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Sinden: The old school CD DJ

Sinden. A sin den. A den of sin. It conjures up images of old dirty men sitting around smoking opiates from enlarged paraphernalia with busty women lounging close by to tend to their every wish. These images lend themselves to recognising Sinden as a perfect DJ name. Dirty yet cool… suspicious but unknown. One could think that must have taken hours to come up with. Or, perhaps it’s just your last name, your first name being Graeme.

ITM is speaking to Graeme Sinden who is kicking back at a friend’s place in South London, and he’s in a very good mood. He has a very good reason to be, as he’s recently signed to indie mega-label Domino, home to some of the biggest bands in the UK including Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys, as well as Brazilian hipsters Bonde Do Role and more. Sinden explained that, although Domino are known for their support of indie rock acts, they are now starting to branch out to dance music, beginning with the aforementioned Bonde De Role and their dance-crazy take on baile funk. The full length album deal will be a collaboration with friend and remix partner-in-crime Herve – aka the Count of Monte Cristal – and came about through their most recent production on Sinden and Dave ‘Switch’ Taylor’s imprint Counterfeet.

Sinden initially cut his teeth with a couple of remixes for the princess of grime, Lady Sovereign. Released in 2005, they went straight into the record crate for many DJs. He then garnered further praise for his remix work on Plan B, Basement Jaxx, Chromeo and Mary J Blige, then started to get noticed by even more artists who were keen to have him put his unique take on their originals. His recent remixes have included the brutal reinterpretation of Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse’s cover of The Zutons ‘Valerie’, as well as a very South American take on Australia’s own dance track of 2007 ‘La Musique’ by Riot in Belgium. When approaching a remix, Sinden says he likes to be inspired by the original, especially when it has good vocals.

“I’m really influenced by the original and take elements from the that track and build on it,” he remarks. He also says he likes to keep his productions simple, and being an Apple Mac user he mainly writes with Logic and aims to keep things uncomplicated. “I’m very simple in my approach to making music, I don’t have a lot of keyboards or software or hardware. I’m just basically using the program [Logic]. I like working on the road a lot as well; when I’m traveling, DJing or waiting between flights, and then [I’ll] polish my ideas when I get home. I have a really simple setup at home, just a home studio with monitors and the usual stuff. I like to master the equipment I have, it’s not complicated. I want to know my way around my studio and like to keep it like that.”

The first single from the eagerly anticipated album will be current dance floor banger ‘Beeper’, but as Sinden explains it will be reworked to give fans something fresh. “We’ll have a new vocal on there by Kid Sister. The original sample was from Pharrell [Williams] and we’re hoping to have everything done by the time we get over there (to Australia) for the Good Vibrations Festival.” Even though they haven’t got a release date confirmed for the LP, Sinden says he cannot wait for the buzz that will build at the start of 2008.

“It’s gonna be massive, we’ve got 50-60% of the album done and the main thing now we have to do is to get vocalists, because most of it is going to be vocalists and MCs on the album. It’s not going to be an instrumental dance album, it’s going to be a club record with lots of guests appearing on it. At the moment we are in the middle of collaborating with people, getting vocalists to put voices over our instrumentals, it’s gonna be consolidating on a lot of the remix work we’ve done already on our own label, it’s the next step.” Does this mean he’s going to slow down for a while and take a break from remixing? “It’s quite the contrary really; we’re taking on more work. I’m remixing like crazy at the moment. We’ve actually just taken a whole bunch of other remixes, including Micky Slim’s track ‘Jump Around’, [and] we’ve just done a track for Ministry of Sound over here. We’re the happiest when we’re the busiest.”

Sinden is no slouch behind the decks, either. He has dropped tunes at Basement Jaxx’s London club night Inside Out, being the only resident alongside the Jaxx DJs for over 1 and half years. Sinden still maintains a healthy relationship with Basement Jaxx, his latest venture with them being the warm up set for them at the BBC Electric Proms and the T-Mobile Street Festival in the UK. Sinden and Switch are currently residents at, arguably, the best and most well known club in the UK, Fabric. As a duo under the moniker of Get Familiar, they twice a month host the night and play their favourite personal remixes and tracks from a wide range of genres. “I like to play a lot of the tracks I’m influenced by and a lot of people from the camp, like Herve and Switch, but also [I try] not to get too steeped in that stuff; I keep an open mind and play a lot of other producer’s stuff. Because, really, it’s bigger than that, dance music is so exciting, you can’t really limit yourself to one sound. I like to maneuver around, my sets are very eclectic with lots of different tempos, you have to keep it varied.”

For his DJ sets he plays with CDJs and turntables, having not quite made the transition to the digital era just yet. But, he isn’t ruling it out. “I’m thinking about doing something a little bit more digital with something like Serrato, but I’m happy with CDJs as you seem to have a lot more control over them. I like things to be hands on as a DJ, I don’t like to see much of the computer, having to scroll through tracks. I just like having things that are tangible and I can play with. I think I’m quite old school in a way and like the romantic nature of vinyl. I think CDJs are pretty close to what we used to mix on vinyl and I still buy vinyl as well”.

It seems to be quite an ironic statement from a man who – along with pals Switch, Herve and Spank Rock – could be seen as one of the main players on the internet mp3 remix scene. “I just think that CDJs are very close to vinyl, they have a pitch control [even though] I’ve seen DJs play on Ableton and I think they’re great. I think it’s about mastering your equipment and technology and getting the most out of it. I’ve seen some of the greatest DJs playing on just CDJs, like Boys Noize and Erol Alkan. They are great DJs just off CDs, and at the end of the day you’re just playing tracks and if you can mix them tight and have loops and bring other elements in, it’s as good as anyone on a computer.”

He does recognise the way traffic is heading, though, and is looking to the future with releases from his own label Counterfeet. “At the moment we’re strictly vinyl, it’s quite unique in a way really. Most labels have got digital distribution and it’s not deliberate that we’ve stuck to vinyl; we’re still working on our digital distribution. We just haven’t found anything that we’re completely happy with yet, but we’re working on it to try and get a digital partner. Hopefully we’ll have our stuff on the internet in the near future, with more DJs stepping up to mp3s, CDJs and Ableton and stuff like that, it makes sense. You have to move with the times really, it is hard selling vinyl as the demand for digital formats is so high.”

On the topic of mp3 blogs, he recognises the role they are playing in today’s increasingly varied music industry. With many of his freshest remixes being debuted through the blogging scene, it’s not entirely surprising. “I think it’s the future man, it’s a really exciting time. I think the whole blog thing has opened up a lot of doors for new producers to get their tracks to a wider audience. I was quite skeptical at the start about blogs, and I still don’t think their quality control is very good, they do post a lot of stuff that I don’t think is amazing. But still, it’s a lot of people just finding their feet. I think it’s only a good thing really, the internet has just pushed people forwards. And as a label owner it’s a great opportunity to find out about new people. I’ve found some real gems on the internet that otherwise I wouldn’t have heard about.”

On a final note, Sinden gives some advice to up and coming remixers and bedroom producers, advising them to be patient and stick at it. “Be committed at what you do, don’t rush yourself and don’t take things too quickly. Do what you do, hone your sound, be dedicated to what you do and stick with it. You can’t really expect things to happen overnight, I’ve been doing it 2-3years before I was even DJing, putting work into networking, promotions and trying to get in there. People can’t be expecting to get in there very quickly it’s a slow process.”

Sinden tours Australia for Good Vibrations in February:

Sat Feb 9 – Melbourne

Sun Feb 10 – Brisbane

Sat Feb 16 – Sydney

Sun Feb 17 – Perth

Take a listen to Sinden’s recent remix of Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse here: