DJ, producer and owner of an established record label, Soulfire is a veteran of the underground dance music scene. Soon his label Soulfire Downloads will see its 50th release. Originally from the UK, I spoke with him about how he came to be living in Australia, and his passion for progressive house.
1. Soulfire you have been as solid as a rock in your continuing support of underground progressive house from here in Australia. But you clearly have an accent. Where are you from originally and what brought you all the way down under, to Melbourne?
Thanks very much for having me on Underground Sound, my first Australian Interview! As listeners can tell from my radio show, I clearly do have an accent. I’m originally from Liverpool, England. I decided to move to Australia back in 2009 for a number of reasons. Firstly, the weather in England sucks! Secondly, lots of my family live here too so it’s not such a strange land to our family, it was worth giving it a try. Thirdly, in order to grow sometimes you have to spread your wings and take risk. It had always been my dream to live in Oz and back in 2009 I had the opportunity to do so. You only live once, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and make the big move. It was very hard saying my goodbyes to family and friends but I knew a great new life and opportunity awaited me. It was a tossup between Melbourne and Brisbane, so I chose Melbourne. The weather is colder in the winter but it’s such a great city with great opportunities. I believe I made the right choice, I’m nicely settled here now, with plans to stay for a very long time.
2. You’ve played at the much loved Prognosis gigs and some other spots around our fine nation over the years. What’s your take on the scene down here?
I love the scene here in Melbourne. I’ve been welcomed with open arms by promoters, local DJ’s and clubbers. It has made the transition from England to Australia so much easier. I was surprised that quite a few people had heard of me when I arrived. My first gig was playing at a bar in St. Kilda called Mink. The promoter asked me to play after hearing a few releases on my label, since then we’ve become great friends. He also told Prognosis I was in town, so they asked to book for one of their gigs. I had such a great time playing there, it was a great way to start out and get a few gigs. The guys at Prognosis have done a wonderful job and are great guys. I love playing there. Since then, it’s been fairly quiet on the gig front but I’ve played for both Darkbeat and Prognosis this year, both were great and thoroughly enjoyable. Overall, I think the scene is great here in Melbourne, I haven’t sampled Sydney yet, and that’s next on my list to do. Melbourne has a very friendly vibe, with music fanatics who love to just have a good time.
3. Soulfire Sessions is your monthly radio gig/podcast, where you showcase some of the latest progressive house. Recently it has also featured some fantastic international DJs who are signed to your label, Soulfire Downloads. Who can we expect to hear next? If you could have anyone you wanted on the show who would it be?
I’ve been very lucky to have worked with such great DJ’s and Producers for both the label and the show, and the first 10 DJ’s (since I added in the guest mix slot) have all been fantastic. I’m trying to create a mixture of International and local Australian DJ’s to give the show a mixture of flavour and even to give some of the more unknown artists a chance to promote themselves. For the Goldenwings Music 2nd Birthday show, I asked Dale Middleton to provide the guest mix. Dale has been absolutely rocking it lately, so he seemed such a great fit. Not to forget his mix was awesome! It was a great way to celebrate 2 years on Goldenwings Music. We’ve just had Omar El Gamal on the show, all the way from sunny Los Angeles. For May 2015, we have Melbourne based DJ Scott Freedman (promoter for Mahala and Darkbeat regular) who provides us with a slightly different style of mix, more techno based. Listeners will really dig his mix. For June 2015, we continue with showcasing Australian’s hidden talent with Sydney’s Ronald Maran taking to the decks. For July 2015, I’m taking us back to England with DJ’s Ben Summers & Ben Shaw a.k.a NameSpace. I always loved their work and it’s been a pleasure working with them on many occasions so it will be great to have them on the show. I normally only plan 3 months ahead so after then, I’ll have a think about who can bring something new to the table. If I could have anyone on the show, I think it would be Hernan Cattaneo. I tried to recently get a guest mix by him, but I need to really build the show over the next couple of years, maybe then I could convince him.
4. Speaking of Soulfire Downloads, what do you have planned for the label this year and in the future?
There is a new release on the way called “Solar Void” by Nahue Juarez & Facu Pesaresi and it will hit Beatport on 14th May 2015. Apparently it’s their first signed track and it’s great! Accompanying the Original Mix will be a remix by me. It’s already received some great support and feedback so I’m looking forward to this release. I’m also working on a two track EP which I will look to release as the 50th release on the label. It’s quite an achievement to have released so much music by so many great artists. As always for now and the future, I’m always seeking out new music that fits the label. Producers can send their demos to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Do you have any advice for someone who would like to start an underground record label?
I think the best advice I could give to anyone looking to start an underground record label would be to focus on quality, not quantity. Be very picky about your releases, if a demo is 100% for you, skip it and move to the next. A record label is part of a DJ’s arsenal for promotion so everything that goes out should be as good as possible. It’s effectively a calling card for gigs. Also, look around for a mentor or to model a label that you already respect and has been there and done it. Get in touch with the owner and have a chat (Facebook is normally a good start), most of the time they’re more than happy to talk music and can provide some real tips to get going.
6. Last year you released some unofficial reworks of classic tracks by Tilt and Silvio Ecomo. It’s great to hear old favourites like that given a new lease on life by a dedicated member of the community. You’ve also given us your take on more recent progressive house music by big names in the scene, with tunes from remix competitions by Guy J, Sasha and Hernan Cattaneo. What does being able to release these remixes to the masses mean to you?
The original tracks that I have reworked have had such a big impact on my life, they are timeless classics so to give them a re-touch so that they can fit into more ‘progressive’ style sets means the world to me. These tracks back when I first started defined my style so it’s nice to bring them to the newer generation who may not have heard the originals before. I have plans to do quite a few more over the coming year! Unfortunately the remixes I did for the competitions didn’t win. My congratulations and hats off to the winners as their interpretations were brilliant. It’s nice that I can put out my versions for free on Soundcloud, I had a lot of fun making those remixes and hopefully the fans have enjoyed them.
7. As someone who has stuck with it for the long haul, how do you see the progressive house we all know and love moving forward as a genre? Do you think we will still be enjoying it 10 years from now?
It’s unusual these days because the term “progressive house” receives such a bad rep due to the EDM style consuming that genre on Beatport. There still seems to be a lot of interest in true progressive house which is great! DJ’s like Sasha, John Digweed and Hernan Cattaneo are still championing that sound. Their style may be slightly techy or even techno based, but it’s still the same principles of building a set over a number of hours. Those guys are still keeping the sound alive! I think once those DJ’s retire, we could see a dip in interest and then maybe it will go full circle one day when newer DJ’s take their thrones and become very popular with clubbers who have not been exposed to that sound before.
8. Recently a negative comment was made about underground electronic music by Axwell & Ingrosso (who as the Swedish House Mafia hijacked the term “progressive house” for their own commercial productions) in the New York Times. The word “amateur” was used. The pair have since given some clarification by saying it was only their own underground music they considered amateur before they achieved commercial success. The original article certainly caused a stir. What are your thoughts?
Having read the original quote, Ingrosso states “Underground dance music — in the nicest way possible — it’s amateur.” Yet in the clarification, Axwell mentions that the comment was about their productions. The initial comment didn’t sound like it was about their productions so maybe they have realised it was wrong to say that and backtracked after the underground backlash. I think it’s very disrespectful to say any genre is amateur. I’m not a fan of commercial music but I have total respect for lots of pop artists as it takes talent to write a good ‘pop’ track, same as it does to write a good ‘underground’ track. I believe John Digweed said in an interview about EDM recently that anyone can get up and play hit after hit, but to get a dance floor moving with tracks that people don’t know is much harder and he gets personal satisfaction out of doing it that way. I personally agree with that and believe that is talent. To say John Digweed is amateur would be an unbelievable statement. However, if they did truly mean it was about their own productions, then fair enough. But that goes for every DJ/Producer out there. We all start of as amateurs.
9. You do a great job of keeping your fans up to date on all your musical endeavours, be it through SoundCloud, social media or chatting with people on the In The Mix forums. What would you like to say to all the people who have supported your music?
A HUGE thank you! Honestly, it means the world to me that people enjoy the music. As a thank you for 100,000 Soundcloud plays, I put up for free download my rework of Silvio Ecomo ‘Standing’. So to anyone reading feel free to grab a copy from my Soundcloud account (http://soundcloud.com/soulfiremusic). I will continue to release music on Soulfire Downloads and I love bringing fresh DJs to the Soulfire Sessions guest mix slot, so I will continue to do so as long as people want it. Also, I’d also like to say HUGE thanks to all the artists and DJ’s I have worked with over the years. They all continue to inspire me and it’s a great honour to have them represent Soulfire Music.
10. Thanks for the chat Soulfire. I would love to be as accomplished with my music as you one day. Keep on living the dream!
Thanks very much for having me, it was my pleasure.
Interview courtesy of John William Daly and Underground Sound Australia.