“You need to make music because you really believe in it…” Dave Seaman chats to 909originals’ Emer O’Connor
An active participant in the dance scene since its foundation, Dave Seaman is synonymous with countless projects over a 30-plus year career – his work alongside Steve Anderson as Brothers In Rhythm; his classic Renaissance and Global Underground mix CDs (particularly GU016: Cape Town! – Ed); his Selador Recordings label, which he runs alongside Steve Parry; his remix work; and of course his genre-straddling DJ sets around the world.
Having recently released on labels such as Sum Over Histories, Sudbeat, Renaissance, Sincopat and Hive Audio, he’s just teamed up with Quivver on a collaborative EP, which also features vocals from Brianna Price – Rockets & Rainbows – which is out now on Poker Flat Recordings. You can download/stream it here.
909originals’ Emer O’Connor caught up with him.
Hi Dave, thanks for talking to 909originals. You have propelled yourself into 2023 with your latest creation, Rockets & Rainbows on Steve Bug‘s Poker Flat Records. First of all, what triggered the idea for this track and your partnership with John Graham, aka the mighty Quivver?
I have known John for a long time and we were planning to do a compilation mix CD together. That was mooted long before COVID but it got put on the back burner. That was the good thing about COVID, it gave us the chance to get in the studio together and make music together during the lockdowns, when we weren’t allowed to mix with other people or do any gigs.
So, throughout 2020-2021, we went backwards and forwards to John’s studio in Nuneaton and made quite a lot of music together. Finally, the fruits of those sessions have started to get released, and Rockets & Rainbows was one of those. We spent some time playing some of our favourite records for the last 20 years or so to each other, and one of Peace Division’s tracks inspired us.
It was originally just a backing track – John had a sweet groove going, and then we decided we needed some vocals, so I wrote some lyrics and it became Rockets & Rainbows.
Where did you come across Brianna Price, and can you explain how you typically collaborate with other artists?
Well, Brianna Price, better known as B.Traits, was suggested as a vocalist for the track by my publishing company. She loved the track and agreed to work on it. Due to COVID restrictions, the recording was done online and she sent us the vocals. The collaboration came together quickly and smoothly.
Not being in the same room together is not ideal, but advances in technology have made it much easier to collaborate remotely – we can hear and see exactly what is happening and make real-time adjustments.
You have worked on many critically acclaimed productions, remixes and mixed compilations. Do you still produce for other artists?
To be honest, I haven’t produced for others in a long time. In the 90s, I worked a lot with my production partner Steve Anderson under the alias Brothers in Rhythm. At that time, dance music and electronic music were exploding, and commercial artists and major record labels were looking for producers to work with.
However, now, I have a family, I run my own record label, and I have DJ gigs, so it’s impossible to juggle too many things without some of them falling off.
When it comes to releasing music, I’m happy to work with other artists and labels. Poker Flat has been one of my favourite labels for the last 20 years, and I’ve appreciated and loved their music. With the eight tracks that John and I made over the last two years, it’s not possible for us to release all of them on our own labels – otherwise, it would just be a constant stream of our own music.
From Selador’s point of view, we have a roster of artists, so we have to find other outlets to release our own music. It’s nice to be a part of the scene and share with other people. It’s an honour to be on Poker Flat, and it’s a pleasure for us to be part of the release.
You have a pretty hectic schedule at the moment, from what we can see?
January was particularly busy for me, even though I wasn’t earning any money as I haven’t done any gigs. I took some time off to focus on finishing a lot of productions for a big project we have planned for our 10th birthday for Selador, which is coming up in April.
There are a lot of artists involved and a lot of organisation that is going into it, so it’s been a challenge, but also a productive period.
Are you feeling under pressure to get back on the road, then?
I had the opportunity to get stuck into my productions because January is usually a bit quieter in the northern hemisphere, so it’s a good time to get things done. However, it was still a challenge and a pretty steep learning curve.
I recently headed out for my first gigs of the year, in Houston and Miami. I feel like I’ve cleared the decks and am ready for the year ahead.
Can you tell us about your upcoming event for Selador’s 10th Birthday?
Yes, we’re planning a big birthday party in London at Studio 338 –Hernan Cattaneo and Steve Parry are joining as well. We’re also doing a warm-up festival in partnership with some residents, who will be playing too. The main event is on Easter Sunday.
We’re in discussions about further parties too through May and June so hopefully we’ll be milking it!
Wow, that will keep you fierce busy – particularly as you have an energetic family to contend with too?
Yes, I have three boys, 17, 16, and 10. There’s definitely a lot of testosterone in the house.
But my boys are used to me going away at the weekends and being at home during the week. I always come back after Sunday and do the school runs and other activities during the week.
In fact, COVID gave me a chance to reflect and spend more time with my family. Since things started to return to normal, I’m only doing gigs every other weekend, rather than every weekend. My wife is doing well in her own career, so the balance is better. I’m trying to spend more time at home and be more selective about the gigs I take, while still maintaining a normal life.
So your approach to gigging has changed significantly?
I’m in the industry for a long time, and travelling and playing every weekend can get tiring. I’m trying to be more picky and choose gigs wisely, rather than just doing every opportunity that comes my way. The goal is to have a better balance between my work and personal life.
You’re clearly a highly successful and driven DJ and producer – was there a pinnacle moment for you growing up as a young lad in Leeds, when you know your heart lay in music and you could make a career out of it?
My career really took off when I won a grand raffle back in 1987. I went to the DMC Music Convention which was an award ceremony and convention for DJs, which was held in London every year by DMC, aka Disco Mix Club.
I filled my name and address in for this raffle and my name came out of the hat first. I won a week in New York at the New Music Seminar, which at the time was kind of the equivalent of what the what the Miami Music Conference is today.
What happened while you were in New York for that lucky week in ’87?
I met a lot of people in the record industry that I would never normally have been able to come into contact with – also we were going clubbing and going to record shops, etc.
I met the people that ran DMC, Tony and Christine Prince – I was there as their guest for the week. I got on really well with them and they offered me a job the following week when I got back! I moved from Leeds to London and started working at DMC. It turned out they were the publishers of Mixmag at the time so I ended up doing a lot of stuff on Mixmag, and eventually became the editor. So yeah, it was a lucky break!
What sort of clubs did you get to experience in New York?
Yeah, I mean, I was like a kid in a sweet shop, because I had been obsessed with club culture. I was only 19 at the time, so I wasn’t even old enough to get into most clubs in America, but I did anyway. Mars was one club that I particularly liked, which was owned by Mark Kamins. There was another exclusive club called Nells that I also enjoyed, and the Roxy was another spot. Save The Robots too. In New Jersey, Tony Humphreys’ Zanzibar was another place that I went to. There were lots of clubs to choose from in New York, which was the epicentre of clubbing in the world at that time.
I mean, eventually, the UK probably took over and Ibiza and Berlin have had their heydays, but New York was ‘it’ at that point. It was incredible to go to some of these legendary clubs and see some of these legendary DJs that I had only read about.
Spending all day in record shops hunting for records and hanging out with the UK music industry at the time was amazing. I was very lucky to have been in New York at that time.
It was even before acid house culture took off. The year that the embryonic stages of acid house were born out of Ibiza was the summer of 87, which was when I was in New York.
Wow, you lucky duck! Now, you touched on your time as the editor for the longest-running electronic music magazine, Mixmag. Could you tell us a bit about your time at the helm?
Of course, it was a very exciting time. When I joined DMC, I started doing some reviews and small interviews. Then the editor left early in ’88, and they were looking for a replacement.
I was kind of dropped in at the deep end – I was trying to pull a magazine together, and it was all very haphazard last minute. I managed to do another edition, and after a couple of months, Tony Prince asked me if I wanted to continue. He said, “You’re doing a great job, let’s just continue,” and suddenly I was editor of the magazine at 19 years old. Again, very lucky to be in the right place at the right time – especially when acid house culture really began.
That was the time that Paul Oakenfold and Nicky Holloway and everyone else came back from Ibiza. They all made records, all went in the charts, it was the very beginning of the DJ revolution. So, I was at the helm of the magazine that was there to document it all.
I mean, we were making it up as we went along. It was a very naive and wonderful time.
Unfortunately I missed out on the summer of 87 in Ibiza, but I only started at Mixmag in October ’87, so it was just as they were all coming back from Ibiza, having spent their summer there. I do remember Paul telling me, during a soundcheck for Spectrum one Monday night in Heaven, that ‘this was going to change the world’, and he was right – at least in our world. It was wonderful to be a part of it all.
It changed my world when I went to Ibiza for the first time in 2002. I actually saw you play in El Divino, a stunning club overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in old Ibiza Town harbour.
Oh wow, yes it was very beautiful.
So it’s great to have the opportunity to chat with you now.
Yes, 20 years in the making, happy days!
You are known for your sensational mix compilations for Global Underground and Renaissance. Did you release your own music before that, or did you begin producing after that?
I started making music together with Steve Anderson in 1989 under the name Brothers in Rhythm. Steve joined DMC after I did, and we became friends as the two new employees bonding over our love of music
DMC had their studios there – they did the mixing championships and annual Dance Music Awards –and they had a huge merchandising warehouse, including all the Technics stuff.
While I was working on the magazine, Steve was working in the studios, and then we started to cross over, he began to write for the magazine, and I started wandering into the studios.
Then just by accident, really, we made a remix of Style Council’s Promised Land for the DMC albums. They used to do exclusive remixes every month as a subscription service, especially for DJs, so we did one of those, and it took off. After that, we made Such A Good Feeling, which was so well received, it led to more work.
The Pet Shop Boys liked Such A Good Feeling so much that they asked us to do a remix for them. Before we knew it, we were producing the Pet Shop Boys.
It was crazy times indeed, and it all spiralled very quickly. That’s kind of why I left Mixmag in the end because I couldn’t do everything.
I had started DJing as well, in Shelley’s. The guy who used to be my photographer for Mixmag, Gary McLarnan, was the promoter, and when he asked me to DJ, I couldn’t keep everything going. I couldn’t have a day job with the magazine, be making music, and DJ simultaneously.
So, right through the 90s, we were making lots of music, and we did a lot of remixes and productions for big artists. The first mixed compilation I ever did was in 1991, Mixmag Live, a double CD. I did one CD, and Carl Cox did the other. It was the first ever commercially available mix compilation.
That was the start of my mix CD journey – of which I’ve done 20 or 30 at this stage. All of these experiences fed into each other and were a big part of my musical journey.
Can you explain the difference your technology or equipment preferences make to your productions?
There’s no set rules for what technology or equipment to use. Some producers prefer to use hardware synths and machines while others prefer to use software and plug ins on a computer.
There’s also seems to be a trend of going back to using classic equipment and sounds, or using modular machines, which can be addictive for producers once they get started. I just tend to go with whatever feels right at any given time.
Earlier, you mentioned producing for the Pet Shop Boys. When you’re invited to produce or remix a record by a multi-million-selling artist, do you find there’s added pressure from their management, or do you approach it the same way as you would a client for your own label?
We’re talking about over 30 years ago when we were working with the Pet Shop Boys. We were very green, having only made a couple of records, and all of a sudden, we were co-producing the Pet Shop Boys, with them in the studio, which was quite daunting.
They asked us to come and make some music with them because they liked what we were doing. I’ve never really found myself under pressure to make something I didn’t want to do or found myself in an uncomfortable situation. If I did so, I would politely decline.
You need to make music because you really believe in it, rather than working on something that goes against your artistic vision.
Usually, there’s a discussion to ensure you’re both comfortable with going down a particular path, and if there are any changes from what you initially expected, agreement is needed.
When we worked with Kylie Minogue on the Impossible Princess album, we ended up going quite experimental, certainly in terms of what Kylie was known for doing at the time, and then it didn’t do too well. However, last year was the 25th anniversary, and it got re-released and received more kudos and plaudits than when it originally came out. It even went Top 10 last year from a vinyl-only release.
So, although it was 25 years in the making, we finally got some recognition. That is a classic example of going off and doing something that would not necessarily have been asked of us to start off with, but we both really wanted to do it. Kylie was the artist, she wrote her own lyrics for the first time, and we gave her a platform to do that. We really loved it!
Is that something that you’d like to do in the future someday?
Yeah, I think if the right project came along. At the moment, I’m pretty much tied up with the record label, DJing, and my own productions, but should the right project arise working with another artist, something truly exciting, then yeah, why not!
Getting back to your compilation mixes now, you’ve produced about ten for the Renaissance series and claimed four locations for the Global Underground series, but how do they choose the names of cities for the mixes? And why isn’t the Lithuanian mix called Vilnius?
Ha ha yeah, good question! The cities were chosen as the names for the mixes because they were the locations of the Global Underground parties, Buenos Aires, Melbourne, and Cape Town.
We basically decamped to each city, and a Global Underground night was held at a club there, and then I came home and made a CD based loosely on what I played that night, depending on how the party had gone.
Licensing was such a problem that you’d have to almost decide exactly what you were going to play and have the license approved before you went there, which is not a great thing to do as a DJ. So, I tried to include as many tracks as I played live, but then I added in some, and took away others that we couldn’t get licensing for. Everything was based around visiting that city and immersing ourselves in that culture for a weekend.
Generally, the decision was made by GU to name the mixes after the main cities of the most recognisable global location. Lithuania was known as an upcoming Eastern European destination, but Vilnius was not known as a clubbing capital. In fact, the party wasn’t even held in Vilnius it was in Kaunas, so people would have said, ‘where?!’ So I think we simply embraced the mix as GU Lithuania.
What was your favourite between the four?
My favourite CD or my favourite party?
Melbourne was my favourite night, an incredible experience – although Argentina was always fantastic. My favourite CD out of those ones – gosh, that’s a difficult one, I don’t know really, they’ve all got their own merits. Probably Buenos Aires. That was the first one I ever did, so that holds a special place for me, the first GU.
Ten years ago, now, you DJed for the 20th anniversary of Renaissance, can you tell us about some of your highlights on that tour?
It wasn’t a tour as such – they did a couple of parties for the 20th anniversary, one in Birmingham and one in Leeds. I ended up not being able to make Birmingham because we had a family problem and somebody was taken to hospital, so I couldn’t make the gig. So I only did the Leeds one.
Yeah, it was great fun – I did the classics room with Ian Ossia, who I had done so many Renaissance shows with before, and many Renaissance tours together. It was a fun time to go back and revisit some of those Renaissance classics. I think that mix is still online if people want to connect into it from that night in Leeds – a 90s ‘club classics’ mix.
Renaissance has just celebrated its 30th anniversary. One of the tracks I did with Quivver just came out on their milestone EP, the 30th anniversary EP. So, another decade gone by, another anniversary – they keep on coming.
You’ve traveled to more than 70 countries in the last three decades. did the many diverse cultures that you encountered impact the sound of your music, and is there any specific location whose vibe you find truly inspirational right now?
Over the years, I think with the advent of the digital age, the world is a lot more similar – everybody’s got access to the same information, so it’s not quite so diverse, culturally, as it was maybe 20 years ago.
However, I’ve definitely found inspiration comes from various places. Tokyo was a place that I found massive inspiration going to – it was such a vibrant city, so creatively alive. Every time I went there, I found it fascinating.
Of course, those epicentres of clubbing that we talked about – Berlin, Ibiza and New York – have all had their time. It’s such a buzz to go to some of these places. I think Buenos Aires is probably up there with the best of them. I find playing Buenos Aires really stimulating, culturally and creatively, and it’s probably the best place to go clubbing – for me – in the world, and it has been for quite a while.
So it has knocked Ibiza off its perch?
Well, Ibiza is incredible, of course.
Do you find the vibe has changed in Ibiza over the decades?
Definitely. I mean, everything changes in life as we move forward, and yeah, it’s different, definitely different from what it was in the 90s. I think it still offers a great deal, and it’s still really exciting going there.
It’s as much about the island itself, let alone the clubbing. Now it’s a great place to go visit with the family, we have a great time when we go over there. Obviously, it’s a short period, we’re only talking a couple of months where it’s really busy every year.
Whereas Argentina is just wow. I’ve seen some of the parties that they do, they’re huge – 10,000, 20,000, or 30,000 capacity outdoor events, with literally just one DJ playing electronic music.
Glastonbury-esque, I suppose?
Yeah, exactly, but on a regular basis for them. They are very underground, warm, and receptive of what DJ’s are doing. The kind of reaction and reception that you get over there is second to none.
You’ve been working with Liverpool legend Steve Parry, as mentioned earlier, on Selador Records, which is coming up to its 10th anniversary. In 2019, you unveiled your 100th release on the label, Repeat Offender, together with a special remix by the talented Andre Hommen, who I believe you hounded to do so. Who else makes the cut on your remixers’ shortlist?
Oh wow, how long have you got? There are so, so many artists and producers making fantastic music. I could name you 100 if you want.
Off the top of my head, well, there are people that I know we’ve been trying to coax into doing a remix for us, and we’re edging closer fingers crossed. Patrice Baumel would be one, for sure. We’ve been trying to get Patrice to do something for us for a while. And Kölsch. Maceo Plex as well, and then of course some of the guys that have been around for ages, like Sasha and John Digweed, for example.
We’re very lucky, actually. We’ve had so many fantastic people already work for us. We’re up to 160 or 170 releases now, so that’s probably several hundred tracks if we think about all the compilations and EPs that we’ve done.
And you’re putting on Selador gigs as well around the world?
Yes, Hernan Cattaneo is doing a gig with us in London for our 10th birthday, at Studio 338 on Easter Sunday.
I was going to ask you about sharing the billing with the Argentinian maestro over the years – this is an orchestrated arrangement, it’s not happening by chance?
I actually did a collaboration with Hernan, I made a track with him. That’s along with other collaborations we’re doing for the 10th Birthday, between artists that have been on the label or that are from our extended family.
So, there’s one with Hernan and another with Danny Howells and Darren Emerson – we go out DJing together as ‘3D’. We’ve done one with Robert Owens, and Steve’s doing one with Renato Cohen. We’re up to about 13 at the moment, we’re probably going to do 16, and then release four 4-track EPs. It’s a massive project for us.
So yeah, with Hernan, I’ve known him for over 20 years. I met him through GU Buenos Aires. We’ve been friends for a long time, so I asked him if he’d do a track, and it naturally progressed into him coming and playing for us at our birthday party. So yeah, it’s gonna be an exciting project. We’ve got so many people involved, and there’ll be a procession of gigs hopefully to celebrate after that.
Fantastic! So when you’re doing these B2B2B sets – as ‘3D’ and the like – is that more fun for you? Or would you rather be playing solo?
It’s certainly fun travelling together rather than going away on my own for the weekend, although that has its merits as well, a bit of ‘me time’.
It’s fun to be able to travel with friends, especially if you’re doing a bit of a tour and going to several different countries over the course of a week. It’s nice to have that company and enjoy the adventure together.
DJ-wise, it’s a bit of a challenge, actually. We’ve all been DJing for such a long time we all have our way of doing things, so doing a collaborative thing, where you may not approach something exactly as you normally would, you need to think about it as a collective to retain that flow.
It’s no bad thing getting challenged when you’ve been DJing for 35 years or so, and it’s thrown up lots of great weekends together. We’ve had a blast together.
So just to finish, there is much talk in the electronic music industry about the future of AI integration. In a recent interview that I did with Henrik Schwartz, he noted that DJs are the music selectors, and with AI creating thousands of files, there will be a need for teams of DJs selecting music. Perhaps you’re ahead of the curve, what with the 3D project and Selador, but is there anyone else on this earth that you would love to have on your team?
Oh gosh, there are so many. I’m a massive fan of LCD Soundsystem and Soulwax, so I would definitely love to do something with James Murphy. However, it’s unlikely to happen.
Recently, I did some B2B2B sets with Steve Parry and Anthony Pappa in New Zealand for the first time, and we had a great time together. So, we’ll probably do more of that.
Quivver and I will also be DJing together, and we’re planning to do some stuff around Selador’s birthday, alongside Steve. The three of us may even end up doing back-to-back to back in America in April.
Regarding AI, someone asked me this question a couple of weeks ago, and maybe I’m being a bit naive, but I don’t think AI will be able to replace human decision-making when it comes to what order to put tracks in, based on how the crowd is reacting. That’s a very personal, human choice.
Maybe we’ll get there, but for now, a robot can only choose tracks and mix them together. The way to mix them together, when to mix them, and the choice of direction according to how the crowd is reacting is something I don’t think AI can replicate easily anytime soon.
So, it might be a little while yet before we’re completely kicked out by robots.
Words by Emer O’Connor. Quivver & Dave Seaman feat. Brianna Price – Rockets & Rainbows is out now on Poker Flat. You can download/stream it here.
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