Filed under: Interview
The father of new skool breaks and Marine Parade label owner, Adam Freeland, was back in Japan 18 months after his last appearance to perform at the “Smell Like Freeland Park” party held at Studio Coast in Shin Kiba on April 30th. With breaks finally beginning to establish itself in Japan, Adam brought the new sounds from the UK to the dancefloors of Tokyo.
Widely credited as one of the origins of the UK breakbeat scene, his latest project, ‘Freeland’, (a 5 piece band that includes a live drummer), is still celebrating the success of their debut album, ‘Now and Then’ which has become one of the biggest selling breakbeat albums of all time.
HigherFrequency sat down with Adam to discuss his new band, album, his label Marine Parade and his next release, “FabricLive 16”.
Interview by Daniel Horiguchi
HigherFrequency (HRFQ ) :The last time you came to Japan was one and a half years ago, how does it feel to be back in Japan?
Adam Freeland : It’s great. I love here actually, I always have a good time. Just went to Kyoto for a couple of days to chill.
HRFQ : Is this visit part of your global tour to promote your Now and Them album ?
Adam : I’m always touring so I guess so.
HRFQ : Are you doing anything specifically to promote the album?
Adam : I have been touring with the band. Did a tour of Europe and Australia recently. Just doing DJ shows.
HRFQ : Are you happy with the global reaction to your album so far?
Adam : Pretty much. I mean I try not to read my own press. Generally I find that good press goes to your head and bad press pisses you off. So it’s better not to read it at all. Not that I never do but I have a policy to not to.
HRFQ : So it doesn’t influence you the wrong way?
Adam : Yes because it’s just perception. Sometimes you can take it really personally and if it is really praising then you just get a big ego. I don’t think it really helps you either way. I remember reading some interviews with really big Hollywood stars, and I remember reading Uma Thurman once and she said she never reads her press and I thought that was really strange as I used to read it all religiously. But then I thought actually she is really right. I know what I want to do creatively and I am going to keep doing that. I am not really going to listen to what some magazine says. Hopefully if they are into it, then great. But generally I think the press have been good to me. So you know, don’t believe the hype or don’t believe your own hype.
HRFQ : On the topic of press, the press release for your band Freeland says ‘two nutty Chileans, a bald wizard drummer, a soul diva and a DJ’. How do you meet up with the whole crew?
Adam : Most of us are from Brighton. I guess it was through a series of events. Alison Davis, the soul diva, I met on a bench outside my house. On the street literally. I was a fan of hers and hadn’t actually met her. The Chilean guitarist is actually an old friend of mine, the bass player is his cousin. Jim the drummer I met when I asked around for the best drummer that had the funk but was also good at using the technology, because we are triggering a lot of samples and stuff. And Juice, the MC, is someone I was a big fan of and approached and so it kind of evolved very organically.
HRFQ : It was interesting to see you had a drummer in your band, as a lot of the DJ unit style acts don’t usually have one. Was there a special reason why you formed Freeland in this way?
Adam : It really is a band, we play live. It’s not like a DJ thing at all. Live drums, bass, guitar, vocals. We’ve got some stuff running off backing vocals and some samples but the core of the music is live. I wanted to come at it with that approach. For me it’s all about the beats and so if you have got a really good drummer who has got that live groove then great.
HRFQ : Did you have any specific ambition or concept that you wanted to put across?
Adam : I think there are a few concepts. Creatively, I didn’t want to make a ‘done for DJ’ compilation. I didn’t want to make another DJ compilation or DJ type club album. I wanted to do something that expresses my influences a bit beyond club type DJ format stuff. I wanted to make an album that was interesting to listen to from start to finish. I like a lot of dance music albums and it is pretty boring if there are just a few club tunes and then a few fillers. It’s not really an album that you can enjoy as a journey that takes you somewhere. So that was kind of my prime motive. To make something that I could be proud of and want to listen to for 50 minutes of my life.
HRFQ : In the album there is a track called ‘We want your soul’ and it has a couple of interesting phrases in there as well as the sample from Bill Hicks, saying “Go back to bed America, your country is in control again”. Were you making a statement about what is America is doing right now?
Adam : Well it wasn’t specifically about America. I think it was more about consumer culture in general. It’s been going on for a long time and it’s just getting worse. Bill Hicks is a long time hero of mine. We weren’t sure if we would be able to get the sample cleared but we did get it.
HRFQ : Have you been following Bill Hicks career?
Adam : Well he has passed away. I don’t think I really discovered him until about the time he passed away. But I pretty much have all of his stuff. He was a prophet, not just a comedian. He was very passionate about saying something.
HRFQ : Have you played ‘We want your soul’ in front of American people?
Adam : They love it. Whenever I play it in America I have had people come up to me and say you don’t understand how much people need to hear this message. I think there is a lot of suppression and fear to speak your mind in the States, in a supposed free speech society. It isn’t really is it, and that’s kind of the point of the track. I was really surprised how people reacted really positively.
HRFQ : On the topic of commercialism, you had the ‘Big Wednesday’ featured on the Animatrix soundtrack, how did it feel to have your music featured on such a big icon?
Adam : Well what ‘We want your soul’ is about is that we can’t escape it (commercialism). Living in the modern world. My records are sold in major stores, put out by JVC (laugh). I still have my own copyright but it’s hard to do anything these days and I have done my best to keep it totally independent. The whole point of the track is that we are all part of this picture whether you use technology or not. I think you have to take it case by case. I personally was a big fan of the Matrix and the Animatrix and was something creatively I wanted to be involved with. So I am happy for it to (‘Big Wednesday’) to be on there. It is a wicked bit of art and incredible animation. But we just got an offer from a large chain store in the US called Target. They wanted to use ‘We Want Your Soul’ for their new advertising campaign. But they wanted me to change the lyrics (laugh) which is pretty ironic. To be honest, we could’ve really done with the money and we could’ve have done with that kind of exposure in America because we haven’t put it out in America yet. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t have ‘We want your soul’ on an advert for one of America’s biggest corporations. I don’t think there is anything wrong with consuming, but I think I think it is important that there is an emphasis on ethics within that. If you know your sneakers are causing suffering in a sweatshop environment then maybe you should not considering buying them. I have a Mac laptop by Apple who are a large corporation. I love it, I make my music on it and I couldn’t do what I do without this machine. You know you can’t avoid but you have to inform yourself about each product.
HRFQ : Do you have any new projects coming up?
Adam : ‘Burn the clock’ which is being used on the new Spiderman trailer, which is alright. I was a big fan of Spiderman when I was a kid. A few things sort of in the pipeline but nothing specific. I would like to work within the movie realm. I did a track for a computer game in Japan called Rez as well. I was really proud to be a part of that, it was a really good project. I would like to more of that kind of thing for sure. I think you have to be into it, you can’t just do it for the cash. That’s when they’ve got your soul.
HRFQ : You have also done the next Fabric Live 16 compilation which is going to be released in June. How did you come up with the tracklisting?
Adam : Just tracks that I am playing. The thing about a DJ compilation is that you don’t need to think too hard about it. Now and Them is three years of my life. Blood sweat and tears. Whereas DJ compilations you do it in a couple of days.
HRFQ : So there is no specific concept?
Adam : Well it is a representation of what I am playing now. It starts kind of rocky. Starts with a black level motorcycle club track and kind of progressives and ends into kind of drum’n bass and back to electro.
HRFQ : So it’s more of an expression of what you are like live?
Adam : As a DJ, yes. Whereas “Now and Them” is more what I want to express as an artist. The Fabric compilation is just a dance floor mix. Not really home listening so much.
HRFQ : There are probably other labels in Asia that would be interested in having you do their mix compilation projects, are you interested in doing those kinds of projects?
Adam : I take anything as it comes. If it sounds exciting then yes I am always up for doing it. I don’t like to saturate. Until now I have only done a mix album once every two years. But then again I am aware there are some countries that are not going to here stuff unless you release it domestically so I am always open to good stuff.
HRFQ : Regarding your label Marine Parade, the last time you were out here you were really pushing Evil Nine and played a couple of their tracks. What are they up to right now?
Adam : They have just done a world DJ tour and Asia as well. They did Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and China. They did a gig in Tokyo too but I don’t think it was a very high profile event. They have just finished their album and I am really happy with it. It’s coming out in July. It’s a great album and I’m really excited about it. It’s kind of different. It’s got a real raw hip hop mentality. It’s got live bass so it’s not so electronic but more organic. It’ s fat.
HRFQ : What is your overall strategy for Marine Parade?
Adam : Release good records (laugh).
HRFQ : Do you have any other artists you are going to pushing this year?
Adam : ills, that’s coming out in September. Form, who is one half of UNKLE, used to be Shadow and James Lavelle but now it’s James and Form, it’s not an album just a single.
HRFQ : So with Marine Parade, if you like it, you put it out?
Adam : Yeah. I try to put out tracks that have longevity. Something that works on the dance floor as well as something that you just listen to. Stuff that is going to stand the test of time. I am pretty critical. I would rather not release a record that just putting one out. Which is pretty expensive when you’ve got office, staff and overhead (laugh). But I would rather pay that stuff than release something that I wasn’t happy with.
HRFQ : You are going to be playing in Spain at the Sonar festival, it that your first time?
Adam : At Sonar, yes. I have been to Spain a lot before.
HRFQ : How is the Spanish scene?
Adam : It’s very different in the north and in the south. In the south there is a very big break beats scene, there has been for quite some time, but it is a very sort of young and big rave scene. Whereas northern Spain is a bit more style oriented. Barcelona is very much into the fashion side of music. They go where the trendy haircuts are this week. If it’s produced by DFA then they probably think it’s cool or if it’s like Miss Kitten. I think they are very into retro-electro. More fashioned based which can be good but a lot of the time it’s a bit wank (laugh). There’s quite a big techno scene in northern Spain.
HRFQ : Apparently Love Parade isn’t going to be held this year due to financial reasons, how is the European party scene at the moment?
Adam : Well people talk about dance music slowing down but personally I am playing bigger events than I ever have been, getting more gigs and getting paid more. And that’s how I guess you can judge how well you are doing, or it’s doing. I think breaks and what I am doing seems to be growing. Stuff like techno and classic house and progressive house might be diminishing a bit just because it hasn’t really moved. There is still a lot of great house music but I think there are a lot of people doing the same thing.
HRFQ : How about on the business side, we have noticed in the UK there are distribution companies facing hard times. Have you noticed any big differences?
Adam : Definitely. A lot of people are downloading music and not buying it. But I think that is totally different to the live side. The music industry is going through a massive change with the internet. People aren’t buying music and burning CD’s for their friends or downloading it so of course that is going to affect distribution and record companies. But I think the companies that adapt will survive.
HRFQ : Have you had any personal experiences?
Adam : Well our distributor just went bankrupt 2 weeks ago. VMV, who are a big independent distributor. But, by their own admission, had a really bad accounts department so it might have been their own fault. But we are selling more vinyl than ever. But then again there are DJ’s buying vinyl and I haven’t sold as many copies of my album as we have copies of ‘We want your soul’. which is interesting because normally you would expect sell 5 times as many albums as you would singles. But then again, we are not a highly efficient streamlined music label, we are just a small independent label trying to make things happen. So that may be partly our fault that we haven’t sold as many albums which comes down to marketing etc. It’s hard to say. But the music industry is definitely changing a lot.
HRFQ : The last time you were here you mentioned that the local media hadn’t really grasped what the break beat scene is and what Nu Skool breaks is. Can you tell us what was the misunderstanding?
Adam: I don’t think it was a misunderstanding between the two. When I last came to Japan, I felt that there hadn’t been much exposure for breaks. But with the number of interviews that I have done, I feel that is changing. I always see Japan as cutting edge and high tech, new fashions so I would have always assumed that it would have been the first place to get on to new music. But I don’t think that is necessarily the case. But it seems to be getting into breaks now.
HRFQ : So the last time you were here it was just a lack of awareness?
Adam: Yeah but it’s like that. You have to go to a country frequently and build something. Generally I was the first DJ going out to play break sets in new territories. In the countries that I have been back to a lot, like Australia or eastern Europe like Prague or Budapest, they are really blowing up now.
HRFQ : How about the Asian scene. There is some good vibes coming out of Singapore and KL. Have you noticed changes in Asia?
Adam: I was just in China and I really enjoyed it. I got a really exciting vibe. It really felt like it is blowing up. They were really into breaks but I don’t know if they knew any of the music I was playing. Well most of them. Some guy came up to me with the entire Marine parade catalog, I don’t even have them, and made me sign every one. In Southeast China! So it’s definitely exciting which is great for me because I love being in Asia. I used to play Singapore and KL quite often but the last couple of years I haven’t played there. But that may be just that I have been busy with other stuff. I am actually planning on spending a lot more time in Asia. As of November I am moving to Sydney for 6 months of the year so I will concentrate my touring on Australia and Asia for 6 months of the year and the other half based out of Europe. Live the eternal summer. Hopefully I can do some residencies in china and so on.
HRFQ : Last question, do you have any message to your Japanese and Asian fans?
Adam: The message is in the music.
HRFQ : ‘We want your soul’ (laugh)
Adam: Listen to the album and the lyrics, the message is in there. Buy my album and enjoy it!
End of the interview
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