Julio Bashmore emerged in 2008 as part of a wave of UK producers putting their own spins on the house template.
After UK Funky’s popularity had inspired dubstep producers to drop their tempo, artists like Bashmore, Mosca and Deadboy started to apply influences from r’n’b, Baltimore, grime and more to 130bpm music. Bashmore’s initial releases – on Dirtybird, Night Slugs (as Velour), Ten Thousand Yen – set out his stall pretty accurately, drawing first and foremost from classic European and American house music but also from disco, funk and ’80s pop.
In 2011 and 2012 however, a brace of singles (‘Battle for Middle You’ and ‘Au Seve’) found Bashmore catapulted to house music stardom. The former was Mixmag‘s single of the year, and the latter became a Summer anthem in Ibiza. Although they weren’t the only things Bashmore released in that time period (he dropped two 12″s on hometown label Futureboogie and produced Jessie Ware’s splendid ‘110%’, later rechristened ‘If You’re Never Gonna Move’) for some, the newfound link between Bashmore and Kavos’ warm lager circuit was too much to bear. When he uploaded a new track, ‘Duccy’, to Soundcloud last Summer, the backlash was trending on Twitter.
Bashmore’s given very few interviews in his career, but with his debut album on the horizon, he invited FACT to his studio to talk about people’s misconceptions of him, coming to terms with his crossover appeal and more.
So you’re working on your album…
It’s been two years making it. I first started with ‘Au Seve’, that was gonna be the first single off the album. Then off the back of that – well, shit was going pretty mental anyway after ‘Battle for Middle You’, but ‘Au Seve’ took it to a different place. Back then, I was thinking ‘OK, I don’t wanna be this guy who’s just remembered for ‘Battle for Middle You’, and I needed to do something a bit different. Everyone was talking about this whole ‘Bristol sound’ thing at the time…
Were people calling it that?
Yeah, there were a lot of people saying ‘yeah, the Bristol sound’ or whatever…
‘Cause I remember when people were saying that about the Bristol generation before you, like Peverelist and Appleblim and whoever.
Exactly, I guess it was ’cause it was just bassy. Like ‘here’s this bassy Bristol house phenomenon’, which wasn’t true whatsoever. So ‘Au Seve’ was kind of a reaction to that, like ‘here’s a straight-up house track’.
Do you do that a lot? Make tracks with a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve or say with them in mind?
Nah, to be honest it always starts with tinkering. I guess that’s why the album’s taken so long – I have to be in the right zone, or in the right frame of mine.
It’s the eternal issue, but most house or techno albums are a bit shit. What’s your approach in terms of getting around that?
Well that’s another reason why it’s taken so long. I wouldn’t even attempt to do a straight-up dance album. All of my favourite artists have done albums, and I’ve always been just as inspired by pop acts as dance music stuff. I grew up on MJ, albums like Thriller. I wanna call myself a musician, and I’ve always tried to emulate what those key figures have done. It’s kind of a challenge to myself to make an album that works in that way.
You’ve never struck me as somebody who had that whole DJ lifestyle as their goal – like do a season in Ibiza, do three gigs a week, that kind of thing. Is this album part of an overall goal to evolve into more of a studio producer than a DJ-slash-producer?
Well I’ve never seen myself as a DJ-slash-producer. I think that stems back from… well, we were both there at the start, when I was first releasing music, plus people like Mosca, Night Slugs. One of the reasons that scene got big was because it wasn’t like that other [house music] world. You had Hot Creations and stuff, which was huge at the time, but we came along, and no one could pigeonhole what it was.
And that’s why you ended up with a term as vague as ‘bass music’.
Exactly. That’s probably what it’ll be remembered as – I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
It beats ‘future garage’.
It does, that’s for sure. But even at that early stage, within that scene everyone had their own lane. I was coming at it from a straight-up house approach – even though I was really influenced by UK Funky, too. I suppose a lot of people were coming at it from a house approach, but…
But you were different from someone like Bok Bok, whose house reference points would be more Dance Mania or Poindexter or someone.
Yeah, exactly. So we came from different places, but we’d all play each other’s tracks. Then you had someone like Mosca, who when he came through with ‘Gold Bricks’… like that was just crazy.
Well Mosca really came with influences like baile funk and kuduro – and also bassline house. I remember when him and Unknown Soulja did their Ustreams, Mosca would always pull out records I had no clue about.
Yeah. Then with Night Slugs it was Bmore and grime influences, or Deadboy, who really pioneered that chopped-up r’n’b house vocal thing… People still rinse the r’n’b vocal over nice chords thing, when Deadboy did that so, so long ago. And absolutely smacked it, it’s never been done better than that. And then you’ve got the whole Hessle thing. So you had all these different lanes.
So I’ve always felt – and still do feel – that I’m in my own lane. And as well as my dancefloor stuff, I’ve made downtempo music, I’ve produced pop records for Jessie Ware. That’s as much a part of me as the dancefloor, house type tracks. And that stuff’s been there right from the start – it was around 2009 when Jessie Ware first came to my parents’ house and we first wrote ‘110%’, or whatever it ended up being called. And that was way back! The album didn’t come out ’til two years later. So from the start I’ve wanted to make weird pop records, and it’s something I’m still keen on doing.
With the album, I want to try and bring those two lanes – my weird pop side and my house records – together. And there’s also an element of… well, I can’t hide anymore. I’m not ashamed of the fact that my music crosses over. It’s something I’ve wrestled with at times, and it’s something that’s confusing. It can get really confusing, like with ‘Duccy’, that was mad.
Well that must have been really hard.
I’m not gonna lie, it was really hard. Luckily it was just before some shows in Japan, so I was able to get off the internet, bury my head in the sand a little. But with the album I feel like I’m ready to show off both sides of my world and to show people that yes, my music does cross over, but it doesn’t have to… put it this way, I’m not gonna jump on this whole pop-house thing, which is huge at the minute.
And you must have had some big offers with that kind of stuff.
I’ve had some crazy offers. But I just want to work with Jessie, and do good music. I can only do music I believe in. I’ve had some huge offers, but I’m genuinely not interested.
It’s a strange time in that both in the charts and the underground – well, mainstream / underground seems a pretty archaic distinction at this point, I feel like everybody should be past that shit – but there’s more and more crossover, both with the house in the charts, and in hip-hop with something like Yeezus. And I don’t think many musicians think in terms of a mainstream and underground binary anymore. But you still get a ton of listeners who think that it is an opposition, and that someone like TNGHT are sell-outs for working with big musicians. Which is fucking mad, that people worship producers until the point where they make good money, and then they turn on them.
Well I think that links back to when people were trying to pigeonhole our sound. Like, people get angry. And now it seems to have got more extreme.
Well the ‘Duccy’ reaction never would’ve happened if ‘Battle for Middle You’ and ‘Au Seve’ hadn’t been so successful.
What’s weird about ‘Duccy’ is that… At the time it was stressful. ‘Au Seve’ was this huge track, and there’s perks to that but there’s also pressure. All this pressure built up, and I casually put up this track on Soundcloud – like people do, and like I used to – and yeah… I guess a lot of people just wanted another ‘Au Seve’. I guess they don’t know my past work so they can’t connect the dots – I think if you look at my first four releases, and how they sounded, you can get a good impression of me and understand where I’m coming from. But people were looking at it solely knowing ‘Au Seve’.
I learnt a couple of things from that. Crucially, that I am a bedroom producer at the end of the day, and certain anti-social elements go with that. So it’s very easy to shut yourself off, but my advice to anyone would be to make an effort to communicate with your fans. That’s what I’m trying to do now. For my album to make sense, there needs to be a certain level of communication.
Well you haven’t done much press, at all.
No, hardly anything.
Is it something you’ve always been uncomfortable with?
There’s an element of that. Part of that is that I never saw the point. But ‘Duccy’ made me realise that there is. People want to invest in an artist, they don’t just want some Soundcloud link.
I think they also want to know that you’re not just up there in an ivory tower counting your money. When people have success, I think others often get a very warped impression of it.
Well with ‘Au Seve’, I saw people talking about it as if it was this cynical move, devised by a marketing team. No, I stuck it up on Soundcloud – it was on Soundcloud a while before it was released, same with ‘Battle for Middle You’, they just grew naturally. Whereas with ‘Duccy’, when I put that on Soundcloud there wasn’t that room for growth. And it was taken really, really badly.
Well people assume the worst.
Yeah, and that comes from not communicating. I look at someone like Four Tet – he’s very public now, and people get a feel for him. He makes the kind of records that make you wanna know more about him, because he’s been doing it for a long time – buying a record you’re only just scratching the surface.
What are people’s biggest misconceptions about you?
I think people think that I’ve abandoned this whole scene and stuff, whereas it’s actually gone in a direction that I don’t really wanna follow. They think I don’t appreciate that kind of music – by ‘this scene’ I mean underground UK stuff in general – but I still really love a lot of that stuff. Sure, it’s a saturated market, like never before, but there’s still great music. I’m obsessed with the Apron stuff, I was lucky enough to put out a record by Funkineven last year…
Well it’s often conveniently ignored that you do rep that stuff. You work with Kowton and Hyetal, you release Funkineven and Zed Bias, even the stuff you play on Radio 1.
Also, for better or worse when I play out I haven’t compromised. I play what I love – mad Apron shit, the stuff I put out on my label. This should be a given anyway, but that’s not music that’s trying to tap into a big money market, it’s music that I hold dear.
And that money will, more than likely, run out.
Precisely. Someone’s gonna bring out an acoustic guitar one day, and everyone’ll be like ‘whoa – what the fuck is that?!’. I wanna keep doing what I’m doing, without compromising. This’ll make more sense when the album comes out. It’s pretty much done, I wanna get it out early Summer.
In an ideal world, where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
10 years time, I wanna be a couple of albums in. I want Broadwalk to have developed to a point where I’m still putting out releases that represent the underground house that I’m into, but also get involved in A&R, develop some vocalists. And DJing – I still wanna be DJing. I love it. It can be tough, especially as I don’t like to compromise, and I’m not an extrovert, but at the end of the day that’s a huge part of what I do. And it’s something that I really live.
That whole scene, that I talked about before? We could all come together and do shows together again – that’d be wicked. I’d love that more than anything.
But now you have booking agents and festival schedules to deal with.
…And managers, and the rest of it. [Ruefully] Oh well.