Having had recent releases on the Save Fabric album, Alola Records & Jack Trax records, Mr C has recently released his latest album -“Incidents” – an acid master class that’s influenced by Ska, Dub, Old School Electro, Italo Disco, Acid House & Tech House.
The album comes after the release of its first single, the politically charged “Stand Up,” and also is part of Mr. C and his Superfreq imprint’s prolific plans for 2017. Plans that continue to include bringing the Superfreq brand to the world’s best events.
Here, we spoke with Richard West aka Mr. C on the album, Superfreq and much more.
“I really wanted to be inspired by the moment.”
Superfreq is your third record label. Tell me about the others and why you started them.
My first label was Plink Plonk Records. I started Plink Plonk because I’d always said that should I make any decent money from making pop music that I’d pump that money back into the underground music that I love. I started Plink Plonk with then partner Paul Rip once I got my first cheque from The Shamen. I ploughed most of it into an amazing studio and the label, employing sound engineers and an office full of staff. Of course, the label lost a ton of money as the music was completely underground, but the label and Watershed studio did launch a few careers by giving lots of people opportunities to learn and grow. I also put some of that money earned from The Shamen into The End nightclub, which of course also needed to have a label to represent the tech house sound of the mid 90s that we loved. So two days after we opened the doors of The End, End Recordings had its first release. This label closed thirteen years later when the club closed.
When/why did you decide to expand Superfreq from a club night to a record label?
Superfreq started at The End in February 2002. Later that year Superfreq did it’s first season in Ibiza at a club called Underground. Right away I knew that I wanted to do a record label to represent the sound of Superfreq, which was way more electronic than End Recordings, so two years later I started the label. We released nine singles and one album over the next couple of years or so, but had real problems with our distributer at the time. So we decided to put the label on hold and simply concentrate on the parties. The Superfreq label remained dormant until 4 years ago when I decided to re-launch the label to act as platform for my new Smell The Coffee album and also a platform for my friends and Superfreq DJs to release their music on. When we re- launched we had three vinyl releases but once again we had a problem with our new distributer, so at that point made the label digital only. The label remained that way until now. We’ve recently signed a great P&D deal with Juno and the label has now gone back to vinyl production. We’re stepping up the releases too by releasing albums as well as singles.
Tell me about your partners in this venture, David Scuba and Noël Jackson. What role do they play in Superfreq?
David Scuba financially backs the label with me, as well as doing a little A&R work and of course making great music. He also puts on the parties with me, sources venues in LA and gets Superfreq into festivals like BPM. Noël’s role was mostly technical, making sure our online presence was on point as well as engineering, mastering and making his own great music. Sadly Noël has had to move back to Detroit and go back into this IT work, so he’s now just an artist on the label.
The label sounds very distinct from most others that are currently operating. What are you doing differently?
Thank you. Superfreq does have its own unique sound. All we’re doing differently from other labels is the A&R. Most labels out there same the same as each other. Most deep house, tech house and techno sound very generic. Sounding generic is my absolute worst nightmare. Music is meant to be art, not copyists all sounding the same as each other.
What does a track/EP need to be considered “Superfreq” material? How do you do A&R?
A track or EP needs to sound fresh, original, exciting, different, trippy and fun to be considered for Superfreq. I do most of the A&R for the label and the artists know what my sound is like as a DJ, which is also the sound of our events and the label. My artists also know that I’m very fussy about what I want to release. The music has to be trippy, edgy and twisted, yet fun and playful, very much like my DJ sets. Therefore many of our Superfreq artists make music with me in mind when they’re recording it. This is what gives the Superfreq label such a unique sound and a thread that you can hear throughout all the releases.
Tell me a bit about some of your artists and how they ended up on Superfreq. How do you find them?
We have some great artists on the label. Of course there’s myself and my label partner David Scuba. Then we have label associate Noël Jackson making some sick music. He also engineered my new album and has been working with me as East LA Tek. Next we have Jay Tripwire who is a dear old friend who I’ve always admired, I’m so delighted that he’s one of our top artists. We have Lo from Calais France. Lo makes the sickest tunes from many labels and has been a friend for a long time, He’s been hosting and promoting our Superfreq events in Calais France for a decade or so too. We have Dance Spirit, two local LA producers who are now making substantial waves in the dance music world. Also from LA we have Jonra & e:machinery, who are not just label artists but one of my favourite acts in the world. We have Delicate Droids, who are Richard D Ruttenberg from Florida & DJ Dutch from Colchester in the UK who actually make their music with each other remotely. I could be here forever with this but these are a few of the crew who also include Gee Moore & B-Vision, Click Box, Just Be (Bushwacka), Pete “Shaker” Bones, Eugene Black, Xo Chic, Class B Band, Inxec & Julia Govor, Rize, Stark, Affie Yusuf, Joint Custody, Derek Marin, Brett Johnson & Jordan Lieb. So as you can see we’ve had releases from some fabulous artists. Most of these them are friends who have submitted music to me or David.
What was the concept behind your upcoming album? How did you make it so it is not just a collection of tracks?
The concept behind the album was to make a real artist album the really shows my musical background. So it draws musical influences from music from my youth, which include ska, dub, disco, old school electro and of course acid house. It’s an acid album which goes all over the place tempo-wise from 84BPM up to 126BPM. Five of the tracks are 114 BPM and slower with the other six tracks being 118 BPM to 124 BPM. The theme of the album is about things that can happen to you when you’re out clubbing and incidents that can happen in random moments.
Tell me how you approach making music in the studio. Do you already have an idea when you go in? Is there a lot of experimenting going on?
I usually have an idea of what type of track I want to make when I go into the studio, but with the Incidents album I really wanted to be inspired by the moment. I knew that I wanted to make some slower tracks, so it really just depended how I was feeling when going into the studio at the time as to what sort of track I would make or what had just been an inspiration at that given time. There was a fair bit of experimentation going on, which usually came after the general structure of each track was complete. This is where Noël Jackson really showed his engineering skills. We start to play around with effects & processing on already written melodies, percussion or vocals.
What gear/software are you using at the moment?
I made this album in Noël’s studio, I don’t record at home and Noël has some wonderful equipment. On this album we’ve used lots of Roland gear including the Jupiter 6, JU06, JX03, TR8, 303 and others. We also used some modular synths and also lots of digital synths too. The sequencing was all done using Ableton.
What new artists can we expect to see on the label? You recently mentioned a Mexican producer/DJ that you have signed.
We have quite a few new artists on the label that we’re giving a platform to including: Bushwacka’s son Oliver Moon; Mr. North, who worked with Soul 2 Soul back in the day; Greg Oversoul, who’s a popular underground DJ from the US and Omid 16B is on the label with a new project called Subversive Attraction. We just signed Niño Arbol who is a young producer and DJ from Guadalajara. This kid is a genius and has huge potential. I can see him going a very long way as his work ethic is off the chain.
This interview is taking place after your recent gig at Playa del Carmen’s Hostel 3B. How many times have you played in Playa ? And what do you think of the local scene here or in Mexico in general?
I’ve played in Playa Del Carmen about twenty times or so over the years. I started doing Superfreq there in the original La Santanera about twelve years ago and have done lots of shows there since. Of course, Superfreq was a regular part of the BPM Festival having done showcases with them since they started doing shows in Playa Del Carmen. I love the Mexican scene in general and have played all over the country a lot over the last two decades or so. My wife who’s the DJ XO Chic is from Mexico City, so of course she’s introduced me to lots of amazing people and many promoters in DF. Monterrey is always fun, where I work a lot with my friend Diego Ayala. And then of course there’s HardPop in Ciudad Juarez, which is one of the best clubs to play in North America.
Tell me a bit about the tour so far, you finished South America recently. Are there any cities/countries that really surprised you or stood out?
In South America Lost Beach Club in Montañita Ecuador and D’Edge were stand out events. Superfreq in London is always amazing. Best Maariv in Tel Aviv was a nice surprise as it’s dope and it was the first time I’ve played there. I look forward to going back there. And Hostel 3B was right up there with my favourite shows on the tour so far. So amazing.
What have you got planned for celebrating thirty years as a DJ?
This Autumn will be my 30th year as a professional DJ. I did of course play way before that, but I only include the time since I’ve been a professional and it’s been my career. I want to celebrate with a string of 30th Anniversary events. London & LA are a must. Other that that I need to think a bit more about it and talk to some of the clubs that have been dear to me over the last three decades.
“Incidents” is NOW AVAILABLE on Superfreq
– Interview by Ian MacKenzie