“There was no way I was gonna sit there and try to do classical music”
After discovering the joys of dance music from a young age, Alexis Raphael’s eyes and ears were opened to the endless possibilities within the world of electronic music before he got stuck into DJing around the rough and ready late 90’s London underground scene. Learning his craft through pirate radio gigs and DJing at infamous house and techno haunts in North London played a key role in educating Alexis’s ear to the sounds and tricks of the trade, eventually paving the way to his career as a renowned electronic artist.
Nestling in with the Hot Creations crew in 2012, Alexis released his debut single ‘Into The Light’ on the respected label and has continued to create deep house gems since he caught the attention of DC10 staples Jamie Jones and Lee Foss. Now a solid member of the HC team with his latest release ‘It’s Kinda Jazzy’ fresh off the press and a string of shows around the UK and Ibiza this month, Alexis’s trajectory continues upwards.
We caught up the artist to chat about his latest release, the early days of the hard core London rave scene, house vs. techno and what’s next for this star on the rise…
As a classically trained pianist, when did electronic music come into your life and what enticed you to create and mix house music rather than pursue a role in more traditional, classical music?
I will never forget the moment I discovered electronic music. I was flying on my own at the age of 10 to Cyprus to see my dad. My mum bought me a tape as a present from Our Price in Heathrow airport for the journey and I randomly chose a tape called “Dance Energy 4 – Feel the Rhythm” . It had a mix of crappy pop-rave tracks but a couple of gems like Papa New Guinea by Future Sound of London. I was drawn to those gems without knowing they were the real deal. From that point on I started to explore this “rave” music and my life became nothing but electronic music. That was me, so there was no way I was gonna sit there and try to do classical music, although I massively love it and appreciate it. When I want to relax and tune off, it’s Chopin or Rachmaninov.
What producers and DJs were you listening to in the early days while honing your skills in the studio and behind the decks?
I grew up on early prototype drum and bass – hardcore jungle techno it was called. My first tape pack was DJ SS, Randall, Ellis Dee, Micky Finn. It was the UK rave DJs that first inspired me and the pirate radio DJs of the time. People like Carl Cox were also part of that scene and guys like Sven Vath and Lennie Dee used to come over and play. Producers in the 90s were generally a separate entity from DJs and again it was labels like Moving Shadow, Reinforced and people like Doc Scott and Goldie from Metalheadz. Then a bit later with the UK House and Garage people like Grant Nelson aka foul play, Todd Edwards, Tuff Jam, Ice Cream records etc. I was also listening to music from across the pond. My house music influence really comes from the 87-89 period. I’ve got a huge collection of records from then; Derrick May, Cuttin Records, Trax etc. Being a born and bred Londoner we had our own thing In the 90s which I was deeply submerged in. My sound and everything I do is a blend of all this stuff plus the current house and techno and minimal since 2004(ish) when I started listening to that.
Comparing your time as a resident DJ of infamous London institutions such as Bagleys and The Cross in the late 90’s and early naughties, how do you think the London house and techno scene has progressed since then?
If we compare to the days when I was playing Turnmills, The Cross, The Key etc…If I’m totally honest the scene then was a place you went to get away from idiots (and listen to house music)! Drum and bass and garage was full of attitude and the house scene was a more grown up niche social scene with like minded cool people that were all there for the same reason. There were some naughty faces at the parties but everyone behaved and knew the vibe. It was a way smaller scene, your average 20 something year old wasn’t into house music or minimal. Now everyone is into it, which is a positive and a negative. I treasure those times 2004-2010ish, parties at places like T-bar and Sosho…It’s easy to look back though and think something was better before. For the people going out now I’m sure they will look back on today in 5 years and think it’s not as good. The great thing now is the sheer quantity of choice of parties to go to and the fact so many people are enjoying electronic music is a great thing! With venues like Printworks opening and lots of other small ones things are just constantly evolving.
Your latest EP ‘It’s Kinda Jazzy’ has just been released on Hot Creations. Do you have a routine or plan ahead of spending time in the studio, especially during the summer season in between Ibiza shows and festivals?
Over the years I’ve kind of come to realise there’s a yearly studio routine. October to December hit the studio super hard get loads of stuff done. In January I go away on my break with just me and a backpack to get away from this world and travel, then February to April again it’s studio hard. That doesn’t mean I don’t go to the studio other times, I do, but that’s when you really have to knuckle down and get everything done. Summer is a bit hectic with Ibiza, festivals etc. – it’s harder to get in the rhythm.
Chris Carrier and Dan Ghenacia remix ‘It’s Kinda Jazzy’ leaving their own distinctive mark on the track. How does it feel listening back to your tune deconstructed by two other artists?
It feels great. I love their sound and when given a choice of artist by Jamie Jones, I put them as first choice. I actually prefer the Remix to my own version haha.
You’ve collaborated with tech house producer Paulo Lucchi in the past. Do you enjoy working on projects with other artists or do you prefer to stick to your own style without encountering creative differences?
I’ve tried a few collaborations over the years and none have worked out apart from the one with Paulo. I think I prefer being in full control so that’s where I work best. I’m definitely up for collaborations though, and in fact Green Velvet is just finishing one off at the moment with me. Bit of a different way to do it as I’ve done some and sent to him and he’s finishing it off. I think I prefer that route to sitting in the studio together. Maybe some more projects will come up further down the line.
Coming up on August 4th, you’re back in Fabric playing Room Two with Huxley and Superflu while the ‘Baron of Techno’ Dave Clarke headlines Room One. With such a contrast of sounds under one roof, do you personally like listening to techno or find more enjoyment grooving to house beats?
I love lots of techno but not that really fast stuff thats made a re-emergence lately. The slower groovier stuff I’m into. The techno I do like I don’t want it on in the kitchen, or at the pub. I want it at certain times in certain places for a certain amount of time on the right sound system. Some techno heads I know are so submerged in it. Which is fair enough. Techno for me is like Drum and Bass in some ways. Not the BPM or the beat structures but the kind of vibe that goes deeper and deeper once you get sucked in there. House is more obvious and accessible I guess. It’s a simpler vibe to get. So I love both house and techno in very different ways. I’ll deaf pop into room 1 for a little rave up on the night.
What’s the rest of the year looking like production-wise as well as gigs at home here in London to more far flung locations?
I have an EP next on Avotre with two very cool remixes announced soon! Then it’s an EP on Relief with the Green Velvet collab, then an EP on Material. On top of that, there’s about 12 tracks in the bank ready to sign up. I’m going to make sure there’s a constant flow of good music coming out from now on. Gig wise we are planning Australia and Asia, South America, there’s obviously Ibiza, Kata Blau in Berlin coming up and more…it’s all looking very exciting.
Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you have received since your career kicked off?
One of the biggest DJs in the world told me…”you ain’t made it until you got haters so don’t let that ever get you down”…does anyone out there hate me? Cause if not I haven’t made it yet…sh*t!