Veteran Scottish DJ/producer Vince Watson lit up The Shelter last year when VOID brought him in for his first Shanghai show, performing lush, full, soulful techno with an emphasis on creating an intense and varied emotional experience. Vince Watson returns to The Shelter tonight for a repeat live set. Here's the event details. Support is from the VOID crew, Shanghai_Ultra, Nat Alexander, and MHP.
Although he boats a massive list of discography credits, including releases on Rotation, Delsin and Planet E, Watson's focus is on the future with a sixth studio album completed, another on the way, two labels, re-worked management , and a slew of upcoming releases. It's been a long journey for the Scottish producer, coming from hip hop, house, techno, jazz, breaks, classical, and everything else, arriving into territory that is all his own.
SmartShanghai talked to Vince about the trouble with the kids these days, the cult of vinyl, digital labels, and dropping facades. Don't miss his show tonight. Here's his web page.
Vince Watson: Yeah, for quite a lot of reasons actually. We had decided to use a 909 and it didn't work. So that was interesting. [Laughs.] But it worked out in the end because in the face of adversity, we actually managed to get the thing going and it was excellent. It was an excellent night. So we've decided to take it one step further and use another synthesizer as well. We've got a 909 and a 101 -- get that massive sound and effects.
Vince Watson: Well, to play live I just use midi controllers. I don't use software to make music, I use hardware. At home I've got loads of outboard gear, but I don't use plug-ins. I use software for sequencing but that's it.
Vince Watson: Yeah, the problem is that they're a victim of their own success. The quality has come right down. Plug-ins are so easy to buy and you have so many people making music, but the quality has gone down and down and down. But I look at it as a positive thing, actually. It means that the guys who are good at what they do stand out more. And the music that they make in that period becomes more timeless because you can recognize it. And the music that these other guys are making -- the guys without the equipment and the experience -- they sort of fall away.
If you look at a record shop now and you get 100 records, ten years ago you would have thought that 40 of them are excellent, but now you're lucky to find five that have any value to them. The rest of them are here today gone tomorrow. And so I think that's the problem with cheap, easy-to-buy software, and plug-ins. It's a challenge to come above it. You use your experience and your knowledge to come above it. And that's what I'm doing at the moment. I've sort of re-invigorate my whole set up. I've got new management and reacting to the market and turning out quality to stand out.
Vince Watson: It's actually finished. It's been finished for about a year but through various things that have happened it's not out yet. I wasn't happy with it, changed it, and then I was happy with it, and out of the blue I got an email from a vocalist in London who liked the demo, and she did some vocals on it and sent me the CD. She just said, "I think your music would sound good with some vocals." And I was just blown away completely, and it changed the whole concept of the album. The album is all broken beat and jazz -- it's more of an adult album, but yeah, the vocals are being done for that at the moment and we'll send it on to one of the bigger labels. We feel that it can go much further now... and we're talking to a label at the moment.
But that's number six and I’m already working on number seven. [Laughs.]
Vince Watson: I don't know, I just feel it's my time. I've been doing this for a long time, but I just got to a point last year where I felt I couldn't take it any further on my own. I'd done so much, I've released 100 records, but I needed to explore different avenues to take it further. And so that's how it came about with the new management and new labels. We're just working on gearing things better, aiming things better, and promoting things better. So down the line for the next twelve months there’s going to be a lot of releases.
I don't know. I guess in the last year I've been inspired. But music is coming down in a lot of areas -- the quality of music is coming down -- and I feel I can take advantage of that and make my music count for something. So while people are doing music that isn't kicking it I'm going to step in and go bang. Take the opportunity.
Vince Watson: I have changed actually. I stopped DJing for a while but now I'm coming back and my sets are changed. And it's getting a good response. Years ago when you went to a dance music club, you’d hear different sorts of music from start to finish, whereas now you hear one form of music the whole night. One DJ does his thing and then next DJ does the same, and it gets a bit boring and it's lost a lot of appeal. So in my DJ sets now I’m trying to play lots of different kinds of music and people are loving it because you hear all different kinds of things. Classical, jazz, just trying to mix it up a bit.
Vince Watson: [Laughs.] Yeah, I'd say that's pretty good, yeah. I like to express myself. I'm emotional person. I guess I'm more known as a 'producer's producer'. My sales from my records aren't massive but a lot of other producer's have recognized what I've made. I am very melodic and I'm quite deep with my music as well. But yeah I think it's a fair description.
Vince Watson: Yeah, the computer side of things has changed the way people make music completely, forever. But the way I look at is, when you're looking at a computer, you're looking at a screen and looking at it to give you inspiration. I just feel that when you've not got a screen in front of you and you've only got machines, it's up to you to create what's in front of you. Whereas when you're looking at a screen, you’ve got all these elements that are already set up for you to make amazing things. So you just manipulate them a bit to make something that sounds great. But the problem is, a lot of the kids who are buying technologies don’t really know how to make something great out of it, so they're all using the same sounds and they're trying to replicate something that's already been done by one of the big guys.
And it just sounds... what's the word... it's not natural. Music is supposed to be natural and enjoyable but the computer side of things has made it mechanical. It's taken away the natural element of it. Which I think is really important.
And when the computer does it for you what is left for people to do? It's all automation. Also, I still just think that the sound that comes out of a plug-in is just not as good as the sound that comes out of a keyboard. Until such time it is that they can do that... sometimes it's close, until you hear it in a system in a club and the plug-in sounds flat and there is just no warmth.
I mean, there are some amazing things being one with the technologies these days and there is some amazing things happening, but is it being productive and is the music quality improving? I'm not so sure about that.
Vince Watson: Yeah, it's horrible, I hate digital labels, and I'll never do it again. [Laughs.] Well, digital labels... the sales have been good, I'm not complaining about that, it's just I don't like a digital only label. EverySoul, after the third release, I'm just going to be selling vinyl directly from my web site. I just don't like the sound of a digital only label. To me it's soul-less. If you get a record at a record store, you can take it home, you got a piece of art in front of you. You've got a cover; you get a record; you get something you can recognize in your record box. But with a download all you've got is a CD with some scribbled pen on the side.
When I'm DJing I download tracks from Beatport and Juno because a lot of the stuff isn't even available now, but I burn them on CD and play then on CDs. But I still play vinyl as well because one day vinyl will be totally gone and we're all going to regret not playing vinyl for as long as we can. [Laughs.] The way I see it is use the vinyl if you've got it because it will be wiped out one day. I think it will take a lot longer than people had anticipated -- people were saying with the digital revolution that within five years vinyl would be gone -- but it will happen. It's a cult thing now.
Vince Watson: Well, Planet E, I always wanted to get involved with them since year zero, even back in '92 and '93 when the first Planet E records were getting thrown out there. But it took me a long time to get on there because I just never had the music that I felt comfortable to give them, but I guess that might have been a mistake. [Laughs.] Other peoples' opinions of my music are theirs and I can't really tell, you know. But I did this track and I thought 'well this sounds like what Carl [Craig] is playing at the moment', and it wasn't typical Planet E so I thought I'd chance it and send them the track. And they loved it and sorted it out right away. And that was great. That was one of the moments where you achieve what you set out to do, you know? And I thought 'what's next?'
But it's cool. I'm working on a maybe doing a third release for them, but it's not going to sound like what he's putting out so maybe if he doesn't like it I'll have to take it somewhere else.
Vince Watson: Yeah, I feel as if my career is just beginning and I'm finally branching out into al this stuff that I wanted to do. But in terms of music there's been three tracks or so that stand out for me: "My Desire" on Planet E, "Mystical Rhymth" [on Alola], and "Sublimina" [on Headspace Recordings]. Those three are probably the most emotional ones I've made. They mean a lot because they mean certain things…
Clubwise to play out... There have been a lot of gigs... As far as people listening to my music, I am quite open. I get emails every day and I reply to every one. It's really important to communicate to people directly. Too many people are blank face or behind a façade. And so I try to communicate with people as best as I can. So really the highlight is just people appreciating what I'm doing. I feel privileged to be doing this music. It amazes me to be able give people want they want to hear.
VOID pres. Vince Watson tonight at The Shelter. Support from Shanghai_ultra, Nat Alexander, and MHP. Cover: 50rmb.