“I’m so inspired by the sounds and energy of those times…” We chat to Arkley about channeling the spirit of early 90s rave
Scottish DJ and producer Arkley is building a reputation for channelling the rave sound of the early 90s and bringing it up to date – via tracks like Back 2 Love, Rave ’92 (Everybody Dancing), Music (Over & Over), and Burnin.
His latest release is the Channel A EP, which was unveiled on 10 February. It can be downloaded/streamed here.
He’s also the host of the Spirit of Rave radio show on the Dance Vibez network, which blends classic acid house, rave and dance with brand new tracks inspired by those times, was formerly part of drum ‘n’ bass act Deuce & Charger, and has cited 2 Many DJs as having an ‘inspiring’ influence on his career.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi, thanks for chatting to us. Tell us about your latest release, the Channel A EP?
It’s a set of three tracks that are deeply influenced by acid house and early 90s rave. I’m so inspired by the sounds and energy of those times, but I like to give them a modern twist. These three tracks are unified by the use of gospel vocal samples, which also give them a really uplifting quality, reminiscent of artists like Black Box and Strike.
You’ve built a reputation for your upfront re-imaginings of the classic house sound on tracks like Rave 92, Burnin and Back 2 Love – the latter of which is probably our favourite. I guess ‘having fun’ is a key ingredient of your productions?
Yeah, absolutely! My music is a celebration of life, dancing and togetherness. I have to be having fun when I’m producing, or it doesn’t work for me. I’m glad to hear that comes through in the tunes. I like to make people dance with a smile on their faces!
What was ‘ground zero’ for you in terms of influencing your current sound – what track or artist got you hooked?
I’d have to say The KLF. Their music combined with their attitude has always been an influence, but it has become extra relevant for this Arkley project. I have a copy of their manifesto, The Manual, on the keyboard in my studio.
You are using digital VSTs and things like that to emulate the old ‘analogue’ sound – are there any tips and tricks you adopt to give them extra authenticity?
I like to use plugins like the RX950, which emulates the AD/DA conversation of the old Akai S950 sampler, and the PSP Vintage Warmer to add some warm tape saturation. I also add life to my programming by messing with swing and velocity settings.
At the same time, I don’t want to be too slavish to old school sounds, and I like to make sure my productions have a modern punch.
Your latest EP was mastered by Mike Marsh, who has worked with some legendary dance acts over the years – what did you learn from working with him?
Mike’s work is incredible, especially on early Prodigy and Chemical Brothers records. His masters have encouraged me to work on my sound selection and mixing – they’re so clean, there’s nowhere to hide!
You have cited the As Heard On Radio Soulwax series by 2 Many DJs as a big influence on you – why? Have you had the chance to work with/meet the guys?
They’re just the best DJ mixes! The juxtaposition of tracks from across genres and decades is so creative and inspiring. I like to adopt a similar philosophy with my own DJ mixes, where I combine modern tunes with various rave classics.
I’ve never met or worked with them, but that would be an incredible experience – on the bucket list for sure.
Are there any more Deuce & Charger releases on the horizon, or is that project permanently parked?
Well, I’d never say never, but I think it’s unlikely. I had a lot of fun with that project, but my head is definitely fully into Arkley now.
What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
I’ve got a guest mix for BBC Introducing coming up and I’m also finishing off new tracks for my next EP. The first of those should be released hot on the heels of Channel A.
My monthly radio show, Spirit Of Rave, is gathering some really nice momentum, too. Plus I’m desperate to start playing out again, so hopefully there will be some shows later in the year.
Thanks Arkley for chatting to us. You can download/stream the Channel A EP here.