PEOPLE WANT MUSIC

By Ciaran Vernon

Photography By Nathan Hinzie

Within Edinburgh’s renowned Cabaret Voltaire, jawless ravers boogie as Conor and Sean perform in FLY club. Filling the intimate underground cavity with their groovy melodies. Five years later and LF SYSTEM have now secured a residency at the very same club night they began. Conor and Sean, both 25 and from West Lothian, grew up surrounded by electronic music.

Over the years, the boys have let their passion proliferate by growing up listening to Motor City Drum Ensemble, Detroit Swindle and Daft Punk. They joined forces in November 2019, after regularly sharing tracks and projects between one another, playing back-to-back as individuals, and the fact that they’re best mates. “We became used to always doing it together, and it felt right.”

LF SYSTEM has shined over the last year as they have had more time to focus on their music. Despite not being able to go out to clubs where they find most of their inspiration, they have collated a ridiculous amount of music, just in time for the summer of 2021.

Their self created concept People Want Music, 17 tracks across five EPs over five consecutive weeks, will be dropping this June. One of the tracks Dancing Cliche was named Danny Howard’s Friday Fire on Radio 1 last month.

The concept is a series of groovy disco edits the duo have collected and waited for the perfect time to release. Radiating a summer sound to boogie in your garden too. Expect nu-disco edits with a little Chicago-house twist.

After reaching back into their backlog of old experimental tracks, they produced, Sean explained that “It felt right to collect them all together and release them for people interested, hence the name People Want Music.”

Photography By Nathan Hinzie

Their first two EPs exude disco tracks like ‘People Want Music’, a unifying, upbeat disco anthem that echoes the likes of Mojido and Folamour, and Let’s Go, which holds a much more groovy jazz sound. The following three EPs combine silky vocals with melodic strings and brass elements, fused with that classically consistent kick reminiscent of Chicago house.

The duo’s array of creativity shines through in these tracks, ranging from the dance-inducing jumpy beats in ‘Be My Baby’ to the smooth kick in ‘We Made It’, which sensuously fuses velvety low vocals over sharp zingy sax. Claiming that these EPs mark the end of an era of disco editing, Conor believes their sound is evolving. “We still love disco and all the edits that come with it.

However, we’re moving on to our sound and where we want to be in the future.” Their five new EPs include bonus tracks from Theo Kottis, Ewan McVicar, and Elliot Adamson. Over the last five years, the duo pushed themselves. Having played their first club night together in Cabaret Voltaire, alongside Solardo, they claimed that it’s now like a home to them. Sean reminisced about how “we would go as punters almost every Friday night.”

Having played in a whole host of different Edinburgh clubs such as La Belle Angele, Mash House, Sneaky Pete’s, Liquid Rooms, Bourbon and the Leith Theatre, they hope to extend their repertoire of venues to DC10 in Ibiza one day. It is no wonder how diverse their tracks have become, basing their inspiration on such a vast variety of artists and club nights. Conor said that “going out and listening to different DJs across different venues gives us massive inspiration.”

Scottish nightlife has always been important to Sean and Conor, as regular attenders of club nights across Scotland. Conor remarked his favourite after parties are “anywhere there’s booze and a good time.” They’ll go anywhere that will have them, although according to Sean “Conor is usually chucked out quickly.”

The boys have let their sound evolve and like to stick to what sounds right to them. In the same vein as the likes of Loure, Loods and Kornél Kovács, the duo mirror that classic Chicago house style, with care-free, melodic synths and energising kicks.

Photography By Nathan Hinzie

Sean feels using retro hardware can bring new sounds to life. “It’s good being creative and seeing ideas come to life and just jamming on synths and making things happen.” Their music channels their blasé and playful attitude towards producing.

Without taking themselves too seriously, Conor and Sean seem to just enjoy what they’re doing. The response to tracks such as ‘Bourgie Bourgie’, has been incredible. Sean said that “we just made an edit for a bit of fun and to play out,” turned out to be a club hit.

‘Bourgie Bourgie’ has also been awarded BBC Radio 1’s BBC Music Introducing Tune of the Week. They also produced a remix of Barry Can’t Swim’s ‘Some Day I Will’. The remix echoes acid techno with the bubbly synths and high BPM.

Conor said, “he’s a lovely guy and we sent him pair of armbands to say thank you.” Not only can the pair produce sick tracks, but they have a witty sense of humour. After playing alongside Big Miz, LaLa, and Denis Sulta, Conor revealed if they had the chance to collaborate with some local talent “it would be Liam Doc. Doc if you’re reading this.”

However, Sean said, “in a dream world it would have to be Mr G so we could pick his brains and he could teach us a few things.” There’s hope yet, selector. Continually pushing themselves and grafting, their music is constantly evolving, and they hope to eventually be signed by labels such as Kalahari Oyster Cult, Shall Not Fade or Craigie Knowes.

Conor feels that “the sounds on these labels are always incredible, and it’s a sound we’re really into.” The duo prefer production to live DJ’ing, Conor and Sean are well-versed in production techniques. The duo combines both hardware and software, to produce music. Sean highlighted “the Roland TR-8S, the Behringer TD-3, the Juno-6 and the Juno-DS” as some of their favourites hardware.

Experimenting with this hardware helps the duo create a unique contemporary nu-wave disco. Quite rightly being named Danny Howard’s Future Fire for 2021, the duo is raring to get back into club culture post-lockdown. They will be playing at the return of the slam tent this summer. With their 17 new tracks released this year, the pair have shown their talent.

When you put your stuff out there, and with perseverance, anyone can let their creativity flourish. Conor remarked, “just wing it, work hard, and enjoy it.” After over a year without clubs, LF SYSTEM are giving the people what they want, and the people want music.

Photography By Nathan Hinzie

THE SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND

By Ciara Vernon

In late 2012, a young Rosie Shannon bounces amidst the vast, echoing underground cavern, deep within The Arches. Green Velvet’s Flash reverberates around the club, bounding between the tireless mass of dancers and the brick walls.

Engulfed by the kaleidoscopic lights, surrounded by euphoric dancers and consumed by Green Velvet’s surging techno. “It helped solidify how much I loved music that felt like you were on a roller coaster ride.” 

AISHA has plunged into Scottish techno culture, creating a splash with her heavy, fast-paced tracks. She described her production as “Heavy rapid music to drop acid to.” Her speedy, eclectic tracks contain powerful kicks, BPMs highenough to send any crowd into a frenzy, and are mottled with bubbling acidic synths.

The 28-year-old is a regular attendee of events in European cities at the forefront of techno culture. AISHA feels that the “fast-paced, long hour, hedonist nights in cities such as Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen” creatively motivate her.

Equal opportunities are also important to her. She currently helps run Soma Skool, an enterprise that encourages young aspiring DJs to learn and develop new skills. She wants to inspire young DJs, to immerse themselves in club culture. “There is no time like the present. If you want to buy decks, start saving now. If you want to learn, get someone to teach you the basics, and remember even the biggest DJs make mistakes.”

She has developed her production over the years. “I like to make tunes without being pretentious about it.” She began working for Soma records in 2015 and then built her production repertoire over five years and released her first EP under Soma’s label with Quail in 2020.

This led to her tracks getting played by Amelie Lens and Charlotte De Witte. Leatherbound, her latest EP release alongside Quail, contains satisfying, hypnotic tracks with relentless, rapid BPMs, synths that cut through you and intense builds on tracks like Hidden Form and Leatherbound. AISHA has worked with Quail to produce several other records, and they have played b2b numerous times in clubs. The pair will be playing Riverside Festival

in Glasgow together in September. She describes their musical relationship as being interdependent. “He has more experience with production and DJing so he can teach me new things and I keep him youthful” she joked. AISHA revealed local talent she wants to collaborate with, such as Neoma, Lisaloof and Vreeland once things are back up and running.

Glasgow’s renowned club culture was the catalyst for her expedition into the industry. AISHA moved from Aberdeen to Glasgow when she was 14. Like many teens, growing up, she embraced local youth culture. “I was drinking bucky at the Four Corners and going to the Sub Club unders.”

This set in motion her exploration into the depths of the Glasgow underground. Her involvement in club culture was fuelled by her cousin Zac’s passion for electronic music. “Without him, my musical journey in Glasgow wouldn’t quite be the same,” after he introduced her to La Cheetah, and helped her make connections.

From PR’ing for Pressure to experimenting with Ableton, it wasn’t until her first live set at Lunacy that AISHA solidified her reputation as an emerging techno queen. AISHA fondly reflected on Glasgow’s infamous Lunacy. “Anything goes inside those walls. Those who have been will know what I’m talking about!” Her classically high BPM, acid madness, fits perfectly into ‘Lunacy’.

Her last club set alongside Quail in Stirling was followed by a set at Lunacy for an Animal Farm special, and since then AISHA has adapted to the lockdown lifestyle by “DJing virtually to people’s living rooms for 1 year.” For some DJs, their creativity has wavered by the lack of inspiration without clubs.


However, her creativity flourished behind the scenes. Not only has she produced new tracks such as Leatherbound, but she has also played live online sets for Soma Records and Animal Farm, where she holds a current residency. Creatively thriving in isolation.

“The pandemic has made me listen to faster, harder but more uplifting techno. Once the pandemic is over, I doubt I’ll be playing anything under 145 bpm.” Fortunately, now that restrictions in the UK are beginning to ease, AISHA is set to play several gigs this year, Riverside Festival with Quail, and multiple sets in SWG3.

After producing under record labels such as Huntley + Palmers, Hilltown Disco, and Soma, she has breakneck beats up her sleeve. Her debut solo EP is coming out in June under the German label, Drec. “An independent label pushing new talent in techno.”

A remix by techno producer Joe Farr will also be out this year. The tracks are a distinct ode to 90s acid techno and industrial techno with their gratifying fusion of consistent kicks, distorted repetitive drum machine beats and stimulating synths. AISHA encapsulates her listeners through the variation in these tracks, from the hypnotic, spiritual vocals in Ethereal Elevation and Twilight Zone mixed with the almost threatening kick in Wingz 4ever.

Her raw cutting edge sound will echo through Glasgow this summer as will her opinions. In a predominantly male-oriented industry, AISHA has not let her gender hold her back. She has previously spoken out against sexism and inequalities in the industry. She claims it’s not about having enough female DJs and that we should be asking another question. “Is the scene doing enough? So women, trans and non-binary people feel welcome to bring their music and talent to Scotland.”

She is starkly aware of the gender and race inequalities within the industry but reminds us that this is not limited to Scotland and extends to “a worldwide societal issue with deep roots.” She believes that the required changes lie not in the electronic music industry but within society itself.

She believes that we can achieve this. “By putting a stop to enforcing gender and racial stereotypes as soon as we are born. This has a knock-on effect in every aspect of our lives.” Perhaps with educated selectors such as AISHA leading the charge, Scottish club culture can diversify and grow.

RETURN OF THE SLAM TENT

After a 5-year hiatus, the SLAM TENT is returning this summer.

One of the biggest dance tents on the European festival circuit, is returning at the perfect time.

Glasgow’s Slam Events are joining forces with Edinburgh promoters FLY to create one of the greatest dance floors Scotland has ever seen.

Each day of the three-day summer festival in the original Slam Tent will welcome crowds of 5,000 in front of some of our nation’s finest DJ’s, with the line-up curated exclusively from Scottish based talent. 

Slam duo Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle said: “Scotland’s clubbers are desperate to reunite and will finally come together again to celebrate freedom, unity & togetherness. It is that same feeling that existed in the early days of rave. We’re bringing it back. This will be very special.”

Tom Ketley, Director of FLY said: “The Slam Tent was Scotland’s mecca of clubbing. As we are now finally looking forward to a return of dancefloors this summer, it seems like now is the right time to bring it back.”

Q+A WITH ROB MACLEOD

By Alice Smith


When did you start producing music?

I started producing my own music when I was 16.

 Are there any people or artists in particular who you would say sparked your love of electronic music? 

Oddly, film and TV shows got me interested in electronic music.  Sci-Fi films and shows in particular. I was more into the weird sound effects and atmospheres than anything else.  I didn’t really have much music around when I was very young so grew up on a diet of traditional Scottish music and Elvis Presley because my dad was obsessed with him.

What’s your favourite track off the new EP?

My current favourite is “Harmoinaig” as it came out of nowhere.  I just programmed the machines, pointed them in the right direction, negotiated a structure with them and it was done. Great when it happens like that. Makes the long evenings of things not gelling particularly well all worth it

What’s your creative process like?

Typically I switch on a few machines and see where it takes me. 90% of the time I have no idea what I’m aiming for and just follow my instinct (for good or for bad) until I have a 10-15 minute recording of the session (mostly in late evenings).  Then, if I feel I have more to say about a track, but haven’t had the time to see the idea through, I’ll possibly leave it plugged in for a few evenings until I have the bits in my head on tape. This was very much the process with the track “Harmoinaig”.

The EP is being released on In The Event of Capture Records which is also based in Glasgow. How did this link-up come about?

Through a mutual friend and all round top bloke  Orvar, who forwarded them a bunch of tracks I’d been working on late in the summer 2020.  They liked some bits and bobs and we discussed the possibility of doing something together and it just took shape from there.

What do you think makes the city’s nightlife and club scene so special?

It’s born out of a hard working mentality I think. Everyone grinds through the week doing whatever it takes to make ends meet and at the weekend we want to enjoy every moment of freedom and hang out with the folk that make us happy while listening to good music. Music is a true window to peoples lives in Glasgow as it is in many other cities but add the fact that the weather is always rubbish, the national football team is a constant disappointment, our expectations are high, our sense of humour is sharp and we have a strong sense of cultural identity. All these ingredients light Glasgow up and add that special something in the atmosphere.

Where are you most looking forward to playing live again when the time comes?

 Somewhere outdoors, preferably in the sunshine with a decent PA capable of vibrating the whole body.  

What does the rest of 2021 hold for you?

Lots of fresh air, Trying to keep healthy in body and mind, having fun whenever possible and making lots of music –  hopefully resulting in putting more of it out. And learning to drive.

FOR THE LOVE OF HOUSE

By Jo Dargie

As Eddie Amador’s 90s anthem goes: “not everyone understands House music. It’s a spiritual thing,a body thing, a soul thing.”

Brought up around House music-lovers, it’s no surprise that Dundee DJ Hannah Laing would grow up to not only understand the power of House music but channel her deep connection with the genre into a successful DJ career. Earning herself live slots around the globe supporting renowned headline acts.

All while running her events and podcast series ‘Hannah’s Choice.’ “The soundtrack of my childhood was the likes of Roger Sanchez, Paul Oakenfold and Sasha.” On reflection, it’s clear those early influences have had a lasting impact on Hannah’s musical identity to this day. She accredits her technical form behind the decks to House icon Roger Sanchez.

“On a technical level, his style of DJing is different from anyone else and brings so much energy. I still to this day watch videos of him playing to learn tips and tricks.” Another significant influence on Hannah’s development is DJ and producer Hannah Wants. “Besides her amazing musical talent, her work ethic and positivity inspire me every day. She has also given me multiple opportunities in Dundee and Glasgow to warm up for her over the years. I will always be grateful for that.” Hannah herself exuberates dedication and a fighting spirit. Like many DJs and music industry professionals, the effects of the pandemic hit her spirit hard.

“Djing every weekend for eight years religiously to absolutely nothing. You feel like part of you is missing. That’s what you have put your heart and soul into. Working so hard to not be in a dead-end job.” Since the first lockdown in March 2020 Hannah has used her platform to share an honest window into the pandemic’s devastating impact not only the nightlife industry as a whole but the individuals within. “I had to get a full-time job at Tesco dealing with complaints as I have no income from gigs. I then lost that job and tried my hand at Hermes and the Chicken Factory.”

She spoke openly about the negative effects this had on her mental health and motivation to continue creating music. Hannah proclaims what most artists can relate to. “I felt like I lost myself for a bit as I had no motivation or inspiration to get in the studio for months. However, I’m getting back into the swing of it now and becoming more accepting of the reality at the moment.”

A successful string of mixes and track edits would come from her downtime. Some of which even caught the attention of Joel Corry and Jaguar. Hannah let us in on the creative process. “The edits that were picked up were only supposed to be tools for my sets. I wanted to create a different version that would fit into my sets. I used only the vocals from these tracks but created a whole new track for them. They worked and gained so much hype.”

Despite the circumstances, Hannah secured an impressive support slot alongside Solardo in Croatia last summer. “I had already played on the same line-up as Solardo at Hï Ibiza, and their manager contacted me to join them in Croatia.” After six long months of not playing live, she jumped at the chance. “It really did hit differently as that was the longest I had gone without DJing in eight years. I had so many friends from home supporting me. It was class.”

Although international jet-set crowds are somewhat of the norm for Hannah Laing pre-covid. She’s defiant that nothing compares to a home gathering. “I’ll always stand by that nowhere in the world will compare to a Scottish crowd. We are so lucky to live in a country full of mental ravers. Don’t get me wrong I love playing abroad but I feel it’s a more reserved vibe in comparison to Scotland.” 

During her travels, one destination stands out as pivotal to Hannah’s journey as a DJ. Ibiza. Having spent three summers working on the island immersed in the music, she stated that “It gave me a boost of confidence to network with lots of people. Networking is a major part of an artist’s career and now I have the experience to do this because of going to Ibiza on my own so young.” Moving to the White Isle at just 19, Ibiza is still a summer staple for Hannah. It’s where she first experienced club culture in it’s purest form in the breathtaking island.

Now Hannah is embarking on her new role as Dundee Area Manager for MADE Academy. “MADE academy is a DJ school based in every major city in the UK. Students can purchase different packages depending on what their end goal is. Some of the opportunities included in the packages are gigs in Ibiza etc.

It’s a great concept for people learning to DJ by giving them something to work towards. Students are taught everything from DJing to how to handle marketing themselves.” When asked to share her best advice for budding DJs, quite simply Hannah says “you have to put the time in and practice. If you want to play an event make sure you attend as a raver first so the promoter can see you’re also supporting the event.” But, above all “enjoy the journey and have fun.”

2021 is in full swing, and things look promising for the selector. Hannah has even returned to her previous job as a dental nurse. However, reuniting on the dancefloor is still very much at the forefront of her mind. “I am praying to get DJing again more than anything. I can’t wait for that feeling of getting booked for gigs, being able to put on my own events with other DJs so we can all be together again.” Until that day comes, Hannah teased her remixes have been granted clearance for official release. “These will be out in 2021. I’m so happy about this and I can’t wait to share them with the world.”

SINK OR SWIM

By Bill Rah

In the 80s Maya Medvesek listened to electronic pop. “My parents listened to disco, funk, and jazz.” She isn’t the only artist in her family. “My Dad is a musician so music has been a part of my life since day one! His band’s stuff was electro so it certainly had an impact.” She was born in Ljubljana where she spent her childhood.

“I grew up in communism and remember the transition to independent Slovenia and the start of the war.” Maya had a fascinating perspective on the Slovenian War of Independence. “I lived in Switzerland during that time for a while but was lucky enough to return home as our war didn’t last nearl yas long as the horrors in the rest of ex-Yugoslavia.” I

In the early 2000s, she moved to West London before settling down in Glasgow in 2009. “It was a great time with a buzzing and thriving scene and exciting new producers coming up. LuckyMe and Numbers doing big things, infamous parties with really interesting music.”

Maya believes club culture in Glasgow is superior to London. “Some of my most memorable shows are Movement Detroit, Sonar Barcelona and Tokyo, plus every night at La Cheetah and Sub Club of course.” When she was first trying to establish herself Maya was influenced by Jeff Mills, DJ Deeon and Dance Mania.

Today she adores the sounds of Special Request, Jensen Interceptor and Nite Fleit. “I’m always experimenting and exploring new directions but there’s usually a common theme of fun and high energy.” Her productions send a dancefloor into a euphoric frenzy.

For some artists the lockdown has accelerated the production process but not for everyone. “I had
periods of not being able to open Ableton, it almost made me sad as it was a reminder of not being able to see people and share the joy.”

She practised guitar every day. “It brought me so much happiness and it’s the best therapy.” Despite at times struggling with inspiration, she remained active. “Managed to release a couple EPs, a few singles, remixes, charity compilations, lots of streams. I always feel I’m not doing enough but I guess I was quite busy!”

She even played a role in a movie which premiered at the Toronto International Film
Festival. Last September she launched the Love Amazonia charity compilation, raising money for indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest. It received a great response.

“I’m planning Vol.2 and find this so I exciting as a small contribution really makes a big difference.” Nightwave has multiple releases planned for 2021, expect powerful rave tracks. “If last year has taught me anything is to not be too hasty as things can turn on its head in no time. I haven’t decided which record to go ahead with first but it’s all pretty ravey stuff.”

Life has undoubtedly been challenging, she remarked that “it was brutal at times and very challenging but you have two options, sink or swim. Deep down Nightwave is an optimistic soul. Maya believes the solitude allows us to self reflect so we can better ourselves. “I try to stay positive. I do think these hard times are an opportunity for proper transformation and I hope good times are not too far.”

THE ODYSSEY OF KAI KASPAR

By Bill Rah

Dripping in sweat, he reached a monumental moment as he was spinning tracks. The club was packed and, the atmosphere was exceptional. It was a surreal moment supporting Mall Grab and Loods alongside All Good, Salary Boy and Chris Boyle.

Kai realised that creating and sharing music was his purpose.“It was a surreal experience playing outside, everyone was just having a good time. Massive shoutout to All Good for allowing me to be a part of it.” He has also supported Hammer, Patrick Topping and

Folamour. The German-born producer spent his coming of age in Springburn. His production is advanced considering his unknown status. He has been DJ’ing for four years and has been producing for half a decade just before he left high school. He is heavily influenced by Palsm Trax and will be releasing two remixes in 2021. 

Kai grew up listening to Rock and Indie before his little brother introduced him to electronic music. It took him some time to acclimate to the sounds. “I’ve become more in love with the sounds of electronic music.” He always had a penchant for music growing up, playing the trumpet and bass guitar.

He remarked his parents have “always been supportive” and encouraged him to pursue keyboard. His parents were subjected to bigotry during his childhood living in Barmulloch. The discriminatory experience resulted in “verbal abuse by people and being nearly deported.”

However, noted that “facing these challenges made us stronger individually and as a family.” What won’t kill us only makes us stronger. “My mum and dad are originally from Sri-Lanka. A small country just underneath India, but I was born in Germany, which shocks people.”

Society has built up attitudes where they assume minorities aren’t born in Europe. There are misconceptions surrounding minorities which circulate in social circles. Minorities are unequivocally underrepresented which is why Kai believes there is a lack of Black and Asian residents.

“Once there are more opportunities for people of colour then you’d see more people like me getting into DJ’ing and producing.” Minorities are more likely to relate to people with similar cultural roots. “The crowd will always be there for anyone who puts on a good show. It should be about talent, not race or gender.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

“I’d love to play in Glasgow, that would be special.” Despite the fact he has yet to make his hometown debut it won’t deter him from expressing his opinion. “I think promoters and clubs need to take responsibility to promote a more diverse line-up. They decide who plays, no one else.”

He would love to see a “more ethnically diverse line-up” contemplating how refreshing it would be rather than repeating the same artists. “For people, there are so many white DJs they can look up to and want to be like but when it comes to Black and Asian people there are not that many. You need to have someone that you can look up to and aspire to be.”

Black and Asian up and comers need someone to look up to which shows they could achieve something in the industry. Perhaps one day Kai Kaspar will be the one inspiring the next generation of Scottish selectors.

THE YOUNG TEAM

By Bill Rah

It was dark as he skated through the streets of Glasgow, his heart racing. He swerved around the corner and reached his destination. It was his Boiler Room debut at Sub Club, a month after the release of his debut EP Good Thing.

“I went straight from the skatepark to Subby. I remember skating down across the bridge over the motorway and down to the club. It was a mental night.” However, he encountered a peculiar issue that distracted him. “My needles were skipping on my records, I couldn’t work out for the life of me what it was. My ex-girlfriend and her pal were both hammering the table with the decks on, absolutely buzzing, which was making my needles skip.” After the release of his Boiler Room, his career skyrocketed. At the time he was relatively new to the game

“When I got my first record out on DABJ and they asked me to do the Boiler Room it was one of my first gigs on my own. Before that, I was just running my club night DJ’ing with my pals at La Cheetah.” When young Miz and his squad of House and Techno loving selectors were coming up they built a reputation for their outrageous and fierce club nights.

When they first began their club night Offbeat, they were buying lots of records and mostly DJ’ing at house parties. “The older house and techno crew used to call us the young team. We used to go to them with our list of artists to book and it would be people they had on their lists for years.” They hosted Jackmaster and Bake for their launch party in 2011. Skatebard, DJ Funk and Lory D supported their parties. Miz recalls hosting some of the most extraordinary sets in his career there

“Had some of the craziest nights in La Cheetah DJ’ing, with my mates Joe McGhee and Jordan Coleman.” They tended to perform on the last Friday before Christmas for the birthday. “That was always a mad one. On the 5th Birthday and final party, there were literally two layers of people. One on the ground and one on the shoulders, it was crazy.”

Back then he was a young bam waving a bottle of tonic. Now he is a deadly proficient producer and sampling wizard. The next release, Coming Up Roses, will be out in February. The breathtaking four-track EP is composed of energetic House, Garage and Acid accompanied with exquisite vocals. “Four tracks I’ve made with my pal Michael, a singer who goes under the name Bodega.”

Miz describes Bodega as a “talented singer and songwriter.” They have been friends for a few years and regularly spoke about collaborating. “I had these tracks sitting and asked if he wanted to put vocals on top of them.” It’s something that he’s wanted to do for a long time. “I’ve always wanted to make tracks for singers. I made the tracks with nice simple but interesting chord progressions that would be easy for a vocalist to write melodies over.”

Due to the current economic climate and lack of income, he needed to source other revenues. “With coronavirus, I don’t have a lot of spare cash but ideally, I would have pressed them on to a record. That’s just not viable at the moment, unfortunately.” This motivated himto plan the release around Bandcamp Friday, which has significantly supported artists during the past year. Last year, Big Miz released a stunning EP ‘Cartha Cuts’ on DABJ.

He shared some of the other tracks he has in the pipeline and said: “I’ve got another two tracks I made in Devon Analogue Studio and a remix with Dart from Ireland that I would like to get out at some point.” His production is extraordinary, as his versatility is unparalleled. He decided to try something different by making four heavy techno tracks and began learning music theory.

He has a remix of the classic Kariya ‘Let Me Love You for Tonight’ coming later this year. Big Miz shares a studio with Kenny and Dan, the legendary duo behind DABJ. One of Glasgow’s elite record labels and promoters. “I met Dan from going into Rubadub buying records when I was younger and had just started my club night.” Kenny and Dan used to run a night called Monox. Miz and his mates booked them to do a reunion night at La Cheetah.

His first release was supposed to come out on La Cheetah’s label although it fell through. Despite this, things worked out for the best. “Dan emailed me and said right let’s do it, and that was that.” After they put out his record and performed together, he built a relationship with them. As he described their bond, he candidly revealed his perception. “They have been my family all through my career so far. They released my album and a few of my EPs.”

As a self-taught producer, Big Miz believes you get settled in your own routine and find out what works for you. Although he appreciates getting a second opinion. Last year he produced multiple tracks with Liam Doc in Devon Analogue Studio. “It was good because we both have a different way of working. When that comes together you come up with ideas you wouldn’t normally come up with yourself. Two heads are better than one.”

Before the recent restrictions, Big Miz was working on a collab with Jasper James. They had been planning on getting together in the studio for a while, having previously produced tracks before COVID. “We have tried to make tracks at parties and I went up to his house a few times. I asked him to come down to the studio end of last year and we got 2 finished. It’s always good working with Jasper. Hopefully, we can get a collab EP rattled out.”

During the lockdown, he began a new business. “During the lockdowns, I have been providing a mixdown and mastering service. It’s aimed at up and coming producers, who don’t fully know their way about compression, limiters, EQ and things like that.” He has enjoyed this as it gives him a reason to go to the studio. “People send me the stems of their tune and I would go through it and make sure it’s sounding polished and ready for the club.” He has also been passing some on to other superstar selectors.

“I’ve been sending a few to La La for her label. I’ve been getting some absolute belters that I want to keep for myself.” He has considered starting a label to release some of the music he has discovered. Without regular income from gigs, he has occasionally picked up on delivery shifts to get by during the pandemic. DJ’ing was his life and the pandemic took that away from him.

“It’s been tough, that was my life and my full-time job before, but I’ve just got my eyes set on the light at the end of the tunnel. Waiting for that vaccine to get rolled out, waiting to get back to it.” When clubs return the prodigal son of Scottish club culture will be the one hammering the decks with sheer joy.

Q+A WITH STEPHEN KIRKWOOD

By Alice Smith

Stephen Kirkwood, founder of SKapade Studios, Scotland’s only Pioneer accredited DJ School, found himself lost in lockdown. Without gigs and students to teach, he discovered his new calling and opened up Bangin Pizza in Dumbarton.

Over the last year, you’ve released some amazing music, launched a new label and started your pizzeria. Is it safe to say you’ve managed to stay productive over lockdown? 

Haha! Thanks for the intro! Yes, when you put it like that, it’s been a busy time. For me, throwing myself into work and new projects has kept myself and my team sane. March 2020 was a critical month and showed us how easily everything could disappear overnight. Most of our Skapade Studios work in schools, tutoring and events immediately stopped and it was a worrying time. If we hadn’t quickly started looking at new business ventures we would have been in a very tough situation right now. So, at that time the decision was made as a team to find new ways to work, adapt to the new laws and regulations and push forward to get our new projects launched. 

What made you decide to launch SKapade Records, and what kind of music will the new label showcase?

When I was personally learning to DJ and produce music, I always had the vision to create a musical support hub outlet for young people growing up without access to proper support or mentoring. Skapade Studios was founded to solve these issues and over the past 7 years, our business has grown in tandem with the requirements of our young people and artists.

Skapade deals with a huge volume of music and a diverse range of artists. From established names needing a hand with their work, to, young students attending our workshops, we now cater to all levels of training and learning.  

With Skapade Records, I’ve always recognised that Scotland has some great labels out there and with our strong connection to the scene through the Studio, it made complete sense to launch the label. We have an open music policy at the Studio. Our mantra is ‘if it’s good it’s good’ which sounds simple, but keeps us grounded with what matters in music – quality! We love dance music as a whole and that will feature heavily in the label in the future. We kicked it off with my own techno/trance hybrid track called ‘Hawk Eye’ – if you listen to that you will get an idea of what direction we’re moving with it! 

Are there any Scottish artists, in particular, you’re excited about right now?  

Jacque Saravante AKA Lauter is producing some amazing tunes just now. 

He also has mega potential and an insane work ethic, which is brilliant to see. Also, Co-Accused are worth keeping an eye on. They are about to launch their label, and they are smashing it in the studio, big things to come!

Your track Gas Lighter was recently featured on Anjunabeats Rising Volume 3. What influenced this track’s sound?  

The track is a mixture of all my influences. I love techno as much as I love ‘old-school trance. When I was producing this one I had made a ‘Spektre/Gary Beck’ style beats section that was rocking, then I jumped to some old-school trance sounds and I jammed on the keyboard playing melodies until something worked!  

The cool thing about this record is that it’s gained cross-genre support, from Alan Fitzpatrick playing it to Above & Beyond, and that’s always been a goal of mine. I’m so proud to create music good enough to be played across the board, and ‘Gas Lighter’ has done just that. 

Are there more releases on the horizon?

Absolutely! I am working with Anjunabeats now and this is my main focus in the Studio. I’m more motivated in the Studio than I’ve ever been and I’m spending many hours every day working on new releases, so watch this space!

How does making ‘Bangin’ Pizza’ compare to making music? 

It’s weirdly similar. You’re essentially mixing elements until you eventually arrive at a finished product that you’re happy with releasing. The result is good music and good pizza! I’m obsessed with creating something for other people’s enjoyment and this is the same for my music and my pizzas.

You opened the restaurant with fellow SKapade team member and DJ Stephen Galloni. Have you guys always wanted to venture into the food industry?

We are huge foodies and Galloni is half-Italian, so we’ve naturally been drawn to Italian cuisine over the years. I’ve also spent a fair bit of time in Italy, going to landmark pizzerias and immersing ourselves in the different cities.  

Before the lockdown, we travelled most days for a good pizza! Some of our favourite places include BAKED, BAFFO and of course Paesano in Glasgow. Over the years we become a couple of experts in pizza and it would naturally come up in a conversation about having a pizza place. We are hugely social people and love being such a huge part of our local community, bringing people together through music and now, good pizza!

Post-pandemic, are you planning on expanding Bangin’ Pizza, or will you be focussing more on playing and making music – or both!

We are focused on making our shop the very best it can be. It’s been hugely successful in its first 4 months, sold out nearly every night with no signs of easing off, which we’re blown away by. Like any new business, teething problems and issues need to be ironed out before it’s running as smoothly as we want it to. Timing is everything when expanding, and not something to be rushed – we’ve seen many before us make that mistake with dire outcomes. We have an ambitious 5-year expansion plan, but for the moment that’s being kept secret! We’re excited as a team for the future of Bangin’ Pizza. My music focus is absolutely to be travelling again ASAP and playing gigs across the world. I do miss it – I love travelling and gain so many benefits through seeing different cultures and cities, for the businesses also!  

Until then, I will be in the studio every day, doing my best to make the best music I can.

Where are you most excited to play live again when the time comes?

Ibiza is calling – club sets, bar sets, sunset sets – I’ll take any set at the minute! My team and I have spent every summer in Ibiza and 2020 was a really tough one for us – we missed being over there. It’s also been a very long, dark winter here in Scotland so I’m looking forward to getting some abroad sunshine this year.

ASK FOR ANGELA

By Eva Mackenzie

The murder of Sarah Everard is fresh in each woman’s mind, and with the re-opening of clubs on the horizon. We need to stop the victim-blaming and tackle the predatory behaviour within club-culture. 

On Monday the 8th of March 2021, we celebrated International Women’s Day. We shared stories about women who inspire us, we put a spotlight on the trials faced daily as women and we urged society to do better. By Saturday the 13th, women across the UK had united to mourn the murder of Sarah Everard and peacefully protest the fear instilled within them by men in our society – and they were met with violence. Each time a woman steps foot out the door the words passed down from generations of women echo in their minds. “Take the busiest route; make sure it’s well lit; wear bright clothes; stay on the phone, and keep your keys between your knuckles!” This is a routine that women have seared into their minds, a routine that could guarantee their safety. But Sarah did all of these things – she did everything ‘right’. 

Women have few spaces free from fear and it’s known that clubbing environments can leave them vulnerable to harassment and assault. In a 2017 YouGov poll, 72% of young people have witnessed sexual harassment in some form during a night in bars, pubs and clubs. It’s time for much of society to understand that just because a woman has dared to dance, she has not welcomed wandering hands.

Dance music, at its core, is about joy. It brings the vibrations of human emotion to fruition, into a universal physical experience. The community that exists around dance music is close-knit and inherently supportive, having been built from the sense of camaraderie felt in the shared ebullient experience. But this sense of camaraderie is tinged with unease for women. 

For many in this community, clubbing is an integral part of their lives. It’s an opportunity to explore new beats and be immersed in a culture based upon self-expression. For men, worry is left at the door. The anticipation of their night is not paired with the expectation of inappropriate comments, touching or predatory behaviour, but according to a 2017 YouGov poll, for 79% of women, it is. These actions are committed by men who view the community as a boy’s club, one that will provide them with protection and turn a blind eye. They see a woman who has let her guard down to enjoy the night as an opportunity, as vulnerable; not a person who, like them, has a love for music. 

This experience is not exclusive to women on the dance floor; the women behind the decks are too often met with objectification and discrimination. Miss World founder Emily Grieve has experienced this first-hand, with men approaching the stand and forcibly manoeuvring her kit. “They just wouldn’t do it if it were a man on the decks.” This is an uncomfortable reality; where the line is drawn is too blurred in the minds of certain men, when it concerns women. 

Clubs and bars have begun to take a stand against this behaviour. The ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign is becoming more widely recognised in the UK, in hopes of providing a safety net for women. It’s a discreet code word that can be used to alert staff that you are being made to feel unsafe or threatened and with the reopening of clubs on the horizon, could save some women from facing Sarah’s all-too-common fate. 

As clubs begin to re-open, we must be hyper-vigilant when we see the warning signs. Be blunt when you see your friend make inappropriate comments. Take a stand when you see someone getting too comfortable with someone who is clearly on edge. If you see it, say it. We must eliminate the behaviour that has perpetuated fear within women for too long. Especially in a community that was built from self-expression and human connection.