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from across the spectrum of trance and tech. Album is released 15th November on Enhanced Recordings
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Dance Radio Greece – Interviews John Askew – Jan 09
After meeting before 2 years at Nature One in Germany is time to check out what is going with John Askew especially at this period as his album gets amazing reviews and praise from fans and music press. Thanks John for accepting my request for this interview and let us start with the basics:
1) When and where you were born?
I was born in Cheltenham, a town in the middle of England – on November 1st 1975.
2) Are you coming from a family that its members had any formal music training or any kinds of involvement with music particularly dance music? In what kind of music you were exposed when you were a little kid?
I think everyone in my family has a love of music and because I come from a pretty big family I grew up in a house full of different sounds – from The Smiths and Midnight Oil to Miles Davis, classical or opera – I have three brothers and 1 sister each bedroom had different sounds to immerse yourself in. When I was young I played the flute and then upgraded to the guitar. My mum plays a bit of piano, but nothing serious – just a few chords to go with drunken singing at Christmas.
3) When was your fist contact with electronic music and which record was the one that has inspired you the most?
That’s a hard question to answer because my memory is really bad. I think it was Jean Michel Jarre “Oxygen”. That record still sounds great and it was originally made the same year I was born.
4) When and where was your first dj gig? Do you recall any funny incidents from the early days of your carrier that you were unknown in the industry?
The first proper club gig I ever played was in maybe 1993. It was a club in the Notting Hill area of London called Woddies. It was a shit hole run by Irish gangsters who were always drunk and being aggressive and rude towards everyone in there. The gig itself was exciting because it was my first time playing my records to a crowd, but unfortunately that crowd I was playing to was the promoter, a doorman and the 2 girls behind the bar. I was only allowed to play for 30 minutes from 10.30 and people only came out to the club at maybe 11.15. Still, it was fun.
5) Do you have in your carrier a pick moment that you believe helped you to get the recognition that you deserved?
There are many moments that have been a great help – getting my residency with the Code Red sound system and then the UFO club in Wiltshire where every week djs like Carl Cox, Dave Clarke and CJ Bolland were playing that was a the first big step up. Then I got a residency at Ministry in London and a weekly show on Kiss which both certainly took things up a level. There are hundreds of things that have helped my career so it would be impossible to single out one event or action but I guess my music and my Discover record labels have helped the most.
6) Who are the artist’s such as djs, producers, music composers that you appreciate most for their dj skills, production techniques and generally the whole influence in the progress of dance music?
I am a big fan of Paul van Dyk, Jeff Mills, Dave Clarke, Stoneface & Terminal, Adam Beyer, The Filterheadz, Randall, Andy C, Plump Djs, Sasha, John Digweed, Astrix, John O’Callaghan, Dj Amadeus…. again the list is huge – I could give you 50 names of djs and producers who I really respect.
7) What kind of equipment do you use in your production set up? Which one is the software or hardware that you enjoy more to work with and why?
I mostly use Logic 7 in my studio. I haven’t upgraded to Logic 8 yet because 7 seems to be able to do everything I need. I’m a bit old fashion like that – If it ain’t broken – don’t fix it. I use Logic because I like they way the programme is laid out. It’s pretty user friendly.
8)Dance music journalists attempt to compartmentalize artists under a particular tag like trance, progressive, etc. Do you like that mentality of the journalists? Where would you like to categorize yourself?
I honestly don’t care too much about how I am labeled. It’s not the journalist’s fault that they have to attach djs or producers with genres – they need to put different artists into different categories in order to make their magazines or web sites easier to navigate. I guess I am mostly known for playing trance and techno and I’m fine with that but I also love house, breaks, electro, drum n’ bass or whatever – if it’s a great record and I like it then I want to play it.
9) Do you have professional training in music production or you taught everything yourself by your own? Do you believe that it is vital for a producer to have attended music production courses or the result is the same if he uses just an engineer to help him produce the tunes?
I have learnt a great deal from working with other producers but most of my knowledge comes from experimenting with the equipment. I still don’t know the theories behind my synths. I don’t know what LFOs are and I’m not one of these producers who work out delays according to a mathematical equasion. I just play around – pushing buttons or tweaking faders till things sound how I want them to. I wish I was more patient to learn the equipment properly. Is it essential for someone to go to technical sound engineering collage to learn how to produce? Well it certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing but I think it depends on the person. If you are technically minded and good with computers and you have a good ear for music then no – you should be able to pick things up, but if you don’t have those qualities then yes – some help would be advisable.
10) How long it took you to complete the album Z list uber Star and are there any tunes that didn’t make it to the final track list of the album? Is it possible to tell us the reason behind this decision?
The album took maybe 18 months in total, but this was not working full time on it. I work for a week then maybe take a few weeks off. I have to do this to avoid getting bored or frustrated. If I don’t feel inspired I wont go into the studio, but if I have a lot of ideas I can be locked in there for a weeks. To answer your other question – no there were no tracks finished that didn’t make it onto the album.
Let’s imagine that we have your great cd on our player and you take us on a tour track by track.
Please provide a small comment about each track:

01: Beirut
This is a melancholic ambient track inspired by the troubles in Lebanon. I have a love affair with Beirut – it is one of my favourite destinations in the world and I have some great friends there so it’s really horrible when things get volatile in the region when you know your friends are over there I the middle of it. This track was a tribute to my friends from one the most vibrant cities I have ever visited.

02: Nothing Left Between Us (feat Senadee)
I never really thought I would make commercial vocal trance, but Chris at the Discover office pushed me to do it. I was dubious about making this record, but in the end I really enjoyed it and Senadee’s singing style is great. He’s traditionally a rock vocalist so he approached it in a different way and I love what he did. I hope we will be making a follow up in the next few months.

03: Blue
Nothing to tell about this track really. It started as a breaks track but then things didn’t work in the groove so I changed it back and it came out pretty well.

04: 667 (Feat Activa)
This was the first track of 3 that I made with Activa for the album. Working with him has been a great learning experience for me. He has showed me a far more efficient way to work in the studio and as such I think my music sounds a lot better now. We are currently working together under the name AA Meeting - on tracks for a collaboration album.

05: Misfit
This track has been around since 2005 but it was only in 2008 that I finally sat down and finished it. It’s a strange track, but probably one of my favourites from the album.

06: Chime
No story here. This was an older single that I wanted to include in the album. I still love it and play it today.

07: This & Then
Like Misfit this was an old record that I only got round to finishing a few months before the rest of the album was finished.

08: The Advent of Us
There was an old essential mix by Dave Clarke – live from the Fuse club in Brussels. I had this on cassette and it never left my car. There was one track on the mix that was so amazing and The Advent of Us was my attempt at copying the vibe of this track.

09: Giving you Acid
A full on acid techno banging track inspired by old Liberator records on Stay Up Forever records.

10: Thumb it In (feat Gary Maguire)
I had finished this track but didn’t like the drums or the bass line, so I sent it over to Gary and he added his magic to complete the package. It’s the latest release on Discover Dark and I think it comes out on Beatport this week. I love techno and this track sums up everything I love about it.

11: Z List Uber Star
The title track from the album and my favourite track on the album. This is what I wan to make more of n 2009.

12: Bored of You, Bored of Me
Again this is one of my favourite tracks from the album. Along with “Z list Uber Star” this got massive support from PVD in 2008 which was flattering. The title sums up where my head was at at the end of making this record. I was sick of being in the studio sick of dealing with everyone in the industry and sick of hearing hundred of demos sent through for discover that all sounded the same. Luckily this was a temporary frame of mind that I was going through that occurred on the back of spending too much time in front of a computer screen working to horrible deadlines.

13: Fade to Black
One of the big singles from the album which got some great support from Tiesto which was really cool since he never really played much of my stuff in the past.

14: Spike
The closing track of the album. No story really – it’s just a kicking club track I made after listening to loads of old dj sets from 1999.
12) You have your own record labels Discover, Discover Dark, Discover Digital, Discover White at the Recoverworld label group. When did you set up this labels and why? Did you felt that was difficult to find other labels to release your music?
Discover was set up in 2000. We set it up so I had somewhere to release my own music and then from there it has grown to be the group of four labels that make up Discover today.
13) Do you have a motto or a special mission statement for your labels?
No. We just release the music we love and work with up and coming producers who we feel have the potential to really make it.
14) How many digital demos you receive per week and are any good those tracks? What are the elements that will make a track to be released from your label? Can you offer us your advice to any new producers out there, who are thinking to approach you, to release their music?
I get sent maybe 60 or 100 tracks per week and maybe 20 or those will be demos fro Discover. My only advice would be to make sure you name your files clearly so I know who sent what. It sometimes takes me a while to get round to listening to every single track and so sometimes, unless the file clearly related to a specific email in my inbox then I have no idea who sent me what. I have missed out on tracks because of this which is really annoying. For producers who want to submit demos for Discover – make sure you put “Demo for Discover – Artist name and track title” in the subject of the email.
15) Nowadays, we noticed an overflow of new digital dance labels. Are you happy with the quality level of the most of the productions you receive to feature in your radio shows and gigs?
Yes I am. There are thousands of shit record that you need to listen to in order to find the good ones, but there are plenty of great ones out there to choose from so it’s worth it. It’s no different from how it used to be when you went to a record store and the owner would give you the latest 100 bits of vinyl to work your way through in order to find the best 15 records to buy.
16) Do you have an example of an artist from your label that you predict that will be very big in 2009 and you are very proud that you help to get his break into the scene?
Activa will be massive in 2009. His music is in a league of it’s own. And I would also look out for Sly One vs Jurrane and Gary Maguire. We will be doing a lot of work to push these guys this year.
17) Please list your current top 3 tracks that you cannot get enough playing them out and your favorite all time classic? It will be nice to put a small comment on them why are you choosing them.
Sorry to choose my own stuff but:
1) Talla vs Patterson “I know Thump” (Askew rework)
2) Activa “Affirmation” (Tom Colontonio Remix)
3) Underworld “To Heal” (John Askew remix)

All time classic:
Gat Décor “Passion”
18) In which countries you have performed as a dj? Where did you find the best and worst crowd? Is there a country that you want to perform but you have not managed yet to do it?
I’ve played all over the world and I thin the only places I haven’t played that I want to are Japan, India and New Zealand. I am playing in New Zealand in April and I think there is a discussion about doing something in Mubai in India this year so if something can also get locked down in Japan then this would be really exciting. Where do I love playing? North and South America, Australia, Asia, the Middle East and Easter Europe are all top of the list. In the UK there are only a small number of clubs that I like to play – like Digital Society in Leeds – for me that is probably the best club n the UK right now for trance and techno.
19) I have noticed that in this year dj mag Top 100 djs list the majority of the trance djs that manage to break inside the first Top 100 places are both djs and producers. Do you think that there is any chance for a new dj to get noticed without any production under his belt?
Absolutely. I think another trend to take into consideration is the power and influence of Armin’s A State of Trance radio show. A lot of the trance djs in the top 100 are names that get massive support on Armin’s radio show and I think there is a direct link. So for a new producer wanting to get into the top 100 there is a lot of promotional work you will need to do, but getting Armin playing your records on his weekly show will definitely be a massive help. A State of Trance is without doubt the biggest electronic music show in the world.
20) What is your opinion about Creamfields, Global Gathering, Trance Energy or Nature One? Do you like those big festivals or you prefer the small intimate clubs?
I like both clubs and festivals. T’s not about the size it’s about the quality of the crowd and the sound system and the production. I have had amazing gigs playing to 200 people in a small dark club and at the same time I have had terrible gigs with no atmosphere at all playing to 10,000 people at a festival. I have never played at Trance Energy or Global Gathering so I cannot comment on those but for me Nature One is probably the coolest dance festival I have ever been to. It was an amazing experience playing there.
21)What is your honest opinion about Chris Hampshire who runs Recoverworld label Group and how is your relation with him?
Chris is a mad man who takes on too much work. He does the job of 3 people but when you are a small independent label without the direct involvement and backing of an A list dj it’s hard to even consider the financial risk related to takng on extra staff. Chris is cool. We have an almost husband / wife relationship. I’m the husband though - let’s make that perfectly clear. ;0)
22) You recently started your new radio show. Would you like to give us some additional info on that? What is your opinion about the web radio stations and the fact that many djs and record labels have their own radio shows?
Everyone has a radio show and I think it’s a great way to promote new material ad to reach out to fans across the world. My show goes out every 4th Tuesday on DI and Vonyc and it features all kinds of reworks/edits/mash ups and up from material from our labels as well as a bunch of other stuff that is big at my live gigs.
23) Do you see internet vital tool in the expansion of dance music culture today? Do you use it actively to co-produce tracks, remixes and communicate with other people too? Is there any chance for someone to get noticed without a well-designed web page and weekly or monthly newsletter?
Like I said before the internet is a vital tool for promotion – not only for unheard of djs and producer who want to get noticed but also for the biggest artists in the world who want to promote stuff to a mass audience quickly and efficiently. To make it big you need to first make great music so that your name starts appearing in the tracklistings of the big djs – thus causing interest in your name. And then from there – when you have released 3 or 4 massive tracks or remixes – you go crazy on web promotion, networking, myspace, facebook. Build up a solid community of fans and try to engage them to make them loyal to you by giving them access to exclusive news or merchandise.
24) UK had always very vibrant and varied club scene. Would you like to tell us if you notice decrease or increase in the numbers of people who attend the clubs in Britain?
The UK trance scene is really commercial right now. In terms of clubbing there are only 3 or 4 clubs I the UK that excite me. More underground clubs like Digital Society in Leeds. There are plenty of clubs in the UK that are attracting solid crowds, but often they are full of people waiting to here big commercial anthems that they can sing along to and for me – I would rather not be in those clubs. It’s funny – I often find myself on the other side of the world playing to 2 or 3 thousand people and it’s mind blowing and then the resident dj, who gets to play to this crowd every month will say “I wish I could play in the UK….”
25) Your message to our dance radio web site visitors?
Have a great 2009 and thanks for the support.
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James Wylie
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