Nancy Noise & Leo Mas Talk: The Ransom Note ‘Versus’ Mix(Es)


Why have one mix when you can have two?

Yes, that's right, you're about to dive head-first into two whole hours of aural Balearic joy as Nancy Noise and Leo Mas go head-to-head in a winner takes all fight to the death summer of love mix-off. Leo Mas, was the protagonist and bore witness to the phenomenon that became the balearic and new house sound in Ibiza. Playing at the Amnesia club with the great Alfredo from 85 through till '88 – the Second Summer of Love no less kids Leo Mas will be flying over from Milan this weekend to host an evening session at Musica Noche's First Birthday on Sunday 3rd May. He'll be playing alongside good friend and one of London's pioneers and first lady of the Balearic; Nancy Noise of the seminal (a word not to be used lightly) London club Future.

As well as putting us together a mix each, the pair have engaged each other in a rather fine chat whilst you pick your winner from this love off.

We'll let Nancy introduce it all;

"When walking through the doors of Amnesia way back in the Summer of '86, l never could have imagined what a major part of my life it would be. I fell in love with the place, the vibe, the people in there and especially the music. That is where I first heard Leo and Alfredo play. The music and the way they played it was something else. I'm sure Leo & I will discuss some of what happened in those times…

"Roll on all these years later, Leo & I have been DJing together & I'm really happy to be playing with Leo in London for the Musica Noche 1st Birthday party. He has inspired me so many times & still does now."

Nancy Interviews Leo

What inspired you to make those tapes that Alfredo first heard of yours?

I have always been a vinyl junkie, I used to put mix tapes together, compiling them with the standout tracks from the LPs I did buy, that I used to give to my close friends. In the summer of 1984, I did record three mixes: one including the brand new Sade album, just released, and another two containing tracks from David Sylvian’s first solo album and a few tracks from Blancmange, Dominatrix, Felt, Tones On Tail…

In Formentera, through a common friend –  Ivan Lucchini – who used to shoot musical videoclips and used to run fashion shows, I got to meet the resident DJ of the club Amnesia in Ibiza, DJ Alfredo. One day, while me and my friend were giving Alfredo a lift to catch the last ferry to Ibiza, one of my tapes was on and it caught the attention of Alfredo. He was curious to know who did that mixtape and my friend told him it was one of mine. As he was about to catch his ferry, I ended up giving him the tape, which contained the entire Sade LP.

Recently Alfredo told me that he used to play that tape at Amnesia until he managed to purchase his own copy on vinyl from Delta Discos, the main record shop and regular hangout for every DJ in Ibiza at the time. 

What a great collaboration, you and Alfredo in Amnesia – the night was an incredible musical journey from start to finish. I know you guys used to source music together in Italy etc. Tell us a bit about it.

Before meeting Alfredo I used to play bass in a punkabilly band; occasionally I did some selections for fashion shows and some DJing for related after-parties, however, it’s down to Alfredo that I did become a DJ eventually. Our collaboration started in the summer of 1985.

In the winter of 1985, when Alfredo stayed in my house for few months, he started realising my passion and my obsession to source as many records as I could. At the time, the sources I used regularly and consulted were The Face, Record Mirror, ID, NME to name a few and he started to get interested and use them too. I took Alfredo to record shops in Milan and all over Italy that I used regularly, including a wholesaler who was trading imports from all over the world, a rare thing at the time, as you could deal with wholesaler only if you had a record shop or a related business.

We got to buy a lot of records that winter, as we were effectively programming the summer season of 1985 at Amnesia.

What I got to play at Amnesia was the result of my love and passion for quality music in general, I had the luck of being able to take the punters for a proper journey across the different genres, I’m very grateful to Alfredo as he trusted me and gave me the freedom to select according to my taste and I made the most of it obviously. Only at Amnesia I could have accomplished that, the majority of the punters would turn up late giving me the chance to warm up properly for those who were there early doors, selecting the music I loved, without having to play necessarily dance music. 

The majority of the big “Balearic” tunes from the likes of Elkin & Nelson, Enzo Avitabile, William Pitt, The Woodentops, The Residents were purchased in Milan…

I experienced it on the dance floor and saw it with my own eyes. Amnesia was such a special place back then. Can you put it into words what it felt like to play there? What a place for you to develop and learn your craft, what a gift your first residency!

Back then Amnesia was a really unique club, it was a magic place and very different from any other clubs like Pacha or Ku’; its management was very “DIY”, every bar was managed by a mixture of people from all over the world. The punters were a real unique mixture too: hippies, DJs, pop stars, gay, fashion people, gipsies, drug dealers and flamboyant characters who used to end the rest of their long nights at Amnesia. No rules, aside not taking pictures, it was pure freedom.

Playing records in front of such a mixed and diverse crowd required a healthy dose of courage and determination, qualities that Alfredo had in abundance, of course, and transferred to me. Witnessing the night’s atmosphere and the vibes unfolding from the DJ booth was phenomenal and quite moving actually; I used to spend the whole night in the DJ booth.

I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to experience all of this, as they say: I was in the right place, at the right time.

I have so many records that remind me of Amnesia, they take me straight back there. Those feelings never leave you. I know it's probably difficult to choose but do you have a few special ones ? 

There are so many records that remind me of that fantastic period and magically take me back to the Amnesia; I will choose one to symbolise every year I worked there: from 1985 to 1988 with Alfredo and on 1990 on my own.

Today these are my choices: 

1985 : Tony Allen & Afrobeat 2000 – NEPA (Never Expect Power Always)

1986 : Georgie Fame – Samba

1987 : Yello – La Habanera

1988 : Aerosmith – Rag Doll (Rockapella)

1990 : A Way Of Life – Trippin' On Your Love (Full Length Version)

You've been releasing some fantastic music Leo, what's coming up next?

Thanks for you kind words, Nancy, you are lovely! Here it is the release schedule for the foreseeable:

Flying Men “Only Love”, a split between me and my production partner Fabrice and Max Essa, which will be released on the Japanese label Catune, based in Tokio, on two separate EPs on vinyl. 

The Central Executives “Loveray 79” remix for my good friend Ben Shenton. The original track is off their LP released in 2014 that I loved so much and I do consider one of the best LPs released last year. It will come out on a vinyl EP, alongside another remix by Luke Solomon of one of their tracks off the LP “Dance Dance Dance” and another two new tracks, on the amazing NYC label Golf Channel, run by Phil South.

At the end of May, scheduled to come out on three separate vinyl samplers, a compilation that I put together for the label Music For Dreams, run by my good friend Kenneth Bager, called "Leo Mas presents: Mediterraneo – Rare Balearica Vol.1", that will showcase a series of obscure and rare Italian tracks.

Hell Yeah will release 4 remixes by myself and Fabrice, including one in collaboration with the legendary Italian ambient Maestro Gigi Masin, of the afro beat version of the track “Bella Ciao” by the NYC collective Underground System. I did play the cover of  “Bella Ciao” for the first time, during my set on Boiler Room on the last July in Ibiza, organised by our good common friends at Test Pressing, alongside “Mr Test Pressing” himself Paul Byrne, Kelvin Andrews and my friend and brother Alfredo. Bella Ciao originally was written for the Italian Resistance against the nazi- fascism, it’s an iconic hymn to celebrate freedom and it’s very close to my heart.

I am so excited and I can’t wait to play next Sunday for the first anniversary of Musica Noche with you, Dave and Sean from Love Vinyl and the of course the residents Dave, Russell, Adrian and Neil. 

It will be a fantastic!

Leo Interviews Nancy 

Before your first Amnesia trip you worked for S/A/W, can you say something about it? You were friend with any artist in particular of the team? Dead Or Alive were involved?  

Yeah, I worked for Pete Waterman as soon as I left school had a lot of fun with him. On my first week at work, Pete was bringing over Lamont Dozier to do some collaborations in London so I had to help organise stuff including a welcome dinner for him. So on the Friday of my first week at work I'm sitting at a table with the Legend Mr Dozier. I was always crazy about Motown so couldn't really believe it. I thought 'yeah, I like this job a lot!!!' At first we had an office in Stiff Records building, it was a cool place so would see some of the artists, bands like Madness, around. I watched them filming a video one day, then Pete got together with Mike & Matt we worked on some high energy tracks and I met the outrageous Divine and watched him perform a few times.

Then we moved to the studio I met all the artists that worked there. This is where I first met Youth he was in a band called Brilliant at the time with Jimmy Caughty & June Montana. Bill Drummond was their A&R guy so they were all at the studio a lot they were really cool. I became good friends with Youth. I met many great session musicians/singers too when working there, really talented people. We used to book Linda Lewis' sisters Shirley & Dee a lot for vocals, fantastic singers. I became friends with Dee and remember going to their mum's pub in East London & Linda getting up to sing with them all.

We had The Three Degrees, Princess and other artists on Supreme Records at the time. I loved it when Dead or Alive were recording at the studio, all the band there. Pete Burns and Steve Coy from the band with their amazing long hair and they wore such great clothes, beautiful suits. Pete used to say to me 'never keep your clothes for best, wear them everyday' as he did!! Working at the studio was a lot of fun – I saw the guys writing songs and also listened in on some of the sessions. I would come into work some mornings and Pete would take me into the studio, sit me in the middle and say "listen to this kid, this is what we did last night". It was great.  

What about your musical tastes before coming to Amnesia, what music did you listen at the time? 

I really got into soul/jazz/funk sounds when I was at school and went to lots of places to hear and dance to it, there was quite a big scene for it in the area I lived in. We also went to see a lot of them live. Stuff like Teena Marie, Change, Odyssey, Maze, Yellow Magic Orchestra and Cameo. Also hearing tracks like Cerrone 'Music of Life', Gilberto Gil 'Toda Menina Baiana' and falling in love with them. There was a really good shop on my way home from school called DJ specialising in all that kind of music & selling 12" so I would often go in there to listen and buy stuff. I loved The Smiths and The Cure so much and my sister was crazy about David Sylvian & Japan so I listened a lot to them and loved their music too.

Before Ibiza I was out at lots of gigs and parties in London, some things through work and others with friends. I remember going to the early days of the Raw, the Embassy Club and all the underground places in London loved the music go-go, rare groove etc. I loved Soul II Soul, African Centre, Shake n Fingerpop, Family Funktion, West World etc. I was also going to those places in between being in Ibiza in the summer would be doing all that in London in the winter with more places also like Delirium/Pyramid etc.

How has Amnesia influenced you?

It did so much but I never thought about it in that way when I was there; I just loved it. The first summer I was there in '86 the music blew me away – it was sublime. I suppose what influenced me so much was the varied styles of music all played in one night and the way it was all put together. So eclectic and hearing tracks and styles I had never heard before. Having to get into Amnesia at the beginning of the night to get in free was like a gift really as I then got to hear the music the whole night through and watch the night build with people coming in gradually. So the music both you and Alfredo played really influenced me, it really got into my psyche. As soon as I got back to London I bought the records that I loved in Amnesia, the ones that I could find in London that is, and my bedroom was like a shrine to Amnesia. Then the same again the next summer with the music being just as or even more amazing than the one before. Hearing this every night over the whole season and the vibes in there, open air, freedom was something you can't really explain – so good! I feel very lucky to have experienced it and it influenced me in such a big way. Then not planned at all the DJing kind of happened.

When you returned to London from Ibiza you started working with Paul Oakenfold at Future, can you say something about that situation?

I met Paul in ibiza '87 actually in Amnesia and was dancing around with him, hanging out a bit. Then when I came back to London I was hanging out again and he came up to my flat. I had all my records lined up along the wall, there were lots of things there I had heard and loved in Amnesia. He was like 'whose are these records?' Paul and Ian did one party in the smaller venue at the back of Heaven which was pretty amazing so they decided to do it every week. Can't quite remember how it all happened but they asked me about playing my tunes before Paul, so that's how it started. Not really wanting to be a DJ, I kind of did it thinking I was going to be playing music to all my friends but then within a few weeks the club was so busy and started to really happen. I loved playing music there, we played exactly what we wanted and it was really eclectic and fun. I was playing things I loved from Amnesia as well as music I heard in Glorys, mixed with a few things I that I was into like some hip hop, rare groove, David Bowie, Japan, Talking Heads, Prince etc. People really going for it in there with lots of whistling and 'arriiibas'. Great vibes and atmosphere. Future was special.

Can you remember the London of that moment? There was a revolution in the air, in the music, in the clothes…

It was so much fun, a great time in London. There was good energy all round, lots of people having the best time and big changes for some, the music was fantastic.

And the ecstasy… A lot of people really connecting – love for each other and a real friendly feeling. There was a definite look for those times, a look a lot like we had been dressing in Ibiza with loose clothes, converse, chevignon, head scarves. Some peoples lives changed so much – some that got involved in music/DJing and gave up their previous jobs and never looked back.  

Musically there's a new balearic season that we're living right now, what stuff do you listen to at home and what stuff do you play as a DJ?

I'm hearing so much music that I love all the time and discovering about new labels and producers from all over the world. Some really very beautiful mellow ambient stuff from artists like Gigi Masin, Jonny Nash, Andras Fox… I've always loved Brazilian music so I listen to that a lot and pretty much drive my family crazy with it, but it really makes you feel happy, right? It depends where I'm playing, some gigs are more chilled stuff or balearic eclectic stuff while other parties are more dance floor-based, playing all sorts afro, latin, disco, cosmic, tracks that kind of sounds like good early acid house and some great floaty house stuff – like your track Leo, 'Adamo & Eva' and stuff by Telephones. I'm really buzzing about all the music I'm hearing. I'm loving all the music from labels like Is It Balearic, Aficionado, Moton, Mr Bongo, Mukatsuku, Messalina, Magic Wand, Claremont 56, Soft Rocks, Ruf Dug, Joes Bakery, KM Editions, Emotional Rescue, Reverso 68, Faze Action, Above Machine – to name a few. Oh, and of course all of yours & Fabrice's music Leo! 

See Nancy Noise and Leo Mas at Musica Noche's 1st Birthday on Sunday 3rd May at The Horse & Groom – grab your tickets here.