June has arrived and so has the next episode of the Phonica Mix series. Joining forces behind the decks this month are two London artists simply known as ‘The White Man & The Arab’ aka BLM (Fear of Flying / Underground Quality) & Soho (Phonica Records / Like That). For the past two years they’ve been labouring away in a west London studio to create coveted slices of analogue machine music which they solely put out through their own limited imprint. Both artists are experienced and versatile DJ’s who are just as comfortable playing Fabric’s room 1 as they are dropping dub cuts at an open air day time party. The mix they prepared for us today is a no nonsense selection of rolling house and techno that’s blended together with expertise.
To help you get to know this great production duo a little better, we took the liberty to ask them a few questions. Find them down below. Enjoy!
Tell us about the mix, your selection and how you work together behind the decks?
Mix is totally recorded off the cuff. We tried it a few times but after listening back to the recordings we didn’t feel that it was a proper representation of our respective sounds and mixing styles. Basically we trashed a few mixes. Finally we decided to play how we would if we were playing an earlyish set out at a party. Selection was more of the deep, rolling house & techno, both of us mixing one track each, no frills, all on vinyl. We don’t really have a specific style behind the decks, we have a sort of understanding of what we both like which usually meets in the middle. We can play pretty much any style depending on place and time.
Although we know you both on a professional level, we don’t know too much about your relationship or how ‘The White Man & The Arab’ came to be. Can you tell us about how you both linked up?
We have been friends for over 10 years. We first met back in 2002 up in Nottingham. A friend of ours was playing up there at the time and we were both there in support. We had mutual friends and we both knew of one another because we used to be on this message board called ‘The Techhouse board’. Every time Ben was down in London for a night at fabric we would link up. Then when he finally moved to London around 2007 we would hang out more often as we both live in west London, eventually we started working on music together which developed into this project.
Besides the fact that Soho’s the Arab and Ben’s blatantly the white man, What’s the concept behind the label?
The artist name we chose was tongue and cheek. We’d both already released music but the stuff that we were making together sounded different to previous works, so deciding to use a new alias for our project rather than what he had already been using to put music out. We didn’t want it to be something overtly serious, and we thought it would be fun to come up with a name that would represent our backgrounds. Both the label and artist name is the same as we thought it made sense because we were only ever going to put out stuff that we were making.
Each release on your imprint has a strong analogue sound, can you tell us about you studio set up?
Everything is made using analogue machines with a helping of lots of greens.
001 and 002 were made at Ben’s house in 2011/12. The setup starts with the jomox xbase 888. This is the core machine that makes the wma sound in our opinion. We also used the ensoniq esq1 and the dave smith prophet 08 wired up to a bunch of delay pedals and the eventide space reverb machine. All of this was sequenced in ableton by sequencers made in max4live.
003 was made in 2014 by which time Ben had moved all his gear into a studio space not far from mine and his home. Sharing the studio with another producer who had a bunch of gear from the 90’s so we had access to a nice analogue desk to run all the synths through and some oddball processing units which really helped tighten things up.
We know you’re big diggers and you reach far beyond the House and Techno section. What influences The White Man & The Arab’s sound?
We both have a strong passion for dub & reggae music, so that definitely connects us to some degree. We have a mutual respect for the soundsystem culture that came out of Jamaica. Both of us love hip hop and we are both children of the beat. Obviously we have somewhat similar tastes with house & techno, we guess these things all influence our sound to an extent. Mainly we trust our own ears, we don’t tend to follow or try and recreate a specific style that would influence our sound. We just make what we know how to make.
You’ve both been behind the decks and on London’s dancefloor’s for awhile now, What do you think about the city’s scene today?
We think its still strong. There are tons of great lineups each weekend that cater to all different tastes. We perhaps dance a little less these days but we are still having fun listening to great music so it’s all good.
What’s on the horizon for you guys?