dj to dj: neville watson & semtek

To mark the release of Neville Watson’s glorious LP – Songs To Elevate Pure Hearts on the equally great Creme Organisation – the man himself is playing at Dance Tunnel this Thursday at a party hosted by the Moons Above crew. Joining Mr Watson on the night is Mr Benji Roth, aka Semtek, owner of one of the UK’s most vital labels, Don’t Be Afraid. They sat down to discuss everything from blubbing in the kitchen to escaping to the Pyrenees…       
S: Neville, you have been releasing music for over 15 years, what do you think held you back from finishing an LP until now? 
NW: I just hadn’t felt the inclination, I was always too busy with twelves. It was something that I knew I’d get around to eventually though and when Crme asked for an album I bit their hand off. 
S: Do any of the tracks on the album have a special personal meaning to you? If so which ones, and why?
N: The album itself is dedicated to my wife so I guess that’s pretty personal, and The Girl From Kowloon Tong is specifically for her because she’s from, erm… Kowloon Tong. 
S: A lot of people know you as part of the duo Kink and Neville Watson. Has that held back your career as a solo musician though?
N: No, not all. If anything it’s only helped.  It’s quite odd really because there are people who like our stuff together and people who like our solo material, so it all works out quite well really. 
S: You documented the importance of music to a generation in your book Raving ’89. Is music still as important today? 
N: Of course, music never really loses its power. We think it does because we surround ourselves with it all the time and get caught up in all the other stuff, like whether the Daft Punk album is any good, or digital versus analogue. But then we’ll still be poleaxed by a piece of music and find ourselves blubbing In the kitchen in the middle of the day. 
S: What do you do to relax when you’re not writing or touring? 
N: Hmm, I’m not very good at relaxing. I find it very difficult to sit still. Exercise is very important in my life and I pretty much need that to calm me down. Whether that’s walking in the woods or searching out obscure Russian training routines. That said I do love a film or a good box set to get into and I’ve always got a book on the go. 
S: Would you still encourage young people to become involved in music? If so, how would you recommend they go about getting involved? 
N: I’d encourage anybody to get into music if that’s what they really want to do. But be prepared for the long haul. Obviously some people make it overnight but that’s rare and you really have to love it to weather the tough times. In fact even the people who appear to have come out of nowhere have normally been hard at it for years. As far as getting involved, just start your own thing, don’t wait for someone else. Get out there and meet as many people as you can and notice what’s working for you, if you’re not getting results adjust what you’re doing.
More importantly, be nice. No one likes an arrogant dick and it’s a small world. 
S: If someone had the opportunity to listen to the album in any setting, where would you want them to hear it? 
N: Either walking up the steps to the Lantau Buddha in Hong Kong or on the 38 bus in London. 
S: If there is one track or 12″ not by you which you wish you had written, which one would it be? 
N: Strangely enough there isn’t. I get much more enjoyment out of listening to other people’s music than I do my own because I’m attached to it in a different way. The music I really love seems perfect to me, even in it’s imperfections. If I felt like that about something I’d written it would be a bit wanky. 
At this point the tables are turned, so to speak, and Neville puts his questions to Benji…
NW: What piece of music has been going around in your head today?
S: Gifted & Blessed – Chichen Itza (Wild Oats). It has been a favourite of mine since it came out a few months ago. 
N: You once escaped to the Pyrenees to work in solitude on music, do you find it easier to work away from people or are you fairly adept and switching off outside distractions?
S: I do find it easier to work when I’m away from people. Ironically, given that I promote parties and am frequently to be seen out and about in London, I’m not really the most sociable person you will meet and I find it a lot easier to concentrate when I have time and space to myself. 
N: It’s taken you a little while for your excellent label, Don’t Be Afraid, to get noticed but you’ve stuck it out. Were there times when you felt like jacking it in and if so what kept you going?
S: There hasn’t been a point at which I’ve felt like jacking it in yet, I’m blessed with some great artists on the label and a supportive group of fellow music lovers who I converse with when business becomes tough. My greatest frustration to date has been dealing with the mountain of paperwork which comes with running a small enterprise, but I have learnt a lot from that aspect of the trade as well. 
N: Tell me three things you love about running a label.
S: The thing I love the most is putting out music by up and coming artists who don’t yet have a profile. As a label, that is the most you can offer someone really, to give them an opportunity to shine despite the fact they don’t yet have a name. I enjoy the design challenges we face as well, I like to get involved in the design and in sourcing materials for products. I also enjoy learning about new areas like publishing and copyright. 
N: Who is doing it for you DJ’wise right now? 
S: To be honest, the guys who I enjoy listening to the most are guys like Chris Farrell of Idle Hands, Jon K of Hoya Hoya and Domenic Cappello of Sub Culture who hold it down at small parties on a regular basis in their own local areas. I have never really been a believer in big room music, to be honest. 
N: Your favourite thing about living in London, outside of music?
S: London has a fantastic cultural life outside of music. The best thing any musician living in the capital can do is to absorb as much influence from other media as possible. To be able to really develop as an artist today you have to have an interest in the visual, the aural and the written word, and London can provide stimulation on all three fronts in abundance. 
N: What do your mum and dad make of your chosen career path?
S: I’m not sure I’d call this so much of a career path as a career predicament, but to be honest I don’t think I or anyone else ever had a choice in this. Music is in my blood, I have been involved in it since I was as young as I can remember and I’m likely to be involved in it until I’m as old as I can imagine.
N: What do you feel most optimistic about right now (music or otherwise)?
S: The weather, which seems to be warming up for a nice summer. Here’s hoping it stays that way.
Moons Above presents Neville Watson ‘Songs To Elevate Pure Hearts’ LP launch at Dance Tunnel this Thursday 5th June. It’s free and you should go. For more info, follow this link