Cera Alba, AKA Liam Jones, came up in the north of the UK, establishing himself via the club scene in Leeds. As many of you will be aware, Leeds is a constant source of new talent and has one of the best electronic music scenes in the country (and don’t get us started on the after parties!) – so it was a great place for him to get stuck in to DJing and production. A little while ago he relocated to London in order to take his career to the next level, and he’s not doing too badly for himself. We caught up with Cera Alba for a chat recently, and he’s also turned in a mighty fine mix for us which you can check out at the bottom of this interview….
How’s everything going? Last time we saw you you said you had some interesting bits on the way?
Yeah, it’s going really well. I just had the Gruuv EP out, which got some really good feedback – that was the start of the new sound that I’m trying to push out there. Also there was the Electronique EP, which came out around the same time but was produced a little bit earlier and has a darker sound.
I’ve just had an EP signed to VIVa, which is great! It’s probably going to be out around September/October. Just recently I’ve had a track signed by Matthias Tanzmann to Moon Harbour, he picked up one of my tracks and played it in Barcelona during the Mobilee pool party and then signed it for a compilation that’s forthcoming on his label. That’s the direction I’m moving in; the more European, Ibiza-style house and techno scene, which I’ve always loved. It’s a new direction that I’m really enjoying.
Were you at the Mobilee party when he played it?
No, I was at home in the studio! I wanted to go to Barcelona, but it didn’t happen. I noticed be-at TV had the Mobilee party on their site, and this was before I even realised Tanzmann had checked my demos and he played it. Obviously it’s brilliant seeing people dancing to your tune in another country, and being associated with Moon Harbour, mobilee and Tanzmann is amazing, too.
Speaking about the more European style of music you’re working on, did you take a step back and decide ‘That’s where I want to go now’, or has it been a gradual move towards that sound?
It’s been a gradual move but the last few months have been refining that sound, it’s all inspired by labels, DJs and artist that I was getting into four to five years ago. Nick Curly and that Cecille sound, Steve Lawler, Tanzmann… those guys I remember seeing in Leeds years ago at places like the Asylum technique garden party. It was that sound that I really loved; that groove, that roll. It was definitely a more global kind of sound, whereas before I’d been concentrating on a UK-inspired style. There’s nothing wrong with the UK sound, but it’s nice to focus on a more international sound as well.
Is there anyone in particular at the moment you’re feeling who’s pushing that sound?
Yeah, one of the guys who’s definitely pushing that kind of style, who I’m into, is Sable Sheep. He’s like a mainstay on Moon Harbour and he’s released on DFTD, Be As One and Desolat. I just think his music has got such great development, it’s a lovely cross between tech house and techno – it’s got that tough techno edge, but he keeps the percussion quite housey, so it’s still accessible. Cuartero, who’s just had an EP on Desolat, he’s another one to watch – he’s putting out music left, right and centre at the moment and it’s all really, really well produced. Nathan Barato is another one, really tough again but with that tech house roll to it.
You also work at the music school Point Blank… Can you tell us a bit about that?
I work there part-time, doing a bit of DJ tuition at weekends and sometimes during the week when the main tutor, Ben Bristow, isn’t there. It’s really nice to be around those guys and people who do similar things to me, or who’ve done things in the past, way before I even started doing it. It’s great being involved with the education side of things and to feel that I’m being beneficial to the younger DJs and producers who are coming through. It’s a nice complement to what I’m doing now with music.
Is that something you can envisage doing more of in the future?
Yeah for sure! I’m already planning to a masters in music production, it’s just down to when I can do it and when I can raise enough funds to pay the tuition fees, which are a lot steeper than they were when you and I were at uni. I need to concentrate on music full-time for now until I’m stable enough to be able to do that. But it’s something I want to do 100%, I really enjoy teaching and I think lecturing about music and so forth is something I’d definitely enjoy too.
It seems like moving down to London from Leeds is working out pretty well for you…
It’s funny, Burnski made the move from Leeds to London and, eventually, Berlin. He said to me a little while back, Leeds is great place to pick up your education and make those first steps. It’s got a fantastic music scene and has had that for a number of years, with Burnski, Rob James, Tristan Da Cunha, all the Basics guys and the Dirty Disco guys… but, at some point you have to put yourself somewhere which you’re unfamiliar with. Burnski said in Leeds you’re a big fish in a small pond, which is great because you’ve got good contacts and there’s maybe not as much competition around – but in London, it’s so big and there’s so much. Pretty much each part of the city has its own sound. You put yourself in that situation, you develop, you meet more people and get more influences into what you’re doing.
How are you coping financially, because that’s always a stickler for a lot of creatives here?
I’m surviving! It’s obviously difficult living here because the rent is expensive but I told myself if I do music full-time and I can’t survive in London, then I don’t want to do it because I don’t want to do this anywhere but this city. I need to be able to live here and do what I do. I’m getting by ok with gigs and the extra work with Point Blank is great because it’s a bit of extra cash… The great thing about London is, there’s always something going on so I’m doing promo work for a few old mates I used to work with. It’s survivable, but it’s not really about the money it’s about finding a job where you’re happy doing what you’re doing.
I can’t imagine going back to an office job now!
Yeah someone said it’s always difficult when you set off on the journey of trying to produce your own stuff and be creative, but If you put your full effort into it you can do it. As long as you commit to it 100%, you’re bound to do well.
Do you have much an idea about the direction you’re taking? Are you taking as it comes or do you have a grand plan at all?
It’s a difficult one because I’ve come to a point where I need to make a decision on the direction I’m going. Obviously, as I said, I like what Steve’s doing, I like Moon Harbour and even pushing further on to labels like Desolat and Minus, that international standard. The thing you’ve got to realise with a lot of these outlets is that they’re pretty much all tight-knit groups and to be with them, you’ve almost got to become a part of that. You have to be committed to the label 100%, which is totally understandable – they want someone to be making the best music they can, and to be contributing to the label and being the best representation of what they’re about. But I also have a huge appreciation for the new generation of British artists and what they’re about; Bicep, Dusky… these guys who are really pushing the boundaries of what they’re doing. Dusky have just launched their label 17 Steps, which interests me quite a lot.
For the moment though, I’m just doing what I’m doing and, if it gets to a point where I have to make a decision, then I’ll deal with that when it happens. Until then I’m going to carry on with all of this.
Cera Alba is playing at Primo on 2nd August at Metropolis, London. Tickets on sale here: www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?613165