Artist Interviews

Q&A: London Elektricity

By | Published on Tuesday 28 June 2011

London Elektricity

Drum n bass tastemaker and acid jazz aficionado London Elektricity, also known as Hospital Records CEO Tony Colman, made his studio debut with ‘Pull The Plug’ in 1999, at the time partnering under the LE banner with fellow DJ and Hospital co-founder Chris Goss. When Goss departed to concentrate on his label duties prior to the release of 2003 LP ‘Billion Dollar Gravy’, Colman went on to tour with a band comprising the likes of soul legend Diane Carroll, vocalist MC Wrec and drummer Landslide, all of whom had featured as session singers and musicians on the first two records.

Though the group ceased to tour and record together after two subsequent long players and a live album, Tony continued to carry the London Elektricity mantle as a solo act, previewing tracks from 2008’s ‘Syncopated’ on his award-winning and ever-popular Hospital podcast. Now poised to unveil latest disc ‘Yikes!’ as part of a sold-out release show at Brixton’s O2 Academy on 22 Apr, which will also serve to celebrate Hospital Records’ fifteenth anniversary, we approached Tony to pose our Same Six Questions.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
When I was five I used to play with my mum’s real to real tape recorder, recording Top Of The Pops and then singing over the top. I soon learned how to put the tape on backwards and do edits using the pause button. This was another world to me, and it led directly to a lifelong obsession with building new musical worlds on tape, or these days, of course, on hard drives. Music is alchemy – you start with almost nothing and sometimes you end up with precious metal. Unless of course you make music using other people’s music, in which case it’s less like being an alchemist and more like being a furniture restorer.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
For some reason ‘Yikes!’ is all about guitar and piano in a (loosely) drum and bass framework. I really let myself go with these instruments. It’s taken me thirteen albums to feel fully confident as a producer I suppose – guitar and piano were my first instruments as a child, but I’ve always held back from using them much in my electronic music production. The other main inspiration was Elsa Esmarelda’s voice, which is sublime, and songwriting with her, which was a joyful process.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
Each tune has a different starting point. Sometimes it could be a completed song around which I build the sonic structure, but sometimes a tune will start from a drum break I’ve made that really excites me, and the whole track builds from there. I make it a rule to never take the same path twice, and every album I make is preceded by a year of building block construction; I make new drum, bass, atmospheric and loop libraries before I even start on the album. This ensures I have a totally fresh sonic arsenal to draw from. I am paranoid to the point of obsession about not repeating myself.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
Arvo Part, Kraftwerk, Todd Rundgren, Quincy Jones, Gil Evans, Ennio Moriccone, Led Zep, Steroelab… an endless list, really.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
Go for a long drive!

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
Selling billions with no file sharing?! Haha. I’m realistic and as long as my wife and kids like it I’m happy – they had to live with me making the thing for eighteen months in the top bedroom! For the future, well my label Hospital Records is fifteen years old, as is London Elektricity, so I would love for there to be another brilliant fifteen years for both my artist project and my label!