Interview DJ Spen

WHO: DJ Spen
WHEN: 17th Nov 2008
INTERVIEWED BY: Toni | Defected

The Interview DJ Spen

"The thing about house music in particular is that it stems from what disco was, and disco's not dead despite what people may say; all we're doing is different variations of what disco was. In that aspect it's alive and well, I think globally, if you look at it, it is the quintessential party music, it really is". DJ Spen.

DJ Spen is one of the former producer collective, The Basement Boys. Now based in Baltimore USA, He's widely regarded as a pillar of the global house community, a true Dance music guru that spreads his knowledge and experience of soul, disco and gospel infused house across the world.

He is here to tell us about his newest mix 'clubland adventures' on Defected and why it is so unique. 

You have been pioneering and performing soulful house for many years - how has the sound moved on from when you started?

Yes, since I first started producing house music it's gone through several states; from the soulful sound being popular and then electro - which is really happening now. There's always a transition going on and, depending on the time, it can happen once every year or two. It's changed about four or five times since I first started.

The way I approach any kind of record is whether or not I like it, regardless of the genre. There are good records in any genre, and there are also bad ones; I try and fit elements of everything I like into my sets in a way that fits what I want to do and also what I think the crowd will enjoy. 

Tell me about some of your past DJ and producer incarnations. Who have you been in the past?

I was part of a group called Basement Boys which consisted of DJ Karisma, Teddy Douglas and Tommy Davis and I. That was my starting point as a house music producer. Then I was part of a group that I was doing with a guy named Joe Sane called Spensane Productions. Then there was the thing I was doing with Karisma, called Spen and Karisma. Then after the Basement Boys thing finished Code Red came about, then I've made records as DJ Spen, DJ Spen and the Muthafunkaz and the list goes on...

Do you think that this is a good time for global Dance music in General?

I think that it is. The thing about house music in particular is that it stems from what disco was, and disco's not dead despite what people may say; all we're doing is different variations of what disco was. In that aspect it's alive and well, I think globally, if you look at it, it is the quintessential party music, it really is. You can say that it's hip hop or RnB for some places or rock for others, but if you really look at it for all that is, even from the popularity side of it... it's that 4/4 beat man! 

What is it about soulful house music that you have found so intoxicating?

I grew up in a house where I was influenced by gospel. I was influenced heavily by my older brothers one of whom was seriously into rock - he liked good, solid rock songs. The other brother brought home disco, all the soul, and that's kind of what makes up what I am. I've been that way since I was a young kid and it only feels natural that the things that were pumped into me at such a young age drive me to do what I love today. It's not something that I learnt; it was something that was just there. 

Do you think you have now mastered everything there is to know about Ding - what was the last thing that you learnt?

No! The thing that I'm actually learning, and it's something that a lot of DJs who are globally known for a certain sound struggle with, is being able to go into a club like Pacha with the right ammunition and the right tools and to be able to make sure that at certain times I do what the crowd needs, not necessarily what they expect, but what they need along with what it is that I like. To be able to walk into a club I've never been in before and leave having done a good job, and have them call you back! 

You don't produce all your music by yourself right? Tell me about your production partners and what they bring to the table.

No, I work with quite a few people. Musically I work with a guy named Gary Hudgens who used to play for Parliament Funkadelic in the late 70's and early 80's, he's a funk-influenced sound genius; if you want a sound, he can make it, especially if it's an authentic thing. Also I'm working with a bass guitar player called Irvine Madden and he's becoming a very serious computer geek, delving into all sorts of things on the soft side. I'm also working musically with a guy named Alan Thomas who may as well be George Benson; a great, great guitar player, along with a load more musicians. Doing this on your own is quite tough! 

Let's talk about your mix... What it's all about? It's a mixture of classics and upfront tracks right?

It's a mix of what I really love about the Defected family's sound. I just had fun with it, trying not to be too serious about it so it didn't come out stale. I was trying to be as crazy as I could! There's a good mix of all kinds of things on there. 

Can you explain what this new Defected Clubland Adventures series is about:

It's a digital only series mixed by the power houses of the scene like, among others Simon Dunmore, Copyright and hopefully ATFC. You can go to it and download it as a mix or as individual tracks, as well as being able to download my exclusive mash-ups that I've done specially for the album that you can't find elsewhere. It's a very interesting concept because everything's moving over to the digital age so there won't be any actual physical copies out because it will all be available from the online download stores. 

Tell me about some of the tracks you are working on and artists that you are working with at the moment.

Right now, out on Traxsource, I have a track called 'Always' featuring Sheila Ford on lead vocals. I was happy because it actually reached number 1 against competition like Louie Vega and Kenny Dope! It was the first thing we've done with Sheila but we're going to do more because she is a truly amazing vocalist. Also coming on Code Red I have an album from Joe Ron and we've just remixed a track on that called 'First Nights of Love' that's going to be on our winter sampler along with some other Christmas goodies; that's coming out sometime in December. Also a track from the Jersey Maestros called 'He's So Real' which is going straight down our gospel route, and we've remixed that along with the digital mix. Not forgetting of course the Muthafunkaz album coming out around WMC. I've got quite a few things going on! 

If you had any advice to give to our readers - what would it be?

Follow your heart, dream big. If you've done the preparation required to follow your dream, when the opportunity arrives you'll be ready and at the end of the day that's all it's about. Make sure you're ready when the opportunity comes and when you've got it, you've got it!

Defected 'Clubland Adventures 5' mixed by DJ Spen is available from 17th Nov on itunes or www.defected.com.

Interview by Toni | Defected

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