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25 February 2016

Leo Zero chats to Jocks&Nerds ahead of guest DJ slot tonight at Ace Hotel in Shoreditch.

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Leo Zero

What were your early musical influences?

When I was growing up, everything fell into two camps musically. First was pre-house music. Then, around 1987-1988, a smiley-faced light bulb came on and things were never quite the same.

My teenage years were one long musical ‘who-dun-it?’ detective game. It would take years to hunt certain records down, and the deeper you went, the more records you discovered – like Alice down the rabbit hole.

The gateway drug was innocently picking up a Streetsounds compilation in Woolworths. Then you were on to the Ultimate Breaks and Beats LPs – and before you knew it, you were on the hard stuff and getting cold sweats outside Groove Records Soho while trying to bag one of the UK’s ration of ‘Fresh Mess’ by Knights of the Turntables on import [from the US].

Teenage years were all about pirate radio. My favourite DJ was Jasper the Vinyl Junkie on LWR – I still treasure my tapes of his shows. Listening now you realise what a golden period it was – with musicians first getting to grips with samplers, drum machines, digital effects, and synth basslines. Every week there was a new boogie/electro track that sonically wiped the floor with everything before it, and paved the way for house and techno and then everything thereafter.

By around 1986 and 1987, we had the UK’s first dedicated house music show, also on LWR : Jazzy M’s The Jacking Zone. My mates and I became obsessed with it – every episode was tape recorded, every track title written down. A section of the show had a direct hook up with Chicago DJ Rob Olson, and with it a hotline to the most futuristic/punk/DIY music on the planet. It was magical to witness the birth of a whole new genre: music made on machines you’d never heard of, that sounded like it came from outer space… it blew my little 14 year old mind.

 

Where were your first gigs as a DJ and promoter?

I went to art school at 16. My mate managed to get his hands on the student union entertainment budget, and we embezzled the lot – booking DJs Rocky and Diesel for one of their first gigs.

It was our version of soundsystem culture. We all pooled resources, someone had turntables, someone found a venue, someone else had a photocopier. And I was the guy who excitedly designed the flyers and posters, and put decor and projections up in the club – I loved it.

I got stuck into working freelance whilst moving on to a graphic design degree. Everyone wanted a bit of artwork for their clubnight, record shop, or label. It slowly became a full-time job as I got immersed in the culture.

Shrink 2 Fit was the first big promotion I did with you Stuart and where I had my first DJ residency. The night was all about our soul boy to soundsystem, to warehouse, to acid house lineage… with at least two rooms of music, playing the most cutting edge Detroit techno or left-field drum’n’bass alongside the London boogie classics and of course our beloved house music.

Tell us about your involvement in Soulsonic and Faith.

Soulsonic started like a private music appreciation society – strictly for the London house heads. Then all these legendary people started to turn up to the DJ booth unannounced…  Joe Smooth, Darryl Pandy all coming to check out our little party. It was amazing.

We lived through a golden age of house music, right at the rock face. It was pretty special… you saw anthems being born and crossing into the pop charts.

Around the same time, we started Faith with Terry Farley, Dave Jarvis and Bill Brewster and made a fanzine to go with it. After growing up obsessed with Boy’s Own [a fanzine by acid house DJs Terry Farley, Andrew Weatherall, Cymon Eckel, Steve Mayes and Pete Heller], designing Faith was like coming full circle for me.

London is a city of house devotees and Faith was all about that scene. We might not have invented the stuff, but we love it like no other place on earth. It’s our folk music, simple as that.

And those parties, when the crowd is clued up and the DJ is right… well, it’s our ‘church time’. I’ve seen grown men blubbing to Fingers Inc. records at Faith… it’s serious business. Most of the Faith lot have been there since day one as far as house music is concerned.

You have been a very busy producer for many years now, plus a highly regarded graphic designer; tell us about some of the music artists you have been involved with and about your design exhibitions.

I’ve got heavily into remixing after leaving club promotion. My first job was a three-man partnership with DJ Mark Wilkinson and engineer Richard Searle. We shared a studio with X-Press 2 [DJs Rocky and Diesel]. I basically sat over Richard’s shoulder for two years asking, ‘how did you do that?’ He was very patient with me and taught me loads.

Remixing is now my favourite thing to do. If I’m not doing a remix job, I’m re-editing something for fun. I’ve been blessed and had remix commissions from some amazing artists: Madonna, Paul Weller, Lou Reed, Bryan Ferry.

I still do lots of design work and have put all the club flyers and record sleeves together for various exhibitions over the years. Recently in Berlin, Leeds and Manchester – with a London exhibition later this year hopefully.

 

 

Read the full interview here

  • PHOTOGRAPH Nicholas Laborie
  • INTERVIEW Stuart Patterson
  • WORDS Edward Moore

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