al zanders

Meet Roy Davis Jr.’s first signing in 16 years: Al Zanders

“…The fact I’m the first release in 16 years is hard to get my head around, I hope it does the label justice…”

It seems as if Sheffield’s Al-Zanders a.k.a Lodger released his critically acclaimed debut track “Long Gone” only yesterday. A little over two years and a healthy number of releases later he is showing no signs of slowing. His next release is so good that Roy Davis Jr. decided to relaunch his label Undaground Therapy Muzik after 16 years of dormancy… We caught up with the fresh faced house producer to learn a little bit more.

How does it feel to be picked out by such an iconic figure of dance music?
It’s a real honour – some of the very first records I bought years ago were by Roy, such as his classic tracks ‘Michael’ and ‘Gabriel’. The fact I’m the first release in 16 years is hard to get my head around, I hope it does the label justice.How did the release come about?
I sent some tracks to Roy and he liked them, then spent a few months getting an EP together. Tried lots of new things, working with a session musician, using hardware, even added some electric guitar and Game Boy sounds to add some sonic personality.

Are you a big fan of Phuture and Roy’s work with Strictly Rhythm as the Believers?
Yes, I particularly love ‘Who Dares To Believe In Me?’.

The EP is called Guidance, did you find that you were guided by Roy throughout the process leading up to the release, and if not, what’s the name all about?
It’s partly a homage to the classic Chicago label Guidance Recordings, which inspired the sound of tracks like ‘Television’ and ‘Guidance’. Also, the music from the windy city and from Roy have helped guide my musical direction as Al Zanders.

You’ve released on the likes of Phonica Records, Wolf Music and your own A-Z Record since you left Sheffield. How has leaving the Steel City helped your style progress?
All of those releases I actually made in Sheffield, it just took a while for them to come out. Since leaving I’ve made the Guidance EP, and lots of unreleased music. I’ve found London inspiring but frustrating as well. I’d say an increased understanding music theory, hardware and taking criticism better has really developed my music making in recent times more so than than location.

“…He played with a bra on his head for 4 hours and blew my mind.”

What have you found frustrating about London?
£5 pints, rush hour on the tube, the rent prices, too much choice, many of your friends live over an hour away, air quality, tourists, and worst of all – Old Street station on a Saturday night. There are lots of pros though.

Do you feel its easier to be an artist in London given all the opportunities?
A bit but not really. You make more contacts but so much is done online now you could probably make a career from a hut in the middle of nowhere (so long as there’s Wifi).It’s clear that Sheffield had an influence on your early work, even naming one track “Endcliffe Park”. Are there any stand out musical moments from your time in Sheffield that shaped you into the producer/DJ you are today?
Seeing Maurice Fulton’s Christmas disco party was something else. He played with a bra on his head for 4 hours and blew my mind. I went home and wrote the Fela Kuti edits on my housemate Isaac’s speakers. Aside from that, Hope Works, Banana Hill, Night Kitchen, and meeting my friend Samir, who taught me to DJ vinyl and sold me my first decks. Many great memories.

The first release featured a rework of Sheffield band Hot Diamond Aces. Did you feel it was important to support a local band on the first release?
I just saw them playing at Shambala festival and thought they were great – I liked the idea of trying to remix all the instruments into a dance track. It was a nice bonus that they were local, it made the first release feel extra special. It’s still one of my favourite records I’ve made.

You’ve done three very popular releases on your own imprint A-Z, can you let us know what’s up next?
Cheers, I’m very happy the label has been a modest success so far. The next release is a collaboration with a talented vocalist named Sheyi. It’s been great working with her and I can’t wait for people to hear it!

You’ve started sampling heavily in your productions. Is this a means to an end, or a stylistic choice? Can you see yourself ever doing live music?
I’ve been in bands and done open mic nights, so live music is something I’m familiar with. I would like to play live as Al Zanders, but playing other people’s music is so fun I might find it hard.

What was the reason for the alias change from Lodger to Al Zanders?
I never liked the name Lodger. Al Zanders is more ‘googleable’. I Might try some new aliases, I think it’s a great way to break out of your mould and try something new.

What’s next for Al-Zanders?
I would love to come back to Sheffield, I miss my friends there and the feeling of the city.

Al-Zanders’ forthcoming four track release “Guidance” is out on Undaground Muzik Therapy on May 28th. Preorder the vinyl here.

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