Further north in the UK is the Midlands area, which may not have the prominence that we do in London, or perhaps even Manchester or Bristol, but is still home to many of the nation’s most talented artists. Two such musicians are Purple Velvet (AKA Lee Dearn and Chris James), a duo who have been on our radar for quite some time – in fact, the team over at Deep House Amsterdam procured a killer mix from them a few months. With their label Secret Reels launching this week, we tapped them up for a little chinwag… check out the results below.
Firstly, you guys have managed to craft your own distinct sound, can you tell us what inspires this sound?
Chris: Our inspirations come from anything musical to be honest, especially soulful music. We’re inspired by jazz, motown, hip hop; anything that is live and has a feeling. Warm analogue sounding music especially inspires us. When we started this project we just wanted to make the music that we want to make, whether that’s a just a vibe or something a bit more upbeat.
Are there are any artists in particular who have really been pivotal in your cultivation of the Purple Velvet sound?
Lee: First and foremost, I think I have said this so many times, Larry Heard. For us, his sound is the definition of house. That’s not to say that the sound hasn’t progressed, but we are both of the opinion that it creates a certain feeling and emotion that we both connect with. We have also been influenced by people like Bob James, Marvin Gaye, George Benson, Isley Brothers, J Dilla, DJ Premier, Madlib, Pete Rock, Stimming, Jimpster, Kerri Chandler, Motor City Drum Ensemble, KiNK and many others. We like to use warm and emotive elements in our music.
This might be a bit of a difficult question to answer, but how would you describe the music you make?
Chris: We feel in essence as long as it has a vibe or something that we feel really makes the record stand out then we are happy. I think it’s hard to describe your “own” sound, you just hope people get on with it and feel it.
Can you both tell us a little bit about your individual histories and how you ended up forming a partnership?
Lee: I started messing around with a cracked copy of Fruity Loops back in the days of Kazaa. Earlier than that, I was hooked on some god awful music loop game on the Playstation. I attempted to make trance on Fruity Loops, then found Cubase and Reason. I went to college to study music practice, which is where I bumped into Chris. We both had the same taste in music and it wasn’t very long until we started collaborating. We have had other music out before, but in 2011 we met back up after a mini disagreement and decided just to make music that we wanted to, not to be influenced by the latest fad.
Chris: I used to hang with the cool group at school who all thought they could rap, one day I said I’d produce tracks for them using Hip Hop Ejay. Obviously that didn’t work out but it got me hooked on production. I’ve always been a fan more of production and instrumentals than anything lyrical. I went to Ibiza in 2000, with the family of course, met a lad form Bradford who played me a tape he had made and it had “Armand Van Helden – U Dont Even Know Me” on. I was like, ‘What is this?’. He said, ‘House’. I came back home wanting to be a DJ. I dabbled in trance initially, then into house and attempted making music via Fruity Loops, which I still use today. I met Lee at college as we were both freaks for trance back then. Luckily we both started to like house…
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In every duo both parties work out their strengths and focus on those, so can you both tell us what you are particularly good at in the studio…?
Lee: I’d say… moaning! Haha, I like to think I am good at laying down a melody, playing keys etc. I generally do the mixing down as I hate to think there are some stray low end frequencies on a hi-hat! I am pretty OCD on stuff like that. We are both good at sample hunting… finding that special something that fits.
Chris: Yeah, I’m more into getting a loop going for us, the beats side of things. Lee’s great with melodies, but I’m getting there, too. I would say I focus a lot more on the sounds we want in a record, i.e. a particular sample or synth, but then we both hunt for samples and vocals that we can use, so it’s always a joint effort.
You guys are based in the midlands; tell us a little bit about what it’s like there? Any landmarks/tourist sights we should be aware of?
Chris: Stratford is a great place, lovely landscape and full of history with Shakespeare and all that. Birmingham is ok; I prefer it actually out in the country (Shropshire) as where I live is well outside the city and my girlfriend’s place (Staffordshire) is also countryside-based, which I prefer to the city life.
Which of you two is most likely to get so drunk they end up lost in Peckham?
Lee: No comment… haha. That was an eventful night to say the least!
Who’s the better dancer?
Tell us an embarrassing story about each other…
Chris: So, there was a major trance night on at Godskitchen in Digbeth. Myself, Lee, his new girlfriend and mine were all getting merry before making our way to the venue. Lee had already had a few drinks and on the way decided to run as fast as he could down the high street. He tripped up and landed right on his knee in his brand spanking new £70+ jeans. He got up laughing with the biggest whole in his jeans and cut on his leg, but his girlfriend was not laughing and ordered a taxi to take them both home before we even stepped inside Godskitchen.
Lee: Last year we played at Dance Tunnel and decided to head down to London early so we could enjoy the perfect weather. We hit a roof party and consumed copious amounts of cider. Soon enough we left to head back and get ready for our gig… After sorting myself out back at the hotel, I find Chris on the bed with toothpaste hanging out of his mouth, showing everyone how he gets down. Add to that all he was wearing was a towel round his waist, I’m sure you can imagine what a picture it was!
Birmingham has a great history with Godskitchen etc… but is there much of a club scene to speak of at present?
Chris: It’s surprising how many people ask what the scene is like here. Face or the Rainbow has been running weekly events for quite a while now and has had most of the biggest house artists over the past couple of years. To be honest I used to play in Birmingham quite a lot but, like anywhere that you’re from, the scene can become very cliquey and promoters want favours etc.. and won’t pay fees that you would get elsewhere or abroad. I’m not into getting booked because I or we hang around certain people, I/we only want to get booked off merit whether that’s through our mixes, DJ sets or musical productions, nothing else.
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Where are your favourite places to play outside of your hometown?
Chris: Easy: London, Leeds, Manchester, Amsterdam, Berlin.
Lee: Vienna, Moscow, London. It’s a shame the trips are always so short!
What are your views on the current explosion of dance music around the world?
Lee: It’s great that dance music is now widely accepted, even more so than say in the 90s and 00s. Every genre of music is going to have its more commercial artists, and while they probably get a lot of flack, they are important. They bring a new audience to dance music and given time, I think and I hope that a large portion of that audience will delve a little deeper into the genre and define their own tastes. It may have been the case in the past that the bigger artists that smash it in the charts fund the smaller and more niche artists on a label but I don’t know if that could be said anymore. I say all this, but you will never hear a Calvin Harris cut in ANY of our sets or mixes!
In your opinion what is the true definition of ‘deep house’?
Lee: A piece of music that not only stirs your soul, but also stirs you physically. If you are in a club, and there is a track and the kick and the bass are massaging your rib cage, then it’s done the job. Deep house for me is something that evokes an emotion, but also makes you want to move, zone out and get heads down at 4am. I get deep!
What have you got coming up?
Chris: Our new vinyl label Secret Reels is about to drop its first release with a couple of originals from us. The main track features a really cool soul singer Amy Lyon who’s from Houston, Texas but now resides in Glasgow. We’ve got Frits Wentink of Wolf fame and Borrowed Identity on remix duties and we’ve just sorted out our second release, which is another EP from us with a ridiculously good remix from Glenn Astro. Our debut three track EP is out soon also on Manucci’s Mistress, on vinyl also in June. We are currently working on loads of new music and we have recently acquired a new booking agent for our shows –> emma.pvbookings.gmail.com, for those that are interested!
You guys seem to be constantly busy, either with new music or touring… how do you manage to maintain your personal lives?
Lee: It’s hard to strike a balance, and I’m not sure I have found it yet. My better half would agree with that! In all seriousness though, I think we would love to tour more than we do presently, regardless of how that would affect us at home/work. There is always time for music!
Finally, any advice to youngsters out there who might be considering getting into a musical partnership with a mate?
Lee: Be sure that your mate shares the same sense of humour as you!
Deep House Amsterdam Mixtape