Of the label managers running viable vinyl independent imprints in the UK (and I mean labels who survive more than a few releases), Donga‘s venerable stable puts most others to shame. The DJ and producer somehow finds time to foster young talent, release truly astounding music and look after a number of vinyl imprints. And the dude’s got an amazing beard.
Having put out a call for new mixes from DJs we hadn’t worked with before, rising star Foamplate answered and said we grab a mix from Mr. Ash Donga. I followed up and decided we should sit down and chat too. I’m really glad we did – so read on, check his amazing FKOF mix and get to know a criminally unknown talent in UK bass music…
You were recommended when we put out a call for good DJs (big up Foamplate). In your opinion, what makes a good DJ? Playing from the heart – assuming the DJ has one haha!
What’s the best blend you’ve heard (or mixed yourself) recently? Ummmm – I mix everyday for at least an hour (generally) and try not to practise or perfect specific mixes. But on the FKOF mix I think there’s the odd nice one…
In our recent discussions, you’ve talked about your history within the bass music landscape – as both DJ and label manager. How did it begin for you? I made lots of techno, electro, house and stuff in the ’90s with assorted friends. Our first record came out on someone else’s (Andrew Weatherall’s) label in ’93. I had some money kicking about I was gonna piss up the wall so I decided to found my own vinyl label to put our own experiments out directly. I set it up so we didn’t have to beg others or wait for them to respond. It was a D.I.Y. / Punk aesthetic applied to electronic music. But I don’t want to go into too many details…
You operate a number of imprints within bass music. What can you tell us about them? What differentiates them from one another? Well Rounded was a fusion label that combined varying degrees of influences including garage/ RnB/ ukfunky house/ rave/ breaks/ hardcore/ techno into dancefloor productions – all working generally around the 130bpm range. I started Well Rounded Housing Project to focus more exclusively on house stuff as a few short years ago no one seemed to defend the genre and it was part of my musical DNA… Well Rounded Individuals was open-genre – like juke and downtempo synth-haze releases and beyond. WR Edits was to put out cheeky dancefloor stuff in limited breakeven quantities.
I then brought us out of retirement a few months back by announcing we are finally doing some 140 bits on a new label called WR DUBS. It’s typically perverse that I’ve worked and supported in the shadows of certain dubstep areas since 2005, but waited a full 10 years to get involved with releases haha!
Who’s making the most exciting music right now? Aliens.
What three pieces of music changed your life (for better or worse)? Hmmmmm! Kraftwerk’s Autobahn LP form 1975 was the first almost entirely electronic music I heard – I was VERY young at the time but it clicked with me. I’ve always been fascinated by strange looking synths and the weird wonderful sounds they can create.
Discharge’s Aint No Feeble Bastard – it’s aggressive 2nd gen UK punk but the message still remains potent – my interpretation being ‘leave me the fuck alone to be what I want’. Sent out to Mum, Dad, God, Queen and country.
Congos’ Heart Of The Congos. I bought this on recommendation when I was a teen. It still contains the most marvellously organic blend of warm basslines and grooves, topped off with harmonies and vocals that take you to a higher spiritual conscious level. PLUS it has Lee Perry’s Black Ark madness weaving around in the mix adding weird background sounds and textures…. The recent expanded double LP version is excellent – and it was only £8.99 in HMV so I snapped up my 3rd copy. The last 2 copies need retiring haha!
How do you go about producing your music? What inspires you creatively? I try to empty my head and then wait for something to strike. Sampling can give you something to play off I find.
As a label manager, what excites you about doing what you do? I’d say I was more of a label owner than a ‘manager’. I finance releases but I don’t really manage much beyond that. What makes it seem worthwhile is giving some extra strength or exposure to young artists that I rate. Oh, and being able to present their music on the coolest format there will ever be.
What do you look for in the music or producers you sign? First, some originality in whichever area they are working. And I don’t mean being a ‘mad genius’ or the new Mozart. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel – just do it with your own style and flair in there.
Sometimes it’s for a one-off release with an artist – all of whom have graced us with some amazing music down the years. I count myself lucky to be currently working with the likes of Corticyte, Moniker, Foamplate, Etch & TeeFreqs. Hopefully we can slowly expand our output to introduce further producers into our loose vinyl fold (which actually sounds rather disgusting).
Haha indeed. What releases have you got coming? Quite a few scattered about. People will have to get to stores to find out… The one I will talk about is the 2nd release we have coming up on another brand new imprint i’m initiating called GULLY. We are kicking off with a 4-track sampler featuring 4 artists. This will be out within the next few weeks via Unearthed Distribution (big ups Mat, the crew and Chris Well Tempered for manufacturing).
The 2nd release, however, is a full double vinyl LP by Etch from down here in Brighton. He’s already put out lots of great stuff on wax that will have given listeners an idea of what he can do. This, though, is an attempt to showcase his blatant diversity, whilst keeping a cohesion across the record should the purchaser fancy. There will be tracks to suit varying tastes but all combining in sonic unity (we hope).
Of your own material, which track are you most proud of? Er, probably the little bit of help I brought to the East Court As She Stands There track that dropped on Well Rounded Edits 2. But I really didn’t create the track. Maybe this shows I can’t rate my own material. It’s easier to work with other people’s sometimes. Frustrated musician runs label? Could be!
What’s the one thing we can improve on as a community of producers, DJs and fans? Putting the love of the music first. I’d welcome some level of success but primarily these releases are going to get made whether that follows or not. And, as a DJ, you may not always get the best response sticking to some musical guns but when people feel your set and you’re playing a different way (or selection) to others, it feels so much more satisfying – in my honest opinion.
Any final thoughts? The powers that be are serving themselves. What are we actually prepared to do about it?
Click to DOWNLOAD (116MB)
- Foamplate – Most [dub]
- Nomine – Voodoo Native [AMAR]
- Corticyte – zwpv2 [Gully001 test press – forthcoming]
- Pev & Kowton – Vapours (Pangaea remix)’ [Livity]
- Etch – Collision [Gully001 test press – forthcoming]
- Antonio – Bad Funk (Dem 2 Breakbeat Mix) [Locked On]
- TeeTreqs – Trust Issues [Gully001 test press – forthcoming]
- Rhythm & Sound – Mango Drive [Rhythm & Sound]
- Foamplate – Smokey Joe [Gully001 test press – forthcoming]
- Pinch – Qawwali [Tectonic]
- Foamplate – Astral [dub]
- Ultrasound – New Direction [Clandestine]
- Aardvarck – Bloom 4 (B2) [Bloom]
- Cyrus – Space Cadet [Tectonic]
- Mala – Blue Notez [DMZ]
- Foamplate – Fuzz [WRDubs]
- Quantum Soul – Extract Of Dub [WhoDemSound]
- Quest – Last Days [Deep Medi]
- Corticyte – Negative Space [WRDubs]