Interview with Winston Hazel

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When considering potential interviews for TBC we would be hard pushed to find a better person to comment on the club and electronic music scene in Sheffield than Winston Hazel. One half of the team behind the legendary Sheffield 80s club night Jive Turkey, one half of the pioneering techno outfit, Forgemasters and the driving force behind Kabal, Hazel has been shaping the scene in the steel city for the last 4 decades. Jive Turkey may not be a night that TBC readers will necessarily be aware of. It hasn’t received the notoriety or infamy of nights such as the Hacienda from the same era. When it comes to club nights that have made an impact both socially and politically however, Jive Turkey is up there with the best of them. At the time Jive Turkey was one of the biggest and most revered nights in the country. Its events at Sheffield City Hall and Occasions attracted party goers by the bus load from all around the UK and internationally with people coming from as far as Canada to experience a piece of the Jive Turkey action. The coming together of Hazel and DJ Parrott (Richard Barrett) meant that Jive Turkey was one of the first nights where both black and white clubbers came together under one roof to party side by side in what had been, up until that point, a very segregated scene on a national level. In addition, Hazel was well known for his shows on pirate radio stations as well as working at the FON record store both of which helped him in making a huge success of his Track with no name” as Forgemasters with Rob Gordon – the first track to be released on Warp Records. As if that wasn’t enough, over the past 15 years, Hazel has put on almost 50 Kabal parties in various unique and alternative venues across Sheffield. We met the man for a coffee and a chat and were blown away by the positivity and humility of this local hero. Despite being booked into a nearby studio to work on new productions on Shabby Doll records, he gave up over 2 hours of his time to provide us with the detailed and fascinating history of Winston Hazel, Jive Turkey, Forgemasters and Kabal as well as the scoop on his exciting new projects. Hazel said that in each interview he has given he’s shared more than the previous and this was no exception.

When interviewing Hazel it would be remiss to start any where other than by obtaining a detailed history of the seminal club night he co-ran with Barrett, Jive Turkey. For those that don’t know and for many that are too young to remember, Jive Turkey was a night which began at a club which will be known to local clubbers today as Fez but back then was called Mona Lisa’s. Hazel already had a huge following from his DJing at Turn Ups – a big night on the black scene in a club in one of the buildings near Commercial Street Bridge. In addition to that however he played at a night called Maximillion’s held at the club underneath Mona Lisa’s and it was from this gig that Hazel’s path first crossed with Barrett’s. Eager to find out what was happening upstairs, Hazel went up for a listen and enjoyed the 70s disco, funk and go go music played at Hothouse, as the night was then called. This was a nice contrast for Hazel to the music he was playing at that time at Turn Ups and was different to the music his black friends were into. “A lot of my black friends weren’t into 70s funk. What I played was more progressive – the early funk bands like Zap and Clear. I went along and I brought my mates. Parrot invited me to play with him as I was playing the new electro- he knew I knew what I was doing. I invited him to come to Turn Ups which he found a bit of a strange experience as it was like: “white man in here”! He liked the fact that it was quite complimentary to what he was doing. I didnt invite him to play at mine. My crowd were quite snobbish. There was a black white separation.

At Barrett’s night the crowd were however more open and one thing that Hazel found particularly satisfying was that the dancing started as soon as people got into the club. A main player in the Footworking and Fusion Footworking dance movement, Hazel and his friends that came along to Hothouse were always dressed, ready for a dance battle: “We used to make our own clothes: the funk ruffle jeans – we cut the back and put blue zips in and a red strip. When you’re ready to battle you would pull the zips down. We had a little towel hanging out of the pocket and cap and when the bad tunes came on wed slam the towel down and start footworking. People would start to try and copy us. They couldnt do it but it was brilliant. Thats what you want as a dancer!.

Hazel’s friends and fans from Turn Ups didn’t venture to Jive Turkey: My crowd were a lot more flippant about what they didnt know, however, that all changed with the collapse of the jazz funk all dayer scene. Hazel had also been a big name on this scene djing at parties at The Palais in Sheffield, the Humming Bird in Birmingham, Rock City in Nottingham and Hammersmith Palais, London. He played along side DJs such as Jonathan, Hugh and Clark and Mark Shaft at the all day parties and as a scene this was far more mixed in terms of its crowd. When the all dayer scene collapsed in the mid-eighties there was nothing like it in the country except for Jive Turkey. Hazel’s position at the forefront of this scene created a surge of interest in Jive Turkey and the night catapulted. Far more black clubbers started to come to the night creating a more diverse demographic at Jive Turkey that was reminiscent of the all dayer scene. In addition, a lot more white males and even football hooligans started to come. Jive Turkey was seen as an Owls club but due to the eruption of ecstasy use there was never any trouble in that regard. In relation to the impact of ecstasy on Jive Turkey Hazel said: “the e thing made the party bigger than the venues. Whereas you would have people dancing on the dance floor only before, when ecstasy came in, the party was happening all over the club. It was incredible to see that erupt!.

Then the Warp sound started to rear its head. Hazel was working in the FON record store, which was run by the founders of Warp and he also hosted The Friday Afternoon Dance Party on pirate radio with the tagline: “Get ready for the strong end of the week cos we don’t do weekends!. Unbeknownst to him, his radio show was reaching as far as Leeds and Bradford. People started to travel around to funk nights in other parts of Yorkshire. “These nights existed but Jive Turkey was the one everyone talked about. Something was happening on a bigger scale. The budding artists were coming to Jive Turkey as a means of finding out what was going on and people were bringing music for us to play. Jive Turkey brought huge names such as Todd Terry and Roger Sanchez to Sheffield for big parties at Kiki’s and Occasions – a club with a capacity of around 350. Hazel and Barrett however, overfilled it with 700 people with crazy parties where people would be banging on the roof. It also transpires that Sheffield was infamous for producing good speed and Hazel even told us about a pensioner who used to make bath loads of the stuff! In describing the Jive Turkey crowd Hazel said: “Everybody knew each other. We were the part of society that bucked the system – that would question the authorities – the creatives. The more raw, techno side of the music played at Jive Turkey completely fitted the phonics of Sheffield. “We had that pounding noise of steel thudding……ricocheting across the hills. My bedroom looked over the park way. I saw them digging that up. I watched them digging it. These things had a huge impact on the music that we wrote. I was optimistic through all that as for me that was change and I like change but it kept me motivated. I had the belief things will change in time. For Hazel, the economic and social issues in Sheffield were the reason that Jive Turkey existed and parallels can be drawn with the eruption of techno culture in Berlin and Detroit. In the UK, the all dayer scene and Northern soul were the glue that stuck the disenfranchised youth at that time together and Jive Turkey came along and took things to a new level. Winston states with conviction that it was the marriage between him and Barrett that allowed for this to happen creating the mix of black and white. “Jive Turkey was culturally and politically super important in this country.

I asked Hazel about his discovery of bleep techno to which his blunt response was: “Bleep techno never existed as far as I was concerned. We weren’t making house music/ techno, we just knew what worked. When I went into the studio with Robert (Gordon) it was a bi product of really good radio stations, really good nights, like attracting like and if you’re doing something really good you attract other really good things. Im a firm believer in the universe providing you with what you need.” Hazel had met Gordon (The other half of Forgemasters) at school. It was the pirate radio stations and Jive Turkey that allowed Winston to reach a lot of people and promoted a belief in him. The seminal Forgemasters tune: Track with no name was produced when Gordon got his hands on an Akai s100 sampler. “I was blown away by it, he was blown a way by it. We were experimenting in the studio for about four hours and ended up with a broken riff with the sampler. We didnt even known it was finished but then we played it and I was like get it on tape Im playing it on the radio tomorrow! We couldn’t think of the name and we both shouted, at the same time, Track with no name!. The reaction when Hazel played it on the radio the next day was insane the phones went fucking mental – next day people were ringing the shop asking about it”. People started to copy the sound and bring tapes to the club for Winston to play: I was playing it having not listened to it, the rougher the better!.

The track had such a positive response that Hazel and Gordon decided they needed a name and what could be more fitting for a techno outfit from Sheffield than Forgemasters? Hazel and Gordon decided to press 500 white labels of “Track With No Name” and they even hand wrote them. Hazel had friends in many high profile records shops and he got 5/6 of them to distribute the track including Groove records, Spinning in Manchester and Blue Bird in London. When Hazel phoned them to find out the 5 top tracks playing at that time, in every case “Track with no name” was one of them!

In 2014 Jive Turkey was recognised by Red Bull Music Academy when it was chosen to host a pod in the land mark event “Revolutions in Sound” at the London Eye. Twenty club nights were honoured in this way, hosting one pod of the eye each. “It was a great experience! Parrot loved it and he is very hard to please. There was a panel of twenty people who decided which nights should host a pod and Jive Turkey was the only night that got a unanimous vote. “We intended on making our pod an incredible experience for the people that came to it. We said we wanted 8 dancers of our choosing to come in. They understood by the time the pod had done its first rotation. We did not want head nodders – theres nothing more uninspiring. The girls were zumba dancers that come to our parties now. They weren’t probably alive at the time of Jive Turkey. The foot workers were a bit stiff but we all had a brilliant time!

A lot of Winston’s contemporaries left Sheffield around 1999/2000 due to a change in the scene prompted by the rise of the super club. When Gatecrasher became so huge in the Steel City Hazel along with many other were left thinking as he put it: “What the fuck”? “Do you not get it”?. Hazel moved to London and set up some parties in the capital but resented always fitting into somebody else’s thing. He had to go though he says to give Sheffield space to breathe. What I recognised was that there had been a lot of animosity towards me and Parrot. A lot of people resented us and people wouldnt let us play at their nights. People saying: you get all the work. When I left for London I said I was going to give Sheffield some time to breathe but it was important for me to come back. It was love that eventually motivated Hazel to come back up North as he met his current partner, Rachel and fell in love for the first time. It was during this period that Kabal began as well as Scuba, a club which provided Hazel with many fond memories.

Over the last 15 years Hazel has been part of team Kabal putting on famously good parties in alternative, unique venues in Sheffield. He described the early days of Kabal as a product of his emerging friendship with friend Raif Collis who had offered to catalogue Hazel’s extensive, 25,000 strong, record collection. Raif, who had a passion for funk music, took a year out of his calendar to sort through this huge treasure trove of music and in payment, Winston told him to keep a copy of any that he liked. As a result, hardly surprisingly, Raif developed a taste for dance music. Raif was someone who Hazel said was instrumental in bringing people together on a social level and no where was this skill more utilised than with the bringing together of the Stone Jam collective. Stone Jam was a project started by Andrew Greenlees, now sadly deceased. The aim was to bring creative people from different groups in Sheffield together and the venue for this collective was the newly opened Castle Court flats:

“Castle court when it opened was like creative hotel – it was incredible. Everyone looked after each other making it a very safe environment. There were lots of parties and lots of drugs. I lived there for 3 years. It seemed like the longest time ever. Where I lived in Castle Court was actually a few doors from where I lived as child. The parties at Castle Court were legendary – people came over from Manchester to party and the parties went on for days and days”.

In 1994 Hazel went to Jamaica for the first time and Raif went with him: “That was when I knew this was my best friend“. Hazel went away to discover himself at a point where he says he needed to stop himself from “tipping over the drug edge“. When asked what he discovered, he said with utter conviction: “Winston Hazel“. “I had been taking so many drugs that I went to Jamaica and I didn’t even feel black. I went out there and I took off all my gold and my glasses. I felt like I stood out people would shout out “yo english” when I walked down the street. I really quickly wanted to feel it was home, I didn’t want it to feel alien. That decision to strip myself down and blend in was really important for me to feel happy with myself and feel happy with my background. Embracing the music, the culture. I never saw so many people so happy with nothing I aimed to emulate that and keep it with me forever”.

Hazel was clearly highly influenced by what had happened in Jamaica and he and Raif came back with a new sound for Sheffield. At the time DJ Pipes (Peter Donohoe) along with Ben Weaver, Ashton Thomas and others ran a night called Waxlyrical. The sound that Hazel and Raif brought fitted the sonic emphasis for bass and ticked a lot of boxes for Sheffield. “I came back with a heart break rhythm, ragga rhythm track – i was taking ragga and funk and soul and also infusing rage as instrumental tracks back to back to back to back – never been done tracks, mixing them all together.” This certainly created quite an impact: “The techno heads were listening up and the reggae heads started to hear it as well. This started to spark similar feelings to those that Jive Turkey had created.” The upshot of all this creativity and new musical energy was to give Raif the desire to put together Kabal and Rude Movements. Kabal is now in its 15th year and has only one more party planned in Spring which will be the 50th and very sadly the finale. TBC went along to the free Kabal all day party at this years Tramlines and can only say make sure you get a ticket for the Autumn Kabal because the atmosphere and music in that place is like nothing else in Sheffield.

Never one to standstill however, of course Hazel is already channeling his energies into new and equally exciting projects not least his work as part of The Originators. The Originators is a collective of electronic music outfits who started out at the time of the fall of the Berlin wall and comprises one member of each of the following: Forgemasters, Unit 3, Altern8, Rhythmatics and LFO. Each produces a track and then forwards it to the others to remix. The tracks are to be released on the experimental Chill Records and rehearsals for a live tour start next year. Keep those eyes peeled for up coming gigs TBCers, this one is not to be missed! In addition Hazel is also producing music for Shabby Doll Records run by Matt Swift.

Well readers that’s the story of Winston Hazel, a true Sheffield hero and one of the most inspiring people TBC has ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Aphrohead – Resurrection TBC Promo Review

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We are proud at TBC to be able to bring you another promo album review and this time its the turn of Aphrohead with his album “Resurrection” on Crosstown Rebels. Already we can imagine you are asking “who is Aphrohead?” but don’t worry we initially asked the same question and in fact actually bypassed this album early on when it became available. With a little bit of detective work however, we found out that this is in fact an older alias of Felix Da Housecat which has been resurrected with an aptly named album title. Felix Da Housecat is an old favourite of TBC from way back in the early naughties when we were introduced to the sounds of electro clash which was heavily influence by the crazy electronica of the 80s but spiced up with the newer, more contemporary sounds of electro (heavy basslines, acid squelches, drums and many other effects you could throw in). The seminal track Silver Screen, Shower Scene lead TBC to discover artists such as Jacques Lu Cont (Thin White Duke remix of the aforementioned track), the label City Rockers which brought us some great compilation via Damian Lazarus (discovering Damian at the same time too who would go on to great things with Crosstown Rebels), Soulwax, Tiga, Ellen Allien and Miss Kittin to name but just a few of many, many DJs and producers. Once we found out who was behind the Aphrohead alias we therefore became very excited! The LP provides us with 10 new tracks to listen to and review which take us on a journey from electro to heavy techno, we hope you read on and can enjoy the album yourself.

Tracklist:
1. RESURRECTION
2. KlymaXXX
3. Come to ME
4. Let’s PRANCE
5. Elevator (I’ll Take The Stairs)
6. Grown Man Cryy
7. 1KING 1QUEEN
8. Medusa
9. Front to Backk
10. Sashe Sashe Sashe

From the 1st track you feel right at home with the album title track Resurrection which is signature Felix Da Housecat, vocoder lyrics, electro synth keys and uplifting tune ease you into the album, welcome back Felix! KlymaXXX steps it up a notch but continues in the electro clash style with a rolling bassline, uplifting synth keys and squelchy sounds that hark back to the early naughties and leave a smile on your face as you cannot fail to be entertained by this track, its uplifting, euphoric and feels like a sign of good things to come on the album. The track builds and builds to a climax, pardon the awful pun. Come To ME can also be put into the electro genre but with a more deep house feel, the track is atmospheric, moody and again delivers some excellent keys and a nice kick drum which moves along nicely. It is a step down in pace from KlymaXXX but nonetheless it continues a run of three great tracks to start the new album. At this stage it feels like Aphrohead was trying to lull you into a false sense of security where the three previous tracks sat nicely in the electro genre, this tracks introduces some heavier bass and a number of different drums which move the track into a more techno vein (which obviously excited TBC), by two minutes in you are wanting to prance like the track is telling you to as a marching techno beat kicks in, “let’s prance”. By the time you get to track 5 you start to forget that you had been enjoying the electro a few tracks ago as we move into some heavy bass tinged techno with Elevator (I”ll Take The Stairs). While we have no idea where the track name comes from and to be honest the title seems totally random, this track is an excellent bouncing, rolling techno track with some great percussion thrown in for good measure and the vocal is perfect. Play this track loud and you will be thoroughly entertained, turn the sub woofer on and you will be blown away and of course you will be upsetting the neighbours. Mid way through the album and you are well on course for the heavy techno we eluded to in our introduction.

Onto the second half of the LP we go and Aphrohead continues to deliver, Grown Man Cryy is up sixth and wow this is a stormer, it starts hard and continues throughout. This is full ‘pots and pans’ style techno, its fast, heavy, has a kooky lyric which delivers in a monologue style (which sounds like Felix himself, what do you think?) with some gospel style elements  and simply rocks. Some may be offended by the heavy nature of this track as it is simply relentless but TBC absolutely love it and it is one of the standout tracks on the album. 1King 1Queen, which some of you may recognise from a recent TBC DJ set is another of the standout tracks on the album, heavy techno continues and once again the vocal is on point to deliver a balanced package of tune and vocal. The techno is straight out of Tresor, hard, banging, fast and is right up TBC’s street. When the vocal comes in it is haunting and freaky along with a circus style fairground tune (a distorted accordion sound) before the techno bangs straight back in. Where has Aphrohead been hiding if he has had this level of techno in the making, this level of production is what we would expect from Felix but not on this genre! By the time you get towards the end of the LP you may be a little exhausted but track 8 Medusa does not relent however it doesn’t match up to the levels experienced in tracks 6 and 7. The production level decreases with a more acid squelch track that doesn’t vary too far away from its core apart from the Medusa lyric that is thrown in from time to time. The track is well suited to the second half of the album as it continues the heavy techno vibe but it fails to inspire, it does have some crazy, scary effects and sounds towards the end though. Front to Backk is the penultimate track and the you may think that Aphrohead would start to bring the album down a few notches but the heavy techno continues and the production level picks up a bit too from Medusa, returning to the style of the earlier standout tracks, turn it up loud and scare your friends, this track is crazy. The last track Sashe Sashe Sashe does finally see a slight drop in pace and is not as monstrous as the last 4 tracks but it still falls into the techno bracket and is a great way to end the album as it introduces some melody and atmospheric sounds to the techno structure. “Sashe let’s dance” is one of the lyrics but we doubt you will need this reminder as you will have been dancing your ass off for the last 40 minutes.

As the album comes to an end you will want to put it on loop and listen again, or extract a few favourites and belt them out loud to really appreciate this album. We will have this on our stereo and will be waxing lyrical about it at TBC HQ for some time to come. Super album Felix/Aphrohead, we are pleased you have resurrected this old alias courtesy of Crosstown Rebels and look forward to more of the same soon.

Thanks for reading, more to come very soon.

TBC