Andy Smith Interview (by DJ Moneyshot)
Andy Smith, best known for his work with Trip-hopper’s Portishead, is one of the U.K’s most in demand DJ’s. And It’s not hard to see why if you’ve witnessed him playing out. Whether he’s seamlessly mixing ‘Cross Town Traffic’ into ‘You’ve Gots To Chill’ or dropping a vintage soul 7″, this is one guy who is not afraid to delve deep into his record collection to rock the crowd. DJ Moneyshot caught up with him to discuss all this and more.
So Andy, can your Mum and Dad believe that their son plays records for a living?
AS: My mother still doesn’t really understand how I can make a living from it! I have recently been featured on a T.V programme in the South West of England, so in her eyes I’ve ‘made it’. She even once said in a some what surprised voice: “Oh I actually like some of this music that you’re playing here”.
You’re a very competent Hip-Hop DJ. How important is it to get the skills out of the way early in a set so you can concentrate on rocking the club, confident that your credibility has been established?
AS: It kind of depends on the club and also who’s been playing before. It is good to kind of say to certain people: “Well yes, I can do that”, but I’m really here to entertain all the people, not just the trainspotters. I prefer to get into the doubles a bit later on, when the people need a bit of a lift.
We all know dance floors are fickle places, so do you resent it if a crowd thins out and you have to win them back over with a more ‘commercial’ tune?
AS: Well you can never please all the people all the time. I always try to think to myself that most of these people are not as deep into music as much as I am. (If they were, they would be doing what I’m doing!) With the kind of stuff I’m playing incorporating so many different styles there are bound to be peaks and troughs, so the more commercial tunes just back up the rarer, unheard of stuff to keep the night even. If some Hip-Hop kid comes up to me and says “Why did you play ‘Shake What Your Mamma Gave Ya'”, I’ll say “Yes, but how many times have you seen 500 people getting into ‘Marley Marl Scratch’ in the same set!”
Do you prefer dropping a pinpoint, accurate set for the ‘watchers’ or a sloppier, spontaneous one for the drunken party people?
AS: A bit of both is always good. I think playing in the U.K there is a lot of the latter going on, because that’s what they want from a night out. (And hey I enjoy a beer or two myself!) But somewhere like Japan it seems to be totally the opposite, and a set for the watchers would be more applicable.
Don’t you just love it when you drop a tune that no one’s heard before, and it still goes off?
AS: It is great, and it means I’m doing something right. You have to try and move things on (with new tunes and unheard, old tunes) and not play the same stuff every night.
When playing out do you pack just enough records, or way too many?
AS: I always pack too many! You never know what the club is going to be like, and what direction you may need to go in. Last night for instance I was booked to play in a club that played House music before and after my set. Now, I wasn’t expecting that. But I had a fine selection of tunes that managed to bridge the gap (I think!). I also find that there are times when I get through tunes more quickly, as it makes it exciting. Carrying a lot of records does have it’s bad points though: A bad back and airports hitting you for extra baggage
‘Dynamo Productions’, tell me about that.
AS: Dynamo Productions is myself and Scott Hendy (who worked with Purple Penguin and releases under the name of Boca 45). We decided to get together to make tracks that we could play out. We both come from the Hip-Hop angle and were getting a bit frustrated that is was difficult to programme a lot of slower Hip-Hop into your set, and a lot of the faster stuff that was evolving into Big-Beat had nasty noises in it! Essentially the Dynamo Production stuff is for DJ’s by DJ’s, although the L.P is coming out next year and it will be a more varied listen. It seems to be being received quite well, with most DJ’s reactions being positive. We were a bit worried that some of them would think it wasn’t progressive enough. But as far as we were concerned the most exciting stuff around was the stuff by Cut Chemist, DJ Format, Bombjack, Krafty Kuts etc : There just wasn’t enough of it.
What was the intention behind your “Document” mix album?
AS: Doing “The Document” was fantastic. It gave me a chance to show what I do when I play out, and hopefully showcase something a bit different. Also to distance myself from Portishead a bit. Don’t get me wrong, being involved with them is great, but I’m not happy living in their shadow. I think a lot of people think I’m milking that, but the fact is I couldn’t get away from it if I tried! Another reason for doing the Dynamo stuff was to show people that I was involved in other projects. I was happy with the way “The Document” came out, considering the limitations on what tracks I could use. But, I have found it frustrating that nobody wanted to do a follow up (back to the fact that there is no Portishead album out) until now. “The Document Vol. 2” will be released by Illicit at some point soon.
Your ‘Groovetech.com’ radio show is called the ‘Soundburger’. Why name it after a child’s portable record player?
AS: I wanted a name for the show that was fun, but at the same time mean something to the trainspotters. Yes, it is the most fantastic portable record player I have ever come across, and it goes with me on most trips. (You never know where you might find some vinyl that needs checking out!)
Where have you travels taken you?
AS: All over the U.K, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Italy, Turkey, U.S.A, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and that’s just off the top of my head.
What accessories have made your job easier?
AS: The Sound Burger, a Vestax PMC 06 Pro, Shure M44-7’s, 45 adaptors, my own slipmats, a mini-disc recorder (for long trips) and Big Daddy magazine (also for long trips).
Do you think you’re underrated?
AS: I don’t think people realise how much you need to put into what me (and Scott) do as DJ’s. It involves a lot of thought, planning out, practising with doubles, constantly digging in old record shops, constantly looking in new record shops. I don’t see why DJ’s that just mix one tempo for hours on end are so rated personally. It’s always worth it when you get a cheer at the end of the night though!
What D.J would you feel the most nervous about playing after?
AS: I once played after D.J Premier in San Diego. I remember thinking: “It doesn’t get much better than this”. But the nerves were kicking in that night!
How important is it to bring a crowd up and down during a set?
AS: It is important, so that I can showcase all the stuff I want to play. As well as uptempo funk, I like to play some new Hip-Hop and Reggae before we’re through.
How often do you play out and where are your residencies?
AS: It varies during the year, but about 3-4 times a week. Scott and me have a monthly gig at Fabric in London, I usually do a weekly session in the Salmon and Compass in Islington in London too. I also do regular spots at the Bomb in Nottingham, Planet Of The Breaks in Shrewsbury, Supercharged in Brighton, Hi-Karate in Glasgow, Ri-Ra in Dublin etc :
What’s been your toughest crowd?
AS: I had to play a full on Techno club in Ireland once (not a good booking). Let’s just say the Irish lads weren’t feeling Jeru the Damaja that night!
Where do you dig for records?
AS: Any where that will allow a portable turntable!
What are your top 5 tunes?
Grandmaster Flash – Adventures on the Wheels of Steel (Sugarhill)
He redefined what a D.J was about and showed me the way.
Joy Love Joy – In Orbit (Cadet)
Northern Soul is the most uplifting music ever.
Gang Starr – DWYCK (Chrysalis)
The most consistent crew ever.
King Tubby – Braces Tower Dub (Yard Music)
The heaviest piece of Dub going.
James Brown – Stone to the Bone (Polydor)
Where would we be without this man?
Finally, do you dance?
AS: Sometimes I have to. I can’t play ‘I Got The Feeling’ by James Brown without dancing, although I don’t think I’m very good at it though.
So there you go. Andy Smith, coming to a town near you : We can only hope that it’s not a Techno club though, bless him.