Private Agenda Q&A’s with eclectics
So in the second part of our promo of the Dusk & Dawn EP due for imminent release on 4th December via NuNorthern Soul Records, we fired over a few questions to the Private Agenda guys to get a feel of where they get their influences, how they produce their music and how they got involved with Phil and the NuNorthern Soul label.
Q1, Hello Guys and welcome to a Q&As with eclectics. Who are Private Agenda and how did you meet?
Individually, we are Martin and Sean. Together, we’re Private Agenda. We’re believers in that Balearic spirit of writing music, where you can comfortably traverse genres dependent on mood and place, so you might file our records in the disco, house, pop or ambient sections of your record collection. It also means we’ve got a real thing for pop music: the good, bad and the ugly.
We started making music together when we were both about 15. We found an escape from the British, macho, all-boys school atmosphere we found ourselves in by writing music together. We started out with synth pop, and we haven’t really moved on since then.
Q2, Your music always seems to feel very summery and has lots of wonderful textures running through it, certainly a quality we look for over at eclectics HQ. Where are you guys based, is it warm and sunny there?
Quite the opposite. Those light, warm textures in much of our music isn’t grounded by place. The feel is more a figment of our imaginations. The weather in mid-November both in Berlin and Oxford (the places we’re currently based) can – as I’m sure you’re aware – be pretty grim: darkness by late afternoon and that lingering, dull greyness that defines the Winter months in Northern Europe. In this sense, our music is about imagination, an attempt at something transformative, for ourselves as much as anybody else perhaps.
Q3, Do you guys have a particular formula to making tracks or is it much more organic than that?
We follow a strict formula:
Step One: Aimless wander, record hums and whistles into voice recorder on phone as you stride.
Step Two: Turn whistles and hums into structured pop song, sat at piano or strumming away on guitar
Step Three: Open Ableton on laptop and begin to record and layer elements around the song structure developed at piano
Step Four: Write lyrics and record vocals
Step Five: Agonise over style of mix, spend hours looking at the EQ visualiser then send to label for rejection
Step Six: Back to Step One
Martins explains how Dusk & Dawn came to fruition
Q4, What’s your go to piece of kit in the studio that gets the creative juices flowing and why?
The Roland SH101: an incredible monophonic bass synthesizer. You can hear it on everything we’ve ever made together and it’s an integral part of our live set-up. Such a versatile piece of kit and it’s pretty light, so great as far as touring goes as well.
Q5, You guys have worked with some wonderful labels in International Feel, Nightshift Records and Needwant records. What’s it been like working with Phil on the NuNorthern Soul imprint?
We’re lucky to have worked with some super labels. Phil’s the real deal though in thinking about releases as a full package: letting an artist develop the release the way they wish in terms of sound and style, but adding real value where he knows best in terms of thinking about the best (realistic) remixers, thinking through the format, package, artwork, release party etc. in real detail and in genuine collaboration with the artist. Ultimately, he’s great because he gets the small things right: replies to emails quickly, delivers when he says he’s going to do things and most importantly, he’s transparent and honest about what he can do with NuNorthern Soul. As an artist that’s all you can ask for, so it’s been a real pleasure doing this record with Phil.
Q6, Do you ever play your compositions live, if so what would you say would be the best setting for you guys to do that?
Getting a room dancing as a DJ duo is fun – we treat it as a celebration of music that inspires us. But nothing beats the intensity of a 40-minute live performance at a live music venue. There’s a real art and a magic to getting that type of performance right. It’s theatrical, it’s risky and it’s the ultimate destination for Private Agenda’s music.
Our next live performance will be at the launch party for Dusk & Dawn on Thursday 30th November at Number 90 Bar in Hackney Wick, London. Phil and Robin Lee (Faze Action) will be behind the decks as well.
Q7, Is it important for you guys to make dance music or are you happy to make music that fits in with other genre, is genre even important anymore?
Musical curiosity is more important than being defined by a certain genre. The thing we love about being associated with the Balearic scene is that people genuinely subscribe to that ‘anything goes’ mentality as long as the music is in-fitting with the occasion. We think that’s healthier and more fun ultimately.
Q8, Can we expect a full studio album from you guys soon, is it already in the pipeline?
There’s a real art to packaging music well to suit each format and they’re all special in their own right, but for us LPs have something extra special about them. Our longer-term goals always orient toward full-length records. It’s the musical challenge we’re inspired most by, so you can expect an LP from us one day for sure.
Q9, Favourite dance album of the last 10 years and why? (Can be a comp if you wish)
Jon Hopkins – Immunity. Beautiful and beguiling, innovative and intriguing. Ultimately, inimitable.
Q10, Favourite Sunday morning coffee album of the last 10 years and why? (can also be a comp if you wish)
Real Estate – Atlas. We’re massive suckers for wistful C86-esque indie pop, so this record ticks all the boxes. Perfect to wake up nice and slowly too.
Q11, And finally lads, if you could have written one song what would it have been and why?
Connan Mockasin – Forever Dolphin Love: weird and wonderful, lush and gritty. Erol Alkan’s edit is one of our favourite remixes as well. A modern indie epic.
Thanks guys, a real pleasure.
Review of Dusk & Dawn by Sean O’Conner.
A really strong EP here from Private Agenda. The track “Dusk”, in its original incarnation (A1 here,) is a slightly melancholy and autumnal yet also uplifting piece of music. Fans of that wistful sound typified by 70s groups such as Contraction and Cortex will find their buttons pushed here! But this cut holds clubbier appeal, too: that sound, that feel, is lifted by an understated four-to-the-floor, a tasteful handclap and synth lines that bubble along briskly. Appropriately enough, this cut has a lovely dusky sundown feel for a transition into the night and the party ahead, with a trio of remixes giving lots of options. More of that later.
The next cut (A2 “Dawn”) presents some killer ambient business with the “Dawn” end of things. Pianos and lush synths call to mind Glass or Reich, morphing halfway through to the most lyrical part of this great EP.
Our first remix on “Dawn” is from Faze Action. Suffused with real club sensibilities, this kicks off right away with melodic percussion, an atmospherically hazy build, and a skeletal bass line which propels us further ahead. We’re soon locked in to a groove and carried along by a laid back house rhythm and slithering, shiny acoustic guitars. Later, when all drops away to foreground the refrains of those woozy and wistful vocals, we’re swept away most gorgeously. This cut has been a fave for eclectics djs, going down a treat at Micky’s most recent spot at the Shoreditch Merchants Tavern (Spiritland sound system), for example.
A second remix, from Mr Ron Basejam, is astonishingly good: we’re welcomed in with delicious and dreamy synths and a warm sub bass. A subtle break beat surfaces shortly and guides us to an outrageously funky beatdown with a sensuous sax riff on repeat. Proper!
By Sean O’Conner.
To round off the EP, ESP Institute and Not An Animal regular Ian Blevins weighs in with a typically sumptuous and evocative take on the duo’s sunrise tribute. Making full use of Private Agenda’s soothing chords, pianos and vintage synth riffs, he conjures up a hazy and hypnotic rework rich in head-nodding, toe-tapping drum machine beats, mazy electronics and effects-laden vocal snippets. Like the rest of the EP, it’s truly a thing of intense beauty..
MOONBOOTS – AFICIONADO I really love a couple of tracks on here. The OG of Dawn is just beautiful but it’s even surpassed by the Faze remix. Truly timeless piece of music. The other three tracks are super strong too. Great EP
KENNETH BAGER MUSIC FOR DREAMS – SOLID PACKAGE A quality release – all tracks are good but I prefer Faze Action.
Pre-Order Dusk & Dawn by Private Agenda here.