Interview conducted by our favourite four-to-the-floor expert, The Insider.
Fresh off the back of his highly acclaimed debut album on Astral Black, Footshooter returns to the WOLF Music pack. Following his ethereal remix of Berlin nu-jazz outfit, Velour, last year, this month the South Londoner drops an exquisite six-track journey, taking us through his wide-ranging cinematic sound. We have a little chat with him on release week and get to the heart of what’s bubbling in London town right now.
Photo by Ed Mooney
Where are you today and what are you up to?
I’m at home in Catford, South East London, catching up on life admin!
Were you born and bred in South London?
No, I grew up in a small town called Stroud, in the South West of England. I’ve been living in south east London for the last 5 years, and was in Brighton for 4 years before that. I was drawn to London by the music scene here. A good friend of mine, Tom, who I met down in Brighton, has been involved in the Lewisham music scene for years and they grew up in this area.
Around 2014 / 2015 I started travelling up to London with them from Brighton fairly regularly and was blown away by the gigs and music culture. I owe a lot of my sound to attending events back then, such as STEEZ, The A and the E, Brainchild Festival, Rhythm Section, Twinkat Soul, and more recently in the last few years, Touching Bass.
A huge commonality that ran through the different events around South East London was the eclecticism. At STEEZ, for example, you would have spoken word poetry, live Afrobeat, a jazz jam in a small room upstairs, a punk band, then DJs playing jungle, dancehall, house, hip hop, jazz, anything really, until 4 or 5AM, all in one night. That had a huge impact on me as I’d never really experienced that before – it was magic.
How long have you been making music? What, when, was your first dalliance?
I’ve been making music since I was a little kid. I was playing in bands constantly from the age of 9 or 10 upwards. I played bass guitar, guitar and drums, and switched between these as a teenager, as well as playing drums in my Dad’s band when I was 13. Both my parents are musicians so there was always music around the house when I was growing up. When I was 16, I started getting into music production, as I studied Music Technology at college, and had an amazing tutor called Ben Hamid – shouts to Ben! – who got me hooked on it. I then became obsessed and haven’t really stopped since.
Did you DJ initially? Where did you play in those early years?
I started DJing properly down in Brighton, at University, in around 2013. There was a great DJ culture down there, with everyone collecting records and playing at each other’s parties and club nights. We would play a lot of disco, rare groove and funk, all the way through to house, garage and jungle. When I first started it was a lot of playing on vinyl in pub back rooms, and at house parties – those are the main spaces where I cut my teeth as a DJ, where there just was 2 decks and a mixer. Beat matching wasn’t so much the priority, as selection was given more importance, and this informs the way I play even to this day.
Who were the artists and DJs that influenced your style originally?
Originally, I was really into Bonobo, Quantic and Romare, who fused together electronics and more organic sounds. Then I was listening to a lot of early broken beat from Bugz in the Attic, Seiji, Mark Force, Dego, 4Hero, Silhouette Brown, and then Henry Wu, K15, Shy One, EVM128, and other more recent producers following this sound, as well as Detroit artists like Jay Daniel and Kyle Hall. I was – and still am – also massively influenced by a lot of the artists around me – Ben Hauke, Maxwell Owin, Romaal Kultan and William Florelle are all incredible producers, and there are artists like Kokoroko, Nubya Garcia, Joe Armon-Jones, Moses Boyd, Vels Trio, Sumochief, Nerija, and more, on the live jazz spectrum. This fusing together of live jazz with electronic production has been a massive influence on my style.
What was your first production? Tell us a little about that release.
The first tracks that I ‘released’ – aka uploaded onto Soundcloud – were back in 2012, 2013, and were mainly sample-based hip-hop tunes, but borrowed a lot from dance music too. These varied in quality – some of them I can’t listen to now as they suck! – but that’s all part of the growth I guess. I was relying a lot on sampling as my key playing wasn’t good enough to get the sounds I wanted, and that has slowly shifted over the last 6 years. Now I rarely use samples in my tunes, other than the occasional vocal.
Henry Wu once said that when he heard his mum and dad playing Stevie Wonders` Songs In the Key Of Life, it changed his world. Is there an album you recall as a kid that is carved in your brain?
Interestingly, that Stevie Wonder record is also one I would say had a formative impact – as I’m sure it did with a lot of folks. My dad used to play Songs In The Key Of Life all the time when I was growing up, and I remember being blown away by the musicianship involved, it was unlike anything else I’d heard. I was also really into Pink Floyd – I remember loving how they made their albums flow together track-by-track, almost like listening to a film soundtrack.
There is a very specific sound that’s come out of south London over the last decade. Where do you think comes from? What elements have contributed to this unique sound?
As someone who’s only lived in London for 5 years now, I can’t speak for the last decade, and there will be others who are much better positioned to speak on this. The musical lineage in London is constantly evolving and changing and developing, and all can be traced back through years and generations. The sound my stuff references, along with a lot of other producers at the moment, is indebted to broken beat, or future jazz, which was pioneered by artists like IG Culture, Dego, 4Hero and Bugz in the Attic in the early 2000s.
There has been a resurgence in this sound but it’s not particularly new, and I’m sure that if you asked them about their influences back then they would have referenced music from before their time, so it all keeps moving. One of the things that I love about electronic music, and jazz more widely, is that the genres are constantly shifting, going round in cycles, with old sounds coming back to the front, then picking up something new and pushing forward.
For me, the fusing together of the live jazz elements with house or broken beat production came a lot of from seeing such incredible live jazz and afrobeat bands playing in Lewisham, and wanting to capture that energy. It’s all just music at the end of the day, and it’s important not to pigeonhole different sounds too much I think.
In your time you have performed live with Yussef Kamaal, the brilliant Andrew Ashong, and Rhythm Section artists 30/70. Has this been as a DJ or as a musician?
Those are acts that I’ve supported at gigs over the past 5 years, either with a live set – with live beats, keys and vocal features – or as a DJ.
You’ve worked a lot with performance artists and with spoken word poets. What draws you to this type of performer, and connects you to this style of performance?
The events I mentioned before such as The A & the E, Brainchild Festival and STEEZ, all featured spoken word heavily, and I’ve always loved poetry, and wanted to see how to blend this with electronic music. Often when poetry is set to music it can be set to ambient sounds, or sparser sound textures, so I wanted to experiment with what it’s like to have poetry over a house track, for example. Again, this is nothing new, but I’ll always love writing songs with vocalists of all kinds whether they are poets, rapper or singers.
Footshooter is a live act too. What makes up this live performance?
The live band consists of myself on bass guitar and beats, Patrick McMahon on guitar, Wilf Petherbridge on Trumpet, Jack Stephenson-Oliver on keys and synths, and then we have various vocalists jumping on and off through the set. These have included, over the years, Natty Wylah, MA.MOYO, Isobel Risk, Brother Portrait, Slam The Poet, And is Phi, and more. We played jammed out versions of my tunes with lots of space for improvisation, as it’s always been about making it as ‘live’ as possible.
You’ve got a regular show on Balamii – Sonic Fruits. With the shock that WorldWide FM has closed, how does Balamii keep it presence alive?
It’s been really sad to hear about Worldwide. I hope that the DJs and hosts are able to find shows elsewhere. It’s indicative of a wider issue with arts funding in London at the moment – everything keeps getting more expensive and funding keeps getting cut by the government. Usually the first things to go when this happens are arts and community organisations. Balamii stays afloat via their team working insanely hard and putting all their energy into keeping it going – as do all other stations in London. However, everything is precarious and I know that folks who work in the arts in London and across the UK are tearing their hair out at the moment to try and figure out ways of making things sustainable.
The UK in general has one of the most diverse and incredible musical and creative outputs in the world, but our government doesn’t place any value on it. This is yet another negative impact of our country being run by millionaires who are only interested in protecting the wealth of other millionaires.
I guess you are friends of Wolf through Balamii? How did you first hook up with Matt & Stu? You did a remix on the Velour album a while ago right?
I’d been aware of the WOLF guys for years, and had been a fan of their label – I remember loving a Moomin record they released years back. They hit me up on email back in 2020 to ask about remixing a tune from the Velour album, then we got chatting about doing a project together. I was balancing a few different projects at the time, but Afterglow FM has been in the works for 2 years now on and off.
The Afterglow FM E.P. kicks off as if it is a new cinematic vibe for Wolf. But then as you make your way through the tracks, we are firmly back in jazzy, broken turf. It’s almost as if it’s an story / journey. Was it your intention to give it such a wide and varied feel and if so, give us a little insight into that story..
Yes, I was really keen for it to feel cinematic. This release is a bit different from my others over the past 4 years, as it doesn’t have any vocals on there – I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit, and create something entirely instrumental. With that in mind, I want folks to listen to it all the way through, and project their own meaning, or story, onto the different tunes. The instrumental form gives space for that. I’ve always enjoyed presenting ‘dance music’ in longer form, as it’s fairly unusual – most house/dance records are singles or 2-3 track E.P.s. I’ve always also liked adding intros and interludes as it creates a richer experience when listening through, and it’s something I love from other artists.
What else is Footshooter working on at the moment?
I’ve been in talks with an incredible London-based label to work on something together for a while, so just slowly piecing together some new demos there. I’m also producing more for other artists – I co-wrote and produced a project with Pollena, a singer based in Streatham, which is out in December. I’m enjoying producing for others’ projects as it frees up the sound a bit, and keeps things fresh for me.
Are there any live dates you want to drop here?
My side project with Jack Stephenson-Oliver, SAUL, is playing live at Ninety One Living Room in Shoreditch in February!
Tell us something that we would probably never know about you?
I spend my time outside of music working with young people in prisons and in the community, through an amazing organisation named Peer Power. I love doing youth work and find it’s a great counterbalance to my creative practice, and it keeps me grounded.
Footshooter’s Afterglow FM E.P. is out this Friday, on Wolf Music.