Overcast: Bobby Analog Talks
It’s 14:09 on a cloudy day in Belfast. I’ve just entered a coffee shop to meet one of the city’s highly regarded DJ’s.
Bobby Analog sits in a New World Building long sleeve sipping on a cup of green tea. I’m greeted with an awkward handshake followed by a hearty laugh incited by said handshake. I can tell this is going to be fun.
There’s a lovely aura that surrounds Leigh. In truth, no one calls him Leigh anymore, “not even my wife!” He’s been Bobby since the early days of ‘Bobby Digital’, an alias he had to evolve because of a certain RZA record.
Since adopting the title of Bobby Analog the selector has went from strength to strength, launching a platform for his own productions in the form of Body Fusion, conducting the latest podcast in the Feel My Bicep series and being invited for a debut Boiler Room performance at this year’s AVA Festival. He’s the type of guy you’d love to have a pint with.
When did you start getting into music and how did that evolve into an interest in dance music?
At the beginning it was mostly hip hop. When I started I was thirteen. I bought a set of belt drive turntables from a guy. Where I’m from, around Portstewart, a lot of the guys where into turntable-ism and hip hop, we all skateboarded together. From there I just started collecting records. There used to be a party in Portrush called Hustler’s Convention, they would bring the likes of DJ Yoda in. I was like fifteen at the time; they weren’t that strict on their licensing policy! It was a good eye opener into the world of record digging and what you could potentially do with those records.
From there it was all I wanted to do. When the internet became a major part of it I was constantly on forums. I would spend hours on Hollertronix and Erol Alkon’s forum. It just consumed me; you were getting music from all angles. It was a real eye opener to all the genres that were beyond listening to KRS – One in my room.
You’ve been collecting records since you were thirteen. Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
I had to really think hard about this. The earliest records I remember having were Maceo and the Macks – Across The Tracks and De La Soul – Say No Go. I remember having the twelve inch of that; there was a no bass mix on that that I used to play all the time. Also, The Clash – The Magnificent Dance, because at the time they were doing loads of HMV re-presses, and at the time that was the only shop close to me that sold records!
Do you have a favourite digging spot?
The Thing in Brooklyn. It’s like a thrift shop, they’ve got a basement downstairs with stacks of records in crates and everything’s a dollar. It’s an absolute gold mine. It’s filled with old US singles; stuff you’re just not going to find in the UK. Obviously with the New York disco affiliation, there’s just so much of it, and even the cross over and new wave stuff that didn’t even make it over here, it’s endless.
I guess here in the UK you just, kind of, get what you’re given. It must have been an eye opener. When were you in New York?
I actually lived in Greenpoint, Williamsburg, for about a year when I was twenty one. I was able to play out and stuff. I started getting gigs around Lower East Side. We used to do a gay club called Mr Blacks once a month, it was class. It was me and a guy called Andy Pry, he still does a lot of stuff with Eli Escobar and people like that. They threw a lot of parties downtown. It was different from your commercial house clubs. The Lower East Side spots had more of an alternative, edgier feel to them. You were able to play more straight up Chicago and Detroit stuff. It was real nice playing with them, they really knew their music, they weren’t just playing handbag house.
What’s the strangest record you own?
(laughs) This is brilliant. I got it in Poland, in Krakow. It’s like a big band record. It’s actually really good! It’s a bit like a movie soundtrack. The sleeve just says it all! It’s called Polymelapodus by Gustav Prom. They’re like an Eastern jazz band. I got it in Records Dillaz. It’s a really cool basement. I went in and the guy was actually playing it, and I was like, what’s that? He told me, “you won’t be able to read the back of it”, because it was all in Estonian or something. All he could tell me about it was the band did scores for Eastern car chase films and things like that. I thought it sounded great. I’ll play it for you some time!
Do you have a favourite record? Apart from Gustav’s brass band.
I sat yesterday and went through everything. Caramelo 01, it’s a Konstantin Sibold record. White vinyl, really pretty. It’s a really lovely deep house record. Other than that, probably Paraiso 89, New World Building – it’s insane. They’re two records that I’ve bought recently, I don’t feel like that does justice to any of the older stuff I have, but I think that’s because I’m more engaged with the newer records that I get. There’s something more exciting about stuff that you’ve recently picked up.
You launched your record label, Body Fusion, in January last year. What was the inspiration behind that? Was this you beginning to take music more seriously?
I just always wanted to run a label and wanted a platform to put out some music that I had done. I wanted to be able present the whole thing, I didn’t want to hand stuff off to other labels. That sounds silly because I gave one EP to Timmy [Stewart] at Extended Play, he really encouraged me.
One of my close mates passed away and that triggered me to actually do something. That’s why the first EP was called Love Lost; it was a dedication to him. After that I thought I had to start taking it all serious. I wanted to put out stuff that represented the way I feel about music and, in general, represented me. The label came around very easily. Everyone says that running a record label and putting out vinyl is hard. All you need is a few songs and some artwork (laughs). That’s essentially all it is. You contact a distributor and if that doesn’t happen you just sell them yourself on Bandcamp. That’s it. Maybe the PR side of it is hard, maybe that’s what it is? I don’t know.
Perhaps mastering the Facebook algorithm is the most difficult task?
See, this is the thing. I don’t do any sponsored ads! I think if people want to know about something, or want to take an interest, they’re probably not going to do it if it’s presented in advert form.
Yeah, as soon as you see a sponsored most you just kind of scroll on.
Yeah! It turns me off so quickly. Actually I’ve told a lie. I did it recently with the preview video for the next record and then caught myself on talking to someone about my ‘reach’. Then I took it down (laughs). I just thought to myself, I could spend twenty quid on sponsoring posts, or I could go buy three records instead. Things that I can actually, physically, hold in my hands. That sounds better than sending money to the Zuck so he can sit in front of the US Senate shitting himself.
The label, at the moment, is a platform for your own sounds. Are there any plans to bring other artists in?
Body Fusion is going to be a series of my own things. I’m toying with the idea of putting out more deep house sounds, something a little less disco. I might fire them out under a different name, and then I think, why the fuck would I do that? I guess it’s just different styles. You think, “Well this doesn’t fit with anything else I’ve done in the past”, and you start questioning shit. It’s really just going to be me; purely because I want to present something that I’m doing myself. I think somewhere down the line labels can get a bit lost when they’re not presenting their own vision. They lose a bit of the passion when they try to get as much attention as possible.
I interviewed Renaat from R&S Records a while back and he was talking about Bandcamp, suggesting that its difficult interface is actually a good thing because it encourages you to do a bit more digging. Do you think digital digging has got a little too easy?
I actually entirely agree with that. Now you can effectively let your Spotify run and you can stumble across something you’ve never heard before. It’s weird. The level of accuracy they’ve got it down to now is bizarre. I think the beauty of finding something a bit rarer is not going to be achieved through an algorithm. It’s not going to present you with some house track from 1991.
I guess the whole algorithm thing makes you feel like you’re discovering new things, but really it’s all just based off stuff you’ve already listened to.
Yeah, you’re in a bubble that’s being created by about three or four different platforms. They all feed off each other – YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Music. I think they all operate off some algorithm. When Will Our Day Come gets more plays than anything else on my Soundcloud and there’s absolutely no reason for it other than it’s got so many plays on YouTube. It’s a bad and good. For the people that do want to go a bit deeper, they can go a bit deeper, and those that just want to let it play can do so as well.
I see you recently got a Korg M1 for your birthday, are you loving it?
Y’know what man, I haven’t even plugged it in yet (laughs). I got an email from Bicep on the same day I got the synth asking me to do the next podcast in their series, so I just spent all my time going through my records and buying new stuff for it. I’ve still got a Casio Z-1000, it’s like an analog/digital crossover synth. I’ve been using it loads recently, the sounds coming out of it are amazing. It’s like a poor man’s Juno, it literally is, I got it for like fifty quid! Right now I’ve got the M1 sat upright at the back of my room and a Roland R-8 sitting on my floor. They’ll get in there eventually! In my head I’ve got a vey defined project that I want to use that for. Obviously its Italian housed out. It’s more or less the reason I bought it. I want to explore the sounds.
Do you have a particular process when it comes to production?
There isn’t a set routine. Where do you start? I suppose with the sample based stuff I spend a lot of time simply listening. If I find something I like I just stick it in a folder, then I begin with drums, get a nice rhythm going, and then move onto the sample and whatever I’m building on top of that.
With the original stuff I usually start with a chord. Then I can try and right some sort of melodic arrangement and move my way through that. It can be really experimental. Jordan and I were working on something together recently. I’ve got a tiny Minilog – you can create really nice drum patterns on it. I boosted the bass and it started coming out really crunchy and nice. We did a whole track in one day; don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of day though.
Are you playing many festivals this year?
Not really. I’ve got the AVA Festival Boiler Room coming up but that’s really it. My booking agent and I are trying to play the right gigs as opposed to just playing wherever. There are a few things in the pipeline, but they’re more club concepts. I’m more inclined do to them. I prefer the club setting. Longer set times.
Do you think that some types of music are just better suited for a club than a festival? I know sometimes when I’m at a festival and I can’t help but feel the artist would be better suited in an intimate setting.
I played Life last year and I was on at 1am. I thought, yes, I can play some deeper stuff. Twenty minutes in and I had to start playing some disco because no one was feeling it. That was fine, but it was never the approach I wanted to go for at that particular time of night.
When I can visibly see people are leaving, and the promoter next to me is getting a bit anxious, you kind of have to bring out the disco.
I think it’s the expectation thing too. People think what you make is what you’re going to play.
Any favourite memories from partying?
I went to see Kerri Chandler at Santos Party House in New York. He was doing a reel to reel set. I’m still a massive Kerri Chandler fanboy.
It must have been amazing seeing him in New York.
That was the thing! It was almost like that everyone who had gone to his parties in the past was there. Kenny Bobien got up on stage and started singing. It was nuts. The hairs were standing up on the back of my neck. Kerri came to Belfast to do a Red Bull Music Academy talk and I got talking to him about it. He was like, “Aww man! That’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life performing!” That was pretty cool.
We booked Kyle Hall to play in Belfast a few years ago. Jamie Nevin, Mark Crawford and I. We just took him from the airport to my house on the Lisburn Road and got stoned for the entire evening (laughs). Kyle Hall, walking around my house with no socks or shoes on, chilling.
We played the gig and it was great. Kaidi Tatham came down; Kyle is a massive Kaidi fan. When we picked him up he was like, “Do you guys know Kaidi? I heard he lives in Belfast.” We were like yeah, we’ll give him a shout. I’ve never seen someone so excited to see Kaidi in my life (laughs). The two of them ended up hanging out after the party, it was really nice to see. Seeing someone who, in your mind, you hold in really high regard also fanboying over someone else is pretty amazing.
What does the future hold got Bobby Analog? Is there a long term vision?
I’m just winging it, man. I would like to start another label. If that doesn’t happen by the end of this year it’ll be the beginning of next. I want it to be a platform for my more original productions. I feel sometimes with releasing stuff you’re kind of backed into a corner. You have to put stuff out just for the sake of it. I’m never really content with the level I get to when producing. It’s hard to have quality control if you’re never satisfied.
I listen to people like DJ Sports and Central and I think, fuck, this is so good. I know it isn’t supposed to be a competition, but it’s not a case of I want to make something better than them, I just know that there’s things I can improve upon.
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