Electronic music producer & DJ: BinaryFunction (UK)
Electronic music’s surge in popularity can be explained through the concept of information cascades.
The scene emerged around the late 70s and made a few advances during the 80s, only to return underground. By the 90s, its presence was making its way into society. At the turn of the millennium the intimate, small raves of the nineties turned into parties attended by hundreds and hundreds of people. The demand called for bigger venues resulting in today’s festivals attended by hundreds of thousands. The phenomenon of web 2.0, the appearance of smartphones and social media had a major role in spreading the different genres of electronic music world wide. Many analogue equipment since have been translated into digital software that made the electronic music production part accessible to the masses, while the prices of analogue equipment have skyrocketed and DJ-ing is mostly done with CDJ’s and USB sticks instead of records and analog turntables.
There are only a few DJ’s in the current scene who can say that they have been present from the very beginning – having started off with analogue gear, shifting to digital throughout the years, yet, never completely leaving analogue behind. BinaryFunction (UK) is one of them. Next to his passion, he kept on working in his day-time job as a network analyst and since then raised 4 beautiful daughters, but he never gave up on his ambitions to make a career as a DJ and producer. Till today he is producing actively and recently had more opportunities in Germany and in the UK to perform, too.
I asked him about a year ago about his past, the present and about his future plans.
Lost.Connection: You are not a novice to the electronic music scene. When did you get involved and how?
BinaryFunction: I actually started learning to DJ in 1985 after becoming immersed in the whole hip hop scene. I saved enough money to buy my first Realistic 2 channel mixer and a pair of old school turntables from a second hand shop, and from here I started to practice the art of DMC style DJ’ing with 2 copies of Public Enemy’s Yo Bum Rush the Show album. I was completely hooked from here on in and started to make a name for myself as a DJ amongst my school friends.
My mother is British and my father is from the paradise island of Mauritius, he came to the UK in the 60’s. We had our first real family holiday to Mauritius also in 1985. I fell in love with the island and on the last day of the 6 week holiday, I locked myself in a room and cried for ages and ages because I didn’t want to leave. I think a connection was made between me and the island during this time, a connection that would come calling my name again in 1991 when I decided to leave the UK to make a new life of my own as a young bachelor. By this time I had surpassed the hip hop era and transitioned through in to the acid house and techno scene.
Around 1989 my parents bought me my first pair of Technics turntables that I had dreamed of owning for several years and I self-taught the art of beat matching. The inspiration to become a DJ came from watching legends like Jazzy Jay, DJ Cheese (winner of the World DMC DJ Championship in 1986), Chad Jackson (UK scratch mix DJ, winner of the DMC World Championships in 1987 who went on to produce the hit single ‘Hear the Drummer (Get Wicked)’ which sampled Public Enemy (vocals) and a horn loop from Mark The 45 King who gained fame with his breakbeat track ‘The 900 Number’), all the old school greats and the whole coolness of hip hop itself. I was mesmerised by the sound of the needle on the record as it was manipulated back and forth to create this amazing scratch sound. The warm sound of vinyl, the sheer joy of holding the music in my hands and having total control of the beat etc.
BinaryFunction: Manchester played a huge part in my early DJ’ing years providing me with a constant nourishment of the freshest tracks from around the world. Iconic record shops such as Spin Inn, FAT City Records, Vinyl Exchange and of course my favourite, Eastern Bloc would feed my addiction to the music. Mauritius on the other hand back in 1991 was completely behind the times when it came to the electronic music scene, with just one or two local club DJ’s playing some odd European tracks here and there. This was a prime opportunity to demonstrate my style and sound and I very quickly secured a residency within a couple of weeks of arriving on the island of Mauritius.
To give you an idea of how difficult DJ’ing really was in Mauritius back then, try to imagine the old school disco’s where no one would approach the dance floor until that one well known track came out the speakers. In this case it would be something like It’s ‘My Life’ by Dr. Alban‘ or ‘All that She Wants’ by Ace of Base, you get the picture. But then one completely unknown track would clear the dance floor in seconds, that’s what I was faced with, and here was me, trying to drop Joey Beltram’s ‘Energy Flash’ and Jay Dee’s ‘Plastic Dreams’ to this same crowd. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to strike the right balance to keep the crowd interested and dancing throughout my entire set… well, most of them (*laughing).
LC: After having started DJ’ing and producing in Mauritius, how many years later did you win that particular DMC competition, that brought you the breakthrough on the island?
BinaryFunction: In 1995 I saw a flyer for a DMC competition from the club where I first started out in 1991. Unfortunately, I never kept hold of a copy of this flyer, but I do remember it saying the competition would be judged by French DMC officials and hosted by 1991 French DMC Champion DJ Crazy B. I had one thing in my head at the time of seeing this and that was to win the competition. It was stated on the flyer that the winner would go on to represent Mauritius in the DMC world competition and would be flown over to Reunion Island for the preliminary heats. I did win the competition in the club, with a trophy to prove and some great photos, but unfortunately the promoters of the event in Mauritius did a runner with the takings and I never made it to Reunion. I am very happy to say that I recorded my set live from the competition using a small portable minidisc recorder and it is currently up on my SoundCloud. It’s a 25 year old piece of personal history for me and it has received some great feedback. Artists in the mix include, LL Cool J, Apache, Bionic Booger Breaks, Public Enemy and more. I was competing against some 10 or so local DJ’s.
BinaryFunction: During my time living and DJ-ing on the island I started to organise some events of my own and word spread to the neighbouring island of Reunion. In 1996 I was contacted by a friend named Sylvie asking if I would like to come and play a techno set on the island. I said yes of course and a few years later Sylvie placed me on a huge event DJ-ing alongside the legendary Laurent Garnier. It was from here that I started networking and becoming friends with some of the already known DJ’s from Europe, like Jack de Marseille, Charles Schillings, Stéphane Pompougnac (most known for his Hotel Costes compilation series which got him opportunities to spin at fashion shows all around the world and also at Cannes film festival) to name a few.
Charles Schillings is a Belgian House DJ, producer and sound designer and former resident DJ of Parisian nightclubs like Queen and Rex Club, as well as Le Café d’Anvers (Antwerp, Belgium). Similar to Stéphane Pompougnac, he stayed close to the fashion designer world and has regularly scored shows for famous designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Alexandre Vauthier, as well as famous brands such as Céline, Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, Chopard and Armani. ]
BinaryFunction: I have many memories from the Laurent Garnier party but one of my favourites was the pre-gig dinner. I was sat right next to Laurent in this really nice modest restaurant and you can imagine me, this kid from Manchester, totally used to this VIP treatment (not). The menu comes along and I’m like wtf should I order, I had no idea so I waited to see what Laurent was going to order and I said, I’ll have the same as him please. The steak arrived, it was still mooing on the plate (apologies to any vegetarians out there), very raw, swimming in blood, what the hell did I just order? And of course I had to pretend it was exactly to my liking and so I started to eat it, each mouthful washed down with a huge glug of red wine. The moral of this story, I should have just ordered the fish and chips (haha).
LC: You yourself had been a regular clubber while living in the UK. Would you share with us your memories and experiences about club goers and the UK clubbing scene back then? What do you think has changed since?
BinaryFunction: For me it was the late 80’s when I first started going to clubs in and around Manchester. I went to pretty much all of the clubs that were playing acid house and techno at the time, but the main ones for me were the Thunderdome, the Hacienda, Konspiracy, The Orbit, Angels Burnley, Shelley’s Laserdome, The Sound Garden and many of the illegal warehouse raves mainly in the Burnley/Blackburn area.
BinaryFunction: However, for me it was the Thunderdome that changed my life forever. This club was extra special; anyone who went to the Dome often will know exactly what I mean. It was dark, gritty and moody-as-hell, a pretty dodgy place, but man, purple ohms, double dipped strobes, banging shiny techno, need I say more…
BinaryFunction: Some of the tracks that stuck with me from this era were Future FJP – Liaisons D; Rhythm Device – Acid Rock; Adonis – No Way Back; 808 State – Pacific; The Beat Club – Security; Joey Beltram – Energy Flash & Mentasm Second Phase; NJOI –Mindflux; Lil Louis – French Kiss; Shades Of Rhythm – Sweet Sensation – just too many classics to list them all here. Fast forward to the present day and the music has evolved in to different genres of house and techno, I like to listen to what I call organic techno, Mathew Jonson, Silent Servant and Sebastian Mullaert are amazing producers and their music is an excellent example of this style.
LC: In 2004 you have moved back to your hometown, Manchester and since then you have been honing your production craft and DJ’ing skills, waiting for the right moment to breakthrough in the UK as well. What was the reason for moving back?
BinaryFunction: After marrying my Mauritian girlfriend and having children, my wife and I decided it would be best to return to the UK and start a new life, better education for our kids, better careers etc. Since then I have continued to DJ (at home) and have become much more serious about producing. I had 12 years at the top on the island and decided the time was right to focus on family. It was a really tough decision but one that I made self-consciously knowing it was the right choice if I was to give our children the best start in life.
BinaryFunction: I DJ and produce purely out of passion, music is in my blood, I breathe and live for it 24/7 non stop. If I do well from what I love doing the most, then ultimately this means I can give more to my kids, and that is priority for me. I want my children to grow up being proud of their dad, giving them the message never to give up on something that you are really passionate about. If you love it enough, your time shall surely come, and if it doesn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be, but you had at least fun. I will continue doing what I do with the music till the day I die, no matter what. I have been loving the music, the scene, the DJ-ing, the clubbing; all of it for over 35 years, it’s in my heart forever.
LC: Among all the producers out there, do you have anyone you look up to in the current electronic music scene?
BinaryFunction: Around 2008 I was introduced to music from an artist known at the time as Maetrik, and before Maetrik he went under the name of Mariel Ito. I’m a huge fan and personal friend of Maceo Plex and all of his work. He manages to fuse house, techno and electro in a way I’ve never heard before and he is without doubt one of my biggest influences at present.
BinaryFunction: Of course there’s no getting away from my Hip Hop roots and the wide spectrum of other legendary electronic artists that have influenced and inspired me along the way. Such artists include – Kraftwerk, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Bob Marley, Hendrix, Hawtin, Mills, CJ Bolland, Arthur Baker, Vangelis, Chemical Brothers, Leftfield, and lots and lots more.
“[If] I didn’t get a good reaction on a record, I’d just rip it off, break it up and throw it on the dance floor.” – Arthur Baker
LC: Which one do you enjoy more, DJ’ing or music production?
Binary Function: That’s easy – DJ’ing. The day I get to play in front of a crowd will be the most exciting day of my music life. Sure I did this years ago whilst growing up and living in Mauritius, but to break the mold here in the UK, Europe and the US feels like an impossible task.
LC: Thank you, Paul and good luck!