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Silicone Soul

Scottish house masters return

2019 Oct 26     
2 Bit Thugs

Last month, Silicone Soul released their first single since 2015 – and there's plenty more to come, including their first album in over 10 years! Craig Morrison, one-half of the duo, explains more…

It’s official: Glasgow house troopers Silicone Soul are back! Not, of course, that they ever actually went away: like any act who’ve been recording and touring since they left school, they’re far too deep into this to ever fully leave. But it’s fair to say they've been in the shadows a little. Their gig schedule wasn’t quite so demanding, and their presence has been felt via releases on their Darkoom Dubs label rather than their own productions.

All that's about to change, though. Last month’s single Fahrenheit 625 wasn’t a one-off: if all goes to plan, it will effectively open a whole new can of Silicone Soul-branded whoop-ass that could potentially thump well into a new decade. Two more singles are set to follow in the near future, then, excitingly, an album – their first since their self-titled fourth in 2009. 

Renewed, refreshed and re-inspired after a rest – something Craig knew he needed when he suffered two bad car crashes in a short space of time – the duo have rediscovered their groove and are back at what we’ve known them best for since they emerged on Soma over 20 years ago: heavy, hypnotic house music that’s not afraid to dip its toes into the cosmic melting pot when it wants to. And it starts with ‘Fahrenheit 625’, released as part of Darkroom Dubs Traxx series, which focuses on underground sounds aimed at darker dancefloors. 

A thumping, stripped-back homage to early 90s NYC house, featuring a vintage vocal from first-generation New York house artist Franklin Fuentes, Fahrenheit 625 takes us back to the duo’s deepest roots. It's a nod to where their love of house music began, long before their breakthrough hits Right On Right On and Chic-O-Laa or their evergreen albums A Soul Thing, Save Our Souls and Staring Into Space. And where it still is. 

We asked Craig – now based in the south of France, while Silicone Soul partner Graeme Reedie still represents in Glasgow – for more details… 

You’re back! Are we calling it a comeback? 

"Yeah, I guess so! We’ve always been running Darkroom Dubs and DJing but things did pause for a while. Looking back, a few years ago – in 2013 – the wheels began to come off a bit. We’d been touring non-stop since we started in the early 2000s, and both Graeme and I needed a good rest. It’s been cool just focusing on the label, A&R and working on other people’s music and not thinking about our own so much. We needed to do it."

It had been a long run…

"Yeah, man… from 1998. We were quite fortunate to have some early successes, but we didn’t have much time to build up: it was just straight into big tours and shows, and it took its toll. Then in 2013 I had a wake-up call with two pretty bad car crashes in two months."

Wow, scary…

"It was! And looking back, I wasn’t well: I wasn’t looking after my health. I didn’t feel particularly depressed, but I was starting to behave quite recklessly. We’d been on the run for years, flying two or three times a week, and I wasn’t taking care of myself. Maybe, being a typical Glaswegian, I was enjoying the partying a bit too much. It could have been a lot worse, but I needed to step back a little.

"But I feel a lot sharper and fresher now. That said, I never stopped the music: we were coming up with a lot of ideas for tracks, just not finishing them! Until now, really."

Did that happen to both of you?

"Well, I can’t speak for Graeme, but he probably needed a rest too. The touring was starting to get us down. Not the gigs, we’ve always loved the gigs, but the travel. Rushing around, long haul flights, all the rest of it. You’re not fully recovered until Wednesday and then it’s time to fly again. We’ve never been ones to complain, because it’s an awesome way to spend your time, but over the years it took its toll.

"But we’re both feeling good now, and there are lots of great ideas bouncing back and forth between Glasgow and France. We’ve got another two releases ready. It feels like a good moment and place to kick things off again, and we’re looking at finishing off an album in time for next summer."

So how do you work these days: do you fly to each other’s studios or is it more about remote collaboration now?

"We visit each other and I’m often in Glasgow to visit family, but a lot of it the time yeah, it’s via the good old internet. We’ve got very similar set-ups: we use the same DAW, software and hardware, so it’s pretty easy to send bounces back and forth. You can spend time messing around by yourself, getting rudimentary ideas together before sending them over. 

"We’ve found a good flow doing it this way. We’ve never been that fast in the studio and it takes us a while to finish tracks, so it’s cool to have that time to yourself, building something then sending it over. It beats both of us listening to the same kick drum for hours on end." 

I bet! Okay, let’s chat about Fahrenheit 625. That’s a cult vocal from Franklin Fuentes right there…

"Yeah, it was a real privilege to work with him. I think the vibe we were going for was the music we got into to begin with as DJs, around 93/94, that era. I was actually flicking through my old record collection, found a few things that inspired me and I thought it would be a good idea to do something in that direction. It’s a great way of re-energising and exploring the sounds and vocals we first loved. It’s got me motivated again." 

You're talking about the roots of Silicone Soul really, aren’t you?

"Yeah, I think so. That sound, especially with the hypnotic, spoken word-style vocals, was the blueprint we were aiming for musically, when we set up Darkroom Dubs. The early releases on the label tapped into that sound, the hypnotic dark vocal, deep Reese bass and jacking, straight-up drums. So it was cool to revisit that vibe and do with it an authentic voice from that era."

And Franklin was up for it?

"He was really cool. I didn’t know if he’d be up for it, and he said at first that he wasn’t going to be, because he’d had similar offers in the past. But then he heard the track, just a demo version with his original acapella, and he really loved it. That was a real compliment."

Did he re-record it?

"He was going to, but there wasn’t any need in the end. I had the original record in surprisingly good condition, so we cleaned up the acapella in the studio and it was fine. There were no crackles or anything. He was happy with it so there was no need to re-record. It was just great to get his permission. 

"I think a lot of producers just help themselves to these acapellas, don’t credit the original artist and hope no one notices. I’m not into that: we’ve always been upfront any time we’ve used a big sample or an acapella. Plus just out of respect. Just because the record is 20 years old it doesn’t mean you can blatantly steal from it!" 

Amen. So you mentioned the album. Will the next singles be the first material from that?

"No, there’s more to come before anything from the album. We’ve got a new Darkroom Dubs Traxx coming, then a single – The Flesh Revenges Itself – which comes with a remix from Kincaid. He’s a really talented producer, so we're really excited to hear what he does. Then there’ll be the first singles from the album. It’s going to be busy next year in terms of releases."

Speaking of busy, you do love a Darkroom Dubs compilation, don’t you?

"I really enjoy putting together the compilations, yeah! We’ve been releasing music for a long time and we’ve got a great back catalogue. I figure it’s better releasing in-house than doing lots of licensing to random faceless techno compilations. 

"DJs are digging a lot more now, trying to find different tracks to stand out from the usual download store charts, so having our own collections is great for drawing people’s attention to all the music we’ve released. I think it’s a lot better than appearing on loads of nondescript Sound Of Berlin or Tech House Volume 6-style compilations. Plus, it’s cool to listen back to some early works by artists. It’s interesting how they often hit a rich vein before they find their sound, and that experimentation is often when they make their best music. ]

"So yeah, we’ve got a lot to offer from the ages, from the vaults so to speak, and it’s nice to try and get people to return to it."

I think you can do that because you’ve picked the right records, records that have fit the Darkroom Dubs sound and aged well…

"I hope there's continuity but sometimes I think that maybe the umbrella is almost too wide. A lot of labels like to focus on a very specific sound but I’ve never been into that. That’s not what a label is all about. I don’t want it to be like a supermarket, just putting out the same sound week after week, it’s just not something we’re interested in doing. 

"I’m pleased when I hear people talk about a Darkroom Dubs 'sound' but when I consider it, I think it’s just the music we personally love and like to play as DJs. So that’s what we’ll continue to do."

How much does touring influence the label’s sound? I know the Darkroom Dubs network extends deep into South America… 

"I’ve definitely made some good friends over in South America. It’s a different world over there: so many great clubs, and the cities are so vast. You can fit the population of Scotland four times into Buenos Aires alone! And due to the size, the clubs can support so many different types of music. I saw this a lot in Bogotá. The vibe there reminds me of when I first started going out, with all the indie/post-punk clubs. There’s a different attitude towards music and partying. 

"There are a lot of great producers too, like Mariano Mellino, who’s a star in South America now, particularly Argentina. He’s a big fan of the progressive sound but I love how he makes deeper music for Darkroom Dubs." 

So will Darkroom Dubs have to take a passenger seat while you’re in the studio working on the new album? 

"No, not at all, we’ve got a lot of good things coming up. We’ve got a new single coming from Am$trad Billionaire, actually. His last release was six years ago, but then Solomun licensed his track The Plan for his Grand Theft Auto V Afterhours playlist. It seemed pretty random due to its age but it ended up as the opening track. That encouraged Jamie to get in the studio again, so he’s done a new four track EP. It’s deep disco, super cool, so that’s great news.

"We’ve also got new material coming from Stelios Vassiloudis, and of course our own releases, plus loads more. So, yeah, we’re really busy again. It just feels like the right time."

Words: Dave Jenkins

Fahrenheit 625 is out now on Darkroom Dubs. Buy it here 

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Tags: Silicone Soul, Craig Morrison, Graeme Reedie, Darkroom Dubs, Franklin Fuentes, Am$trad Billionnaire, Stelios Vassiloudis, Mariano Mellino