Blue Amazon started back 1994 as a studio collaboration between Lee Softley and recording engineer James Reid. Since then Lee went solo and we catch up with him to take a look back at the golden years, plus find out what he’s got coming up.
Hi Lee, first of all tell us about the origins of Blue Amazon, where did it all begin?
Well it depends how far you want to go back. I was always into the whole DJ thing from an early age after seeing 80′s hip hop artists scratching records like “Jazzy Jeff”. Later down the line 80′s house music from artists like “Adonis & Marshal Jefferson”. This was the basis of inspiration for music.
In the 90′s I attended a short introduction to sound recording course in a studio in called “Beaumont St studio’s”( Huddersfield). Here I met James Reid who I used to work with who was a trainee sound engineer. Myself & James decided to start working on some music ideas. Initially it was an experiment with myself brining in ideas from music I liked and trying to merge different styles together.
We were both in to acts like “Underworld” with releases like “Skyscraper” and I was also influenced by a lot of European techno , this was foundations of our original inspiration.
After a few years of recording tracks and releasing a few bit ourselves our demos were passed on to 7pm management who picked up the tracks “Four seasons & the Runner” as a start to their new label “Jackpot Records”. Its well known that 7pm were the management for “sasha” and fair few other Djs at the time and inevitably they would get access to our music days after most of it was recoded. The name “Blue Amazon” was born from favourite colour and something we were watching on the TV at the time about the Amazon jungle.
Back in the early days some of your tracks were nearly 16-17 minutes long, was there a particular reason for this?
Well I guess we were both into the epic construction of music . As already mentioned “Underworld” Skyscraper” was an influence. We liked music that told a story in they way it built from beginning to end. This wasn’t completely unique to us at the time but maybe we took it a stage further. Also a lot of the time we weren’t thinking about clubs when recording, we were just trying to record a musical experience.
One of the things I liked most about your music is how you built your tracks, rather than just throwing loads of sounds in you used to use modulation to keep things interesting and build tension.
Well it was always about a transition from one scene to another. I liked a bit of intensity in sounds and how you could change frequencies to help it build and morph to something else
Your music was very popular with DJs such as Sasha, John Digweed, Dave Seaman etc and some say like BT you were pioneers of the epic house sound, was that intentional?
Well I used to listen to Sasha & Digweed quite a lot and Dave Seaman who has always been one of my Fav DJs. However we never sat down and intentionally tried to design a track around something we thought they would like to play. I think the music we made stuck a chord with the scene at the time and the whole new progressive moment which they were all into.
In the late 90’s you changed direction slightly and started Convert, did you feel you had more creative freedom than before?
No not really Convert was started more an opportunity to help release and promote other artists. It wasn’t totally about Blue Amazon although we did a few remixes on the label to help it on its feet. The direction of Blue Amazon at the time was still absorbed in the whole band type thing. We were involved in remixing a lot of indie pop records and also developing our own sound in that area. I guess Convert was more diverse in releasing music that we liked that wasn’t like the BA sound.
It was also around this time you parted company with James Reid, was it a hard decision going it alone?
James parted a little later after the Convert thing started. It was a difficult time for many reasons but it wouldn’t be fair to talk about in an interview. Ultimately it was going to be hard to walk away from something you loved so much so I had to take the plunge.
It was a time to sort a few things and move forward again. The difficulty with these things is making changes in direction and people accepting where you are going. It wasn’t too long after that I was back in the thick of things and remixing acts like “New Order” etc with a bit of tougher groove based sound.
One of your tracks No other love was recently re-released but some people believe that classics should be left alone, do you think that or do you believe its good to remix old tracks to educate people, who may not have heard the original?
Errm I’m quite open minded when it comes the things like that. I suppose there are some tracks which are considered untouchable but there was a buzz about doing this and when you have people like “Hernan Cattaneo” wanting to remix your track how can you say no.
There is also a part 2 coming with mixes from “Kasey Taylor” and up and coming Irish outfit “In Progress” and others.
These days most people produce out of the box, as someone who has worked with both which do you prefer and do you still have any of your old analogue gear from back in the day?
From what I have seen recently and when working with others its becoming more of a combination of the two. I still miss the old days of working hands on with mixing consoles and the like but its all moved and changed. There’s some great digital synths etc and the digital / out the box way of working is more convenient. I still have a “Clavia Nord Lead”, Korg MS2000 and few other synths but no outboard fx units anymore.
You recently played both Bedrock parties, what equipment are you using for your DJ sets at the moment and do you miss the old vinyl days?
First all I like to say how great the “Bedrock” parties are, always pull of underground music lovers who make a great atmosphere. John Digweed has got it right.
Recently I’ve got into using Traktor with Vestax controller. I find it really suits my style of djing in aiding quick succession of mixes and you can use Fx to cut tracks early etc. I’ve always been into long mixes or morphing tracks even when using CDs or vinyl and this helps me do it with an extra dimension. Vinyl was great , the whole feeling of it and activity of using it but things have changes and its good to move forward.
I understand you have a new album coming out soon, Interpretations, can you tell us a little more about that?
The album is a conceptual album rather than a purist artist album in a sense. I wanted combine a collection of original tracks as well as remixes I’ve done for other artists and remixes other artist and made for me. This is where the title “Interpretations” comes from , hence different interpretations of the BA sound.
Across the board there is some great tracks and remixes from myself as well as other artists including Mexico’s “Tin Tun”, “In Progress” , “Hernan Cattaneo” “Feed On Digital” , “Atlantic Drift”, “Mal Black”, “Skyroom” , “Silinder”, “Alex Aguilar ” plus more. There’s some new remixes of BA classics “No Other Love” & Then The Rain Falls” plus much more.
There’s also an “Interpretations” follow up in plan but its too early to talk about that.
I see it has one side mixed and one side unmixed, do you feel in the current climate that with mix cds you have to do things like this to make your cd stand out in the market?
Errm not really but its nice for people to have the choice I suppose. The mixed version is mixed together by “Ian Ossia” which will be the Physical CD. The digital versions have the un mixed tracks and bonus tracks that wouldn’t have been possible to include on the mixed version.
Why did you choose someone like Ian Ossia to mix it for you?
I’ve know Ian for some time and he’s great DJ both musically and technically. I wanted some else to have a different perspective on the mixed version rather than just mixing it myself. This was also to aid the interpretations idea as someone else’s take it on it and choose different tracks that I may not have picked myself.
Ian has provided a fantastic mix and I’m sure it will be enjoyed.
Is there anything else you have coming up you would like to tell us about?
At the moment I’m just about to get submerged in some remix duties for a few labels and also working on a new BA material. There’s a remix I did for “Hole Box .Tiny Soula” on Mexico’s “We Are Here” label which would be nice for people to check out.