One of the most distinctive and divisive figures in the UK house explosion, Julio Bashmore finally breaks his silence to talk trolls, fried chicken and erotic sci-fi novels
The sounds are reverberating around Crack’s office. The holistic masseuse has already moved downstairs, she couldn’t hack the volume. It’s time to have a word. “Matt! The beats are decent mate, but can you turn it down a bit? We’re trying to get some work done.” This conversation repeats itself over the next six months.
The track being muted to workable volume was Au Seve by Julio Bashmore, and the setting it was being created in was Matthew Walker’s hardware scattered studio on the top floor of Crack Towers in central Bristol. The residence that others may have called the Bashmore Building, if we hadn’t got here first.
Having Julio Bashmore, although we still called him Matt back then, along the corridor exposed us first hand to his meteoric rise. From producing records in his parents’ house, playing some of our earliest parties and knocking together the first ever Crack mix, to DJing on festival main stages, his own Radio One show and producing the tune of the summer for two years running, the curve has been steep and remarkable.
There’s an innocence to the Bashmore story that is symptomatic of any bedroom producer gradually finding their way. A period of seclusion from the wider world, mastering programming, crate-digging and self-educating defined the period before his first release. Surfacing on Dirtybird at the tender age of 21, the self-titled EP was a typical slice of off-the-wall house perfectly at home on the San Franciscan, bass-led label. Taking the comedy vocal from a classic piece of 90s advertising and naming your first release after an artificial fruit juice drink, Um Bongo’s Revenge was indicative of a wry sense of humour – something the more diligent Bashmore fan would have noted from the off – but also the infectious, slow-paced heft of his sound.
Having never been attracted to the late-night culture which acts as a right of passage for so many participants within his hometown’s scene, much of Walker’s education came wholly as a result of sifting through the internet vaults rather than experiencing the music in its natural club environment. Eschewing the premise that all DJs survive on a diet of vodka and cocaine, when a shy and reclusive, ginger kid from South Bristol was suddenly thrust into the limelight there was a preconception that his withdrawn demeanour and media-shyness was a sign of arrogance. That prodigious rise was completed by the first track from his 2010 Everybody Needs A Theme Tune EP, his first release on PMR, called Battle For Middle You. A shimmering, soaring exercise in build-and-release, it became a definitive moment within a burgeoning new generation of UK producers, as well as a renaissance in wider club culture.
Subsequent releases on Futureboogie and Martyn’s 3024 label cemented his reputation as a top-end producer, before he became affiliated with one of the UK’s most intriguing pop starlets, Jessie Ware. His production (and sterling guitar work) on Running and 110% (later renamed If You’re Never Gonna Move after a sampling dispute) gave him a taste of chart success, while contributing an air of underground credibility, as well as irresistible tracks, to the vocalist.
A Radio One In New DJs We Trust show allowed him to project his favourite music onto a wider audience as he continued to snowball into popular consciousness. Then Au Seve happened. A tune so simplistic in structure and tone, but so utterly devastating in its vocal and drop, it became even bigger than Battle… the previous summer, and in the process made him a household name in electronic music. Au Seve found its way into every club across the country, good and bad.
The backlash was inevitable. Earlier this year Bashmore almost absent- mindedly uploaded Duccy online to keep his fans supplied with music. Having played it out to strong reaction, the outpour of online venom towards a track he saw as a warm mid-set builder took him totally by surprise.
But as we get down to a few frames and a catch-up in a Bethnal Green pool hall, we find him in a buoyant and positive frame of mind. Having recently curated a sold-out night at The Warehouse Project and with Peppermint, his new release with Jessie Ware set to cause some real damage, this blip seems for now consigned to being just that; a blip. His reassuringly dry and honest stance on where he’s come from and where he’s heading shines through loud and clear – even on the relative merits of Bristol and London’s fried chicken outlets.
So let’s begin with those two years in which you learned your craft.
If we hark back, I guess the year would be 2008/2009 and dubstep is everywhere in Bristol and there aren’t many house nights taking place. I was listening to house music, and I’m from South Bristol – that’s not the trendy bit where they were filming Skins with a dubstep soundtrack. I’m from Knowle. It was all North Bristol: Gloucester Road, Rooted Records and stuff. I was aware of it going on, but it wasn’t until Joker came onto the scene that I started to take notice of dubstep. When Joker started doing his thing it was very melodic. I could relate to it.
And your tastes in house became quite US focused, right?
My brother Greg, aka Mr Juicy, aka Mystic Greg, aka Phileas Thugg, aka Greg Walker had been buying American imports since the early 2000s. So for most of my teenage years, I was playing computer games while he was DJing house in the background. So obviously something went in and when it came to my mid-late teenage years I wanted to find some girls. Good idea to DJ, obviously! Greg is probably the main reason I’m into house music.
There was definitely a point where no one was really aware that you were upstairs with all this hardware. We had no idea where you’d gone.
I do not know of a producer or someone who creates music who hasn’t gone through a period of their life when they’ve been locked in their room for at least six months. In fact, maybe that’s the magic six months.
It was a weird thing to do at my age. I was 18.
Once you’d broken through, it felt like there was a real contrast between your personality and a lot of the people involved in Bristol’s house scene. There are a lot of party heads, but you’ve never been that way inclined.
I find it so much easier now. I’ve met a lot of really good people who are that way inclined and enjoy that lifestyle. I consider them good friends, I’ll hang out and party with them. But I won’t be partying with them the night after! This is the thing – Bristol is a very hedonistic place!
Was moving away from Bristol a result of any particular aspect of the scene you wanted to get away from?
There were many reasons, one of the main ones being when I turned 18, most of my mates moved away to go to university and at that point I chose to stay in Bristol. So when I did move to London a year ago I felt ready. Unlike London the scene is a little bit incestuous, and that’s the great thing about it with all the collaboration going on, but it also creates tensions and it did get a bit tense. My career was going on this trajectory and it was hard to keep everyone happy, so by taking myself out of the equation it took a lot of pressure of that.
You’ve maintained a strong relationship with some people who produce in Bristol. Dave Corney (Hyetal) and Joe Cowton (Kowton) being two examples.
They’re two of the people whose music I rate more than anyone in Bristol, and they’ve both just moved to London, which is great for me because I want that Bristol thing. That’s so important to me and we’ve always got that thread between us.
When firstly Battle For Middle You, then Au Seve became massive, did you find the speed of your rise overwhelming?
When you’re putting out tracks and everyone’s just loving them it’s a great feeling, but at the same time there is this other element where you feel this needs to slow down. It was pretty crazy. Those tracks were always gonna do what they were gonna do, I guess.
Say you have teeny clubbers walking down the street chanting the melody to Au Seve, do you look at that and go ‘ah, fuck off!’ or are you happy that most guys in the industry might kill for one of those tracks once in their life, let alone two summers running.
There are people who sit in their studio trying to make that happen every day. I felt no pressure with those tracks at all and I wasn’t writing them to be anthems.
Do you still enjoy playing them out?
I still play those tracks now and the crowd still goes nuts. I don’t see how you couldn’t enjoy it. When tracks get that big, like those two, people sometimes view them cynically. But there was never any promo on those tracks, no marketing teams. I just put them out and people played them.
Has the impact of those tunes influenced your attitude to production and DJing?
Well I have lots of projects on the go and often they all get mixed together. It’s kind of like this Frankenstein approach. Maybe it’s changed my performances? Maybe it could have changed them more? The point is, I still want to play some downtempo soulful records and I don’t care how many people want to listen. If you try something different it can end up with a lot of people being like, ‘this is shit’. For example, I probably shouldn’t have played Billy Idol at Parklife this year! [laughs].
There is that element of you not taking yourself too seriously. Maybe you’re misperceived in this way?
People do take this too seriously! Maybe I’m responsible for not doing enough to get my sense of humour or what I’m about across. I guess people view me as a bit cynical.
Didn’t you tweet Miss Millie’s asking for 140 pieces of chicken for your Love Saves The Day set?
Yeah, I did.
Is it still your favourite fried chicken place?
Do you even need to ask? Miss Millie’s for life. I haven’t eaten fried chicken since moving to London, cause it’s not Millie’s. It’s just not as good. There’s a lot on offer, but we’re spoilt in the South West.
On the subject of being spoilt, the Radio 1 show was massive too, right? Did you feel like you were running a risk getting into bed with them? Obviously, you know, their output ranges from utter garbage to great.
Not at all. It felt like a chance to play a lot of the house records I love on the radio. The best thing about In New DJs We Trust is that it gave a platform to stuff like, say, the Rush Hour Records music that would never normally be heard on the radio. It was really good, but I don’t think I could find time. I think maybe an NTS show would be something I’d like to do in the future.
At this moment you could argue that proliferation of electronic music is reaching heights it’s never seen before. Are you ready for the inevitable backlash?
Absolutely. I’ve got my guitar at the ready in the glass cabinet! 100% it will take a fall. It just cannot continue at this pace. DJs are getting paid a lot of money and in a lot of cases they’re keen to keep that fee. They want to keep receiving that kind of money, and that might mean they’re less keen to take risks in their music.
Do you think the success fosters an arrogance in the DJ community?
It could do. But I think the main problem is the money could end up cutting the creativity.
You’ve already experienced a backlash with a couple of your recent tunes right? How did you deal with that?
I’ve been on this upward trajectory for so long, so when I put Duccy up, my reaction was shock. The reaction blew my mind, because in my head it was this inoffensive tune I’ve been playing out for a couple of years. Joy Orbison called it his favourite tune and I’m like ‘yeah, cool’. Ben UFO is playing it too, so I thought I’d stick it up and then like, bam! Trolls everywhere. I hated it.
You’ve been making an album since we shared office space. What’s the update?
Getting there. The past couple of months have seen me in one of the best creative spaces I’ve been in for a while working in Red Bull Studios, and also in my space in White City. I have a little log cabin-esque studio by Westfield shopping centre, it’s bizarre. It was great with all the shit with Duccy going on to get away from it all and lock myself away. I’m really excited about the album, and I feel like it makes sense as an album.
Are you prepared that some members of your audience might be expecting one thing and they may be presented with something totally different?
The thing I took away from Duccy is you can’t just stick a track out. I used to be able to do that when I was on MySpace. I’d just put one up. But you know, I’ve matured in the sense that it’s important how you get it out there. When you’re bigger it has to go through the right channels in order to make your message clear to people. From day one people have been trying to label it. That’s what was so brilliant about that scene in 2009 when me, Joy Orbison, Mosca and the Hessle guys came through and everyone was like ‘what is this shit?’ Now we’re bigger there is even more pressure.
Is your aim to make people go ‘what is that?’
I think with an album and a bigger piece of music you can do that. I feel with it coming out on Broadwalk I’m building this bigger picture. It’s not this handbag house music that is everywhere at the moment.
Does Broadwalk take a bit of pressure off you as an artist, so you can put out some more interesting interpretations of the music you feel strongly about?
Definitely. I’ve got so much lined up already. Projects like Velour (with Hyetal) and work with Joe, and I want to do some more work with Funkineven. He’s just, like, the best dude. I’m gonna put a lot of hard work into it next year. There is so much good music still out there in dance music and in house music, and I want to get that across.
You have access to such a big audience, you’re in the fortunate position of being able to give exposure to all this music.
Although I play to a much bigger cross-section of society, I can say hand on heart that I’ve never compromised with the music I play out. I still play what sounds great to me. I play L.I.E.S. records for god’s sake!
Does Broadwalk take a bit of pressure off you as an artist, so you can put out some more interesting interpretations of the music you feel strongly about?
Yeah, basically. For sure.
Nailed that, didn’t I?
You did. [laughs]
Do you miss Crack HQ?
I do. I miss the camaraderie. That was an important. I also miss my view of the Wills Building. I’ve named a track after it.
What’s it called?
The Wills Building.
Oh. That makes sense.
Do you still have your expensive and highly luxurious sofa?
It’s in storage.
Storage! What a fucking waste!
It’s all gone to shit. Are you still listening to old metal records?
Yeah man! Faith No More, Sabbath.
You were responsible for showing us the best music video of all time: Motorhead’s Killed By Death.
It’s incredible. It’s an all-time favourite.
And Star Trek novels, are you still into that? You used to have a fucking box full.
I read a lot of science fiction and I’m proud to admit it. You’ll notice on my old Julio Bashmore MySpace it explicitly said my profession was erotic science-fiction novelist, and there was a point when I was at least a quarter serious about that. It was an ambition. Does Julio Bashmore sound like an author of erotic science fiction to you?
Totally. Sexy sci-fi audiobook release on Broadwalk perhaps?
I think it’s going to happen.
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Words: Thomas Frost
Photos: Elliot Kennedy