A stripped-back companion piece to Storm Damage; a 6-song piano-vocal set that features covers of Ten City’s That’s The Way Love Is and Sharon Van Etten’s Comeback Kid plus new versions of three songs from Storm Damage, and one from my 2016 album, Fever Dream.
Balanced on a Wire
Retreat to Find
Figures in the Landscape
Knife in the Drawer
Sunlight Follows the Night
You've Changed, I've Changed
Third upfront track from the album Storm Damage, out Jan 31
Second upfront track from the Storm Damage album. Features Low's Alan Sparhawk on electric guitar and harmony vocal.
The first track from my 2020 album Storm Damage. Dawn always breaks out of darkness. For all the struggle there's always a way out.
Between Two Fires is the second single from the album Fever Dream.
Fever Dream, my third solo album, came out on Apr 8 2016. Self-produced at London’s famous RAK Studio 2, and mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering in Maine, it takes Hendra’s sonic template of open-tuned folk-jazz, distorted string-bent rock, and soulful rumination, and adds a fresh grainy intensity. It renews key partnerships with Hendra’s vaunted guitarist-sideman Bernard Butler and engineer Bruno Ellingham, and sprinkles guest vocal cameos from Boston’s dream-folk singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler and Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor.
Tracklist: 01 Gradually / 02 Fever Dream / 03 Between Two Fires / 04 Winter’s Eve / 05 Women’s Company / 06 Faces of My Friends / 07 Running with the Front Runners / 08 Never Goes Away / 09 Bricks and Wood / 10 New Year of Grace feat. Marissa Nadler
Limited signed CDs from Direct Store, or Newbury Comics (US only)
Gradually is the first track from my 2016 album Fever Dream. Recorded at RAK Studio 2 it features Bernard Butler on lead guitar, Rex Horan on double bass and Martin Ditcham on drums.
Special double-vinyl-only edition including Charles Webster's Golden Ratio remixes, and Ewan Pearson's Nathaniel re-edits in a sleeve designed by John Gilsenan at iwantdesign and released on Buzzin' Fly.
Tracklist: Golden Ratio (Charles Webster Remix), Golden Ratio (Charles Webster Dub), Golden Ratio (Charles Webster Golden Retouch), Nathaniel (Ewan Pearson Extended Edit), Nathaniel (Ewan Pearson Extended Instrumental)
Remixes of Golden Ratio by Charles Webster. Two house reconstructions and a Balearic sunkissed re-edit of the original album mix. Digital version. (A double vinyl version including additional Nathaniel remixes by Ewan Pearson and artwork by iwantdesign was released on Buzzin' Fly in Nov 2014.)
Tracklist: Golden Ratio (Charles Webster Remix), Golden Ratio (Charles Webster Dub), Golden Ratio (Charles Webster Golden Retouch)
A crispy radio edit and lovely extended New York-y edits by Ewan Pearson.
Tracklist: Nathaniel (Radio Edit), Nathaniel (Ewan Pearson Extended Edit), Nathaniel (Ewan Pearson Extended Instrumental)
This radio mix of 'Forget' got heavily played on BBC Radio 2 and 6Music over the summer of 2014. We turned up the backing vocals, gave it a spruce up, and trimmed it down to under four minutes. We also included a special acoustic version of 'The Levels' that I recorded with David Gilmour at his studio in Hove.
Tracklist: Forget, The Levels (Live at Medina Studio with David Gilmour)
It is simply a folk-rock record in an electronic age. Unsentimental. Impressionistic. Songs about close family and strangers, resilience and hope. All set in vivid landscapes where the outside comes inside and clings to the stories.
Recorded in London and Berlin, the music is a meeting of worlds: languid folk, distorted rock and buzzing electronics; in part a result of the album's two central collaborators, ex-Suede guitarist, Bernard Butler, and Berlin-based producer Ewan Pearson.
The album also includes one other unexpected stellar cameo - Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, who adds plangent slide guitar and backing vocals on 'The Levels'.
Tracklist: Hendra, Forget, Spring, Golden Ratio, Matthew Arnold's Field, The Gun, Nathaniel, The Levels, Young Man's Game, The Heart is a Mirror
I signed Mademoiselle Caro and Franck Garcia to Buzzin' Fly after their debut single for Damian Lazarus's Crosstown Rebels label. They made two albums for us, both of which I felt were largely overlooked. There is a seemingly guileless honesty to their music, and one of the best blends of art-rock and techno I've heard. I did this mix of 'Soldiers' from their second album. I wanted it to sound like one of those dream sequences you can't wake up from but you want to.
Tracklist includes: Ben Watt Remix, Ben Watt Dub
I was looking for something special as our 50th twelve-inch release on Buzzin' Fly. I was struggling to come up with something when Martin Stimming sent me a demo and asked my opinion. It was the basis of what was to become 'Bright Star'. I loved the mood and immediately began thinking about a vocal line for it. He said a voice would be great and I ended up writing the words and asking Julia Biel, who had recently sung on 'Guinea Pig', to sing them. Martin finished the music for what we ended up calling the Sunset Mix but was struggling for an alternative darker version. I suggested he played Julia's voice back through a telephone receiver to make it more remote and easier to fit sonically in a fatter mix. The result was the Sunrise Mix, a perfect 5am dancefloor track as far as I'm concerned. Martin must take all the credit for the production on this record; I was just a pair of ears and the lyricist. The artwork is a total triumph. We pressed the record on heavyweight vinyl, and John Gilsenan at iwantdesign produced a glorious deluxe gatefold sleeve with expensive gold-foil blocking, printed lyrics and a pull-out poster.
Tracklist: Bright Star (Sunset Mix), Bright Star (Sunrise Mix)
I was always fond of these two mixes I did for the Bent classic, 'Swollen'. I remember putting the parts together in a New York hotel room over-looking The Bowery in 2009 and trying to get the same skeletal but soulful drums I could picture on some of my favourite New York house tracks. I love the stabs and the bass line, and the woozy chords.
Tracklist includes: Ben Watt Remix, Ben Watt Dub
I loved the two singles released from this debut album by Australia's Empire of The Sun and I asked if I could remix one of them. I was a resident at We Love at Space on Sundays in Ibiza at the time and could picture a mix of trippy latin techno and reedy vocals working on the dancefloor. In the end I think the ingredients are right but the track gallops a bit too much and almost overtakes the song. Tommy Cooper used to tell a joke about riding on an over-enthusiastic horse that gets its back leg caught in the stirrup, and he says, 'If you want to get on, I'll get off.' I think of it when I hear this mix now.
Tracklist includes: Ben Watt Remix, Ben Watt Dub
Features DJ Koze's brilliant re-interpretation of Guinea Pig.
Tracklist: Guinea Pig (M.A.N.D.Y. and Smallboy Remix), Guinea Pig (DJ Koze Remix)
Casting around for a new way to produce a club track for my DJ sets, I came up with 'Guinea Pig' in 2008. I wrote the words and approached Julia Biel to sing them. Making her way on the London jazz scene, she came to my attention singing with Unity in 2004, whose beautiful 'Love in the Dead of Night' EP I'd released on Buzzin' Fly. Strung-out yet tender I love her singing on this. I also love the click of the drum-sticks. Counting tracks in with four clicks of the drum-sticks is a time-honoured tradition in rock but I thought it would sound fresh on the dancefloor in a booming house track.
Don't you think I'm so strong
I can only take the pressure for so long
Take your hang-ups and your pride
And lock them all outside
Because love is in the detail
The little things that my heart never fails to detect
Like loneliness and regret
What's keeping you from coming home?
Every night, every day, what else can I say but 'Come home'?
Tracklist: Vocal Variation, Musical Variation
Deliberately assembled an an unmixed compilation this was a three CD box-set that drew together the highlights of Buzzin' Fly's first five years. We had an 'Up' disc with the floor-fillers, a 'Down' disc with the moodier deeper tracks (my fave actually) and a 'Forward' disc with upcoming cuts. Great artwork from John at iwantdesign as usual
Made up entirely of fresh Buzzin' Fly tracks, this mix was notable for my increasing interest in harmonic mixing. Tracks glide seamlessly in and out of each other, overlapping in long extended cross fades, tweaked by filters and delays. Vocals take a back seat for most of the mix. As with my other mix compilations unfinished tracks from my 2002 Outspoken project pop up as spoken word extracts, in particular the stuff voiced by Jennifer Valone. She was an architecture intern I met in London. She'd moved back to New York by the time I asked her to collaborate, so I had to send her detailed instructions on how to deliver it and sent her into a small studio in Manhattan with an engineer I knew and crossed my fingers. I always loved what she did even though I ended up unable to fully finish the tracks with her. The artwork, incidentally, threw a few people. It was meant to look xeroxed or photo-copied, slightly blurry, oblique.
01 BarBQ, Barbi In Love, Buzzin' Fly
01a Ben Watt and Jennifer Valone, Approaching Phantoms (Extract), Buzzin' Fly
02 Pedro Madeira, Long Shadows, Buzzin' Fly
03 Ben Watt, Just A Blip, Buzzin' Fly
04 Abyss, Mind Games, Buzzin' Fly
05 The Green Men, Blink, Buzzin' Fly
06 Manoo and Francois A, Magnetic, Buzzin' Fly
07 Martin Brodin, Freaky Bleepy, Buzzin' Fly
08 Mlle Caro and Franck Garcia, Lost, Buzzin' Fly
09 Figurines, Silver Ponds (Ben Watt Dub), Strange Feeling
10 Kimouts, Down To Earth, Buzzin' Fly
11 Justin Martin, The Sad Piano (Jimpster Remix), Buzzin' Fly
11a Ben Watt and Jennifer Valone, Approaching Phantoms (Extract)
After five years peppering my early club tracks with soul and disco and latino influences that spoke to the crowds at Lazy Dog and the early years of Buzzin' Fly, 'Just A Blip' was an experiment, recorded for my Buzzin' Fly Vol. 4 compilation in 2007. More skeletal and electronic it looked for its inspiration not in New York but in Detroit and Berlin.
'Deep house for the electro generation,' said Terry Farley around the time of this release, and it captures the mood just right. Dancefloors were having their heads turned by darker more minimal sounds from Berlin, and I was looking for music that kept its soul while embracing the new. I also wanted to showcase as much news Buzzin' Fly talent as possible. Lyrics remained important. Crispy but quite sad in places.
01 Fairmont, 'Gazebo' (Intro Loop), Border Community
02 Ben Watt feat Baby Blak, 'Old Soul', Buzzin' Fly
03 Fairmont, 'Gazebo', Border Community
04 Kayot, 'Clear Sky' (Manoo and François A Remix), Buzzin' Fly
05 Jussi-Pekka, 'Stereo Interleaved' (Martinez Triple-O Adjustment, Ben Watt Re-Edit), Out of Orbit
06 Darkmountaingroup, 'Lose Control', Buzzin' Fly
07 Ben Watt feat Baby Blak, 'Attack Attack Attack', Buzzin' Fly
08 Budai and Vic, 'I Love Deep' (The Timewriter Remix), I Love Deep
09 Nino Astronaute, 'San Fernando Road' (John Tejada Remix), Family Tree
10 Madoka, 'Metamotional', Deep Focus
11 Rodamaal feat Claudia Franco, 'Insomnia', Buzzin' Fly
12 Jimpster, 'Square Up', Buzzin' Fly
13 Lephtee, 'So Far Back' (Original Mix Edit), Buzzin' Fly
14 Lephtee, 'So Far Back' (Phonique Remix Edit), Buzzin' Fly
15 Kayot, 'One Week On Cuba', Buzzin' Fly
Figurines were the first band I signed to Buzzin' Fly's alt-pop sister imprint, Strange Feeling Records, launched in 2006. They were from Copenhagen and I stumbled across their album on Pitchfork. It hadn't had a UK release yet and I loved it's joyous twitchy sound. For the remix of 'Silver Ponds' I pictured Neil Young singing with Neu! on a beach and then tried to create it.
Tracklist includes: Ben Watt Remix, Ben Watt Dub
'I'm sick of ironic disco and I'm sick of mindless funky house. House music was always about a feeling with a meaning. That is what I was searching for on this mix.' I wrote those words when this compilation was released in 2005. A big heartfelt statement indeed. Certainly the lyrical flow, telling stories with words as well as with music, was important when I made this mix. I'd been listening to early DJs like Larry Levan and was tired of compilations that seemed only to want to latest upfront instrumental cuts. I'd recently written 'Pop a Cap in Yo' Ass' and used it, and other fragments of spoken word from my unfinished Outspoken project across the mix. I also added a previously unreleased remix I had made for Unity.
01 Intro, Buzzin' Fly
02 Jerk House Connection, 'New York Style', Saarinen
03 Manoo and Francois A, 'Five Seasons', Buzzin' Fly
04 Ben Watt, 'Lone Cat (Holding On)' (Justin Martin Remix), Buzzin' Fly
05 Sofian Rouge, 'El Wahrania' (Monte's Midnight Mix), Deep Touch
06 Hanna Hais, 'Rosa Nova' (Scientific Soul Sax In Rio Dub), Atal
07 Justin Martin, 'Le Boom', Buzzin' Fly
08 DJ T, 'Time Out', Get Physical
09 Ben Watt feat. Estelle, 'Pop A Cap In Yo' Ass', Buzzin' Fly
10 Nookie, 'Better Love', Good Looking
11 Alex S and D'Jazzy feat. Fubu, 'Senti Sabi', Buzzin' Fly
12 Savannah, 'Night Of Music', Kif
13 Unity, 'I Love You' (Ben Watt Blackness Of Night Remix), Buzzin' Fly
14 Lumiere feat. Big J, 'Goodbye Illusions' (Charles Webster Seriously Deluded Mix), Beeswax
15 Outro, Buzzin' Fly
This is one of my favourite recordings I've made. It was part of the unfinished Outspoken project that I began in 2002. When Baby Blak recorded the spoken vocal for 'Attack, Attack, Attack' I asked him to record this piece too. I later set it to a beatless backing track and used it on the Buzzin' Fly Vol 3 compilation and then on the We Are Silver EP. I wrote it after watching my 4 year-old daughter on the lawn on a winter afternoon.
How long you been around, girl, longer than your years?
Looking out through the eyes of an old soul, same shit, same fears
Must be kinda hard for one so young and tender
Walking out onto the lawn, a young pretender
I'm thirty-plus years older, looking on you like a saint
Some kind of gift that could be all the things I am and ain't
I watch you cut your swathe, like a blade through harvest wheat
With eyes that burn and melt with intensity and heat
Who gave you what you are, these visions, these demands
This intolerance and bluntness, this hunger in your arms?
I watch you running headlong into this autumn wind
Till your face is flushed and you knees are skinned
Scattering the magpies and the crows from the frost
Your footprints like a path to something lost
You turn and I wave back, and the sunlight from behind
Is like a halo, mesmerising, undefined
Bow to the saint amongst us on the frost-encrusted lawn
Rain spattering in the gusts of a late storm
And while I nod my head in a strange kind of respect
I feel my driven heart pump and connect
Even now, a muscle raw and unprepared
For all this transparency, this old soul we've shared
The wet leaves lift into the gathering trees
Come in now girl or you'll freeze
These two mixes I did for Faith Evans are notable for their unaccountable absence of bass. I got so carried away with the squelchy acidic mid-range 'bass-line' that I forgot to add anything low down to work the dancefloor. We all have off-days.
'Outspoken' was a project I began in 2002 but could never finish. It signalled my return to an interest in words again. I started by writing several short stories in the form of a prose lyric and started creating backing tracks for them, while hunting for interesting voices to read them. There are unfinished tracks I began with artists like Robert Forster of Brisbane's The Go-Betweens, and Brixton poet, Malika Booker. Of the tracks that got completed, these are two I was happiest with. I wrote 'Pop a Cap in Yo' Ass' after reading a news story about a boy converting an air pistol into a lethal weapon on a housing estate in Camden where I once spent some time in the early eighties in a friend's flat. It tells the story of a girl reminiscing about an old boyfriend, Mikey, and their days shoplifting. When it came to the recording, Estelle was just beginning to make her name as an MC and singer on the London scene, and I asked her to read it for me. I wanted the music to have an old-school flavour, the kind of music the girl might have reminisced about too. Early house music.
'Attack, Attack, Attack' is about a father-son relationship. I was sharing a DJ residency with Pete Adarkwah from BBE Records at the time, and he suggested Baby Blak as a good person to approach to read it. We never met. I sent the words to Philadelphia and he sent back the recordings. I love his performance. I edited it slightly and set it to music - a deep warm but urgent house track.
Along with my remix of Me'Shell Ndegeocello's 'Earth' this ranks among my personal favourites. The frantic euphoria of the Lazy Dog remixes was spent and I was searching for a deeper but still melodic sound. It has a very sybaritic feel. I remember playing it back one afternoon in Neighbourhood - the club I opened with a couple of partners in west London in 2003 - to an empty dancefloor on the newly installed Funktion 1 sound system. There were very few F1 systems in London at the time, and I stood right in the axis of the sound and was completely transported - hats off to my long-time mastering engineer, Miles Showell, for another great cut. Not a peak-time mix, or a ground-breaking approach, but to me it just seems to work, and sometimes you have to be content with that.
A mission statement at the end of the first year of Buzzin' Fly. I was clearly moving away from the latin peaks and soulful throb of Lazy Dog, and looking for a deeper more mellow sound. Subtitled, somewhat grandiosely, 'Replenishing Music for the Modern Soul', it captured the house sound that typified our parties at the time. Apart from the Buzzin' Fly tracks, my personal favourite remains Rupeski's 'Dreaming About Tomorrow' (G-Dubs 'Guided By Angels' Reprise).
01 Rodamaal feat Nicinha, 'Musica Feliz' (Alex S Deep Gold Mix), Buzzin' Fly
02 Soldiers Of Twilight, 'Believe' (Martin Solveig Vocal Dub), Serial
03 Manoo and Francois A, '6 In The Morning', Buzzin' Fly
04 Rupeski feat. Melanie Blatt, 'Dreaming About Tomorrow'(G-Dubs 'Guided By Angels' Reprise), Drop
05 Ben Watt feat. Sanander Maitreya, 'A Stronger Man', Buzzin' Fly
06 S.O.M. feat, Barbara Mendes, 'Musica' (Native New Yorkers Funked Up Mix) Gossip
07 Justin Martin, 'The Sad Piano' (Charles Webster Remix), Buzzin' Fly
08 Cue feat, Lisa Marie Bonilla 'Dreaming of You', Deep Vision
09 Deep House Souldiers, 'This Is Why We Dance', Limestone
10 Low, 'Tonight' (Ben Watt Night Flight Remix), Buzzin' Fly
11 Passion Dance Orchestra, Worlds(Theme 2), Needs Music
Tracks 01 and 11 include spoken extracts written by Ben Watt. Read by Jennifer Valone. Copyright control.
I have always loved the gentle but tense harmonies of Mimi and Alan in Duluth band, Low. They are perhaps the least likely band you'd hear on a club mix, but after hearing 'Tonight' on their sixth album, 'Trust', I asked if I could remix it, and put Mimi's voice out there on the dancefloor in front of a new crowd. They were very open to the idea. On reflection I think I made the mix too smooth, and ironed out too much of the track's plaintive strength but her voice still gets me.
Tracklist includes: Ben Watt Remix, Ben Watt Dubstrumental
I put together my first mix compilation on Buzzin' Fly in early 2004, and recorded this track for it especially. Sampling the acapella vocal track 'As Yet Untitled' from the first Terence Trent D'Arby album I constructed a new backing track for it, re-editing parts of the vocals to fit, and renamed it 'A Stronger Man' after one of the lines in the lyric. I have powerful memories of playing this track at the newly launched Neighbourhood club in west London on the big Funktion 1 sound system we had installed. It sounded huge. Terence was happy to be involved but asked for me to use his new name - Sananda Maitreyer - on the credits.
I have mixed feelings about this remix. I felt under pressure as Defected were after something as big as the Lazy Dog mixes, but I also felt I'd perhaps rinsed that sound out by the time I embarked on it. I invited Steve Pearce to play bass, and Dick Pearce adds one a classic melancholy trumpet solo, but somehow the track lacks a vital cutting edge, and I could never put my finger on why. Sandy Rivera was also putting out some killer tracks at the time, first at KOT and then on his own, and perhaps I just tried too hard. It happens.
Ben Watt Remix (Extract)
Although I was not asked to add any more instrumentation, I was asked to take the finished studio tapes and mix all but one track for Beth Orton's 'Daybreaker' in 2002. William Orbit did the other one. I worked on it with my mix collaborator and engineer at the time, Andy Bradfield. Much of it involved simply adding presence and weight to the recordings, re-amping some of the guitar parts to give them bite, giving dimension to the sound, bringing the drums forward, sweetening the voice. Always loved 'Concrete Sky' that she sang with Ryan Adams on backing vocals.
My own track 'Lone Cat' in 2003 broke the mould of the latino Lazy Dog remixes and cast out on its own using a more raw stripped-back classic New York style. This remix for Terri Walker from the same time seems to borrow a little from both approaches. The arrangement and drums are simplified but the bass-line has a lazy latin feel. Terri was managed by a regular at Lazy Dog and he wanted some of that flavour in the mix. I sometimes wonder if the result falls a little between two stools, although there is much in it that I still like.
Twenty years after my previous single - an interim filled with nine albums and countless singles with Tracey Thorn in Everything But The Girl - I made this. And how times had changed. After growing up influenced by folk and jazz, by the late nineties I had become immersed in electronic music and club culture. I had run out of ideas with words and had become fascinated by beat and ritual. As Everything But The Girl was wound down, I started a club night in west London with Jay Hannan called Lazy Dog. We wanted to play deep house records on a Sunday from 4pm to 11pm. At the time this was quite a radical thing to do. We would spend the week scouring the London dance music shops for the hottest releases and play them on the Sunday. Jay worked at Blackmarket which gave him an edge, but one week, short of good tunes and keen to have something to play at the weekend, I went into my home studio and recorded 'Lone Cat' in a few hours. I played it at Lazy Dog on the the Sunday and suddenly realised I had made a hot track. The vocal clips came from two hip-hop sources - 'Politix' by The Lone Catalysts (hence the title), and 'Set it Off' by Organized Noize, which I later had to have re-sung because of copyright issues. I played or programmed the rest. After the early reaction, I made fifty white labels to give to friends. A few weeks later I got a call from New York. Someone had seen a record with 'Watts' stamped on the label in the famous old downtown record shop, Dance Tracks. It was my track. My own white label had be bootlegged. Two thousand copies were in circulation. Paul Farris at Uptown Records in Soho said he had sold out of his order already. I contacted the distributor, struck a deal, and regained control of the track. It ended up becoming the first single on Buzzin' Fly.
Of all my Lazy Dog remixes, this remains my favourite. I always sense an elegance to the deep swing of the track that I largely take to be the result of Martin Ditcham's fantastic percussion playing. I'd asked for congas but he brought along African drums that has a similar but unique tone. They really add character to the rhythm part. I also love the simple harmonica that creeps in in the second verse. Makes me think of Stevie Wonder. We'd taken Lazy Dog on tour to America by this point and I have vivid memories of this going down a storm in Los Angeles at the ace Bossa Nova parties we played at the Fais Do-Do Club in Los Angeles. As far as I know this track was never release commercially, and was only ever serviced on promo to DJs.
The second mix compilation from Lazy Dog released by Virgin Records in 2001. I mixed CD1. Jay Hannan mixed CD2. The tracklist for my mix is: Jon Cutler 'It's Yours' (Original Distant Music Mix) / E-Smoove 'The Guitar' / Sade 'By Your Side' (Ben Watt Lazy Dog Remix) / 7th District Inc. 'Destiny' (Deep FM Trumpet Mix) / Lucy Pearl 'Without You' (Liquid People Vocal Mix) / Pearl Orchestra 'No Win Situation' (Kluster Uplifting Mix) / Sunshine Anderson 'Heard It All Before' (Ben Watt Lazy Dog Remix) / Lith De Lanka 'Dreamoz' (D'Julz Mix) / Deep Swing 'In The Music' (Sunswing Mix) / Patrick Green, 'My Love For You' (Live Element Remix). I was always fond of that D'Julz mix of Lith de Lanka.
My remix of Sade's 'By Your Side' established a template that I was make variations of for a couple of years. Originally a r'n'b track I was really taken with the attitude of the vocal in Sunshine Anderson's 'Heard It All Before', and approached Johnny D at Atlantic Records in New York and asked if I could try a remix. As with the Sade remix, I spent a long time chopping up the fragments of vocal that worked best with the tempo and mood of the mix. Sometimes I think the bass-line is too separated from the rest of the mix and it needs a good sound system with punchy mid-range to really bring it to life but it never failed to get a reaction and was another track that seems so wrapped up with Lazy Dog and all that it meant.
The third Lazy Dog remix I made in 2001, and perhaps the least well known. I used a Wah-Wah'd Clavinet and a mini Moog to play the main riffs and set the mood. Lovely singing from Maxwell on this. My main memory of playing this is at a wanton Virgin Records party me and Jay were invited to in Portugal. It was in the days when record companies pushed the boat out, and took place on the medieval ramparts of the Castle of the Moors in Sintra outside Lisbon, so high up that the low cloud at the top of the cliff was swirling around in the lights like natural dry ice. Those were the days.
It is hard to separate this remix from the scene that so inspired it. Lazy Dog, the club night I set up with Jay Hannan in west London in 1998, was - once it hit its strides in 2000 - a phenomenon that has rarely been bettered in all my years of DJing; an intense, euphoric, visceral party that hit the floor running every other Sunday at the ridiculously early hour of 4pm and ran headlong until 11pm in a tiny sweat-drenched basement on Notting Hill Gate. Jay had introduced a latin flavour to the party with the introduction of Grant Nelson's influential vocal mix of Negrocan's 'Cada Vez' in 2000, and my remix of Sade's 'By Your Side' picked up the baton and ran with it. The original is a slow simple ballad and much of my preparation involved chopping up the vocal performance and slowing down and speeding up sections of it to fit the 124bpm groove. The triple breakdown arrangment is decadent in the extreme, but the whole thing has a joyous gallop to it that still makes me picture those jubilant nights in Notting Hill. (The version pictured is the promo serviced by Virgin when the track was included on the mix compilation, Lazy Dog Vol. 2)
The first CD we released as Lazy Dog. I mixed CD 1 and Jay Hannan mixed CD 2. The tracks on my mix are: Julien Jabre 'That Day', Everything But The Girl 'The Future Of The Future' (Acapella) / Lisa Shaw 'Always' / Mark Grant 'Jazzy Kinda Sum'thn' / Dawn Tallman 'Be Encouraged' (Matt's II Deep Dub) / Leee John 'Mighty Power Of Love' (Mood II Swing Instrumental) / Sandy Rivera Feat. LT Brown 'Come Intro My Room (Soul Vision 'The Take It Back Mix') / Everything But The Girl 'Wrong' (Acapella) / Urban Blues Project Presents Michael Procter 'Love Don't Live' (Soulfuric Dub) / Sound Of Soul 'The Spiritual Groove' (Hard Steppin' Dub) / David Anthony 'It's All Right' / Julius Papp 'Round In My Mind' (Take 2) / Kerri Chandler 'Isis'. I was always embarrassed no one spotted the typo on the finished artwork that mis-spelled Kerri Chandler's name. Was still playing that Sound Of Soul record ten years later.
My first official house remix. I aimed high with this deep house classic. People will say I made house tracks on Everything But The Girl albums in the late nineties so what was the problem, but mixing specifically for the dancefloor not the hi-fi system is a different discipline entirely; sonic weight and dimension of sound are critical, and an acquired skill. Listening to the mixes now they sound a bit thin and lag a bit in the swing - in fact, I think I knew that at the time but didn't know how to correct it - but we all have to start somewhere. I suppose I could have worked with an experienced dancefloor engineer and let him make all the hard choices, but I was keen to learn new skills. Thanks to Nitegrooves and Chris Brann for letting me have a go.
Tracklist: Ben Watt Vocal Club Mix, Ben Watt Dub
'Central Reservation' was Beth's follow-up to her acclaimed debut 'Trailer Park'. She asked me if I'd like to work on a couple of tracks with her. We recorded 'Stars All Seem To Weep' in my old home studio in north London, where I'd made most of Everything But The Girl's 'Walking Wounded'. She used to sit out on the steps to the basement with her notebook scribbling lyrics. We tried a few different approaches, and then one morning she came over and I played her the descending woozy synth chords that make up the heart of the track saying they would work with the melody she had written. She loved it straighaway. The track didn't take long to finish after that. The version I did of 'Central Reservation' was going to be the main version on the album, I think, but at the last minute Beth decided on including her original slow version, and renamed mine the 'Then Again Version' (which I never quite understood) and put it at the end. I was glad it got used though. After all the recordings at home were finished Andy Bradfield helped me mix both at The Townhouse.
Tracks: Stars All Seem To Weep, Central Reservation (Then Again Version)
A single released by Cherry Red pulled from the 'North Marine Drive' album. Peter King's alto sax solo is a thing of wonder. I used to watch him play at the Bull's Head in Barnes when I was a boy. My dad, a jazz musician, used to take me down and let me watch from the back door. The photo of me on the cover was taken in Kensington Gardens. I tried to sing gently on the track after hearing Green sing 'The Sweetest Girl'.
Tracks: Some Things Don't Matter, On Box Hill
I have mixed feelings about my debut album. At its best I love its fearless use of warm jazz-flavoured chords, the tiny crystalline piano lines, the gauzy atmosphere and sense of mystery. It sounds both ardent and conceptualized and was clearly unlike anything else around at the time, which is something to be proud of, I suppose. If I have reservations it is about the lyrics. Too often the earnestness and desire to be open tips over into flagrant self-commiseration, although it didn't feel like that at the time. If felt honest and real. But hey, I was nineteen and in love! After its mixed reviews I veered away from the album from years, thinking it flawed and not worth revisiting, but recently I have been won over again by its very particular mood and tracks like 'North Marine Drive' (the best lyric, I think). The hectic tempo of a couple of the tracks was a direct influence of meeting Tracey; she played me pop bands new to me like The Distractions and Orange Juice. The photos on the cover of the kids playing chicken with the waves and Byronic one of me on the back were taken in Bridlington by one of my university lecturers. He did the hand-tinting to the front cover too, I think. North Marine Drive is the name of a rather ordinary residential road in Bridlington, but in my mind I pictured the similarly-named Marine Drive beneath the castle in Scarborough.
Tracks: On Box Hill, Some Things Don't Matter, Lucky One, Empty Bottles, North Marine Drive, Waiting Like Mad, Thirst For Knowledge, Long Time No Sea, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Of all my early recordings, this is perhaps the one I am still proudest of. Precocious and nineteen, I managed to get Robert Wyatt's phone number and talked him into singing and playing on it with me. He played two takes of piano on 'Walter and John' and suggested keeping both, panned left and right. The stuttering interplay of the two parts is really lovely. His voice is so great too. He also played a little solo on 'A Girl in Winter'. If there is a naivety to the lyrics here there is also a great amount of heart. The guitar was a Gretsch 1963 Clipper that I bought from Potter's music shop in Richmond, Surrey. I still have it, and played it only the other night on my gigs at The Slaughtered Lamb. The muffled reverberating echo was provided by an Evans Echopet EP50.
Tracks: Walter and John, Aquamarine, Slipping Slowly, Another Conversation With Myself, A Girl In Winter
Mike Alway put together a left-field experimental compilation for Cherry Red in 1981 called 'Perspectives and Distortion' featuring artists like Robert Fripp, Matt Johnson and the Virgin Prunes. He asked me to record a track for it. I came up with this. I have no memory of recording it. Which is odd. I like the guitar harmonics.
This was my first ever single. It was recorded on FA Cup Final day 1981 at a small 16-track studio in west Kensington. I remember the day largely because I had asked Kevin Coyne to produce the record for me, and he spent most of the session glued to his transistor radio listening to the football commentary. A Spurs fan, he had been aghast to find out the session had been booked on the very day his team ran out at Wembley. To his credit he didn't cancel the session when he found out, but most of the gasps in the control room were saved not for my performances but for Spurs' near misses. They drew 1-1. The record is often mis-spelled as 'Can't'. But it is in fact, 'Cant', as in hypocrisy, a typically earnest word to choose for a very earnest and slightly gothic record. The somewhat out-of-tune viola is played by an old school-friend of mine. He told me he hadn't practised for a while and might be a bit rusty, but we recorded it anyway. The dice on the front cover were drawn by another school-friend, Anthony, and the words 'Ben Watt' are in my own teenage handwriting. Not sure why I chose lime green and pink though.
Tracks: Cant, Tower of Silence, Aubade