When Derrick May says you’re “…elevating the sound of what Detroit was all about.” Its a pretty clear indication you’re doing it right. Jamie Anderson has been doing it right since the mid 90s, and is now recognised along with the likes of Mr. C and Funk D’Void, as one of the pioneers of a genre that came to be called Tech House. In its original form, it married the brute force of techno with the harmonics of house to create a living hybrid. It could be as deep as an ocean and as hard as nails, but always musical, and always funky.
These days, we find Jamie hard at work on his own labels Artform and Arthouse, and helping with affiliations to Outland Records with Jerome Krom and All Night Records with Louis Osbourne. As a DJ and live act, he can be seen all over Europe from his base of operations in Berlin, as well as regular tours of Asia, USA, Europe and South America.
In the studio, Jamie has delivered classic recordings such as, ‘Black Sun’ (NRK) and ‘Time Is Now’ (NRK), while producing numerous collaborations with Bristol group Deepgroove, and life long friend Jesse Rose. And if that wasn’t enough, he also produces under several other guises including O&A, Idiotproof and Payme. Jamie is also a prolific remixer, having worked on projects for high-profile artists including Dave Angel, Riva Starr, Paolo Mojo and Audio Bullys.
A&R Simon Huxtable went to meet a bona fide house music hero…
Hi Jamie, its a great honour to have a chance to chat with you for Decoded Magazine. Thanks for finding the time. How’s your day been so far?
Great to talk with you also! Today has been good, spent most of the day in the studio then had dinner with some friends.
Can you talk us through your musical journey as a lad in west London and what sparked your move to Bristol to train with Dave Buxton?
When I was growing up in London, I first had music lessons from jazz musician Dave Defries who was a family friend, he gave me my first insight into jazz and playing different instruments. I then went on to learn Cello and Piano at school before moving to Bristol in 1986, when my mother took a position at a performing arts school. I met Dave Buxton a couple of years later, and he trained me in classical, improvising and music theory. Both Defries and Buxton are exceptional musicians and have inspired me immensely.
Of course, I alluded to one particular friendship in my intro – Jesse Rose. Could you tell us about how you met all those years ago?
Jesse lived in the same neighbourhood, around Portabello Road, when we were kids. Our parents knew each other and I think also through Dave Defries… it was a small world back then. After I moved to Bristol, I lost touch with him, then one day I bumped into him walking his dog in my local park in Bristol. It turned out that he also moved to Bristol and was living around the corner from me again! At the time had a small studio setup, running some club nights etc so I took him under my wing and got him into DJing too.
During your time in Bristol, you became a main player in the house and techno scene building in the city. Can you tell us about some of the clubs you played at, and the big local DJs.
I played a lot in Bristol throughout the early 90’s. There were always lots of acid house parties, events and raves in the west country, the Lakota club was at it’s prime then, and had a regular weekly techno night bringing all the big names like Laurent Garnier, Claude Young, Carl Cox and Dave Angel. Locally, Bristol had its fair share of talent with each DJ having their own sound and direction, this was a really fresh and creative time. I also ran my own nights with Jesse Rose which were some of my fondest memories.
So tell us about how you learned to DJ back in the 90s, and if possible, imagine you were just starting out now, would you still want to learn?
I had been buying records for years, since the early electro and hip hop days in London and had always wanted to DJ. I had a basic two deck setup when I was at school, but didn’t properly learn to mix until I was putting on parties and getting gigs. I didn’t leave the house for 6 months until I mastered it!
The actual skill of DJing and playing a set with my own sound developed from experience over the years, and making mistakes. Would I do it again if I was starting out now? Probably yes.
We understand you used to work at a record shop in Bristol, and it was from there that you developed the idea of your own label – Artform, which launched in 1997. You mention it ‘bridged the gap’ between the Detroit sounds and US House, so how long after did the genre tag – Tech House take?
I was working at Replay Records when it was at the Haymarket in Bristol, and around that time also launched the Artform record label. It had influences from House and Techno from America along with with Deep Techno from Holland and Germany, mixed with a Jazz flavour.
I had loads of my own music that I was writing in my studio but there weren’t many labels doing this kind of sound so I decided to release it myself. I started using the term ‘Tech House’ to describe the music policy of the nights I was doing with Jesse, as I would play Techno and he would play House. It wasn’t until a few years later that the genre ‘Tech House’ took hold as a way for the media to describe this kind of sound.
Did you find setting the label up was a difficult process? Didn’t Daddy G (Massive Attack) come up with the label name?
I’ve known Daddy G for years and he played at one of my first club nights. I was discussing my label concept with him and playing him my tracks, and went over some ideas for the name. He decisively said it has to be called Artform, so yes, he named the label!
Setting up the label wasn’t too difficult, I luckily managed to get a good distribution deal and the sales were always over a thousand units which paid for the next releases and new studio equipment.
Recently you’ve moved to Berlin. How are you finding it living in Germany?
It’s been good, a bit of a brave move as we relocated here as a family with our kids, but they are settled now which is fantastic. I’ve always been travelling and as much as I love the UK, it’s nice to have a change.
With such a rich musical environment around you, have you felt inspired to get back to the studio more often?
It was part of the reason for moving to Berlin, and yes have been in the studio most days working on new material. I’ve actually taken the opportunity to not release much and just develop my sound again and be more selective about what I do.
Florian is an amazing producer and one of the nicest people I know. We met through our girlfriends, who met through a mutual friend; legendary Berlin producer Mijk Van Dijk. Florian then invited me to share his studio with him at Riverside in Berlin, so I brought over all my studio gear from the UK and set it up here. We collaborated on a few tracks together, and I’m working on a new solo release on Flash Recordings to come out later in the year. I’m really looking forward to the label night this weekend the venue looks amazing, and going by the past events we are expecting an intense crowd!
When you’re playing at a purely techno event, do you find you program your set a little differently to say Watergate or Zouk? Is that from reading the crowd, or club reputation do you think?
Totally, I think about each set differently for each venue. It’s important to find the balance between representing your sound and presenting it at a particular event, if you just play the same set at every place you go then it won’t always work.
It seems these days in order to become successful in the music industry, you have to be multi skilled: DJ, producer, social networker, business savvy and so on. How has this changed the way the scene developed for you?
It does seem like that. I think it’s important not to let the whole social media self-promotion thing take over and drive your ambition though. The core values of being an artist hasn’t changed, which is all about expression and art. Put your energy into being the best you can and everything else will follow. The main thing is knowing when to say no, staying focussed and to help people along the way you think deserve it.
Well Jamie, its been a pleasure to chat with you. Is there anything you’d like to add?
My pleasure! Please check my collaboration with Florian Mendl for his Collide album, my project with Roberto on Fossil Archive and upcoming release on Dessous with Owain K.
01// F.E.X. – Purewax (Moderno Warehouse Mix) [Robotronic]
02// Green Velvet – Destination Unknown (C2 Detroit-Chicago Unity Dub) [Relief]
03// Coeter One – 110 [Nulabel LTD]
04// Roberto – Perisphinctes [Fossil Archive]
05// Emmanuel – Vulcan Of The Alchemists [Monique Musique]
06// MdS & Gymmy J – Symetrix [Flash Recordings]
07// Roberto & Jamie Anderson – Corrugata [Fossil Archive]
08// Tim Xavier – Hood [Face To Face]
09// Florian Meindl – XLR8 [XLR8]
10// Gemini Voice Archive – Transparencia Opaca [Soma]
11// 30drop – Intrusion [Detroit Underground]
12// Spencer Parker – Silly Club Song No.2 [Rekids]
13// Florian Meindl & Jamie Anderson – The Horse (LIVE Version) [Flash Recordings]
14// Don Williams – Beyond The Means 14 Floor [a.r.t. less]