He may not have bee a drummer for Rod Stewart but thanks to his releases on Klang Elektronik, Perc Trax and Border Community, you should know the name of Avus by now. Avusí family ties with Perc Trax owner Ali Wells and a University friendship with nouveau-bohemian Border Community boss James Holden have both been major catalysts in the music career of this devoted disciple of acid house.
But releases on the some of the hottest underground labels and weekend jaunts to Tokyo donít mean an end to the nine-to-five lifestyle, as we were surprised to find out in this interview.
> Interview & Introduction : Nick Lawrence(HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : We were looking on the Discogs website and it says you actually had your first release in 1995, is that true?
Avus : No, it was later than that. At one stage Discogs credited me with playing drums on a Rod Stewart record before I was even born. So it is one of those slightly dodgy databases. My first release was in about 2001 or 2002 and it was ĎA Dark Purposeí on Midset, and that was the second track Iíd ever made.
HRFQ : So was your first track just something that no one else has ever heard?
Avus : Iíd never made anythingÖwell actually there is. The first track I ever made was a track called ĎThis Darkí and it samples a Wilfred Owen poem. Itís a little up its own arse to be honest but I actually sometimes still play it because it makes a good DJ tool. But yeah thatís one just for me because there were a few embarrassing ones early on which I think every producer has to go through.
HRFQ : You were already DJing back then but why did you start producing?
Avus : Iíd left University and Iíd got a proper career job because I was determined whatever I did Iíd have a career to centre myself. I was finding I didnít have time to be able to go out and DJ three or four times a week and still actually be professional in my job as well as my music. What I didnít want to do was become a fulltime DJ or anything like that because it had to be a hobby. So producing is just something you can do anytime you want. You can wake up in the middle of the night, turn the computer on and lose a few hours. It just fits in with a normal life a bit more. But once in a while when you wake up in your studio at seven in the morning and realize youíve got to go to work, itís a bit of an obsession. Itís also, by that stage Iíd been DJing for quite a few years and I kind of liked the idea of going up a stage, because Iíd always wanted to make my own music. It just happened to be that Iíd bought a computer and Mr Holden lent me a copy of his all his software and I taught myself how to use. Itís quite useful to have someone who already knows their way around it to say, ďThis is Buzz, itís a great piece of software. Youíll be able to run it and itís free. Go for your life.Ē
HRFQ : So you were friends with James before you started producing?
Avus : Yeah. He was studying at Oxford at the time and I was studying at Oxford Brookes, which is the other University there. I had a radio show around Oxford and through a friend who was working on the show he started sending in demos. This was before ĎHorizonsí or any of that, so we were just playing his tracks and then we became mates because he is just such a nice bloke.
HRFQ : You and Perc are second cousins, does that help at all having a family member into the same thing?
Avus : It does because Alistair [Perc] is involved the industry. Apart from just the mutual encouragement of having someone to play tracks to it is good, especially some of the complex situations Iíve been in in the past with labels, it is good to just be able to send something to Alistair and know that he can look over a contract and give me some advice. He is somebody that I absolutely know I can trust because if not my mum will tell his mum. Weíve helped each other because Alistairís first real release was a remix of ĎA Dark Purposeí. I knew the track was being released and I knew he liked it so I gave him the parts. And equally obviously he has taken my stuff on board with Perc Trax and he is happy to promote me along with himself.
HRFQ : You were talking about your career before. Are you still doing something other than making music?
Avus : Yeah, I work for the head office of Mercedes in the UK doing marketing. I like this kind of double life. Because by day I can wear my suit and have one entire set of friends who donít necessarily need to know that at the weekend Iím flying to Japan and playing a gig. I quite like that, there is something spy-like about it, having another identity. And itís an escape as well because I think working the hours that I do with the kind of pressure there is in a big company I need an escape and music is perfect. You can book a few days off work and just lose yourself in the studio.
HRFQ : One track of yours actually samples Bill HicksÖ
Avus : Um, yeah. I try not to talk about that too much because I donít think that sample was ever cleared. It was funny actually, I was having some releases done for Poodle, a tech-house label from London. The guy who runs Poodle is in the Green party, heís running as a politician. I have a degree in politics so he always laughed at me because I make these tracks with silly titles and took the whole thing with absolutely no seriousness whatsoever, just in it for the kicks. He actually said, ďYou sell a few records you ought to make some statement about somethingĒ. And it just happened to be the time when George Bush was coming into power and there seemed to be a lot of people in power making decisions that were based on their beliefs, with this idea that whatever they thought must be right. And Bill Hicks is one of my favourite comedians and Iíve always loved that moment where he explains that what you believe is only what you believe and you have to bear that in mind. Itís just whatís happened in your brain when you were growing up and if you just absolutely act on it then it isnít necessarily anymore right that the next manís opinion. So I thought if ever there is a statement I can make that is broad and not offending anyone that was it. I love Bill Hicks but Iím not sure whether heíd be happy that I sampled him.
HRFQ :So is the music something you take seriously or not seriously at all?
Avus : The music itself Iím very serious about. Through various stages, especially when I was doing the radio show, Iíve been quite purist at times. I went through a period, long before it was fashionable, that anything with more than about three clanking noises was too much and cheesy for me. But outside of that Iím just in it for the kicks. Youíll notice I have the longest thank you list on records because I think that is quite funny to a point. Iíll take any gig that seems like an adventure for example coming to Japan just seemed like a great adventure. So the music I am deadly serious about and my approach to anything outside the production of it is just find a way to have fun and meet people.
HRFQ : Youíre a DJ and your productions have appeared on compilations like James Holdenís ďBalanceĒ and Dave Seamanís ďGUĒ. Are you going to do a mix CD yourself someday?
Avus : I donít know. I suppose if somebody came to me and asked me to do one Iíd say yes because it is just another adventure to have. But I just quite enjoy sending mixes out to websites and radio stations and stuff like that. I just enjoy on a Saturday afternoon swinging a mix out in and hour and a half and sending it out to somebody. The problem with mix CDs is, you can either just string out a series of tacks which anybody can do and to be honest I wouldnít see a reason why anyone would want to buy that anymore than anyone elseís. Or you can involve yourself to such a deep level that it would take so much time. Something like ďAt The ControlsĒ that James did is an enormous undertaking to do something that complicated and that clever. You can easily go the wrong way and make, well I donít like it, you can make an ďInvolverĒ and end up with something is less than the sum of its parts. Or you can be like James and produce ďAt The ControlsĒ, which as far as Iím concerned is as good a mix CD as have ever been made. But I think to do that you have to put a focus on it that I probably donít have the time to do. Iím also not convinced Iím that clever. Thereís a point when someone has set the bar like James has with that and you kind of think itís best left to the people who can do it that well.
HRFQ : You have a release coming up on Barbarella, donít you? Is that coming out soon?
Avus : Itís soonish. Nothing is massively confirmed because Barbarella run a kind of informal approach. But itís a track called ĎTakení, which has a DJ tool that people can hear on my myspace, and the track called ĎSear Interceptorí that is actually kind of full on for me. But it is a couple of ideas that I just had, both of them are pretty full on. ĎTakení is very Detroit because I love my Detorit. It was due for release at the end of this year, but they are a bit like me, they take it as it comes when it comes to the business side of things.
HRFQ : Is there anything else besides the Barbarella release on the horizon?
Avus : There is, and this is sort of a bit of an exclusive for you, Iíve got another release coming out on Border Community. One track that is currently still unnamed because I havenít actually thought of a better name than its working title and another one called ĎSpankerí which has been around for a while, thereís an acid tool version of ĎSpankerí. ĎSpankerí is by far the hardest thing Iíve ever done. Iíd spent an afternoon sat watching a DVD of Richie Hawtin at Time Warp and I just walked into the studio and went right, Ďbangí. To give you some of idea of how much harder it is than my usual stuff, when I handed it to James his exact words back to me were, ďI didnít think you had the balls to do that!Ē. It is going to be quite a varied EP because the unnamed track is quite smooth and more a usual Border Community sound and then ĎSpankerí is absolutely full on and I think it is going to be a surprise for a few people. But Border Communityís whole thing is about surprising people with quality. Itís a nice thing to be able come up with another surprising angle. I think a few people were surprised when ĎRealí came out because it was a deeper angle than had gone on before.
End of the interview