Christian Murphy, - on 23/7/12
Having first released the underground smash, 'I'm Satisfied', back in 2002-it's safe to say Belfast's Bubba (a.k.a. Johnny Smyth) has been, if you would pardon the pun, bubbling under for quite some time now. After a slew of releases in the last few years on some of the most respected labels in the scene (Pets, Hot Creations and Alive Recordings amongst others) and an extensive touring schedule which has seen him rocking parties all the way down to Brazil and back-now might well be his time to shine. Now co-running his own label (Runnin' Wild) which has just seen its' first release we caught up with the man to find out why he's more than just 'one to watch' this year.
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Hi Bubba good to chat with you, whereabouts are you at the moment? Hello! I’m in good ole Belfast, making copious cups of black coffee (the cornerstone of any music session) while ducking in and out of the studio.
You started out with a release on Derrick Carter and Luke Solomon's label Classic way back in 2002 with 'I'm Satisfied'-how did this come about and what kind of difference did it make towards your career releasing for two legends like this? Yes, 10 years ago now. Myself and my production partner, Scoper at the time, put it together using an Akai sampler and an Atari computer running Cubase in his back room, seems very old school and sent it off on a cassette tape! To be picked up by those guys was like getting selected for a premier league team! It was certainly a great place to start…but it was before we had the social media technology (now we can find out where and what Richie Hawtin is having for Breakfast).Friends in Belfast were buying the record thinking we were from Chicago (A great compliment!), and couldn't believe two guys from east Belfast had put it together. It’s a track that still seems to be about. I got sent a twitter message recently saying Damian Lazarus was playing it at 4am in Fabric.
As well as the release on Classic you've done an edit of Frankie Knuckles in collaboration with T-Bone. Clearly you have an affinity for the Chicago sound-how did this develop and what do you feel you can add to this as a producer? Baby Wants To Ride is one of my all time classic tracks. We did the re-edit (no original parts exist unfortunately) and it got selected for the TRAX 25th Anniversary compilation. To even be associated with such a legendary label was truly a proud moment in my career. To have your name on the red and white logoed vinyl. [Laughs] Definitely a music geek moment. After being blown away for years by legends such as Adonis, Phuture, Ralph Rosario. I think it’s the back to basics approach of the 80’s TRAX stuff. For example I like it still kicks ass, like a Mike Dunn track kick drum,hats and bass line really-but it still has an underlying funk and groove. It’s taking those inspiring elements and pushing it and moulding it into something futuristic but that still sounds familiar, and I am a sucker for 808 rimshots!
With the currently huge popularity of Hot Creations and Dirtybird etc. it would seem that bass-centric house music, like your own, is on the rise After years of minimal tech and tech-house dominating dance-floors, why do you think this change has occured? Everything is cyclical obviously. But I guess the new music has that bit of feel good factor about it (which we all need at this period of time perhaps!). It has something for the boys and something for the girls. It sounds good in a club on a beach and maybe you don’t need to be licking the walls to get it! Saying that I am not afraid to throw some minimal into the mix if I’m playing, but when I hear that phat bass line slam in-it’s like hello!
DJ Sets of yours have seen you draw for tunes from the likes of Maceo Plex and Mr.Fingers all the way down to UK Funky producer MA1. Is there a common denominator in the tunes you look to play in the clubs? Basslines probably! Sometimes its just some element that grabs me-there is only so much deep house you can hear and play-just mixing it up a bit, get a bit of jacking going on!
Looking back at your discography, you've released on a wide spectrum of labels-what do you look for when choosing where to release and what do you think makes you so flexible, as to be able to put out on such varied labels? I guess I just make music but I can listen to a batch of music or come back from playing somewhere with ideas, or get the vibe off a certain label, but it still hopefully all has my sound. I am remixing indie band GO Wolf at the moment which is cool and I just remixed a project of Jon DaSilva’s, TVMR, for Hacienda records which are great to experiment with rather than just straight up dance floor tracks.
Your home city of Belfast is finally getting some attention with yourself and the likes of Bicep coming through as well as Jet Project (one half of whom you collaborate with Timmy Stewart aka T-Bone) amongst others. What kind of parties are happening over there and who else can you recommend from Belfast? There is a lot of attention on Jet Project, Phil Kieran, Japanese Popstars, Space Dimension Controller, Psychotron-unfortunately draconian licensing laws and short sighted politicians are holding things back slightly. I really would love to see Belfast getting the attention of the likes of Leeds and Manchester. I have a residency at Yello and host parties round the city with friends.It all has the potential to go off but we are just getting on with it; putting on Boat parties, parties in Chinese Restaurants and Kebab Shops (The food places seem to be really popular!). Clubs like Yello, Thompsons, Stiff Kitten putting on great guests. Promoters like Twitch, Bang, Belfast Music Club, Iso Disco, bringing over Joy O, Kenny Larkin, Gerd, Levon Vincent, Jon DaSilva, Tim Sweeney. The Belfast Music Club recently had Nicky Siano playing to a sold out crowd-people are hungry for it! Watch out for JMX, T-Bone, Cromby, Swoose, Chris Hanna, and Ejeca all producing some quality music and starting to break through. On reflection the city is definetely a potential hotbed and I probably forgot to namecheck a lot of people, applogies!
This year sees the launch of your label Runnin' Wild with Chris James (who also releases as Coat of Arms alongside Eats Everything), what can we expect release wise this year? Runnin’ Wild’s first release is just out from Amine Edge & Dance POP 60 with a remix from me. Its' got that bass heavy hip-house 80’s electro sound action that me and Chris love. We had our launch party at Sankeys Spectrum a few weeks ago on a Sunday night to 400 people-an epic night. Next up we have a killer track from hotshot Lee Webster with Chris on the remix. The label’s definetely developing its' own sound and people already asking to buy t-shirts! Me and Amine were having a laugh to hype this bass heavy sound up calling it G-Tech (Gangster tech House- sounds more like something you study at college!). Excited to have releases and remixes forthcoming from Sean Roman/Dick Diamonds, Death on The Balcony, HimselfHer, Denney, JMX,No Artificial Colors, Flow and Zeo, Nytron & Toniatti, Adam Curtain and more….watch out for label parties, t-shirts and stickers coming soon. We like our stickers!
You've just come back from a tour in Brazil, how was the tour and what kind of apetite do they have out there for your music? It was a great trip, the place is jumping. Apparently psytrance was huge and now over the last number of years the new house sound is getting big. Lots of amazing producers/parties/labels..and it amazes me that when I was playing at a party to 1000 people in Porto Alegre, south of Sao Paulo, people were coming up and asking for tracks that I’ve made or remixed! I really enjoyed it and made some great new friends and contacts and I now have some really exciting projects coming up with the guys from Warung Beach Club, Techgrooves and Tropical Beats.
'Dance With Me' released on Hot Creations around the turn of the year garnered you a lot of high profile support-how essential is this kind of backing and do you find the kind of pressure that comes with it helpful or restrictive to making music? It’s a funny old game! Haha! I made Dance with Me as almost a promo track...next thing I get a call from Hot Creations saying Jamie Jones has been playing it all summer and they want to release it. I ended the year with it getting Essential New Tune from Pete Tong; not bad for a track that I thought no one would be interested in. The support has been amazing and thanks to everyone! But I think I just go with the flow-it was a one off track. There are elements in it which are signature for me, but I don’t want to have an ABC formula. I’m always experimenting with samples, sounds and ideas moving forward. Some work and some don’t, but I guess I will just keep doing what I’m doing. There are still labels and artists I want to work with and I guess I apply my own pressure.
You've played around the world and released on some of the most popular labels out there-what goals do you still have for the rest of the year and your career in general? It has been a crazy last 6 months-I feel like Phileas Fogg! It does amaze me the power of music. Something I have made in my back bedroom, people know it in a city in south America or Shanghai! The Runnin’ Wild label and brand is important: building up a crew and releasing some great music from people that I really admire. And putting on some great parties around Europe.I hopefully have some shows in Ibiza which is definitely a place to tick of the list and there are always goals-clubs I would love to play and people to work with. I am just finishing off an Azari & III remix, which I can’t wait to let people hear, and hitting the studio hard with a new batch of originals and remixes to finish. The future? I am obsessed with movies and would love to be producing soundtracks. I have been putting music to ads and short films recently. Also to work with bands, solo artists, writing tracks for people and developing new artists. I look to people like Arthur Baker and (Giorgio)Moroder who where able to not just make disco records but take their skills and career in a different direction.
And finally-can you give the readers an idea of what to expect from the podcast you've recorded for Pulse? This took a week to put together using a VHS recorder, twin deck ghetto blaster, 2 CDJs, 1 Technics turntable, Macbook pro, a microwave (for snacks) and a coffee maker. It's basically some of my favorite tracks at the moment, some forthcoming tracks on Runnin’Wild a new remix from me and stuff that was literally sent to me minutes before I started the mix. There is so much great music about I think I will have to do a Part 2 to fit it all in! Count on plenty of bass action and hopefully you will enjoy.
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