INTERVIEW | Lavonz X Dansu Discs
Over the years, Dansu Discs have developed themselves a solid reputation as an exciting multi genre record label, moving with the times and genre spikes whilst keeping their ear to the ground on emerging artists and sounds. Branding forever on point, a steady flow of output keeps them in the eyes and ears of DJ’s and consumers alike, rarely over saturating themselves and mixing things up in the form of EPs and VA’s in both formats.
The latest Dansu release is the next instalment of their Club Culture series, the 3rd in a line of Vinyl VA’s used to showcase a variety of talented producers on the exciting road to big things - previous features have included Interplanetary Criminal, Soundbwoy Killah (now Frazer Ray), Jack Michael and Glockta.
As expected Club Culture Vol. 3 doesn’t fall short and remains with the times, showcasing uber UK sounding contributions from Frankel & Harper, T. Jacques, Main Phase and legendary Locked On veteran Lavonz (formerly James Lavonz).
The latter, Lavonz, makes his personal comeback with a re-issued classic 'I Need Love', the first of it’s kind for Nick Howsley of Dansu Discs, positively encompassing the well rounded unpredictability that the label is becoming known for.
Ahead of the release on 11th August we premiere 'Lavonz - I Need Love' and have a chat with him and Nick.
Nick and James, thanks for helping to put this together! We're really looking forward to this classic reissue, somewhat perfectly timed (minus the clubs) in the height of the summer, during a healthy UKG resurgance. Firstly, how did the Dansu X Lavonz hook-up arise?
Nick: I contacted James earlier in the year. I’ve always been a fan of James’s work and the raw and very distinctive Garage sound that he has. I did notice it had been a few years since he released any new material so thought it was a conversation worth having and yeah, I’m sure James will agree the connection grew from there - It's all come together really nicely and we’re working on some very exciting stuff!
James: Pretty much exactly what Nick said! He contacted me earlier in the year about releasing on Dansu Discs. We are fortunate enough to be in a time where I actually own the full rights to a lot of stuff previously released, including old stuff which never got released so it worked out really well. Besides bringing ‘I Need Love’ to the Club Culture series, we are also working on an EP for release in September.
James, some of your earliest releases came in the late nineties, talk to us about your breakthrough back then?
My first release was The Haunted House EP back in 97 as part of the Krush Groove production collective. I was involved as a musician, engineer and producer. Following that I hooked up with Tuff Jam (Karl Tuff Enuff Brown and Matt Jam Lamont) who basically heard my music whilst I was cutting acetates (dub plates) at JTS studio and took me under their wing. Regular air play on their underground frequencies Vybe chart on Kiss propelled me into a known name in the UK Garage scene.
How would you compare that to your return?
In many ways it actually feels like unfinished business, it feels good to be releasing some undiscovered and new material now!
Over the years you’ve produced some wicked records and it’s great to see “I Need Love” is being repressed. Rumours are you were very young at the time of producing this?
I started young in the game, I was 15 when I made I Need Love and I'm proud of the fact that it still stands the test of time. Much respect to Nick at Dansu for having the ears and vision in giving it a rebirth it truly deserves now in August 2020.
Nick this is the first repress material on Dansu right? Is this something you’re actively looking to continue in the future?
It's not something I would rule out doing again. As James has mentioned, we're actually repressing some more material of his on the next EP as well as some unreleased material. This 'Uncut Gems EP' is definitely one to look out for! One thing I want to also maintain with Dansu Discs is keeping it varied and exciting for the listeners. I kind of like the uncertainty of what comes next - sometimes I even surprise myself!
James, what other productions stick out for you from over the years?
All of them ha ha... “Paradise” and “I Need love” are probably my most acclaimed pieces of work, however I believe tracks like “Personality” and “Mash Up The Venue” both released on Locked On indicate my true production sound and mark my discography as the start of my song writing talent.
Well known for your bumpy vocal UK garage sound, what producers influenced your style and how has that developed over 20 years later?
The first producers to really grab me growing up (inspirationally) were M.A.W , Todd Edwards, Tuff Jam and Timbaland. All being masters of the sampler and instrumentation. Compared to now, I believe the sampler was so key back then in creating unique producer identity. Aside from developing with experience as a producer, the realms of my UK Garage sound are very similar then and now because I still use classic outboard gear such as Juno 106 and Akai samplers, which gives my sound a bit of edge. Other than that I do what I do and I don’t try to emulate other trends.
In the mid-naughties you were also involved in the House music scene and collaborated with Detroit artist Quentin Harris (Def Mix). How did this come about? Do you have any plans to dip back into this genre?
I met Quentin back in 2007 through a label called Trippin’ Records, he heard a few songs I wrote and sang. He liked them and got where I was coming from artistically. Collaborations started from there, including “Reason For Love” and “Far Away”, released on Trippin’ (2007) and Strictly Rhythm (2008). I have a forthcoming release in August called “Sleeping With the Devil” (Pighi & Paramour) mix on Stereophonic. Big tune, watch out for it!
Nick, Dansu are well known for being eclectic with their releases along the club spectrum, talk to us a bit more about the A&R processes behind the label?
I love digging for new artists and seeing new people murge onto the scene. With A&R though that is one that I just take it as it comes. Sometimes it can be being sent demos or sometimes it can be just a quick message to someone after I've come across of a track/EP of their's that I really rate. For example, DJ Life, who is based out in Australia has an EP coming on Dansu towards the end of the year which includes 2 special remixes and I came across him by just flicking through Soundcloud. I find it all very natural and unforced that way.
Who would you like to collaborate with in the future, James?
Kenny Dope , Sia and John Frusciante.
Nick, are there any dream artists that you would love on the Label?
I’m not really one to chase signing big names to the label but 3 artists I would love to get involved are Urulu, Shanti Celeste, Ramsey & Fen (going back to the reissue question, that is one I would love to do)
I understand you are also a singer-songwriter James. Talk to us a bit more about what you’ve been involved in over the years… Does this ever influence the production of your club sounds?
I started singing my own songs when I was 21 as always felt there was something missing in the delivery given by featured singers. I developed my own unique vocal expression and tones and my style is more in the Alt Rock, Emo genres. I have released two albums on my own label Versatilick called 'Happiness and Narcissus'. I am an artist who chooses to express myself through vast musical channels all of which are unique to their own project or time
What can your listeners expect from Lavonz in the coming months?
Forthcoming coming EP uncut gems with Dansu Discs which is coming out in September. Get ready for this baby! This will be a six track Lavonz Garage with new and old collection. Look out for collaborations as a singer songwriter with Pighi & Paramour, a very 80's dance electronic feel. First release “Sleeping With the Devil” out on Sterophonic, followed by an album.
James, what are your Top 3 tips for young producers?
Create your own producer identity
Standing out artistically is the difference between touching on something or emulating it. Don’t follow, do what you do
Learn to play an instrument properly
Nick, what are your Top 3 tips for someone looking to start a Record Label.
Do your own thing! Don't start out to follow another label, start out to do your own thing and what you want to do.
Be someone that you could see yourself working with. Music is something that should bring people together. Be a good person and spread positivity!
This is a tip that maybe not everyone may agree on but I think I remind myself of this tip often. Keep it varied, I don't ever want every single Dansu Discs release to sit under one genre.
James, care to share with us three Record Labels that have caught your eye over the past 12 months:
Same question for you Nick?
This is hard....
South London Pressings - I love that bumpy summer UKG sound. The new one with Nitework is killer too!
Nuances de Nuit - for those who love the rollers! Volume. 4 (which I believe is out now) is one that is well worth checking out.
DimSumRecords - I have to mention Len, that guy is a creative genius and a pleasure to work with. We collabed on a lockdown live stream for the Mental Health Foundation and I'm sure it wont be the last time we collab either!
Big-Ups to Nick & James, Club Culture Vol.3 is available on pre-order via DnR and ships from 11th Aug!
A1. Frankel & Harper - Menacing
A2. T. Jacques - Hot Java
B1. Lavonz - I Need Love
B2. Main Phase - Nice 'N' Sweet