For: The Warehouse Project
Having been part of the Greco-Roman soundsystem collective, 2010 saw Ministry of Sound’s Raf Daddy and Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard join forces on a new project of house music variously influenced by reggae, country and western, hip-hop, dancehall and cricket. Innovative and eccentric in the way only a pair of genre-defying British producers could be, the duo followed up the huge success of breakthrough single ‘Bear Hug’ with the release of their debut LP ‘Be Strong’ this January. Will Orchard caught up with lone bear Raf to uncover the story behind the fur.
Your first album came out at the start of the year – is your schedule still particularly hectic? What are you up to now the year is coming to an end?
We’ve done a few remixes. We’ve had little bits in the studio; a bunch of things in various states of completion. Joe’s been touring with Hot Chip and we’ve been on the road a fair bit ourselves. He’s just had a baby himself relatively recently, so it’s been quite a domestic year aside from playing in big discos all over the place. We played at Space a bunch of times this summer, which was really good, as well as a whole load of festivals, Bestival, Lovebox.
It’s been a busy year but it’s been great, you know. There’s been quite a lot happening but there’s enough time for us to enjoy it still. Joe has been a lot busier than me, he’s been on tour with Hot Chip and made a record with them as well, obviously. He’s had a fair bit on his plate.
We did this compilation. ‘2 Bears, 1 Love’, which came out recently. It’s been manageable, it’s been nice really. I’ve managed to be around quite a bit for my wife and my new baby, doing work at the weekend and being around in the week. It’s nice. At the moment where we’re not in the thick of making any new music, the weeks have been quite free and I’ve been writing bits and pieces here at my place. Ruminating really, on what the next Bears album should be, what it should all be about.
You and Joe have known each other a long time haven’t you though? Presumably that makes it a lot easier to still work well together when the schedule is particularly hard.
Yeah, that’s right. We only ever made the record as a bit of fun. When we started making music together, we did it as something to do in our spare time. It’s grown and become something else entirely, which we’ve obviously delighted about. We always did fit recording in around whatever else is going on in our lives, respectively. The whole thing is a joy, to be honest. When you’re really busy it does get quite exhausting. Have you ever looked at that [Twitter parody account] ‘DJs Complaining’?
I have. Some of the complaints are so trivial, too. Instead of talking about the tiring routine or being away from home, it’s about not getting the right type of champagne.
Exactly, and get really pissy about it. It’s funny, isn’t it. I’ve worked as a press officer and an A&R and worked in labels for years, so I’ve seen the music business in a lot of different roles. Being the artist is definitely the most fun. Do you know what I mean? You can’t really complain. Everything is really good. To be earning a living doing something you love is such a blessing.
Tell me a little bit about the radio shows you and Joe have been involved in. How did presenting on Ministry of Sound fit in with you and Joe DJing together in clubs?
The Ministry thing we did for about a year and a half. I’d done little bits of radio before and me and Joe did that for a while. Really, we DJ’d together a lot in London at those Greco-Roman parties that we used to put on, that still roll actually. That was our meeting place.
So it was a meeting of minds, that the production side of things developed from?
Yeah. We always liked the records the other one played and shared a love of a lot of the same kind of things. Initially you kind of go in because you want to make something you can play in a club. It turned out to be more than that as well, in the end. My part of it is a DJ – I come to the project from that side of things. Joe is obviously a super-talented producer and songwriter. I have very little technical chops, in terms of Cubase and whatever. But I’m getting my head around various drum machines and that’s been quite fun. A lot of those tunes on the album were written by me bashing around on an acoustic guitar in my front room to start with. But yeah, my take on things has come from a DJ perspective because it’s something I’ve always done since I was a kid.
It’s funny you should mention you wrote a lot of the album material on a guitar because you’re quite a non-traditional dance act in a lot of places, especially lyrically.
Personality is something really crucial in making music. You have to make yourself a bit vulnerable. I think a lot of the songs on that record… we were just making club tracks to start with and I think until Southern Fried asked us to make an album, we hadn’t really thought about it. To try and make an album… it’s a format I really love and it’s what I’ve grown up with. At that point where we were like “Right, we’ve got to make an album. Better write some songs”, I was (and still am) a complete novice and you have to write about what you know, about what you love maybe. You can’t fake that stuff. So yeah, I do love cricket and reggae records and that naturally comes out. I’m happy with the way the album turned out. I think it’s quite honest, really.
There are a lot of albums where DJs or producers turn out 12 bangers for the club and that’s fine. But that’s not necessarily something that you’re going to come back to time and time again, you know. There were a lot of sounds that we wanted to get on there; I wanted to make sure there was a pedal steel guitar on there… We’re lovers of records and I think that was a starting point for us, with samples and sounds and things that we were both into. They made the basis of a lot of the songs. That’s kind of something we’ve been getting into with the next one; I’ve been sending mixtapes to Joe basically, all of the stuff I’ve been listening to and all of the things I want to rob from other people’s records!
Is that a similar approach to how the mix album came together, sharing tracks you both loved and reaching a consensus?
Yeah, and the boring reality of what you can and can’t clear, how much the label have got for licensing stuff, all of that very prosaic business. But you know, yeah. In the end we had a really good list of tracks to work with and I’m quite proud of it actually. It’s one of those things that I haven’t been able to listen to for a while but one of my mates called me and said how into it he was, so that’s good.
It must be strange having the mix album as a physical product when so many acts create mixes for music websites that remain as MP3s online.
That’s a good point. I think these days where you can put a mix online and basically put anything you like on it, and no-one’s going to come after you for licensing, it’s not going to cost you anything to do it, and you can stick it up with any tunes you want. I guess people are changing the way they listen to things but they still do buy mix CDs and play them in the car and the house as well. That thing where you’re kind of limited in a way, for one reason or another… I’m really pleased of what we’ve managed to get on there. We’ve got some really good old things like ‘[Isolee’s] Beau Mot Plage’ and Paperclip People, ‘Throw’… I’m really pleased with some of the new stuff on there like the Andrew Weatherall track, the Asphodells thing that I really love… the Toddla tune. There’s a load of stuff on there that I think is cool and it’s more representative of what we do when we’re playing in the clubs. We kind of haven’t gone live yet; it’s just us two playing records and me doing a bit of shouting, bringing a dub siren along and whatever. We much about, really. We’re serious about the music and the mixing but maybe the compilation is more representative of what we’re about in the clubs than the album.
What sort of thing are you playing in DJ sets?
You have to kind of tailor what you play to the environment you’re playing in. At this time of year, when the clocks go back and autumn comes, I always feel like playing techno. There’s something sort of depressing about the grind of winter coming on. So I’m listening to a lot of techno at the moment. That’s what I really like about DJing, is that it’s an ever-evolving game. There’ll be stuff that I’ll play for a whole year and then will just put away and not think about, and then dig out years later when the time feels right. It’s all about mood, isn’t it?
What have your experiences of The Warehouse Project been like before this season?
We’ve done it a couple of times before. We played at an Annie Mac night last year or the year before, we were in the second room. It was good, it’s a proper clubbing institution now isn’t it. In fact, I played one of the first ones when it was in the Boddingtons Brewery years ago when I was working for a label. We used to work with that band The View and they played, and me and Mike Pickering DJ’d. That would have been the first year. And then I came back with The 2 Bears last year or the year before. It’s always a really party, isn’t it. Always completely packed. It’s a huge amount of people, but people travel. My missus runs a café down here and one of the girls that worked for her came up and she was like “I want to be there every weekend!” Really committed. I can’t wait.