Welcome to the latest edition of our Introducing series where take a look at some of the most exciting and new talent in dance music. This week we take a look at Joe Roche. The Manchester based artist has had a long history with dance music. Originating from one of the surrounding towns of Leeds, a city with a rich musical background in its own right, Joe Roche grew up around creative people which ended up with him embarking on a journey within dance music. Since then Joe has played at the Singapore grand prix, had his tracks been featured on BBC Radio 1, owns an online record store and his own label. We spoke to Joe Roche about working at Reform Radio, Running a label and getting your foot in the door as an unsigned artist.
Your parents owned a nightclub, as well as dabbling in photography and writing. What was it like growing up with such creative people in your family? How did that affect you?
Both my parents I think pride themselves on having distinct taste and views on various art forms. I think the main things that brought them together was a mutual interest in fashion and having a non-conformist attitude towards quite a lot of aspects of their lives. My mum has an exceptional eye for fashion and has a fantastic way with words and writing. My dad dabbles in pretty much any art form he can, apart from playing instruments. Both though have got amazing and eclectic tastes in music.
Growing up around my parents and their friends was sometimes chaotic but always incredibly social. They’re my best mates as well as my parents and I was always generally welcome to listen to the conversations and stories from their clubbing days. My mum will call out a clunky mix in a set (even if it’s not that bad) in a heartbeat, which definitely kept me on my toes when I was starting out and even now. My dad has always pushed me to pursue music and has very little patience for things with uninspired aesthetic. The combination of all these characteristics and behaviours started to show within my character and approach to music really early on.
I went through a stage of having a Sony Ericsson speaker in the hood of my jacket, playing Euphoria Hard Dance Awards 2009 loud as I could through my school and hometown. Fun at the time, but definitely questionable now. I’m not sure my parent’s intended me to be like that, but they definitely had some influence. Both my parents have influenced me in a multitude of ways from taste to technique to general life and career outlooks. Proper set of legends!
You eventually moved to Manchester, which is where you are currently based. What was it that drew you towards the city?
I was actually at a loss at the time before moving to Manchester. I’d left a performing arts course at college in my second year because the Christmas performance was scheduled to be on the same night that I was going to Fatboy Slim and Pete Tong at Warehouse Project. After that I went on the hunt for music tech courses because I was completely obsessed with electronic music and the party scene. I only have 3 GCSEs and I couldn’t go to uni but I found a level 2 music tech night course at The Manchester College which was bang on.
I’d been over to Manchester with my dad a few times as we’d both despair being in Harrogate, where I’m from. He displayed a really genuine fondness and intrigue for Manchester and especially the Norther Quarter. I’d come over to party a lot when my mates were at uni and I was still back home, too. My mum and auntie both lived in Manchester, and I’d always hear stories of the Hacienda and the music from around that time. My mum lived in a squat in Moss Side through uni, which my Grandma Buzz (who’s a lovely woman that has generally resided in small countryside communities in Yorkshire) has always had a few things to say about. All of these influences and signs just made it the natural choice for me. There’s that and Leeds was too close to home!
In 2018, your musical talents presented an incredible opportunity in the form of a 9 show tour across Singapore. How did this come about, what were some memorable moments?
My uncle works in events in Singapore and has worked with the Grand Prix for a few years now. On a rare meeting with him a few years back we got the chance to go to Liverpool vs Man City at Anfield together with him and my dad. Whilst catching up I explained that I’d been having some local successes in Manchester and had played at V festival along with various other things. Following that conversation, he sent me some music briefs over out the blue and asked me to send some sample mixes. I did this and one thing led to another and he landed me with 9 separate gigs in different areas of the Singapore Grand Prix, which is a full city takeover.
I played the Paddock Club, Heineken Stage and to a grandstand of 26,000 people. I was actually advised to play pretty commercial music overall which, seemed a completely pointless to me once I’d got there. I did a 130-135bpm funky house and breakbeat set to the grandstand which I think shocked the punters slightly; especially after the 5-piece ambient band that were on before me. I thought it was wicked having F1 cars flying passed at 200mph whilst playing Utah Saints remix of Stone Roses – One Love to 26,000 people. Apparently, the demographic was more the ABBA type, but I’m sure they enjoyed themselves all the same.
Another memorable highlight was the Heineken stage. This was a base for me where I could really play what I wanted and all the sets were at different times of day and night, so I could properly dig and find tracks to fit the scene. One night I got asked for my card by 8 different people and gained some really amazing fans and friends that I still talk to now. One last one was a proper chunky young Singaporean lad, must have been about 6 years old, with a massive phone running behind the decks in the paddock club and just buzzing his head off franticly recording and taking pictures. Very, very funny!
You are the founder of the musical imprint “Do As You Please”, can you tell us more about this project? What future plans do you have for it going forward?
Yeah of course! Do As You Please (DAYP) was project I set up as I was struggling to find open doors in the local music scene. I wanted to have an approachable platform for people to get their work showcased in a light that would benefit them and their careers; whilst allowing space for artist development and removing ego from the process. At the time I was trying to get a paid part time job in a record store but was having no luck. So, I sourced and bought some cheap vinyl stock and started a Discogs store, which has now built up to having accounts with some of the best distributors in the business which I’m incredibly proud of.
Likewise with my DJ mixes, I had a few decent mixes that I was looking to house on other platforms, and I couldn’t really find many with branding or accessibility that suited where I was at, so I started my own under the same brand. The natural progression following this was to start a label. I was actually unsigned at the time but had been making music for a long time. With the help of a couple of friends, Trevor Johnson and John Walsh (who are two of the original Hacienda and Factory Records designers, amongst an incredible amount of other things) and my best mate Roland Tiffany, released Joe Roche – White Umbrella on vinyl in June last year. This was my first proper release and the labels first release, too.
Nearly a year on I’ve taken on 4 interns who I’m training and working with on various aspects of the business, who are all wicked and are doing really well. We’re onto the 4th label release next month which is the beginning of our annual compilation series entitled “With Us”, which is sounding unbelievable. Following that we’ve got another vinyl release scheduled from Samo Lung called Breakspeed Galactica, which is quite honestly ridiculous, and I anticipate will do some serious damage at parties later this year. Off the back of that we have another vinyl release planned which will all be revealed in due course.
We are starting up events again slowly, we’ve got a monthly residency at Distrikt in Leeds which we can’t wait to get back at. We’re also currently looking for venues and dates for some co-promotion shows with Babystep Magazine which is exciting. Basically, we’re just gonna keep banging it out! The record store, art prints, mix series, label and events are all really working together nicely at the moment, and we’re excited to see where the next few months will take us.
How much of an impact has your time at Reform Radio and Eastern Bloc had on your career?
Reform Radio has been a really central part of my artistic and professional development. They’ve been there for me personally, professionally and creatively, which, to be honest I really feel is what I needed to make it through some of the stages in my journey. Music creation and the industry can be incredibly testing in a lot of ways. As someone who can very receptive and quite sensitive to what people think of my art and me personally, it’s good to have a space, with people that really know what they’re doing, backing you and guiding you. I’m currently project managing Reform Radio’s record label – Rhythm Lab Records working under music industry expert Mike Burgess. Also, I have just completed a mentorship programme called Soundcamp, led by Reform Radio, Danny Fahey from Thirty Pound Gentleman, vocalist Jenna G, DJ/Producer Tom Werkha, singer and instrumentalist Anna McLuckie and Adam (Seyk) Seymour from Rite Trax Sheffield. Both of which have been absolutely incredible experiences. On top of this I’m teaching young people that are unemployed or that have additional needs how to get started in radio, podcasting and music/production, which for me is an incredible and valuable thing to be doing.
Reform got me the work placement at Eastern Bloc (EB) in 2016. I was actually quite intimidated by record stores to be perfectly honest. I hadn’t handled records much at that time and I mainly had CDs back home growing up. When music means a lot to you, the last thing you want is to seem like you don’t know your stuff in an environment like that, especially as a young lad in a new city trying to make a name. The first time I’d ever been into a record store was my first day’s work placement at EB. I was a flat-out house head, I was listening to artists like Him_Self_Her, Martin Ikin and old school Chicago/Hacienda stuff like Ralph Rosario and old Pete Tong Essential Selection CDs I was brought up on. I was in search of more of the same. I quickly realised that EB wasn’t the sort of place that would typically sell Hot Since 82 records, it was much more than that. The rack of 7 inch soul records Jim (the manager at EB) gave me to upload to the website completely blew me away, I bought two records from that rack which still remain two of my favourite tracks of all time – Little George n’ The Mixed Generations – Listen & Terea – Little Bird.
Once I’d done a few shifts in EB and my confidence had grown I just started digging and couldn’t/still can’t stop. A big turning point for me was finding Gene Hunt – Feeling It EPA on Singaporean label Midnight Shift. That EP introduced me to Detroit style analogue workouts, and I absolutely loved it. Proper raw, uncompromising, nasty techno but not in the big money techno way, there was something more soulful and earnest about it. Eastern Bloc has honestly opened my eyes and ears and introduced me to so much more than I could’ve imagined on that first day walking in. Both myself and Serena, my girlfriend are there at least three times a week whether it’s for records, coffee or just a chat with the staff. Now, to have my own vinyl stocked and sold in there is a massive thing for me. The A2 on my White Umbrella EP, Dogmatic was actually made from the influence I’d had from the records I was buying in EB over that time. In short, both Reform Radio and Eastern Bloc have been integral to my professional development and more importantly me as a person.
What do you believe is the most challenging aspect for aspiring artists looking to find their way in the music industry?
If you’re wanting a specific answer, I think I’d struggle as it’s completely dependent on the artist’s character. Some people can back themselves to the point of success when really their music is secondary to the personality and in some occasions the music’s just not very good. Others could be shy but completely gifted musically and they will struggle to navigate quite a ruthless industry. Everyone’s going to have different challenges. If I was to choose one thing though it’d be overcoming the tendency we have as creatives to constantly compare ourselves and our art to other’s. This is a very real challenge that I know so many struggle with. What I’ve found is once you find your stride and keep up a regular practice routine that incorporates new techniques, in whatever you do, these little personal successes override the daunting feeling of other people’s successes. Once you’ve worked your way to having more of an identity with your art and accepting the sounds that come naturally to you things become much easier.
If you could produce a track with any artist past or present, who would it be and why?
There always tends to be a question like this and I find them particularly hard to answer! I could give you loads of answers for different reasons. Today I feel like two people who would be absolutely class are Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers and David Byrne from Talking Heads. I know you’ve asked for one but you’re getting two! I adored RHCP when I was growing up, my mum took me out of school for a “dentist appointment” when I was 8 to see them at the Manchester Evening News arena. Flea as a bassist would be incredible because you could cover such of a wide range of timbres and styles with his techniques and versatility with a bass guitar. Whether you wanted a 145bpm driving breaks tune or a laid back 100bpm summer jam he’d set the foundations in a style few others could. Also I’d love the manipulate his bass lines like I would a synth or acid line and get some proper full gritty sound design to layer up with.
David Byrne is just an all-round inspiration for me. I based almost all of my final year DJ & production uni works on ideas stemmed from his book, “How Music Works”. He comes at things differently and has experimented with so many different disciplines within music and theatre. I think it’d be completely enlightening to work with somebody with his experience and mindset. And let’s face it, X-press 2 feat David Byrne – Lazy is probably one of the biggest house anthems there ever was!
You can see more of Joe Roche here.
You can check out the DAYP Discogs here.