INTERVIEW / PROJECTIONS / RITUAL RELEASE

Woolfy Vs Projections is the musical partnership of Simon “Woolfy” James and Dan Hastie. For well over a decade the duo have produced an array of dance-floor, and deck-chair, favourites – The Return Of Starlight, Neeve, plus the lush long-player, The Return Of Love, to name but just a few. I think I`ve even referred to Woolfy as “The King of Balearic Boogie”. Up until now this music has been hosted by imprints / institutions such as Guidance, Rong, and Permanent Vacation, but last Friday, October 29th, these California-based chaps, dudes, together with spar, John Alderson, launched their own label, Ritual Release. While still ably aiding and abetting one another in the studio, the new venture will see the two halves of their nome de plume divide, separate, and the music move in differing, distinct, directions. The first 12, care of Projections, is called Original Cell, and it`s set to be one of the sunset hits of the year. 

Where are you from?

Simon: I was born in Surrey, just outside of London, and moved out to Los Angeles when I was 8 years old. 

Dan: I was born in Canoga Park, which is a suburb of LA in the San Fernando Valley.

Where are you based? 

S: We’re both based in the wee town of Ojai, California. About 12 miles in from the coast, south of Santa Barbara. 

When and how did both of you begin making music – individually? 

D: There was a piano in my house that I gravitated towards naturally, starting at the age of 6. A neighbor had a small home studio and he would let me record my songs when I was around 10. That was the spark for producing music. I started playing keys in different groups from high school on up. 

S: I was always around music growing up, but didn’t pick up the guitar until I was about 16. I was determined to learn No New Tale To Tell by the band Love and Rockets. Then got into beats and had a trip hop outfit called Sounds From The Ward. 

What equipment did you have then?

S: A 32 channel Mackie board, Akai S 2000, ADAT 8 channel recorder, a couple synths, and a few lefty guitars. 

D: I was always fascinated with vintage equipment and carried around a Fender Rhodes early on. I started to acquire synths and other vintage keyboards. That led to making beats on an MPC 2000XL. 

Were either of you in bands before working solo?

S: Dan and Sergio Rios joined Sounds From The Ward and it then morphed into a project called LoaRhythm. It was a cross between rocksteady, reggae and funk. 

D: I have an 8-piece heavy soul and afro funk group with Sergio Rios called Orgone, that formed over 20 years ago. I joined the LA hip hop group, The Pharcyde, in the early 00’s to start my touring career. I also toured with a group called Breakestra which was a community of musicians from LA that became backing bands for legendary hip hop artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and Ghostface Killah to name a few. 

What instruments do you play? Have you had any formal training? 

D: Anything keyboard related, bass, guitar. I had some piano lessons from the ages of 8-12 but found learning by ear more enticing. 

S: Guitar, bass, drum programming, and I sing and play keys—but Dan does the heavy lifting on that side of things. No formal training.

How did you meet and decide to make music together? 

S: I met Dan through Sergio who was frequenting our family pub in the San Fernando Valley. We started playing in a band, but it wasn’t until I was over his spot one day and I heard the beginnings for Inner City Sides that I knew he was a heavy hitter. We work really well together and it’s always quite fluid in the studio. 

How did you hook up with Rong?

S: I was out in New York for a gig called Turntables On The Hudson, which was an amazing party. After the party I found myself walking in the Meatpacking District late at night. I heard some good disco coming from behind a door, and that’s where I met Spun. We had a good few days together after that, and I happened to have Oh Missy on a CD-R and left it with him, along with my soul that weekend, haha.

How did you hook up with Permanent Vacation? 

S: A couple years after doing our split single on Rong, I went looking for a home for some of the Woolfy Vs Projections material. Permanent Vacation were having artists do remixes from a similar pool that Rong / DFA were using, so we sent them Absynth and Return Of Starlight and they were on board. Those guys have been amazing to work with over all the years.

D: Tom and Benji have always been great!

What equipment do you have now? 

S: Oh boy! Ableton is our go-to for sequencing software, and we have a slew of analog gear. My studio has the Suitcase Rhodes, Moog Opus 3, Roland Space Echo, Juno-60, Korg, about 8 guitars, various percussion and a Fender Jazz Bass.

D: Here we go… Wurlitzur 200a, D6 Clavinet, Hammond M3, and A100 with Leslie 122, Moog Rogue, Korg Prologue, Moog Sub Phatty, Behringer VC340 Vocoder, Behringer Model D, Behringer Deep Mind, Roland Sh3A, Fender Rhodes Stage, Dave Smith Mopho X4, Vermona Spring Reverb, BAE 1073 DMP preamp.

Do you have any favourite bits of kit?                                                                                                                                                                        

D: Moog Rogue, a classic early 80s bass synth.

S: My new Gretsch hollow body, and I just got the Rhodes refurbished – it’s sounding sweet.

Are there any artists or pieces of music that have had a direct influence on the music that you make, either individually or together?

S: I’m an absolute nut for the Velvet Underground, Bowie, McCartney and The Smiths. I like to dabble in a wee bit of classical, plus rare dance 12″s from the 70’s on up.  

D: I have always been influenced as a musician by the great rhythm sections like: The Meters, Booker T & The MGs, Muscle Shoals (Fame Records), Studio One in Jamaica, Africa 70 with Tony Allen and Fela. Also, really loving the disco and boogie out of Africa. 

Could you please give me a few pieces of music that you are currently enjoying?

D: I have been into the new releases from labels like Space Grapes and Star Creature. 

S: I’ve really been digging The Allah Las’ Raspberry Jam, they’ve got such a great sound. Lord Echo’s The Sweetest Meditation, he’s been on one for a minute now.

When and why did you start the new label, Ritual Release?

S:  We got started at the beginning of 2021. Dan and I had been making quite an array of music during lockdown and we were out playing tennis with John Alderson when the partnership idea came up. We were eager to release music ourselves as well as increase and broaden our output, and John had a clear and creative vision of how it could come together in terms of artist directions, brand and sound. Dan and I often joke about how a certain tune will need to make it past “The Gates of John”. He’s got a great set of ears. 

How many people are involved with the running of the label?

S: John, Dan and myself. John does the heavy lifting when it comes to the business and management side of things, with some roles handled by Dan and I. All of us are involved in the creative process. 

Ritual Release Logo

Can you tell me more about the label? Will it be solely for your work, or will you also release music by other artists?

S: The dream is to grow into a label with a catalog that includes music by other artists as well as our own. We’re getting the ship sailing with our own music, but we’re already pulling a range of other artists that we admire for remixes and collaborations. Plus there’s a new act we’re excited to introduce, but we can’t say anything about it for now.

The press release for Ritual Release talks about Woolfy and Projections each producing music that will move in differing directions. Can you explain more about this? 

S: The Woolfy vs Projections moniker was meant for the one single, Absynth / Return Of Starlight, certainly not four albums, haha. Before that, we recorded as Projections and were signed to Guidance Recordings out of Chicago. Back then we would aim to write songs with other people in mind to sing them, or just focus on beats. So we’re returning to those ideas under our original moniker Projections and continuing to shape the Balearic sound people associate with Woolfy vs Projections. For Woolfy, we’re looking to show a more personal side, leaning into indie-pop and indie-folk.

Has the lockdown period been creatively productive for you?

D: Absolutely. It’s been a moment where I have been honing in on mixing and exploring as many creative outlets as possible. 

S: Yes indeed, the solitude was nice, and spawned so much new music. I had fun knocking on a few doors to do some collaborations with peeps like Coyote, Steve Kotey and Ilya Santana. We’ve all become quite good friends through the process. 

What are you working on at the moment? What’s next for Projections, Woolfy, and Ritual Release?

S: We’re starting to shape the next Projections LP and getting a few heavy hitters to guest star on the album – who we’re really excited about. It’s going to cover a spectrum of coastal reggae & dub, mellow rock / AOR and Balearic beats. Woolfy’s moving back to England… just kidding. We have a new Woolfy E.P., Shooting Stars, set to drop next month with remixes by Turbotitto and Django Django.  

Prior to the pandemic where there any local parties that you enjoyed? 

S: We can’t even think that far back, it seems like decades ago. We were the headline live act at the Dusk Overnighter out in Joshua Tree, alongside homies Lovefingers, Heidi Lawden, and others. It was such a good feeling to perform in front of people again. 

Our label partner John Alderson’s other project is a – currently – quarterly party in a house-party-plus-audiophile-sound-system mould. He and the Sound of Make Believe fam have assembled a serious fleet of Klipsch speakers and are starting to get cooking with them.

Dusk overnighter poster

Are things beginning to open up again where you are?

S: Slowly but surely. Having said that, Ojai’s always been a slow town, so not much has changed.

All being well what are your plans for the rest of the year and 2022?

S: To get out and perform, DJ and dance as much as possible. Keep a steady work flow of musical output with the label and witness the fruits of our labour, and all that. Not asking too much, is it? 

Projections` Original Cell is out now on Ritual Release. 

Woolfy Vs Projections

 

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