George FitzGerald is a dab-hand when it comes to constructing classic 2-step soul and warm, groove-laden house. Despite receiving multiple Joy Orbison comparisons earlier in his career, the young Londoner has gone on to build up a back catalogue with real strength in depth. He’s an individual that possesses that canny knack of fusing classic garage and house references with more modern shades of UK club music. Previously knocked for a lack of originality and innovation in his production, the recent ‘Child’ EP on Aus Music denounces that. With a thoughtful blend of Chicago, Jersey, Berlin and London, FitzGerald shows real versatility.
In mid-2011 he launched the Man Make Music imprint, taking its name from his regular party at the Star Of Bethnall Green in London. Drawing influence from Bok Bok and L-Vis 1990’s approach to starting Night Slugs, he wanted to to focus on putting out music by unknown producers that he’d built up relationships with through circles of friends. Time after time, we see this natural and honest approach to releasing music creates the most fascinating results. Thus far, the label has introduced and showcased the talents of Jack Dixon, Rick Grant, London-via-Portugal producer Trikk and now the elusive Leon Vynehall.
Vynehall is a relatively fresh name on the UK house landscape, but the man from the South-coast has instantly impressed with his highly seasoned sound, giving the impression this an individual has been around for a while, perfecting his lavish approach to bass-music. Following the recent release of his ‘Gold Language’ EP on Man Make Music, what better time to get the pair involved in our ‘Vs.’ series. It lead to an informative insight into the minds of the two individuals.
George FitzGerald interviewing Leon Vynehall:
Does the alias ‘Leon Vynehall’ have any particular significance?
Leon is my other self, the other part of me. He is the left side of my brain. Vynehall is an Olde Sussex name, which is locational and
derives from a place called ‘The Vyne Hall’, near Lewes, which is about 10 minutes outside of Brighton. So it has some local relevance too.
It seems from your questions that you feel technological advances have made musicians out of us all and that our strand of music is often lacking in terms of creativity when compared with the more traditional musical world. Do you think mastery of an instrument is a requisite for musical creativity?
I’m not saying I’m a beacon of creative light that everyone should follow by any stretch, but it would be nice to see/hear a change in some of the music that is surfacing at the moment. It all seems very safe, there is a formula, a plan. It’s all starting to melt into one. You don’t have to be a grade 8 musician to make incredible music. Take Kevin Shields for example. He wasn’t the best guitar playing in the world but he had an idea to play whilst holding the tremelo arm and it created a brand new sound and a completely new wave of bands in the early 90’s. It was messy, noisey and totally untried. I’ve always been a believer in the fact that music doesn’t have to sound perfectly equalised, compressed and mixed to sound great and I believe this in dance music too. I just wish people would let go sometimes.
Would you ever use or allow your music to convey a political message?
No, never. People don’t want to hear political messages in House & Techno music, they just want to get high and dance and forget about
all of their daily problems while they’re in that sweaty room for a few hours. What good would it do? There are better ways of getting
political messages across.
One of the strange paradoxes of the dance music world is that it makes minor celebrities out of people who are often incredibly shy and reserved and who hate being on stage. Do you fall into that bracket? If so, why release your music if not to court some form of acclaim?
I’m a shy person around people I don’t know, I’ll talk but sometimes I won’t be comfortable. I don’t make or release music to become a ‘minor celebrity’, I do it because I feel proud of what I make and I enjoy DJing. No other reason. If I did it to become ‘famous’ everyone would know what I look like, I’d be doing some sort of YouTube TV channel thing and selling T-Shirts…
You mentioned social media in one of your questions. Do you think it’s possible these days to be successful as a musician without
engaging with any of these platforms?
Yes, but you would have to tour relentlessly and be really really good at what you do. I don’t think social media outlets are evil (even though it may have sounded like it in my questions to you), I wouldn’t use them if I did. They’re just like giant sweet shops with every single kind of sweet imaginable in them. Where the fuck would you start? There is a lot of shite on the internet, but there are also hidden gems you can find. It’s a bit like a global flea market.
Why do you think female DJs are so rare when both the music industry and mainstream pop are full of successful women?
Maybe, because of exactly that. All the women are making some serious money in the mainstream pop circuit when all the men are trying to be Underground House DJs…
Do you think you live a moral existence?
“I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.”
Leon Vynehall interviewing George FitzGerald:
With the fact that it’s now easier then ever to get your hands on a piece of music writing software, and the number of people turning their hand to production rising, do you think that the underground electronic scene is becoming saturated?
I think electronic music has definitely been flooded by a body of competent yet ultimately quite boring work in the past few years and it’s easy to see that as a negative thing – it’s no longer possible to stay on top of all of the music being made in a particular scene, let alone across multiple ones. In a way that’s brought production and DJing back to its essence though – it’s about the coherence and memorability of your work, not just the fact you have an encyclopaedic knowledge. For me, it’s still very easy to identify the tracks and the sets that stand out from the rest, so I don’t see things as saturated quite yet. Add that to the overwhelmingly positive development that the monopoly on making professional sounding music has been taken out of the hands of high end studios and major labels, and I’m quite happy with where things are today…
With social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud in mind, is anything truly underground anymore?
I think so, but not in the geographical sense that may have been attached to that term in the past. Social media has made underground scenes truly global, but in spite of that, they still represent a counterculture.
Compared to other parts of the world, what do you think of the UKs club culture? What, if nothing, would you change about it?
I think UK club culture is still one of the best in the world. In particular, London still has about the most widely varied and plentiful music scene of any city I’ve been to, but it can be over-saturated and too competitive. There’s a “stack ’em high” approach to parties by many promoters and club owners here unfortunately. It doesn’t make a party better if there are 9 big DJs on a lineup who all play for an hour as opposed to 3 who play for 3 hours. It is also counterproductive to fill a club so tightly that no one inside can dance let alone enjoy themselves. I know a lot of it has to do with the commercial imperative of high overheads, but I think a more disciplined approach could greatly improve things.
Are you happy?
Sporadically. Enough to say I’m happier than many people I know. I do my absolute dream job so I can’t complain really!
I feel that when you look at great bands/artists like The Doors or Prince, and you look at their careers, talent and what has gone in to what they do and how they do it, sitting in front of a computer screen programming in a 4/4 kick and some basslines seems pretty pathetic in comparison doesn’t it. Do you ever want to venture out into the live arena?
Definitely, it feels like the logical progression from producing and DJing. Although I don’t totally agree with your negative comparison between today’s electronic producers and acts like the The Doors. Ultimately, even bands like them came from and built upon an established musical framework (in their case the blues) before truly showing their genius. The world is awash with crap blues bands who stay firmly within the preordained rules and parameters of that music just as much as it is with boring dance producers. Every genre has its fair share of bilge, so I don’t think it’s hyperbole to compare electronic music’s best moments with those of any other style of music.
Do you truly trust anyone?
I’m lucky enough to have a great family, so yes, quite a few people.
An obvious one, but do you remember the first record you bought with the intention of Djing in mind?
‘I Don’t Smoke’ by Deekline in a now closed record store in Watford. Vibes.
Leon Vynehall ‘Gold Language’ EP is out now via Man Make Music