WORDS: Alex Caslano
From the eye-popping sleeves which adorn his releases to the relentless tour schedule which has seen him travel the world, Graeme Clark aka The Revenge is someone who rarely takes a break. His love for music and attention to detail has made him into a globally renowned producer, DJ and label owner, but in 2012 he found that his passion was also getting the best of him. “I’d become quite ill around the summer of 2012 from late nights, raving and the general lifestyle of being on the road” he tells us from his base in Glasgow. “I needed a change on many levels. I switched my personal Facebook off, changed my email address, moved the studio around and started eating better! It felt like a real physical and mental spring clean and allowed me the perspective to start something new with vigour.”
It was this change that would inspire ‘Love That Will Not Die’, Graeme’s long-awaited debut album which is due for release next week. With a back catalogue of EPs, remixes and collaborations to his name, not to mention his own label Roar Groove and work with Craig Smith as the 6th Borough Project, its release comes as an important milestone in Graeme’s career. Taking time out to experiment, connect and generally shake up the way he works, it was clear that he’d ignited something special. “A key step was to move the studio around so that I needed to stand up to use the equipment” continues Graeme. “After I’d created a mental and physical space for ideas to form, the floodgates opened; I had around 200 new ideas for tracks that formed the initial shortlist for the album.”
Developing these ideas into songs and riding the creative wave provided the basis for ‘Love That Will Not Die’, his most exciting work to date. Featuring 14 tracks, it’s an album of groove, soul and rhythm, the perfect snapshot of a producer who is inspired. From the shimmering beauty of ‘The Seed’ to the tribal percussion of ‘Night Fever’ and a golden collaboration with Sister Sledge, it’s the sound of Graeme in his absolute element and a love for music that will not die.
Check out The Revenge playing a pivotal live performance at Sub Club NYE, as well as two album tracks, ‘Another Light’ and ‘Night Fever’:
You can also read the full interview with Graeme below in which he talks in depth about the personal and creative process which inspired ‘Love That Will Not Die’, working with Sister Sledge and some exciting news for the future:
SG: You’ve been releasing music for some 15 years, and have of course written two albums as the 6th Borough Project with Craig Smith; why did you feel it was the right time to release an album as The Revenge?
The Revenge: When I finished my last label, Instruments Of Rapture, I’d already planned to start something new. I’d been doing so many remixes for other labels and touring non-stop for 4 or 5 years so I just felt that I needed to step back and free up some time for playing around in the studio. I’d become quite ill around the summer of 2012 from the late nights, raving and the general lifestyle of being on the road, so I needed a change on many levels. I switched my personal Facebook off, changed my email address, moved the studio around and started eating better! It felt like a real physical and mental spring clean and allowed me the perspective to start something new with vigour.
I decided to do one live show in Glasgow to see if I still had the appetite for live performance. I’d played live many years before, but had put it to one side as the DJ’ing took over. I did the show at Sub Club to coincide with the Queen’s Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend and to signal the end of Instruments Of Rapture. It was just a massive jam session on stage really with me and my mate Paul. I took out almost all of the studio equipment and just improvised some of the new ideas I’d been working on - that was the point when I realised there could be a connection between the studio and the stage. The idea of the two environments feeding each other was an important step in forming the sound that would be the basis for Roar Groove. A key step was to move the studio around so that I needed to stand up to use the equipment; I perform and DJ standing up so why do I produce sitting down? Little changes made a big difference. I started Roar Groove really just to put out some 12”s, but as time went on it became clear to me that there was a connection in the sound and that there could be an album there.
SG: It seems like the last five years have been the most prolific in your career to date, with the launch of Roar Groove and some really well received EPs; did you have a sense of confidence approaching this album?
The Revenge: I was confident that I’d found a thread that connected a lot of the ideas I’d been working on. After I’d created a mental and physical space for those ideas to form, the floodgates opened. I had around 200 new ideas for tracks that formed the initial shortlist for the album; I was fairly brutal with the selection and whittled it down quickly to around 25. I started to work on those tracks until I felt happy with their arrangement and sound-wise, and that’s when the album started to take shape. I wanted the album to be consistent across the formats, so it was important to have something that felt cohesive and flowed well on vinyl or CD.
SG: Roar Groove seemed to have been an important part of this process; what inspired you to pursue this raw, organic style and how did that lead into ‘Love That Will Not Die’?
The Revenge: I needed to blow away the cobwebs of years sitting at the computer making music. I felt shackled. Not just with music; with emails, social media and design stuff. It was a case of stripping everything back to have a clear canvas to paint on. Realising the live and studio domains could be symbiotic was key to that. I wanted to paint with a palette that I could use in the studio and could be transposed to the stage. That meant putting some restrictions on the number of elements in tracks and keeping things quite simple and direct. Although my love for music wasn’t dead, it was stifled by all the stuff around me; by going back to basics it helped me find a path to expressing myself for me - and not for anybody else.
SG: One of the first teasers of the album was news of a Sister Sledge collaboration which got us pretty excited. How did the hook-up come about? Did they hit you up first?
The Revenge: A tweet popped up from them one day last year saying that they liked a rework of them I did a few years back. I got back to them and asked if they were up for a collab on my album and it all went from there. They were totally cool and down to earth - we ended up in a studio in London for an afternoon just jamming on an instrumental I’d done. They’re working on some new stuff so hopefully I’ll be involved with something there.
SG: The vocals they delivered on ‘Stay A While’ are both as lush and soulful as you’d expect; what were they like to work with in the studio? Did they help shape the direction of the track? And were you nervous?
The Revenge: Hearing them singing in the studio was a very special thing. It just hits you how much you’ve heard those voices over the years, but it doesn’t prepare you for hearing them in the studio. I was nervous at first, but they quickly put me at ease. They were just so chilled and totally professional. I had the instrumental already and they came in with an idea for the vocal arrangement; then they just riffed on that idea. I’ve got so many extra bits from the session which I’ve been jamming with in the live sets.
SG: We talked about the rawness of your sound and how the live element feeds into that; how heavily has hardware influenced this project?
The Revenge: I think it’s more about the process; I’ve always strived to make the technology as invisible as possible in creating music. It’s vital for me to have a setup where I can capture an idea quickly and then work on it from there. My hardware setup became a lot more focussed quite naturally during the recording process. I used the Moog Voyager, Juno 106, TR 909, Waldorf XT and Vermona Filter in the main, and built the majority of tracks using these as the core setup. I think the hardware generally facilitates the idea, but there were occasions when I would be jamming with a piece of equipment and the track was inspired by that. For instance, the title track was started on the 909 and grew from there.
SG: You debuted your live show at the Sub Club on NYE alongside Chez Damier and of course Harri & Domenic; what was it like performing the album on such a momentous occasion and in the Subbie? And what was the reaction like on the dancefloor?
The Revenge: It’s my favourite club on the planet so when the opportunity came to test out some of the album stuff on the biggest night of the year it was a no-brainer. Harri, Domenic and Chez have been heroes of mine for many years so there was of course some nerves, but that’s the great thing about the live stuff - it’s a tightrope but such a unique feeling when it goes well. I’m never satisfied with my performance - there’s always something I think should have been done better, but we got a great reaction on the night so I packed up the equipment and got wasted!
SG: The album drops next week which you must be looking forward to immensely; what have you got planned around the release date and the months that follow? Are you thinking much about what comes next?
The Revenge: I’m just rehearsing for some more upcoming shows at the moment and finishing the package of live dubs for the album that’ll be out in May. There’s also an ambient cassette version of the album that’ll drop on the summer solstice this year, so that needs finished ASAP. Then it’s onto the next 6th Borough Project album which will be out next spring. Probably some other stuff too, but my brain is like custard at the moment so I’m just doing things as I remember them! Usual story.