Off the Record | Deep Space Orchestra
Deep Space Orchestra comprise the duo of Chris Barker and Si Murray, two artists well versed in the art of making well-crafted, fad-free house music. The reputable pair have enjoyed a host of releases on a plethora of esteemed labels, including Delusions of Grandeur, Quintessentials and Instruments of Rapture, and have enjoyed permanence with their assured DJ sets.
After 3 years in the making, give or take, DSO released their debut album, Memory, at the back end of last year. A listen through the album gives a real sense to their varying style of house, with each track fleshed out with some lush melody work, intriguing cosmic detail and general dealings of accomplished production you would expect of artists with their history. Above all else it brilliantly illuminates the vision of their musical ambition, setting a new precedent for future releases.
Following our introductory Off the Record feature with Spencer Parker, we’re delighted to follow that up with equally great musical insight from Deep Space Orchestra. Off the back of their debut album we caught up with the pair to talk about the process of making the album, their favourite tracks, artists and much more.
You’ve released your debut album Memory towards the end of last year, how was the process of putting this together and what have you aimed to convey with the record? Do either of you have a favourite track from the album?
SI: The most apt thing I could say about the process of making this album is to fall back on that old adage about the best-laid plans. It’s been more than 3 years from actually sitting down and deciding ‘right, from here on in we’re making an album’ to the album actually being on sale in shops. I think we envisioned it taking about a year, 18 months max, when we started but there have been so many complications along the way, many of them personal rather than music related. There’s definitely a book waiting to be written at some point about the serial ridiculousness of the last 3 years! I don’t know how all this might have affected the music itself. I think we just wanted to try and make a ‘proper’ album – yes, something this is recognisably ‘us’, with that house and techno spine to it, but incorporating more of our wider influences. I think my favourite track is Starman, the closer on there. We always said we wanted to do something soundtrack-y on the album.
Chris: Yeah, I’d have to choose one of the last two tracks, Starman or All Systems Down – between them they pretty much encapsulate our approach to the whole project.
Have your tastes and production styles evolved much since your earlier releases?
Chris: Tastes, probably not so much – I look for the many of the same things in music now as I did 10 or 15 years ago and I think Si’s the same – but our production style has improved. We’ve got a lot better technically in terms of production but we’re also a lot more ruthless now in terms of quality control.
What kind of music do you aim to put out on your Use of Weapons label and what else have you got coming up?
Si: I wouldn’t say there’s an absolute common thread, stylistically, to the music we’ve released so far but most of it falls somewhere between house, techno and disco. There’s zero over-arching plan with the label, we kind of meander from one release to the next!!! The next release should hopefully land maybe around March 16 and should be mostly brand new DSO stuff although one or two of our Haku or Other Worlds solo tracks might sneak on there.
What do you feel your best record is / the record you are most proud of?
Si: Ai ai ai! Hard question. Probably Clockwork Ninja from Use of Weapons 001.
Chris: Probably the album! We sweated over it like we never have on any of our other releases. The Bucktown EP we did for Quintessentials is another big favourite though.
You host the Above the Clouds show on KMAH radio, how important a role do you think online radio stations like these play?
Chris: For us it’s really important as it gives a lot of focus to the digging we were doing anyway. You always turn up forgotten tracks that you’d bought years ago but hadn’t played for one reason or another; it’s like getting new records for free. It always serves as good inspiration when we get back in the studio.
You’re set to have a live show in 2016, what material can we expect to hear in this and how will it differ to your DJ sets?
Si: We’re really excited about doing our thing live, we just need to get our arses into gear and rehearse like there’s no tomorrow! It’s going to be mostly stuff from the album and other unreleased material with a sprinkling of older tracks that we’re trying to re-create using the gear that we’re going to be using live as opposed to how they were originally created and recorded. We’ve managed to do this successfully with one of the tracks that we really wanted to do live so hopefully we’ll be able to do the same again with some of the other older tracks that we’d like to incorporate into the show. I suppose that it’s going to be a really different experience from a time perspective – when we’re djing, we like to play longer sets where possible, 3-6 hrs ideally so we can really play the breadth of stuff that we’re passionate about. With the live show, it’s going be an hour, maybe 70 mins tops realistically, so there’s a subtle pressure to try and fit as much in coherently as possible within that timeframe. Somewhere down the line we’d love to be able to do something like Juju&Jordash/Magic Mountain High, longer live sets where you can really push yourself. We’ll have to learn to play some instruments first though. Which could be a stumbling blocks. Balls……
Can you shed some lights on some of the records that have had most influence on you?
Chris: 1990s techno and house out of Detroit and Chicago plus labels like R&S were huge influences at the time and are probably the closest reference points for what we’re doing now, but I’m equally influenced by soul, jazz, disco, afrobeat, early rave and all kinds of other stuff. It’s hard to pinpoint specific records; it all ends up in the mixer somehow.
Si: Hmmmmmmm. How long have you got?! I suppose for the sake of brevity I can narrow it down to one – I’ve mentioned this in interviews before but it’s fitting to do so again considering the sad passing of Diane Charlemagne this week. Up to the age of about 15, I was a metal and punk skater-type kid although I did like a bit of hip hop as a result of the Judgement Night soundtrack. I had zero interest in the Prodigy or any of that kind of stuff that was getting big in the early to mid 90s and was being listened to by a lot of my mates. Then one midweek night I was doing some homework listening to the Evening Session on Radio 1 and Lamacq played Inner City Life and it stopped me in my tracks.
What are some of your favourite albums?
Chris: Rhythm of Life by James Mason always springs to mind, as does Aja by Steely Dan and Dots & Loops by Stereolab. Could probably listen to those three on repeat for days.
Si: Here’s 3: GZA – Liquid Swords. Photek – Modus Operandi. Fingers Inc. – Another Side.
Which artists do you think we should be keeping an eye out for?
Chris: I’ve been really impressed by everything I’ve heard from Al Dobson Jr so far – can see him going on to do big big things.
Si: I’m really digging The Maghreban’s releases at the moment
What’s your favourite record to play out at the moment?
Chris: Max McFerren – Der Funke on 1080p. It’s just so twisted.
Si: Kink – Yako from the first Burek release. Ultra naughty speed garage-y house shit.
What was the last record you bought?
Chris: Ohana by Studio Paradiso – it’s absolutely gorgeous
Si: The Maghreban – ‘Wonder Woman’ 12″ on Versatile.
What’s your favourite venue to play?
Chris: There’s a small venue here in Liverpool called 24 Kitchen Street that I really love – right size, right vibe, right kind of crowd. Pretty rare to have a duff night in there. Pratersauna in Vienna was a big highlight too.
Si: Pratersauna in Vienna
What has been the musical highlight of your career so far?
Chris: Probably that night in Pratersauna! It was bananas.
Si: Maybe Gilles Peterson playing one of our tracks on Radio 1.
Do you remember the first store that you bought a record in and what it was?
Chris: I think it was Our Price in Tamworth. I wish it was something credible but I’ve got a funny feeling it was Doing the Do by Betty Boo. In my defence I would have been about 9 at the time.
Si: Alan’s in Wigan. Probably some Cannibal Corpse or other ridiculous death metal album!
Who is your favourite DJ?
Chris: Domu – he’s sadly not active any more but back in the day nobody could touch him.
Si: Domenic Cappello from the Sub Club in Glasgow.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
Chris: Probably a “serious” composer like Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman – would kill for the chance to utterly ruin a perfectly arranged orchestra.
Si: Gifted & Blessed.