Five hours of funk and soul recorded live in Hackney.
Andrew Ashong was new to most of us when he debuted on Theo Parrish's record label with his first EP back in 2012, but once you hit play on that record he felt instantly familiar. His music, soulful, smoky and sensual, is rooted in several traditions at once: R&B, hip-hop, house, disco, soul, broken beat, you name it. He's only put out a few records since—including his latest, Sankofa Season with UK legend Kaidi Tatham, last month—but all of them have the easy confidence of someone who knows the music they love inside-out.
Ashong is not just a wonderful producer and songwriter. He's also one hell of a record digger, and a great DJ too. You won't find many mixes of his online, which makes this RA Podcast all the sweeter. It was recorded live at a night in Hackney—you know, with people and everything—this year, but the recording went on well past closing time, just Ashong winding things down for his own pleasure. It's a journey into a collection that includes plenty of droolworthy records, especially for fans of Brazilian music, but there are also classic cuts from Barry White, Cameo, War and Heaven 17. It's a loose and easy session perfect to warm up a lazy winter's day.
What have you been up to recently?
I've been on a few world tours with a 40 piece orchestra... in the dreamscape of sleep. In my waking hours, I've been right here in South London munching my way through beautiful records, new and old, but mostly working on music of my own.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded on a rare evening of 2020 that somehow actually combined music and humans amidst a brief period of fun and games at NT's Loft in Hackney, London. We had some recording issues to begin with, so we missed some of the start... but I'm glad we persevered, as it ended up being a nice long marathon session (almost five hours recorded of a six hour session).
Can you tell us the idea behind the mix?
I never really record mixes, as it's usually the last thing on my mind when I'm playing, or even when I’m packing my bags to leave for a gig. Obviously due to the rarity of 2020 DJ gigs, for once it actually felt like a responsibility to record my set, and also to play a selection that I would share afterwards for all those unable to be in the room.
We only managed to catch the last couple of hours of the PARTY party, but when the venue closed, I just continued playing records, winding down into a more intimate zone at a softer volume, while the crew were packing down. So the last three hours is pretty much late night radio really.
Your new EP was made with a legend of UK dance music, Kaidi Tatham. How did that partnership come about, and what was working with him like?
A young visionary don by the name of Joe Doyle asked Kaidi and I if we'd like to do a project together after booking us for a collaborative freestyle DJ/live night in Belfast about five years ago. I guess we'd been slowly marinating on the idea for all that time until last year when we actually began making moves on it. Music with Kaidi is pure fun, it feels exciting and musically challenging, but grounding at the same time. There's always something of a musical twinkle in his eyes it seems. It's been an education and—needless to say—an honour.
You've spoken at length about your love of record digging. How have you been going about that during the pandemic? Has anything changed?
I'm sure I've already got way too many records to be fair, so I can't say I ever feel starved of musical discovery. I literally ALWAYS have a big backlog of new purchase waiting to be reviewed, enjoyed, digested or maybe dismissed. I don't feel like I need shops to be open for that experience, I'm always reorganising and rediscovering lots of records I already have.
It's always such a joyful, explorative, meditative and revelatory process. I can pick up a record I've had for over 20 years and find a whole "new" tune that blows my mind! Or I notice that a particular person is playing a certain instrument that I never focused in on before. Maybe it's a cover version of a more recent discovery to change your perception. Maybe a sample you heard. These records are seriously vast repositories with almost endless layers... it's wild!
What are you up to next?
Trying to dig my way out of this record jungle and get back to making more music of my own. Easy to get caught up in our marvellous history, but we got to write our own marvellous future too. Create some more histories for future humans. See how many new ways we can put these old worlds back together, to build something worthwhile, honest and true. Should keep us all busy for quite some time hopefully.