K / D Keep It Deep sit down with long time friend and guest Soho who lives in London but originates from & brings style and flavour from the middle east. Soho steps up for Keep It Deep podcast 16 and also gives an in depth and honest interview across many topics. Soho forms part of The White Man & The Arab project alongside BLM of Fear of Flying fame releasing experimental house & techno on there self titled label. Soho Currently works at Phonica Records also working live and direct with vinyl, vinyl & even more vinyl. Soho is an digger from day one and collects and digs across all genres and has been booked to play several parties with the highlight coming to play at Fabric London as an key highlight alongside co-running the Like That parties way back in the day. Soho has also been an guest dj for our K / D parties last year and we are very proud to work with, support and share the back story to one of London’s dj / producers making waves. Enjoy the mix from Soho an showcasing and sharing an intricate repertoire of records spanning house & techno. This one has long been in the works and we publish this with immense pleasure, enjoy.
K / D: Lets take it back to growing up can you share some of your earliest experiences and how this shaped your road into music?
Soho: I grew up in Abu Dhabi, a small coastal desert city on the Persian Gulf. Much more different to what it’s now seen as this glimmering shiny city. Wasn’t really much going on while I was growing up there as a kid. A kid of the 80’s & 90’s I was pretty fascinated and inspired by the music of that era like most kids of my generation. It was a good time musically to be growing up. I wouldn’t say there were specific moments that lead me down a musical path, it was just the music that was around at the time that broadened my musical horizon. I remember hearing ‘M.A.R.S. – Pump up the volume’ when I was around 5 or 6 and that had a massive impact on me, I hadn’t heard anything like it. The music video for it as well was pretty special. I also remember hearing Herbie Hancock’s Rockit quite early on in life and being mesmerised by the sounds. Definitely left a lasting effect on my musical taste.
K / D: As a teenager what music did you discover or what subcultures or scenes were you part of?
Soho: Like most teenagers of my generation hip-hop was the first kind of music that I was drawn to after my adolescent years of religiously listening to Michael Jackson. In Abu Dhabi hip hop albums were banned at the time, although they were all still easily found and purchased but usually it was an under-the-counter kind of vibe, I’m talking about the early to mid 90’s. So once I found out this type of music was banned we wanted to know more, I was intrigued by it all. That was the catalyst to discovering loads of new stuff like 2 Live Crew, Ice T, NWA, Snoop, NAS, shit like that. I stumbled onto discovering Drum & Bass around 14 when I found Fabio’s ‘Promise land’ mix cd thrown into a bag with a bunch of my cd’s after a house party. That was sort of the beginning of my exploration into the more electronic and dance music kind of sound you could say. I think I was around 15 at the time when I heard Sasha & Digweed’s northern exposure cd’s and that kind of opened a whole new world to discovering underground electronic music. As a teenager we didn’t have any record shops or access to good music from the radio like in England with John Peel and Pete Tong’s essential mix, so buying mix cd’s if we could find them at shops like virgin or our equivalent of was the only real way to hear electronic music and find out about artists and dj’s. I wasn’t really part of any specific subculture, because were I grew up there was a large middle eastern as well as American & European expat community, all these cultures merged, everyone kind of mixed together, so you’d have kids that were big on their heavy metal hanging out with kids so into hip hop they thought they were living in Compton or queens. So it was just this hodgepodge of all these different subcultures, we got the best of all worlds I guess.
K / D: What music were you surrounded by with family; do any family members play instruments?
Soho: My background is Arab & Persian so there was a lot of that kind of music around my childhood, lots of Umm Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez from my father’s side and lots of Persian folk from my mothers. My father was also a jazz fan, so that music was being played to me from a young age. My mother was also really into her disco, so all these types of sounds were around me.
K / D: How were college studies and what backdrop did music play whilst studying?
Soho: I made the move to London in the summer of 2003 to go to art school. I made a conscious decision to move to London specifically to pursue my passion for music. In my opinion London was and still is, always way ahead of the game when it came to the music that I was into, so it was a logical step.
K / D: Can you share with us the London experience, when you came and what you did here and how you explored music here?
Soho: When I moved to London it wasn’t my first time experiencing the city. London was always a home from home for me, I’d been coming and spending my summers here since I was born as my parents had a strong connection with the city living here before moving back to the middle east, so I was fortunate to come to London and spend my summers here. Musically at the time when I moved to the city the whole ‘minimal’ sound was exploding on to the scene. It was a totally new sound for me and I fully embraced and explored it. There were a lot of great labels and music coming out during this time. Party wise I used to hang out and hold a residency at this little spot called the pool bar on curtain road with a group of other dj’s playing for a party called Multi Vitamins. It was on every Tuesday between 04 to around 07, so there was healthy number of residents playing week in week out. It was kind of where all the London kids that were into that micro house and minimal sound converged. Lot’s of artists came through out of the scene that I was in from this night. Later on there was another seminal crew that I was hanging out with an experiencing the whole 3-day long after party scene with the famous Central street crew! Those were great years, meeting and rubbing shoulders with the loads of different personalities from all over the world all sharing a similar interest in music.
K / D: Can you talk to us about Like That; it’s inception and its story?
Aaaah the Like That years. I look back at them very fondly. I miss those days immensely. That was the time you and I actually met. Like That was a night that myself, Nick Moreno and Pablo Cahn started together in 2006. I had already been playing in London a number of years already by that point with the Multi Vitamins nights and at small parties around London, but our concept grew out of a frustration of not being able hear artists that we were feeling at the time at smaller venues as opposed to big clubs. Before the whole east end warehouse party scene exploded onto the London nightlife there weren’t many promoters doing that kind of thing in London at that time. Of course there was Secret Sundaze and Mullet over but they were huge events for big crowds. We came along and brought it all back down to earth slightly, organizing smaller and more intimate warehouse style parties. There was Sud Electronic that was also kind of doing that around then, but that’s about it really. I mean I’m sure there was stuff going on, but they weren’t on my radar especially the scenes that I was a part of. We tried to book artists that hadn’t played in London before. Artists like Dandy Jack, Ryan Elliot, Matt John, and Cabanne to name a few. Eventually the party died down in London when both Nick and Pablo moved out of London and the whole of east London became saturated with ‘secret’ warehouse events, which weren’t very secret at all. Although Nick has been able to continue hosting one off events all over north and south America since he left London, and we’ve hosted a few parties in berlin in the last few years at the now defunct Kater Holzig so it’s still somewhat alive and kicking. Maybe in the future we can recreate it once again in London.
K / D: What London clubs, dj’s, scenes, record shops and experiences can you share?
The club that obviously had the most impact on me was fabric. There were other great venues like The End and The Cross, but fabric was my clubbing mecca. It seemed to take all the good points from other venues and enhance on them to create a space for people to really lose themselves within. I remember reading about its opening and the sonic dance floor when I still lived in Abu Dhabi and thought to myself that I was definitely going to visit once I returned in the summer. I used to religiously go and party there on Friday nights for the Drum & Bass and break beat nights and then go on the Saturday for the house and techno. It was the Saturday nights that influenced me the most. I remember hearing Craig Richards for the first time work that main room and was totally blown away. Nights like Tyrant were Craig & Lee Burridge played epic back 2 back sets had a huge influence on me musically. They were playing a mixture of house, techno and breaks that I hadn’t heard many other dj’s playing at that time. The Amalgamation of Sound who also used to hold a fabric residency as well in room 3 was always a high light for me. Andrew weather all was another DJ that was pretty influential on me, I first heard his blood sugar mixes around 98 or 99 and had no idea what that sound he was playing was, which I later learned was Dub Techno. I’d make it a point to make sure to catch him play at every opportunity I could. Then obviously with the whole minimal sound, Ricardo Villalobos’s early appearances at fabric were pretty special too. Those were the days that he would actually warm up the main room as opposed to the circus it is nowadays. Another hugely influential night was LTJ Bukem and MC Conrad’s logical progression nights that used to be held at The End on a Thursday. Another influential dj for me was Theo Parrish, I’d try and visit Plastic People to hear him play whenever he was in town. More recently I’ve been attending more Dub / Reggae sound system nights, University of Dub is probably one of my favourite events in London at the moment, it’s not really a new night either, it’s been going on for years. The first record shop I remember visiting was Plastic Fantastic around 99, which used to be in Covent Garden. I was still living in Abu Dhabi at that time, so I’d come to London during the summer and buy between 40-60 records that would last me a whole year till I was able to visit record shops the following summer and repeat the whole process again. Eukatech and Swag records were shops that I would also frequent on my summer trips to London. Wasn’t till around 01-02 when a good friend of mine had moved back from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi who was also buying and playing records had introduced me to the one and only Jay Robinson aka Jay Massive from Massive records in oxford. He would send us a load of stuff in the post that we would listen to over the phone, this was before online ordering took off. We would have to wait a few months before the package would arrive because of the shitty postal service that we had over there at time. Then obviously when I moved to London in 2003 I would hit all the shops around the west end like Koobla, Vinyl Junkies, Black Market and eventually Phonica. M.V.E. and Honest Jon’s in Notting Hill were also shops I spent a lot of time in because I lived west so it was pretty convenient for me.
K / D: You work at Phonica how has this been?
I do indeed. It’s been 8 years now that I’ve been working their part time. I’m not really up on the shop floor but work downstairs for the website, although I do help out upstairs whenever need be and always happy to hook my friends up that come in looking for the hot shit. I guess like a lot of people into records and vinyl culture working in a record shop is a dream, and that was the same for me. I always thought I had a pretty good knowledge and understanding of music before I started working at the shop, but in reality I was a novice. Obviously working in a shop like Phonica you are exposed to a huge selection of all sorts of music from old to new, this has been the best thing for someone like myself who collects records totally across the board.
K / D: The White Man & The Arab can you explain
Ben Micklewright (BLM) from fear of flying and myself had been making music together for a number of years, eventually we realised that we were sitting on a number of potential tracks that we thought were good enough to put out. We thought of sending out the tracks to labels that would be interested but in the end realised that it would be best to put it out ourselves that way we wouldn’t need to compromise anything. We thought of putting the tracks out using our own solo artist names but decided that we should use something wholly new. We thought we’d come up with a name that was a bit tongue and cheek and that would stand out and that represented our relationship. The name kind of came about out of that. I’m very proud of our output, we aren’t trying to wow anyone with what we do, we are just making music that we know how to make and if people like it then we are doing something right.
K / D: Records, collecting records, the ones that mean something can you talk us through the wax you have some of the gems you have found and some of your personal favourites?
Soho: I’ve always had a collector mentality if that’s even a thing. When I was younger I used to be a massive comic book collector. I guess, as I got older and become more interested in music that moved on to record collecting. I’m pretty proud of my collection today; it’s been 17 years now that I’ve been collecting records. I collect a wide range of music but I’d say I’m most proud of my jazz and dub / reggae records.
K / D: White Man & the Arab can you explain to us the work flow from ideas, the studio, equipment you use to getting some ideas down and then ready for eventual release?
Soho: I’d say we have a pretty lax approach to making music together. We never sit down and say ok let’s try and make this sort of sound or that kind of beat. It’s a very organic process. We trust our ears and know what we would like to hear if we were on the dance floor. We usually jam for a little while trying to build a foundation to a track, and then once we feel that we have something substantial we jam out one live recording that’s pretty loose. We then go back and clean it up, taking or adding things in and out and tightening it all up. The setup starts with the Jomox Xbase 888, we use this mainly for percussion although not exclusively. We also use Ensoniq esq1 as well as a Dave Smith Prophet 08, which is all wired up to a bunch of delay pedals and the eventide space reverb machine. All of this is sequenced in Ableton by sequencers made in max4live. Both of us bringing our own flavor to the table are what make the WMA sound. Long may it continue?
K / D: London’s current nightlife, venues, sound system, promoters, musical trends & your take on it can you share some experiences and thoughts?
Soho: I’d say London is still at the forefront of cutting edge electronic music. You can go out any night of the week and be treated to a wide selection of great music. In my opinion London has always been leading the trends as opposed to following any.
With regards to venues, ever since I’ve been in London we’ve seen the closure of many key locations, The End, The Cross, old and new Tbar, Plastic People, etc. These have hit the city hard, but London clubbers are pretty resilient when it comes to going out and having a good time, they always find away. The scene is still thriving with a lot of young blood coming through organising events all across the city. Although when it comes to promoters I feel that a lot of them tend to play it safe with obvious bookings, or they tend to stick to a certain sound. I’d like to see promoters taking more risks with bookings and not making things so clique and exclusive. At the end of the day its dance music, it’s for everyone to have a good time, not for a select few in the know.
K / D: What does the future hold for the young record collector, dj, producer, label owner what are your next steps?
I wouldn’t say I’m a young record collector with 17 years of collecting under my belt and almost 15 years of DJ’ing. Of course there are others in the game that have been collecting and playing out much longer than I have, so i would like to think that I fit somewhere in the middle. As for the future, I hope to continue doing what I love which is playing music for people to dance to, continue collecting music that means something to me and continue putting out music that people enjoy, whether it’s as The White Man & The Arab or as Soho or even putting out other people’s music.
Stay tuned for the 5th installment of The White Man & The Arab, we got a got some serious heat lined up!