With more than twenty-five years in the game, Asad Rizvi, better known as Silverlining, has firmly rooted himself as one of the UK’s leading house and techno figureheads.
Having started out as a DJ on a London-based pirate radio station when he was just sixteen years old, Asad’s journey as a producer started around the same time, when he started to create his own brand of Warp Records-inspired electronica – some of which was picked up and played by Colin Dale on his seminal show, Outer Limits. From there, Asad’s musical influences shifted somewhat and the result was a blend the shuffle-heavy US house grooves with the abstract energy of Detroit and deep techno. A style that still rings true in his music to this day.
Since the ’90s, Asad’s music has been released via such labels as Neotropiq, Talman, Furthur Electronix, Reverberations and Terry Francis and Nathan Coles’ legendary Wiggle – not forgetting his own label Silverlining Dubs – the label from which his long-awaited debut album ‘Simulacra’ is due out later this year.
Asad’s mix, below, is a masterful one and a half-hour recording packed with all things house and techno, new and old, mixed to perfection at home using nothing more than a pair of Technics 1210s and a mixer. Be sure to check out the interview as well. Enjoy!
Hey Asad, thanks for contributing towards our Mix Series. Can you tell us about your recording and what inspired you with the track selection…
Thank you for inviting me! I really dug into the shelves for this one, as I wanted to cover a few different moods and eras that I would normally play out in a longer set. It launches into deeper, old school territory, moves into a more dubby vibe, builds to some current stripped-down techno, followed by 90s breaks, then eases back out into warmer deep house. I also used some unreleased material off my forthcoming album project so It spans around 30 years of music. I recorded it at home with two 1210s and a Mastersounds Radius 2.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background, perhaps where you grew up and what first got you interested in electronic music?
My family is quite the mixed bag, as my Mum and Dad are from Pakistan and India, respectively, but met in Iran while they were working there as journalists during the 70s. So I spent my early years in Tehran before the Revolution forced us to flee. After stints in Canada and Turkey, we settled down in London. I think this colourful childhood has definitely shaped how I listen to and create music as I’m more drawn to eclecticism than uniformity.
I think the first electronic genre I got into as a kid was electro followed by hip-hop. My early introduction to house and techno as a teen didn’t stem from any scene, but rather my own geeky, social ineptitude! I was glued to a Yamaha SY77 at the time while learning to play key and simply was interested in music made with synths. So around ’93, I started listening to radio shows by Colin Dale, Colin Faver, Gilles Peterson and pirate stations, then buying the records they played. I accidentally fell into DJing when a couple of local pirates asked me to host chill-out shows, as I was the only one with the right records. I only had belt-drives at the time and used a pair of 1210s for the first time live on the air. Thankfully, I was only blending ambience rather than beats, but this forced me to go round mates’ houses to practice.
What are your favourite labels out there at the moment?
Most of us old school DJs, like myself, seem only able to remember simple shapes and colours on artwork so this question often draws a blank! A lot of my favourites are one-offs as well. But off the top of my head, I love Rue de Plaisance, Furthur Electronix, People of Earth, Limousine Dream, Ornate, 89:Ghost, Cinthie’s group of labels, Subwax’s group of labels. Also, Toytonics and Razor’n’Tape on the more disco tip. So many more though.
You have your very first album ‘Simulacra’ coming out soon on your own label, Silverlining Dubs – congratulations! Tell us a bit about the album and what made you decide to make it…
It came about by accident really when I looked at my folder of new projects and noticed that there were a bunch of tracks totalling an hour of music. It made sense to put it all together in one place. I’ve done a few compilations, but after 25 years, it was probably high time for something that feels a bit more like an artist album. So I bought some new outboard and mixed them down, while patching sounds out on hardware gear. All the tracks are quite different but seem to have a consistent vibe through them. As well as a few deep tracks with a familiar Silverlining feel, one track is a nod to Detroit house, another is a tribute to 80s Chicago, one flips between electro and deep house over 12 minutes, and another is influenced by the golden age of hip-hop that I spent my early teens listening to. Three of the tracks feature vocals by two very talented vocalists, Miami’s Ntem, and London-based Saba. It was a real pleasure to work with them both. Concurrently, I was finishing my masters degree in human rights law, with a research focus on how the law interacts with new technologies such as social media and AI. One of the topics I’ve been really interested in is how our identities are being dissolved through technology, so I named the album after Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulation and Simulacra”, in which he discusses the modern paradigm of simulations without real-world origins to base them on. This can include our digital personhood, but now obviously applies to the consequences of the lockdown measures, such as online sociality and sit-down events. I’m also fascinated by countercultures, so the overall message points towards a new phase of counterculturalism, correctly or otherwise, that celebrates authenticity, human interaction but moves away from technology. The artist I worked with for the sleeve and limited edition promos, Leonie Bradley, explores similar themes in her exhibited work, so she conceived something really special for me that ties into these ideas. For me, this made the process of putting it all together more enjoyable and meaningful, even though, ultimately, it’s really just a collection of dance-floor tracks for deeper DJs and heads.
As a DJ, you’ve been an integral part of London’s house music scene for two and a half decades now. How do you feel the city’s nightlife industry has changed over the years?
Tying into what I just mentioned, when I first started going out, London was in the midst of a countercultural moment during the protests against the “repetitive beats” clause of the Criminal Justice Act. Both the underground and club culture were booming at the time, but were substantially threatened by this legislation. Since then, London has seen a cyclical push-and-pull between fringe renegade culture and the mainstream, even through laws. The Licensing Act, for example, was New Labour’s realisation that it was more profitable to let people set up events where they wanted, than trying to suppress them. The 2007 smoking ban (which I, for one, was glad about health-wise) was also a huge vibe-killer for club culture. It was around this time we started to see more illegal parties such as the legendary forest raves in West London. I think parties such as those played a huge part in keeping our music culture alive. Similarly, the police operations against venues like Fabric in 2015 had a similar effect, pushing a new generation of promoters and DJs into forests, warehouses, and other disused spaces. The period between 2015 and last year was probably one of the healthiest for the London underground, though also not without challenges for licensed clubs. Lockdown, inevitably, has seen illegal parties get out of control way too early giving these events a bad name in the press. And now, we have the new measures that targeting electronic music that are eerily reminiscent of the Criminal Justice Act era. I think it’s inevitable that the underground will now respond. There’s a lot of despair out there, but whatever happens, the one thing that will never die is the music itself. If it’s come this far, this will be far from the end of it.
And what about these crazy lockdown times we’re facing today. What’s been keeping you going through it all?
Without the gigs, I’ve ended up spending much more time listening to other styles of music. I’ve always listened to genres like jazz, soul, funk, disco, afrobeat and ambient daily, but there’s been more time than ever to discover new artists which has been really enriching. Other than this, there have been plenty of positives such as spending time with my loved ones, cooking good food, and keeping healthy. The live streams have been fun in their own way too. Some things are out of our control and we have to do our best to adapt until it’s over.
Thank you guys too, it has been a pleasure!