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Luke Solomon: You Can't Touch a Classic

With his recent mix album for Brazilian club D-Edge having found its way onto our Album of the Week pages there was always going to be plenty worth talking about with one of Britain’s foremost dance purveyors.

After all, it's not every day he calls in for a chat, or pieces together a melded CD of inspired tracks, touching on electro, techno, and house along the way.

Something of a rarity then, the release in question, Cutting Edge, is one of those special moments; not led by trend or fad, but instead representative of choice cuts selected from a decade-spanning record collection, picked by the hands of a veritable underground hero. The result means that, to those familiar with his name, there's something distinctly Luke Solomon about the way it unfolds.

Not that there's anything run of the mill about it, mind. Instead it's the kind of journey one should expect once you get past those two imprints he runs- Music For Freaks with Justin Harris and Classic alongside Derrick Carter- and remember that these two brands only make up part of his story. The man responsible has played to more dancefloors than most of us been in 7AM taxis, over long enough to ensure a style informed by a myriad of sub-genres and eras. Knowledge and wisdom abound then, we thought it a good idea to call for a chat about the new album, the decline of large UK clubs, and why that's not all bad news.

Hi Luke, how are you today?

Good, thanks. It's my birthday actually so I'm taking the day off to watch crap films and play on my son's 3DS, which he got for his birthday. It's a rare treat really as usually I'm travelling round or looking after the kids.

Ah, Happy Birthday!

Thanks very much.

If we can talk about the CD then before you get back to the celebrations, what made you decide to record a mix for D-Edge when you don't seem to do many, at all?

Well I love the club, and have played there since its inception. I like Brazil, the whole ethos and vibe about it, and I really like the music programming at D-Edge. The venue itself is great too, quite unusual, so it seemed like there was a big connection and it was appropriate. It isn't just a case of someone waving a load of money to get an album out.

It feels like a club set- is this the kind of thing that you'd play in Brazil?

Yeah, it's a difficult one really. I've got such a broad taste in dance music, within a particular arena of house and techno. This means a lot of the time my DJ sets don't really make sense if they're reduced to short periods of time. I could play for three, five, seven hours- that's what I love. When I had to get it down to 78 minutes I wanted it to represent that kind of thing, but in a confined space.

It wasn't necessarily the tracks that struck the biggest musical chord for me at the time, more things that I'd always gone back to again and again, at any point in my career. That was the how I selected the music, without much thought for how it would all fit together.

That was the tricky bit, because there's all sorts of mad rhythms and movements going on. I had to do a lot of edits and overdubs. The whole thing was recorded live, but I used the edits and stuff within that. So I had drums on USB and stuff to extend parts and layer things together, it was a challenging process.

Are you happy with the finished product?

Well, from a sales perspective it's still difficult to tell. The feedback and reviews have been well above my expectations, but anything I do that gets a positive response is better than what I expect as I'm so self critical. With that mix I'll probably hear it once or twice more and then decide I could have done better. I expect the worst, so at this point I'm really happy with it, and hopefully the club feels the same.

How often are you in South America then?

About once a year, at least. I usually play Rio, Sao Paulo, and sometimes Argentina. It's weird, those are the places I always go back to, but then I've never played Mexico, which seems to be another hub at the moment in terms of dance music.

How do those places compare to back home in the UK?

Well dance music is in a kind of second phase out there. It's not become despondent, and it's not somewhere that's at the centre of a financial crash. It's in a good state of health, I think in Britain it's all coming out the other end and things are on the up again, but in South America they're financially in a far better place. So, whilst clubs in the UK are closing, over there they're opening.

In what way is Britain on the up?

Well if you look at London, and they way things are mutating, it's not all about big clubs any more, but there are a lot of pop up parties, small boutique clubs, people are paying attention to the sound and putting a lot of effort in to make things special. Those are all the positives.

On the other side of things though it's not as possible for someone like me to earn a decent living playing in their hometown, London. You don't have the venues. The End, Bagleys, The Cross, Turnmills- all these places have gone. We've lost a lot of heritage spaces.

So now we're back in a transitional time, but musically it's really exciting to see warehouses being used again, small clubs like Corsica Studios championing really good music, and obviously Fabric has always stood for what they believe in, through thick and thin. So I do feel things turning again, how long it takes is another question.

Do you think anything has been lost with the fall of large clubs in Britain?

In terms of the risk taking aspect yes, I notice that a lot as a DJ who gets booked for a lot of different events. In many ways I'm quite a specialist I guess, and have a fan base that's maybe not mainstream, so in some instances I'd be considered a risk for promoters, and people can't really throw caution to the wind at the moment.

It's a shame, because now is the best time for risk taking, and the people that have been taking risks are now seeing things come to fruition. They've established themselves, so the night is the draw and it doesn't matter as much who is playing. They are known as musical purveyors. But in the mainstream clubs are playing it safe a lot more, that's certainly true.

Music For Freaks and Classic then - any news on those fronts?

Well I have a single out on vinyl on Classic at the moment, which I made for my good friend Kenny Hawkes. That's coming out digitally too. Jon Marsh did the vocals, and there are remixes from Ewan Pearson and Emperor Machine. The funds from that are going to buy a bench to put in Brighton, in memory of Kenny.

Then there's a series of Classic releases lined up and ready. The first is from a group of Norwegian girls called No Dial Tone, who have done this mad track, and it's the first time they have appeared on Classic. There are remixes from Mic Newman and Tom Ellis included there too.

On top of that Derrick has re-done Squaredancing for 2012, so that's another single with some remixes. We've literally got a barrage of stuff about to come out. Starting up Classic mark two was interesting, as we had to draw a line under everything that had come before, find our rhythm and figure out how to prevent it from just turning into the same beast again.

I think we've done that, so now it's in a place somewhere between me and Derrick, one that can send people off in all sorts of directions rather than just sticking to one type of dance music, release after release. It's also been exciting to work on the creative and art side too, with limited sleeves, vinyl only releases, and interesting merchandise.

With Music For Freaks we have a new album coming out, kind of like a lost album or whatever. That has gone through various incarnations, with various musicians along the way. Now we've stripped it all back, mixed and re-mastered it for release on Music For Freaks, potentially with a view to putting out a box set with other unreleased material, or something like that.

Fair enough - any time for anything else right now?

Yeah, actually. I also have another project called Mother Rose, which is kind of like electronic rock n roll I guess. We've done a vinyl only on the first release, then the second is coming out soon, and the Idjut Boys have done a remix. That's been a lot of fun, working with musicians and on something so different. It's kind of bluesy, harmonicas, banjos and lots of weird instruments and stuff. It's been great.

Can't wait to hear it, thanks very much for your time.

Thank you.

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