Roska in conversation with Huxley

22.11.13

Roska first made a name for himself as part of the UK funky scene, with a string of 12”s on his Roska Kicks & Snares label marking out his swung, packs-a-punch take on house music as a force to be reckoned with (his mega-distinctive namedrop – "Roska, Roska, Roska…" – definitely helps). In 2009, he started a weekly show on Rinse FM which opened the doors for a series of EPs and two full-length albums for their label, which featured collaborations with vocalists like Mz Bratt and regular partner Jamie George that demonstrated Roska’s knack for solid UK inner-city pop music.

Huxley debuted his first 12” in 2009, but it was his 2011 garage house smasher Shower Scene that set him onto the collective radar. Since then he has released on leading house labels such as Hypercolour, 20:20 Vision, and Defected over the years, and is currently working on a debut album.

Roska and Huxley will both play at Fabric tonight (November 22nd), with Huxley taking main room duties and Roska hosting Room 2 as part of his Roska Presents… series (recent conversationalists Paul Woolford and Dusky will also play). Ahead of their respective sets, the two DJs and producers sat down to talk about their creative processes, time management, and catering to the underage crowd.

DAY JOBS AND GETTING OUT OF THEM

Roska: “I can crack on with a question for Mr. Hux. Over the past two years, I, personally, have noticed more of you at the forefront of house and music in general. When would you say has been a turning point in your musical career to date?”

Huxley: “I don't know, really. I think it might have been when I was about to give it all up, to be honest. When I did Shower Scene it was just fucking around, and it came to be how my own sound kind of grew, I guess. But I was about to give it all up at that point, as I thought that even that had flopped until Dyed [Soundorom] and a few others picked up on it. Then, I guess, I let it go, cemented it in for a more mersh vibe.”

Roska: “That's heavy. I remember having a conversation with Dan [Eats Everything] and he said pretty much the same thing, that he was gonna give it all up.”

Huxley: “Have you not had that moment? My parents were basically bored of me being a massive mooch, and I was tired of Super Noodles.”

Roska: “It was weird for me. I’ve been working since I left school. I made music ever since, as like a comedown from being in shitty jobs. I signed to Rinse and still kept my day job and wrote my album. The following year, I had an agent and a US tour lined up, plus dates playing in cities I’ve known but never been to, so I walked out of work. This was all from 2009/10.”

"As with most popular genres, you get the shitty follow fashions that come with it. When the actual genre becomes less popular, you will see who is still there beyond that. Goes for house, dubstep, and where I started, with funky.” – Roska

Huxley: “It's a tough decision to walk out of work.”

Roska: “I never felt so scared in my life.”

Huxley: “I was lucky that no one ever wanted to keep me on.”

Roska: “No way!”

Huxley: “Well, when I was about to give it all up, I sent out loads of CVs – I didn't get one response.”

Roska: “Wow. Well, it’s doing well for you now, man.”

Huxley: “Yeah, I get pot noodles these days. Was your day job anything music based?”

Roska: “Nah, I was a manager at an O2 shop.”

Huxley: “Sort me out a deal on the new iPhone, bruv.”

Roska: “I would’ve sorted you out full discounts on the latest. I suppose that having a day job has definitely shown me how to be organised, and have a structure to life.”

Huxley: “Yeah. Plus, I think it must have given you a real drive to try and never have to do real work again. I know I'd be useless these days.”

Roska: “Believe! Actually, I never want to work for anyone again.”

Huxley: ‘That's the dream."

THE "HOUSE REVIVAL"

Huxley: "Actually, kind of leading on from the original question, what are you thoughts on modern house music? And on the big commercial push at the moment?”

Roska: “I think its cool. As with most popular genres, you get the shitty follow fashions that come with it. When the actual genre becomes less popular, you will see who is still there beyond that. Goes for dubstep, and goes for where I started, with funky.”

Huxley: “Yeah, I agree. Lots of people pushing to be the next big festival act at the moment, it seems.”

Roska: “I think over the last year, everyone seems to have a manager and want to tick all the boxes in order to make them massive, rather than having a good tune, enjoying it, and carrying on.”

"I’m just gutted that Top of the Pops has finished. It’d be hilarious to see people like the guys from Gorgon City and Ben Westbeech pretending to DJ. It’d be ammo for years.” – Huxley

Huxley: “Yeah. I’m just gutted that Top of the Pops has finished. It’d be hilarious to see people like the guys from Gorgon City and Ben Westbeech pretending to DJ. It’d be ammo for years.”

Roska: “You know, I was just thinking about Gorgon doing that.”

Huxley: “Their new track is going to be massive.”

Roska: “Definitely. Well deserved. Both Kye and Matt have been making music for a while; good to see the long graft take a new turn for them both.”

Huxley: “Yeah, I remember loving the Foamo stuff from a few years ago."

THE ART OF MAKING AN ALBUM

Huxley: "Are you going to be going that route with your new stuff? Have you been working on a lot?”

Roska: “This year has been a chilled one for me, to be honest. I had a daughter at the beginning of the year, so I got kicked out the spare room and built a studio in my garden. I spent a month in there writing and writing, and doing loads of vocal sessions. So I have quite a bit of material to deliver – it's just about when.”

Huxley: “I hope you've covered it up, it’ll get wet if you don't. Sorry, that’s a shit joke.”

Roska: “Yeah, fully covered and alarmed.”

Huxley: “Congratulations, by the way.”

Roska: “Cheers man.”

Huxley: “I think it's good to spend some solid time just working on stuff.”

Roska: “100%. I try and sit in my studio at least three times a week.”

Huxley: “I've taken it slow in December, and I’m taking January off completely to try and finish this sodding album. Been torn on what to do with it for ages. No good doing it in the two days a month I’ve been getting in the studio.”

Roska: “Oh yeah, I saw that you were doing an album. That’s a good look, man. Are you looking to cover a house and garage style, or a few more genres?”

Huxley: “Loads, I hope. I need to make sure I pull it off; I’ve written a lot of rubbish. I’m finally getting my head around doing it as an album now. I’ve never actually done one before. I guess it must be second nature for you now, though.”

Roska: “Albums are tricky. I’ve done two, and it still feels like I'm learning the whole aspect of making sure that the tracks are not the same, but the whole album glues together correctly.”

Huxley: “Yeah, it can't just be a random assortment of tracks. It needs a theme, or a constant line throughout it.”

Roska: “That’s it!”

Huxley: “I didn't get that at first.”

Roska: “Me neither.”

Huxley: “I’ve put some of the tracks that I was going to put on it onto EPs now.”

HOW HAS YOUR MUSIC DEVELOPED OVER YOUR CAREER?

Huxley: “Well, my older stuff was really bad. And now, it's just bad.”

Roska: “Since moving from a PC to a Mac and using Logic instead of Fruity Loops, and since my musical tastes have grown up, the hunger to learn new things has made me want to progress, and I guess my music has changed because of that.”

Huxley: “I guess mine developed from garage, to moody tech house, to deep house, back to this bastardisation of whatever it is now. I feel that my music is definitely a lot more grown up these days.”

Roska: “Playing in different countries has definitely influenced me as well.”

Huxley: “Yeah, it’s definitely a case that you have to cater to some crowds in other countries, even if it's just a little bit of a different extension of what you're already doing.”

Roska: “Yep, true. That’s it, the art of being a DJ.”

"I don't know if I could ever see myself as big as Maya [Jane Coles] or Seth [Troxler], or whatever. I'm not 100% sure I'd want to tour as much as someone like Seth." – Huxley

Huxley: “Although – say that at that festival we played at earlier this year [Sundown Festival] – I think I didn't have enough grime to make the kids happy.”

Roska: “That festival wasn't built for either of us.”

Huxley: “Plus, I think we could’ve gotten arrested under Operation Yewtree for playing there.”

COLLABORATION

Roska: “How did you find working with Shenoda for that collaboration? That release got a lot of love!”

Huxley: “Yeah, I wasn't sure how it would do. But I was feeling it, which is weird, as I hate my own stuff. It was good, man – I've done a few collaborations in the past, some good, some horrible, but working with Laurie [Shenoda] came as second nature. They were literally the first two tracks we did together. We've got some more dates pencilled in. It's fun working with other people, I find it good to bounce ideas off [them]. You must have a good working relationship with Jamie [George] by now? Well, a near perfect one, to be fair.”

Roska: “We have so many tunes together it’s unreal. We just finished around five tracks in the last two weeks, and have another few that he has written to that we’ll finish soon. It's near enough easy, we both know what we want on the track.”

Huxley: “It's good when it gets like that because it's easy to tell each other when you think they're being a prick, and that what they've made is shit as well. That's the hardest part, sometimes.”

Roska: “Haha, yeah, exactly that. We kinda do it in a way where we don't even say anything, we just know that it’s shit. So weird.”

Huxley: “That's good. I find that that's hard when you work on your own, because I second guess everything I make anyway. Normally the first thing is the best.”

Roska: “Are you looking forward to Friday?”

Huxley: “Yeah man, can't wait. I’ve never been to a FabricLive. Not for about 10 years, anyway. Are you? Is Jamie playing with you? I’ve not seen you two guys play out together.”

Roska: “It’s one of my favourite places to play. Yeah man, Jamie and me together. We just have fun with it all.”

Huxley: “Yeah, in London for sure. Can't beat the sound system in all three rooms.”

FAVOURITE VENUES?

Huxley: “I played Watergate the other day. That was really fun.”

Roska: “Other than Fabric, I'd have to say Plastic People, before 2010. Or Berghain – never played there.”

 "Fuck it – let’s get a studio together and produce the next Justin Bieber album.” – Huxley

Huxley: “Also, Nordstern in Basel is great – a night called Beyond. You know what, I've never been to Berghain. I am desperate to go, but I always end up in a bad way in Berlin and haven’t made it yet.”

Roska: “Someone needs to take you there. Big up Scuba, he got me over three times when he was doing the Substance parties.”

Huxley: “That’s amazing.”

Roska: “The last one was back-to-back with George Fitzgerald in Panorama Bar, which is upstairs. It was a 5am to 7am set.”

Huxley: “Was it as good as everyone says? I like George as a DJ.”

Roska: “Yeah, he's a good selector.”

Huxley: “I have to be honest, I'm not that good at staying awake until 7am these days. 

FUTURE PLANS

Roska: “Where do you see yourself in the next couple of years?”

Huxley: “Well, a lot hinges on this album, I think. There are tracks on there which could potentially get in the charts – not that I'm aiming for that – and there's really underground stuff, even some techno. So it depends on how it all pans out. I think, in a couple of years, if I could still be touring as much – maybe even a little more – and still releasing records on labels that I love, I'd be happy. I don't know if I could ever see myself as big as Maya [Jane Coles] or Seth [Troxler], or whatever. I'm not 100% sure I'd want to tour as much as someone like Seth. What about you?”

Roska: “Yeah, I suppose they’re touring and touring. I like coming home for the week ahead.”

Huxley: “Yeah, definitely. I get pretty homesick sometimes.”

Roska: “I'm just gonna work out my singles and EPs for the year ahead and decide where I want to go. I was meant to do another album for Rinse, but I’ve decided to hold back and do smaller stuff.”

Huxley: “You're doing it the other way round to me, it seems.”

Roska: “Ah, yeah man. I also wanna do some work with my publisher as well.”

Huxley: “Yeah, working on music for other people is amazing. I love it.”

Roska: “I wanna get into that more.”

Huxley: “You get to take all of your own personality out of it and create theirs. I would love to end up doing that full time. I find that kind of thing really interesting. I've just done a few bits for people, nothing is out there yet though.”

Roska: “That’s where I wanna be.”

Huxley: “Nothing is out there yet, though. Fuck it – let’s get a studio together and produce the next Justin Bieber album.”

Roska: “I’d do it. I bet he's sick to work with as well. We'd probably learn some studio techniques off him.”

Huxley: “Only if he makes me a Belieber. I would love to try my hand at that kind of thing though. Maybe not him though, he seems pretty annoying.”

Roska: “Have you heard his tune with the Craig David sample in it? It ain’t bad at all.”

Huxley: “I went to see Craig the other day. He was amazing. I was moist.”

Roska and Huxley both play Fabric tonight; get more info on that here.