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Mr C, a name synonymous with electronic music is one of the dance scene’s true pioneers and innovators. From his early involvement as a DJ and promoter during the heady acid house days of the late 80’s when dance music was still in its infancy though his involvement in chart topping band The Shamen and all the fame it brought him and the continued success and achievements he enjoyed in his DJ and production career after the group disbanded. Founder and owner along with Layo of The End nightclub, one of the best and most respected electronic music venues in London that also gave birth to his label, The End Recordings, his unique vision for dance music has always kept him at the edge, pushing back the boundaries of dance music, creating rather than following a scene. Taking time out from his Ibiza residency HigherFrequency the main geezer gave a brief insight into his extraordinary life in music.
Interview by Matt Cheetham (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : How did you love of music develop, who were your early influences?
Mr.C : I loved music from when I was a kid, I remember being 5 years old and walking round in circles with my twin sister and my brother dancing to music that my mum was playing so I’ve always been into music really, enjoyed listening and dancing to it so it goes back to then really. My first discotheque experience was when I was 13 and that was it, too far gone and no way
HRFQ : It was your involvement with The Shamen really launched you into the national spotlight, did you know about and listen to them much before you started working with them?
Mr.C : Joining The Shamen launched me into the national pop scene but I was already very well known as a DJ before joining The Shamen as a member, I was resident at Clink Street in 1988 and The Dungeons in 1989 and I was doing all the big raves before joining the band so I was already known as Mr C the DJ/MC which was why the band asked me to get involved as an MC and as a producer, I’d already done a few productions before working with the band and they were into my stuff. So yeah, I had heard of the Shamen and what they were doing, it wasn’t my bag because I’m a disco kid, I like dance music of all sorts. I was into body popping as a teenager and robot dancing before that, the whole electro and disco thing, black music, soul, funk, reggae but I was never really into rock. The first I heard of The Shamen was psychedelic rock stuff and it wasn’t really my thing and when the band moved down to London they incorporated an electronic element and basically changed their blueprint from rock to dance but still with the whole psychedelic thing going on. It was at that point that I started to show interest and think they were doing something decent and that was when I got involved. They asked me to work with them and I liked the name of the band, I was somewhat interested in Shamanism and I liked the lyrical content of the band, very ambiguous yet very positive and optimistic and full of information and I thought I like these people, I can work with them and took a step left out of my black music roots and into a slightly more alternative pop sort of thing and it was a lot of fun doing.
HRFQ : In your biography you say the influence for the Shamen’s second album, ‘In Gorbachev We Trust’ came from you, Eddie Richards and Colin Faver, do you think the Shamen would have had the same success if you hadn’t been involved in the band?
Mr.C : Absolutely, Colin (Angus, founder of The Shamen), is a excellent songwriter and he would’ve written those brilliant songs with or without me, I was glad to be involved in the songs and in the song writing as well, to be involved in the writing of the music and the productions and to be able to perform with such a great band. To work with writers like Colin and Will (Sin – Member of The Shamen until 1991), was amazing and for me it was a pleasure to join in, they would’ve made it anyway and I could see that was good enough reason for me to get involved, I’d been an MC for many many years and I was DJ’ing acid house at a top level and this was a good step for me to push what I felt about life in a lyrical content and put that in with the band. So yes, their success would have happened for sure without me but I like to think I helped it along the way.
HRFQ : How different do you think your career would have been if you hadn’t joined the Shamen?
Mr.C : I think I would have been taken a lot more seriously through the 90’s because once I became a pop star the underground stopped taking me seriously and I think I would’ve put a lot more effort into my label, Plink Plonk and into my own cutting edge productions and probably grown into the stage that I’m at now as a DJ, producer, record label boss a lot earlier. I think the career that I’m on now has been put back 5 years by taking the timeout to do The Shamen because I had to win back that underground following, I’m not saying the respect of the underground following but I had to win back their confidence.
HRFQ : Ebeneezer Goode one of the Shamen’s most famous singles has become the track that defined a generation of early ravers, why do you think the press totally missed the irony of that track?
Mr.C : I don’t think they missed the irony of it but its up to the press to sensationalise things like the Leah Betts incident, (teenager who died after taking ecstasy) because it sells papers. That’s what it all boils down to, money. If they can sensationalise a cult following of anything be it a record or anything then they will. I think they did get the irony of it but they used it to sell more of their newspapers. I also wonder how many people actually did get the irony of it. It is a song that is very much maligned and misunderstood and it’s because I don’t think anyone actually listened to the song correctly. A lot of people say to me, ‘oh yeah its all about e, e’s are good e’s are good’, I get it all the time and I think, did you only listen to the chorus? Is that the only part that you found relevant because the chorus is really the jokey bit, the rest of it is the informative part so I tell people to listen to the song again and everywhere it says he, take the h away and then listen to it and you’ll find it’s a whole different song altogether. If you listen to it with a H it’s about this character called Ebeneezer Goode who’s fun loving and goes to all the parties going and its got a cheeky chorus that says ‘Eezer goode Eezer goode’ because in the first verse it says ‘ His friends call him Eezer and he is the main geezer’, which justifies the chorus, but if you listen to the song and take it as its was ambiguously meant to be, (in London the local accent doesn’t usually pronounce the h sound at the start of words) so if I do it in a cockney accent I can justify no h’s in the words and then it really makes sense.
HRFQ : Boss Drum was the pinnacle of the Shamen’s career, what was the reason for the group’s change of direction after that and what led to the eventual disbanding of the group?
Mr.C : The Shamen had always changed, on every album from the first album, ‘The Drop’, which was psychedelic rock to ‘Forward’, mini album that had a lot of sampling in it to ‘En-Tact’ which was their first proper dance album then to ‘Boss Drum’ which really refined the dance thing. I think once we’d defined it and done 7 or 8 top 10 singles in a row and appeared on Top of the Pops (UK Chart TV Show) ten times Colin didn’t want to stagnate and it was pretty much down to Colin. He was the founding member of the band and he called the shots, it was his thing and I was always very supportive of what Colin wanted to do artistically, for me it wasn’t just about the money otherwise I would have started screaming saying we’ve got to continue doing what we’re doing but I was always willing to go in another direction and by the time we’d finished promoting ‘Boss Drum’ Colin was quite frankly bored with dance music because he’s got a very low boredom threshold and wanted to move more in the direction of more intelligent adult ambient , chill out, trippy and psychedelic sound. Colin also didn’t really like doing the promotion, I did most of that, the TV the radio and everything because I was good at it and I was comfortable in front of press and journalists and cameras but Colin wasn’t and he didn’t enjoy it so much so it ended up that I was doing all of the promotion but people wanted to talk to the founding member and the main songwriter and it got to a point where we couldn’t function at just fifty percent, its all or nothing, so we did a couple more albums, got off One Little Indian (The Shamen’s label), did a final farewell album called ‘UV’ a that was the end of that.
HRFQ : Do you still keep in touch with the other members of the group?
Mr.C : I don’t see Colin very often, he did get involved in The End, (Mr C’s central London club), as a small investor so I do see him on the odd occasion and when I do see him he’s always pretty well and upbeat about things, I think he’s enjoying life but I don’t really see much of him. Charles Kosh the manager who was almost like a third member of the band I still see and talk to him on the phone occasionally. The touring members, who weren’t actually full members of the band like Victoria Wilson-James who sung ‘Destination Eschaton’ and ‘Transamazonia’ is one of my best friends, I love her dearly and see her as often as possible, which isn’t a lot because we’re both busy. I never see Gavin Knight, the drummer and Bob the Synth player I see from time to time so everyone’s doing their own thing.
HRFQ : With your partner Layo you started The End in December 1995 that has since become one of the most reputed clubs in London, what do you think has been the main ingredient for the success of the club?
Mr.C : I think its because we came into the London discotheque arena with a whole different attitude on how it should be done. As a working DJ I’d been really pissed off going to clubs and not getting adequate sound, the clubs were dirty, when you go to the toilet you can’t wash your hands because all the taps have been turned off to stop people drinking free water, there’s no air-conditioning, the security were all really rude and as a DJ you get sick of those sort of things and as a promoter, because I’ve done a lot of promotion of events going right back to 1988, and dealing with club owners was a real nightmare so when the opportunity came up for me and Layo to do a club we talked about it with Douglas who is the third owner, Layo’s father and architect of the building and said these are all the things that people get wrong. It wasn’t really a wish list of what we want, more a list of what we don’t want and we went from there. It was all about our bad experiences in clubs over the years and putting them right. When we opened The End all the other clubs in London were all doing completely commercial house, there was no one doing a real cutting edge, contemporary roster of fantastic DJ’s from around the world, it just didn’t exist, so I think The End opening and then AKA (The bar/restaurant next to the club) has changed the way London is, I can’t imagine how London would be today if The End and AKA didn’t exist. It was the first properly designed club for that kind of music, not too big that it’s a superclub, small enough to be specialist and really push the boat out. Everything about it from the free drinking water fountain, the suspended wooden floor so your legs feel good still at 7 in the morning, all these things, all this careful consideration went into The End being the blueprint for what everyone else had to copy and that includes the music, all the clubs that opened after, all the DJ bars, the blueprint was The End and AKA and I think that’s why the club is held in such high esteem, not just in London but throughout the world.
HRFQ : How do you feel about the success of other London clubs such as Fabric who have launched using the same concept and ideas that you presented at The End?
Mr.C : We can feel nothing but pride that other clubs have used our blueprint and made it a success, it strengthens the scene, it strengthens the music, and it promotes the music to lots of other people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to get access to it. For example The End is an independent business and organisation and we really had to struggle to find the finances to do what we’ve done and it’s been hard work to get to where we’ve got and we’ve done it all with no backing. It’s nice to see that someone with backing can come and take a blueprint and push it out to all those people who wouldn’t have known about this sort of music and it does good for the whole scene. Its only good for London nightclubbing, it’s only good for British tourism, it’s only good for the British music scene and I take my hat off to all of them
HRFQ : Do you see The End becoming involved in any external larger events like clubs such as Cream have done with Creamfields?
Mr.C : We’ve done two tents at Homelands for many years, it was actually the best part of the festival, The End techno tent and the Movement Drum and Bass tent, they were fantastic and were the underground part of the festival and it was fantastic doing it. We don’t do festivals anymore though, we concentrate our energies on doing our own club. We were putting a lot of energy into the festivals and I don’t think we were getting appreciated in the way we should have so we learnt from those experiences and now all our energy goes into what we do and that’s why The End has never been as good as it is now and we’re ten years old. That’s what we should be putting our energy into instead of external things. We’ve done festivals, we’ve done nights in Ibiza, we’ve been involved in the Gay Pride festivals, we’ve done a lot of stuff externally but now the focus is really on what we’re doing for our self.
HRFQ : Over recent years technology such as CDJ’s and newer computer based technology such as Final Scratch has become an important tool for many DJ’s, are you using any of this in your sets?
Mr.C : I don’t use Finalscratch, the Pioneer mixers are nice at home but they sound crap on good systems. I use whatever technology comes along, as a DJ I use CD players and I’m happy to use whatever there is but Finalscratch isn’t something I’ve delved into because I haven’t got time to sit there downloading records. It might be good for my wife though, she’s started DJ’ing now and it might be good for her so she doesn’t have t carry heavy record boxes around so maybe she should get into it. I’m up for all new technology as long as its simple and it works well, why not get involved with it.
HRFQ : The End is also well known for the record label, End Recordings that has released more than 50 12″ records along with artist albums by yourself and Layo and Bushwacka, how do you see the label developing in the future?
Mr.C : The label has developed nicely over the years and we’ve got to a point now with the label where we’ve put a lot of hard work and effort into it and we’ve pushed it to a certain level where we’re getting a lot of sales and its established itself as a reputed dance music label for clubs and now we’ve got to that point we want to take a more relaxed approach for the next year so we’re not going to be pushing a load of CD’s for the next 12 months. We’re just going to put out one 12″ every couple of months that we feel is really high quality just as an expression of our musical preference and our musical taste and what we feel should be released. So the record label although not taking a back seat is going to be in the passenger seat for the next year just riding this perfect wave that the club is going through is a very organic way rather than trying to force feed anything at a moment where it could seen to be wrong. We’re not developing any new artists at the moment but if something comes along that we feel needs releasing then we will. Layo and Bushwacka! are concentrating on their own material, I’m concentrating on my own material and that’s the way we’re going to be going.
HRFQ : You’ve been in the electronic music industry since the early days, do you think the scene is developing in a positive way?
Mr.C : Absolutely. Back in 1988 if you threw a party you’d be lucky to get a thousand people, there couldn’t have been more than five thousand people in the whole of London who knew what house music was in 1987, now its danced to by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world every Saturday night and other nights of the week as well so I don’t think the development of dance music could be more positive than it is now, its all good, I love it.
HRFQ : You are one of the establishment as far as dance music in concerned, who do you see as the stars of tomorrow?
Mr.C : There’s so many stars of tomorrow, so many young kids coming through in all genres of music and its not really for me to say who’s going to be the stars because if there’s any of these young kids who really believes in their ability and their music and they really love their music and they don’t lay claim to it being theirs they can go all the way and there’s loads of nice people about with the right attitude. My personal favourites out of the up and comings, a lot are coming our of Germany, I love what the M.A.N.D.Y. boys are doing there’s a lot of good people in France also like Dan Ghenacia’s up and coming. British DJ’s like Giles Smith, all the boys at Herbal and Luke VB and Tim from Blond, there’s loads of good new people coming through and that’s just the scene I’m involved with, in all scenes there’s good people coming through and that’s what its all about, keeping it fresh.
HRFQ : Have you ever played in Japan? what is your impression of the music scene there?
Mr.C : I’ve been to Japan a few times, I went there with The Shamen a couple of times as part of the world tours and I’ve been there to DJ in Tokyo but I don’t go there enough. Japan is the one country in the world where I don’t play enough and it’s not because I don’t want to, I just never get invited. Its really strange, I do Hong Kong, I do Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, that part of the world but I never do Japan which I find really strange because the Japanese are into all things technical and cutting edge things which is basically what I do so I would’ve thought I’d have been bigger in Japan but I’d like to go back more, for sure. Maybe now my Superfreak project is blowing up more on an international level that might help. The next year is going to be very very interesting and I think it’s the sort of thing the Japanese are going to love. It’s my residency at The End, a night called Superfreak and also the parties I’ve been doing in Ibiza have also been called Superfreak and has been the most talked about underground event on the island this year, it’s been amazing. The line-ups I’ve got at The End are great, I did my first Superfreak tour of South America last January, I’m going to do the same again next year and start taking the club around the UK and Europe more. I’m also going to start a new Superfreak Record label that will have its first release next February that will be a Mr C single. I think this is the sort of thing that once it gets out, the kind of music I’ve been playing and the way its all going, I think its definitely the kind of thing that would work well in Japan.
HRFQ : Are there any Japanese artists that you rate?
Mr.C : Ken Ishii obviously is a legend, he’s just brilliant and his aptitude for music is just incredible, but I’ve been influenced by a lot of Japanese artists right back to YMO and Ryuichi Sakamoto, I was totally inspired by this early electronic stuff. Japan is a place of very twisted minds when it comes to technology and pushing things and there will always be artists coming out of Japan but not as much as you see coming out of the UK and Germany which I think is kind of surprising because a lot of the technology does come out of Japan.
HRFQ : What is the future for Mr C?
Mr.C : There’s lots going on, I’m enjoying the reunification of club culture, members from all the different areas of club culture are coming together again and finding a common ground of quality, that’s really exciting. Myself, I’m going to continue DJ’ing around the world, I’m going to continue to make music to play in nightclubs and continue with this electronic music thing that I’m really into and I’ve also been doing acting classes, I’ve got a little part in a film which I don’t want to say too much about, more will come of that when it surfaces but I’m taking it quite seriously, getting the technique of the art of acting right is a very difficult thing to do and I don’t want to go on and make myself look like a fool like so may other people in the music industry have done and just do it for the love and the art of acting. I’ve got to be careful, ex-pop star becomes actor, you know! So I want to get it right and just take serious roles in small independent movies because I have a fantastically successful career in music that I’m happy with and happy to continue with and I want to do something else that a pleasure for myself and a pleasure to learn. It’s also good for me in a spiritual manner for me to learn about myself because it also comes out in my music which is great.
End of the interview
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