The former Space resident returns with a new single named after mysterious celestial object. So where's he been hiding, and what can expect from his forthcoming album?
It's been a few years since the electronic music world last heard much from Mat Playford. But now he's back, and fittingly for a former resident at Space (the Ibizan diiscotheque kind) he's got space (the big, dark, full-of-stars kind) on his mind.
Playford's dance music career dates back the mid-90s when, after finishing a degree in Music Production & Management at Leeds College Of Music, he co-founded the Play Music record shop and recording studio, working alongside contemporaries such as Paul Woolford and Tristan Da Cunha while also working as a driver for US house legends such as Sandy Rivera and Angel Moraes. It was his seven-year Space residency, though, that really set Playford's star shining in the house and techno firmament: it was only really at that point that he began to make a name for himself as an artist in his own right, with releases on the likes of Paper Recordings, Save Records, We Love Recordings and Missdemeanours.
For the past few years, he's concentrated mostly on remixing other people's work – and even remixes have been fairly few and far-between. But Friday (26 April) will see the release of a new single on Carl Cox's increasingy iconic Awesome Soundwave label, KIC 8462852, which trails a soon-come album, Solar.
So what's he been up to while he was away, and what can we expect from the album? There was only one way to find out...
New single KIC 8462852 is your first release in a little while. Did you deliberately take a step back, or…?
"No, I’ve just been working really hard in the studio, and on my live performance.."
The single's named after a celestial object. Why that one in particular, out of all the billions and billions of stars and lumps of rock in the observable Universe?
"Because it baffled scientists – at one stage, they were suggesting it could be some form of solar farming alien megastructure."
And it's remixed by Octave One, no less! Remixers don't come much heavier-hitting, so how did that come about?
"I met them in Space in 2011 – they are outstanding gentlemen of the highest order. They really supported an album that I made in 2014 called Too Big To Fail. This wasn’t a techno album, I'm not sure what genre it was to be fair. They asked me to remix a track with Ann Saunderson in 2016, then I played them parts of this project and they offered to return the favour and remix KIC 8462852.
"I’m extremely honoured and still very surprised to have them on my side: I’ve watched them destroy and inspire dancefloors for 25 years!"
It's also the first single from new album Solar on Awesome Soundwave. What should we expect from the album as a whole?
As you were resident at Space and you're working with Carl Cox right now, we have to ask: are you involved in his plans to rebuild the club and if so, anything you can reveal this stage?
"My lips are sealed, I'm afraid!"
Rewinding a little bit, I read somewhere that the Hammond organ played a role in your early musical development. Was this a full-on B3 or one of the 'home' models?
"It was a home model – my Mum got it for my Xmas present in the 80s, because I was bang into Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis, and it had other presets on it apart from organ. The computer you can see in the picture was sold to me for a pound that I borrowed from my dad, by my uncle who was an engineer for British Aerospace… it’s a mad shame cos the organ was just left of this picture. My surroundings really haven’t changed much in the 30 years!"
You're something of a keyboard/synth fanatic generally, I gather – what are some of your personal favourites/most prized studio tools? And is there a dream piece of kit you haven't yet managed to get your hands on?
"There’s so many to mention I wouldn't know where to start! Honestly, there are so many tools out there to use these days and the analogue revival of modulars and now incredible amount of ways to stick them all together. There’s an infinite number of ways to be creative, and the machines have become very stable. But the dream machines don’t come cheap!"
You had your own labels Social Problem and Architech for a few years… any plans to set up another label at any point or is it a case of 'once bitten, twice shy'?
"I was never bitten by the record labels! In fact, I had three labels at one stage – I just started signing my music to other people."
You had a variety of dance music jobs in your early career, from DJ driver to record shop owner. Has that diverse experience in the scene helped in your DJ/production career, do you think?
"Definitely, because I met loads of people that I later signed records to while I was a DJ driver in the 90s. I was at music school at the time, learning music production. When I was partner in Play Music in Leeds five years later, I built a recording studio in the city centre. We were all in our late teens/early 20s, and the group of people that all become friends and worked in the shop were magical.
"That was 20 years ago, and those people are still making their mark in the music industry. It blows my mind what people like Ryan Shaw of Mastersounds and Paul Woolford, Tristan da Cunha, Bonar Bradberry, Alex Wolfenden, Dan Ward and Ben Brophy are doing now. We had so much fun, and the best is still to come from that team."
Given your long experience in various aspects of 'the game', what's the best advice you can offer young DJs/producers who are just starting out now?
"Learn your craft, and don’t give up!"
Coming back to the future, will you be touring to promote the album at all – either in a live capacity or as a DJ?
"All will be revealed soon…"
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"Just working on loads of new music and and my live performance… among other things."
Words: Russell Deeks
KIC 8462852 will be out on Awesome Soundwave on Friday (26 April). For more information about the real KIC 8462852, see Wikipedia.