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UK House Legend Charles Webster Talks Three Decades of EDM and His Latest Projects

Charles Webster's

story reads like the history of transatlantic dance music itself. He was born and bred in the early-'80s electronic music boomtown of Sheffield,

England, cradle to such seminal acts as the Human League and Cabaret

Voltaire. He shared time in the studio with Detroit techno pioneers Juan

Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson when they were just beginning

to define the sound of a new era.

And later, Webster made a prescient move to San Francisco to help foster the burgeoning '90s West Coast house music scene with releases on the esteemed Defected label and his own Love From San Francisco imprint. Yes, Charles Webster

has pretty much done it all.

Fast-forward to the new millennium

and the legendary DJ-producer is as relevant and prolific as ever, with

extensive tours around the globe, numerous collaborations, and releases on top labels like Buzzin'

Fly, Freerange, and his own Miso Records. And despite having sold over

100,000 records, he's managed to elude the trappings of commercialism

and retained that pioneering spirit unique to his groundbreaking

generation.

We caught up with Charles Webster in advance of his

Friday night gig at the Electric Pickle to survey a career spanning

three decades and his take of house music's past, present, and future. 

New Times: You

started out playing in electronic music bands in Sheffield, a city with

some major electronic music history. What can you tell us about the

scene back then and how it shaped your musical development?

Charles Webster: Yes,

I was playing in bands from when I was 13 years old in the early '80s.

Everything was very fresh and exciting back then. Synth music was quite a

novelty, it was sometimes tricky to be taken seriously. Eventually, I

won a local band contest with 100% electronic music, so people were taking it more seriously and not treating it as just a

novelty thing. I think making music at the time and place

certainly shaped my music journey.

What prompted you to move to San Francisco and how did the electronic dance music scene there differ from the one in the UK?

I

moved to San Francisco with a few friends to start a record label. We

were getting bogged down in the UK scene, so we decided to relocate to a

city with no discernible music style, so we could create with no

expectations or boundaries. It was a really fun time in S.F. back in the

early to mid-'90s -- great clubs and DJs.

You spent some time

working with legendary Detroit techno producers Juan Atkins, Derrick

May, and Kevin Saunderson. What can you tell us about these

collaborations and what did they impart to you?

They were all

releasing music on the Kool Kat and Network labels at the time and they

always used the same studio. It just happened that I worked in that

studio as one of the resident engineers. I really learned a lot watching

these guys create music. They were very inspired just to hook up lots

of drum machines and synths and just go with the flow -- pretty much

doing the tracks 'live,' straight to tape. I certainly learned to just

believe in what you are doing and just go with it.

How did you first hook up with the Defected label and what impact do you think it's had on your career?

My

manager at the time knew the boss and was having a conversation with

him about our ideas for a compilation and they just said, "Well, we would

like to release that." It was as simple as that, really, and the rest

of the remixes and tracks I did for them just followed naturally. I

guess it has brought my sound to a new audience, slightly more

mainstream.

What is the status of your own labels these days? Any forthcoming projects or releases?

My label Miso is running well at the moment. We just had a successful digital release, Soothe

as Furry Phreaks featuring Terra Deva, and we are just about to release

a new Version record, my project I do with Atjazz and Emilie Chick. The

track is called "Nothing". We are also planning a compilation, Miso Moments Vol. 1 for release in early 2011. Lots to do!

You've

DJed for audiences all over the world. What do you consider a

successful DJ set?

A good DJ set really depends on many things.

The most important is reading the crowd energy. It is to easy just to

play all the hits. I believe a good set is 66% entertainment and 33%

education -- it is vital to take people to places they probably haven't

been to before, that way you never become stale. As for feelings on the

dancefloor, it is important to have light and shade and to use lots of

dynamics in the set.

As a European expatriate, why do you

think electronic dance music has always been less of a mainstream

phenomenon in the US than in Europe? What can we do to make it big again

over here?

I think it comes down to economics. As dance

music has never really been chart-topping stuff in the USA, I think it

pushes producers into more commercially viable styles. But on the other

hand some of the best underground producers ever hail from the USA.

These guys are just doing their thing regardless of commercial

expectations. As for making it big again, it will happen eventually and

in a natural way.

What do you think is the secret to staying

fresh and relevant after three decades?

Just

follow your heart as a producer. Don't get attached to scenes and you

become unique. I always work hard on my music and never just load up

some old track and re-hash it. Always trying to find new ideas is the

key, and never becoming complacent with your status and success.

Where

do you see the house music form going in the next decade? Is house

becoming exhausted? Or is there still room for innovation?

There

is always room for innovation! For me, it is always a great song that

changes things and steps it up to a new level. People love a great song.

After all these years, your record collection must be titanic. Any all-time favorites?

Wow!

So many to list after 25 years of house music. There are plenty of

great new producers and still some older guys making great tracks. The

list is endless!

What have you been up to in 2010?

Mainly

working on new music. The main project is a jazz album I am working on with a friend

and a few vocalists -- very traditional jazz with a slight modern

electronic twist and some lovely vocals. I am nearly finished with this

and will hope to be releasing it in mid-2011. Also, I have been working

with a vocalist from L.A. We have a project called January Tuesday and

we are going to release an EP fairly soon. Also, I have been working on

songs with Shana Halligan, ex-vocalist of Bitter Sweet.

What can Miami expect during your performance at Electric Pickle on October 15?

Some really good house music!

Charles Webster. With Will Renuart, Tomas of Aquabooty. 10 p.m.

Friday, Ocotober 15. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. $10 at www.residentadvisor.net Ages 21 and up. 305-456-5613; electricpicklemiami.com
      
 


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