With “Leon Vynehall’s Diverse Musical Landscape: A Tribute to Fabric”, END. sits down with the Tottenham-based producer to discuss his forthcoming fabric presents mix and the importance the club holds for the electronic music community.
Fabric represents a cornerstone in electronic music: a sacrosanct pillar of creativity, community and experimentalism. Since its inception in 1999, the Fabric name has been synonymous with the underground, representing the driving force behind a long list of cutting-edge genres and artists. From the nights hosted at its 1,600-capacity Farringdon club to its sought-after presents mixes, Fabric symbolises a patchwork quilt of electronic music: a seamless fusion of the leftfield, the new and the avant-garde in an ever-growing manner.
For many, the fabric presents mixes have represented a listening experience beyond the walls of that legendary club on Charterhouse Street — a 20-year-long collection that has provided a peak behind the curtain with its ever-increasing roster of talent. The approach to music Fabric has championed for over two decades — one that places experimentation and genre melding at the forefront — is something epitomised by Leon Vynehall, making the Tottenham-based producer the perfect choice for curating the next instalment in the fabric presents Mix.
From his earlier, dancefloor-focused work like “Music for the Uninvited” to his seminal, concept-driven “Nothing is Still”, Leon Vynehall is an artist who has never coloured inside of the lines, instead exploring the vast range of electronic music’s spectrum and forging his own path of otherness. Since his formative years as a resident DJ in Brighton, Leon Vynehall has gone on to produce critically-acclaimed albums, perform international live shows and even co-write his own novella, showcasing a multi-faceted approach to his creative output and cementing himself as one of the prominent figures in Britain’s underground electronic music scene.
With “Leon Vynehall’s Diverse Musical Landscape: A Tribute to Fabric”, END. sits down with the artist to discuss his upcoming fabric presents mix and the importance the club holds in the electronic music community.
You have recently mentioned how important the role Fabric played in broadening your musical tastes was during your formative years. How does it now feel to be curating your own mix and line-up at the club?
It’s pretty surreal, but it’s something I’ve had in my crosshairs and wanted to do for a long time. Fabric played a big role in broadening my tastes through the mix series; I remember listening to the James Murphy and Pat Mahoney Mix — it really opened me up to what DJing could be. That and that the Swayzak one; they were both very different mixes, but they both treated things in a very similar way. It wasn’t necessarily about the technical flair of the mix, rather the broadness and diversity of it — the smashing of two things together when maybe they shouldn’t have been. But that’s the whole point. It’s the dynamics of going from left to right.
How important is Fabric for the electronic music community?
For London especially, it’s huge. It’s still one or two of the only super clubs left of the last two decades. That’s pretty remarkable. To have a club like Fabric in London putting certain nights on the map in such a huge space is really important — especially when they do, or have, put on more left of centre stuff, or things you wouldn’t usually find in such a big venue. It’s really important that they have been broadening people’s awareness of different styles of music and different artists. So yeah, it’s incredibly important.
"It has to have some sort of identity to it; these things are built and put together as a listening experience, rather than something that’s purely contextualised for a club or a specific environment."
Your approach to production is something that’s intricate and textured, weaving together a vast array of sounds from the electronic music spectrum. Was this something that you looked to reflect with your fabric presents mix?
Absolutely. I approach doing these sorts of mixes, or any mix, really, like a composition — like I would when writing an album. It has to have some sort of identity to it; these things are built and put together as a listening experience, rather than something that’s purely contextualised for a club or a specific environment. You can listen to these mixes anywhere: getting ready to go out, after going out, waking up and walking to walk, having lunch. I approach them, as such, that they’re not just something that’s club fodder. I approach them as I would an album or a composition — a listening experience rather than a mix to showcase your flair as a “club DJ”. You’re given an opportunity to present your taste and the depth of what you love, to share that with people, rather than, say, doing a mix for an outlet that is purely about club music, or ambient music. If I weren’t to try and do something that felt more conceptualised, I would be doing it a disservice and missing an opportunity.
Is there a particular track or artist that comes to mind whenever Fabric is mentioned?
In terms of the club, you say Fabric and you think of Ricardo Villalobos or Craig Richards: the stalwarts of that building. For me, the first person that comes to mind is Levon Vincent, and not because of any mixes he’s done for them, but because my first experience being in Fabric was seeing him play. I remember it being about 8 AM and him playing some psychedelic, other-worldly tribal house and I went into another dimension. For me, that’s what I think about. But on the whole, a lot of people think of a myriad of artists — they’re a super club that’s been going for 22 years now, so to try and pin Fabric as one artist, or one group of artists, is nigh-on impossible — which is to Fabric’s testament, really. It goes back to that first question: that’s how important Fabric has been, not only for London nightlife and the electronic music culture in this city, but for the UK as a whole.
You have mentioned wanting to create “a dynamic mix with a cohesive sonic narrative” with your fabric presents mix. Can you elaborate on the approach behind this?
Putting together these types of mixes, where you have to license songs and ask for permission from artists, labels and publishers, is a lot trickier than, say, putting something together where you have entire free reign as it isn’t being sold — like with an online publication or a podcast. When you put this type of thing together it’s like doing a puzzle, but the puzzle is in your head, and the pieces you are being passed sometimes don’t fit; or sometimes it does fit and someone will then come along and take a piece away; or you have to cram it in and it doesn’t quite look the same, so you take a marker and then re-draw it. The process is so in flux all of the time, so the way I do things is I’ll have a big list of songs that I want to use and artists I want to approach. I’ve done this even before I did my DJ Kicks — I’d always put songs in folders or have a YouTube playlist of artists or songs I’d really want to use whenever it came time to put these together. I always had it in my mind’s eye that I wanted to do DJ Kicks, and then the next would be Fabric, so I’ve always got these folders and playlists of things I want to use.
When the green light is given to be able to do something like the Fabric mix, I start putting it together and get ahead of myself. I start bringing in songs that I want to use before they’ve even been licensed — which is pretty much like shooting yourself in the foot and making a rod for your own back, because quite often they’ll be like “sorry, the artist is no longer with the label” or “they’re deceased”, or “they don’t want you to use it”. So yeah, it’s like building a puzzle, but you think you know what the picture of the puzzle is when it’s finished, but all of the pieces might not look like that, and you’re trying to make them look the way you want them to. On top of that, doing something for Fabric, you have to keep in mind it’s a club. Like with DJ Kicks, I felt like I could do something that wasn’t necessarily tied to club music; it’s a label, and they do a lot of electronic music and dance music, but it isn’t necessarily tied to anything like Fabric is — it’s a club and I wanted to keep that in mind. The easiest way of describing it is like what I would do in an all-night set in a club, but condensed into 70 minutes.
Can you tell us a little bit about the track you have produced for your Fabric compilation?
It’s called Sugar Slip, and I wanted to embody the mix as a whole in that song — it’s club friendly, it’s club focused, but it’s also weird and out-there when it needs to be.
Your work often connects the dots between different creative elements and forms of media. Would you say this is something you’re looking to achieve with your night at Fabric?
With curating the club night, for sure. I thought it would be a great opportunity to do a live show that then moves into the club night at somewhere like Fabric. It gives me the opportunity to invite artists that may not be booked for Fabric, like Poison Anna — she’s an experimental artist, she makes amazing music, but I don’t know whether I would have been able to see a performance like that in Fabric before. I want to see that, so I am inviting her and doing those things. Moving into the club night, I don’t think it’s necessarily combining different forms of media per se, it’s more about being able to put together different diverse types of music, where normally it would just be club focused.
Your creative output can be often very conceptual and personal, like with your album Nothing Is Still, or more centred in free expression like with Rare, Forever. Is there an approach to production you prefer, or is it something that can change depending on how you are feeling creatively?
Great question. I think it does change, but the overarching approach is always the same: having a theme, a narrative or a concept, for me, gives whatever I make purpose in existing. Which is important to me — I don’t want to litter the world with stuff that doesn’t have reason. I think there’s enough of that — and that’s fine, it’s just not something I want to participate in. So whatever I make — whether it’s personal or a fabricated story — the least I want it to have is have a purpose, or a reason, or a message. I think any artist is really trying to express something and say something in order to hear an echo back from whoever is listening to it, and I feel the responses you get are more valuable and enriched when the people who are watching, listening and reading can put themselves into what you have made — either literally, viscerally or emotively. When you get that back — that’s art for me: a conversation between me and whoever is watching or listening to what I have done. That’s where art is the most powerful — I don’t think it should answer questions, I think it should pose more.
Which of your own tracks do you enjoy playing the most live and why?
I mean, in general, if I’m DJing, I feel incredibly uncomfortable playing my own music. I have so much great music from other people. I understand the premise of people coming out and wanting to hear something I’ve written, but I just always feel uncomfortable doing it.
But playing live is obviously a different kettle of fish — you’re there to present your creative vision of what you’ve put together for that amount of time. So, to answer your question: the ones with the most noise in them.