Revered label boss, talented producer and respected DJ, Kevin McKay has always been something of a mogul. Carving out his own long-standing career as a DJ and producer, it’s Kevin’s GLASGOW UNDERGROUND imprint –started back in ’97 by the Scottish native – that has really helped him shine, cementing his enduring tastemaker status. Since then, GU has pumped out tracks by everyone from Rick Preston to Andy Carrick and, of course, McKay himself, as well as being a consistent bastion of rising, next-gen talent, most notably CTC allies, ILLYUS & BARRIENTOS.
On the brink of what’s set to be another outstanding year for the imprint, Kevin has picked some of his favourite cuts from the last two decades exclusively for CTC, to help celebrate the release of GU’s new retrospective compilation, 97:07, out now on TOOLROOM.
1. The African Dream – All The Same Family [Eightball Records, USA, 1994]
“I love the sound of the M1 organ (for those who don’t know, the sound is a preset on Korg’s M1 keyboard/workstation that was very popular with early house producers). There’s something magic about the way the bass resonates in a club that really does it for me; it just sounds so good on the dance-floor. When I first started producing, I wanted to make my own track with it but couldn’t afford an M1 and so Andy Carrick and I ended making this in 1995 with our less fashionable Roland D-70 (here). All through the 90s there were brilliant records made with this sound. Jaydee’s “Plastic Dreams” is probably the most famous but there was also this early one by the (originally titled) M1 (“Feel The Drums”, Emotive Records, USA, 1991 – here.) and later this killer groove by Farley & Heller (here).
While these were all great, my favourite is this one on Eightball Records. I used to play it all the time. Possibly because it sounded similar to Jaydee (but wasn’t Jaydee!). The groove is effortless and you can listen to the organ riff all day. Its easy to see why vinyl heads like Levon Vincent still play it today. And if you’re a fan of OFF Recordings, you’ll be well aware it (although you wouldn’t know from the title). Just have another listen to their current Beatport top 100 hit “Cracks” by Simone Vitullo feat. Cari Golden (here).”
2. Moods “A Feeling” (Deep Feeling) [Deep Dish Records, USA, 1992]
“I was a massive Deep Dish fan in the 90s. So much so I’m going to put two of their records on this list. The first one is this track they made before they became really well known as producers. Its much deeper than the music that made them famous but it still have that warmth and feeling that made me love their later records so much!
Although this Youtube rip is from a 1995 album they mixed, it was originally included on the first ever release on Deep Dish Records (before they decided to use the label name as their artists name here.)”
“I think the really innovative producers are the type of people that don’t just produce music of their time. They know the endless possibilities that sound equipment can provide…”
3. Deep Dish presents Quench DC “After Hours” [Tribal America/UK, 1994]
“There were so many great Deep Dish tracks before they kinda lost it at the end of the ’90s that it’s hard for me to pick a favourite (I could though – it’s this – here). However for this list I wanted to pick one that still sounds great – and playable – today. I think the really innovative producers are the type of people that don’t just produce music of their time. They know the endless possibilities that sound equipment can provide and so their studio sessions deliver tracks that – because of fashion – might not connect at the time but do so much later.
This track was often overlooked for the more energetic “High Frequency” on the A-side. I love it – it worked a treat at 6 in the morning at an after party when everyone was in that special swaying-more-than-dancing mood – and it wouldn’t sound out of place in a deep house set today.”
4. Phturescope – What Is House Muzik? [Emotive Records, USA, 1994]
“This isn’t my favourite Wild Pitch record (that’s probably this – DJ Pierre – Love Trax (Distorted Luv) – Strictly Rhythm, USA, 1992) but – given its recent re-issue on Get Physical it’s clearly one of the most playable today. It would be hard to talk about clubbing in Glasgow in the 90s without mentioning DJ Pierre or the Wild Pitch sound. All the key underground DJs of the time (Slam, Harri, Domenic Cappello, Oscar) were – and probably still are – huge fans.
Any Friday at The Arches, Saturday night at the Sub Club or Sunday night at the Voodoo Room (the three key underground nights of the time) was likely to have involved at least one of his productions or one by his many close peers (Roy Davis Jr, Nate Williams or Dannell Dixon – who gets a special mention for this HUGE Sub Club anthem here).”
“You could drop it right now after a big Omar S cut and – unless they knew the track – no one one the dance-floor would realise you had just taken them back 20 years.”
5. Tata Box Inhibitors – Plasmids [Touche, NL, 1994]
“If the Pierre & Co. were the ones killing it on the US hypno-house front, Jamez’ and Dobre’s Touche label pretty much ruled things in Europe. There are so many great records in its catalogue that its hard to pick just one. You have everything from the ultra-deep house of 51 Days ‘Paper Moon’ (here) to the main room stomp of Trancesetters ‘The Search’ (here) – one of the biggest progressive/techno records of the time. I’ve gone for something in between.
Despite the many different artist names, the label’s output was mainly written & produced by Dobre & Jamez and this one is no different. What does mark it out from the two I mentioned earlier is how it simply hasn’t dated. You could drop it right now after a big Omar S cut and – unless they knew the track – no one one the dance-floor would realise you had just taken them back 20 years. Brilliant.”
6. The House of Mood II Swing Presents Chronic “Dance Now” [Empire State, USA, 1994]
“If I had to pick a favourite producer from the 90s it would be Mood II Swing. Those guys had it all. John Ciafone was a master of beats, grooves and noises that made you bonkers on the dance-floor. His partner, Lem Springsteen had a fantastic voice (hear him on “All Night Long” here). Between them they made some of my favourite ever remixes (including this wicked reconstruction of Loni Clark’s “Love’s Got Me (On A Trip So High” – here) and some of my favourite club tracks.
Of the heavier, trackier music they made, this release on Eight Ball off-shoot Empire State is probably the best. I’ve tried a few times to get them out of retirement and back making house music but it seems while Lem is still around, John has given it up for good. Its such a shame because I know they could deliver new music just as MK and Kerri Chandler have come back and added a new dimension to the dance music of today.”
Track available on request.
7. Carl Craig – At Les [Buzz, Belgium, 1993]
“I’m a huge Carl Craig fan and so – just like Deep Dish – he gets two records on this list. The first is one that you have to be uber brave to play to a full dance-floor. It’s not really made for that kind of thing though, more for spaced-out dreamy hugging at sunrise but it’s such a wonderful piece of music I couldn’t not include it here. When Luciano asked me to do one of their Cadenza Music podcasts where you mix up all your influences in one session, this was the first track on the list… here.”
“Carl Craig remixes are the stuff of DJ legend. Build for those that like to groove and groove… and groove a little bit more!”
8. Tori Amos – God (The Thinking Mix 2 by Carl Craig) [East West, UK, 1993]
“Carl Craig remixes are the stuff of DJ legend. Build for those that like to groove and groove (and groove a little bit more) they are usually a lesson in how a few elements can combine to make one helluva tune (as long as each of those elements is pretty much perfect). Back in ’93 – when he made this – his productions were a lot more varied. This one features a Brazilian-influenced rhythm track, Tori Amos’ haunting voice and some of the best chords never to be used in a trance anthem ever made. At the time it was a bit too leftfield to be a big tune but – to me – this still sounds amazing today.”
9. St Germain-En-Laye – Walk So Lonely [F Communication, FR, 1994]
“I love St. Germain. His “Boulevard” album was one of the first proper house music albums to really break through into the public consciousness and – despite its popularity – it never lost any of its charm. As an artist though he was much more than the coffee-table chill-out stuff that “Boulevard” came to represent.
His Nuages project with Shazz laid down some of the deepest house grooves of the time (check out “Move” for a real Jamie Jones style head-nodder – here) and the killer ‘Alabama Blues’ (here) was a staple in almost every deep house DJs set at the time. I’ve picked another blues-influence track of his for this list, the brilliant, bumping ‘Walk So Lonely’.”
Embed unavailable – PLAY HERE
“But instead of this super deep piece of house being the soundtrack to people leaving, it slowly pulled people (back) on to the floor…”
10. Black Rascals – Blaze Theme Track [Sumo, 1994]
“The first time I heard this track was just before the start of the Sub Club’s long-running Saturday night “Subculture”. Slam – along with Harri – were still the Saturday night residents but the crowd was dwindling – mainly because Stuart & Orde’s sets were getting harder and harder (145bmp Harthouse techno and beyond) and – for whatever reason – the crowd weren’t responding. One night Slam were away playing abroad and Harri invited Oscar Fullone (who at the time was releasing as one half of East Men on Tribal America and later went on to record as Mish Mash) to play alongside him.
They had a late license and around 4:30am as the club was thinning out, Oscar dropped this. It was a brave choice. But instead of this super deep piece of house being the soundtrack to people leaving, it slowly pulled people on to the floor and – by the end – its brilliant bass work had the whole place grooving. Such a classy tune.”