K / D Keep It Deep Podcast number 19 comes from the charismatic Frazer Campbell, a productive London-based dj, producer, remixer, promoter & radio host. Frazer co runs his OPEN project with Anthony Campbell and slowly over the years has crafted his intrinsic, emotive & detailed sound through his productions on his OPEN label and also under his more left field and more experimental Elliot Project. The OPEN radio show can be found on Hoxton FM frequently. The OPEN parties have passed through various London night spots including Pickle Factory, Studio Spaces and also at London’s new under the radar bespoke rave pub Lion & Lamb. The OPEN project supports local talent and more internationally sought after heads with previous guests including Endian, Isherwood, Slow Life, Steve O’Sullivan, Jane Fitz, Saoirse & Voigtmann to name a few. We caught up with Frazer for a conversation covering Frazer’s younger years, first exchanges with nightlife including Fantazia tape packs, learning to dj at 16 and how we arrived to more recent times with his co run OPEN project, in the studio & nightclub licensing in London. Check the podcast for an illustrious electronic excursion over 80 minutes of blending tones, details and frequencies. Check Frazer on Facebook here & on RA here OPEN here & Soundcloud here.
K / D: Can you share with us an insight into you upbringing with any stand out memories?
Frazer Campbell: Wow what a question. Here goes … I grew up in Fulham west London with my mum, went to pretty strict schools and didn’t really do much as a youngster except homework and sketch In my free time. When I got to secondary school music was my thing from about 11 or 12. Was never into sport and never will be frankly. I loved art and anything that involved using my hands like pottery and woodwork. Hahaha and eating. I defiantly enjoyed doing that! Was a tad tubby as a kid and carry a bit of timber as an adult!
Trying to think of a childhood memory … ahh I suppose one particular memory that jumps to mind is when my mum fell on top of me when walking me to school, primary school of course not sixth form!! Anyway she always walked me to school and I always weaved from side to side being the young athlete that I clearly was; and I crossed her path, she fell on top of me and People in cars standing in traffic laughed hard at the awkward moment. She was mega pissed off and I felt like a real tool. Mum is tiny woman so it would have looked like a weird comedy sketch. That really stuck in my mind and emotionally scared me……haha
K / D: As a teenager what experiences did you have with music, what did your parents listen to?
Frazer Campbell: In my teenage years I glided through so many genres but was super passionate about all of them at one time or another. I suppose most teenagers’ meander through different vibes dependent on circles of friends …for me the real focused passion began when I got into drum and bass. Then something ignited inside me, which I have such fond memories of.
You asked about my parents. My mum was quite into music actually, collected bits and pieces of vinyl and one artist that I recall her talking about a lot was cat Stevens. I can even remember the retro vinyl racks and small stacks of 7 inch’s in a few different cupboards in the flat. Also the old school record boxes with flip over lid and little brass buckle with one of that suitcase locks… hahhahah a real journey back in time. It’s nice to think about those times. Dad isn’t really into music although I know he likes Dolly Parton and Cher…don’t think my vibe came from his genes!
K / D: Can you remember the first piece of music you owned either on vinyl, cd or cassette?
Frazer Campbell: Every time I am asked this first thing that jumps into mind is ‘salt n peppers’ ‘let’s talk about sex’. I had that on 7-inch wax. Wish I knew where it was! Always frustrates me that I can’t remember!! Apart from that record my collection was full of tapes …full!! I had hundreds of cassettes on a bookcase in my room. Many were recordings from pirate radio stations but one tape that I will never forget was a live recording Fantazia tape from castle Donington – DJ Donovan bad boy smith. That tape was key to me and really steered me in the direction of music. I played it non-stop. Lost that tape too. It had Fantazia written on it in tip ex pen. Pure hooliganism! Thinking back on the cassette days; I recall sticking cello tape over the top corners to allow you to re-record over it… those were the days! You had to use more than your ears to listen to music.
K / D: When did you first encounter local nightlife or went to a nightclub, how did you find this?
Frazer Campbell: My first outing was to club called Labyrinth in east London – Dalton I think. It wasn’t local but although I grew up in Fulham I was not into its nightlife. Labyrinth now that was truly incredible. I can remember many moments from my first ever night and will never forget. It was a beehive of small rooms, psychedelic backdrops and dirty underground sound, drum and bass, hardcore proper raving. Thinking about it makes me smile as it was so exciting and such an escape from normality. It was a new world to me…. an underground word of only music. Nothing else mattered.
I found out about it via my mates younger sister funny enough. He said she went quite a bit and it was really good so I braved it and left the comfort of my Yuppie surroundings and head east! I wasn’t disappointed and that then opened doors to what would become my true love.
K / D: Can you share early inspirations, artists, compilations, tracks, and mixes?
Frazer Campbell: I mentioned before the Fantazia cassette but on from that there were always key tracks, DJs and artists that grabbed my attention. ‘Follow me’ by Aly-Us is still one of the most ultimate house cuts ever and still has the same impact all these years later. But pre my house obsession, tracks like Greece 2000 on cream compilations and drum and bass track ‘Pascal’ p funk era were mind-blowing pieces that fed my hunger for all things electronic. You asked about compilations and this is a real easy one to answer. The renaissance series were always incredible, Nick warren, Dave seaman … they played sets that told stories, that took you away from life for 90 minutes and frankly I couldn’t give a shit about anything or anyone. Just me, a pair of average headphones and my imagination. Those times were when I didn’t take it so seriously I just truly loved what it did to my frame of mind. I do miss that and know that those times are gone. You get older and other stuff comes
Into your life and when it becomes a passion you begin to take it very seriously …bring back the days of listening to a mix in my bedroom, light off and not giving a fuck. One other slice I loved was ‘forever more’ by Moloko – Francois k mix. Fucking epic piece of house with the sexiest voice…! Standing in King Cross vibing to that…priceless.
K / D: When did you start to explore djing and records?
Frazer Campbell: I got my first set of turntables in 94 — I was 16. Spent all my Saturday job money on records from slamming vinyl in Kingston. Got the green 85 bus there every Saturday from Fulham and made a fool of myself playing the guys snips on my Walkman or humming something to them… felt like an idiot but to be honest it was worth it to get what you wanted, put it on the deck when you got home and bam! Still love that feeling 23 years later. Although thankfully gave up the humming to record store people…Walkman…. my yellow waterproof Sony Walkman also vanished with my first record and that Fantazia tape!
K / D: You also produce music can you explain this journey?
Frazer Campbell: Production… I hated it years ago. I worked with a friend of mine Richard. We called ourselves the damage boys. Hahahah I really struggled with it. Found it so hard. I was never into computers and found it a chore but thought it was something I should do. That was in the early 2000’s. Anyway about 5 years ago I really wanted to try it all again. This time it was different. I had an inner need to do it, a passion for it. So slowly but surely I started making bits and after about a year started Sending the odd thing out and tracks were being signed up. I have built up my studio over the years and at Time have been obsessed with equipment buying. It was and still
Is so exciting and a fundamental part of my life. Expressing myself through sound is something that is quite exquisite. It’s so fulfilling and nourishing to who I am and although it’s tough sometimes, when it goes right … there is no better feeling. It was so exciting to have people from different parts of the world wanting to sign my music…. Columbia, USA…I mean what a feeling. I suppose that gives you the encouragement to continue. It’s so nice when someone sends a message to say how much they dig what you make. …Incredible.
K / D: Can you explain your current projects OPEN, Hoxton FM, Elliot project.
Frazer Campbell: Yeah sure … OPEN started off as a radio show, then a Party and now also a label. Not just a progression but like I described before, a personal need to do it! OPEN recordings launched last year and already has 3 releases out and 4th on the way. Have to say a big thanks to all the OPEN team and Artists involved, Anthony Campbell, Will Allen, Steve O Sullivan, Onirik, Alessandro Crimi, Nick Beringer, The Dnart guys and more but keeping those quiet for now…. Really blessed to have a great collection of people.
The funny thing is that in this industry a label can become pigeon holed quite easily in terms of a sound and that is something that I really hate. I pay no attention to trends, to particular styles. I love so many genres and flavours and that was really the conception of Elliot project. Because OPEN is associated to a party the styling of music can be expected which is fine but Elliot projects purpose is to push aside all that and just be a record with music on it. Nothing more. In fact I wrote a track called ‘Araline’ which is a deep drone type techno piece, which was 16 minutes long, and when I finished it II thought to myself ‘I want a label for this but it needs to be mine’. And so 2016 saw Elliot Project appear and I was so happy to receive such great response from global artists appreciating the concept and the music. Again a huge thanks to Artists that have joined me; Hemo and Stu Crosbie.
Hoxton FM has been such great fun. The OPEN show has run for 4 years or so and has been a weekly show. I have now reduced my appearance to once a month but it is such a great station. Full of passion…big thanks to Dan Formless and the team for keeping that cog turning all of the time.big up.
K / D: Just to indulge into your studio process can you share how you gained your knowledge, what hardware or software do you use and which producers inspire you?
Frazer Campbell: My Sacred man cave! In terms of knowledge if you can call it that, I pick things up as I go along. I have never been trained in particular software or hardware but tend to experiment nowadays while referring to my production handbook – You Tube. To be honest you tube is really helpful at times and you can eventually find out what you need or at least get close to it. I use Ableton as my DAW and have done for quite a while. My first introduction to production software was by a friend of mine Richard Carey. He is a computer buff and a passionate music lover and explored Cubase to start with. He showed me the ropes with it years ago and if I am being totally honest; I hated it …it was really tough, boring to look at and my small absorption rate of new information was limited.
He moved on to investigating Ableton and said that I would prefer it and he was right… For me Ableton can be used as simply or as complicated as you desire. You control the levels of difficulty and for that reason I really love it. I only use it for laying out tracks as 80 percent of my tracks are recorded in from hardware but there will always be a cheeky element that a VST will concur over the hardware. Both mediums are crucial.
In terms of producers I aspire to…that’s a big question! I haven’t seen many people in their own studios so understanding what people do and how they do it is tricky to judge but based on the sound created and the way it is presented then an easy top 3 for me are Steve O’Sullivan, Marcos Cabral and Linkwood. Steve O’Sullivan for his solid sounding kicks and bass with first class melodic hooks, Marcos Cabral for the creation of pure filthy sounds and distorted low frequencies and Linkwood for his specialized disco infused jazzy electro. 3 top pilots in my opinion who know the studio.
K / D: London nightlife has changed immensely over the course of the last 12 months what are your thoughts on this from fabric opening and closing, licensing getting more challenging, Printworks and new spots like the lion & lamb?
Frazer Campbell: London is a changing place that never sits still. This is what appeals to so many but is also results in the damnation of it. The licensing scenario is incredibly difficult for venue owners / leaseholders. Having created any business from the foundations is a massive challenge and then to forced into different directions with no control or input is incredibly demoralizing and has massive impact to owners, staff and customers. The Fabric scenario in my opinion was incredibly sad, as first of all we must remember that someone died foremost. Situations like this pass by for the majority of us but for that lad and his family it won’t. For the club to be held accountable for it – well that was silly and was not called for. I have no doubt that the establishment had many hurdles to jump pre this and have done so successfully for many years. Therefore there are other things going on behind the scenes and frankly as London becomes more powerful, more interesting, then so-called cool areas like this become more inviting for wealth and development and that’s how all cities become greater…not just here but the world over. ……….Jeer that was a tad deep! I tend not present my inner thoughts often but your question got me thinking. Other smaller venues have suffered too and indeed lost the fight to stay open. East London venues are suffering and this is because the areas are becoming so sought after that as the influx of new people and wealth arrives then the concept of the area changes and becomes a powerful place to reside. It is a shame as London will begin to lose its identity and that would be devastating as many great artistic cultures have been created here and cultivated.
K / D: How do you manage to juggle your day job, djing, producing, running a label, party, radio, social media etc., would you like to go full-time on the music stuffing the future?
Frazer Campbell: If you can call it manage! It is incredibly difficult and exhausting. I suppose having a normal day job keeps me grounded and it is also an important part of my life. I own my own business, which I spent a long time developing so it also has a section of my heart or maybe my head. The music is something that I have always been passionate about. From my first outing to Labyrinth it became part of what I am. For that reason pushing through with everything is driven by love and lots of Coffee! Of course the some aspects of the work load are spread out between my brother, William and I but my schedules and work load are tough but if you plan well and understand your time limits then there is just about enough time for all… I say that I am always panicking and rushing around! An example is that I now only do the radio once a month at Hoxton FM so that I can use that time on Fridays for Label work, record digging and studio. Would I like to go full time doing what I love I would give it a go.
K / D: In this day and age do you think artists can live off djing and producing?
Frazer Campbell: It depends on what level you are talking about. For the youngsters living at home then you could probably get by but moving through the life cycle it would be very difficult. There will always be lucky ones who have the right connections as well as the talent but living in London is expensive so it wouldn’t be easy. Plus if you want to run a vinyl label for example the outlay costs are high if you want full control and the return is minimal so again a labour of love. Making money from releases as an artist again is tiny unless copies are flying out the door and in this niche sector that too is a challenge.
K / D: Any shout outs to anyone who has had a profound affect on your musical output over the years and helped you get to where you are?
Frazer Campbell: A big shout and respect to: Lisa Tonner (my Wife), Anthony And his wife Oksana, Dan from Hoxton FM, Steve O Sullivan, Onirik, Rakhee, Jason at Kristina, All Open and Elliot project artists. Big kiss to Stu Crosbie and Hemo.….All Promoters that have booked me especially Dean Marc, Guys at Wetyourself , Toi Toi …….Pickle Factory ……The list could go on and on……so many people play parts in your life but remember focus on what you want and go get it…..Time doesn’t sleep.
K / D: What do you have planned for 2017 and the summer?
Frazer Campbell: I say the same thing all the time but just to spend more time in my studio. I really want to make an album so this is always on my Mind. I don’t focus too much on it but never let it leave my thoughts. I have a number of finished pieces that sit in a folder ready for the right time. Gig wise this Month (April) my DJ schedule is pretty busy with gigs in Moscow, Lisbon and London.OPEN’s 4th birthday kicks off on the 1st April with Endian, Idealist and Anthony Campbell, 8th April I am in Moscow for the Mosaic records party with Steve O Sullivan and Annie Errez, 16th April in Lisbon with Jorge Caiado plus an in store at Carpet & Snares and finishing the month off at The Lion and Lamb in Hoxton. Probably going to be sleeping in May!! ….
In June I will be in Greece with Hemo (Elliot Project), which will be incredible …and super hot. …Lots of sun and good records…yep.
Label wise there is always so much going on. OPEN will probably have 005 released and Elliot project 04 has an EP from Dark Arts Label head Stu Crosbie… to be honest the labels take up a lot of time with promo, posts, YouTube, chasing plants and distributors but all worth it… so will be spending a lot of time on my laptop and the phone!
On a personal front a few exciting collab projects are also due out in the summer so that will very special too but not giving any more detail just now!
I am quite superstitious and Worry about jinxing shit all the time but I am blessed to have such great opportunities and to meet great people in this musical world.
K / D: The mix which weaves and glides for an hour & 20 minutes can you explain how it came to be, artist and labels it features?
Frazer Campbell: Thank you!! Podcasts are always a challenge as I collect so many genres of music. I spend a lot of time working out what vibe to go with which takes a few days to decide. I like podcasts to be showpieces and not necessarily what you would play at a gig but this time I went against the grain and wanted to present a close representation of a gig set. I am quite an emotional person so I like to think that all the music I collect even through from one spectrum to the other holds a core of emotion and thoughtfulness.
Lots of great labels and artists in there, which I keep close tabs on. Labels such as Minimood, Budare, Epidsodes, Kimochi and Ornate…. Artists to name a few…Lief, Paolo Tocci, Christina Viviano and Faune…so many now I can’t remember!
To all artists: I will mention you all in any posts! This is important for people to support and promote! Key! Records do not buy themselves!!!