What is the story behind your latest mix special “Downtown Funk 2016”?
I wanted to get behind what made the success of the 2015 hit Uptown Funk so unique, as it seamlessly took music from a past generation to a whole new audience. Artists like the Johnson Brothers, The Time and Deodato – who I’ve worked with for years – were influencing on the biggest global hit of last year, yet many of the fans of Uptown Funk would be largely unaware of their repertoire.
How did you approach assembling the ‘runners and riders’ of this year’s mix?
I needed to do something special with Uptown Funk, and getting Nashville based Amerigo Gazaway to remix Trinidad James vocal over the beat crushed it as he’s the only artist to get credited on the original record. From their I built out with the roots like ‘So Ruff, So Tuff’, as well dropping ‘Night Cruiser’, as I learned that this was an anthem for DJ Chris Hill who pioneered the funk scene in the UK long before my time.
Uptown Funk created a lot of debate about the ethics of sampling, what’s your take?
Firstly, I was fortunate to work with producer Chris Read from Who Sampled, as their perspective on the emotive issue of sampling really gives me clarity. Secondly, Mark Ronson TED talk ‘How Sampling Transformed Music’ where he stressed sampling is ‘about inserting yourself into the narrative while pushing that story forward’. I share that stance, and simply focus on getting music across without crossing over.
Have you played the set out to a dance floor?
Last summer, I was DJ’ing alongside the great Daniel Glass (Glassnote Records) in New York City. The venue was twice over capacity, and I took the opportunity to try thread together much of this mix together at the club. The dance floor went nuts with the hip-hop tribute to the late great Ben-E-King, and stayed nuts till lights up. Joey Carvello was a great help in the selection so I’m confident this is going to work.
Given vinyl’s resurgence, what’s your take on the mixtapes, curation and platforms like Mixcloud?
Mixtape culture has been with us for decades, but Mixcloud allows those mixes to travel to places and communities that wouldn’t otherwise have been reached. I call this effect ‘playlists without borders’ as music is now travelling beyond its borders and it’s doing so without intent. The viral loops that drives Mixcloud means that the listener becomes the broadcaster, and that changes everything!