Words: Yasmin Martinelli
6th Borough Project has been banging out tracks and working as a stellar production and DJ team for over ten years now, creating a musical oeuvre that is at once diverse, captivating, and far-reaching. Their wondrous midtempo housey-disco gems are brimming with raw underground soul and hypnotising melodies. Craig Smith and Graeme Clark, the Scottish gentlemen behind 6th Borough Project have released a steady string of solid gold EPs over the last few years, and now we can only wait with excitement for their upcoming full length album “Borough 2 Borough“ to drop this winter on cooly understated label Delusions of Grandeur. Lodown caught up with the fellows earlier this year to discuss their musical upbringings, how working together flows, and the killer arrangements on the horizon.
Fellas, when did you first start playing music?
Graeme: I started making music when I was about 14 years old, and started djing when I was 19.
Craig: I had my 1st DJ gig in 1987.
Do both of you come from families with musical backgrounds?
Graeme: My dad played in a band most of his life as a hobby and both my mum and dad bought quite a varied bunch of music when they were young.
Craig: My father's family where fairly musical, always singing and playing various instruments at family get togethers.
What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In Scotland? Your first or maybe even your most recent club gig?
Graeme: I guess it would be New Years Eve when I was a kid. My parents would have people over to the house and music would be played on the stereo or people playing guitar. There would be a smell of cigarette smoke and alcohol which seemed really exciting.
Craig: Too many to pick one!
Which old records, tapes, or radio shows were you influenced by?
Graeme: Oh … too many to mention. I think everything that goes into my head influences me in some way. I listened to a lot of daytime popular radio as a kid in the 80s so I guess a lot of that would have made a big impression. But I also listened to a lot of my mum and dad's records as well as paying attention to soundtracks for films I loved at the time.
Craig: A big early influence would probably have come from listening to my parents record collection. In the very early 80s I used to love listening to Robbie Vincent on the radio and later in the 80s listening to DJ Red Alert and Tony Humphries radio mixes from tapes people were passing round.
Who has helped shape you most in your musical direction/career? Do you recall a certain professor, moment or otherwise?
Graeme: I didn't study music at school, and to be honest, I've really been a bit of a magpie all my life. Just taking bits of information and inspiration from everywhere and everyone I've worked with.
Craig: There have been so many musical "awakenings" it would be hard to pick one just one, they've all shaped my taste.
How is your studio setup and have you added any new toys lately?
Graeme: I've actually started to streamline my setup in the last couple of years to just a few key pieces of equipment that I need. I used to use lots of hardware when I began producing almost 20 years ago, but now I find that too much choice is a bad thing for me. I now use a small selection of hardware with the computer.
Craig: Loving Maschine at the moment.
What instruments/equipment do you play?
Graeme: I can play keyboard a little bit, but it's all self-taught. As is the production part. I had some training as a sound engineer when I was younger.
Craig: As above.
Is time spent more on tour these days or in the studio producing, making mixes and the like?
Graeme: It's pretty balanced normally. The weekends are the gigs generally, and during the week is studio time, emails, admin, contemplation, drinking beer.
Craig: It's a bit of everything really, always trying to get a good working balance.
How have the gigs been recently, primarily with the sort of sets you play?
Graeme: It's always a mixed bag. Sometimes you will be playing a more party set, sometimes more deep. It depends how much time you have, how the other DJs warm up for you, the crowd etc. It's not an exact science, but I would say in general if the promoters are enthusiastic and the crowd is up for it, it's going to be a good gig.
Craig: The gigs have been great, mostly House nights but we are lucky enough to get many gigs where we can play many styles and tempos.
What is currently piquing your interest with music production at the moment? What is exciting?
Graeme: I would say that Ableton's Push Controller is something interesting for me. If it can do what I hope it can, then it will allow me to transpose what I do in the studio into a live context without having to look at the screen as much. It's my one issue with digital djing, computers, television generally. It's very easy to become a slave to the screen and I don't like having that affect what is going into my brain via my ears. I use computers in the studio and for DJing and so any technology that can reduce that impulse is good for me.
How about watching any particular films or reading any books that are sources of inspiration these days?
Graeme: I love the cinema but rarely make time these days to see much movies except on planes. Same with books unfortunately. Damn computers.
Craig: Just watched the documentary Zeitgeist again for the 1st time in a while. A brilliant, thought-provoking piece.
Now let's talk about your upcoming album that we are super stoked on being released soon. What was the overall feel to it and recording process like?
Graeme: We tend to record once a week which has been our process for the last 12 years or so of working together. We usually spend the day listening to records, doing some sampling, making some beats and talking shit. Then we move onto another track. We usually try and work on a few different ideas at the same time so we don't get bored, and it gives some perspective on the stuff rather than getting bogged down in one idea. The new album is sounding good, it just needs a final push to mix down the tracks and then pull it all together. We might call it 'Another Night In The Borough'… if our imagination has totally dried up by that time.
Craig: As always when we do 6th Borough stuff it's a relaxed vibe creatively so in that respect it's the same process as last time. The difference for this LP is that it's completely from scratch with the last LP being a collection of brand new tracks a music we had already built up over time.
Any last words and/or rumination on future plans?
Graeme: Working with some bands or musicians as a producer is something I'm considering soon with my new label. And also some live stuff alongside a solo Revenge album beginning of 2014.
Craig: As well as working on finishing the new 6th Borough LP I'm in the process of starting my a new label and working on solo material.
Our new album 'Borough 2 Borough' will be released on March 3rd via Delusions Of Grandeur following a single on February 3rd. We'll be touring to support the album playing longer sets where possible. Here's a little mix of some old, new and forthcoming favourites in the meantime. Love 6th BP x