Exclusive Interview: Waifs & Strays

One of the most consistent duos in the UK over the last few years has been Waifs & Strays. The Bristol act always deliver great house music, whether it’s bumping Chicago style jams on Madtech or deep and dark cuts on labels such as Resonance. Sadly, Waifs & Strays recently became a solo act after one half, Rich Beanland, started to have problems with his ears. The good news is that Amos Nelson, the remaining member, is keeping the Waifs & Strays name very much alive and he’s doing a sterling job we must say. In fact, he’s busier than ever and has even recorded a great mix for our sister site Deep House Amsterdam, which you can check out at the bottom of this interview. Why not flick it on and get stuck into this chat we had with him recently…

We’re over halfway through the year now, how has 2014 been for you so far?
It’s obviously been a year of change so far with Rich stepping aside from Waifs & Strays and having to take time to adapt to that. But apart from that, it’s been business as usual. I’ve been in the studio a lot making new music and doing remixes and I’ve been doing lots of touring, too. It’s been a great year so far.

Any particularly life/career-affirming moments you’d like to share with us?
A lot of my close friends have started families this year, so it’s great to see the next generation of people you hold dear emerge into the world – such a special time. Career-wise I’ve been lucky to play some great gigs this year; traveling the States and getting to play at Glastonbury again are two notable highlights. Glastonbury is always one of those life and career affirming events that blows your mind by peoples creativity, talent and passion

You’ve become quite closely allied with Madtech lately, how did that connection come about?
It was through a friend of Rich’s that was doing some A&R work. We sent him some tracks and they liked what they heard and off we went. It’s a great label with some really cool artists on there so I was super happy to be able to work with them and hope to continue to do so in the future.

What does it mean to you to be connected with a label owned by Kerri Chandler?
A great deal… Kerri is one of my heros. Both as an amazing DJ and producer, and how he carries himself as a person; it’s a huge honour to be associated with him in any small way.

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Have you met him yet? What’s your impression of him?
We’ve met briefly a couple of times, and he is one of the nicest and most humble guys out there. He has been doing this for so long and is still super down to earth. As a DJ he is really one of my very favourites.

There are so many Kerri Chandler classics out there, which ones have really left a big impression on you?
It’s probably not an obvious one back ‘Back To Raw’ always hits the spot for me…but there are so many Kerri records that it’s impossible to choose!

You are now sadly working alone on Waifs & Strays, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Rich had some issues with his ears and was advised by the doctors to take some time off, which he decided to extend for a while and step away from Waifs & Strays for the time being. But it’s not a closed book and hopefully we will work together again in the future

What’s it like gigging solo after working in a partnership for so long?
It’s different, but I have been DJing for 17 years now, long before Waifs & Strays, so it wasn’t too hard to get back into it. It’s a different feeling though playing on your own to how it is when you are with someone else – not necessarily better or worse but just different. I definitely miss him on the traveling though!

And what about working in the studio?
Yeah, that’s a big change, and I definitely miss his presence in the studio. But we had always made music separately and together so it wasn’t a totally new start.

Speaking of which, what do you have forthcoming in terms of releases?
Quite a lot actually! There’s a single on the new Futureboogie VA EP coming out next month, an EP on Max Chapman’s Resonance Records, remixes of Romanthony on Glasgow Underground and other ones for Stil Vor Talent and Ben Pearce’s Purp N Soul label plus an EP on Classic Records at some point… and a few other bits and pieces that aren’t finalised yet!

How would you say the Waifs & Strays sound has evolved since ‘Be Patient’ and ‘Yeah Yeah’ made a splash?
I don’t know that it’s evolved as such but every tune is different. I like to move it around musically in my sets and that is kind of what I’m like in the studio. Some tracks will be deeper and others a bit harder.

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Since we’re called Deep House London, in your opinion what is true deep house?
It’s such a hard question, but I definitely think the term has got very over used and in many cases used incorrectly. Going back to Kerri Chandler, he is a good example of someone who has made a lot of really good ‘deep house’. At the end of the day I like to make and play house music, some of it is deep, some isn’t… I try not to get too hung up on definitions!

How do you manage to balance being a DJ and a producer with your personal life?
I am lucky to have a very understanding wife, but you have to make time for life outside of the studio or the club.

Your hometown Bristol is widely regarded as a hub for music, how has living there shaped your approach to making music?
I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s just such a creative place to live – it’s in the streets, the atmosphere, everything… you can’t help but soak it up.

Are there any new Bristol heads we should check out?
Yeah… Feel The Real. It’s a three-man 80s groove and boogie tag team that are just amazing.

As a keen festival goer, which do you prefer; Glasto or Burning Man?
They are soooo different and amazing in their own ways. But Glastonbury will always hold a special place in my heart.

What advice would you give to someone who’s going to a large-scale festival for the first time?
Take wellies, take a rucksack (you wouldn’t believe the amount of people dragging their Samsonite luggage through the mud), under pack and don’t get too caught up in trying to see acts, the most fun is usually had away from the main stages…

Finally, can you finish this sentence for us: Without music my life would be…
Grey. Music adds the colour to life.

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