A tribute to Tony Allen, by Emma-Jean Thackray
Semtek is a producer who has been quietly going about his business churning out subtly pumping left-field house for some years now. Both through his own productions, and also through the artists he’s released on his label Don’t Be Afraid.
Recently he’s put out one side of a World Unknown 12”, and released the ‘Couer De Lyon’ 12” on Andy Blake’s new label In Plain Sight, both showing a deft way with raw and to the point house. He’s also got a 12” coming on Awkward Movements, ‘Bento’, which will be backed with a remix from Scott Fraser (clips below).
Other than these three, Semtek’s releases have come out on his own label Don’t Be Afraid, from the stripped and darkly insistent Bells back in 2009 to the infinite elastic pulsations of Pizza last year. The label has also this year released Mr. Beatnick’s excellent ‘Sun Goddess’ EP, and Photonz ‘Love Spectre’ EP. Arguably though, one of the most intriguing things Semtek and the label have done this year is begin the sub-label Spargel Trax, which releases white labels featuring contributions by several different artists, slightly bizarrely, going under various asparagus themed pseudonyms (he explains more about this below). It may sound like too much of a novelty proposition to yield anything great, but the music on the two volumes so far has been of a startlingly high standard of off-centre house.
For this mix, he’s given us a set of vinyl only, direct and driving dance music. Much like his own productions, it’s the kind of mix that makes you want to move. A fine set of raw and excellently rough around the edges house and techno that takes over the eardrums with a real physical beat and pull.
How’s it going?
I’m hungover after the Bloc launch party last night. Joe Hart and Charlie Bennett played followed by I-F and then Blake Baxter. The atmosphere was great and it bodes well for the festival’s London debut this summer.
Can you tell us a bit about the mix?
It took me a few attempts but I recorded it 100% live with vinyl on two 1210s and a crunchy old Gemini mixer at my man Claws For?‘s house. It starts house and ends techno, which is what I might do over a longer period of time in a club I guess.
How did you get into production? Were you making music before as something other than Semtek?
If I’m honest I can’t really recall. I’ve made music as long as I can remember.
How do you go about choosing whose productions to release (other than your own) on Don’t Be Afraid?
I’ve been lucky to work with Mr. Beatnick, Photonz and Claws For? (who is responsible for the first DBA DUBS 10” that drops in July), all very talented producers. I met Nick through our (dormant) Lostbahnhof night which we used to do at LIFE Bar in Old St. Photonz I met purely through checking out their music. Tom (Claws For?) went to uni with me. I like to give producers free reign over what they release but I’ll try to get a picture of which tracks or ideas might work on an EP early on in their development.
As far as I’m aware all your previous releases have come out on your own label other than the last two. How come the change? And why those particular labels (World Unknown and In Plain Sight)?
Firstly, DBA is starting to find its own sound and not all the tracks I write fit with where it’s going. Secondly, deciding which of your own tracks work and don’t work commercially is difficult, or even impossible, without the input of a third party. You develop emotional connections to certain tracks when you’re writing them which are difficult to break when it comes to deciding what should go onto a record. Andy Blake has been a big influence on the way I DJ and listen to music, and he was kind enough to pick up a couple of the joints which didn’t fit on DBA for his World Unknown and In Plain Sight labels. I also have a 12” dropping on Awkward Movements with a Scott Fraser remix later this month, entitled ‘Bento’.
So far it’s just been singles and EPs you’ve released. Are there any plans for an album?
I’m currently working on an LP. It’s in its early stages but I have sketches for most of the new material I’ll be writing for it already down.
The Spargel Trax records on Don’t Be Afraid are brilliant. Can you explain the concept behind that for those not aware?
The idea of Spargel Trax was to celebrate great seasonal produce. As many record labels will agree, wax is a seasonal thing. You have wax for the Spring and wax for the Autumn. The sound of the tracks that work at different times of year changes. We wanted to do something quite raw and immediate to represent the wide variety of left field house music that’s out there at the moment, and that became Spargel Trax. I have my friends Caroline, Mike and especially Belinda to thank for giving me the initial impulse for the idea of tying it in with Spargelzeit (asparagus season).
Can you explain the label name Don’t Be Afraid?
I’d like to leave it open to interpretation. There’s no political agenda to our music, it’s for everyone who wants to enjoy it.