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Brad Ashwell: “It will be interesting to see if a more defined movement emerges”

Brad Ashwell is a DJ, producer and musician based in Florida. He’s been serving up soulful, forward-thinking DJ sets for decades while cultivating nights at numerous venues in his hometown geared towards deep house, live jazz, hip hop and experimental sounds. He is currently focused on production with a new single set for release this month on Dance Artifakts.

We caught up with Brad Ashwell to talk about his latest release ‘Charmed’ via Brooklyn’s Dance Artifatks label.

Electronic Groove: Hi, Brad, we hope you are staying safe and doing well during these crazy times. How has it been for you with the COVID-19 virus? And has it affected in any way, good or bad, your music craft?

Brad Ashwell: Thanks for the invitation. With all of the police practices flaring up it feels like we’ve collectively forgotten about COVID-19. Black Lives Matter is really the issue at the top of most people’s minds right now. But thankfully, no one in my immediate circle has gotten sick and it’s just meant being at home a lot more which has been mostly good for the music. It’s meant a lot more studio time and less money spent traveling which has translated into some studio upgrades. Several live projects were put on hold and I haven’t been able to practice percussion as usual due to everyone being home all the time. But I can’t complain. I’m not out of work like many people, and I have a lot of new music that’s almost finished. So, that’s definitely good.

Electronic Groove: You have an EP coming out on one of our favorite labels, ‘Dance Artifakts’. What can you tell us about the artist direction/production of the release?

Brad Ashwell: First off, thank you. The two original tracks had very different creative processes. ‘Charmed’ started out as an edit to a 70’s spiritual jazz tune, but eventually, all of the samples were removed and replaced with original parts, and then my remixes grew out of that. I actually took a step back at one point, grabbed the sheet music, and learned the jazz tune on the piano, and then most of the melodic ideas flowed from improvising with those parts. Amanda Starr played the flute for that track as well. She’s very talented and live instruments always add so much. ‘Uprising’ developed layer by layer, more like a painting. I started out trying to make something along the lines of 2000Black but ended up in a totally different place with more of a lush, bleepy, early morning break track. At least that’s how I hear it. As far as gear goes, I was mostly using the studio logic sledge 2, a prophet 08, a Roland sh-2, an MPC, and a korg sv1 on these. Everything starts in the room without a computer but ends up in Ableton. Matt Davis from Hacienda Mastering put on the final polish.

Electronic Groove: How did you connect with the label and what are some of your favorite cuts from their catalog?

Brad Ashwell: I’ll try to keep it short. Terron Darby and I have been good friends since DJing together in the early 90’s. He’s been bouncing ideas off me since he first came up with the notion of starting a label. So, it’s been pretty amazing to see Dance Artifakts grow. He’s really doing it right. Everything, from the music and artwork to the way it’s promoted is done with a high level of quality. Terron’s also a great producer and DJ with a wide range of tastes. So, he brings that breadth in perspective to it. I’m really happy to join the label as far as favorite cuts go, Terron/Elwan‘s original mix of ‘One Again’, ‘Go Fish’ by Akari, and ‘N’Bife’ by Jay Skelly are all in my digital DJ play crate. A few of Never More’s tracks really grab me as well.

Electronic Groove: The EP has 4 remixers. Can you elaborate on the selection process and tell us a bit about the end results of each of the remixes?

Brad Ashwell: Mike Hall is another longtime friend and musical co-conspirator and he always creates a nice groove that’s techy without falling into trendy “tech-house” territory. So, I was really excited that he did a remix and I love what he did. I actually met the other guys through Terron and I’m truly happy with the results. I love that they’ve each done their own thing. It gives the release a breadth that I never would have had on my own. All of them are nice to work with as well. Akari took ‘Charmed’ in a more indie dance direction, making it more subdued, spacing it out and adding vocals. I can see his mix is already resonating with a lot of people. Anthony Georges Patrice’s mixes of ‘Uprising’ are definitely going to work on more sophisticated dancefloors. I’m particularly in love with his Sky mix. The Never More remix of ‘Uprising’ is more downtempo and maybe leaning into the leftfield territory. I’m very happy he took this direction. I’ve always played a lot of downtempo music that’s more eccentric as a DJ. So, it’s nice that he brought that to the release.

 “Everything, from the music and artwork to the way it’s promoted is done with a high level of quality”

Electronic Groove: Lastly, how do you envision the future of dance music in terms of clubbing, the business side of music, and the creative outcome with all that’s going on?

Brad Ashwell: One thing that excites me right now is that the Black Lives Matter movement has engaged many DJs and producers in a bigger social justice fight that they’ve been pretty disengaged from until now. I think it will be interesting to see if a more defined movement emerges within the house and techno communities explicitly rejecting oppressive views as we’ve seen in hip-hop for decades. Up until now, it’s been more implicit to the extent it’s there at all. On the business side, venues, and people who throw large events, have to find a way for people to gather safely. That will likely mean more outdoor events with staff making sure people are spread out. I saw a prototype for a club-friendly hazmat suit several months ago. So, who knows, maybe that’s the next big thing. I have to say, it was a very sexy hazmat suit (not really). When a vaccine is finally developed (staying optimistic) I think we’ll be looking at an explosion of activity. If I was a promoter, I would already be planning something special for that moment. People are going to lose their minds (in a good way) when we break out of this. It also seems like something has to evolve out of everyone knowing how to stream at this point. People are still experimenting with different ways to present the music in this format and they’ll develop better rigs and then people will figure out the best way to promote shows. Then like anything on the web it’ll get further monetized and ruined (laughter). I haven’t done any live video streams yet due to time constraints, but I would like to do some live studio jam sessions. That’s what I enjoy watching.

Now we asked the four remixers to share their point of view about their versions. 

Electronic Groove: Hi, Akari, and welcome back to EG. Tell us about your remix of Brad’s track ‘Charmed’. What did you like about it? What did you want to achieve with your version?

Akari: Hey guys! Thanks for having me back. I really loved the vibe Brad brought out with his release so I thought I could try to keep the melodic parts that he made like the organs and pianos and use them as hooks to accompany a more chilled out track from me. I’ve been experimenting with using my own vocals the last while too so I added some lyrics to compliment the track title ‘Charmed’.

Electronic Groove: Hi, Michael. Tell us about your Frisky Business Remix of ‘Charmed’? What is it about and how does it complement the EP?

Michael Hall: Hello all. At the root of Brad’s mesmerizing track are the flute elements. My mind immediately
conjures up a snake charmer in South Asia, the Middle East, or North Africa. I can see him sitting cross-legged on the ground in a hot and dusty souk, the aroma of incense and exotic spices wafting through the air as he plays his pungi, charming the snakes that rise and sway in the basket before him. (Whoa…took a little trip there!)

My goal was to honor the track’s intent while putting my spin on it, and I hope this comes through in my mix. The original has a lot of layers and is melodically dense. I wanted to take those flavors, chop ‘em up, boil them down and serve up something a little sparser. Stirred over low heat, the track is meant to ebb and flow with flavorful tension and release, never boiling over. To top it off, I sprinkled in a generous portion of my signature swing until it cooked up good and frisky! Order up!

Brad and I go way back, and I’m honored that he brought me on for this release, which I have to say is solid throughout. Kudos to Brad and to the other remixers and especially to Terron for making it all happen.

Electronic Groove: Hi Anthony. You crafted to remixes from Brad’s second track ‘Uprising. What are your thoughts on the original and what inspired you to take two different routes?

Anthony Georges: When Terron contacted me about remixing Brad, I instantly fell in love with both, the original tracks and musicality of the parts. It wasn’t just a usual 4/4 dance floor track like millions of others, but rather someone actually reintroducing melody, chords, harmonies…into electronic music. I felt like I was asked to remix more of a storyteller than just a producer. The entire EP felt like a slap on my face, therefore I decided to really pay attention more to all the music Brad released already (I highly recommend you do too), to try to get inspired.
I first wanted to remix ‘Charmed’, but I saw already many remixes for that. Besides, I’ve always been a fan of broken beats, and also quite into turning a non-dancefloor track into something more dancefloor oriented.

The purpose of a remix is always to revisit a track with a new face, so ‘Uprising’ felt like the right choice to achieve that purpose (even though I told Terron we’re never too far from me remixing ‘Charmed’ just for fun 😀 ).

Laying down the parts of the original, I had 10-12 different ideas which I layed down on Ableton during the first week. After that, I decided to choose the best out of these, and these two made sense.

I found it cool to have more of a sunset track (Sky Mix), and dawn track (Dub Mix). A happy man is a man who’s feet are grounded to the floor, and who’s head is high enough to breathe in the fresh air.

From there originated the final idea for these two remixes. I’ve had the greatest fun in my life working on this!

¡Mucho love!

Electronic Groove: The last remix of the EP comes by the hands of Never More. What captivated you from the track and how does your rendition close this magnificent EP?

Never More: The first time I heard it I knew immediately what I was going to do. I just had one of those moments when the entire remix plays out in your head. The unfortunate problem was that I had been drinking and by the morning I could no longer remember what I had wanted to do. So I focused on the arp and slowed it down and I started hearing glimmers of Tangerine Dream and just ran with that idea while adding some beautiful Dudek samples and it still came together pretty quickly. I don’t really think I’m closing the EP. This EP is about Brad Ashwell and Dance Artifakts.

Brad Ashwell’s ‘Charmed’ EP will be out on June 19th. Grab your copy here

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