Ask any hard-house clubber to name a DJ that epitomizes the hard-dance scene and the chances are they will suggest Andy Farley. In a career that spans 26 years, this hard-house legend has played more sets, to more clubbers than pretty much any other hard-house DJ.
IU:Thank you, Andy for talking to us at iconic underground magazine, it’s a pleasure to have you grace our pages!
From soul and R n B to hard house what was spark that ignited the flame, what gave you the itch to mix?
AF: A bit of an odd transition I know! I’d always been an obsessive collector of music right from a young age. In my late teens I was heavily involved in the mod scene, and spent what little wages I earned on clothes and rare vinyl. I built up a pretty substantial collection of rare soul & R&B. Towards the end of 1986 I came to terms with my sexuality and ventured out into gay clubs, where I heard music mixed together for the first time, and was intrigued from the off. The music being played at the time was a mixture of Eurobeat, Italo Disco & early Chicago House, with a bit of more commercial artists thrown in. Very underground, I hadn’t heard hardly any of the tunes being played apart from the commercial artists. In some ways it wasn’t dissimilar to the soul & R&B scene in the way you would only hear that music in certain places. My first night in a club I heard the DJ playing around with two copies of Madonna – Open Your Heart, extending the intro for ages.
That DJ was Tony de Vit. I had never heard music played in this way, no talking, just a constant flow of music, with it building over the course of the evening to faster bpms. I was hooked straight away, and set out to find all the tunes I’d heard. The next step for me was selling all my rare soul & R&B vinyl (for far less than it was worth), in order to buy my first decks. Some nice Citronic belt driven decks and a Realistic mixer from Tandy! I pottered about on these for about a year until some friends put on a night in Birmingham and asked me to play. It was a bit of a shock using Technics for the first time as they were so different to what I was using at home, however some perseverance and eventual investment in a pair paid off, and I landed a residency in 1990 at The Nightingale in Birmingham, playing the Euro, House & Italo sounds that Tony had moved away from (he had discovered Belgian techno and was pushing that sound) but was still sought after by some of the crowd. Eventually I saw the light and immersed myself into house in 1992/1993.
IU: What is key in the whole production process Andy when you are in the studio creating a new track from the analogue outboard, midi, samples and DAW you use walk us through the usual process?
AF: I’ve always worked with other producers from the off, have never had the inclination to immerse myself into fully teaching myself the ins and outs of the studio. I had one at home with Logic, outboard synths etc but just wasn’t for me. So for me it’s always been about finding the right samples, as unique as possible, and a collection of ideas of where I want to go with the tune, edit the samples and take some examples of basslines, riffs, and overall feel and work with that. Many people will see that as not being a producer and I’m cool with that, but producing a track requires ideas as well as the nuts and bolts so make of that what you will!
IU: Looking back again to your relationship with Tony De Vit, what was your greatest memory, shared experience?
AF: There are many, but I think the one that stands out the most is his support early on. The Nightingale used to do a test night on a Monday, letting a DJ play for the whole night. At the time, the DJ box was being refurbished, so I had to play on temporary decks on the stage. Because of this, Tony suggested that I be given the opportunity to play again when the proper DJ box was back in action. I did just this, and on the back of this he asked me to cover his coveted Saturday night slot as he was playing at Heaven in London. This led to a five year residency at the club, and on to bigger things, so am eternally grateful.
IU:: Nukleuz, Sundissential, Frantic and Vicious Circle, fill us in on how all this came about?
AF: Sundissential came first! One of the best clubs ever in Birmingham, Tin Tins, where I was a resident from 1994-1997, had a big following, and on the back of this Sundissential opened its doors in October 1996. I was offered a residency and built up a loyal following. It was amazing to be playing alongside anyone from Tony to Tall Paul, Judge Jules, and Paul Oakenfold etc. Early in 1999 I got a call from Frantic asking me to play for them at The Rocket in London. This was only my third gig in London in as many years, so was really blown away, and it was amazing. I was offered a residency on the back of this. Getting to play closing set at Camden Palace was just the best buzz ever, those are days that will last with me forever. Not long after went into the studio for the first time to produce my first track Concentrate. When hard house exploded in 2000, Nukleuz formed an agency & management company who took me all over the world. More than I had ever thought about, pottering about on my belt driven decks at home! Vicious Circle was created by Paul Glazby, who was a friend of mine I had met DJing at The Arches in Sheffield, an early home of Gatecrasher. I’ve released quite a few tunes on there as well as Nukleuz over the years, and recently played at the Nukleuz 20th birthday at Fire in London.
IU: You have a back-catalogue totaling over 140 tracks, not to mention the 40 or so remixes of other tracks, which are the standout bangers and why?
AF: Always a tricky one! Concentrate & Khemical Imbalance with BK definitely. Concentrate was my first ever release and still play it often today. Khemical Imbalance was a massive anthem at the time, and still sounds great. Barriers, one of my most requested tracks ever. MBS, a collaboration with D.A.V.E. The Drummer and dipping my toe into techno. Rupha & Tupha a collaboration with Frank Farrell and one of my biggest tunes to date. What’zap with Gary O’Connor made for X-Static Ibiza in 2014 and totally did the job! Ant-hem-ic & Desirable with James Devlin, tough but so uplifting & my latest with Ben Stevens – Dutty Diana, absolutely blew the roof off in Ibiza this year. Remix wise would have to be Zero B – Lock Up, one of my all-time favourite tunes, so to be given the opportunity to remix it was amazing and scary at the same time!
IU: Andy, here’s an off the wall scenario, if you ended up trapped on a godforsaken island with only your decks, a crate of spirits and your vinyl fly case to your name, what would be the top 10 essential cuts that you must have to survive and why?
AF: Well it would have to be a mixed bag as my musical taste is so diverse! These are in no particular order.
Alison Limerick – Where Love Lives (does this one really need an explanation?!)
Talk Talk – It’s My Life (one of my all-time favourite bands, and this is just the bollocks. Mark Hollis’s voice is just outstanding)
Gat Decor – Passion (one of the finest progressive house tunes ever in my opinion. That piano, so uplifting)
Motiv8 – Break The Chain [Funkamental Vocal Mix] (Motiv8 did lots of campy pop remixes, but this original track was dark and moody with an epic vocal. Absolutely humungous tune for me at Tin Tins. Even listening to it now makes the hairs on my arms stand to attention)
Mike Hitman Wilson feat Shawn Christopher – Another Sleepless Night (another epic early vocal house track, so much emotion in here)
Mother’s Pride – Learning To Fly [Mistral Dub] (The trance explosion kind of passed me by as I was focused on my own sound, but discovered this later on. Love this so much, the bassline is massive, and the breakdown carries you away)
Tony de Vit – Are You All Ready (I had to put a Tony tune in, and so many to choose from, but to me this epitomizes his approach to his music. His sets were so diverse ranging from uplifting trance riffs to big hoovers, but was all in the delivery of guaranteeing to take the top of your head off!)
Carla Thomas – Never Stop Loving You (A Northern Soul classic with the sweetest vocal)
Bettye Swann – Kiss My Love Goodbye (An early Philadelphia disco classic with a superb Tom Moulton long mix, and the heart wrenching vocal)
Hemyl – Keep On Rockin’ (One of the first tunes I heard when going to The Nightingale for the first time. Had no idea what it was and took me years to find a copy. Laid back with amazing strings)
A real mixed bag I know, but it kind of sums up my musical journey through life and DJing!
IU: Nice one man, so what other DJ’s / Artists / Producers are behind your ever driving passion for the scene, and who would you like to work with in the studio?
AF: I think I’ve worked with nearly everyone! Would love to make a tune with Steve Thomas though. He has always been a big influence on my career for sheer musical ear, flawless mixing and the ability to programme a set impeccably. Trade was a huge driving force for me and set the benchmark in how to build and set and search for tunes outside the norm. Tony was also a massive influence. People don’t always realise what he did for clubbing, bringing gay and straight people together as one, united in the clubbing experience. These days’ people like Ben Stevens, who works tirelessly running Toolbox digital, engineering, producing and DJing, Frank Farrell and Dave Owens (sadly immigrating to the US soon), BK, all doing their own thing and shaping their own sounds.
IU: What’s your most memorable studio experience?
AF: Making my first tune Concentrate. It was so new and exciting, and seeing how it all came together, to walking into a club and hearing someone playing it was just such a buzz
IU: What’s the greatest club/festival event moment you have ever experienced?
AF: I would have to say my Pure events. Once a year I get to play for ten hours, on vinyl. Each year has gone from strength to strength, and this year’s was off the scale. The atmosphere was something I hadn’t seen since Trade closed it’s doors. The noise from the dancefloor was amazing. To be able to really take people on a journey from tough house right through to full on hard house & hard trance, then to bring them back in to land with some uplifting belters, for me it’s an honour!
IU: Andy, what’s your motivation to succeed?
AF: It’s about loving what I do. I love to be able to speak to people through my music, take them on a journey. This started as a hobby for me, and have always viewed it as such, even when it was my full time occupation. There’s nothing better than seeing a dancefloor full of happy faces, lapping up the music and having a great time. People work hard for their weekends, and to know you’ve made theirs keeps me going.
IU: How do you see the hard house scene now?
AF: It’s had its ups and down, it has it’s haters, but for me it keeps on going because the people who are into it are really passionate about it. I travel all over the country and abroad and wherever you are you will always know someone. It’s like one big family.
IU: So what’s your poison Andy, Drink or drugs?
I’m far from the party animal I used to be! I have the occasional drink now, but rarely indulge in anything else these days. Usually in Ibiza when there’s plenty of chill time!
IU: What are your upcoming plans for the future?
AF: Next year is looking exciting already. On the back of the Pure event, the organizers Ru & Jamie looked into doing a weekender at the West Rocks Hotel in Eastbourne. 100 tickets only, with a six hour set from me on the Friday, workshops on the Saturday around DJing and producing, then back to back sets on the Saturday night with some of my friends and fellow DJs. It sold out within two minutes of going on sale! I’ve also got my Pure night again in November. Ibiza is looking good for September, and many other gigs starting to come in. An album is looking like a strong possibility too, having never done one believe it or not. I’ve no plans to give this up yet, I love it too much