Steve Optix Presents Amkucha

Steve Optix Presents Amkucha - Facebook event cover

Amkucha is my new weekly radio show broadcast on Kane fm 103.7 in Guildford and surrounding areas and online – worldwide – at kanefm.com.

Tune in on Tuesdays between 1900-2100 GMT

Each week I’ll be exploring deep and vibrant sounds from the 1970’s to the present day. Soaking in eclecticism, taking in Mediterranean sands and Balearic sensibilities

Be it deep electronica, lovers rock, jazz funk, or lo-fi chill, it’s all got a place here on Amkucha

For show recordings and full track lists please follow the Amkucha page on Facebook

If you have digital or vinyl promos please email details to dj@steveoptix.com

Two Weeks In Already!

The second session in my new Vinyl Lab sessions, this one taking in cuts far and wide, as is par for the course!

Disco, Bossa Nova, Acid, Downtempo, Jazz Funk, Soul and Afro Beats order of the day here!

Link to show on Mixcloud

 

Full track list below, tune in at my Facebook page, Mondays 1900-2000 GMT

 

    Brian Bennett & Alan Hawkshaw – The Executive
    Les Masque – Il Faut Tenir
    Larry Graham & Graham Central Station – Is It Love
    Lou Hayter – Cherry On Top
    George Benson – Dinorah Dinorah
    Chaka – African Rhapsody Pt 1
    Teddy Pendegrass – You Can’t Hide From Yourself
    Johnny Chingas – Phone Home (Instrumental)
    Osibisa Woyaya – Beautiful Seven
    Windy City – Acid Dreams
    Voyage – From East To West
    Andres Y Xavi – Never been to Ibiza
    Aswad – Feelings
    Van McCoy & The Soul City Orchestra – Hey Girl Come And Get It
    Ashley Beedle presents The Uschi Classen Band – Do You Believe In Love

Why the compulsion to always put music into mixes?

Why does every song need a context when so many are works of art wence stood alone?

Sure, over the last thirty years there’s been house, techno, drum & bass tracks that are accomplished productions and solid sounds, but purely filler. And many work well, join a dot, create the context, shape the journey, but alone they’re lost.

What I’m talking about is good music, really good music. Songs you remember, songs that inspire, songs that change your life. Still I feel the compulsion to write a story with them.

A good mix is often called a journey. Maybe this is a little cliched now but if you are a true lover of music and a DJ that’s fortunate enough to be allowed to curate your own sound, then every needle drop a new journey begins.

Personally – and this may be every record buyer ever – I hear a sound, a paragraph in the story not yet written, and I must have! And the constant strive can be to find a narrative to slip this plot twist into.

Every vinyl DJ, (And digital, I’m sure, but I’m not qualified for digital DJ insight), has their record room/shelves/basement/loft/out house (dis-)organised into stacks of ‘chapters’. Each of those chapters containing numerous paragraphs just waiting to be arranged into a coherent trip, aural, metaphorical.

Others – and I know many – just haven’t re-filed their last set!

As usual maybe I’m flexing the grey matter too deeply on this? What is true however is that if a sound resonates with me, on the wants list it goes, as one day – the day that never comes for a collector/sharer of music – the manuscript will be finished.

What’s in a night?

Being vinyl only and covering multiple genres brings its own issues and demands. Firstly, obviously, I can only carry so much vinyl, and my usual set is between 3 ½ to 4 hours long. Prior to the night generally I won’t know what sort of crowd will be in. Not being a commercial DJ and not taking 2000 tracks with me on a memory stick means I need to think long and hard about my two boxes of records, which carry about 70 12”s each. Each tune will gives around 4-5 minutes play time plus anything from 5 to 60 seconds being in the mix.

The majority of my night will encompass house and its many forms, given that house music is now over thirty years old and has sprung numerous offshoots this gives me a wide spectrum to work across and I have carte blanche to take the music in any direction. The house tracks I take will run from mid 80’s up to present day, I’ll also maybe squeeze in some 80’s disco, electro, soul and funk, but once into the house vibe I’ll play everything from acid house, Balearic sun kissed sounds, club classics, warehouse and rave, through to big beat, progressive sounds and trance classics.

Musically I like to play lesser known sounds to people, mixed in with recognisable classics. I’ve always said cool but accessible, obscure but not pretentious, but I don’t do Top 40 and to be frank I don’t follow commercial sounds at all as there are a million DJs to cater for that – but it isn’t for me.

Warming things up at around 100bpm I’ll up the pace through the night to about 127bpm with what I see as some logical selections for the next track to a few surprises once I’ve gauged the response to a few tunes and get an idea as to where I can take it and as to how far I can push the envelope.

I get asked sometimes how I decide what to play next and reading the crowd is an expression you’ll hear many DJs discuss as an essential key skill. Once a dancefloor gets going you obviously look for responses in terms of energy levels and facial expressions and you want to maintain the enthusiasm of the crowd and keep those faces smiling, so the best way I’ve found to put it in words for a complete novice is break a track down into two elements, the beats/riffs and the melody/vocals. Sometimes a vocal track will get everyone going but an instrumental version does not have the same effect – the vocals create the energy – other times it’s serious beats and riffs that make a dancefloor bounce and vocal elements are not in call here, so keep working with tracks with strong beats and drum programming in the production. If you go off in one direction and the energy/smiles drop then make the next track a vocal. A simplified version of this as there’s many facets to this, but it’s a start. Are pianos doing it, a bit of a rap, etc. then move that direction.

A quick tangent here but a great example of this is Black Legend – Trouble With Me. Now this is a bootleg track utilising an early 90’s underground techno track House of God by DHS, with of course the lush vocals and breakdown from the walrus of love Barry White. Now this track goes down a bomb whenever it’s dropped but many wouldn’t care for the beats if there was no Barry. If I were in the middle of an old school rave vibe and dropping FSOL, Jaydee, Move Your Body etc. then a crowd into this would usually prefer the original techno track and would see the later bootleg as a commercial watered down crossover.

Currently though the regular venue I play at is an upmarket bar/gastro pub with a late licence and a good sound system. The clientele are anything from cool and hip, (Is that even a cool/hip thing to say these days?), early 20s through to mid-50s and occasionally older. Now it’s no good at all me playing my tunes, in any order, regardless of who’s in attendance, so I need to keep a few tunes in the box to work towards make tracks palatable to some who may not be agree-able to dropping French Kiss straight in. Now here’s one of the tough bits, using sounds to take people to sounds they didn’t think they’d like purely because you’ve put them in context using an aural soundscape. Basically this means taking a more accessible sound bit by bit into a more off the beaten track vibe by musical transition.

Generally at a venue such as this nights where people get up and have a dance are about one in three so your cues for where you take the sound next are much more subtle. Tapping feet, nodding heads, smiles of recognition, sometimes people don’t even realise they’re doing it, these are the visual tells to your next sound. That and also the number of people who come up to me and say they’re loving/loved the sounds I’ve played that night and the fact that I keep getting booked to come back again and again!

Below is a track list from my night I played on Friday 8th June at The Mulberry in Farnham to hopefully demonstrate some of the aspects mentioned above. You may recognise a few.

  1. Electra – Destiny
  2. Tim ‘Love Lee’ – One Night Samba
  3. Finnebassen – Baby (Ron Basejam Remix)
  4. COEO – Pajama Stomp
  5. Culture Beat – Der Erdbeermund (Instrumental)
  6. Sueño Latino – Sueño Latino (The Latin Dream Mix)
  7. Faze Action – Samba (Scat Dub)
  8. Saint Etienne – Rose Rouge
  9. Dionne – Come On And Get My Lovin’
  10. Black Box – Ride On Time
  11. Inner City – Big Fun
  12. Orr-Some – We Can Make It
  13. Todd Terje – Inspector Norse
  14. Street Corner Symphony ‎– Symphonic Tonic
  15. Ron Hall & The MuthaFunkaz Featuring Marc Evans ‎– The Way You Love Me
  16. Nu Yorican Soul – It’s Alright, I Feel It! (M.A.W Alternative 12″)
  17. Black Science Orchestra – New Jersey Deep
  18. DJ Spun – Love Will Save The Day
  19. Alcatraz – Give Me Love
  20. Mone – Movin
  21. D-Rail ‎– Bring It On Down
  22. Xpansions – Move Your Body
  23. Todd Terry Project – Weekend
  24. D-Mob – We Call It Acieeed
  25. Inner City – Good Life
  26. Gusto – Disco’s Revenge
  27. Supereal – Body Medusa (The Leftfield Remix)
  28. Delta Lady – Anything You Want (The Delta Belter Vocal Symphony)
  29. Ame – Rej (A Hundred Birds Remix)
  30. Satoshi Tomiie ‎– Love In Traffic (John Creamer & Stephane K Remix)
  31. Remake – Theme From Bladerunner
  32. Mory Kante – Yeke Yeke (Hardfloor Remix)
  33. Goldtrix – I’m Trippin’
  34. Da Techno Bohemian ‎– Bangin’ Bass
  35. Lucky Stars – Be There At Midnight
  36. Aaren San – Osclownyzz (Blende Remix)
  37. Felix Da Housecat ‎– Silver Screen Shower Scene
  38. Dennis Ferrer ‎– Hey Hey
  39. Josh Wink/Public Enemy – Bring The Higher States
  40. Ben Burns & Serge Santiágo ‎– The Crowd Seem To… (Burn’s Move Right Mix)
  41. Kirk DeGiorgio Presents Esoterik ‎– Starwaves
  42. Shur-i-kan ‎– Living Inside (Mike Monday Remix)
  43. Sander Kleinenberg ‎– My Lexicon
  44. Energy 52 – Café Del Mar (Original Three ‘N One Mix)

So as you can I’ve journeyed through acid house, rave, garage, progressive, electro, trance, tech house, Italo House, Balearic, Broken Beats, Balearic, disco and jazz house flavours. On other weeks there will be more funk and soul, other nights more rave, depends on the weather 🙂

Vinyl Lab

October 2019 Update – visit the new website at vinyllab.uk

Our new night starting Saturday 10th March 2018 – As the name suggests an all vinyl affair couple with an experimental ‘Lab’ type theme!

The aim to cover sounds in multiple genres, concentrating on feel good vibes, lesser known artists and releases, but dropping plenty of known tracks and artists – albeit maybe not versions you’ve heard before!

Sarsens Flyer

Getting Back On The Decks

Coming back to DJing after a number of years away was unique in it’s challenges. After so long out of the scene where would I fit back in both musically and technically?

I’ve always been a vinyl man and never stopped buying records, so material wasn’t an issue. I’ve always had my trusty 1210s and even though I’ve played residencies abroad using earlier CD decks, (Denon DN 2000’s ), I never found them to be much fun to use.

I’m going to interject here that first and foremost the music is the most important thing, not the format. However if you don’t enjoy the format you’re only having half the fun.

Vinyl is hands on, tactile, elegant, physical, but I’m not going to rave here about its virtues.

The major difference I’ve found with vinyl DJing and modern DJing is the lack of availability of more recent music on vinyl – a large number of releases are never actually turned into a physical product but purely digital. Now most of the music I buy and play comes from further back – the barriers of price and availability, not the lack of a vinyl release, being the only stumbling blocks. Music I spin comes from anywhere from the sixties to the mid 00’s with a few newer edits on vinyl joining the gaps.

Tunes available on digital only are a double edged sword for me, and I want to explain why I think it’s a good thing that I don’t have access to some of the tunes that I actually would like to play.

To me digital music releases and modern DJing are more about how songs are played and how many are played – access to the music, availability or cost, doesn’t seem to be a problem. This to me takes away the individuallity from old school DJing of ‘crate diggin’ – searching for tunes, versions, mixes, obscurities that others don’t have, to make the sound your own, creating own your unique vibe. With the likes of Shazam and Facebook track ID groups identifying a tune isn’t a problem these days or purchasing said tune – the modern DJ’s uniqueness is how they play that tune.

Equipment is far more complex, yes we had loops and samplers in the 90’s – although far lower standard than now – but now the huge range of filters, looping facilities, in unit quantising, auto BPM display, sync button, digital music collections, cue points, trigger buttons, key markers, file tags, home production and editing software has turned this into far more not what is played but how.

If I was a producer – and I’m not so qualify this statement how you will – I’d be proper miffed if I’d spent hours crafting a tune, fine tuning, EQ-ing to perfection, setting levels, filters, tweaking samples and then someone comes along with their CDJ2000 Nexus Mk2 and turned it into something unrecognisable!

What did the producer actually want the public to hear?

For me DJing is spreading the sounds that make me feel a certain way, make me want to move, feel, think, smile, tap, nod, shake. Bar the odd acapella or sample I may drop from one record over another I play the tunes as the producer wanted the public to hear them.

Purchasing more up to date records has also been a bit of a challenge. I’ve never stopped buying vinyl in between hanging up the turntables in the early 00’s and now and my picks have been anything from Jazz Funk, Soul, Disco, Balearic, Electro, Prog Rock and Boogie. I’ve always kept a vague background interest as to what was happening currently with music and DJing, I passed over (under?) dubstep, grime, bass, electro house, nu disco, edm, reggaeton – numerous genres that I wouldn’t actually know what to call if I’d heard them.

BTW – not a fan of EDM at all, certainly not the sounds that I hear linked to that tag.

For those that are interested my own musical journey went from listening to 60’s tunes and 80’s synth pop as a kid through hip hop and house, then onto rave, hardcore, techno, jungle, drum & bass – then out of the rave scene into big beat, nu school electro, breaks, progressive house, late 90’s trance and then speed garage, 2 step and discofied filtered funky house! It’s about here in 2002 that I stopped playing and buying new tracks.

Disco House/Nu Disco piqued my interest, I’ve loved house since the late 80’s, as well as disco grooves, deep, funk, boogie and balearic and this tag seemed to bring together many of those genres – and at a nice tempo – especially the edits scene. When I play out now (3-4 hours sets minimum) I usually roll with an hour or so of this followed by classic house, deep cuts, obscurities, a bit of old rave, some acid, with some New Jersey deep diva vocals thown if for good measure and the odd new school break. My collection is extremely varied and I love it that way.

No, the problem – sorry I keep digressing – is that I can’t ascertain where tunes stand from the last eighteen months to twelve years in the general zeitgeist. I’m obviously late to the party on a number of top tunes, (And depite some of my comments above there have been some unbelievable tunes come out in recent years), it’s knowing whether these tunes have been battered to death and everyone sick of them or whether they will always been stone cold classic floor fillers.

One in particular in point is Todd Terje – Inspector Norse, I love this tune! I drop this out every few weeks and it gets good reaction. A lot of my parent friends, (Which most of our friends are – I’m 41, married, three kids btw), who’ve never heard some of these tunes give great feedback on them. My range, I think, generally sits between cool and accessible, trying to bring new – or old – sounds to ears for the first time, whilst keeping a good vibe and movability.

Old school cool, vinyl all the way, interlaced with the best of modern, that’s where I sit.

Thanks for listening/reading!