An artist almost uniquely in touch with global electronics currents, Auntie Flo has a palpable sense of place. Now living and working in London, the producer (real name Brian D’Souza) still retains a longing, a fondness for his native Glasgow – birthplace of the hugely influential Highlife clubnight.
“I was watching that Boiler Room thing (a Sub Club 20th anniversary, available online) the other day and I thought: fuck, I want to go back to Glasgow!” he laughs, referring to a riotous online session. “Craziness. We stopped doing the regular residencies that we had there, because we all moved down to London within three months of each other and it became too much of a pain in the ass to organise stuff. I want to do more stuff in Glasgow because at the end of the day you can do events all over the place but you just end up thinking Glasgow’s the best. So I want to do more”.
Not that Auntie Flo isn’t relishing London life. Highlife has become a staple of the capital’s nightlife, while his approach – fusing the latest electronic developments with non-Western sounds – has been much replicated. That said, the producer is keen to downplay any notion that South African house, say, has become the sound de jour. “Having lived in London for six months I haven’t seen any real evidence of that being the case” he argues. “I’m sure, as we’ve seen for a wee while, that DJs across the board are incorporating some of the sounds in their sets but in terms of the actual township experience… I mean I’ve actually been over there, I was lucky enough to play in South Africa last year, I went down to the townships so I know first hand what the vibe is like down there and I’ve not seen anyone do it in London. It might be my ignorance but I haven’t really seen people go all out on it. I’m sure there are pockets, though because London’s a big place”.
Continually seeking out new sounds, new influences, Auntie Flo is speaking to Clash shortly before unveiling his new live show – in Cuba. “It came about because we played in Malawi last year as part of the Lake Of Stars festival, and we were recommended through that. It seemed cool. This is the first time they’ve done this festival in Cuba so it should be interesting. I think they’re all quite excited about it, and certainly so are we. Obviously!”
The live show features vocals from Zimfoxx – also known as Shingai Shoniwa of The Noisettes. “We’ve been working with her in the studio on a few different things” he says, “and potentially a couple of tracks on a new album that I’m putting together as well”.
Allowed to have some free time in Cuba, Brian D’Souza is eager to work with some local artists. “Hopefully we’ll get some sort of studio time with Cuban musicians” he enthuses. “We’re definitely doing a couple of workshops out there, so we’re hopefully going to pick up on that. I was quite a big fan of the ‘Mala In Cuba’ album last year, so it would be great to do something like that.”
Pushing ahead, these new adaptations to the Auntie Flo live show will be matched by a fresh approach in the studio. Widely acclaimed, debut album ‘Future Rhythm Machine’ was largely sampled based, a technique D’Souza wishes to avoid with his new material.
“I think with my ‘Future Rhythm Machine’ record, the concept of it was to take something old, authentic and turn it into something new and true to me and my surroundings. Merging those two things together. That’s why it’s called ‘Future Rhythm Machine’ it’s about merging those rhythms together, taking the music into the future” he explains. “The new stuff that I’m making just now isn’t sample-based at all, I’m making everything from scratch, working closely with Shingai Shoniwa, for example, or live musicians. Doing something more like that. I’m quite happy with this new direction”.
Alongside the club night, Highlife is also a label. Primarily a place for Auntie Flo to distribute tried and tested dancefloor weapons, the imprint is set to broaden as the year progresses. “We never envisaged Highlife to be a label, like a proper label. It was just a side project more than anything else. It’s really just DJ only right now, it’s white label vinyl that we put out, minimum runs. It’s done alright so far. We’ve got a few little things which we have yet to confirm and then hopefully - at some point this year - we’ll put out a compilation”.
Returning to the UK, Auntie Flo’s hectic schedule is set to continue with a special one off set at London venue the Queen of Hoxton. Toasting its fifth anniversary, the Shoreditch nightspot has secured a back-to-back set from Brian D’Souza and fellow traveller Romare. “I met Archie (Fairhurst, Romare) we booked him, actually, to play Highlife up in Glasgow. His track ‘The Blues Began In Africa’ became a Highlife anthem. I think we’d both say there’s a crossover of influences: he’s got his own take on it and I’ve got my take on it. I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t as yet discussed what we’re going to do, but it should be fun”.
Words: Robin Murray
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Auntie Flo x Romare are set to play the Queen Of Hoxton in London on February 21st.