While a lot of DJs might mention Detroit or Chicago as a key influence of their music, the star of Fabric’s latest mix CD is a little different.
Graeme Sinden grew up around Kent and Essex in satellite towns near London. As a kid his stereo was tuned to the drum & bass and two step garage sounds that gave London such a unique input into dance music.
Now in the naughties, along with a new twentysomething generation of producers like Hervé or Duke Dumont he’s helping to update the vibe of the bass heavy sounds of London from the mid 1990s into an altogether more exciting musical melting pot.
His ‘Fabric Live 43′ mix is an x-ray image of the sound of London 2008, weaving from grime and dubstep through to world music and bassline house and electro.
We decided to interview Sinden about Fabric, junglism, and what partying in a Brazilian favela is really like.
How did you go about constructing the mix?
It started with a concept that is more about reflecting what I’m listening to and playing out right now. It’s not about nostalgia. It’s about new music and trying to reflect all my listening tastes on one disc. It kicks off with hip house then goes into world music, dubstep, grime, bassline and gets more electro at the end.
You draw on a very broad palette of music when you play, where do you get your tunes from?
Most of what I’m playing is usually stuff I find myself. Sometimes I download on music sites. Most of the time I’m quite lucky because I’m on mailing lists and friends send me their productions on instant messenger. I’ve got around 150 producer friends on AIM who send me tracks.
It has its drawbacks because sometimes you want to get on there and see if anyone has any new tunes and not end up talking to twenty people at once.
What excites you about music right now?
Music that sits between genres. I’m only after new stuff that you can drop for different crowds. Whether it’s an electro tune with a world influence, or a hip hop track that sounds like a dance tune. These are the tracks that really appeal to me, not the ones that are scene specific.
Also the amount of kids making music today is exciting. Okay the production values may not be so great but tracks like DJ Mujava’s ‘Township Funk’ combine really simple grooves with powerful hooks.
How have your travels helped your musical tastes in that direction?
Traveling is great because you meet all these people but experience the lifestyle as well.
Going to Brazil and going to the favelas was amazing. Last October we did a festival in Rio and Sao Paolo and one of my friends is a producer there and lives in the favelas so he took us to his place to show us where he makes music. It was tiny and pretty primitive compared to how we live. Going around there was quite uplifting. The favelas aren’t as violent as people make out. There’s a lot of good vibes. We went to a party there after and it was crazy. It wasn’t intimidating like I thought it would be and it was loads of fun.
You and people like Duke Dumont or Hervé are part of a new generation of producers influenced by the jungle and garage fed London of the mid-late 1990s. Tell me about discovering dance music at this time?
It sounds like a cliché but on hearing tracks like Goldie’s ‘Timeless’ it felt like a whole new thing was happening. I wasn’t really into the hardcore that came before jungle. When the sound developed a more dancefloor influence, I could connect with it.
I never got into house at the time. I couldn’t understand it. I came from hip hop so drum & bass was the first raving music that bridged the gap.
Did you go to a lot of raves?
I was about 15 then. I wasn’t really experiencing the culture by going out. I grew up in Essex so I went to record shops in Southend and I was more of a radio listener. Not just the pirates, I was a big fan of BBC Radio 1 and Kiss FM also. It felt like a lifestyle.
What kind of person were you before drum ’n’ bass?
I had long hair, I was into Britpop and indie. I even had a metal phase wearing denim jackets and stuff. But when I started listening to dance music all that changed. I started dressing like a rude boy! Sports casual! It’s part of being a teenager.
You’ve always had an eye on fashion it seems. Tell us about Simon from Basement Jaxx discovering you in a clothes shop?
I was working in a shop in central London as a merchandiser and I had a good rapport with the people who came in. Felix would come in every now and then. I used to program the music there and he’d ask what was playing. He called me up once and said he’d like to get me down to play at his club night because all the freshest music he’d been hearing was in my shop. He’d never even heard me DJ’ing!
Switch (aka Dave Taylor) is your co partner in your ‘Get Familiar’ Fabric parties and helped you get you your first break as a producer. How did up you meet?
I met him through Jesse Rose. We met out flyering one night, had a laugh, swapped numbers and he called me up a few weeks later and offered me a job doing promo for his labels.
Jesse along with Dave and everyone else was based around Ladbrooke Grove in West London. Labels like Classic were all nearby and so I’d hook up with people. Dave wanted to do something different. He wanted to make hip hop and dancehall. I was into everything like that as well so the idea was for us to do a more eclectic project.
You, Dave, Jesse, Hervé and Trevor Loveys are quite an interesting network…
It’s kind of fragmented now. Dave’s more into producing artists and Jesse’s moved to Berlin. We all stay in touch but it’s difficult because we’re everywhere. We get to hang out sometimes at a weird festival somewhere if we’ve been booked at the same gig.
What doors did working for him open up for you?
We got some remixes out of it (working under the name A Brucker and Sinden, the pair remixed Lady Sovereign, Switch and Bugz in the Attic). I experienced the more technical side of making dance music.
Afterwards, I was slowly doing my own stuff but it was difficult because these things take time but you want them to happen quickly. You forget guys like Dave have been doing it for years. I was working with other people. I did a track with Jesse on Made To Play called ‘Me Mobile’.
Do you and Dave play together at Fabric?
We’re both residents for Get Familiar. We both program the DJs together also. That was the main draw because we can put our sound on it. So we can start booking DJs that fitted in with what we wanted to do. We opened up people to DJs like Diplo they might not have checked out.
Tell me about your first gig for Fabric?
I started playing in Room Three for a Wall of Sound party three years ago. I got the set times wrong that night. I got there late and it thought I was early and they were stressing out. I was met by a very pissed off Roots Manuva behind the booth. I was on after him and I’d delayed him. This was my chance to shine and I was so flustered I couldn’t even find my headphone jack!
And finally let’s end our chat with a really random question. What song would you liked played at your funeral?
‘Glad All Over’ the Crystal Palace anthem. I’m a South London boy and a football fan so it’d be best to go out with something uplifiting!