In the latest edition of our Introducing feature we spoke to Circa Groove co-owner Rupert Ellis. The London based producer has only been releasing records over the last couple of years on labels such as Blind Vision Records, and MyHouse YourHouse. Despite this he was already well versed in the ways of music production being responsible for the awesome sample packs coming out of Cr2 records. We spoke to Rupert about his work at Cr2, his influences, and upcoming projects.
What are your first memories of electronic music and what was it that pushed you to pursue this career choice?
My earliest memory of electronic music dates back to high school. When my eldest brother was studying at Sheffield University, dubstep was starting to blow up on a commercial scale and I distinctly remember when I was about 13 or 14 and he played me Rusko’s CD ‘Songs’ in his car and it blew my mind. I’d never heard anything like it before and I was fascinated by the sound, I couldn’t stop listening. From then on, I spent hours exploring the UKF Dubstep and Drum & Bass channels – I remember being on the school bus surrounded by friends chatting and messing around, and I was always the one with earphones in with artists like Delta Heavy, Camo & Crooked, Flux Pavillion etc. on repeat.
I soon became obsessed with EDM (haha) and then I discovered the art of DJing and music production. This was when I really got stuck into House music, so much so that I left school at 17 and moved down to London to pursue a career in music. I’ve explored every avenue of electronic music through the years but I always find myself coming back to straight-up, club focused, party driven house.
You are resident and co-founder of London-based Circa Groove, can you give us an insight about the full ethos of the brand?
Circa Groove is a platform we’re using to put out classy and intelligent underground club music. Taking inspiration from the sounds of artists like Apollonia, Tini, John Dimas, D’Julz, while keeping the label’s aesthetic clean cut with a focus on quality over quantity. Brands like Yoyaku and Trommel have always stood out to us as they balance a quality roster of artists with a slick, professional feel. It will always come down to the music at heart, but it’s also important that our brand promotes the aspects of the culture we love.
We’ve recently launched our radio mix series which is something that we’re looking forward to developing by bringing other like minded selectors to the platform. Myself and my partner, Will recorded the first show with two turntables, two CDJ’s and a mixer for over 4 hours. We ended up cutting it down to 1hr 30 but wish we kept more! We have also been running a ‘Record of The Month’ feature which allows us to showcase some of the records from our collection and give other artists a spotlight.
What releases have you got coming up and which are you most looking forward to?
After following Jambutnek for a while, I’m pleased to be releasing my 3 track digital EP with them in the summer. I love the artists they are working with and their brand as a whole and I’m excited to be part of their catalogue. Later in the year, my first vinyl release is coming out on MyHouse YourHouse, followed by other vinyl-only releases scheduled in on Pathway Traxx, DWAAL and Blind Vision Records.
The Pathway Traxx release is the one I’m most excited for, as it’s a solo EP of four tracks which allow me to showcase my versatility as a producer. One track is minimal and stripped back, another is a raw club tool, and the other two are dancefloor-driven DJ cuts. Last year, I made it one of my goals to sign with these guys so I was over the moon when owner Niko Maxen showed some love for my demos.
You work at Cr2 records, can you tell us a little about your role here and what impact if any has it had on your career thus far?
I’m Head of Sample Tools by Cr2 which is the sister company to the record label. We produce and distribute sample packs and work with brands such as Roland, AKAI, FutureDJs etc. to provide quality production tools to both aspiring and established producers. My role is to oversee the day-to-day management of the label as well as the business’s ongoing development. It’s had a massive impact on my career as I’ve had so many opportunities to work with really cool, like-minded people and brands, and it’s also given me a great insight into the industry from a business perspective. It’s been beneficial to learn about the full spectrum of the industry, seeing how labels, artists, distributors, graphic designers and videographers collaborate.
We’ve recently released sample packs from huge artists like Purple Disco Machine, Eats Everything and Solardo so it’s been great being able to work with some of the biggest names in the scene. One of the main benefits of running Sample Tools has got to be just surrounding myself in music all day every day, and working with producers of all different genres rather than just house and techno keeps me exploring and discovering new music in the same way I did when I was younger.
Alongside working at CR2 records, you also create sample packs, how did this first come about creating these and can tell us about your process in creating them?
Making sample packs for the sample pack label seemed like a logical thing to do at the time: one of our sound engineers told me it would be a great way to improve my production skills, and I wanted to be a better producer. I’ve since made four sample packs and it has definitely allowed me to hone my production skills as it forces you to focus on particular aspects of production from sound design to songwriting to mixing and mastering. Usually I’d start with the loops folders and work on the melodic aspect such as bass loops, synth loops and just jam with my synths (both VSTs and hardware). Then, I’d work on the song starters which are essentially mini song ideas broken down into stems. I’d usually start with a drum loop and build around that with synth and bass lines and effects. This is the fun part as it allows you to experiment and be more creative without focusing too much on a particular end goal.
What artists have had the biggest musical influence on the music you now produce?
From the dance music world it would have to be Shonky, Dyed Soundorom and Dan Ghenancia. I love their own productions as individuals but as a collective the sound of Apollonia would have to be my biggest inspiration for what I’m working on now. Other names like Hanfry Martinez, Federico Molinari, Eddie Richards, John Dimas are the artists that give me most energy when I’m needing inspiration for club-based cuts. There have been a lot of artists that have had a pretty big influence on my music that don’t just come from the electronic music spectrum. I think because I’ve dabbled in a variety of dance music genres I’ve taken a bit of inspiration from everything, and I’m also a huge hip-hop fan so artists like A Tribe Called Quest, J Dilla, Slum Village, Common also keep me creative.
What has been your favourite event/festival you have attended and what made it stand out above the rest?
It’s so difficult to pick one, but I can say for sure my favourite place to party is The Netherlands. Events there are super well-organised, the crowd is always full of energy and everyone there is there for the music. There’s such a sense of community which I love – the underground scene is supposed to be about freedom of expression and inclusivity, and I feel like there are some events and places where this isn’t truly represented. From my experience, The Netherlands has got the culture spot on.
A stand-out event to me would have been Dixon B2B Ame at Loveland, ADE. Everything down to the production, venue, DJ set, crowd was perfect. Dixon is also a wizard behind the decks and he truly outdid himself that night. Most recently, it was Apollonia + Traumer at E1 which was combination of a great line-up and a great East London club. The sound system in there is crazy and it’s got an extremely raw, stripped back warehouse feel to the venue. I can’t wait to get back!
Finally if you could produce a track with any artist past or present who would it be and why?
I have a pretty eclectic taste so it’s super difficult to choose. I’d love to get in the studio with someone like Hans Zimmer and just observe and learn, but if it was to produce something club-based it would have to be the Apollonia boys. Most of their music uses old school gear and they run everything through an MPC, this is such a fun and organic way of working that I don’t do enough of myself so I’d love to see them in action. I like the way their records, even their more recent stuff, sound so raw – their style is exactly what I love most about house and aspire to create in my own music production.
You can buy Rupert Ellis – Concrete Love EP here.
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