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Thursday 16th, October 2008
John Askew - Z List Interview
Updated: Friday 17th, October 2008

With the recent release of his 2nd artist album, Ant Attwood catches up with Discover boss John Askew to talk about the album as well as various other aspects in this heavyweight trance producer's life.

In the midst of running a label, promoting his album, producing, DJing worldwide and managing to find some time to eat and sleep in between, John Askew has somehow managed to take some time to conduct an interview with Trance.nu. It was my pleasure to discuss with John various subjects, including working with Rob Stevenson, his favorite producers, his album tour and the reasoning behind the album title itself.

Obviously the hottest topic right now when it comes to the UK-native is his uniquely-titled album "Z List Uber Star." Unlike his prior album ("Lower The Tone"), this album is mixed and by John himself in which, he covers several elements found in electronic music of the modern day. The album also sees John collaborate with a few of the most up and coming names in the industry. John has also rather kindly agreed to an exclusive interview with Trance.nu to accompany the review. Here are his answers to the burning questions we asked him:

JOHN: Hi Ant

TRANCE.NU: Your new album Z List Uber Star is out very soon, what is the message you are trying to send out within the album and how do you feel your sound has evolved since your previous album ‘Lower The Tone’ (released 2 years ago)?
JOHN: I’m not really trying to send out a message as such. I’m just making music that I want to make and hoping that other people will like it as much as I do. The stuff on this album is a bit more grown up, a bit more evolved a great deal since “Lower the Tone” which exclusively featured 140 bpm banging club tracks. Z List has some more melodic bits, some breaks, ambient, progressive as well as the more traditional hard techno and trance stuff that people expect from me.

TRANCE.NU: You don’t produce too many vocal tracks, so how was working with Senadee on ‘Nothing Left Between Us’? Is it something we can expect more of in the future?
JOHN: Yes for sure. This was the first vocal track I have ever made and it was fun putting it together. Senadee is so talented. My tastes have changed a bit in the last few years and I’m not so opposed to vocals now – as long as they are good quality with lyrics that mean something and have some relevance.

TRANCE.NU: The album covers a number of different musical styles: from melodic trance right through to tech and uplifting trance towards the end. There’s even some breaks in there. Which, of the 14 tracks on the album, are your personal favourite highlights?
JOHN: I like all of the tracks so it’s hard to select one, but if you had a gun to my head then I guess “Bored of You, Bored of Me”, “Z List Uber Star” “Nothing Left Between Us” and “Fade to Black” are the ones I am playing the most at gigs. I also love “giving you Acid” but it’s rare to play a club that’s open minded enough to play this.

TRANCE.NU: As a DJ who is always traveling, how did you find time to produce all of these great tracks; and have your travels inspired any of the tracks on the album?
JOHN: Many of the tracks were inspired by incidents or specific periods from my recent life and yes it’s been really hard finding the time to make this album, but this is why there hasn’t been a great deal of releases or remixes from me in the last 18 months – because I have been working and concentrating on this album.

TRANCE.NU: There are 3 tracks on the album which are a product of collaborations between yourself and Rob ‘Activa’ Stevenson. How did this collaboration arise?
JOHN: That’s correct, “Fade to Black”, “667” and “Spike” were all co-produced with Rob in his studio. We recently signed Rob to Discover and so I’ve been spending a lot of time with him. He’s a genius and a very talented musician as well as being a really cool well grounded person. We started off with the idea of collaborating under the alias AA Meeting and he came down to my studio where we began “667” which was originally a really hard techy club track. We had a load of fun so we decided to book 2 or 3 more sessions in Rob’s studio to finish this track and to co-produce a few others for my album. I’ve learnt a great deal from working with Rob and he’s certainly influenced the way I make tracks now. We will be back together to complete an EP for Discover Dark in November.

TRANCE.NU: The album is mixed, whereas ‘Lower The Tone’ was unmixed. Was there any particular reason for this change?
JOHN: Z List is mixed, but all the tracks are available in a full length unmixed format as well. They’re all on Beatport right now. The main reason why I did this was because listing to an unmixed album end to end can get quite long winded when you have to deal with these long intros and outros that are there for mixing in and out of. I think it flows a lot better mixed, but I would never release an album without making all the stuff available in full length unmixed format.

TRANCE.NU: Z List Uber Star is a great name for the album/song. What was the inspiration behind naming the album/song by this title?
JOHN: It was a name I came up with for a new club night a friend was putting together – if I remember correctly. He didn’t use it in the end so I took it back for the album as I really liked it. It just stood out from all the other potential titles I had on the short list. In terms of the inspiration behind it or the meaning – I think it’s pretty self explanatory.

TRANCE.NU: Are there any album tour djing dates lined up?
JOHN: Yes there’s a bunch of them all over the world. The list can be found on my mysace or web site.

TRANCE.NU: There seem to be a lot of new producers on the scene these days. Which producers excite you the most at the moment and why?
JOHN: I’m a massive of Sly One and Jurrane who are now exclusively signed to Discover. They have such a fresh sound that I just can’t get enough of. I think they will be huge. The same can be said for for Gary Maguire who releases stuff on our labels under his own name and also as Last Man Standing. I love Activa’s stuff obviously and it’s hard to play a set these days without hammering loads of his stuff. It’s the same with Simon Patterson tracks. He has his sound nailed to absolute perfection. So precise, so tough and so driving – I love it. David Newsum and Matt Hardwick are also making some seriously cool stuff and I love Super 8 & Tab’s records and remixes. Shit, I could list hundreds of names. There is so much talent out there!!

TRANCE.NU: Discover records recently celebrated it’s 40th release with a double cd, mixed by yourself, showcasing the best of the last 40 releases on the label. What can we look forward to in the future from the label?
JOHN: There is loads of cool new stuff coming up. There have been several changes in the Discover line up in the last 6 months - with some artists leaving to join other labels (John O’Callaghan going to Armada and Neal Scarborough leaving to concentrate on other stuff), so we have signed a bunch of fresh names who are all so talented and who I think will all be really big. Names like Activa, Sly One & Jurrane, Gary Maguire, David Newsum and Dirty Weekend who join the existing headliners Sean Tyas, Bryan Kearney, Thomas Datt, etc. We have the next 20 or so releases on Discover mapped out with big singles from Tyas, Colontonio, Activa, myself etc. There’s also some great remixes from Ottaviani, Stoneface and Terminal and other solid names. I think the fans of our stuff will be really into the new material. We’ve also added a new Discover label called “Discover White” which will feature some exclusives and one off rarities. And there is also a new label from Matt Hardwick called “Kill the Lights” which we have just started. The first single is called “Supernal” by Matt himself is out now exclusively through Beatport with a kicking instrumental remix from Last Man Standing.

TRANCE.NU: The ‘Live As’ cd series is very popular because of it’s uniqueness in being recorded live. Are there any plans to release more of these cds in future? What djs can we expect to see behind the decks (besides yourself of course)?
JOHN: There’s 3 or 4 albums planned for the series in 2009 and we have one more to record this year – Activa live from Digital Society in Leeds next month which will be massive. I don’t want to say too much about the albums we have planned for next year because nothing is 100% certain in terms of line ups and venues etc, but rest assured that the fans of the series will certainly be treated to a bunch more Live As albums in the not too distant future – so keep an eye on www.recoverworld.com for updates. We’re also working on a new studio mix album series which I hope to announce details of in the first few months of 2009.

TRANCE.NU: The dance scene in this country has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Do you see this change as a good thing, or are there things you miss from that period?
JOHN: Without wanting to cause too much of a fuss I think the scene in the UK (not including Ireland and Scotland) is pretty stale at the moment. I’m talking about the clubbing scene as opposed to the music. There are lots of great producers making incredible music which means this side of things is as vibrant as it has ever been, but most of the clubs are lacking in the kind of energy and excitement that you find abroad or that you found in the UK in the past. There are obviously exceptions to this – Digital Society in Leeds, Off The Rails in Sheffield, Crasher, God’s and The Gallery in London they all manage to maintain that exciting vibe, but I could list countless others that are dull, dreary horrible places that I have no intention of going back to ever again.

TRANCE.NU: During your illustrious djing career you have travelled to all the corners of the globe and have met various people along the way. Do you have any fond memories that you would like to share with us?
JOHN: There are loads of great memories that always bring back a smile when I think of them and there are new ones constantly being added to the “hard drive”. My memory is absolutely shit but I am currently I the process of trying to get some of these adventures down on paper to maybe start a blog or some shit like that. If you subscribe to my blog on myspace you’ll start getting chapters in the next few weeks.

TRANCE.NU: How do you like to occupy your time when you are not busy djing, travelling, running a record label and producing?
JOHN: I rarely have any spare time. As well as the list you mentioned I also have a radio management and syndication company called The Radio Department. That takes up an incredible amount of my time. If I do get time off I spend it with my son and my girlfriend or maybe catching up with close friends. I’m really into mountain biking as well which I’ve been doing loads of over the summer.

TRANCE.NU: Are there any new productions from yourself in the pipelines? Any plans to get a head start on another album?
JOHN: I took a bit of a break when I finished the album, but yes I’m now back on the case making new stuff. I have just remixed a new single from Activa and Chris & Matt Kidd called “U.R.” which is a more techno orientated sound that think I want to expand on. It’s influenced by early Cari Lekebusch records that I’ve been listening to recently. His early stuff on Hybrid and Drum Code is just awe inspiring. There are a few other remixes I am working on for the Discover labels and I have a new track called “Fucking Caps Lock” which will be a future single. There’s also the EP I am doing with Activa for Discover Dark and I’m hoping to get back into the studio with Senadee to do more vocal stuff with him in the not too distant future. I’m feeling pretty inspired at the moment so there may well e a new album towards the end of 2009.

TRANCE.NU: Lastly thank you very much for this interview John, best of luck with the album release. Do you have any message for the readers at Trance.Nu?
JOHN: It’s been my pleasure. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me or my Discover labels over the last few years. You rock.

For more information on John Askew head to the following links:

Interview written by
Ant Attwood

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