Interview / Austin Ato / Delusions Of Grandeur

Austin Ato is a young House music producer and DJ, based in the Scottish Highlands. Over the last couple of years he`s released music on Phonica White, Futureboogie, and Manpower`s Me Me Me. His latest offering is coming via Jimpster`s Delusions Of Grandeur. 

Receiving the promo, I was particularly taken with Putting It My Way – a polyrhythmic collage, where Africa and Brasil meet over 909 snare rolls. A carnival where drums and melody are woven as one. A sound system bass-line backing 21st Century beat poetry. Bolstered by a Gospel chorus. Techno where Jazz is the teacher. With a bit of Sheffield`s Bleep. 

My positive response earned me an interview slot, but to be honest, I`m so out of touch with House music I didn’t really know where to start. Then I thought why not ask Austin for a few pointers?

My questions really concern where your music comes from. My House epiphany occurred at places like The Trip, back in 1988 / 89. Where and when would have been yours?

It wasn’t one particular place and I don’t think it was one moment. What I mean is, for me House music and its offshoots and progenitors, have affected me in different ways throughout my life. I’ve had as many goosebump moments since being a producer as before it, probably more in fact, and the way I thought about the music when I was eighteen is different to the way I think of it now.

The records that converted me where tracks like Adonis` No Way Back, Sleezy D`s I`ve Lost Control, The Jungle Wonz` Times Marches On. What were yours?

I was first properly exposed to House music in the late 1990s and so I was experiencing those early, expressions of the form, that you’ve mentioned. Tunes like No Way Back and Acid Tracks sounded so wild and different but immediately felt so natural. These electronic tones, these raw bedroom recordings, it was the Soul music I was looking for.  At the same time, I was also getting into Daft Punk’s first album, Aphex Twin – and other electronica – and the classic “French Touch” filtered sound.

I have to admit that I`m an old fucker and I don`t really listen to House that much these days. In fact I`m not sure I know what the definition of House is anymore. For me the “heyday” was back in the late 80s, and my favourite tracks would be things like The Nightwriters` Let The Music Use You, Ten City`s Right Back To You, Ce Ce Rogers` Someday. As a youngster could you give me your all time top three tracks, perhaps with some explanation why?

Well, honestly I couldn’t give you a top three.. there’s too many tunes that I feel so much for.  However, I do have my “Number  One” and it would be:

Photek and Robert Owens` Mine To Give

This is, in my humble opinion, the perfect House record. It’s beautiful, deep, but Robert creates a full song in there too. The synths occupy this kind of Basic Channel space, always filtered, moving, panning around the beat which feel so obviously Detroit but it also has a real Chicago bump to it. It took a Drum ’n Bass producer in Photek, and a singer in Robert, who’s widely hailed as the “voice of house music”, to make this. I don’t think it’s ever been beaten.

Picking another two tunes, from a large well of my favourite pieces of music ever made, Joe Smooth`s Promised Land and Armand Van Helden`s You Don’t Know Me, both show, that despite how young the artform was, the music found its Soul so quickly.  

Promised Land is yearning, searching and came out exactly ten years before Armand’s tune. It feels like it’s exploring House`s space with a more exposed and vulnerable performance. It`s more like Gospel than anything else.  

Fast forward a decade and You Don’t Know Me is House music enjoying its first big cross-cultural wave. This was a huge chart hit and despite its sonic bombast the lyrical message is still of searching and yearning – but this time to be free to live the way you want to live. Aside from all that, these are two absolutely slamming tunes. 

I am still interested in the House, but feel out of touch. I`ve gone through periods of enthusiastically re-immersing myself in the genre. Cajual / Relief in the mid-90s. The emergence of the Faith Fanzine website at the start of the millennium. But these stints have been relatively short-lived. The last House records I bought were Mousse on Butter Sessions, Mama`s Unmask Me, and Parkway Rhythm`s retroactive Broad Street Pressure. What were yours?  

These are all 12s that I bought in the last week. 

Fake Love Vol 6.

A set of House / Disco edits that I picked up from Phonica in London. 

Stacy Kidd – Disco Feet

Purchased from Discogs.

Unknown Artist – OGE007

Deep, minimal old style techy house. Again, bought from Phonica. Bon Viva will be one of my tunes of the year.  So deep, so good.

I was wondering, can you give me five tracks that you consider to currently define House, perhaps with some explanation why? 

I`d start with the three tunes I`ve just mentioned.  All very different – one more Disco-y, one more Tech-y and Minimal.. but really, House is a feeling. It’s a set of emotions not a strict dictionary definition.  The best producers make House music now with the full awareness and love of its underground beginnings, an appreciation of its commercial highs and an ear to what artists in other parts of the world are also making.

Here’s two more. 

Mr G – Daily Prayer

Jay Daniel – Bubble Cougar

To be honest, these are tunes I love, rather than five tracks that I think define House music.

I sometimes get the feeling, the same as I do with current Hip Hop, that to fully appreciate modern House you have to be involved in the process of making music yourself i.e. you need to understand the effort that`s gone into creating a beat. Which artists have had the biggest impact on your own productions? Again if possible could you tell me why, and give me examples of key tracks?

Hard to say. I don’t listen to anyone’s productions for inspiration. Living remotely in the Highlands I can dive into my own mind and find my own voice away from others’. There’s artists who I feel I channel sometimes because I love their music and it’s in my DNA… Theo Parrish, Fela Kuti, Stevie Wonder…but honestly it`s hard to say how much anyone of these has had an impact.

Do you listen to music outside of House? If so what? Does this impact what you do?

Of course..House is just part of music. I listen to a lot of Hip Hop and Soul, but also Rock ’n Roll. In fact my current obscure find is this..  Panta Rhei, a German band from the 60s / 70s. They had a female singer on occasion and on this one it’s amazing. They sound like early Sabbath with Janis Joplin and a horn section. Totally amazing. It makes me want to drum in a band again. 

I love Grime too. JME is amazing. Always creating amazing music.

Loving ill Camille too.. a new American rapper. Real throwback. Deeper vibe.

Oh, and last one.. I adore Betty Davis and her pure fire Funk Rock. Astounding!

You can pre-order Austin Ato`s Ella / Putting It My Way directly from Delusions Of Grandeur. 

You can get a taste of Austin live here…..

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