For: The Parklife Weekender
Despite having written and produced music from an early age, Alexis Raphael’s first breakthrough solo release came in 2011 courtesy of Lower East, a label co-founded by London producer Cozzy D. Raphael formed the now world-renowned clubnight Creche with Cozzy in 2010 and has since gone on to release through Hot Creations and Heidi’s Jackathon James imprint. Last year saw him join The Warehouse Project’s roster of residents, alongside fellow Parklife acts Four Tet, Jackmaster and Maceo Plex.
How are things?
Yeah, good! I just recently got back from Switzerland– did a couple of gigs there which was pretty cool. I’ve played at Hive Club last August, which was in Zurich, which is really cool. They asked me to come back, and then I did a club in Basle on Saturday, called Nordtsern, which was really good. I played with Darius Syrossian.
You seem to be spending the majority of your time on the road now. What’s your schedule like at the moment?
I’m kind of trying to juggle gigs and making sure I’m in the country enough to do production. I can’t work off a laptop; I need to work in a studio with all the hardware and everything, so it’s no good for me working off a laptop if I’m travelling.
I’m off to South America, doing Ecuador, Mexico and, I think, Brazil. I’m doing a 3 week thing there with lots of gigs in Mexico and I’m going to be doing the USA thing too, but I need to sort my visa so we’ve put that on pause til later! That’s why I’m not in Miami at the moment.
Does it make a big difference using hardware etc to produce rather than being a laptop producer?
Oh, yeah. I work on synths and things like that, so I need to be able to play. I can’t just type stuff in on Logic, I need to be able to sit down with my keyboards and play my basslines. I’ve always produced in a studio where there’s bits of hardware, so that’s how I have to work really.
I’m a classically-trained pianist. I’m a musician before I started producing electronic music. It’s just that sitting at a keyboard is quite natural for me. I enjoy that. And hardware is inspirational, too. And if you’re talking about the actual sounds, it just sounds a lot better to me anyway. It sounds fuller, especially the low-end stuff. Basslines. I use certain synths to get my bass and it just sounds so rich straight away. It’s more heavy.
What are you working on in the studio at the moment?
I’ve got quite a few remixes lined up. I’ve got a remix coming out next week on Leftroom of a band called Lois & The Love, that came about because I met Matt [Tolfrey, of Leftroom] on a gig so we’d got pally and the drummer from Lois & The Love is a friend of mine from where I grew up. They asked me to do it and I spoke to Matt, and he was putting the package together. It was just one of those things – he asked me to do the remix and I was like, “Yeah, great!”. There’s a few different remixes on the package and they’re all really different.
I’ve got a remix I’ve just done for Get Physical which is a bit different to the normal stuff I do so hopefully people will dig it. I’m really happy with it. And I’ve got another remix for Hot Creations which Jamie asked me to do, a remix of a Miguel Campbell tune, which is again really different. That’s coming out in May. I think my sound’s changing again; I like so much different stuff, I find it really hard to stick to one kind of sound with what I’m doing. Then I’ve got an EP on Resonance Records, which is Max Chapman’s label. He’s been asking me for ages to do stuff and I had a couple of tracks which I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. They’d been sitting there for a little bit, six months or so, but they’re both really good tracks and Max loved them so we put them together and I think he’s getting remixes from PBR Streetgang and WiLDKATS. And then I’m working on another EP at the moment, which I hope to have finished soon. I don’t have a label but I’ve got some in mind. And that’s where I am!
It sounds ridiculously busy but it also sounds like the remixes are taking priority at the moment a bit.
This is the thing. They have done and it’s not a good thing, really. What happened was, I did those ones I just told you about and I also did one for Culprit and another one. Basically, I ‘ve been doing loads of remixes and I’ve realized now I’ve got to start turning them down. I’ve got really good labels asking me to do them and it’s very hard to say no, because they’re labels I respect, but you have to make time to do your own stuff as well.
You’ve got to be careful not doing too many remixes because it can really take away from doing your own original stuff.
What’s it been like working with people like Jamie and Lee at Hot Creations and Heidi at Jackathon Jams?
My first ever release was with Jamie and Lee, so it’s just something I’ve done from the beginning I suppose. When it happened it was a big deal for me but it’s just been something I’ve been used to, working with these guys. Heidi’s brilliant to work with, she’s really nice and I like her ethos on everything. She said to me “variety is the spice of life” and I think that’s true with music. I like to mix it up quite a lot when I play and I don’t keep things too narrow with my sound. She says the same thing, so it’s nice working with these people. I’ve got a lot of respect for them.
Having a wide range of influences and styles has been one of the most important things for your clubnight Creche, hasn’t it?
When we started Creche, everything in East London was one sound, all the time. The whole reason I started Creche with Cozzy is because we were like “I’m sure there’s much more music we can play that isn’t getting played.” It was all very deep and very minimal music but it was that kind of Mannheim sound which wasn’t doing much, in my opinion. So when we started it, we just wanted to mix things up a bit more. In the beginning, Creche was literally a Sunday eclectic party. We had soul, disco, funk… the emphasis was on house music but we had a real mix. Now the music in London and everywhere, there’s a real mix, so what we set out to do is the way things have become.
We’ve had a real mix of line-ups, everyone from Maya Jane Coles when she was just a couple of hundred quid and hadn’t blown up yet to people like Erdbeerschnitzel, who a lot of people might not have even heard of. We’ve always mixed up the line-ups as much as we can. There’s always a real balance between educating people and getting people into the venue. We’ve always aimed to have one better-known headliner and one less-known, and do it that way, to get the balance really.
Last time you were in Manchester, you headlined the February Drop The Mustard party. It absolutely went off. What have your experiences been like here in Manchester?
I love it. I’m not just saying this, Manchester is my favourite place to play out of anywhere. I get the best reception in Manchester and everyone’s so cool. I’m really not just saying this, it is my favourite place to play! Everyone just seems like they’re out to have a good time. There’s not that pretentious thing that happens in some places. People are just there to really rave and party, which is cool. I just get a really positive vibe off everyone, and a lot of love. My Twitter always goes completely mental when I go to Manchester. The first time I played there was only the August before last and I played to a tiny bar to about 150 people. I think the Drop The Mustard guys had seen me play and so then I played for them with M.A.N.D.Y. and Richy (Ahmed). It’s just been a really successful journey DJing in Manchester.
The Drop The Mustard party, with Ejeca, that was brilliant. It was really, really good. You can’t ask for much more really. I honestly couldn’t fault it in any way; I had a great time and I think everyone in there loved it too.
What sort of tracks are getting the best reception at the moment?
You know what, it really depends on where I’m playing. There are tracks that I’d play in Manchester for example that I wouldn’t play in central Europe so much, because they’re a lot more Berlin-influenced and I don’t think they get some of the stuff that you could play in the UK. But reception-wise, some of the tracks I’m playing are by wAFF, who’s really got some great production going on, and I really like Ejeca’s stuff as well. He’s got a really early 90’s sound which is like the early dance music that I grew up on and was listening to when I was very young. I’ll play quite vocal stuff and then go towards stuff that’s quite techno-influenced like Mr G, quite underground stuff. Everything from Dyed Soundorom’s remixes to Cozzy D stuff, who I work with. It’s kind of how you put it together – I like bringing the crowd down a bit and then bringing something in that really gets them going again.
And taking of Manchester, you had a residency at The Warehouse Project before the new year. What was that like?
It was amazing. When they asked me to do the residency, I was shocked to be honest but really happy that they’d asked me. I played Room 2 and Room 3; I did Room 2 the first time and it was amazing. Huge room, great crowd. And like I said, Manchester seems to be my favourite place to play and to play at The Warehouse Project is an honour, with the biggest DJs in the world. And that Room 3… when they said I was in Room 3 for my second set of the residency I thought maybe it’d be a bit rubbish but it was even better than Room 2 to be honest. You can really take control of the room because it’s fairly intimate, which is great. The Warehouse Project has been amazing.
You must be looking forward to coming back in June for Parklife?
Without a doubt. I’ve heard loads of great things about Parklife. I can’t wait!