Mike Boorman speaks to No Logo
When Cafe Del Mar’s most prolific artist, Steve Miller (AKA Afterlife) teams up with Balearic mixmaster Pete Gooding to release an album on a record label fronted up by Chris Coco, there are no prizes for guessing that you will be taken to the land of the lush and the ambient; but that doesn’t make it any less good.
Miller and Gooding’s No Logo project has already had some success with Darkstar, Party Animal and The City Never Sleeps (the latter two reaching number one on the Juno Download chart), so the duo thought the time was right to bring out an album containing these goodies alongside some new material.
“It’s an antidote to make you feel happy. Shut ourselves away in the studio, nice, safe, warm… it reminds me of what it’s like when I’m snorkelling in some warm, mediterranean water, and there’s some nice girls walking around the beach and nobody’s trying to kick your head in,” says Steve, who was inspired to find his niche as an artist by a setting similar to the one he describes. Sitting in a bar in Ibiza, he heard Cafe Del Mar volume 2 playing in the background and made it his mission to feature on volume 3, which he duly did, thanks to an opportune phone call from Jose Padilla a week later.
So this album is an Ibiza-esque experience, like the one that you saw when you first went there in the early 90s?
“When I went to Ibiza I got really inspired and I thought it was just Ibiza, but having moved to Cornwall I realised that it was actually just the sea.”
“One day I was sailing a mate of mine in this big old pilot cutter, and he said ‘have you got any records with you?’ I actually put my Afterlife track, Dub in ya Mind, on, and I went ‘fuck! this music is actually designed for sailing to’.”
Pete comes in: “I’d never actually been sailing properly until Steve took me out on his boat during one of our studio sessions in Cornwall… once we got out of the harbour I was just like ‘oh my God’… it was like taking valium… it was one of the most relaxing and beautiful things I’d ever done. So when you come down here to work with Steve, you can see how the sound all adds up.”
But one of the good things about the album is that there is personality beyond the valium and the high seas – there is also a brash sense of fun at times. The opening track Darkstar sets an expectedly chilled and ambient scene, but then before you know it, the next track Party Animal blows it out of the Balearic water with a cheeky and blatant vocal… it’s a guilty pleasure and make no mistake.
“Something I learned from the early Jose Padilla mix tapes was that there was almost no programming in them,” says Pete. “I always over-programmed my mixes in the past I think. Chill out, when too well programmed, can be a bit boring.”
“The idea of that record in the beginning was that we were both fans of the Hotel Costes CDs… it was our idea of a Hotel Costes record. It always had that sexy element to it… we loved the vocalist and she wrote the most incredibly weird lyrics.”
Steve completes the tale: “She wrote them on Christmas Day! She actually finished the vocals on Boxing Day and sent them over to me which is great because I’m a Taoist – I’ve got no interest in Christmas. I always make a good track at Christmas because I’d be bored otherwise.” Throughout the discussion, there is literally no escape from themes of escapism – it all goes back to it. “When I started out making Balearic music it was in Macclesfield,” he says. “It’s interesting that a lot of the warmest Balearic music is actually made in the coldest parts of Europe.”
But he’s quick to point out that something that is Balearic and warm still has to be fat – it still requires much of the same engineering as a club track – so great effort has been made to ensure the album can dominate in the club just as well as by the beach. “If the bass isn’t flapping your trousers then I’m very concerned,” he says.
There’s certainly plenty of that going on later in the album, during the Max Essa remix of The City Never Sleeps, with it’s quirky Todd Terje-like lead lines and spacey overtones, underpinned with that trouser-flapping bass. It’s Steve’s personal favourite of the album: “I love that guy. His style’s very much down the early Sly and Robbie, Grace Jones route,” which is high praise indeed. But he isn’t finished. “It rocks like a bastard that tune.”
And with that succinct evaluation, he’s done. Pete continues with his faves: “For me, it’s Darkstar and Easy. Sasha opened his set in Miami with Darkstar, and Jose put Easy on a compilation, so that for me was very nice… these are the two people that inspired me the most in my career.”
Also worthy of note is the sequence of three tracks in the middle of the album (This City Never Sleeps, Mindset and How Many More Years) – it’s a great journey. The first two feature the Tracey Thorn-esque vocals of Angela Neve, who keeps things breezy throughout, but then it’s time for the busy, edgy workout of How Many More Years, which wouldn’t be out of place at peak-time in a club. Accidental programming it may be, but it works.
With the album barely released, No Logo are already hard at work with their next album, and are currently working on tracks with Steve Smith from Dirty Vegas and the rapper, River Nelson, among others. “It won’t take six years to do this one,” says Pete, which if this album is anything to go by, is great news.