UK-based psychedelic producer Aphid Moon will join us at the annual Alien Safari Masqued Ball 2015 after almost a 10 year stretch without a visit to to South Africa. With over 15 years experience in the scene, Jules Hamer has played an important role with his project Aphid Moon, collaboration AMD (alongside Dickster), label Aphid Records and more.
Psymedia : Hi Jules! To kick things off, tell me about growing up in the UK. What was it about the psychedelic scene that captured your attention? What made you want to produce trance?
Aphid Moon : I grew up in Devon in the U.K. Countryside, which is pretty conservative but underneath there is a strong, surfer, hippy vibe going down much like Cape Town, I guess. I followed the route as most kids do listening to the latest pop bands, in my case growing up with the Beatles, The Police, Blondie, U2, and others. At school I played jazz sax, classical flute and guitar & vocals in my own band. After that my taste went more Indie with bands like The Smiths, The Cure and as I discovered pot I started listening to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. At Uni, acid house passed me by but the “Madchester” sound which in itself was driven by the new ecstasy craze gave me my first taste of live psychedelia with bands like the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and My Bloody Valentine.
It wasn’t until I left for London with the idea of getting a band together to conquer the world that I had an epiphany. My friend practically forced me to go to a student club night on a Thursday called Megatrippolis in London’s Heaven. I discovered later the DJ’s that night were the Flying Rhino boys fresh back from a season in Goa. I was so blown away by the sounds, energy, lasers and the flashing lights that I ditched the idea of a band and changed my focus; “I want to learn how the hell they do that” was a mantra going round my brain as I left the club.
Within two months me and my house mate put on our first Psychedelic trance night in London at the Crib in Brixton (now the basement of Mass), which we called Aphid Moon. 12 months later I was DJing goa trance on vinyl for the first time at my own club night warming up for a relatively unknown but fast rising star called Tristan. I took a course in Midi programing and 24 track engineering at IMW college in north London and started pooling kit with a friend. By 1997 I had my first Aphid Moon vinyl 12 inch single release with the track “Tazmania”. The other side “Electronic Membrane” was written by my mate Cass Irvine, on Interstella Records home of Dimension Five (Cass went on to a very successful career in mastering becoming a partner in Wired Masters and is responsible for the mastering of many successful psy-releases including AMD‘s Big Fish and my Global Culture and Super Collider albums).
My progression from there is pretty much a complete immersion in the psy scene, first weekly then nightly club nights in the 90’s, in london squats, clubs and free outdoor parties. In 1999 I spent 6 months in Japan where I experienced their scene culminating in an 8 week festival tour on the Dream Creation Bus around the European festival circuit just before the Millennium.
As far as growing up in the Psytrance scene that was it. The serious work of becoming a real psy trance producer happened after that and you can read more about it in my bio. But to answer the the question more succinctly the Psy scene is our movement and I always had a romantic notion that I wanted to be part of an out there artistic movement that believed in freedom of expression. Like the hippy movement in the 60’s & 70’s or the beatniks in the 50’s I think the psy scene has kept many of the same values but also kept up with technology and changes in the modern world.
Psymedia : How has the UK and global scene changed since you started out?
Aphid Moon : Not so much I think. People who are entering the scene now creating new small parties are having very similar experiences to the one I had in the nineties. The whole DIY culture is still strong and feeding the movement. However, there is no doubt that the scene is magnitudes bigger than it was. There’s a feeling all genres of music inevitably become a bit of an industry. Saying that, there are so many sub genres in psytrance that it’s hard to pigeonhole it. The great thing is as the older bigger labels become more famous there are a huge amount of new ones being created, nipping at their heels, all with their own sound. I see it as a strong artistic scene which has the ability to reinvent itself.
Psymedia : The UK has produced some outstanding artists with a unique sound. Do you think there are particular influences in the UK that aren’t found elsewhere? Any upcoming UK artists you think deserve a mention?
Aphid Moon : London has always had a strong movement and a lot of us arrived at our sound from going to parties almost exclusively in the UK when we first got into it (probably because we were broke). We always had great labels from the off with Tip Records, Flying Rhino, Dragonfly, Twisted, Transient, Matsuri and Blue Room. The Alchemy, Wild Things and Anglo/South African partnership Nano Records (which I’m sure you all know). Scorb‘s Hat Trick records, Liquid, Bom Shanka, Mutagen and Aphid Records and many more spawned out of the London party scene 24/7 Records in Austria has its roots here and Zero One in Ibiza has close ties.
I think Mutagen are developing a new take on the old Nano sound. Mechanimal being their star and Contineum coming up with some interesting new vibes. Hypnocoustic, Neill Moore are developing nicely. From the more underground side of things Forest Psy is quite a new sound taking more of a Wild Things approach we have Psynon Records and rising stars such as Mark Day of Blue Hour Sounds.
Psymedia : Lets chat a bit more about your label, Aphid Records. Why did you feel the need to have your own label? What other services does Aphid offer?
Aphid Moon : Aphid Records was really set up purely out of my own selfish desire to release the music which I produced without influence from others, to be completely artistically free. As a producer I have a very strong feeling of what kind of music I like and what I want to produce. Having my own label lets me be a little more self-indulgent but it also has the knock on effect of allowing me to create my own sound without any restraints. I also spend time writing tracks with up and coming artists from other labels helping them with production and in effect lifting the standard of the quality of music coming out of the UK.
Psymedia : What are the biggest challenges to running your own label?
Aphid Moon : The biggest challenge to running a label is time and organization. It is a full-time job running a label, especially as I do the mastering, web marketing, promotion and odd label parties in London. I don’t think I quite appreciated how hard Regan must work to keep Nano firing on all cylinders when I first took the task on. At the moment I’m keeping the label small but if we get to the point of affording a full-time label manager then we would expand. However, if an act comes along that fits with the label sound and ethos we would be up for working with them and building a relationship. At the moment we are working with the other UK labels and various artists in collaboration. I am happy with the way things are going for the label at the moment.
Psymedia : You’ve also got two side projects, AMD (alongside Dickster) and Psibindi. How do these two projects give you and alternative creative outlet that differs from your solo project?
Aphid Moon : AMD is great fun. I always enjoy working with Dick Trevor and I feel this vehicle continues to develop the Nano sound we created. We are both very busy these days but are working on a new EP this half of the year and have a track coming out of the forthcoming Dickster solo album which, can you believe, is debuting after all these years on Nano.
The Psibindi project is a collaboration with my good friend Rena who is also one of the main DJ’s on the label. She is a classically trained Indian Vocalist but is very versatile. It really is her project and she works with a variety of different producers, Mechanimal being one of her main collaborators. With this project I wanted to make use of her vocals as another instrument to create FX and ambience. This drives the tracks in a certain direction making for a more groove based sound with the vocal FX taking the lead. She is well on the way to having enough tracks for her first live set with her new EP Elliptic (another Aphid Moon, Mechanimal collaboration) set for release in April. She is also founder of the Psi-Sisters partnership which is having their annual blast this weekend in London, where there is a full lineup of 18 female DJ’s causing mayhem. Its a bit of a shame to miss it, but Alien Safari in South Africa is a hard one to top. Big energy will be generated round the planet this weekend thats for sure.
Psymedia : This won’t be your first time in South Africa. What has your previous experience been like, and why are you excited to be back?
Aphid Moon : Its been a while but each time I’ve been in South Africa I’ve been blown away by the experience. In 2005 I was here with Nano for Origin and I also played at Alien Safari which was a bit more of a modest affair but load of fun with plenty of nutters having it large. This time I’m really excited to be back because I’m really curious to see how the party has grown into a full blown festival. I’m sure the energy will be just as unique, just amplified by a few thousand I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it.
Psymedia : Thanks for the interview, see you at Alien Safari Masqued Ball 2015! Anything to add before we finish off?
Aphid Moon : Well, I am just thrilled to be playing at the Masqued Ball! I think there’s going to be a very special energy there this weekend so see you there its going to be blasting!