Before his date in our hometown tomorrow, we speak to the bona fide club veteran and Manchester hero about this very city, and his first LP in 12 years.
Giving Justin Robertson a fitting introduction isn’t easy, so let’s start by saying his name resonates around these parts with serious weight, not least thanks to legendary sets at the Hacienda, Sankeys (before and after they dropped the Soap), Bugged Out!, and The Warehouse Project. A decade-spanning DJ career, only a handful of electronic names have managed such longevity, from the subterranean rise of acid house through to electro, techno, big beat and much more.
Arguably then he’s more at home than ever in the modern era, wherein genres and canons are becoming far less meaningful. Whatever tag you choose today one thing is clear, though; experience counts for much. Or at least it does in this instance, anyway. Because his sets continue to keep heads talking and feet moving with varied yet logical mixes, as seamless melds usher in refreshingly differentiable but interlinked tracks.
And that’s only really half the story. As a producer and remixer his oeuvre is enviously eclectic. Artists from Bjork and Saint Etienne to The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays have all asked for treatments. Then there are monikers and projects like Lionrock, Gentleman Thief, and Revtone (to name but three). Like we said, apt summaries don’t come easy, and this is before anyone mentions The Deadstock 33s.
One for fans of Andrew Weatherall, The Mole and Ewan Pearson, Robertson’s first full length album crafted under this guise has just arrived- The Pilgrim’s Ghost. Considering we’ve been hammering it over the past few weeks, and we’ll be down front and centre at Joshua Brooks when he plays Xpansion at Joshua Brooks on Friday March 22nd, it seemed only reasonable to collar him for a questioning. Thankfully he obliged.
Hi Justin, hope all’s well today. The new release has gone down rather well in the office- what’s the whole Deadstock idea about?
It has kind of been germinating for a while I suppose, over about three or four years. The last album I did was the Revtone thing in 2001. There have been some bits and bobs in between, well, actually quite a lot of music, but I wanted to try and change things up a bit.
I suppose the Deadstock thing is like a distillation of everything I like. It took shape over time, and I did some experiments- some were blind alleys, some worked, some didn’t. Realistically it started as something I wanted to do for myself. I guess it’s kind of primitive sounding, a bit Balearic, a live element, psychedelic and raw too.
It does come across as distinctly live. How much was made from ‘real’ instruments?
It’s kind of a mixture of the sound I’ve programmed to make like that- so the drums I did meticulously, for hours on end, to try and get them so they sounded live. There’s a bit of guitar on there and live bass too. I think really there’s just a looser feeling to it… [Laughs] …it’s my pastoral techno record… A lot of what I’ve done before had quite an urban feel to it, whereas this is kind of backwoods.
How long did the whole thing take then?
18 months, maybe a couple of years. The way things look it’s like it has been this epic 12 year process, which is pretty funny. It hasn’t, though. There are a couple of tracks on there older than two years but there hasn’t been much to-ing and fro-ing. When I presented it to Gomma, the label, they were pretty much happy with it too, apart from some minor tweaks.
Given what we’ve discussed, what are the chances of us seeing The Deadstock 33s (Live) on a poster sometime soon?
Err… yeah… it could be done. Whether it will be done is another question altogether. It certainly lends itself to that kind of thing, but I haven’t made any steps towards that. I don’t know, the thought of getting a band together, getting on a bus and touring for weeks on end doesn’t fill me with delight I must admit.
Daniel Avery impressed us earlier this year with a bit of a blinder at Butlins. You’ve been working together recently, how did that come about?
We were introduced through some mutual friends, when I was doing something with Filthy Dukes. At that time he was doing Stopmakingme, and I really liked that. We did a remix swap, and then decided to do something in the studio properly. It has been brilliant- very vibey. God… I hate phrases like that, I don’t know why I said that at all…
…anyway, it has been very energising. We hit it off pretty quickly and seem to like quite similar stuff. We’ve done a few things for Tigersushi, Optimo and stuff, and we have a new project lined up but I can’t tell you about that for two reasons. Firstly; we want to try and keep it a secret. Secondly; we haven’t really got very far with it. When it arrives, it’s going to be less dancefloor and very odd.
You’re back in Manchester for Xpansion. Should we expect Justin Robertson or The Deadstocks to arrive, record box in hand?
There’s definitely a massive crossover these days. At one stage I did kind of have them separated in my head to some extent, but now it’s all very similar. Primitive, electronic, with a touch of acid house. That’s what I’ll be playing, and hopefully leathering it out to an up for it crowd. I’ve had some brilliant nights in Joshua Brooks, so I’m expecting good things.
As you may have been expecting, before we conclude the conversation there needs to be a question about your relationship with Manchester. So, how do you feel about Manchester these days?
Yeah, obviously the Lion Rock records were made in Manchester, but more than that they were directly informed by the city itself. I was living there, they were inspired, written and finished there- Snapshot On Pollard Street, Wilmslow Road… they are all about Manchester in some way, even those not named after streets.
It’s still part of who I am really. I wasn’t born there, but spent 16 years living there, the best part of my life in many ways. That influence is probably never going to go. Even though the city has changed so much, massively. Even since I left, which was about nine or ten years ago now. I remember driving back one time to play at Sankeys and getting lost because of all the new buildings. At one point nobody lived in the city centre.
These days it’s definitely a different vibe up there. But it has the same energy, if that makes sense. I know it doesn’t really… but it’s like the modern version of why I moved there in the first place. Bubbling with ideas and creativity in a very unique way. My relationship remains in tact because of regular work trips too, which is great- like Xpansion, or The Warehouse Project- so I still feel pretty close to it.
@Joshua Brooks; 106 Princess Street, M1 6NG
Friday March 22nd
10PM-4AM / £7 ADV – £10 OTD