The former Sunday Club man is back with the 'Maze' EP
Currently working its way up the download charts is the Maze EP. Coming on High Tide Recordings, it's the new EP from Stuart King, and follows his 2017 scene smash Chanjira ,a track that was hammered by the likes of John Digweed, Sasha, Hernan Cattaneo and Nick Warren.
But while Chanjira may be the track for which King is best known among today's younger clubbers, the Jersey native's production career dates back a lot longer… all the way to the mid-90s, in fact, when he and Marc Mitchell, working as progressive house duo Sunday Club, produced a string of singles and an album on the mighty Stress Records, and provided official remixes for the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre, Brothers in Rhythm, Daphne, Art of Trance and Sunscreen.
As trance took over in the late 90s, Sunday Club went on indefinite hiatus, and King spent a few years concentrating on his DJing, and on honing his production skills. But he returned to the production fray in the early 2010s with releases on Vapour Recordings, Evapour8, Stripped Digital and Baroque Records, the latter providing a home for his 2017 long-player Late Night Obsessions.
And now he returns with the Maze EP, which sees him exploring slightly housier territory than usual but still with that uplifting melodic vibe. Here's what he had to tell us about it all…
You first tasted success as one-half of Sunday Club alongside Marc Mitchell back in the late 90s… so tell us a bit about that! How did you and Marc get together in the first place, and what led you to eventually disband the duo?
"I met Marc through mutual friends in Jersey. He'd been producing for a long time and I was playing a lot of clubs in Jersey. We recorded our first track Paladin Dawn in 1994, Stress Records picked it up about a year later and it blew up overnight. Not long after we signed a 'four singles and an album' deal with Stress, with all the big names hammering our tracks, and we remixed a load of people for DMC.
"Around 1999 we stopped working together as we were starting to get bored with that formula and we wanted to experiment with other genres.There are only so many chord progressions and key changes that you can come up with, and everything was sounding the same. I was busy playing in Europe and the UK and Marc had other commitments in the studio, so it was great to have time out. We'd spent many years consistently writing in the studio so it wasn’t like we split up, more of a hiatus! We're actually back in the studio very soon, so watch this space…"
You were signed to Stress – for me, a great label that gets a bit overlooked. Would you agree?
"Yes, Stress was the best independent label around! It was run by Dave Seaman and Nick Gordon Brown, who were fantastic: every release was solid and they really nurtured their artists to help them grow. But I don't think its overlooked – it's a classic label, it's just that things move on. The same as Perfecto, that was huge back then. New trends come and go and times change as does the music. Dave is doing great things now with Selador alongside Steve Parry."
How has the process of making music changed for you in that time?
"Well, it took a lot longer to make tracks back then! It was all hardware and the computers were slower, with hardly any RAM. It was all saved to floppy disk and DAT tapes, and the synths would have a mind of their own and drift in and out of time.
"We were using lots of analogue gear and recorded with Digital Performer. Sometimes you'd get back to the studio the morning after recording, and the sound you'd made the night before had changed overnight! But this gave the tracks that raw feel: that's why after, the digital explosion, everyone went back to the old analogue gear.
"Now, I use Logic and Ableton. But I pretty much start off a track in the same way we used to work on Sunday Club tracks – playing around with melodies and chords. That always come first, before the drums. I like to get all the ideas in my head down quickly in Ableton instead of tweaking sounds until it sounds perfect, as for me you can lose that creative flow. I get the structure and arrangement down and then go back to all the individual parts and see what's working in the mix."
We didn't hear much from you from around 2002 to around 2011 – did you take some time out from making music? And if so, what prompted your return to the studio?
"I was still DJing and but my production had slowed down. I released an EP on Spundea with Richard Schiessel, and worked with Andy Chatterley on another EP. Also I made couple of bootlegs (of 808 State and Kraftwerk) which went down really well, and a new version of Enya's Caribbean Blue which Jody Wisternoff remixed. But now I was working solo I had a lot to live up to after Sunday Club – Marc was a genius, and it took me a long time to be happy with with my own production.
"In 2003 I was in Miami for the Winter Music Conference, then went straight to Ibiza for two seasons in 2003/4 and was resident at Privilege and Space. I was also playing every week for Slinky and Most Wanted, and I played regularly at Pukka Up's boat and villa parties. It was a crazy few years! After than I toured Brazil where I played at Warung Beach Club for the first time. I came back to Jersey around late 2006 for a few years, and ran my club night Audio with guests like Jimmy Van M, Behrouz, Jody Wisternoff, Max Graham and Chris Lake.
"Then I moved to Melbourne for 18 months and played for Darkbeat at Brown Alley, as well as at some fashion shows. While I was there I met a few Sunday Club fans who became good friends, and I spent six months in the studio with them, teaching them music production. We recorded some tracks together and I met Kasey Taylor who wanted to sign them, so we released them on his Vapour and Evapour8 labels with Dousk on the remix.
"This gave me the buzz to start releasing again, as my sound and production skills were getting to a standard where I was happy to put solo music out again."
The early Sunday Club material was more straight-up proggy-trancey, whereas the new Maze EP is a bit more house-leaning, albeit definitely still with that prog/melodic vibe. Is that a case of your own changing tastes, or the changing demands of the scene/market?
"I always make what I’m feeling at that time: if you listen to my album from two years ago, it's of varied styles. But yeah, after the epic sound we were making as Sunday Club and after playing to big crowds in Ibiza for two years, my sound had changed a lot. Still melodic but with more of a house undertone.
"The Sunday Club magic is only possible when myself and Marc are in the studio together, so I’m sure you will be hearing new material from us next year. I never follow trends: I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work! The most successful tracks have come from the heart and just making the music that I like."
The Maze EP's on High Tide Recordings, as was 2017's Chanjira. How did you come to hook up with them?
"Gary and Dan are great guys as well as great producers and DJs. I met them in 2013 when I was living in Bournemouth for two years, studying. I had some big gigs at Halo and we played on the same night. Gary is involved with Halo and a few clubs down in Southampton, and Dan is a photographer. They knew of me from the Sunday Club days, and I knew they were the crew behind the infamous High Tide boat parties.
"So when the label started up we signed Chanjira and it took off. Their remix was huge and everybody was playing it. I love working with these guys, and they're really killing it with their productions as Collective States."
How would you describe the different mixes on the EP, if you had to review it for iDJ?
"The Original Mix opens with a robotic vocal sample and kicks in with an 80s bassline that builds with layers of synths and arpeggios, until the beautiful vocal comes in followed by a drop to die for!
"The Collective States Remix is huge, dark and menacing, and the synths really draw you in with its Chemical Brothers vibe. I love this mix!
"The Dub Mix was nearly called the Donna Dub, because of its I Feel Love-style rolling bassline. It builds with layered pads and chopped-up vocals and driving synths throughout. The energy lifts up with an old-school piano riff and then drops to a huge break before it kicks back in."
"And the Other Mix is deep as fuck: the perfect warm-up track, emotive and thought-provoking, this was the last mix of it I made and am really happy with it."
Has being based in the Channel Islands been a hindrance in your career in any way, do you think? Or a benefit?
"Personally I think it's worked in my favour, as I'm not in the rat race and or influenced by anything, I can make up my own mind about what's hot and what's not, and there are less distractions here so it's great for writing music.
"There's a great music scene over here and always has been, with some excellent festivals in the summer. But I’ve spent many years away and I travel as much as I can, mostly spending the winters in Thailand and Brazil where I aim to play every year."
Speaking of your DJing, any upcoming gigs/tours to tell us about?
"I’m still playing regularly but it's definitely been more of a studio year for me. I've been writing lots of new music, seven tracks throughout the summer and three remixes, as well as juggling other commitments.
"I was at Warung Beach Club last year, playing to 5,000 people as I play there most years, and I also played a few gigs in Asia. I’ve been doing a few festivals in Jersey this year, then I’m off to India and Thailand next year where I'm playing at a new festival, then back to South America towards the middle of 2020."
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"I’m halfway through writing my new album, which is sounding great! I’m also releasing tracks under a different name at the moment, but I want to keep that a secret as it's a different musical direction and just a bit of fun.
"In the meantime, Maze has been getting some fantastic reactions, and there's a lot of new releases lined up up for 2020 so keep your ears open!"
Words: Russell Deeks
The Maze EP is out now on High Tide Recordings – click here to buy it.
Tags: Stuart King, High Tide Recordings, progressive house, melodic house, Stress Records, Sunday Club, Marc Mitchell, Baroque, Stripped Digital, Vapour Recordings, Evapour8, Dave Seaman, Nick Gordon, DMC, Dousk, Kasey Taylor