If you’re into classic sounding house music then the chances are you have already heard of Groove Assassin.
A DJ’s DJ who has been rocking crowds since mixtapes were actually on tapes, Groove Assassin has won fans across the globe for his dexterity on the decks as well as his ability in the studio which has seen him amass a formidable back catalogue releasing on some of the house scenes coolest and most iconic imprints such as King Street, MNS2, Glasgow Underground and Defected.
So with an imminent return to London’s iconic Ministry Of Sound for Groove Odyssey set for the 25th of August we thought we’d catch up with the house maestro to talk about how the scene has changed over the years, growing up in Sheffield, his formula for success and an exclusive mix.
Q: You grew up in Sheffield. How much of an influence did the neighborhoods around you have on your path towards music?
Were there major influences from cerain as key people, DJ's, producers or clubs ?
ANS: I'd say my major influence from Sheffield, musically, came from listening to pirate radio there was a station calledSCR which had a lot of local DJs on playing a variety of different sounds from house to reggae and beyond. I also spent a lot of time hanging around at the local amusement arcade. I wasaddicted to video games; the arcade was a real street level culture and was the perfect place to pick up knowledge and learn about underground music. It was really a melting pot for DJs, graffiti artists, break-dance crews and nerdy computer geeks and there were people selling and passing around mixtapes from lots of different genres from early electro to hip house early house, disco and jazz-funk .
There was a local DJ by the name of DJ Raw and he worked in the arcade and was part of a local breakdance crew ' Street Crew' who travelled around Europe breaking. His knowledge of disco / jazz –funk/ electro breakdance & house was second to none and his mixtapes were legendary in Sheffield on the underground scene. I spent many years hanging out with him soaking up his knowledge and later we started producing together with a few releases on Glasgow Underground, Black Vinyl , Miguel Migs' Transport Recordings and Tommy Mustos ' 4th Floor Records straight outta NYC! So, he was and still is a major influence on my musical path.
Since 2001 I've been flying the flag solo as Groove Assassin but back in the day something I’m not sure everyone is aware of is it used to be Groove Assassin(s) with a couple of different people. It was mainly my friend William Hague who worked with me as a production / DJ partner and together we released music on Defender Records, Glasgow Underground & Black Vinyl as well as our own imprints. Before that around the mid to late 90's I also DJ'ed as GrooveAssassin(s) with another friend Paul Musol and we had a regular night in Sheffield with a few guest spots elsewhere together.
Club wise it was places like Hacienda and Hard Times which were really the places I was going to in the early and mid to late 90's - they were definitely the pick of the bunch up North really.
Q: With a long and storied career behind you, we’d imagine you must have see quite a few changes the scene has changed and your sound has evolved. What can people expect from your set, style and sounds circa 2013?
ANS: Well as a DJ the first requirement should be to get the dancefloor moving and people dancing so try to keep it nice and bumpy with a few vocals thrown over a mixture of some new tracks and some classics
with one or two special edits I've been working on to keep the vibe bouncing and set the mood for whoever I’m playing with. Next up is Kenny 'Dope' Gonzalez so I’m sure he’ll be ready to come on and take it to the next level.
Can you share with us a couple of tracks that you are particularly enjoying at the moment?
ANS: Yes, definitely. Two of my remixes including ‘No Strings’ for Natalie Williams & Reilly and ‘Smile’ for Michael & Bobby & Steve Hughes featuring Wyen Solo appeared on the Groove Odyssey Sessions Vol 1 album which I really love so I’m sure I'll be giving those a spin. I've always got a few exclusive edits to road test but I like to keep those under wraps until the night as they are secret weapons in my arsenal.
Q: How does playing in London at clubs such as Ministry Of Sound compare to other cities or countries?
ANS: I've actually only played at MOS once before alongside Osunlade so I'm really looking forward to getting back there, the venue and system is incredible and Groove Odyssey know how to put on a party. If you look at the previous lineups which have included, MAW , Kerri Chandler , Julie McKnight and Dajae you can see they invite some of the best DJ's around and always put on a top night so I’m pleased to be back in the capital and playing for them. London usually delivers a clued up crowd and being back at MOS is gonna be very special - even DJ get excited when they see line-up that they’re on that looks like it's gonna be a massive night ! Compared to other countries, cities I'd say Ministry is probably the most recognized club in the world and it really doesn’t get much better. London has always been a fave place of mine to play as it's great to catch up with friends I don't get to see every weekend and the city seems to have the perfect blend of locals and tourists to help create that special atmosphere.
Q: After working in house music for two decades what has really stood out for you as special moments in your career?
ANS: I've seen a lot of changes in the scene over the years - some good and some bad and club culture has definitely changed. Clubbers are alot more clued up nowadays than they ever were before and know exactly what they wanna hear. There are so many more styles/sub genres of house these days compared to when I started wherein people though of the house scene as just one defined sound.
I’m very grateful to still be part of it I’ve travelled the world, played at some of the best clubs and have been blessed to produced records & remixes for some of the coolest labels in the world. A few special moments, from a DJ point of view getting to play alongside my all time favorite production duo , Masters at Work, spinning at clubs likePacha, Space , Amneisa , Cafe del Mar in Ibiza , Cielo NYC, spinning at an open air party for 4,000 people in Jakartta, Indonnesia alongside Stephanie Cooke , playing eclectic sets at KUDETA ,Bali , touring all over Australia and getting the chance to DJ at some incredible locations around the world whilst meeting some great people along the way who've now become close friends.
From a production point of view having my productions played by the likes of MAW ,Larry Heard , Tony Humphries ,Kerri Chandler , Roger S were all special moments as I was buying their records as a teenager and still am now so to receive recognition from them in the way of them playing my productions makes all the hard work worthwhile!
Q: How do you manage to keep it fresh, new and vital? Do you feel pressured as DJ/Producer to always be one step ahead?
ANS: I think that's essential today to keep one step ahead and that it's great that there's so much music out there that’s easily accessible through many different outlets. From Traxsource to Beatport to Stompy, house music has never been so accessible and that has really injected new life into the scene as more DJ and producers have been exposed to and come through the scene. Obviously the quality is not so controlled but it makes it all the more fun searching and digging out tracks and it's always nice to have that so called ' secret weapon ' that not too many people have picked up on. I’m still buying lots of vinyl too, be it new stuff or collecting old bits I’d missed out on years ago via discogs. It's essential if you wanna be that one step ahead as there’s a lot of stuff that never see's the light of day on a digital release. I love many styles of music and hate being pigeon holed so I would like to think that people can hear from my mixes & productions that I’m not just laying down one particular type of sound I take inspiration from many different styles and it’s all about keeping it fresh, don’t be scared to throw something in that other DJ's wouldn’t as that’s what will make you standout above the rest.