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I’m always banging on about club records which stand out in a set. Those tracks that make you go “what the hell is this??” with a massive smile on your face. When I first started going out and would ask the DJ about those records, I became pretty used to receiving the answer “oh it’s the new In Flagranti single/remix/edit.” And so the duo of Sasa Crnobrnja and Alex Gloor quickly became my favourite producers. They clearly have record collections to make others sick with jealousy and it is through this mining of past sounds, dragged into modern clubbing culture, that has made In Flagranti such a unique proposition for more than a decade. Although, they would never accept such gushing praise. There is no bravado to what they do, they just want to get stuff out there and their Codek record label has proved the perfect outlet for this: an amazing marriage of video imagery and music which adds another string to their already well populated bow (did I mention they’re also excellent DJs?). Their new album, ‘Worse For Wear’ (listen to the title track on the right) is released this month and seems to explore even further corners of their overwhelming music libraries. I met Sasa in the suitable surroundings of Dalston Superstore, shouting to be heard over Green Velvet records.
Your new album has a slightly different feel to your previous work: a bit deeper, more late night. Did something inspire this? Is it ever to do with your surroundings?
There’s no particular reason. I thought about it myself when we were putting it together actually, I could tell it had a different feel. I can just assume it has something to do with the environment. The previous two reflected the time period between 2003 and 2006, my lifestyle, the places I was going to, the music that was around. A certain era has ended for me personally and I think for a lot of people. You can tell already the music has changed in the last two years. The whole ‘electro’ /punk funk thing has definitely gone. Even ‘disco’. it was a nice revival, I appreciated how it became popular again, but as soon as you have this term ‘nu disco’, like it was ‘nu-jazz’, I kinda lost interest as there’s suddenly a definition for it and everything has to sound a certain way. And that means there is no more room to explore and I definitely want to explore different things.
It’s funny isn’t it, how much hype was surrounding that supposed ‘disco explosion.’ Obviously there were some great parties in London but you’d travel to somewhere like Sheffield and mention it to promoters and they’d respond “what you talking about?”
Well yeah, it is still popular around the world but in small pockets of people. No one managed to produce a new hit record…
Exactly. There was no new I Feel Love?
But then you can’t do it…
…because how do you top any of those classics? So, all you can do is take influence from them and try to produce a different sound. I remember when I was growing up and these Teddy Boy bands were trying to recreate a sound from thirty years previous (in the same way as people are doing with disco now.) I mean, you couldn’t bring out a new Elvis thirty years after it happened because it’ll never be the same. You ended up with Shaking Stevens in England and it’s embarrassing. I feel it’s the same with disco. You can’t just recreate Donna Summer or Sylvester, you can probably get close but what’s the point? It was cool for me and Alex [the other half of In Flagranti] because we could go back to all this stuff we already had and reinterpret it our own way.
One of the things I really love about your music is how there seems to be such a disregard for standard dance music conventions. There are so many ideas thrown into every track, some people would even say that things don’t fit, or at least, they shouldn’t. Vocal breaks, an alien sample thrown in, tempo changes… but the energy is always there. Do you think about that when making tracks or is it just something that happens?
It happened when we started to exchange edits around early 2000. The idea was always to use tracks that are not known, that was one of the rules we set ourselves. We’d loved finding those unknown records or even something that was a bad tune but it had breaks which were cool. It was like editing a tape, we didn’t use multitrack, that was another rule. We didn’t add anything like extra kicks, we just used the track as is and tried to make something new. Then eventually we started pasting in bits from other tracks but since we weren’t using multitracks, we were just cutting and pasting into the existing versions. There were no fade in and outs. Alex is not really a musician so he brought something else to it. Sometimes his tracks didn’t even beatmatch but there were a great statement in it. Then I would just fix things a bit… or not. Sometimes I would just leave them because they worked.
This is a cheesy way of putting it but you could say that your attitude to making club music is pretty ‘punk.’ In other words, it seems that you have very few restrictions when making music.
I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision to be like that. I remember someone describing our early stuff that we did in the 90s in that same way. I guess the way we did everything was like that. I didn’t have the equipment in the first place but I realised it gave us a certain sound and a certain attitude.
Attitude is the right way of putting it.
It’s like people who just want to play an instrument. You take a guitar, eventhough you can’t play it, but you express yourself the best way you can. From that perspective I guess it’s totally punk. They did it with three chords and we did by cutting and pasting with scissors. The emphasis was not on making the best produced, biggest sounding record because I knew I couldn’t do that as I didn’t have that sort of studio so why try? I asked, how can I make something punchy and have the right attitude?
Is it fair to say that you work quickly? Personally, I like to get ideas down and finished as soon as possible. I don’t like working over them for too long. I love the sense of urgency in your tracks, especially your remixes.
Yeah, I have that from when I did a tailoring apprenticeship. The tailor always told me “the longer you have something in your hands, the uglier it gets.” Sometimes something just can’t better even if you keep working on it. In music, if it takes me too long, I just move onto something else. There’s lots of preparation work, though. I have a huge library. I may spend a whole day just going through what I have. So sometimes you work on a track for an afternoon and it’s just done.
So, are you constantly listening and looking out for bits of records that could work?
Yeah totally. I can’t listen to music other than like that. When I hear music I have to analyse it immediately. It’s rare that I just ‘listen’ to music. That’s why I don’t like listening to music with other people as I’m always asking “oh how did they do that?” or “how does that groove work?” It’s like a disease [laughs]
I feel like there is room for a few more nights to emerge where you could just go and hear interesting stuff on a good soundsystem. A place to try out some new stuff I’ve found or early demos by some of my producer friends.
Yeah I agree. It’d be nice to play something and I had no idea how it would go down but it’d be great to hear it in a certain atmosphere, played loud because I know it’s a great record.
I was talking to a DJ friend of mine recently and he was saying similar things: “where has this idea of having to crowd please ALL the the time come from?” He even said that you’re not a DJ unless you clear the floor on a fairly regular basis. [both laugh] I sort of see his point, though…
Totally. But what would be even cooler is to have a place where it doesn’t even matter about the floor. It’s just about playing great music to people and not even thinking about making people dance.
Artwork, visuals and the whole idea of the 12” single are obviously still very important to In Flagranti and Codek. How do you see the current state of vinyl? It’s a small market now but it seems to me that those who still buy it have a healthy appetite for it at the moment.
Well, sales have decreased, everyone knows that but I think vinyl has become a hobby in itself. It’s not even solely a DJ thing anymore. You collect stamps not because you want to send out mail. It’s kinda the same with vinyl now. Collectors research the history of the music. It’s almost like buying a piece of art. It’s not about buying a house tune and then, three months later, you don’t even want it anymore. As long as we can keep selling vinyl, then we will keep doing it.