Vince Watson, the veteran Scottish producer, is not a name that you will see regularly hyped, but he has been making his music, his way, for well over a decade and is set to unleash a whole host of releases with his recently relaunched Bio label (unfortunately, digitally only at present) and with another new label called Everysoul planned for the new year. The Scot has proved he has longevity by not jumping aboard the latest hyped sound, sticking to what he believes in, despite criticism, but it is hard to argue with the long list of releases he has made on such a variety of well-respected labels, including Rotation, Delsin and Planet E. Here, ISM lets the Glaswegian give voice to some of his his strong opinions.
ISM: After 13 years releasing electronic music, what keeps you inspired, because it seems from some of your recent comments that you are not overly enamoured with a lot of ‘dance’ music being released at present? With the recent retirements of Domu and Alex Cortex, have you ever said to yourself ‘feck this for a game of soldiers’?
VW: My inspiration comes from messages I get on a daily basis from fans, my girlfriend, and, last but not least, I get it from the burning desire inside to make better music each time I go into the studio … the way I see it is that I’m still learning and have got a lot of passion to do what I’m doing.
Alex C has obviously had enough of his music environment, and I don’t blame him for his reasons at all … so much behind the scenes..the politics, the pressures to conform to A or B are massive if you really want to succeed and make money. There is so much bullshit going on, but I must say I have never and would never consider retirement. It’s not a job to me. I am in this for life … music is my life and there isn’t any bullshit or current trendy nonsense to make me stop … regardless of the level of my success I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing … which has made a lot of people happy so far and gave me a lot of personal satisfaction and at times very humble and touched. There are tough times and good times, you have to find a balance to enjoy it … nobody under the elite gets enough gigs/gig fees to survive, so it’s a challenge in life and music to keep going. The strong ones survive … Domu has done everything there is to do … he has obviously got some personal stuff going on which is more important that music to him, so I wish him the best of luck.
ISM: It’s obvious money isn’t a driving force, so do you have a day job to make ends meet? Would you consider doing what Joey Negro does, releasing obvious commercial material under different monikers, to cash in, so he can fund more personal material?
VW: I do have another job, I’ve had it for 12 years … but it’s only part time, I just can’t devote my life to a full-time job … I’ve got such a lot of music stuff to do … especially since I had a break last year after a bad break-up and needed to recharge, I’m now trying to get back onto the same speed I was at before. I’m feeling really good about my music at the moment, I’ve just restarted my Bio label and am starting the new label ‘Everysoul’ in the new year … so I’ve got two years worth of music releases ready to go … that’s the driving force.
What makes you think that I haven’t done other music under different names?
ISM: I would be confident in saying that your first two EPs on the Rotation label would have brought you to the attention of techno fans. How did they come about? Would Dave Angel have been a mentor, an inspiration?
VW: Rotation was a big influence on me back then, so when i had the right tracks I sent a tape to Dave … he totally loved it and we signed a deal right away. The first EP was recorded wrong as my DAT machine was running slow, so the final masters on vinyl ended up waaay to fast, but it was too late by then. They are now available at the right speed digitally. Dave soon had ‘Rotation’ nights at the club in Glasgow I was resident at. This was my foot in the door so to speak …
ISM: I always wondered about the speed of the tracks, but simply thought that was the Rotation way, as Angel was legendary for speeding things up. How do you think your music has developed since then? How do you try and achieve the necessary dance-floor dynamics for your more developed, melodic/harmonic, layered material?
VW: I think most artists output matures over time, but I’m happy that I’ve been able to challenge myself and be as diverse as I can. The versatility comes from being inspired by many sources of music, and means I have great scope in the future to make music i really feel like on the day … which takes away any pressures of having to make certain music all the time.
I’m a lover of both home listening music and club music so marrying the two seemed like second nature to me … being able to play some of my home listening material live with dance-floor elements gets a wonderful reaction, as people don’t expect to hear that combination …
ISM: As you have mentioned, you have just relaunched your own Bio label, with a new release out featuring remixes by Funk D’Void, why do you feel the time is right to do this, as Planet E and Delsin seem to be perfect homes for your output, especially the Dutch label?
VW: Planet E and Delsin are, and continue to be, great homes for my music, especially the new material I have for them next year, so nothing is changing there … but I have so much material that I want to release myself, or material that doesn’t suit those labels … added to the fact that I’ve missed having a home for my own music. The reality of the music world today is that until the ball is rolling with both Bio, I will only be a digital label for the time being. I was burned really badly financially twice, after Prime and Intergroove both went bust, so I’m being cautious about the vinyl releases this time round. I will definitely release vinyl runs of all the releases, as soon as it becomes possible. I don’t want to be digital only. This new release is a Beatport exclusive for two weeks, but even writing that makes me feel sick, so, yes, vinyl is on the agenda, albeit limited runs, but I want something to look at, read and feel. It’s the right time to kick-start because the barrage of endless horrid empty music kicking around isn’t inspiring, so if you want something, do it yourself There is great music out there, but for the most part all we’re getting is this copycat soft 808, clicky, percussive, half-hearted nonsense. Where is the energy? Where is the soul? The saturation point has been blown away.
ISM: You have said before that you are not inspired by much of the music being produced nowadays, but there must be artists out there who you consider to be your cohorts? Do you see yourself in a particular camp?
VW: I don’t like repeating myself, but it’s hard to ignore it. Technology has been such a drain on musicianship in the electronic music world. It’s a wonderful thing, a beautiful thing really … but it’s been abused and certain artists have been at the forefront of removing the musical beauty we once adored and loved. It’s a hard fight by the musicians camp who i would like to invite myself to join … there is still a huge amount of real musicians out there doing the do, and as long as we keep believing and having faith in our own and combined efforts, the time-limited fads and releases no one will remember in five years will slowly dissipate, leaving the quality behind. Hype comes and go, but the true forms of electronic music will always remain and become the base for the next one. 303s next?
ISM: Do you see your music as taking its cue from Detroit? Your music is often described as ‘Detroit-esque’, is it something that annoys you, or do you find it flattering? I also was wondering if I could ask about your experience with Transmat. You were supposed to have material released on it at one time (please correct me if i’m wrong). Was just curious if that might be on the cards again now that the label has relaunched?
VW: The word ‘Detroit’ rarely escapes my interviews or reviews so I’m kind of numb to it. I’m not from Detroit, I’m from Glasgow, so I don’t make Detroit techno … in fact, I just make music, that’s it. Music. Enjoy it for what it is … no need to tag it … all it does is stop people from hearing something they might have liked, because they think they don’t like Detroit stuff … what I find flattering is the reactions from fans who respond to me personally with personal experiences from listening to my music.
Transmat … like most people, it was one of the revered labels of a generation, along with several others like Planet E. Early in this decade I had an idea to send Derrick some music … the Time:Space compilations were coming out and some of the music was great … Aril Brikha was on fire … I really wanted to get something on the label. it took me about a year to get the idea together. I wanted to hit Derrick with a bang, not just a few tracks … but with an album!
When I finished the project I cannot tell you how excited and confident I was about it, i knew it was a really strong story … so it was sent. Communications were pretty good, Kevin Reynolds, who was label manager at the time, was great. Derrick really loved the tracks, but, true to form, it took him ages to decide, and eventually the album wasn’t viable, and they offered me a contract of two EPs, which I signed and it was set to come out after John Beltran’s new Indio release.
This was around the time of the DEMF that Derrick was organising … I’m not going to go into that, but, needless to say, it was the beginning of the end for the label and a sad day in Motor City, and also spelled the end of my Transmat releases. It took me a while to think what I was going to do after that … but I started releasing the tracks myself, beginning with ‘Intuition’. Delsin heard the original album and really wanted to do something with it … but I was really awkward about just giving them the same project, it wasn’t made for Delsin and for me that wasn’t right … I wanted to make something for Delsin, so I changed it considerably, changed tracks, and, all in all, the end result was a much more coherent project and story and I was delighted. It’s really difficult to change an album into something else, but I pulled it off well with that album. As irony would have it, I’ve just had to do it again with the FComm album, which will now be by next album on my new label ‘Everysoul’. This album changed completely though and is unrecognisable from the FComm demo.
Derrick asked me a while back to stay with him and give him time to get the ball rolling, I’m not sure what his plans are, so, at the moment, we have nothing in the pipeline for the new Transmat.
ISM: Your new release, ‘A Very Different World’, could fit into many genres. So would you agree with me that you could hear many different types of DJs playing it? Is it hard not to make music with a particular audience in mind?
VW: I try and just be me … that’s it in a nutshell, others tag me and put me in genres … genres are limitations of your listening pleasure. My music has been picked up by hosts of different kinds of DJs over the years … but you know what, they all have one thing in common, they love music. It’s just music! I am versatile and can do many styles, but I never go into the studio and plan a track … I have anything up to 30 tracks on the go at the same time … I just pick the one I’m in the mood for on that day, or start something fresh. It’s not hard to make music, it’s a pleasure.
ISM: I’m sure you must be sick to the back teeth of answering this question, but i have to ask it. when you dj use Ableton? or are you always just booked to do live sets? do you have a preference?
VW: I’ve never DJ’d using Ableton. I don’t see the point in it when we can have at least CDs to interact with and keep the DJ’ing element alive. Loading lots of tracks beat-matched just seems to boring to me, where is the fun? When i DJ i use vinyl and CDs. I have a similar attitude to Derrick May on that front … we have to enjoy it while we can. Mostly, however, I’m being booked to play live, and when I’m not using any other equipment other than my controller and a laptop, it does get tedious at times, but I make up for it by playing my heart and soul out of the speakers. All the parts are still individual and Ableton is about as good as I can get on stage, whilst leaving my hardware behind. I don’t use plug-ins in the studio, so it’s kinda hard to set up lots of synths now, and expensive!
I don’t have a preference … I go through phases, moodswings, with it. When I’ve got lots of new music to exhibit, I love doing the live … other times the DJ’ing kicks in when I get a whole new batch of new tunage.
ISM: With digital only releases, is it not easier to track how many units you sell now? How do they compare with vinyl sales from days of yore? is there any money to be made from digital (since production costs are vastly reduced)?
VW: No, actually, it’s harder in the short term, there is so many digital stores that sometimes you get delays in sales reports … at least with vinyl distribution you knew what was going out the door before it was manufactured … the whole digital store thing is really bugging me already … I have embraced it as we all have to, but I’m not feeling it at all. I relaunched Bio as a digital label, but already after one release I’m finding it soulless and uninteresting … I think my next album will be vinyl and CD only from my website directly to the people who actually buy my music, instead of having it listed in a Beatport genre that’s the same as all the other genres anyway. We have lost touch people … time to regroup.
There will never be a comparison between sales, it’s a different thing altogether. Vinyl was a complete package, based on units; digital is fragmented, confusing, with sales based on individual tracks. Digital costs are less, but you have to spend quite a bit of money to get the promotional side up to speed. Vinyl costs were higher, but the unit sales were higher too…
At the end of the day, we’ve all been sucked into a digital oblivion, and the balance needs addressing. The scene won’t be worth keeping if it gets anymore diluted with lifeless music.
The quality will always shine through and the also-rans and copycats of today will be forgotten tomorrow, when the true artists are smiling.