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UK DJ and producer Greg May drops his latest release on the Hottwerk label and takes time out here to discuss his music and what the scene means to him.
Hi Greg, thanks for taking the time to talk to Music is 4 Lovers. Can you tell as a little about where you’re from and what the music scene is like in your home town?
I live in the seaside town of Chalkwell near Southend, Essex. I’ve lived here all my life and played most of the clubs in their various guises over the years. We’ve always had great local promoters booking cool international DJ’s to play. When I started djing in the 90’s we had so many clubs and bars to play, you could go to any one Thurs-Sat and it would be rammo! Like everywhere it’s slowed down a lot pre pandemic, but I feel there will be a few back-to-basics type things occurring post lockdown! There’s definitely pent up demand!
When I started djing I was obsessed with Essex boys The Prodigy and also N-Joi! I got to know both Mark & Nigel from N-Joi and it just felt so cool that they were from this area. Mark Summers was another fave who had a few big rave hits. He was interviewed in my college magazine and I really wanted to meet him, but never did. He’s pretty successful now as a producer that provides sample replays (SCORCCiO). There’s a rich group of current producers/labels like Tom Jay(Pomme Frite)/T. Jacques (Dansu Discs/House Puff), Norman H (Stripped Recordings), Simon Shaw (Sense Traxx), Ryan Briggs (City Soul Project,) Pierre Codarin(Spaghetti Club), Pete Dorling(Hot Creations/VIVa Music) and Brad Hudson(Tek Project). I must also mention the original Ibiza Clockwork Orange resident, Chris Powell, who has a long running night, I often play at here, called Sun of a Beach. These are all local Dj’s and we’ve played at the same events together for years. Special mention goes to Spatial Awareness. He runs Hottwerk Records and Interzone Music Club (with Pete Dorling). He’s been solidly pumping out wicked House, Techno and Electro for years and signed tunes to some top international labels such as DJ Pierre’s Jack Trax, Clipp.Art and more recently two corkers to Anja Schneider’s SOUS Music.
You have a proper party starting EP dropping on Hottwerks in the shape of the ‘Lix Mix EP’. Can you talk us through the record and the ideas behind the various tracks?
Why thank you! Well I’ve djed since the 90’s and have lived through early House/Hip Hop/Hardcore/Jungle/DnB/Funky /Disco/Techno/UKG and a lil bit of Trance/Hardhouse! At times I’ve loved playing bits from all these scenes, so the EP is really me rinsing out all the rhythms (riddims!) and feelings that I’ve collected in this 30 year journey.
Holloway Holla is pure piano rave, feel good, vibes. It’s actually named after a lovely friend that has supported me and my djing forever! If there’s a table available Mel Holloway will be dancing on it!
I Get Lifted is my nod towards my beloved US Garage with a UK edge. I was picturing early MAW/Roger Sanchez for the beats and basslines, but thinking of the rave when I added the strings and keys!
Tangle Twister reflects my deep appreciation of Dub and Dancehall, but I wanted to mash it up with some 303 and some garagey organ! Although it’s Track 3 on the EP, this one seems to be getting a lot of attention.
Last but not least is Music Take Control – well over recent years I noticed a resurgence of what I’d call tongue in cheek/ironic 90’s House. It’s a revival of the good time Reel 2 Real/Nush/2 In A Room type stuff at 130-140bpm, super catchy, with overtly poppy vocals and a happy mood. I also spiced it up with some breaks and big dollop of acid! Why not eh?! Krystal Klear also touched upon this style with his Dedication EP just prior to his huge Neutron Dance hit in 2018. This style is best personified now by X-Coast. I actually sent X-Coast this track and told him he was the inspo for it. He liked it (thank god!) My daughter, Maddie Moore, is a DJ and Club/Zine photographer too, so she is my long suffering sounding board for my productions. Her DJ pals also get sent tunes too – shouts to KATYA and RXXCE!
It sounds like you have some history in the UK dance music scene, please tell us about your journey from first clubbing experience to now.
I spent my early teens scouring record fairs and shops all over. Then like magic I happened upon a retired 70’s DJ that was still on all the mailing lists. He advertised vinyl for sale in the local classifieds and when I went to his house there was rooms and rooms of brand new unplayed vinyl with the promo sheets still intact. It was unbelievable! I remember buying so much, like whole discographies of record labels like FFRR, Champion and A&M. On my first visit I spent 4 hours in his lounge and then he said “ok, you may as well go upstairs.” There was vinyl all up the stairs and in every room alongside promotional merchandise and all sorts. I could barely open some of the bedroom doors as there was so much vinyl stacked behind it. I basically went back there every week and built my whole collection. Every Saturday I’d collect the new promos and once I got on radio I was well versed at what lists to get on and how to get the limited run vinyl – ‘tastemaker only’ as they used to say! When I look back now it was crazy, but amazing. Being a bit of a hustler I then got to know more Dj’s on the radio so I was then also buying Hip Hop and Soul as well as House promos and then selling them directly to the specialist dance shops. As with most things, there was a bit of a downside, my contact was a big drinker and could get a bit aggy at times, but you got to do these things for the beautiful black wax!!!
In 1998 I contacted my local station, Essex FM, and they allowed me to provide 30 min House mixes for their established Friday night, Soul and Dance show, hosted by John Leech. This really was my entrance into the business. From there I managed to get a full 2 hour Saturday night mix show every week on Vibe FM which had a legal dance station licence for East Anglia. Then in 1999 I progressed on to Kiss FM in London and they gave me the Kiss Mixes which was on 4 times a week. I thought I’d made it! I djed under the name of Gringo up to this point(cringe!), but this was swiftly dropped when the PR girl at Kiss said it was way too embarrassing hahaha! With hindsight I’m glad!
This was a fun period playing loads of clubs. I remember doing a Kiss cruise to Hamburg and chewed Matt Jam Lamont’s ear off so much on the way there that he avoided me for the rest of the trip (double cringe!) Mark Knight was also a resident at the Kiss 100 Club nights so I djed with him at the Hannover Grand before he was massive. Nice guy – he let me chew his ear off haha!
Then for the next 20 years I did clubs all over and then found myself a weekly show on French station Radio FG’s USA arm for a while, then onto local dance station, FunkySX (my first show’s talking about the music I love rather than just mixing) and most recently on Project London which is chock full of young talented dj’s. I don’t know how I snuck in!
How has life been for you during this tricky past year? What are the things you’ve missed most and have there been any silver linings?
Well despite djing for so long I’d tried, but never really got stuck in to production. I’d done private edits but not much I could call my own. So my new year’s resolution was to have something done and released in 2020. I actually sent my first tune “Take Me” to Tony (Spatial Awareness) boss of Hottwerk to get some feedback. He came back and said if I changed the well-known vocal I’d ripped he’d release it. I was shook (as they say!). I thought he’d say it’s ok but needs loads of work!
You sort of always think you’re never quite good enough, sometimes, so I definitely learnt you just need to do these things and get yourself out there. I found a great vocal and the end result was better than my boot. This was released in Sept 2020. Tom Jay provided an awesome remix which took it to so many different audiences.
My property business had slowed right down so I just decided that, instead of spending my days ordering materials and arranging work, I’d use that time making tunes!
I also cemented further this idea of being a producer, by joining Tee Mango’s (Aus Music/Permanent Vacation) course ‘Finish A F∆©king Tune’. This was a great course over a couple of months with some likeminded producers and it really hammered home the process to just get stuff finished and out there – your music’s no good languishing on your hard drive(along with your dreams haha!)
So really it was a year of unexpected silver linings. I did get Covid, but not hospitalised, so I feel pretty lucky and pay respect to all effected by this awful, randomly dangerous, virus.
Can you tell us a little about your writing and production process? Do you engineer your own music? Do you work with much external hardware? Anything else you can tell us about the way you work?
Yes it’s just me making the tunes, but I do use the excellent Craig Fury to mix down and generally make things sound phatter! My process is usually to get a drum loop or a sample I like and then I bash out a bassline on the keyboard until something sounds right. From that I might make a few more melodies and then go into my trusted plugin synths for some various sounds of those riffs. I like the Loopcloud Play sounds and Hybrid 3 vsts(Im not too bouji!). I realised its best to just know what sounds you’ve got as you can buy a new vst plugin every day of the week but it’s just distracting (and very tempting!) I love Baby Audio’s FX and lots of different tape/destruct plugins. It always makes me laugh that we try and get the highest quality samples and sounds to start with and then we use FX to muddy it up and give it this vintage rough tape effect! So anyway once I’ve got a few sounds and loops together I love to chuck them into Stutter Edit 2 and turn things inside out. Really mess up the controls. Then there’s a period of being lost. It’s like I have all the ingredients for the recipe, but then I have to work out how they best fit together. Once I’ve done a version I send to a few trusted friends for feedback and it’s often a very good idea to go back to it a week later with perspective and see what works and what doesn’t.
I have to own up to not having many outboard bits, just a midi keyboard and a mic! The purists will shoot me, but my opinion is that it’s all circuitry whether it’s in a pc or a synth/drum machine. I’m happy to accept I might be naïve, but I then like to add all sorts of FX to make it sound warmer/more analogue/ older. I’m an older dj, I’ve got a lock up and rooms full of vinyl. If I add retro synths to that too, my lovely wife would definitely leave me! Lisa’s been there since the start, coming to see me dj back in the day to now having to listen to my productions 24/7! She deserves a medal!
Who are the artists who have influenced you most, and why?
I have to give a massive thank you to Spatial Awareness for releasing my first record and helping and encouraging me all the way. I feel blessed as he listens to everything and gives helpful feedback. What’s been so good as well is that Hottwerk have a huge roster of talented artists of which I’ve been allowed to remix. This is especially good for me as it gives me access to these really great musicians and then I’m able to put my own slant on it. Current artists that I really appreciate are Meg Ward, Asquith, Amadeezy, Chrissy,
X-Coast, Tom Frankel/Frankel & Harper, Luke Vibert, Roska, Desert Sound Colony, Polymod, KG, Hooverian Blur, Gowans, 1-800 Girls, Bored Lord, Gayphextwin & Pepe.
Long term influences are Paul Johnson, Todd Terry, MAW, Kerri Chandler, Dj Hype, Kevin Saunderson, Hypnotist, Shut Up and Dance, Nightmares on Wax, Foul Play, 4 Hero, Jacques Renault, Omar S, Groove Armada, Full Intention, Todd Edwards, Rhythm Masters and Tall Paul.
What do you have planned after this latest release?
I’ve got a few remixes in the pipeline that I’m pleased with, one for 7t2names and also another official remix of a UK Top 20 Rave hit I can’t talk about yet! My Acid tune ‘Squelch Report’ is due a re-release with new mixes and also my next release on Hottwerk ‘Here We Go’, a 160bpm pounder, will follow the EP in a month or so. I just love this space I’m in currently and look forward to seeing where it all leads! Thanks so much for listening. Your ears will definitely need a rest haha!
Greg May ‘Lix Mix’ EP drops via Hottwerk Records on 28th May 2021.
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