Interview / Joe Morris / Clandestino

Leeds-based DJ / producer Joe Morris is poised to release his debut LP, Exotic Language, on September 16th. You can pre-order digital and vinyl here and here. 

With ten tracks moving between ambient and dance-floor fillers, the album marks the next stage in a decade long recording career. One that`s taken in singles and E.P.s for labels such as Balearic Social, El Diablo`s Social Club, Is It Balearic?, Paperecordings, Wonder Stories, and Kenny Wisdom`s Pleasure Unit. 

I had a fairly long chat with Joe touching on his devotion to house, “what is balearic?” and the Clandestino collective, of which Joe is founding member. 

Where are you from?

Originally I’m from a sleepy village in The Ribble Valley, which is a beautiful area in East Lancashire. Famous for witches, abbeys and sausages. I moved over the border to Leeds in 1998. I’m still based in West Leeds. 

joe morris ribble valley

How long have you been DJing? Who or what inspired you to start? 

I got my first pair of decks in 1996 – I’ve still got them! I’d tinkered with DJing a little before that though on friends decks. Mines a typical story really – going out to clubs led to the usual lightbulb moment of ‘I can do that’.

Which clubs were you going to? The Warehouse? Downbeat? Back To Basics? The Orbit? Soundclash? Chapel Town? Phono? Mr Craigs? 

Before moving to Leeds the path that was most travelled was to Cream in Liverpool – long before it became the corporate conglomerate it is today. There were also excursions to Angels in Burnley, Love To Be in Sheffield, Hard Times and Basics in Leeds, Sankeys Soap in Manchester. I never got to The Orbit though sadly, or the Hacienda – though The Warehouse was a haunt for a while. Mr Craig’s and the Chapel Town blues clubs were before my time.

Where were you buying your records?  

The nearest town to me as a kid was Blackburn, which had a few good record shops. It may sound surprising but remember Blackburn was the epicentre of warehouse parties for a period in 1988-89 – so there was no shortage of DJs and ravers needing a vinyl fix. Reidy’s and Astonishing Sounds are two I remember, and one or two others I forget the names of. Action Records in Preston was another. Then once I’d made the move to Leeds the legendary PlayMusic in the Corn Exchange was an essential visit each Saturday.

Were there pirate radio stations in Leeds?

Yes, but they were a little before my time. DreamFM is the most well-known – we’d seek out tapes from there as wide eyed kids in Lancashire. Even Galaxy which is now Capital FM started out as a pirate station in Leeds. I remember Ralph Lawson had a show on Galaxy which aired on Saturday nights straight after Basics kicked out – it was an essential way to find out about new records.

How long have you been making music? Again, who or what inspired you to start?

I’ve been tinkering with machines and computers to make a racket since I was about 21, but only started to get serious about 10 or 11 years ago. Like most folks, it was a continuation of DJing really. Going out to clubs and parties and being inspired to make tunes – a typical story. I do wish I’d knocked the partying on the head sooner though and knuckled down in the studio. For a long time I was too interested in being on the dance-floor rather than making music for it. I like to say though that at least its stood me in good stead for what works in a club.

Joe, you’re more than ten years younger than me and one thing that really interests me is how your definition of “Balearic” might differ from mine. I mean for starters you seem to be a lot more house-y than me. 

The thing is, ‘Balearic’ means something different to everyone. One man’s balearic is another man’s trash. I’m not from that first generation of acid house / balearic beat heads but I’m not far behind. I was always distinctly aware of it as I was getting into dance / house music and it amuses me now what gets tainted with the balearic brush. Literally everything from insipid bargain basement chill out compilations to anything with a piano gets shoved into a box marked ‘Balearic’. To me, it’s always be an attitude and not a style of music. House music is where I cut my teeth though. It’s just a constant for me. It’s what I’m about, deep down. So naturally it’s going to seep into the music I make. It’s a shame the term ‘deep house’ has been adopted by the tight t-shirt brigade – it’s not cool to say your deep house anymore – because really if anything that’s what I’ve always been about.

We could both reel off a list of established Balearic classics, but I was wondering if you could give me three records that introduced you to Balearic? Perhaps where and when you heard them?

I suppose they’d all be records I heard retrospectively. As I said I was a little bit too young to have heard those classic records first time around so I had to go digging and researching as my interest grew. There would be balearic records that were on mix tapes but back then everything was just rave or acid house – no one called it balearic. Years later when blogs and specialist internet sites started to appear I found out more about the balearic sound, but even then I’d always think of them as strange pop oddities or lost disco classics, or italo or new beat or whatever. So I can’t really pinpoint where I first heard these but here are three that I’d definitely associate with the balearic idyll:

The Grid – Floatation (Subsonic Mix) 

Paprika Soul – Come With Me (Sea Breeze) 

Electribe 101 – Talking With Myself 

I was also wondering if you could give me three recent releases that fall within your definition of Balearic?

Coil – Theme From A Gay Mans Guide To Safer Sex

Pershing Thirst – Lac of Theirin 

Ludwig A.F. Röhrscheid – Velocity

Where do you currently buy your vinyl? 

Sadly I’m not buying much vinyl these days; I just don’t have the space. I still pick up a few bits now and then. I’ll never be able to resist walking past a record shop if I have 5 minutes to spare. I’ll have a nose around Disque72 if I’m in the area. Gotta mention Tribe Records also in Leeds who have just re-opened after years away. Haven’t had a chance to look in yet but they are really on point with the new wave of techy, electro and breaks stuff. It’s from the guys involved with Dimensions Festival.

I know you’ve fairly recently become a dad, do you still go out dancing? If so, where do you go?

To be honest, not really. And it’s not because I’m a new Dad, I just find it a bit of a chore to be in clubs these days if I’m not being paid to be there. That said if there’s an interesting DJ in town I’ll try make a point of going out for a look. The NinetyNine guys do some good stuff at Sheaf St Studios here in Leeds.

joe morris ninety nine poster_2

Do you know the folks that were associated with The Outlaws Yacht Club? Joe Gill, Craig Christon, Andy Pye? 

Yes of course – Andy put out a record of mine and we just did a little party with Craig with Tom of England last month. I love what Joe has done with Outlaws Yacht Club, it’s a little haven.

Some of your early releases were on Paper Recordings – who are gearing up to celebrate 25 years in the biz. Do you know the Paper lot well? Did you ever go to Hard Times?

It’s funny because I was obsessed with Paper Recordings around 1994 / 95 – as a youth. If you’d told me then I’d have a record on their label, I probably would have burst on the spot. I haven’t worked with them for a few years now, but I love those guys. Ben and Pete gave me a platform for my music at a time when I was knocking on doors and getting nowhere. I’m delighted they’ve reached 25 years. I mean what an astonishing achievement. It’s never been harder to run a label. Hard Times is one of my favourite ever clubs. We used to hire a coach to Huddersfield when they held it at a converted church there around ‘94, then later at The Music Factory in Leeds around ’96 – just before I moved here.

How did you hook up with Kenny Wisdom and Pleasure Unit? Kenny seems to have disappeared of late. 

Kenny got in touch as he was a big fan of the E.P. I did for Andy Pye’s label. I sent him some music I was working on and he was really enthusiastic about it and it ended up being the Jacaranda Skies release. Kenny’s another stand-up guy that I’m in debt to really; he opened me up to another audience. It’s a shame he’s gone quiet. Hopefully he’s planning a bunch of new material.

Can you tell me more about Clandestino? Who’s involved? How did you all meet? 

Clandestino is myself, Nick Smith and Iain Mac. Nick and Iain come from a similar school of rave to myself so inevitably we met up and have been involved in various projects together since at least the early 00s. Clandestino was born in 2012 as a kind of pop-up adhoc party series, which we still are – but we’ve since morphed into a radio show, podcast series, label and production outfit. It can be an interesting musical mix, occasionally DJing together the wheels can spectacularly fall off but when we’re given a few hours to play with we’ll often deliver a set that everybody in the room enjoys.

Can you give me five Clandestino classics, and if possible any memories / stories associated with them?

DT & PJ – Heatwave Anthem

Hard to pin the Clandestino sound down in one record but this comes close as it encompasses balearic, house and tribal / ethnic elements. A great party record.

Basement Jaxx – FlyLife (Eats Everything Rework) 

Our peak festival banger record – although we’ll try get away with playing it whenever we can. It’s been retired for the moment though ‘cos even we’re sick of hearing it.

Foster – Neon Life

This one tends to get played nearly every time, especially during longer sets where we’re doing a warm up. It’s a great transitional track, bridging the earlier part of the night from warm up into a more dancefloor section.

Alejandro Paz – El House

This gets a good reaction when we play in Spain and Europe, for obvious reasons. A great jacking house record with a really cool Latino chanted refrain. Another record that’s close to the typical Clandestino sound.

Sometimes – Sexican (Justin Van Der Volgen Remix) 

We each have different tastes but I think where it crosses over is we all like a bit of live bass and guitar. This is a great example. Heavy disco house vibes. We’ve destroyed many a room with this.

How often are the parties? What guests have you had? Is it always in the same venue? When’s the next one?

Sporadic at best. None of us wants to be committed to a weekly or even a monthly thing – that’s a young man’s game. They tend to be two or three month’s apart. Guests wise it’s quite an impressive list actually if we do say so: Andrew Weatherall & Sean Johnston, Young Marco, Ivan Smagghe, Paramida, Felix Dickinson, Alfredo, Francis Inferno Orchestra, Maurice Fulton and others. We do bigger events at Headrow House and Sheaf St Studios but the smaller more regular parties are held at Distrikt. It’s a pretty raucous dive bar that suits the anything goes ethos we have.

Joe Morris Exotic Language will be released on September 16th, on Joes own Shades Of Sound imprint. You can can pre-order both digital and vinyl

joe morris exotic language art




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