Our fifteenth Electronic Directory podcast is provided by Glasgow DJ and production duo Solab.
Solab have established themselves as a fine purveyor of electronic soul. They now produce and remix as well as performing live in clubs like Glasgow’s legendary Sub Club while Graham Wilson also runs his label Seventh Sign Recordings. Electronic Directory chats with Graham Wilson and Ross McMillan about the mix, how they got started, and their plans for the future.
Interview with Solab (Graham Wilson and Ross McMillan) by Kazuumi Ishii
A bit of history first: how did you get started in electronic music ?
Graham Wilson: House music struck a chord with me, so I got into DJing. I started my label Seventh Sign Recordings with Domenic Cappello in 2001 after DJing for a few years in and around Glasgow at places like the Sub Club.
Ross McMillan: It wasn’t really until the late 90s that I was introduced to Detroit techno and Chicago house. I owe it to close friends from my hometown – guys like Ian Elgey, Derek Rieper and Keith Murphy – because they played all that great music back then. I also worked on tracks with Vince Watson, who later recommended I buy a groovebox to make tracks at home.
How did the two of you get together ?
Graham: Ross submitted stuff to the label, some of which we loved. We got talking and decided to work together on a couple of tracks. That was a few years ago now.
For those who are not aware of your work, how would you describe the records Solab are associated with ?
Graham: Our releases so far have been about the dance floor and it’s all House at the end of the day !
Ross, you’ve also produced under the Carlos Nilmmns alias as a solo artist. How do you create a balance between the two ?
Ross: Carlos Nilmmns is more for live edits and remixes. It was an idea of a few friends to set up a small label and have me help out with some music. Its great to be involved with so many people but Solab is my main focus.
As a duo, how does creative process work with Graham ? Do you share the workload fifty-fifty ?
Ross: Yes, it is fifty-fifty. We get together and jam, out of which comes different snippets and ideas. We then work on the development of them. We then arrange the track and tweak and master it where required. We don’t use MIDI to play our riffs and melodies, so what we keep comes down to what we play in and whether we like it or not.
Graham: Ross also devotes a lot of time to studying instruments so that we get the best out of them. He is talented in the studio and as a musician.
Who are the main influences that have played a big part in developing your sound ?
Ross: Vince Watson, Domenic Cappello and Graham have all played a part in my music. I have learned a great deal from these guys.
Graham: That is hard to put names to. All music I’ve heard has been influential in some way – even if it’s just to learn what’s bad ! I don’t think we have tried to hone a sound, more just try and judge things we do objectively. I do listen to what is around me so stuff will filter in.
All of your productions are defined by a commitment to taking things deeper. Why do you guys keep coming back to that ?
Graham: This isn’t a conscious thing; it has just worked out like that. It’s just the way it is.
Ross: I prefer music to have feeling and a depth to it and have a kind of Sci-Fi soundtrack feel.
Your Seventh Sign label has a variety of different artists – Alex Smoke from Glasgow, Estroe from Rotterdam, Keith Tucker from Aux 88 from Detroit, and Franco Cangelli from Gent… Would you say the label has a certain sound ?
Graham: No, that has never been our intention. In the beginning Domenic and I set out that we would simply release stuff that we liked, no matter what the particular style. Our first release was Detroit influenced but still different and unique (from Hutton Drive) but then our second release was House, the third was full-on DJ Skull style minimal techno and the fourth was jazz. We equally like things that fit into a warm up as we do peak-time tracks. We also like laid-back things that could be listened to at home. I’ve always liked labels that have an unpredictable output, like Nu Groove for example. Our next release is a techno thing with Detroit influences but after that it is House. We are lucky in that we work with such great, varied artists.
What future producers and artists are you lining up for release on the label ?
Graham: There is lots going on. A special project out at the end of June is a new vinyl issuing of the Terrence Parker EP "Tribute", which is dedicated to Detroit DJ legend Ken Collier – we are looking forward to that a lot. We just put out an EP with Roberto Bosco (also of Night Vision). Coming up in May we have guys from Sheffield, UK who go by the name of "Edge Of Infinity" (see our MySpace for some clips). We are working with brilliant Japanese producer Itokim on an EP that’s out in ’09 (which has a Solab remix on there), and we have a new track by Hutton Drive ready for release, also out this year. There’s more in the offing too, but I’ll save it !
What have you guys been up to lately ?
Ross: Just busy making music and playing a few live and DJ gigs. Oh, and Graham had a baby ! We have a three track EP that has just came out on the Lifeworld label – it is available now. We have completed a remix for brilliant artist Itokim for his EP that is out on 7th Sign in August/September. We are also working on a remix for techno legend Paul Mac, which I think is due to surface this year. Our next EP will be out on 7th Sign later this year – we have finished one of the tracks for that already. Round about the same time as this EP we have two remixes coming out that we did for German label Freund Der Familie.
Can you tell us a little about the mix ?
Graham: The mix we have done is a selection of tracks by some artists that we like. There are 2009 things in there, including "Distant Galaxy" from our new release on Lifeworld, plus there are tracks by Foog, Manmade Science, Larry Heard, Carl Craig and a few others.
You’re both based in Glasgow, a city that is well known for its techno passion. Slam said in an interview, "Glasgow has such a healthy electronic music and club scene as well as being a place for guitar groups like Franz Ferdinand." Why do you think that is ?
Graham: I think Glasgow people are passionate about music and about having fun. If you put those two things together you get a healthy scene. Glasgow’s a top city so I think it just gets its fair share of mainstream successes like Franz Ferdinand. For mainstream scenes to exist I suppose there has to be an underground and in terms of electronic stuff there are loads of club nights and good events in Glasgow, as well as lots of people making music.
Ross: I feel the Glasgow techno/house scene has built up a really strong musical identity through the likes of the Sub Club, Arches and Soundhaus venues, the Sub being particularly special in terms of it’s long history. When you fill these with friendly happy people and music fans as Graham mentioned you get a healthy scene !
The industry has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride in the past few years. What are your thoughts on its current state ?
Graham: For me the music keeps going from strength to strength. The scene has definitely changed since the 90s but I think that was just a new generation of punter coming in. It just moved on and that’s good. Perhaps less club goers are into the house and techno scene now because they have discovered new things, I don’t know, but there are still really good house and techno club nights out there, so I am not complaining. There’s financial pressures when the nights aren’t busy etc, not to mention the recession, but even with the problems I think the people who are still dedicated and involved, certainly with the music, are as passionate as ever.
Music is obviously a passion for you both. Aside from this, what are three favourite things that do it for you both ?
Graham: My family, reading and watching movies.
Ross: Meeting new people, cooking nice meals and playing rare imported video games from Japan !
What are your plans for 2009 ?
Graham: To watch my daughter grow while working on music and the label.
Ross: To enjoy life with my friends and family, meet new people and make music.
Download Electronic Directory 15 Solab Podcast
- 01. Carl Craig – Angel (Caya Dub) [Planet E]
- 02. Manmade Science – Without a Doubt [Philpot]
- 03. Foog – Solar Cycles [File]
- 04. Loose Fingers – Hyperactivity [Alleviated]
- 05. Alex Agore – Behold I make all things good [4Lux]
- 06. Deetron – Mechanolicious [Music Man]
- 07. Solab – Distant Galaxy [Lifeworld]
- 08. Foog – Wormhole [File]
- 09. Franck Roger – HD 3000 [Earthrumental Music]
Download older podcasts below
- EDP14 Trish van Eynde
- EDP12 Erell Ranson
- EDP11 Chuck Bleu
- EDP10 Esteban Adame
- EDP09 Chymera
- EDP08 Alan Smith
- EDP07 Arne Weinberg
- EDP06 DJ Bone
- EDP05 Trench
- EDP04 Rubsilent
- EDP03 Nomadico aka DJ Dex
- EDP02 Kuri Kondrak
- EDP01 Lee Holman