Yes lovely readers, we talk to legend that is Mr Chris ‘Swag’ Duckenfield ahead of Saturday’s very excellent The Idiots Are Winning about being the voice at the start of Altern8′s Infiltrate 202, LSD mixtapes, running a successful distribution company and a whole load more besides.
Hi Chris, you’ve had a long and illustrious career on the outer reaches of the electronic music scene for well over 20 years now. I had no idea that it’s your voice saying “Watch Your Bassbins I’m Tellin’ Ya” at the start of Altern 8′s Infiltrate 202. Can we talk a bit about the pirate show that you did that this was taken from? How important was it to shaping your musical discovery?
I have been very lucky, maintaining something I love and managing to pay the bills for so long, I know! Always happy to hear a new generation has made the Altern 8 connection
*hangs head and breathes deeply*
I think the pirate show evolved from a night myself and then DJ partner Richard Benson did at the (now sadly demolished) Limit club in Sheffield in the late 80′s We met at college, had very similar tastes and were both trying to hock tapes, so it made sense to pool resources. The club and various one-off parties we did were pretty succesful, so we were offered a show on, what was then SCR (Sheffield Community Radio). Pirates were essentially the only way to reach an underground audience then, hard to imagine with the monumental revolution the internet has brought, but it really was the lifeblood of a burgeoning scene
We just got pretty wasted, play tunes, cracked wise and had a good patter, so the show became really successful, plus we were playing alot of stuff no one else either had, or would touch ! In terms of shaping my musical discovery, sure – it was a very fertile time though, lots of genre defining stuff dropping week in week out
You worked for Warp for a while and put out a handful of records for them. How was your time with them touring across Europe in the heyday of the label?
Very enlightening, for someone who’d only ever played in the north of England, and some bigger raves in the midlands etc
seeing that European style of clubbing really changed my perspective – much later nights /days, far more drugs, a very high standard of local DJ talent and knowledge of music. I was pretty much gun for hire, warming up before the live stuff, then picking up the pieces for hours on end when they’d all retired to the tour bus.
I’d learnt to DJ in a club (technically speaking), but this experience taught me about timing, moods and shifting energy levels. Something which seems to be lost a little in this age of 2 hour, wham bam DJ culture
“Music and LSD convinced me teaching was for elderly men, with beards, and an unusual passion for corduroy.” Do you think you’ll ever don the corduroy and grow a beard?
I’d love a beard, sadly my genetic make up means I can only manage a goatie, which just isn’t acceptable as facial garnish
Corduroy – not a fan really, it’s a look which is most succesfully determined by what you combine it with – and I have neither the time or inclination to make the switch from T-Shirts and jeans.
You run a very successful and well respected distribution company ALL EARS with an incredibly high quality output. You’re distro-ing my friend Dan’s Jam Factory 12″s at the moment… just wondered if you could tell us a bit about the ethos behind the company as it’s obviously coming from a very strong vinyl ethos.
My partner in the company (Alec Greenough – who used to run and record for the ber cool Toko label in the mid-nineties) has worked in music distribution for nigh on 30 years, so he’s seen pretty much every conceivable shift of tastes and consumer patterns in that time. After a couple of the bigger independents like Amato & Unique went under, we decided to set up All Ears, mainly as a boutique style Distribution company, limited pressings, nice packages, etc etc.
I’d self-distributed my own labels for years, so was offay with the ins and outs of manufacturing & had also built up alot of like-minded contacts both at labels and in key overseas territories, so it was pretty easy getting the ball rolling
We’re absolutely committed to All Ears being quality not quantity – and we’ve gradually, over the last three years or so established ourselves in what is, if not resurgent, then certainly a very healthy vinyl market
Do you think the digitisation of music has affected people’s creativity?
Undoubtedly, but you don’t have the time or space for me to elaborate !
“I also studied at great length LSD, music and the art of the compilation tape (not necessarily at the same time)” You say not necessarily but is there any chance we can get to hear one of the ones you did whilst actually under the influence of said Lysergig Acid Diethylamide?
Sadly, they were all given away
I’d love to hear ‘em too !
I did a Sociology A Level full tilt on a blotter though, I’d actually pay good money to see what utter nonsense earned me a resounding ‘U’ grade
How do you know Jake & Louis (Idiots Are Winning)? In just a small time they’ve created quite a following for their night.
I know Jake from various dens of iniquity. Not least of which is the infamous Trades Club in Hebden Bridge
I think Jake had concocted the plan, along with Louis long before my involvement. It took a boat party in the Adriatic and a huge amount of disregard for common sense to pull everything together. I’m not at all surprised it’s well liked, a small, dark, loud basement with cracking music and an all night bar – it’s hardly rocket science.
You’ve just done the first new Classic release with Luke Solomon who’s also playing on Saturday. How did this come about?
Have I ?
I had no idea it was the first new one
It was all Luke’s idea – I have no faith in my music making abilities whatsoever
It was a great day over @ R$N towers when we heard the news that Classic was to be resurrected. You’ve had strong ties with the label through the years. Can you tell us about the influence the label had on you and your production/DJing.
Well, I have a record collection thinning routine well practiced now, and I have yet to part with anything on that label
They just defined and redefined a whole era of House music, influenced so many new (and old !) producers and had a very English approach to their whole set up (no offence Derrick !)
I think both Luke and Derrick liked some of what we’d done with Swag etc, so it was inevitable paths would cross. I heard Derrick in the early 90′s – probably on his first trip to the UK @ Sankeys in Manchester – we’d had a few of his releases in the shop, on Blue Cucaracha, Organico etc, so I went with the guys from Warp, and we didn’t leave the dancefloor for the entire set. Ridiculous skills, amazing selection – proper. I’ve played alongside Luke many times, mostly at his Little Creatures nights, which essentially provided a musical blueprint for The Idiots Are Winning
You’re Sheffield born and bred. There’s been a huge resurgence in interest and indeed a new wave of artists coming through from the Republic of Yorkshire or the Steel City. It’s a hard thing to quantify but what is it that makes Sheffield so musically unique?
If I had a quid for every time I’ve been asked that…
I have no idea, lots of trees (the most per capita of any European city) perhaps, a bona fide first class Electronic music heritage (Google it) Lots of students ?
But if you ask Winston Hazel (Pioneer, teacher etc), me or Toddla T, we’d probably all bang on about amazing underground parties which had blown our tiny minds & changed the course of our lives.
Chris plays at The Idiots Are Winning this Saturday @
2-4 Old Street, EC1V 9AA
London, United Kingdom
22:00 – 05:00
5 Advance tickets exclusively on R$N
Following up our last idiotic escapade with Crazy P & Luke Unabomber was always going to be a fairly tricky affair but we think may have cracked it with this equally large line up.
Classic is reforming so we thought we’d ask two of it’s leading lights (one founder, one longtime cohort) to join us for our little basement takeover.
As per usual, you won’t find us using reams of biogs to big this up so if you don’t already know who …these lot are, you need to question your own party credentials, not theirs… ; )
Luke Solomon (Classic / Music For Freaks)
Rob Mello (Classic / Music For Freaks)
Chris Duckenfield (Swag / Popular Peoples Front / TIAW)
Louis Finch & Jake Manders (TIAW)
Apologies to all those who couldn’t get in last time round. As you know, Life is a small space so we’re trying to make it a little easier by selling a small quantity of tickets on this very site.
You’ll still be able to get in on the door should you wish to but to guarantee entry, we recommend you get your tickets right here:
Ransom Note Tickets
Other bits of housekeeping:
- The music goes on till 5, as does the bar
- There’s space for about 125 of you and your crew
- Life has just been fitted with a brand new Martin Audio soundsystem