Interview: Sinden

August 20, 2009

Graeme Sinden, UK producer and bass-assaulting DJ, relentlessly surfaces regional electronic music and innovative tunes from every continent on his weekly KISS FM radio show, and continues to raise the standard for musical discovery in the world of dance music. In addition to endlessly danceable remixes for everyone from Rye Rye to Bjork, Sinden and Joshua Harvey (bka The Count or Hervé et al) are preparing to release their first full-length album this fall, led by the massive first single, "Mega." While he was in New York recently for a show, we caught up with Sinden to discuss his brutal schedule, love of radio and his new music. After the jump, read the interview and watch "Mega"'s video.

Interview by Natalia Ciolko

With the constant remixes, touring, the radio show and The Count & Sinden album coming out, how do you manage everything?
I’m busy all the time but I wouldn’t have it any other way really. I love what I do, and it doesn’t really labor me. I don’t really get too much chill time, that’s the only thing.

How about your personal life in the midst of it all?
It’s really nice to have a manager that I can call 24 hours a day, but then also that means that I have to respond to things 24 hours a day as well, so it’s like a double-edged sword. You feel like you’re on call all the time, like a doctor or something. If I just switch off, I feel a bit guilty because I work for myself as well, and there’s that constant grind mentality.

How did your radio show begin?
When I pitched the idea to my producer, I said I want to do a radio show which is kind of weird and not like anything that you’ve got on there before, but it kind of ties up everything quite neatly—music from around the world, regional hip-hop, left-field dance music, exciting underground dance music, dancehall, and rock music as well, because no one plays rock music on KISS.

Where are you finding a lot of the more out-there stuff?
I usually try to dedicate a day in a week to listen to new music. In terms of finding new stuff, I think because I feel all music I’m always trying to make links with all sorts of people, like rap dudes, or dancehall people, or just funky guys or grime guys, house fiends. I try to navigate into these different scenes and pick the best things that I like.

What can you say about the UK underground music scene?
I think you only really understand it if you go there and experience it yourself. It’s difficult because a lot of these scenes don’t have the infrastructure to distribute their stuff, and it’s quite regional. It’s like music over here—I love Baltimore club music, and these kind of left field, alternative dance music scenes, but they’re not on the radar of most people.

Why have you chosen to invest so much time and energy in radio, as opposed to other music-sharing mediums?
I feel quite romantic about radio, more than I do about the visual, moving image. I always grew up with radio, which was my source of finding new music. I was always taping songs off the pop charts and even going a bit deeper into that with pirate radio. I remember turning all the lights off and laying in bed, listening to radio religiously, and always taping shows, so I think that really one of my first ambitions, other than making music, was to get into radio and share music. I could never compromise what I play on there, and that’s what I like about it.

How do you feel about the current emphasis on video images in the music world?
I think now with visuals we’re almost told what to feel about a record. Now people remember visuals, and they’re more striking. We need visuals to set a track and promote the singles but back when I was just listening to the music, I didn’t have a video in mind, it was just like, “I really feel that track.” While at Armand [Van Helden]’s house, we were talking about how back in the ’70s there wasn’t the need to channel the music into a visual form, so you didn’t have any choice but to listen to it and make your own observations and interpret it and see the band live.

Can you explain what the video for “Mega” is all about?
The designer that made this light installation for the video, we just brought him onboard to do our DJ visuals as well and he’s amazing. He’s a graduate from St. Mark’s school, and he’s one of the most promising new designers, up and coming, and we’re really lucky to get hold of him. He’s done an amazing job on our show, it’s all fresh material for an hour and-a-half, not repetitive at all. It’s a real trip.

What’s the plan for the release of the Count & Sinden album?
We’re gearing up for our full-length release this fall, and “Mega” is basically setting up for the first official single, so it’s kind of a precursor just to have a really strong club track out there before a more pop radio single, something to get all the DJs playing it. So far we’ve had a great response—everyone from underground regional urban dance DJs in the UK playing it on pirates, to people like Busy P, Laidback Luke, your Diplos, all the right people supporting it.

Where do you guys work on your music?
Herve and I have just built a studio in his flat. It’s not fancy at all, not like going to a studio where you get Vitamin Water and green tea—you might get a dirty mug of tea or a piece of toast. Even if we had a big recording budget, I don’t think we’d go into a really expensive studio. We’re pretty grounded people and I think that’s where the good ideas come from: hanging out and friendship. Herve’s a really good mate of mine and we’ve been through a lot. Our music is about what’s close to us, and what’s real. It’s been two years, but it feels like more because we’ve definitely been through a lot, we’ve changed directions, had ups and downs and we just come through it. I think we’ll look back and laugh on it in the end.

Interview: Sinden