Podcast 111: Seb Wildblood
As a producer, label co-founder and DJ, Seb Wildblood has been entrenched in London’s underground club circuit for some years now. 2018 has seen him release his most ambitious work to date and play globally recognised stages like Burning Man's Robot Heart, all the while championing others through the Church, Coastal Haze and All My Thoughts imprints. As his biggest year to date draws to a close he steps up in our Podcast series with a mix of mesmerising house cuts...
You’d be forgiven for raising an eyebrow when told that Seb Wildblood is one of the most prolific figures in the UK’s underground scene. As co-founder of three labels – Church, Coastal Haze and All My Thoughts – and a former events programmer for the hallowed Corsica Studios, much of his vital work has, admittedly, been somewhat behind the scenes. The past two years have changed that considerably however, with an extensive touring schedule propelling him to new heights and with releases like ‘Jazz Vol.1’ and ‘The One With The Emoticon’ showcasing a producer whose versatility and skill makes for house music that is at once welcoming and danceable, replete with subtly complexities and twists.
2018 has been his biggest year to date. Coming out the other side of 2017’s perpetual touring state, this year saw his labels flourish with releases from Ciel, OMMA and D. Tiffany (Coastal Haze); Goddard, Gnork and Yadava (Church), and Mateis e. Aqir, Secret Lover and Tom VR (All My Thoughts. This month saw the release of his most club-driven EP to date, ‘Grab The Wheel’, a four-track collection that encompasses everything that has made Wildblood’s sound so enticing and distinct.
‘Leave It Open’ invites you into the release with its quick broken beat, luxurious synths and cascading arpeggios, starting things as they mean to continue while the producer’s evolution radiates from every turn. It continues into the emotive, multi-textural two-step of ‘Bad Space Habits’, the sort of track designed for the poignant last stretches of a long night. The title track, by contrast, is as playful as they come, a kaleidoscopic wheelabout of jumpy synths and loose percussion. ‘Landing’ is a reserved and tripped-out end to a triumphant release – one that looks to the future, to myriad possibilities.
And the possibilities do seem endless for Wildblood, with 2018 also being a year that saw him venturing into territories less travelled by UK underground upstarts. For one, he played Burning Man’s Robot Heart, a globally renowned stage that in the same year hosted long-established names like of Carl Cox, Joseph Capriati and Lee Burridge. Bizarrely, he’s also found a fan in one Martin Garrix, with ‘Bad Space Habits’ appearing on one of the global EDM star’s ‘The Martin Garrix Show’ Spotify playlists.
As a momentous year draws to a close then, we caught up with the pivotal talent to discuss the past, present and future. He’s also delivered a superb mix of mesmerising house cuts as part of our Podcast series, which you can dig into below.
Hey Seb. How are you feeling as the year comes to an end? What have been some highlights?
“I’m feeling good, this year I took a step back from a pretty relentless touring schedule, which proved fruitful for both the labels and my productions. Putting a record like ‘Grab The Wheel’ out is something I’ve wanted to do for a little while now so it’s definitely up there. We’ve also worked with artists that have been on our list for some time. All in all, I feel it’s been a well balanced year with more than you might think lined up for 2019 across the board.”
As each of the three labels you co-founded begin to flourish in their own ways has it become difficult to juggle them? If you were to describe the ethos behind each label what would it be?
"It’s important to mention this isn’t a one-man job. There’s a team surrounding all three labels that keep each ship above water and more... Shout out Jake, Dom, Jameson, Charlotte, Adam, Danielle & Jay.
"The juggling aspect hasn’t changed so much as the amount of records released collectively is similar. It’s just now there’s more of a balance between the three labels, whereas in years gone by Church was releasing a whole load more than the rest.
"Church definitely has one foot in the ‘contemporary jazz’ world you speak of. For me, it’s important to keep it fresh whilst staying true to our vibe. There’s a couple of band projects on the way for early next year, but I guess the fun thing with Church is that we have a bunch of sub-labels, so there’s room for manoeuvre.
"Coastal Haze is an amalgamation of (Jake) Hollick and my tastes. We bring an equal amount of ideas to the table, however not a great amount make it onto the label. I think that’s a big reason why Coastal Haze has had such a great year, we’re so precious as to what actually makes a release. It started out as a tape label/side project for both of us and has grown into its own entity pretty rapidly.
"All My Thoughts is intended to be a little deeper. The label is working with some incredibly talented producers that haven’t yet received the attention they deserve. I hope we can continue to build and get it to a place that truly serves these artists. We’ll also be starting a party series next year."
Looking back, can you tell us about your early days programming at Corsica? What do you think working so intimately within a crucial hub of the London scene taught you as you were starting out?
"It was integral to what I do today. Corsica employed me part-time right out of university, giving me the chance to build my own projects whilst having just about enough money to get by. I was DJing there at a weekly party which taught me a lot, but it wasn’t just the DJing. Being given the opportunity to be part of such a respected institution with such strong core values is something I’ll always be grateful for. I was given free rein as a programmer, for the most part.
"Corsica really took a chance on me, I think that’s what's so great about the club and why it’s constantly stood out amidst the ever-changing clubbing landscape of London. They do things differently with little to no compromises. We’re still doing parties there with Coastal Haze, although Jake (Hollick) is a little more hands-on than me these days. It does feel good to still be a part of the family somehow."
Your productions seem to owe as much to downtempo, ambient and contemporary jazz as much as they do to house music. Are these styles that you’re keen to explore more overtly? Who are some musicians in those spheres that are exciting you today?
"Over the last few months, I've been developing a live show. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. However, I have been waiting for the right record to build it around. I also recently started an alias to slip out some bits now and again.
"It’d be too easy to list artists on the label all of which continue to inspire me, but some artists we’ve not worked with that are ticking all the boxes for me are: Anthony Naples - his new album blew me away; Nadia Khan - her record on scissor & thread is definitely worth checking out, and Olsen, who just released an incredible record on 100% Silk."
It’s becoming frustratingly common for people to turn their noses up at the idea of club music (or any instrumental, electronic music) being “personal”. Many people are vocally rejecting the idea altogether. But it’s something you’re quite open about, with the new EP dealing with writing while traveling or “whilst not feeling entirely present”. What would you say to those who don’t think dance music can be “personal”?
"It’s funny you say that. I was having this conversation very recently. One of the things that excites me most when creating music is the moment where you have ‘that’ idea. For me, it feels totally dependable on the time, place, mood. I feel like when it happens, if I’d of sat down an hour later, I definitely wouldn’t have come up with it.
"I once arrived at the restaurant to meet my partner 45 minutes late, I’d completely lost track of time. It was poor form even by my standards (head in the clouds)! Anyhow, we had an argument and left separately. I was feeling pretty down, went home and wrote ‘:~^ ` AKA the one with the emoticon. I remember how bad I felt about the situation but at the same time, I knew if I hadn’t arrived late to dinner, this idea may never have flourished. Mixed emotions to say the least. Making music is such a personal thing and everyone has their own way, but for me a moment, an interaction, a place can really trigger something creatively. I’m a relatively shy person and as cliche as it sounds, making music or sharing music via the labels is a way of me connecting with people in a very real sense, I’d feel lost without it."
Despite obviously being a core figure in the UK underground circuit, you appear to making a few ears prick up well outside that: Appearing in a Martin Garrix playlist on Spotify, playing at Burning Man. I could be wrong of course, but does it feel unusual when what you’re doing gets recognised and platformed on such a large scale? Could you see yourself being destined for massive stages?
"It’s pretty bizarre, but I’m all for it. An important thing this year for me was to try and play with the perceptions of what my sound is. It’s become increasingly easy and accepted to box a bulk of artists with a variety of different influences under one roof, I want to blur the lines as much as possible. 'Grab The Wheel' is my most club-focussed EP to date and next year I’ll be releasing an album with a live band show.
"The Burning Man invite was the strangest thing. I received a message via Soundcloud (which I generally never check) inviting me to play on Robot Heart. I was completely ignorant and had no idea it was such a massive deal. I knew of Burning Man of course, but I now know playing that particular stage is pretty huge, especially having never been before.
"Anyhow, in answer to your question it did and still does feel very weird, but the chance to share music I believe in with people distant to the scene I’m so actively involved in, is an offer I could never refuse. In regards to Martin Garrix, I’m intrigued to know how he found out about my music, I find it fascinating and am glad he's into it. In terms of big stages, I feel like I have the versatility to do it up to a point and enjoy the challenge but it’s not something I dream of. An intimate setting is where I really feel it."
How was Burning Man?
"I felt like a fly on the wall. We drove up from LA and spent the week there, I played two sets. One of which got cut short by some chancer with a USB who told me the set times had changed and he had to go on before sunrise (peak time). I thought nothing of it other than it was a bit of a shame until I got back. My manager received an email from the stage hosts asking how the set was and he mentioned the set time change, they had no idea. Thankfully my Robot Heart set wasn’t disrupted but that’s the thing with Burning Man; there’s no stage manager, no security, other than a couple of police trucks circling around. So a note to all budding DJ’s, if you fancy playing Burning Man, take your USB and chance it. It worked on me.
"Other than that I can only say it was a very intense experience, but that's kind of the fun with this DJ thing, you get implemented into situations that you’d never experience otherwise, that’s probably one of the biggest privileges of doing what I do. Next year it seems I’ll be on the road a lot more so I’m looking forward to more of these moments."
What have you got lined up for the coming months? Both on a personal level and with the labels?
"Next month I play my last gig of the year at Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand. I’ll then be taking three weeks off and traveling around South East Asia, it’ll be my first weeks off in quite some time. As for next year, I’ll hopefully be wrapping up my next record in January, and then I guess we'll plan around that. On the label front, we have forthcoming music in the near future from Rai Scott, Hidden Spheres, Julius Steinhoff and many many more."
Tell us about this mix. What was your thinking behind it? What should we do while listening to it?
"I wanted to focus on the journey aspect with this mixtape. Spanning across a few genres and tempos, this should give a good insight into where my head is at the moment. It's to be listened to in transit."
Anything else we should know?
"Hmmm, I’m always looking for a solid film tip so here’s one I enjoyed recently - Columbus (Kogonada)"
Nadia Khan - Sunburnt
Anthony Naples - Tango
Fruit - 7 xo Planets
Gerry Read - Baby It's So Hard
Lawrence - Crystals
Perma Guest - Berm (Anton Zap Remix)
Mandar - Delon
Jichael Mackson - Zauberwald Pt.2
Perishing Thirst - Poplar Object
DJ Assam - There Will Come Soft Reigns
Chris Geschwinder - In Your Orbit
BFTT - Enin
Reedale Rise - And The Rain Fell
Phuturistix - 551 Blues
Jordan GCZ - Yellow Jackets Descend
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