Everyone loves a good back-to-back DJ session. When we saw that Britain’s top deep house dogs, Ralph Lawson and Jimpster, were scheduled to play together at Shindig in Newcastle this weekend during the club’s 18th year of parties, we couldn’t resist offering them a place for an intimate tête-à-tête.
Jamie Odell aka Jimpster’s rise to the top of the deep house tree over the last few years has been nothing short of brilliant. His label Freerange Records has become a home-from-home for deep house protagonists such as Manuel Tur, Milton Jackson, Andre Lodemann, and Tony Lionni, and is now one of clubland’s most respected imprints.
The label has just clocked release No.130, an amazing feat considering its output has been, for the most part, highly consistent.
Ralph Lawson is one of England’s most respected deep house players with a successful live band and high profile record label to boot.
Lawson’s 2020 Vision Recordings recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, and looking at the label’s recent ’15 Years…’ compilation, it’s amazing how many deep house classics the label has put out.
From David Duriez’ raw saxophone hit ‘Get On Deep’, to Soldiers Of Twilight’s 2001 bomb ‘Believe’, and Bobby Peru’s rough electro house roller ‘My Bleeps’, 2020 Vision has flown the flag for deep house magnificently over the years.
We decided the get Jimpster and Ralph Lawson to interview each other about music, DJing, and productions, ahead of their back-to-back gig at Shindig on Saturday.
Inevitably though, with it being two blokes alone in a pub, their conversation drifted off towards football and birds from oop North.
Jimpster: You must have had some legendary nights at Basics over the years. Maybe the best ones you can’t remember but is there one particular night or guest DJ that sticks in your mind?
Ralph Lawson: The all time best Basics night was when we had Daft Punk on their first ever trip to the UK, I think Thomas was 17 or something crazy! It couldn’t have been better timing as ‘Da Funk’ went huge in the time between the booking and performance.
We even had Goldie downstairs! We’ll never be able to do that again in a million years. It was an electric night and we had around 2000 people turn up.
Thomas and Guy set up their SP1200 drum machine with decks and FX. They cut up Lil Louis ‘I Called You’ with their trade mark punked up beats and the place went totally ballistic! I managed to jog one of Thomas’ records while it was playing and he gave me a Gaullic look of disgust but I blamed it on someone else…
Jimpster: What are the good points and bad points of traveling with 2020 Soundsystem as opposed to traveling on your own?
Ralph Lawson: There are no good points about travelling with the Soundsystem at all. Check-ins are a nightmare, we always blag too many bags and instruments on board and end up in fights.
Danny ‘Dubble D’ hates hotels and we normally can’t afford his single room request so he ends up in a room with one of us snoring until he loses the plot and threatens to kill someone.
I hate sound-checks with a vengeance and am prone to getting really moody while some spotty kid straight out of college fumbles about with broken DI boxes, and the Argentineans are always late!
We have to take cheap flights and stay in shit holes because there are four of us so it’s always on a shoe string. Give me back turning up at the four star hotel with some CDs any day!
Jimpster: How on earth do you manage your time these days, what with being a family man, heading up the label, touring the band and regular djing?
Ralph Lawson: I have always been a jack of all trades. I wish I could be a master of one but I constantly throw myself into new projects on a whim. Total idiot really.
I am also addicted to emails although I am trying my very best to do as you say and just do them twice daily but it’s just so easy to press that nice shiny ‘Get Mail’ button, and now it’s on your bleedin’ phone as well!
There is no escape. I am also shit at promo links, I absolutely hate them. Why should you have to download a track just to listen to it? Unless there is a preview player I won’t get it. Fat Drop got it right.
Jimpster: What’s your hangover cure of choice?
Ralph Lawson: Do you know what, I am turning into a totally boring bastard. This year so far I have given up booze and even caffeine and I’ve been training for a half marathon run! must be a mid life crisis! But if I do fall off the wagon then it’s defo eggs for brekky.
Ralph Lawson: Can you drink a pint of beer as quickly as Mike Ashley?
Jimpster: Who the hell is he?
Jimpster: Sorry, let’s get back to something music related, can you single out a 2020 release as an all time fave?
Ralph Lawson: No, but we recently put out a ‘15 Years of 2020 Vision’ classics album which gives you some idea.
Ralph Lawson: You seem to do a lot of productions and remixes. You currently have both the No.1 and No.2 spots on the Beatport deep house page, with your remixes of Kasper Bjorke ‘Alcatraz’ and Josh Wink ‘Jus Right’.
Jimpster: I have done a lot of remixes over the years but for the last two or three years I have been a lot less prolific on the production front, mainly due to having kids.
So I just try and choose carefully which projects to take on, rather than taking everything that gets offered.
I go through phases of digging out older mixes to play in my sets but I guess if I have to pick a favorite to play out it would be my remix of Osunlade’s ‘Momma’s Groove’ on Strictly Rhythm.
But I’m also happy with the way my remixes of Justin Martin’s ‘The Sad Piano’ and Motorcitysoul’s ‘Aura’ came out.
It tends to be the case that all of my favorites are the ones that came together the quickest in the studio. The ones that I had to labour over for weeks tended not to come out so well.
Ralph Lawson: If our back to back gig at Shindig was a boxing match who would win?
Jimpster: I’m not feeling too tasty these days so I reckon you would. But I like the idea of a DJ special of Celebrity Death Match.
Ralph Lawson: You used to play in the live improv electronic music band The Bays. What made you leave and can you see yourself working in a live band again?
Jimpster: Yeah, I played in The Bays from about 2002 until 2007, pretty much every weekend. It was an amazing thing to have done and I have some really memorable experiences from this period.
Getting to play live at The Barbican with Herbie Hancock jamming with us, doing several Peel Sessions with the great man, headlining numerous dance stages at festivals such as Big Chill and Glastonbury, just to name a few.
It got to a point however where I had to make a choice between DJing (and therefore promoting myself and Freerange), or carrying on with The Bays.
I hope to play the odd gig here and there with them still, but I couldn’t make a 100% commitment to the band any longer.
I’m sure there will be other live projects I’m involved with at some point in the future, but for now I’m just really enjoying DJing.
Ralph Lawson: Do you still buy vinyl?
Jimpster: I buy the odd bit here and there from labels who don’t release digitally, but it’s literally a few pieces a month.
Laid and Retreat are my two favorite vinyl-only labels. I’m afraid I do tend to record everything so I can burn to CD for ease when traveling.
Ralph Lawson: How do you think the UK scene compares to Germany?
Jimpster: I don’t really know why there’s so much amazing stuff coming out of Germany compared to UK these days. Probably some seriously deep rooted cultural thing or that there’s just a really healthy sense of competition.
I guess perhaps the lower cost of living in a city like Berlin affords artists to push creative boundaries, rather than getting caught up in the rat race and making a living, which might contribute to more interesting music.
Ralph Lawson: Who actually wrote ‘Fog On The Tyne’ ?
Jimpster: Gazza wrote it but Lindisfarne covered it very successfully in 1971.
Ralph Lawson: Are crowds really better in the North of England, rather than down south?
Jimpster: I’m sure you’ll agree, you can sometimes have amazing gigs in the unlikeliest of places and really average ones where you thought it would be killer.
It’s more down to how well the promoter has done their job and how nice the club and sound is. Loads of different factors, so I don’t think I’d stick my head on the line and say all crowds are rocking up North.
I think I’d have to say that at the moment, my fave city to play is Madrid. We do a Freerange showcase party at Goa at Fabrik on a Sunday afternoon/evening there which is one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced recently.
Ralph Lawson: Do you think Geordie girls are ‘a bunch of dogs’ like Freddy Shepherd famously said, or are they all like Cheryl Cole?
Jimpster: I come from a town called Braintree in Essex which was made famous when a two page report in The Sun laid claim to the fact that all women from Braintree looked like Sea Monsters. Also, it won the Viz Award for the most boring town in Britain. So I’m easily pleased wherever I go really.
Ralph Lawson: Will Newcastle get promoted this season?
Jimpster: Am I allowed to say I’m not really into football, or will I get bottles of pish chucked at me when playing?
Ralph Lawson: Who is the best Geordie hero? Shearer, Gazza, or Keagan ?
Jimpster: Gazza surely? A true tortured genius if ever there was one.