretty easy going with our TEN notices so the atmosphere of York’s nightlife doesn’t negatively affect us, but the brilliant thing about York is how connected all of us are in the scene. Because it’s so much smaller than Leeds, we all know each other mostly thanks to the legendary house night Freakin, which helped to bring a vibrant mix of young and older friendly faces at every event. It makes it more of a family affair. Rhumboogie is a party full of pals in the same way that Freakin was albeit on a smaller scale. If you know where to look York is a very friendly city to go out in. Big shout out to Kit from Blackbox as well, who has managed to create a fantastic student oriented night bringing in names like Henry Wu, Palms Trax and Ishmael to Fibbers. I’ve had the pleasure to play for them plenty of times now, even enjoying an hour and half back to back with Jim from Crazy P banging out old Chicago and disco tunes, that was hella fun! Those kind of parties are always well received. Luke and Loz continue to throw fantastic parties with Texture as well, There’s a fair bit going on if you’re willing to dig for it.

And finally, what talent should we be keeping an eye on at the moment in the city?

I think apart from Fil;s incredible skills behind the turntables (and production if he ever finished anything), Nigel Rodgers aka Perseus Trax is a fantastic producer and equally talented DJ who’s been a massive help to me in my more naïve parts of production. As many of you will know he’s released on Bunker Records with a eye watering back catalogue of bangers, and also runs his own label – Secret Gang. Anybody in the UK not considering Nigel as a booking would be off their rocker in my opinion. You won’t find a finer DJ anywhere!

Tracklist

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