After taking time out to deal with some health problems, the Tribal Sessions legend is back in the game
Just landed in stores this week is Riki Inocente's Northern Rose Remixes Pt 2, the second installment in a two-part series of EPs featuring remixes of an EP that was first out last October. Just like the first remix bundle, which dropped a month ago, it's packed full of quality electronic grooves that should find favour right across the house and techno spectrum.
More importantly, though, these remix EPs mark the revitalisation of Iain Taylor's Rejekts label, an imprint that's been more-or-less on hold for a couple of years while the former Sankeys resident sorted out some health issues. So with Taylor's own genre-bending rubs of The Journey being, to our ears, the pick of what is a fine bunch of remixes all round, and with the hype sheet promising plenty more in the pipeline from Rejekts, it seemed like a good time to get him on the phone and find out what's been going on...
The Rejekts label has been pretty quiet for the past couple of years, apparently because you were having some health issues. What's the story?
“I had to take some time out because I got diagnosed with an under-active thyroid. You know when people are fat and they say it's glandular? It's that, basically. Your thyroid gland controls your metabolism, and I found I was getting really tired and lethargic. And my father was terminally ill at the time, which was an extra… not a burden, but definitely a worry, something else to deal with. I just found I was absolutely shattered all the time, I just had no energy. And I don't mind saying, I found I was using drugs as well at times, just to get through the day.
“So after my Dad passed away, I wanted to take a bit of time out. I'd been spending a lot of time in Ibiza and I'd rented my house out in Manchester to a really sound couple, so I decided to go stay with my sister in Exeter for a while. And my sister noticed I was having problems and suggested I went to see the doctor, and I got diagnosed with the thyroid thing. So now I have hormone treatment, and things are a bit more back to normal.
“Then I met a woman, a really level-headed woman who's not really involved in the dance scene and club culture and all that, and ended up in Plymouth of all places, which is where I am now. And as I got myself sorted out I just started to get stuck back into the music-making, and started to explore stuff on my own more, whereas in the past I'd always worked with other people.
“I'd always previously been more interested in the instant gratification of DJing and promoting, because I'm a very social person. But I felt like it was the right time for me to get my head down, and take the step from expressing myself through DJing, to expressing myself through making music.”
But the label and the Rejekts brand hadn't gone away entirely in that time, had they?
“No, we had a collection of tracks that we'd made, and we were still working together, sending files back and forth. I've got a degree in sound engineering and I've always had a studio set-up wherever I was, so there was stuff trickling out, but it was maybe one or two releases a year from ourselves and maybe another one from someone else. So it was kind of kept on the boil, but now it's back to being a full-time concern again.”
With the Riki Inocente remix project... for a label that hasn't put out much in a while to suddenly come with two big remix packages of an existing EP suggests a lot of faith in that particular release?
“Well, I like Riki, and of all the tracks of his we put out this was the one people seemed to pick up on. But still, the original release kind of went a bit under the radar, so we thought we'd put it out there and see if anyone wanted to remix it - and it turned out lots of people did!
“For me, with it being one of my first solo projects, I ended up doing three mixes and I liked all of them, and Jamie Trench did two great mixes as well. So we ended up with quite a few mixes and we decided to put them out in two batches.”
Your remix of The Journey has elements of lots of different styles: it's got the speed garage bassline, the proggy fluttering synths, it's almost like a musical collage. Do you think your long DJ career has influenced your production style in that way?
“Definitely. I started out playing hip-hop and early rave music in the late 80s - before that I was into thrash metal, but I got obsessed with Stu Allen mixtapes and it all went from there, really! I was into all of it: Chicago house, Detroit techno, Richie Hawtin, 2020Vision, progresssive house from people like Sasha and Lee Burridge, breakbeat stuff from Marine Parade and Hybrid… lots of different music.
“And at Sankeys, as resident for Tribal Sessions, I got to kind of bring it all together, because one week I'd be warming up for Sasha, the next week it'd be Andrew Weatherall, the week after that it'd be Stanton Warriors or Derrick Carter. That was perfect for me, because I was always less bothered about genre and more bothered about having a particular sound, which was kind of deep, rhythmic, hypnotic. So I'd usually start quite deep, quite housey and kind of work my way up into something a bit more techno. And then depending on the crowd you might go back into house, or go a bit breakbeat or go a bit more song-led.
“So when it comes to producing, I wanted to include all those different elements, which I think is how I ended up doing three mixes! At the moment, I'm liking lot of the stuff that's around right now that's like a blend of tech-house and 90s garage, so that's in there a little bit. And then there's swing-y beats on the Midnight On The Floor Mix, and then the 4am Mix is a kind of chord-led deep, druggy mix, and then the Stripper Mix was something I did to start off a podcast, so that's more like a DJ tool. I might release it down the line but for now it's for press and DJs only, really just as a thank you to people who've supported me and supported the label over the years.
We recently spoke to Andy Compton about his 30th album, and he told us having ADHD is part of the reason he's so prolific, becuase it's a case of 'make the track, move on to the next'. You also have ADHD - has that informed your own production in any way, do you think?
“It affects different people in different ways. For me, I used to get quite bored in the studio quite quickly, so I'd always be working on three or four different tracks at the same time, and I'd always have lots of unfinished stuff lying around. I still do, but now I've given myself a six-week period to finish off 10 tracks, probably five or six of which will see the light of day.
“That's a good discipline for me because I find it quite easy to get a track to 80 per cent complete: it's sitting down and actually finishing them that's the hard bit! I used to bounce around from making music, to doing stuff for the label, to DJing, but now I'm having concerted periods where I just do music. I find it helps to have talk radio on when I'm in the studio, because it gives my mind something else to flip to, but something that's not too distracting.
“Before - when I was more concentrating on the DJing - you're going out, you're talking to people, you're mixing one track into another track into another track, you're keeping an eye on the crowd's reactions... your mind is constantly being fed information. Whereas going into a studio and sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time is a very different thing. It used to drive me nuts, but I'm getting better at it now.
“That said, I'm not going to go crazy... I'd always rather put out five albums that I was absolutely 100 per cent happy with than 30 or 40 that I wasn't, because I'm a bit anal as well. Plus there are labels that send me 30 or 40 releases a year and I can't keep up with them all. So really I'd rather Rejekts did five or six releases a year and each one was a bit more of an event.”
So what else have you got coming up?
“We're planning to do six EPs this year. We've signed a few things from different people like Deo & Z-Man, SOAME, Curses and Francois Dillinger, we've got another Rejekts release coming up, we've got another thing from Riki Inocente, I'll probably do some solo stuff and then we're talking to a few other people as well. But as I say, it's about quality control - less is still more, I think.”
Riki Inocente's The Northern Rose Remixes Pt 2 is out now on Beatport, with a full release to follow on 25 April