Vinyl Junkie Interviews - BLAME
I remember back in 1991 I was on the bus on the way home from a little trip to Replay Records in Bristol, having bought something on Moving Shadow... I cant remember which one it was now... but I noticed a telephone number on the back of the sleeve, so when i got off the bus I stuck 10p in the telephone box and dialled the number. I spoke to a guy called Rob Playford, telling him i was a DJ from Bristol. He asked where I played and I told him. That was it. I couldn't believe it when he said he was going to add me to the promo list... I thought, "Wow, that was easy". A little while after I received a white label copy of Blame - Music Takes You (The original version with the Seal vocal). I was blown away! Not only was this the first promo record I ever received but what a belter. I caned that record!! I was even more blown away when the record got released and I realised that it didn't have the vocal. I was like "YES - MY VERSION IS MUCH BETTER" 🤣
I have to tell you, thats one record that never left my collection. When I (stupidly) sold off my records... This one stayed... There was just something a bit special about it... Its really cool that over 30 years later I get to have a chat with Blame himself about that very record, amongst other things! Who would of ever thunk it?
So without further ado...
Hi Mate. Hows things and what have you been up to??
I’m good thanks. I’ve been working hard in the studio everyday, exactly where I love to be!
Can you give me a brief bit of background on yourself. Where you were born, where you grew up, what school you went to etc… and what did you do for work before you started producing music?
I grew up in north London, going to Edgware school. When I was about 14 my family moved to Luton. I was always into art so I went to college to study graphic design. My first job was as a graphic designer, that was before I quit to work on my music full time.
So musically, lets start right at the beginning… Going way back, before raving and Moving Shadow and all that good stuff… What is your very earliest musical memory?
My first memory of music was learning to play the recorder at Junior school. My mum has a book of the first words I spoke, apparently my first words were music and aubergine!
Aubergine? You must of had a lot of moussaka as a baby? When you were growing up, what music was likely to being played in your house? We’re your parents very musical? In otherwords… What was the soundtrack to your youth? And how did this music effect your future?
I don’t remember much music being played at home, but that wasn’t a problem growing up on an estate in London. The electro and breakdance scene was just starting to explode, which meant that there was always someone outside with a stereo, busting out the latest beats. It was an exciting time.
Good times man... So, what was the first record you ever bought and how old were you?
I can’t remember my exact age, but I was very young. I bought a 7” of cartoon themes from Woolworths. It was on Mr Pickwick records if anyone remembers that label!
I remember it... I think I have some old sound effects albums on that label. So, what was the first rave you ever went to? And how did affect your life!!
I went to a club in Luton called Hemingways. Because I grew up as a hip hop and electro fan this was the first time I witnessed the power of dance music in all of its glory. Those synth sounds mixed with my favourite hip hop breakbeats, and that ridiculous sub bass… I was hooked for life!
Where do you think you would be now if the rave scene never happened?
I think I’d still be a record producer, I already had my first drum machine and was starting to make hip hop beats, that was just before I was swept away and inspired by the exciting new rave scene.
Did you do anything musically before you started at Moving Shadow? For example, as a youth, did you play any musical instruments?
I learnt the recorder at school! A little while later I bought my first drum machine and started to make beats that sounded like the electro and hip hop tracks that were blowing up at the time. I didn’t know it, but that was the start of my production journey.
When did you first start learning to produce and are you self taught or did you go to college… In other words, how did you become such an awesome producer?
I was at college, studying graphic design. Justice (who I later collaborated with on Moving Shadow) was at the same college studying media studies. For work experience he had the opportunity to work in a local recording studio called 33 Arts Centre. As a thank you for his work they offered him a few free hours of studio time at the end of the week. He asked me if I’d like to come along, as soon as I walked through the door I was hooked! I saved up a little money to hire the studio myself, the first track I made was Music Takes You, which changed the course of my life forever.
What other producers did you see as your Influences back then?
I didn’t really look at producers as influences back then, I just loved listening to music and dissecting all of the individual elements that made up tracks that I loved.
How did the link-up with Rob Playford and Moving Shadow happen?
As soon as I made Music Takes You I decided to start sending it out to record labels. While I was at The Grid club in Luton, I saw this cool/weird logo of a black shadow man spinning around on the decks. The next day I went to the local record shop, found the record and wrote the telephone number down. I called the label, spoke to Rob, sent the track off and the rest is history.
So as I mentioned earlier, I receiving a white label of your original “Music Takes You”. Was this your first production and did you engineer it yourself?
It was my first solo production, and no I didn’t engineer it myself. I was 17 and this was the first time that I’d ever hired a recording studio on my own. It was a community recording studio called 33 Arts Centre, it cost £7.50 an hour to hire and I’d saved enough for 4 hours… luckily it only took 4 hours to make! The universe was good to me that day, all the sounds and ideas just clicked instantly. It was one of those special tracks that seemed to write itself, unfortunately that doesn’t happen very often!
The original version of that record never saw a full release, although there was some pretty cool remixes that excluded the Seal vocal… For copyright reasons I assume? Could you please share with us the story of “Music Takes You”…
So as the track started to gain momentum we were approached by Seals label, he liked the track and was considering singing on it. Seal was just gearing up for appearing on the Batman soundtrack, and unfortunately featuring on a rave record didn’t tie in with those plans. We had to remove him from the track, it’s a shame because I’ll never know how things would’ve played out if he had featured on it back then.
After Music Takes you. According to Discogs you didn’t release another record until 1993… Seems like quite a long gap… What were you doing??
Haha well, I was 18 with a big record on my hands and the royalties had starting appearing in my bank. So let’s just say I was partying and buying fast cars that cost way too much to insure! That was until one day I went to the cash point and it wouldn’t give me any more money. I’d spent everything. I needed to get back in the studio to try and make another hit. I swore to never do that again, I’d always make sure music came first.
On Beatport, Music Takes You is number 1 in your Top 10 Tracks. How does that make you feel after all this time and the sheer amount of tunes you have released since?
I’m really proud of that. It was the record that showed me that music was going to be my life’s journey.
Can you remember the first time you heard one of your tunes played at a rave by a big established DJ? Who was the DJ and how did it make you feel seeing all those people going mental to something you had made?
It was Chris Paul at Camden Palace. That was one of the most incredible moments of my life. Chris dropped Music Takes You, and when I saw all the hands in the air it blew my mind! I still aim to capture that feeling in the studio with every track I make.
How has production changed over the years? Are you still a hardware man or have plug-ins taken over?
Computers and software are central to our studios thesedays, but I’m still a massive hardware fan and have a few classic synths, nothing quite beats the magic of the original gear.
What DAW do you use and have you always used that one?
I use Logic, I’ve been a fan since the very first version. Before that I used cubase on the Atari, that’s what I made all my Moving Shadow records with.
What is your most used plug-in these days and whats so cool about it?
It’s probably the Fabfilter Pro Q-3. I use it first on every channel, I can instantly see any problems that need fixing in the spectrum analyser.
When did you start DJing and what influenced you to do so?
I first played out in the early 90s, but it all kicked up a level when I joined Good Looking Records. I mixed the Logical Progression 2 album, and started touring the world to promote it.
What DJ’s really blew your mind back in the 90’s?
Randall and Fabio were big favourites of mine back then.
You travelled the world as a DJ… What countries / gigs really stand out for you?
Some of my favourite memories were from Shanghai when during an epic breakdown snow started falling from the ceiling of the club! I also loved playing at Liquid Rooms in Tokyo, the Muffetcafe in Munich and djing on a boat going around the Statue of Liberty in NYC for the legendary Breakbeat Science record store.
Whats the biggest gig you ever did and how many people did you play too??
I think it was 5000 people in Budapest.
You don’t DJ anymore… Why did you give up??
I just love being in the studio more than djing. I’m in the studio 7 days a week, and when I’m in there and a track is coming together and sounding good, everything is right in my world.
Tell us a funny story from your DJ years?
I don’t know if this is funny or disheartening. One gig I played was so bad that the only 3 people on the dancefloor looked like the members of Right Said Fred!
There has been a massive resurgence in vinyl sales lately with loads of old classics being remastered and repressed. Is this a good thing and why? Discuss….
I think it’s a good thing for more people to have a chance to enjoy the music that we all love, plus it’s a good opportunity for us to go back and submerge ourselves in those anthems all over again.
Do you think the vinyl thing will grow or fizzle out? discuss your reasoning…
I feel like the love for the music is growing, but putting food on the table and heating our homes is becoming so expensive that some people have to take a break from buying music.
The sound of the early 90’s hardcore and jungle has come full circle with lots of young people, who were not even born first time round, adopting this sound, buying records and even producing music in this style… Its amazing… whats your thoughts on this and how is it going to effect the future of the scene?
I think it can only be good for the scene, more people getting the chance to enjoy the music that we’ve loved for all of these years has to be a good thing.
How does the newly produced hardcore / jungle compare to the original stuff?
This might sound mad, but I don’t get a chance to listen to what’s new, instead I’m always in the studio creating, working on my own music deadlines 7 days a week.
In recent times you have dropped the tempo of your productions down to around the 160 mark and have been doing some awesome remix work under the name “Blames Shadow Remix”. How did this come about and whats the concept behind it?
So during lockdown I found some unreleased DAT tapes of my music from the mid 90s, Simon from 2 Bad Mice heard them and told me he wanted to sign a couple for his new label Over/Shadow. Once those tracks dropped, other labels started contacting me asking me to remix a track for them just like I would’ve done back in my Moving Shadow days. So I dusted off all my old synths and samples and started calling them my ‘Shadow’ Remixes. Working on these projects is a lot of fun!
I really love what you did with DJ Rap’s Spiritual Aura… Which is your favourite of the recent remixes and why?
I think my Shades Of Rhythm ‘Summer Of 89’ remix is my favourite out of the recent batch. The main reason is that I loved this track for decades without ever finding out who made it, or even what it was called… that was until Kniteforce contacted me about a remix opportunity. I hit play and it was that track!
Whats next on the Horizon for the Shadow Remix series?
I’ve got a few dropping soon on Good 2 Go, Kniteforce, Karma, Suburban Architecture and an exciting new label called Break The Future.
Is your label 720 Degrees still a thing? According to discogs your last digital release was 2020 but I can’t find it on Beatport??
720 Degrees is currently inactive. The main reason is that I just love making music too much. Right now I prefer spending all of my time in the studio, then giving the tracks to fantastic labels who help get them out into the world.
My brand new record ‘Right Now’ is out now on Good 2 Go. It was inspired by my time at Moving Shadow and has incredible sleeve artwork by the legendary Junior Tomlin.
BLAMES NEW RELEASE IS AVAILABLE NOW!!!
Blame's Latest offering on vinyl is available here... Multi-Coloured Marbled Vinyl with sleeve artwork by the legendary Junior Tomlin.