Surfing the internet and thanks to my mates on the blog like Ele Mikelo, Disko Selectors,and company, we discover your new label alled Tici Taci, the man behind: Duncan Gray..
CLG – Hey Duncan, first tell us something about your historical discography…
Duncan – Hi Como las Grecas Team¡
First record released in 1996 (under the name Sub da Fuze – Scatological Records). Released tracks for a variety of labels including Whole9Yards, and Blue Black (with Dylan Rhymes and Meat Katie). House tracks licenced to DJ mix CD’s from a range of artists including James Lavelle and Boy George. Duncan was one half of UK Electro duo Sons of Slough, releasing tracks on Electrix, Skint and Sprungcartellwachs. Sons of Slough played regular live shows between 1997 and 2005 with a residency at London’s Turnmills. DG makes his return to Djing at Slide in Brixton, London on Feb 1st, playing a set of all tici taci productions.(Note – Slough is my hometown, which is why it gets named so often. It is not a glamourous place to live!)
CLG – Duncan tell us about your label, you’ve come a long way inside music industry but Tici Taci has only a few months of being live
Duncan – It’s true – I have a long history of making music and have had many releases on many labels, but in 2005 I stepped back from dance music production. Why? Because I no longer felt the vibe. I felt that the club music in London had become quite generic and unexciting at that time, and I personally felt too locked into a way of making music. I looked towards other music and found plenty of interesting and innovative sounds. I went to see a lot of Live music ranging from Classical concerts at the London Proms, some great new Jazz (Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, Sonar), weird pop (Deerhoof), and some seriously loud rock music like The Melvins and Tweak Bird. It was not until last year (2013) that my interest in the dancefloor returned.
CLG – Why did you decided to launch this label in these times?
DUNCAN – There are two people who were very influential in my return to production. The first is producer and DJ Neville Watson. Nev has really paid his dues over the years and stuck with what he believed even when times were really tough. We go way back. Anyway, we met up last year and he gave me a kind of kick in the ass. I came away from our meeting feeling quite positive and Nev sent me a couple of his tracks to practice remixing. So I took Nev’s parts and re-played them all on guitar and bass and live analogue synths, and played the drum parts in Live too. The result wasn’t exactly what I was after – probably because I found the tempo a little fast – but the idea for a new way of working was born. I slowed the pace to 110bpm and suddenly found that I could feel the funk in the music much better, and that I was able to play the parts without struggling. I went to work and created an initial batch of 12 tracks which only had two rules – they should be at 110bpm and they should not sound like generic tech-house.
The second influential person in the Tici Taci story is Andrew Weatherall. I paid him a visit at Scrutton Street sometime around April last year – it was just a social call as we are old friends – and I left him a CD of my latest tracks (which is something I usually do, whatever kind of music I’ve been making). To my surprise Andrew called me – several mondays in succession – to tell me that my new tracks had been getting some amazing reactions. In particular Andrew was playing the tracks at the infamous ALFOS parties which he does with the charming Mr Sean Johnston. So how could I not start a label?
CLG – What could we find in your blog?
DUNCAN – You’d find a lot of stuff about making music. I’ve produced 40 tracks for the dancefloor in the last 8 months – that’s an average of one a week – so I have a really good selection of Tici Taci sounds for DJ’ing with. They won’t all get released but they will be heard. My spare time is taken with label administration, getting my DJ chops together, collaborating on an album of rock tracks, and playing some guitar sessions for Andrew. Oustide of making music you would not find much unusual – I read books, play xbox and hang out with my lovely partner and our cat.
CLG – Tell us something about you, you been collaborating as a guitar player in Andrew Weatherall’s new record, are you an instrumentist?
DUNCAN – Yes, I’m an instrumentalist. My prime instrument is Bass Guitar, but with the Asphodelles I play 6 string guitar (Andy Baxter plays bass). I’m not likely to feature in Guitarist Magazine just yet – I consider my skills to be pretty average, but what I do understand is sound. I treat the guitar as a sound generator in much the same way that I would use a synthesiser. I love to use heavily effected sounds, split and recombined, recorded double-tracked. I don’t really think like a guitarist and I’m certain that’s what Andrew likes about my playing. I’m not a show-off.
The first thing that Andrew invited me to play on was his remix of Obsession by Craig Bratley, and we just clicked. Thing is, it’s easy when you’ve known someone for years, so I wasn’t nervous or under pressure. I’ve known Tim Fairplay for years too and I’m a total studio hound, comfortable recording, engineering etc. Turns out me and Craig Bratley had history too – but that’s another story. The next remix Andrew had me play on was Speed of Dark (Emiliani Torrini) And I have to say that it’s a beautiful track – wonderful melody, great original guitar parts, spine tingling arpeggio on the analogue, and I’m really proud to have played those psychedelic bird noises over the back half of it. There has been a few other sessions since but my lips are sealed as to what they might involve.
CLG – Do you produce your own material?
DUNCAN – Yes, everything except final mastering which I’m fortunate enough to have done by Justin Drake (formerly of Peace Division). In the studio I do everything – bass, keyboards, guitar and drums. I’m like the “white, middle-aged Prince of Slough”, in that respect.
CLG – Do you declare yourself as the son of the greatest Andrew Weatherall and friend of Ian Weatherall, please explain us that
DUNCAN – Ha ! This is easily explained. I am not related to the Weatherall brothers, of course, but Ian Weatherall and I spent 7 years working together as Sons of Slough. We released several EP’s and 12’s, and a double vinyl/CD album (Milk, Milk, Lemonade / on Billy Nasty’s Electrix label). Being in a duo with Ian was like being married to him. He’s one of my best friends and we still see each other regularly. I produced his remix of the Asphodelle’s One Minutes Silence last year, the first time we’d been in a studio together for 7 years. Great fun. The work with Andrew is separate from that – despite them being brothers, I rarely see both of them at the same time.
CLG – How do you see this general time in electronic scene?
DUNCAN – I’m no expert on “what’s happening now”, but I have observed a change in the music towards a blend of electronic and real instruments, much more so than 10 or 20 years ago. When computer based production first became affordable around 2000, there was a great tendency toward making purely digital music. It was almost as if real instruments weren’t allowed, that they didn’t fit with the current musical fashion at all. And “real” musicians would try to incorporate electronics into their sound as a nod towards the new trend, and would often make a bad job of it. But I think we have grown past that phase now. The blend of electronic and real instruments is understood by a new generation of producers now, from Bugge Wesseltoft’s Jazzland productions to Matmos or more obviously LCD Soundsystem. If you want to you can still make pure techno or folk music, the choice is yours – but now you have the opportunity to combine both in a more informed way.
CLG – How do you see actual media tools reaching and interacting with labels and your music? (Soundcloud, Facebook, Bandcamp, Digital Outlet and Stores…)
DUNCAN – Much has changed since I took my break from producing dancefloor music. The advent of social media is ubiquitous, it cannot be ignored. It was with some reluctance that I created a Facebook page to help promote Tici Taci, but if you don’t have one then there’s no natural focus for your followers. A web-page just to promote yourself is almost a redundant concept now – unless fans can purchase music direct from your website, what would be the point? You could do all your promotion on social media. Soundcloud is a double edged sword, but on the whole is the best way to promote music like mine. It does seem weird that labels and DJ’s have to pay 100 euros a year for the space, yet users pay nothing to listen. On the other hand, word gets around and it hopefully leads to physical and digital sales. Soundcloud does work well, and I intend to use it more this year, with a series of podcasts planned to explore and talk about my record collection. Youtube generates almost no money for small artists. Same story, it’s promotion. Digital outlets and stores are not weighted in the artist’s favour. Everyone takes a cut down the line. The best you can hope for is establishing enough of a reputation that you can sell music direct to your fans from your own website and cut out the middle-man the way Radiohead did with In Rainbows.
CLG – How do you think piracy in the industry currently affects producers and small or indie labels?
DUNCAN – I’ve no idea if this could even be measured in a way that means something. I guess we’re talking about downloading music for free. It’s going to affect everyone who produces music for a living, at every level. Let’s not fool ourselves. If a friend hands you a USB drive with a new album you want to hear, do you take it or refuse? You may have the intention to buy it “at some point in the future” but ask yourself how often that actually happens. At least with the indie scene there is more prestige in the collection of physical records (CD, vinyl, even cassette), and fans who collect a specific music genre are quite supportive of getting money to the artist. In Jazz this works very well – an artist like Dave Douglas can reach his fanbase direct, and they are the sort of fans who will ALL happily pay for their downloads. He just happens to hit a very honest part of the demographic. I just hope that enough people reading this will spend a few minutes checking out some Tici Taci releases and that they are the kind of people who go first to Juno or Boomkat, and not to a torrent site.
It was a pleasure to make you this interview and can to show your electronic music knowledge to the world…
Como las Grecas Team¡¡