TIM SHERIDAN INTERVIEW – OCTOBER 2009
Tim Sheridan is someone who has never been afraid to try out new ideas and concepts when others around him are beginning to stagnate. It is this forward thinking attitude that has allowed him to remain a man at the top of his game for over twenty years. As founder of Kiss FM in the North, promoter and resident of the aptly named ‘Nastydirtysexmusic’ and ‘Veryveryveryverywrongindeed’ parties and member of both the Utah Saints and The Dope Smugglaz, Tim is someone who has had his fingers in a lot of pies.
After a hiatus of nearly ten years, Tim once again enters the live arena on November 7th when he launches his new four-piece band, The Very Very Wrong Indeed Limited Love Orchestra, at Matter in London. Traffic took ten minutes out of Tim’s busy schedule to find out a bit more about his new band project, his grievances with Johnny Laptop and why wearing a cape is the next best thing to a bottle of Vodka.
• The news of the Very Very Wrong Indeed Limited Love Orchestra has come as a bit of a welcome shock to me! Can you tell me a little bit about the band and how long you have been keeping this a secret from us all?
Haha! It's been a shock to me an' all. I tend to launch into things rather than plot and plan as you seem to get more done when things are in motion rather than fannying about being over-cautious and worrying about being cool. So it kind of all happened in a matter of weeks. It's not been a secret at all, we've been chatting about it quite publically on our forum for about 3 weeks, which is about exactly as long as we've been at it.
There isn't much to tell as it was a fairly simple thing. For, ooh I dunno, about 5 years now my DJ sets have mainly comprised of my own tunes, the rest being stuff off my label. I kind of live in a self-imposed vacuum way, way far away from people, so I don't often hear other people's music. I just found when I lived around music a lot, particularly in Soho, Shoreditch and Ibiza, you end up trying to fit in a bit, whether consciously or not you end up involved in trends. So I tried to kill that by becoming a hermit. Also you get a bit jaded, so when I do get out and hear stuff now it's nice. I'm not kidding about the hermit thing! I moved miles from anyone in Ibiza and the deep north of the UK. Anyway... what I am trying to say is I ended up playing mostly my own stuff when DJing, so it became a simple case of "why not play my stuff live?". I couldn't bear to do that "decks 'n' FX" thing, for my own conscience really, good luck to them that do that. I always used Pioneer gear since it came out in the mid 1990's, so I sort of assumed everyone did "decks and FX". But I wondered what stopped me playing live properly in the first place? As I was a live performer for... Oh Lord, at least from the mid 1980s to 2000. The DJ thing very sneakily took over, as it was a sort of parallel thing that I always did and very subtly became the main event over many, many years. All I am doing really is going back to what I did for ages. So now I mention it... and to be frank I haven't had the time to reflect on it much as this is the first interview or even proper conversation I have had on the subject... it's a no brainer innit? So no, not so much of a shock really. It's no different from maybe a footballer coming back from abroad to play for his home team again or something.
• It has become something of a trend in recent years for a number of British electronic music producers and DJ’s to temporarily put the turntables to one side and try their hand at incorporating the talents they have honed in electronic music into a live band setting. Ralph Lawson with the 2020 Sound System, Adam Freeland with his band Freeland and Atomic Hooligan are examples that instantly spring to mind. Do you think it is a natural progression for DJ’s? Are they sick of playing other peoples records or do you think there might be some childhood aspirations creeping back through?
Dunno about a trend. I would say considering the huge amount of DJs around lately it's very much a minority if not a rarity. As I said it's perhaps more the other way around. I'm just returning to my main occupation. I have to embarrass myself and say I've not seen any of those chaps you mention perform in the flesh. Are they 100% live? I really don't know sorry. I'd have to see them from the side of the stage. "Live" to me is playing the stuff with nothing pre-recorded. Musicians playing the parts or at worst, building the loops in front of you.
It might be a natural progression for DJs who are sick of playing other people's tunes but that has not been the case for me. Maybe subconsciously I am sick of playing my own tunes hahaha! I started as a live performer and had a ten year gap so it's a bit different for me. In a what... twenty six year career? Shit. But yeah... I was a musician first, then a producer. DJ’ing is what we did in the 80s for laughs. Something we never got paid for. God I mean people used to dance with each other and they didn't even LOOK at the DJ when I started. Sometimes we played in a different room! Anyway... I am dating myself badly now!
• And what was your inspiration to start the Very Very Wrong Indeed Limited Love Orchestra? Inspiration?
I think and I don't want it to sound negative but I was becoming a bit sick of Johnny Laptops hahaha! Both booking them as well as seeing them. Being a promoter as well as a performer I was finding acts billed as live were asking for more money but not really bringing anything to the table that justified the price or the description "live". Know what I mean? For me, and it's my own opinion only, you don't have to agree... but "Live" has to have musicianship, some skill that is a bit "above and beyond" what most can achieve and ultimately... I think unless it can go terribly, awfully tits-up at any moment... unless every single beat is a risk... then it's not what I consider live. I think the Musician's Union agrees hahaha!
• I read on the press release that the other band members that make up the Limited Love Orchestra all came from the Leeds College of Music. Can you tell me a bit more about the other guys involved? Were you all friends before the band came together?
No. It's work, to be brutally frank. The thing about bands from my experience is that if you work with friends you always end up at that "musical differences" point. Which is industry code for "hating each other's fucking guts" hahaha! I was very determined about it. I wanted the best people I could get, set up within a very professional framework. I have been on the other end too. So I very much sympathise with the musician. You end up deep in the "favour bank". Knee deep in real debt and overdrawn in the favour department. You get taken advantage of really... and end up playing for chips and a pint for so-called-mates. I'd like to give you a romantic tale about getting the chaps together but there isn't one. I want to deliver the best sound I can and for those involved to get treated properly and respect their skills. So I went to the best I could. The LCM is actually a really very highly respected school. I say that 'cos I am a bit of a stranger to Leeds having been away for so long and I had no idea it even existed! But it is one of the top places in Europe I understand. But I didn't hang around outside like an old perv or something hahaha! I sort of stumbled across musicians through work and ... God I have to 'fess up here... at Jazz gigs. There! I've said it. I go to Jazz gigs! I go to Classical gigs too while we are getting things off the old chest hahaha! In a nutshell you have to be at the top of your game to play the same groove like a metronome for hours on end. Only musicians who are, let's be frank, a bit overqualified for the job... only they can play electronic music live. By that I mean have the skills to go shoulder to shoulder with machines. You've seen Terminator. They don't get tired, the shiny bastards!
The other lads are all really top blokes. I have a "no tossers" environmental workplace policy hahahaha! Craig West is a really young fella I ended up doing some studio work with and it made sense to involve him as he is young, which is very important, as I am not! He is acquainted with my music and he is a total machine in terms of being a qualified Apple Mac teacher and all round super boffin. Plays Piano too.
Emlyn Vaughn on Bass was recommended when our original Bass man had to pull out. I sneaked out to Dirty Disco to check out his band "The Evil Mambo Band" who were playing outside at the last Kerbcrawler gig in Leeds. I saw him surrounded by technology which was a great start and he not only plays acoustic upright Bass, which I needed, but he has a 6 string electric which has very low notes that a normal 4 string can't reach. There is a lot of Sub-Bass in most modern music but particularly in my stuff. So I was sold on him immediately by his set-up, before I even listened.
Rob Lavers is probably the most hardcore member, meaning he is a real top pro. He is a highly sought-after Jazz player and based in Paris. He plays Alto and Soprano Sax. Flute too. However we often get him to sound like a synth and he really understands the odd-ball element. I said to the lads two main things by way of explanation ; firstly that "no fish is too strange for my aquarium" and "I hope you are good at counting, 'cos you will need comfy shoes and sandwiches for some of the long groove sections" hahaha!
We are fully digital like. It's not been easy. But everything goes in to a computer... actually it's 3 computers! And then it comes out as just two little output leads at the back. I really had to go back to school with all the tech stuff.
• Some of our older readers may recollect that this isn’t the first time you’ve entered the live band arena. You had a remarkable amount of success with your band ‘The Dope Smugglaz’ in the late nineties up until the turn of the century; you even scored a number 1 hit and appeared on Top of the Pops! Are you aiming for a similar crossover appeal with the VVWI Orchestra?
Oh dear! "some of our older readers!" is it?! hahaha! So we won't even mention The Utah Saints then!? I also played in quite a few Acid Jazz bands and with Jerry Dammers so... I dunno, Dope Smugglaz was just a small part of things really. Certainly deliberately designed for that thing. To crossover. In fact it was made for the charts quite deliberately.
• Can we expect to see you sitting pretty at Number 1 come Christmas time then?
I'll be brief on this one. No. I can't see a ten minute long monologue about circus freaks fucking each other being on telly before the watershed at Christmas hahaha! Oh dear no.
• Matter in London is perhaps the most talked about club in the UK this year and you launch the band there in a couple of weeks time. Is it possible for someone with such an illustrious career in dance music to still get butterflies over such an event?
Oh fucking hell yes! I've been having a three-week long cardiac ever since I got the proper musicians on board. I can play... but I've not done it for about ten years! So I have to stand on stage in front of 2000 people in between top session players and step up to the plate. So I have been basically practicing every day. You know that bit in "Rocky" where he is beating the meat? Hahahaha! Not knocking one out! But whacking sides of beef in preparation for the bout? Well I am a bit like that but practicing scales on a bit of frozen chicken in the garage. It's not every day a band that has never performed in public gets to debut like this, so I imagine some readers will be curious. Essentially I went to and spoke to the guys at Matter, some of whom are old mates from Fabric when I think about it. I asked them if we could play and obviously there was bound to be an element of "why on earth would we book that?!" Hahaha! Naturally.
However I sort of explained that they had booked me enough times as a DJ, and in terms of music it would not be that different. If they could book me to play my own tunes then why not to play them live? So full credit to them for accepting us and giving us this unique opportunity. I think one of the many reasons Matter is so successful and talked about is that they would do something like this. It's a credit to the character of Will, the boss, and testament to the ethos of the Fabric family in general. All round good eggs!
• What would you recommend to get over any pre-gig nerves?
I do have a plan to eradicate the pre gig nerves, which by the way started weeks ago. Basically I can't drink, as the playing of drums and doing vocals at the same time is 100% about physical co-ordination. So I just can't have any Dutch Courage at all. So the plan is to come onstage in a full length opera cape. You just can't be scared of anything in a cape. Ask Darth Vader, Jack The Ripper, Florence Nightingale.... I mean in his later years Elvis always came onstage in a Cape. Say no more! Hahaha!
• Where is next on the tour list?
Again... I've really not thought that far ahead. The idea is that this one gig at Matter will be recorded and used like a trailer for a film if you like. I use that comparison rather than use the word "demo" as only the film industry spends so much on a trailer. We plan to film and record it and use that to put together a tour for next year. As it stands it is the only gig. Our first... and who knows... maybe our last! Christ I've jinxed it now!
• So would it be fair to imagine that there are plans for an album in the pipeline?
Ah you see you are assuming again that I've thought that far ahead! Bzzzz! No! Sorry. All that and more it is fair to imagine absolutely... but honestly? Not thought about it at all. I have blisters and backache to worry about. 90% of the stuff we are playing is already released on VVWI records. So that is a consideration for the future but it would be nice to get the chaps recording some new, original Limited Love Orchestra stuff for sure. Eventually I'd like to hang up my tattered DJ Cape and go full time in the new Cape if it's possible. I don't really put mixes out, as I like people who pay money to see me DJ to be getting something not easily available... as with this I think I'd like to keep it live for a bit... to encourage not just everyone out there but ourselves in the band to enjoy the live thing and keep it special.
• A lot of electronic music producers tend to go through a number of styles they perhaps are not normally renowned for when producing an album. For instance, watching Andrew Weatherall under his Two Lone Swordsmen guise for the first time was a real departure from what I had come to expect from his DJ performances and not at all what I had imagined I would be listening to. Will you be incorporating lots of different genres into the band’s album or can we look forward to the similar sorts of sounds that what we would see you playing in a club setting?
Well I'd have to say first and foremost that making a record and playing records are totally different things. I don't expect a producer to make a record for home listening that resembles a track made specifically for dancing. I guess for us it is the opposite. We get confused that people can't get their head around the fact that when you DJ you are doing a specific job of making people dance. As a Producer the whole world of music is open to you really. I understand that some DJs-stroke-producers are sort of a one-stop-shop. They make records for DJs and dancefloors and the two are sides of a single coin. Some of us have many hats for as many heads. I have made Radio Jingles in the past... music for TV and much more leftfield projects.
I will go out on a limb and suggest this issue of perception is one that I don't share and understand less. Why should your DJing be connected to your productions or vice-versa? Wevvers is a pioneer in the studio and I think what we are talking about here is ability. Lesser artists than him are only capable of one hat. He is able to make more extreme and interesting music than just DJ tools. So he does. I don't understand why that is odd? I think that the job of DJing is very clear. But it is also restrictive by definition. For example you can't make people dance by straying outside of expectations; when they are expecting 4/4 of a certain tempo, you can't play Trip Hop or 3/4 at a House venue. Not if you want people to dance! And that is your job! To make people dance and tread the line of doing that, but in a new and interesting manner but it must be said... within a restricted zone. Well you could do 3/4 if you want to bring back the waltz hahaha! I might do that. Anyway, sorry. I digress. We are performing my music live, so it's certainly danceable. The tracks have already been released for DJs and used for that purpose. We are operating within that area... but at the odder end of the pool. The live element will add to that... er... danceability? Is that a word? but we hope to add a melodic dimension as well as make it a fatter, wider sound. Plus there is the car crash factor. Come see us explode in a massive spastic fuck up hahaha!
• Comparisons are inevitably going to be drawn to the 2020 Sound System because of the affiliations you share with the city of Leeds and Back to Basics, as well as your reputations for playing good quality house music. Have you had a chat with or received any advice from Ralph Lawson on the formation of your new band? Do you hope to achieve success on the same kind of level that the 2020 Sound System has enjoyed?
It's not totally fair on either Ralph or us to do that but it is perhaps likely to be said. To be honest I've spent the past 20 odd years mainly in London and abroad so perhaps that is your perception from being based in Leeds. I have less connection than you think perhaps, or let's say I have many other strong and long connections in Ibiza and London as well as Leeds, which is still my favourite party town in the UK I must say.
I was playing live on stage, at Basics for example, long ago. We did New Years Eve at Basics at Mint in what... 1999? As a live band. Ralph was very complimentary I recall, which was kind of him. We've been mates a long time. Ever since he came to work for us at Kiss FM in fact. When was that? 1996?
I'd like to, at this early stage, say our influence is far more like The Bays. Not only are they a fully live electronic act, maybe the only one that I know of... I also played in a band with their drummer, the amazing Andy Gangadeen. So if I had to say we were compared to any act it would be them. Although to be fair we are, like the 2020 lads, more inclined towards the dancefloor than The Bays. We do have Jazz players but we are all about the funk! The Bays improvise on the hoof and it can meander. We are very prepared and rehearsing like mad. Ideally we want it to be so you can't tell when a DJ ends and we begin. "Ideally" he says!
I chatted with Ralph at his Birthday recently as it happens and mentioned it to him. I have a pic of him when he was a nipper playing the drums in his room in a lovely jumper! hahaha! So we were chatting about drumming and stuff and I mentioned the band but no... I didn't seek any advice, Ralph is aware that this is my 4th electronic live act or something. It's weird but... I suppose I'd better get used to it, in Leeds anyway. I can't speak for Ralph but people often ask me if I am pissed off about there being loads of afterhours now... considering in the past my afterhours were often the only ones in a town. I'm always like "why!?" I didn't invent the afterhours! I'm positive Ralph doesn't claim authorship of electronic bands. That's what I mean by it being a bit unfair. Anyway! Your "older readers" may have heard of other live electronic bands hahaha! Now if we could be compared to Kraftwerk! That would be ace if not highly unlikely. I'd be dead honoured to be compared to Ralph and the 2020 chaps though. Truly.
• Can we expect to see you grabbing a microphone during your live performances? If not, do you have any guest vocalists lined up for the shows?
I've done all the vocals and instruments on the recordings so yeah. On our forum they were taking the piss that I'd be a one-man band with a bass drum strapped to my back and bells on my knob end and that! I learned early doors to delegate on this thing. I was going to play both the Piano and Drums and do the vocals but the pressure was too much! There is a rich heritage of drummer-singers. Karen Carpenter, Don Henley... er... Sheila E... hahaha! Phil Collins! Oh dear! Brilliant! Ignore all that actually. It is actually quite rare though. Something to do with using all four limbs. Mind you... Bach could improvise four part harmonies on a pedal organ when he was spunk or something equally precocious hahaha! A monkey could do what I do! DJs have no idea how hard music can be I suppose. Your average classical musician is a fucking Ninja compared to playing two bits of plastic together. Anyway... it's all about the Monkey not the Organ Grinder in our band hahaha!
• If you could be in any band for a week past and present (other than the Limited Love Orchestra, obviously!), whom would you choose? And which member would you most like to be?
Oh actually that is really easy. I'd be Maurice White in Earth Wind and Fire. Ah right! There is a drummer-singer! And he was the bandleader and songwriter. Mind you I was obsessed with Stuart Copeland from The Police. I copied him terribly! Mind you I couldn't be in the same room as Stink... I mean Sting! It would have been funny to be in James Brown's band I reckon. I'd quite like to have been one of those in-house session fellas for Motown Records. Like Uriel Jones or Benny Benjamin. To have been a fly on the wall for some of those sessions must've been really something. Never mind playing with so many weirdos and legends on so many ace tunes. Many like, in one take you know? But I suppose bottom line is if I was in Earth, Wind and Fire I'd get not only to wear a cape but to be a proper Alien Space Egyptian, which was their look. What's not to like about that? Yeah... although we'd have to rename it Earth, Wind, Fire and Timmy. Which would totally ruin it! Hahahaha!
The Limited Love Orchestra performs their debut live on the main stage of Matter, The Millenium Dome, London on Saturday the 7th November with Trentmoller and support. VVWI Recordings also takes over Matter on 28th November with Blackstrobe, Vitalic, Guido Scheider and VVWI DJs.
Get involved in their forum at : http://vvwi.forumotion.com/
check out Jazz Master Rob Lavers at : http://roblavers.co.uk/
Read the full article on Trafficmag.org HERE