#81 - Alex Downey // Drexciyan 'Wave-Jumper' Mix
Let’s face it, there’s nothing more that gets us all sweaty on the dancefloor than a Drexciyan themed DJ set. So when Alex Downey offered up his mammoth ‘Wavejumper’ electro set, recorded in theWaterworld stage atthe last ever Bloc Weekender we said…Hello Sailor! With a monster 54 tracks we get splashed by classic cuts from UR, Egyptian Lover, Der Zyklus, Carl Finlow,The Advent, Bitstream, Objekt, Anthony Rother and stunning crate dug gems from E.R.P., Daff, Microthol, Dark Energy, DMX Krew, Electronome, Popshop, Caustic Window and of course the digital tsunami of 9 Drexciyan sea monsters! So why not blow up a beach ball to ‘Bubble Metropolis’, submerge yourself in the ‘Black Sea’ and surf the ‘Andrean Sand Dunes’ to electro nirvana!
There’s only a handful of DJ’s I’ve ever heard who are naturally gifted and Alex Downey is one of them,” says techno don Ben Sims at whose Split/Balance nights Downey has regularly played. Based in Brighton, Alex fell in love with techno from seeing the likes of Derrick May and Dave Clarke at the Zap Club in the early nineties, and his regular pilgrimages to London’s Lost parties were an inspiration, where Jeff Mills became a massive influence on his musical perspective.
Alex Downey has been an ardent supporter of quality underground music and a prominent purveyor of all things electronic as a DJ, vinyl pusher, and radio presenter for well over two decades. Alex was a key figure behind the counter at Brighton's legendary Covert Records and has amassed an immense record collection spanning the house, techno and electro spectrum, while his unrestricted sets behind the decks have earned him much respect and a great reputation amongst the global electronic community.
Alex has been a resident at the celebrated Freerotation Festival from it’s inception, and is currently a resident DJ at Brighton’s ‘First Floor’ party, playing alongside the likes of Function and XDB. He’s DJed at such diverse events as Wiggle, Split, Fabric, Labyrinth Festival in Japan, The Big-Beat Boutique, The Essential Festival and continues to play the best parties. But just as important to his career arc are the hundreds of smaller parties and long-forgotten club nights that rocked hard and kept the lifeblood of the scene pumping. Alex's style behind the turntables defies categorization. For him techno isn't a dogma so much as a spirit of electronic freedom to adapt and embrace new styles. He is highly rated by DJs and is regarded as a keeper of the flame.
He’s the high priest at his new business venture; ‘The Temple of Vinyl’, a monumental warehouse stocked floor to ceiling with the black gold, whilst his broad taste and consummate selection skills can be heard on his ‘Vivid’ radio shows, on Brighton’s Trickstar FM every Wednesday evening.
More recently, Alex has become a Third Ear resident DJ, as the seminal label seeks to bring together a select group of idiosyncratic DJs that showcase the label’s ethos, and is now represented by the ‘Guaranteed Connection Artists’ agency.
Q&A with Alex Downey
1. A ‘Drexciyan’ themed ‘Wave Jumper’ set, in front of a bunch of crazed swimming, ravers at the last ever Bloc. Does it get any better?
I spend so much time swimming in the sea down here in Brighton, you’d be forgiven if you mistook me could for a Drexciyan - jumping over the waves is literally what I love to do, as much as I enjoy playing pure electro DJ sets….so it’s safe to say that I was ‘in my element’. I have been fortunate enough to perform at some amazing locations during my time on the circuit - The Labyrinth Festival, up in the misty hills outside Tokyo in 2006, was a magnificently magical experience that’s still hard to beat. It was an honour to be asked by the Bloc guys to do this at their last ever Butlins weekender, it certainly goes down in history for me as one of the highlights, and was quite possibly the most unique DJing experience I’ve ever had. Loads of my mates were there enjoying the waterslides, rocking out to UR & Aphex, flapping about in the waves whilst I played ‘Wavejumper’, I even got flashed by a girlfriend when I dropped ‘Pornoactress’, it was so much fun - I will remember it for the rest of my life!
2. How did you first come into contact with dance music? And what were your first clubbing experiences like?
I know that I was always captivated by synthetic sounds from a very early age, so it’s hard to pin point exactly. But I do recall one particular trypatimine drenched evening, where I was exposed to The Orb’s ‘Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld’ by some older friends who subsequently introdued me to the sounds of The Black Dog, B12, and Warp’s Artificial Intelligence series. I began to tune in to Kiss FM religiously and became an avid listener to Colin’s Dale & Favour & Mixmaster Morris’ radio shows. I went to ‘Tribal Gathering’ on my 18th birthday in ’92, and I can remember going to parties like Rage @ Heaven, and Knowledge @ SW1, while I was still living in London in the early 90s, but went completely sober every time. The first time I really ‘got it’ (wink, wink) was at Universe’s first ‘Big Love’ rave. Shortly after that I moved to Brighton and quickly became a weekly devotee at The Zap Club, where I fully engaged with the culture, realised my calling, and dedicated all of my energies to pursuing a path as a DJ. Final Frontier @ Club UK and of course the legendary Lost parties also deserve a mention, the line ups were amazing even by today’s standards. What can I say - these were the halcyon days of the UK Techno scene as many people will testify.
3. You have had many ‘behind the scenes’ roles in the dance music industry. How do you compare the years working in record shops like Covert to the online vinyl business you have now with ‘Temple of Vinyl’?
It’s a completely different game, we used to concentrate on selling the maximum number of units of our strong new titles and exclusives, with competitive retail pricing. Today I’m mainly selling second hand stock, rarities that I pick up from collections, charity shops & car boot sales that have become valuable, I buy cheap and sell at maximum market value. At the shop I was managing over the counter face to face sales & picking internet orders, but what I do today is much more labour intensive, cleaning, listing, filing, packing & shipping, admin, comms and accounts, all done Han Solo. Profit margins are higher, but the marketplace is smaller, yet seemingly more dedicated, informed and fanatical than ever. They’ve grown up with all the knowledge and info available at their fingertips, can easily discover the legacy, the history, whereas in the past record shops were the place to go digging about, hear the rumours, share the gossip and find the folklore……what can now be easily viewed on youtube, was once the stuff of legend and myth. Today there are fewer records getting pressed, so they tend to become unobtainable and valuable very quickly. It’s a very different world for selling music, you really have to keep your eye on the ball. Lots of old stuff getting repressed these days which has a direct effect on the 2nd hand market. However it’s still a really great time for vinyl sales, and it seems that records are currently at their peak worth, so now is the time.
4. How do you approach your weekly radio show ‘Vivid’ as opposed to a normal DJ set?
In a word, spontaneously. Preparation happens at the very last minute in a very zen like fashion. I’ve got decades worth of prepared sets in different styles, still filed as they were on the archive shelves. I’ll re-aquaint myself with a particular selection and try to extract the creative juices that went in, revising the content and becoming familiar with the music again, make it fresh in my mind. I’ll put faith and trust in my DJ instincts, and then go mix them up live on air, taking my chances, I tend to take more risks without a visible audience in front of me. Some shows I feel could go better, but more often than not it works out great, and it’s a real buzz flying buy the seat of your pants like that. Sometimes I’ll use the radio show to rehearse with a bunch of records that I’ll be playing out with, get inspired with ideas which I’ll refine and improve upon later. Other times I’ll work with a specific theme such as dub-techno, vocal deep house, pure electro, or on occasion playing only new music off memory stick, which is a theme in of itself. A lot more preparation & rehearsal goes into a normal DJ set, condensing and refining ideas into a more coherent set. Often I’ll stay up through the night practicing before a gig, until I feel completely comfortable and ready with the material. I tend not to repeat myself on the radio, I enjoy the challenge and thrill of keeping it fresh every week, because I can - I’ve got the records. Whereas if I know something works well I’m going to play it out at a few different parties while it’s still current, or until I get bored of hearing it myself.
5. We understand that sea swimming as a bit of a passion of yours and that you have swum the English Channel. How did that come about?
I’ve been swimming since my parents chucked me in with armbands on as a toddler, I trained with the local club as a teenager, and then in 2011 I met some sea swimmers from Brighton Swimming Club at my local pool, who invited me down for a swim round the Palace Pier. I’d previously never swum in such a cold sea, so early in the year, so I went along clad in neoprene, but I totally loved the buzz, the freedom & the nature. So I promptly joined the club, and started swimming every morning at 7, in ridiculous conditions I never thought possible. It’s the oldest swimming club in the UK, with so much history it’s as iconic as the pier itself, and is a great thing to be a part of. I shed my wetsuit by June, and come September I found myself out in the separation zone in the middle of the English Channel, having been asked to stand in on a 6 person channel relay. I’ve never looked back and now swim in my ‘bio-prene’ all year round, I’ve since been part of another channel relay team, and have completed a solo 10K sea swim. Perhaps one day I’ll attempt a solo crossing of the Channel. It is the most addictive exercise I’ve ever done, the high literally lasts all day long and I’m just not the same person without my daily ‘fix’.
6. How did you become involved in Freerotation? It still seems to have a mythical aura about it. Is that still the case?
I met Steevio & Suzybee in the early noughties when they came into Covert with some records on their label Mindtours, we had a lot of synchronicity and quickly became friends. I gave him a mix CD which he loved and asked me to come to Wales to play at his house party. I met many of the artists and home grown talent who are still playing at Freero today such as Lakuti and Sam Watson, this really was the seed that grew into what is today; a big house party in a very large house, and I’ve been fortunate to DJ at nearly every one since. Once the party had swelled to around 900 people they decided to cap the numbers so as not to dilute the vibe. The ticket and membership policy and the 50/50 gender split on guests maintains the original spirit of the festival perfectly. It’s roots are true and it’s grown organically and authentically. The promoters and crew are coming from the right place with best of intentions and they’ve not diverged from their original vision or sold out. The energy and harmonious vibrations feel as though you’ve taken a step into another world, a temporal space, perhaps a glimpse of utopia, it’s like being part fo a big family. Each year you feel like you’ve never left the place, such a beautiful location & historic building. Most of the artists stay for the whole weekend, it’s the highlight of the year for many of them who want to come and freely contribute just to be a part of it. It really is like a magical vortex of joy and leaving is honestly quite painful and upsetting for many. I know I sound like a reet Hippy, but it really is an honour and a pleasure to be a part of it.
7. As your dad was a professional trumpet player did you have childhood dreams of picking up an instrument and continuing in his footsteps?
My mum was also musical, she was a classically trained singer, so growing up in a musical family was all I ever knew, I took it for granted, and never fully appreciated it until I discovered electronic music much later. I was a bit of a nerd, but I did sing in the church and the school choir’s for a time. Around the age of 10 I picked up the trumpet for a couple of years in an effort to make my Dad proud, I became fairly adept quite quickly, but as he was one of the best in the world at the top of his game, I felt I had too much to live up to, and his high expectations kind of put me off, so I gave it up. It’s a bit of a shame really, but I guess you could say that techno is the jazz of electronic music, so in a round about way I have followed in his footsteps by getting involved with DJing. Since he passed away I’ve respected what he did, and what he achieved more and more, so his legacy and memory continue to inspire and influence me on the musical path.
8. We here you are playing the ‘Number 6’ Festival in Portmerion later this year. How would you put together a ‘Prisoner’ set?
Bloody hell. What kind of question is that?What do you want?Information?Well, you won’t get it.By hook or by crook you will.I’d invite all the non-believers (eg EDM candy ravers) to a beautiful Itailan village for a luxury holiday, where undiluted purist techno and electro would be playing 24/7 across the tannoy, anyone who resists the ‘technitiation’ and attempts to leave, would be prevented from escaping by an army of Sven the Berghain bouncer clones. Be seeing you!
9. If you could put on the ultimate rave in Brighton. Where would it be and who would be on the line-up?
It would be over a 4 day weekend, around the summer solstice, an outdoor party for no more than 2000 people, somewhere up on The Downs outside Brighton, overlooking the Surrey & Sussex countryside. Tony Andrews would set up a Funktion One quadraphonic outdoor long throw system, with he & his crew on hand to engineer the sound.
Here’s the dream line-up:
Red Planet, Basic Channel, Jeff Mills – Axis Set (& DJ Set), Derrick May (& DJ Set), Aphex Twin, Cisco Ferreira (Electro Set), Jeroen Search, Pink Elln & Atom Heart, Octave One, Planetary Assault Systems, Cybotron, Deepchord, Choice (Acid Eiffel Sunrise Set), Minilogue, Monolake (Quadrophonic A/V Set), Mathew Jonson, Spacetime Continuum & Move D, Eric Van De Broek, Conforce, Convextion, Carl Finlow (Electro Set), Anthony Rother, Steevio & Suzybee, Objekt (& DJ Set), John Heckle, Mika Vainio (Sähkö / Pan Sonic), Evigt Mörker, 214, Shackleton, Cobblestone Jazz, Stefan Vincent, Shlømo, Ø [Phase], Vakula, Voices From The Lake, Robert T Wilson.
Oscar Mulero, Ben Sims (3 Deck Vinyl Set), Surgeon, Marcel Fengler, Laurent Garnier, Donato Dozzy, Function, Rødhåd, Adam Beyer (3 Deck Vinyl Set), Ryan Elliot, DVS1, Andrew Weatherall (Electro / Techno Set), Placid, Daniel Bell, Billy Nasty (Electro Set), Rob Hall, Damon Wild, DJ Pete, Jackmaster (Chicago / Detroit Set), Jerome Hill (Booty Bass / Electro Set), Andrea Parker, Vince Watson, DJ Three, Dave Mothersole, Colin Dale (Vinyl Techno Set), Miles Sagnia, Inigo Kennedy, Christian Bloch, Sam Watson, Alex Knight, XDB, Leah Floyeurs, Harvey Lane, Murf, Japhy.
We could call it ‘Downey Does The Downs’..…or more likely ‘Vert’.
10. What is your ‘Drexciya’ all time DJ top ten?
Most of the Drexciya tracks in this mix are in the top 10 (in no particular order), there’s only a few more I can add to that:
‘Organic Hydropoly Spores’
‘Aqua Worm Hole’
Der Zyklus - ‘Formenverwandler’
The Other people Place - ‘It’s Your Love’ and the entire ‘Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café’ album.
Transillusion ‘The Opening Of The Cerebral Gate’ – whole album.
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EPM Podcast 81 – Alex Downey Tracklist
01 Drexciya - Intro: Temple Of Dos De Aqua | Tresor
02 Drexciya - Bubble Metropolis (Intro) | UR
03 Convextion - Consumer Identity | AW-Recordings
04 Bitstream - Vic Twenty | Signal Recordings
05 Jichael Mackson - Tee Trinken In Braunen Salon | Phictiv Records
06 IL.EK.TRO - Tune In (To The System) | Klang Elektronik
07 DMX Krew - Eschelon | Rephlex
08 E.R.P. - Aurelia | Down Low Music
09 Audiotech - Techno City "95" | Metroplex
10 Lost Trax - The Sequel | SCSCI-AV
11 Bolz Bolz - Transatlantic Treasure | Satamile
12 Microthol - Channelling The Wavejumper | Trust
13 Drexciya - Andrean Sand Dunes | Tresor
14 Microthol - Heliopolis | Trust
15 Drexciya - Sea Snake | Shockwave Records
16 Popshop - Politics | Raygun
17 Der Zyklus - Die Dämmerung Von Nanotech | International Deejay Gigolo Records
18 The Advent - Eurodynamic | Electrix
19 The Advent - Vengeance | Kombination Research
20 Christian Bloch - In Time | Deep Night Essentials
21 Daff - Untitled | Tactical
22 Signal Type - Future Funked | Cultivated Electronics
23 UR - Hi Tech Funk (Sonic Grits Mix) | Underground Resistance
24 Dark Energy - Black Strategy | Underground Resistance
25 Microthol - Sweet Water Tank | Trust
26 Electronome - Morphing | Viewlexx
27 Gosub - Her Machine | Citinite
28 Dopplereffekt - Pornoactress | Dataphysix Engineering
29 Kikoman – Untitled | Dum Records
30 Erik Van Den Broek - Subsonic Soundscape | Shiver Records
31 Drexciya - Bubble Metropolis | UR
32 KT-19941 - Face Your Fate | Puzzlebox Records
33 Oxia - Dream | Intec
34 Ides (AKA Ian Pooley) - Plastered EP | Acid Fuckers Unite (A.F.U.)
35 Drexciya - Wavejumper | Underground Resistance
36 Pacou - Waves | Tresor
37 Drexciya - Black Sea | Warp Records
38 Dmx Krew - Bad Sector II | Rephlex
39 UR - Electronic Warfare (Vocal) | Underground Resistance
40 Oxia - Situation | Goodlife
41 The Egyptian Lover - Keep It Hot (Re-mix) | Egyptian Empire Records
42 The Life We Choose (E.R.P. Remix) | Hardfloor
43 Vex - Vex-1 | Vex
44 Anthony Rother - Describe Reality | Kanzleramt
45 Dopplereffekt - Speak & Spell | Dataphysix Engineering
46 The Exaltics - Every Beginning Has An End | Trust
47 Drexciya - Digital Tsunami | Tresor
48 The Advent - Work Dat | Electrix Records
49 Atheus - Das Ende (Decoside Space Dub Remix) | Eclipsemusic
50 Drexciya - Species Of The Pod | Tresor
51 Caustic Window - Joyrex J5 | Rephlex
52 Tobias Von Hofsten - Fuktish | F
53 Curve - Falling Free (The Aphex Twin Remix) | Anxious Records
54 Objekt - Ganzfeld | Leisure System