It’s 25 years since he released his first record and became one of the UK’s foremost underground DJs; it’s 20 years since ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ by The Shamen, featuring C’s legendary rhymes, shot to the top of the charts; it’s more than 15 years since The End, the cool underground club he opened in London with Layo, helped change the face of London clubbing; and it’s 10 years since his Superfreq night started bringing glamour back into the tech house scene.
Having relocated to LA, C now does regular Superfreq events in Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, San Diego and Mexico, as well as one-offs in places like Detroit, Boston, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. He does Superfreq all over Europe as well, and is now relaunching the Superfreq record label — emphasising his beloved vinyl — with 10 EPs of music ready to go.
He can talk for England too, and — refreshingly outspoken — some can mistake his supreme self-confidence for arrogance. But he’s ultimately a good egg. Here — as well as his musical escapades — he goes into detail about his acting ambitions, the self-help book he’s writing, and much more…
Can you believe it’s 25 years since those legendary Clink Street parties near London Bridge?
“Yeah, that’s right, on 27th August I celebrated my 25th anniversary as a DJ/producer. I released my first deep house track in August 1987. Where’s the time gone? Well, when you think about how much has happened in that time, you can see where the time’s gone.”
What have been some of your highlights from the last 25 years?
“It’s hard to say, really. Obviously the whole Shamen escapade was a big highlight, reaching No.1 with ‘Ebeneezer Goode’, headlining Glastonbury on two occasions was mind-blowing — all of the festivals were quite mind-blowing. Opening The End was huge for me, all the anniversaries were pretty amazing, and the closing of The End was monumental — probably the best party I’ve ever been to or played at in my life, bar none. So many Ibiza moments — playing at DC10, playing Amnesia, playing in Pacha, playing in Space, all have been monumental. Getting married was huge in my life. Losing my mum. So many things. It’s such a long period of time. Moving to Los Angeles, and then buying my first house. And Burning Man — unbelievable.”
Do you miss The End?
“No, not in the slightest. Not at all. I suppose it’s got a lot to do with my Buddhist beliefs, and not having attachments. Obviously I loved The End and I’m very proud of what we did there — I have only the fondest memories — but I don’t actually miss it. It’s about now, it’s about what’s happening today. I don’t miss The End because I’m doing all this amazing stuff. I’m playing at Superfreq around the world, I’m playing amazing events, so why would I miss The End when I’m enjoying myself now?
“I do Superfreq nights all over the place now — its growth has been organic, I’ve done it all myself. I keep it underground, I don’t blow it up out of proportion. I’ve kept it real and this has allowed it to grow in a really nice way [begins detailing where he does Superfreq in the States]. I do it all over Europe too, and I’m actually stepping it up because we’re celebrating being 10-years-old. Do you remember Subterrain? We stopped doing that in 2002, I started Superfreq and we changed the sound from a normal 130BPM bongo conga tech house sound to being a bit more stripped back and modern. I wanted to add a lot more glamour, make it a bit more fun, funky and adventurous.”
Tech house has come back as a genre name, now…
“People say ‘What sort of music do you play?’ It’s tech house. Even though my music changed — it was always a touch more electronic, a bit less tribal, a bit more acid and trippy. I get a lot of questions like, ‘Is it true you invented tech house?’ No, not really, tech house wasn’t just invented, it just happened. I’m only responsible for coming up with the name in that I called around lots of DJs in London and said, ‘Let’s call our music tech house, then everyone’ll buy it’, but we were already banding that term around in the clubs. ‘Do you have any techy, housey tracks?’ It was already there.”
Has DJ culture been hijacked by EDM button-pushers?
“No, of course it hasn’t. The whole EDM thing had to happen, and even the underground is being commercial right now. I’m hearing ‘underground DJs’ playing pop house. It had to happen. There was no way it was going to go any other way. When you see people like Guetta and Skrillex and all these people making loads of poppy-whatever that’s going into the charts, good luck to them! These kids that are starting to get into ‘EDM’ would otherwise be listening to hip-hop or rock, so it’s a good introduction to electronic dance music. And these kids, when they grow up, their tastes will develop, they’ll become more discerning — and then they’ll get into pop house, ha ha ha! As long as there’s a big scene for dance music, there’s going to be a really nice space for people like me.
“There’s a big void for someone like me who’s always believed in quality cutting-edge, innovative, sexy electronic dance music to come in with something more acid, more tripped-out, more discerning — which is what I’m doing with Superfreq. There’s gonna be no compromise with Superfreq — I’m gonna keep it completely cutting-edge, innovative, sexy club music for adults. No pop at all.”
So you’re not going to be cashing in your chips to pursue the EDM dollar?
“No, FUCK THAT! But what they are doing is helping me with my marketing. I can come in and do something that is more discerning. I’m not a greedy person, I don’t need to get paid 10,000 pounds a show, I don’t need to do parties with 3000 people all facing the DJ in adulation — that’s bullshit. When I do my Superfreq parties in LA, I move my booth onto the dancefloor to get at floor level — so that not everyone’s facing the DJ, and they’re dancing with each other. Things like that really make a difference in the attitude of what we’re doing. It’s about entertaining adults who are into specialist music — and helping them to celebrate life.
“The music that I do is for adults: it’s sexy, playful, for having fun to. It’s about being mischievous to, and I don’t want to change that. I’ve been DJing at the top level for the best part of 25 years — why would I want to change that? I’m in the twilight years of my career, and I do want to go out with some kind of a bang, but I don’t want it to be a commercial poppy bang — I want it to be in a way where people will say, ‘You know what? Mr C was one of them people who just kept pushing and pushing and never let it go. He always done it for the right reasons’. I wouldn’t enjoy it if I went poppy.
[He starts talking about the buzz he still gets from going record shopping in Phonica in London — forever seeking out records that are new, fresh and exciting — and that he could be as big as Tiësto if he’d gone completely commercial after The Shamen]
“But what would be the point? I wouldn’t be happy, I wouldn’t be enjoying myself anymore. I wouldn’t be innovative — I’d be one of the sheeple, like the rest of ‘em.”
How is your acting career going?
“I did a short film in March, it’s only a three-minute piece but great for the reel, and at the end of this year I’m shooting something that’s going to be a Tarantino-esque 10-minute short film. I’ve also been cast as the lead role as the devil in a feature film called Beyond Ecstasy — they’re putting funds together for that now.
“It’s going nicely. It’s not something I’ve been pushing. I’m part of an LA casting network, I get 30 things a day in my inbox to go and audition for, albeit short movies or commercials — but I’m not really interested, to be fair. I’m the sort of person — because of my way of thinking about the universe — I’ll be in the right place at the right time, as I have always been, when the right role comes along. Because I’m so busy as a DJ and producer, I’m not desperate. I’m not in a hurry. Something will happen when it’s going to happen. I know this short film is going to be big for me, that’ll be out in the New Year, and that’ll get me parts straight away.”
Do you prefer playing baddies?
“No, I want to do everything. I will get typecast as baddies, that’s going to happen, because of the nature of who I am — a mischievous boy — but I want to do period drama, romantic comedy, straight up comedy, horror and thrillers, action — I wanna be the good guy, I wanna be the bad guy, I wanna be the nerd… I want to do it all. I fancy myself as a replacement for Anthony Hopkins, to be fair.
“That’s how I envisage myself. I can be Hannibal Lecter, I can be the guy that fixes his Indian motorbike, I could be King Henry the whatever. I’d like to play a posh English gentleman in a period drama, why not? That’s going to be a real thrill — it’s not about being Richard West, it’s about being whatever character I become. As a method actor, you become the character — it’s not just pretending anymore.
“It’s going to happen, there is no doubt. There only is what it is. You make it happen. I’ve been doing that my whole life, I learned how to do meditation when I was 17. I started thinking positive, and that was the structure behind everything that I do. I was telling my mates when I was rapping on the street, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be a big club rapper’, and by the time I was 19 I was a huge club rapper. Then I said, ‘I’m going to make a record’, and they all laughed at me, and I made my first house record in 1986 that came out in 1987 — way ahead of the curve.
“Then I said I was going to be a big DJ and they laughed at me, but by 1988 I was a big national DJ, and by ‘89 I was playing internationally. Then I said I was going to be a pop star, and my mates laughed at me. And when I said I was going to own the best nightclub in the world, they said ‘Dude, I think you’re right’. Then when I said I was going to be an actor and move to LA, they’re like ‘We know you are’. The whole acting thing has already happened — it’s a given. It’s not like ‘Maybe it will, maybe it won’t’ — it’s done. It’s not that I want to be a great actor — I am a great actor. If you programme ‘I want to be’, then you programme yourself to be a wannabe. I am an amazing actor.
“When I was going up to people at 21, I’d be saying ‘I’m the best DJ ever, I’m a great DJ’, and there it was. It’s the same with my acting — I’m mustard. I can play any role. I won’t be typecast — or if I was, I’d pull my way out of it. I can play any role whatsoever. Not many people can say that. Many English actors — people like Jason Statham — they play the same role in every movie. I’m not going to be one of those. I’m going to be more of an Anthony Hopkins or a Kevin Spacey.”
Can you do a posh voice, though?
“Of course I can, I can do every voice. Scottish, Scouse, Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland — you name it, I can do it. I haven’t started practising American accents yet, but if I practice a New York accent every day for one week, I’ll nail it. If I practice a Chicago accent every day, I’ll nail it. That’s how I am. [Adopts Scottish accent] ‘If I start to talk in a Scottish accent, it’s going to sound quite alright’, and it does sound authentic. If I go into a Scouse accent [adopts Scouse accent] ‘Do you know warrimean, I sound like I’m from Liverpool, like, you wouldn’t know’. I’ve always been able to ape accents and things, that’s how I became a rapper, I was aping Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Sugarhill Gang and Dr Jeckyl & Mr Hyde. I just put my own style on it. That’s what made me a good rapper — I found it easy to do that shit.”
Haven’t you also started writing a book?
“Yes — a self-help guide. I hope to finish it by the summer of next year. It’s a bit of everything, really — a short read, a maximum of 200 pages, and it’s going to be called ‘Oi, This Is How It Is’. Or ‘Oi…'
“It’s a guide to life, it goes through meditation, your self in relation to the absolute and Oneness, how to control the sub-conscious mind with the conscious mind, the law of attraction and positive thinking, banishing negativity and cleansing karma, right action, letting go of attachments, being in the moment, forward states of consciousness and the pineal gland, dance music — there’s gonna be a chapter called Music & Light — brainwaves, releasing serotonin, altered states, some psychology, a full meditation technique, psychoanalysis and how to do self-analysis, purposes inside the self… it’s broad. I want it to be a self-help book that encompasses everything.
“I’ve also been teaching in LA for a year doing workshops — they’re called ‘Meditation, Creative Visualisation and Positive Thinking’. I do them with no more than 10 people in a workshop, I’ve had 60 students so far and they’re all excelling in their lives now. They’re pretty special, they’re intense four-day workshops that last nine hours a day, so pretty hardcore. I go through all of the things that I’ve been talking about in the book. That’s another thing I could do — set up a meditation centre and sort people’s lives out for them. I’ve got so many options.
How long do you think you’ll stay a DJ for?
“Forever, I’d say. Even when I become A-list, I’m going to still continue to DJ, as it’s something I love to do. I love to help people to celebrate life, and I’ll still DJ underground cutting-edge dance music — even when I’m an A-list actor I won’t go and play a commercial cheesy set. I’ll do something because it’s special – private parties, things that I want to do for the love of doing it. Helping adult people into specialist quality music celebrate life.
“As a career, it’ll stop as acting kicks in. It might kick in next year, or the year after or the year after that. I don’t know, but it’s going to be soon. I’d be happy to do two movies a year, maybe three — I’m not thinking about doing a TV series, unless it’s something really cool like Breaking Bad. TV’s not really what I want to do unless the right thing came along.
“But TV shows — they shoot Monday to Friday. Actors don’t work weekends, in which case I can still go out on a Saturday night and do gigs wherever I want. It’s not something that I have to think about stopping doing, although as a career — a livelihood, which it is right now — that’ll stop at some point within the next five years.”
“I fancy myself as a replacement for Anthony Hopkins, to be fair.”
“It’s not that I want to be a great actor — I am a great actor. If you programme ‘I want to be’, then you programme yourself to be a wannabe. I am an amazing actor.”
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