Interview with the Great Aphrodite
Aphrodite has secured his position as one of the most respected men in drum ‘n’ bass through a series of monumental productions and projects. Right back from the seminal rave anthem Some Justice to the jungle anthem Basslights and through to drum ‘n’ bass classic of Tower Bass, Gavin King has crafted a unique style which has always sought to innovate the state of jungle music whilst never following the cliché trends that have dominated dance-floors.
When I sat down to think of who I would like to interview next, there weren’t a huge amount of people I could think of who I was genuinely interested in. Having been first introduced to drum ‘n’ bass by tracks like Bomber and Arsonist, and always being fond of the bouncy side of the Urban Takeover camp, I thought that Aphrodite would be a good person to interview. But what could I ask him that he hasn’t been asked 1000 times before. Having made beats and spun to crowds worldwide for over a decade it is not to difficult to work out that Aphro is going to have been accosted by practically every conceivable question I could ever think of. Never too heavily in the limelight, whilst always commanding a sort of respect from his peers, Aphrodite was probably the wrong choice of person to interview (especially by me). Having not read many interviews with Aphrodite, this interview is more a reflection of my ignorant curiosities about a man who I’ve come to respect for a number of reasons. The questions are fairly formulaic, and I think they are, at times, interesting. This isnt a ground breaking piece, but it is a reminder of what this man has done for this culture and how much respect he outrightly deserves.
Heavily criticised throughout periods of his career, here is a veteran of the drum ‘n’ bass scene, a true child of the rave. Here is Aphrodite, a true junglist through and through.
Wassup Aphroditie!!! What have you been up to today and how are feeling right now? Whats on your mind?
Well - I'm getting to grips with working on mt new G4, logic reason and stuff. Its a new way of working for me, reading manuals, checking in at the office and enjoying the heat.
You spend a lot of time in America, so what's your take on George Bush and the current situation with Iraq?
I think George Bush is a war monger, not in touch with the needs of the world, he seems only motivated by pretty selfish means for his country and his voters. Not what the world needs at all from the leader of the world's richest and most powerful nation. Surely its time to appreciate the differences in the world and work with
them, rather than dictate with the back up of force what you want unopposed for personal gain. Its a real shame, and thank God there is a limit to his term of office. He has single handedly destroyed all the diplomatic good done by Bill Clinton and made the rest of the world look down on American values, making it
tough for Americans to travel. Although people shouldn't judge somebody from a country because of their
politics, it can't be helped.
There was a European song contest recently, and the British entry got zero votes, out of possibly hundreds, purely based on the fact the Britain supported the war on Iraq. Looks like France have been proved right, there was no proof of weapons of mass destruction, the people of Iraq would rebel and the threat of terrorism would increase.
Wow that was a bit of a sound off!!
You've been involved in drum n bass since day one. What inspired you to stick with this one scene for all these years? Have you ever found yourself getting so frustrated with the scene that you've felt like jacking it all in?
Basically because I love the music - it still gets me and it’s the most exciting form of dance music for me. Especially when you see a drum and bass crowd properly going off. Never felt frustrated with the scene to the point of jacking it in. Sometimes there is a gripe, but if it comes from some kid in a chat room or someone sounding off on dogsonacid.com, then it doesn't effect me. Only when critique comes from a peer would I notice. But that doesn't hardly ever happen. After a few years, DJs recognise the need for all the different aspects of the music scene. For example, if I am booked to play in a new country and it goes well then the whole scene benefits from this.
Do you think you're still 100% devoted to the scene today, or are there other things in your life which have become more important and, perhaps, put things in perspective a little?
I am a little older and values change with that, health and family are always more important than any dance scene.
You've collaborated with and remixed a lot of hip hop artists. Is hip hop your other love, and what do you think of today's scene as opposed to, say, ten years
ago? Will UK hip hop ever be able to compete with the US scene?
I really like hip hop. I still remember when the first tracks started to appear in the early eighties. Great days for music. The US scene is pretty closed off from the UK scene. There are lots of arguable reasons for this: Until a UK act is much better than any US act then they
won't notice, the huge amounts of racial tension in the states when compared to the UK, which is by no means paradise, and the commercial nature of US artists compared to UK acts to name a few of the reasons.
A lot of people in the scene are constantly saying that MCs are fast becoming too arrogant and too lazy. Do you think people like Skibba, Shabba and Det are
becoming too cocky and complacent, and what's your view on MC culture in general?
If they do then people will stop wanting to see them, simple as that. I do like a good MC, but not to the sacrifice of the DJ. Its a joint effort.
I do a lot of sets without MCs and these are the sets I enjoy most, as getting the crowd going is purely based on the rises and falls in my wax selection.
There’s a fair amount of dark moodiness in drum n bass, but you’re productions and work have always sought to add a little bounce and light to the scene. Is this a conscious decision to take a slightly more light-hearted (for want of a better word) approach? What do you think of all the moodiness there is in drum n bass, especially at the bigger raves?
Its OK if you want a scene full of puffer jackets, but I like vocals and other styles too. Its all about a groove for me, be it happy, deep, dark. I have always said that I enjoy the variety rather than crash bang wallop
almost for the sake of it. Without some of the vocal or bouncier stuff, the scene would probably collapse in on itself, as it tends to in 3-4 year cycles every time there is a rebellion to the bouncier stuff getting more popular and sometimes commercial.
In what area of the world are your sets best received, and where is your favourite place to play?
To be honest, the best place for me is always England. My set style changes depending on what the crowd is like. Thats what DJing is all about, playing to the crowd.
At this point I threw in a fairly standard question about the formulaic sound of Aphrodite’s music and was given a short but sharp answer that a lot of people should probably take note of. Aphrodite seems to me to have a genuine sense of direction and a real understanding of music and drum ‘n’ bass. Truly, he has a wise, down to earth head on his shoulders.
Without doubt, you have the most original production style in drum n bass. You can spot an Aphrodite tune a mile off. Some people have gone so far as to say
that your work is perhaps a little too formulaic? What do you say to this?
More a less the same thing can be said about Roni Size, Ram, Bukem and more. Is style a formula?
So if there is a formula to how he and everyone else works, it got me thinking about whether or not this is a good thing, and if a producer can ever really break out of the fundamental formula of how he or she works. Every sound is different, and everyone has a different way of working to create these sounds, but it is the uniquely crafted, individual style of good producers that dictates how they work. If you don’t have formula and a certain style and way of working, then surely all you have is random sounds. Perhaps, as Aphrodite is implying, formula is important. After all, a unique formula is a creation and an innovation in itself.
Have you never really felt the need to break out of this formula and move with other trends in drum n bass? Whereas a lot of your older productions (Booya, Basslights, and so on) seemed to fit more with the then contemporary sound, youre music has almost taken its own path, separate from the direction of drum n bass as a whole.
Well, that’s only true of the tracks that get spot lighted. Ask yourself if there’s a reason for that spot light?
I have made nearly about 200 tunes and counting. The others are out there, but now its more a case of expectancy from people. They want a certain style and now and again I make it, and everyone judges me from that one type of tune. Booyaa, Basslights Bomber, etc were just from an era before I had chart Success. Once that happens, people put you on the firing line and blame you if other producers follow you direction. And anyway, who honestly cares about making tracks the same as everyone else. It’s the variety of styles that makes the scene strong. There is a hell of a lot more to drum and bass other than what gets played during the flavour of the current month's DJ set.
There always has been. Some very interesting points indeed. Clearly this is a raw subject for Aphro, and this highlights the scrutiny that his work is constantly under. Paradoxically, the more people have wanted a certain sound from him, the more this sound has been criticised. Another point about Aphrodite’s work that crops up in discussions frequently is that of his work being cheesy. A lot of people say this, and so perhaps it is true to an extent, but how can you define this ‘cheese,’ for want of a better word, and if it does exist and shows through in Aphro’s work, then what is it that makes this a bad thing. I often get the impression that junglists sometimes slate Aphrodites work and turn against it, proclaiming it as cheesy, simply to rebel against some kind of user friendly sound. The same was true of the Shy FX backlash that occurred recently. If something sounds good, then what is the harm in liking it, and admitting to liking it, just because of some kind of vibe within drum ‘n’ bass that tries to dictate the mood of the scene as a whole. This was always going to be a well worn, touchy subject to dwell upon, and to be honest, Aphrodite’s response was exactly as anyone would have expected. No doubt it was a response given 100 times before.
A few people have said that you're music possibly borders on the line of being cheesy? Do you think it does? How do you deal with any criticism you receive?
The internet, for example, is full of people criticising and complaining about one thing or another.
Fuck them - if they don't like it then don't listen to it. It is only music after all. Come on, these people should get a life. I have read whole threads before of people arguing about whether I'm good or bad. Honestly,
its all a bit pathetic. I’ve seen threads where people slag off Andy C because he does too many uncalled rewinds, Shy FX for having a track in the charts, Dilinja for being too formulaic. Its all a bit sad.
You're music is user friendly, and you're probably one of the only current producers who is pushing a style that could possibly cross over into top 40 territory. Has there ever been any temptation to make an album,
like Shy recently has, that would cross over and have a broader appeal, as you've said many times that you want to broaden the base of people that listen to drum
n bass. Speaking of Shy FX, what do you think of the new musical direction that hes taken?
I think good for him. I hope he does well. I like making albums, It’s hardwork. I always think an album has to have tunes that tell a story and makes an album very listenable to. At this point the interview to a slight turn for the worse as the questions fizzled out and it became apparent that it wasn’t the best day for an interview, what with the beautiful weather outside and a distint lack of new questions to give Aphro. If you ever come across Gavin King on your travels, don’t ask him about the equipment he uses! He uses whole racks, Apple G3, G4, mackie desk and various FX, but this is the question he hate being asked the most. So sshhh!!!
Aphrodite is a proud yet realistic man, constantly striving to achieve beyond his own achievements. Whilst having accomplished a great deal, he still believes he has much more to accomplish. At present, he is most proud of his own, innovative work that, as he well knows, has etched a vivid sub genre in drum ‘n’ bass. Tracks like Tower Bass and remixes of Booya and Abandon Me are his own, personal favourites. Like all the other true pioneers, Aphro is humble but aware of his own status, respecting anyone who has a valid contribution to make. As with his own work, what he really wants is for people not to follow Dilli’s basslines or Mampi’s double drops, and instead push new boundaries.
If you catch Aphro live in the next few weeks be sure to listen out for his killer dubs. At the moment he’s spinning a new remix of Ready or Not and a totally cheeky Ram records medley of about 20 tracks. This summer will also see Aphro heading to the studio to work with, of course, long time collaborator Mickey Finn, and also Danny C. It’s always a pleasure to hear new Aphrodite tunes, and so hopefully this Summer wont be any different.
| || |