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October

October

Next weekend we welcome Dutch-born, Bristol-based October to the laser basement for the next instalment of Abattoir! A punk-rocker at heart, Julian Smith has been releasing house and techno records under the alias October on his own labels like Caravan (now sadly defunct) and Tanstaafl alongside the likes of Aus Music and Skudge Records. Known for his love of analogue hardware, Julian produces, DJs, and even plays in rock bands in and around Bristol. We caught up with him ahead of Abattoir to find out more about his influences, living in Bristol and the nods to science-fiction that seem to run throughout all his work...

What drew you to Bristol (besides its vibrant music scene) - what makes it the place you want to live?
 
My parents moved here from the Netherlands in 1996 as my mum got a job in cardiac theatres.  I moved around so much in my youth I thought I'd make some roots somewhere so stayed in Bristol.
 
We recently spoke to Chicago house legend Gene Hunt who advocated for a "little dirt, a little grunge", and warm analogue sounds, not sounding too perfect... is this the type of rawness in sound that you strive for?
 
Yeah I can relate to Mr Hunt's statement. I love digital too.  My favourite synths are digi synths from the '80s.  Ensoniq, DX7, Kawai etc, and I bizarrely prefer the Roland Alpha Juno 2 over any other Juno.  The combination of digital LA / FM synthesis and warm analogue synths is fantastic.  The cold sound of digital synthesis cuts through that analogue warmth like a hot knife in butter.  Too much analogue clouds everything.  I also feel the same about compressors and EQ's.  A couple of vacuum tube compressors and EQ's combined with digital is the best.  You can achieve a lot of space in your mix-downs if you use the best of all worlds.  Unbalanced cables are great too for dirt, and harmonic distortion is a must too.  Ultimately - it doesn't matter what you use as it's all in between the ears but my favourite records are the ones that don't try too hard.  Not too keen on anything that's super polished and glossy but a bit of shine here and there can't go a miss...
 
You're a big proponent of letting tracks play out. Is this down to not underestimating the crowd? Do you think crowds are more sophisticated these days with unlimited limited access to music via the internet? Or does it simply boil down to just wanting to experience the whole track?  
 
I have not really thought about it, but I do a lot of subtle mixing while the track is playing.  It really depends on the track - there are a lot of records I mix out of quite quickly when I'm playing a club but when I record mixes I tend to let them play out as the music deserves it.  I still mix like a junglist and do a lot of cutting...
 
You're the lead singer and guitarist of a band too, First And Last Men, as befitting your strong punk-rock influences. Is the name a nod to science-fiction author Olaf Stapledon's novel The Last And First Men or is this a coincidence?
 
Yes it is - I'm happy someone finally spotted it.  I'm a big fan of hard sci-fi and Olaf Stapledon is one of the 20th centuries finest thinkers.  In the book Last And First Men written in 1930, Olaf talks about genetic engineering and stem cell research.  People then clearly dismissed his ideas but now his ideas are the future.
 
Is Bristol one of the few places where you can be Jules the singer of First And Last Men *and* DJ October? It seems like that would be much harder to maintain somewhere like London...
 
I'm not sure but I believe we can be anyone we want and do anything we want if we put our minds to it.  I think that, wherever I find myself in this world, I will always start a band and take techno to the grave.
 
The label you run with John Osborn is called Tanstaafl which is an acronym for There Ain't No Thing As A Free Lunch (from the novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress). Is this the ethos of the label or simply another sci-fi nod?
 
It's the ethos of the label - if you want something to happen you have to work for it...  This world doesn't owe me or anyone else in it, anything.  You have to make it happen yourself and just deal with whatever comes your way good or bad.  You can't always have good times if you haven't experienced hell...  
 
Which novelist, if any, would you say has had the biggest influence on your musical output, and does different art inspire your different musical endeavours?
 
I'm inspired by a lot of authors but Arthur C. Clarke, Kurt Vonnegut, Phillip K Dick, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Alfred Bester and Olaf Stapledon inspire me no end.  However, I'm also obsessed with Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse and Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.  In general life inspires me so I use whatever comes my way... 
 
You played Room 1 at Fabric last month, and now you're playing the basement here at Dalston Superstore- which type of venue size do you personally prefer- the intimate basement or the epic grandness of somewhere like Fabric?
 
I love smaller more intimate clubs but playing places like Fabric, especially Room 1 which is the best DJ booth in the world and such a huge honour.  P-bar is immense as well and secretsundaze is dope too.  I guess the crowd is what makes it for me. It can be a room with 2000 people, or a room with 200, as long as the crowd react the way I want them too - then it's all good.
 
What's next for October in terms of records to be released?
 
I have forthcoming EP's on Aus, Skudge and TANSTAAFL on the way, plus my debut album is near completion and will be released on Skudge.  There are some other big things in the pipeline but I'm not at liberty to talk about them just yet.  I am also changing my name from October to DJ October as I am possibly the most difficult DJ to find on the net.
 
If you could pick just one record that epitomises that raw, analogue aesthetic that you prize, from any genre, what would it be?
 
A difficult, almost impossible question to answer but I'm going to say Flying Turns by Crash Course In Science is my current raw jam.

Join October on Friday 28th February in the basement for Abattoir at Dalston Superstore from 9pm - 3am.

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October

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