Unable to tour, Mr.C has been embracing livestreaming and podcasting with a vengeance
The name Mr.C means different things to different people. Depending on when you first clambered onboard the dance music bus, you might think of him as a DJ at the notorious Clink Street during the very earliest days of the UK rave scene. You might think of him as the cheeky-chappy frontman of The Shamen during their commercial peak in the early 90s. Or you might think of him as the man that co-founded The End and Superfreq Records.
However you think of him, there's no doubt that the man born Richard West is a true house and techno survivor. And right how his pragmatism and determination are clearly in evidence again – thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Like most of the rest of the world, he's currently in isolation at home – which is in sunny California these days. But he's been making the most of his time, and has recently launched Freqstream, a website that was born out of a few simple livestreams on his Facebook page, but has grown in just a few short weeks into a full-blown brand encompassing numerous different podcasts and streams.
We called him up at his home to find out more…
First of all… how's lockdown been treating you?
"I'm very well, thank you for asking! I've been well-behaved: staying at some, only going out when I absolutely have to and social distancing and wearing a mask when I do. Fortunately, I live in the hills of Echo Park, and the hills round here are really, really steep, so no one walks anywhere. So that's great for exercise, because I can take the dog out and there's just no one around – except the odd other dog-walker, but I just cross the road!"
And how's the situation in California generally?
"Not too bad. California passed shelter-in-place rules quite early, and that's made a big difference. And everyone's wearing masks – you can't go in a shop without one, and people have been really good about that. And that stops the spread, so that as of today, in a state with over 40 million people, we've only had 1,800 deaths so far.
"So yeah, I'm healthy in my body, and mentally I'm okay because I meditate every day, which takes away all your worry and stress. Plus I've been keeping myself extremely busy with all these new ventures. So that's keeping my mind active – I'm certainly never bored!"
So is the Freqstream thing entirely a reaction to the pandemic, or was it something you were planning anyway?
"No, it's totally in response to coronavirus. I had no idea about how to set up a livestream six weeks ago! My life was totally occupied with running my record label, making music, doing gigs, and promoting it all. Then all of a sudden I'm not travelling and gigging, and that's a large section of my life gone, so what am I going to do?
"It all started because my new single came out on 13 March, and I was thinking, 'How are people going to hear it, if no one can go out to clubs?'. So I decided to do a broadcast on my Mr.C page… and it blew up. All of a sudden there were tons of people responding, so I thought, 'Hang on, this is really good promotion!'.
"Then over the course of 48 hours it had something like 20,000 views, so I started thinking, 'What else can I do here?'. Not just to promote Superfreq, but other labels as well. So I did a stream called Techno Tuesday, playing mostly unreleased promos, because I figured people needed somewhere to hear all this new music and talk about it to each other. It helps the whole industry.
"And that first Techno Tuesday got 75,000 views, so again it was a case of what can I do next? So then I started talking to Noel Jackson, who's one of my Superfreq partners, because he's an IT expert. And he said, 'These numbers are incredible, we can really do something here', so that's when we started building the website, with podcasts and stuff, and developing all these other ideas."
Yes, there are a few different strands to all this, aren't there? Talk us through them…
"Well, the website's still in progress but it's looking good already. We've got the Techno Tuesday livestream from my Mr.C page, which comes out as a podcast two weeks later. Then I started doing the Class Of 88 stream, which is tunes from 86-92… but not the big obvious tunes, I try and dig a bit deeper for the music that was really the backbone of the underground scene back then. That's a weekly show, that's also now going to be a monthly podcast, the first episode is out.
"But of course charity begins at home, and I wanted to support our Superfreq artists. So I started the Superfreq Spotlight podcast – the first one of those came out this morning. That will be each Superfreq artist doing a podcast a week or two before their EP comes out on the label. I'm also going to start streaming from the Superfreq page, and each time a record comes out on the label I'll do a review of it.
"Then I wanted to get some guest podcasts in from some other DJs – not just DJs who I like their music, but DJs who've had an effect on me personally. That's called Mr.C Loves… and the first one is Mr.C Loves… Eddie Richards, because back in the mid-80s him and Colin Faver were my mentors. The first time I ever went into a studio was as their rapper in late 1986, on a deep house track called Page 67 by Myster-E. Eddie's like my guru, I love him dearly – he's almost like a father figure, even though he's not actually that much older than me!
"So Eddie had to start it off, then the second one's Carl Cox, and then the third week we've got Murf, who was resident at [The End's legendary late 90s tech-house night] Subterrain. Now, Murf's not really that well known outside London, but that's the thing – I want to get at least one guest in a month who's a 'local' DJ, who doesn't really play much outside their home town, or their home country. Because there are some amazing local DJs out there, and they don't really get a look-in any more because these days you have to be a producer as well, and you have to be a big international name or people won't book you. But I've met some amazing local DJs on my travels, so I want this to be a platform for them.
"And then finally there's another stream and podcast starting next week called Mr.C's Magnificent Seven, where I play the seven best promos I've received over the past month and talk about them and why I love them so much, like a radio show – again, to promote other artists and labels.
"So that's where we're at right now… loads going on, even if it all came about by accident!"
So was it quite a steep learning curve at the start?
"Oh, huge! Luckily I'm working with Noel who's a genius when it comes to IT stuff, but it's still been a very steep learning curve. Like, the first few streams I just did through my phone, but then I realised I need to get better cables, to improve the sound quality. I upgraded my wi-fi as well, so while I'm still having a few teething problems, it's getting better all the time.
"I've also started using a thing called Restream. Getting that set up was a bit of a challenge, but it means when I do the streams they go out on Facebook, Periscope, Twitter, YouTube and Twitch, all at once."
What happens when lockdown finishes, though?
"We continue! This is something that adds value to our scene, because it's presenting people with new music and giving a platform to up-and-coming DJs. So I'm going to carry it on, and when I'm off gigging around the world again I'll still do Techno Tuesday – I just need to make sure I take my cables with me and have a decent internet connection!
"I'll still do the Class Of 88 streams as well, and because I'm using Restream I'll be able to pre-record, like I used to when I was on Kiss FM for 10 years. I had Saturday nights on Kiss FM: it sounded live, but I'd actually be in the studio recording it on the Tuesday or Wednesday, and come Saturday night I'd be in Berlin or Amsterdam or Manchester or wherever.
"So everything continues. The first eight guest DJ slots are already programmed, the first Superfreq Spotlights are already programmed, I'm going to carry on doing Class Of 88 as a monthly podcast as well as a weekly stream, we'll get the Magnificent Seven podcast and stream started, and we'll carry on."
We recently spoke to Doc Scott, who's been doing a similar thing in the drum & bass world. Will that be one of the positives that comes out of all this – that there are new ways for artists and DJs to find an audience?
"I actually think there are going to be a lot of positives that come out this crisis. Firstly, it's pulled everyone together, all around the world. Governments are starting to work together around the world, people are reconnecting with their local communities… here in Echo Park, at 8pm every night, we all go out and clap and bang pots and pans for all the first responders. People are being more supportive and caring and compassionate to each other, and that's a new thing for our world lately.
"People have been stuck on the treadmill for so long now. It used to be that you could have one job and pay your mortgage, pay the HP on your car, pay your bills and take the family on a two-week holiday. Those days are long gone now… nowadays both people in a couple have to work – which is good in one way, because there's more gender equality, but then people are having to work two jobs each just to get by. That's made people insular and self-protective… but this crisis is making people care about each other again. You see people donating to charity and volunteering and helping each other out, and that's something we can learn from, and carry on doing once this crisis is over.
"We're in a position where we can make great change happen"
"This is what the acid house revolution did: it brought people together. All of a sudden there was a dream, and a vision, a new future. A promised land that we could head towards in peace and love and unity. The last few years have seen that go down the drain, but now it's back, and that's something hugely positive. I think we're in a position where we can make great change happen.
"Just like I started Freqstream to get the music out there – because let's not forget, music is the soul of the Universe – and other people have been doing stuff to get music out there… we can continue that. So all this love and support and compassion that people are now embracing, we can continue that as well, and hopefully this crisis can kickstart a love revolution!"
I hope you're right! Because it could go the other way…
"Which is why it's up to people like us to talk about it. Because if we don't, who will?"
True! Now, you mentioned the clapping thing… as you probably know, we have that for the NHS here. And you did a thing for the NHS as well, didn't you?
"Yeah, that was amazing! That was all down to Jason Fubar and the Back To The Old Pool crew up in Blackpool – they got a load of DJs to do livestreamed one-hour sets. It was pretty commercial, I was one of the only underground DJs on there, but they did phenomenally well, and raised over £20,000 for the NHS. So yes, I was very proud to be a part of that. My set was quite different from most of the other DJs but that's fine, music's music and the fact that DJs and events organisers can come together and do something like that, and get money to the NHS when they need it most… that's brilliant."
And when you're trying to raise money for a cause, you want to hit as many people as possible – it's not really the time to be getting all sniffy about music, is it?
"Absolutely! The public at large love commercial music and that's fine: let's just get as many people listening and contributing as possible."
Amen. And finally… what else is going on with you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"Well, since lockdown started I've been leading livestreamed guided meditations, which is another new thing. Not meditation – I've been meditating since 1983. That's what I was talking about on the Page 67 track in 1987, in fact, and the reason I joined The Shamen was because they talked about all that stuff. So I've been teaching meditation for ten years now, but the livestreams are a new thing.
"And then on the release front, the Radical Inclusion (Remixes) EP is out now, my collaboration with Radio Rental as Wonkytonk is out at the end of May, and then Noel and I have a new East LA Tek EP called Spell coming out in July. Oh, and I'm also working on a couple of remixes right now, one for Iain Taylor and his Rejekts crew up in Manchester, and one for Joel Brittain and Miss C AKA Chloe Sinclair. So those will see the light of day at some point, and I'm also working on a follow-up to the Radical Inclusion EP, which should be out in September. So yeah, keeping busy!"
Words: Russell Deeks
To check out the latest streams and podcasts from Mr.C, Superfreq and friends, visit Freqstream.com or hit 'em up at the links below…
Tags: Mr. C, Superfreq, Freqstream, livestream, podcast, Richard West, Techno Tuesday, Class Of 88, East LA Tek, Wonky Tonk Radio Rental, The End, The Shamen, Clink Street, coronavirus, Noel Jackson, Colin Faver, Eddie Richards, Carl Cox, Murf, Subterrain, Back To The Old Pool, Jason Fubar, NHS, Iain Taylor, Rejeks, Ian Britten, Miss C, Choe Sinclair