Magazine \ Features \ Features

Spatial Awareness

Southend's house and techno mystery man

2016 Jan 16     
2 Bit Thugs

With his debut album 'Transmissions From A Landlocked Island' due very soon, expect to hear a lot more about Spatial Awareness in the coming months

By day, Spatial Awareness will be known to many dance music industry types as Tony Pontius, head of the Hottwerk PR agency. By night, he crafts genre-defying electronic music that's almost impossible to pigeonhole - and almost impossible not to love. To date, his productions have graced labels like Corsair Records, Fetch, Zombie Soundsystem and Twirl!, and his DJ skills are much in-demand on those floors where "Is it house? Is it techno?" doesn't matter so much as "does it move?".

A recent BBC 6Music showcase has helped raise the public profile of this Southend-on-Sea-based producer no end, and the imminent release of his debut full-length Transmissions From A Landlocked Island is likely to push him well and truly into the limelight. Yet to most people he's still something of a mystery man. Which is why we thought it was time we got him on the phone to find out more! 

Other than loving the music, we actually know very little about you... care to introduce Spatial Awareness to iDJ readers?

"I’m very much a musical mongrel... part unreconstructed 90s indie kid, part old school rave enthusiast, part techno fiend, part disco weirdo, part werewolf. A voracious raider of charity shops’ record departments from an early age, one of my brothers was into all things soulful and hip-hop, the other was into New Order and The Cure, and they crossed paths with the emerging house music that was appearing.

"I spent a large portion of my teens flitting between the unglamorous DJ training ground of playing soul and funk in nasty Essex pubs, and playing bass in terrible punk bands, all the while learning the dark arts of sound engineering and manipulating analogue synths. I’ve pretty much been making electronic music and DJing ever since… Spatial Awareness was born about four or five years ago. It was a difficult birth; a bit like an electronic version of Rosemary’s Baby.

"Influences and inspirations are a huge collection of people and labels, but I can probably boil the all-time list down to Factory Records, New Order, Larry Levan, Andrew Weatherall, Public Image Limited, Can, Bowie, Throbbing Gristle, Depth Charge… and about a million more."

The 'genre' bit on your Facebook page says “House, techno, acid, disco, dub”. That's quite a broad remit...

"House, techno, acid, disco, dub sounds like quite a big playing field on the face of it, but I think rather than seeing it as an 'all things to all people' sort of position, it’s more about how you mentally arrange these different sounds, in the way a painter would with colours on a palette. Using an idea from this, a feeling from that, but cramming it through the filter of one’s own brain…. that kind of perspective.

"I do have very eclectic tastes, with a lot of quite disparate things that go into the Spatial Awareness melting pot. There are elements of house, elements of disco, acid, techno, dub in there but also many other things beside – film soundtracks, electronica, post-punk, Krautrock, synthpop, Bowie and Roxy and more besides. Elements of all these things seep into the music that I make and play."

We understand Spatial Awareness was recently showcased on BBC Radio 6 Music. How did that come about and what did it entail?

"Nemone has been a great supporter of Spatial Awareness on her Electric Ladyland show on 6Music for the last couple of years, which has been a huge thing for me, and I was delighted when I was asked to be the guest on the show’s 'An Evening With…' slot. Previous guests have been the likes of Groove Armada, Dusky, Scuba, Moby - very esteemed company of which to be a part!

"I chose three tracks - what I like to listen to when I’m getting ready, out and about, and rounding off a night - and spoke about why I chose those tracks. On the show Nemone also played my most recent single Silflay (on Zombie Soundsystem), and my remix of Miaoux Miaoux’s It’s The Quick. Which was jolly nice of her."

Your debut album is out in April - should we expect any big surprises musically, or is it more about cementing the sound you've been establishing so far?

"The album has more of a live, post-punk/Krautrock-influenced feel than previous singles - there are guitars, bass, vocals in with the synths and drum machines. But you will find both elements of the established Spatial Awareness sound, and a more interesting, surprising side. Of course, there are tracks on there that do translate directly to the dancefloor, but the album was something that I really wanted to be a cohesive body of work, more of an interesting listening experience rather than just a dozen club tracks."

Am we right in thinking there are going to be some live shows to promote the album as well? Fill us in...

"There are indeed going to be live shows, the first of which is a London showcase at The Finsbury on 18 February. The live shows are very much a live experience in the same sort of oeuvre as the Chems, Underworld, etc, in that I do play live synths, live guitars, live vocals... it’s not just someone behind a laptop pressing play! That sort of thing got boring a long time ago. But yes, there will be more live dates around the UK and Europe, and some festival appearances - all to be announced soon."

You're based in Southend-on-Sea, which isn't really known as a hotbed of house and techno. What's the scene like locally, and are there any hot new artists, clubs or labels we should know about?

Southend is a funny old place; mostly (especially in recent years) it’s more a hotbed of commercial Darren and Sharon meatmarket horror. However, thankfully there are exceptions: there's always been a delightfully seedy underbelly of underground enthusiasts.

"Production talents from round here to watch in 2016 would have to include USRNM, who makes the most sublime techno, and going slightly toward the leftfield, Alien, who has a new album out soon called What Happens When You Get To The Edge. Hot Creations wunderkind Pete Dorling is very active on the scene round here, his club Life is very popular; Klik is another very strong night here, run by Pierre Codarin (who has just started his own label) which gets down some great DJs – word has it Acid Mondays are at the next do. Kool Kids Klub is a long running night for the bass aficianados, and there is an emerging night called Sense, which is starting to develop a real foothold here."

As well as being Spatial Awareness, you wear several other hats in the dance music industry, don't you? Tell us a little bit about that...

"My day job, if you will, is running Hottwerk Media, which encompasses Hottwerk Music Publishing and Hottwerk Records, which rather conveniently is the label that’s releasing my album. I also run a few other people’s labels for them. My other main musical hat is that I’m also one half of DPPLGNGRS with Mr Craig Fury, my Doppelbrother from another Doppelmother."

Before we sign off, is there anything else you think the world needs to know?

"My new EP Ill City Exit has just come out on Chicago’s Twirl! Records, with rather excellent remixes from Hannah Holland and Shaun J Wright & Alinka, and I’ve a couple of remixes out soon – Boy George’s new single Kiss The DJ on Fetch Records, and Killaflaw’s Message on Wall Of Sound."

Follow Spatial Awareness: Twitter Facebook





Tags: Spatial Awareness, Hottwerk, Zombie Soundsystem, house, techno, disco, Krautrock