Radio Slave Strips Things Back and Tells Us Why Berlin is Better
Associating Kylie Minogue and Berghain is hard, unless you've listened to Radio Slave.
It's probably been awhile since you thought about Kylie Mingoue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head." Mentally linking that track and Berlin's world-renowned club Berghain has likely never crossed your mind. Unless you have been listening to Radio Slave for over a decade—in which case it probably has.
Matt Edwards, well known as Radio Slave, or Rekid, is a dance music pioneer. Growing up in South London in the 80s, Edwards was on the cusp of adulthood just as the first wave of electronic music graced the shores of the British Isles. "It was a golden time for music and progression within music," says Edwards. Prefacing the Internet, the youth of yesteryear were forced to do the unthinkable—go out and discover. Getting his hands on whatever he could, Edwards' childhood quickly turned into a musical education. Whether it was electro innovators like Afrika Bambaataa or New Order, Edwards was immersing himself in music. In 1990, he began frequenting legendary establishments like London's infamous and long-defunct Milk Bar. "Within 2 years, I was actually DJing at that club. So it was a sort of quick progression for me," he says. "I was in university at the time, but I was going to record stores every day."
Still prior to the drum and bass explosion in the UK, the electronic music scene was nowhere close to as prevalent as the world has come to understand it to be. Then, Edwards was more interested in the music and the community that came along with it. "We used to travel up and down England to go to these sort of raves and stuff like that, it was a much more close-knit community back then." The idea of meeting like-minded individuals was intriguing to Edwards. He spent much of the early 90s taking in the grandeur of the late DJ Larry Levan at London's Ministry of Sound. "I knew very little about disco music but once I heard him play, I just wanted to find out everything I could about this DJ and read about him or read about the music," says Edwards. "There was much more romanticism about this music back then than it is now."
From the mid to late 90s, Edwards and his friends in London would head to their local studio and bury themselves in analog equipment, expressing themselves with wires and modular synths. It wasn't until he moved to Brighton a few years later that he discovered the possibilities of making music outside of the studio—with nothing but a PC. "I started working with a young guy, Serge Santiago," says Edwards, "and that's how the Radio Slave thing was born."
Edwards eventually felt it was time for a change. "You could really feel that this was becoming the home of electronic music in Europe," he says. He would eventually surrender to the liberalism and free spirit of Berlin and relocate to the German city in the early 2000s. The effect on his music is almost immediately audible. Whether it was hits like "Blacklight Sleaze," or his Panorama Garageremixes, his new surroundings made an impact. Hearing residents like Boris smash Berghain's main room, "took me back to those days of being at Ministry of Sound and hearing this very hypnotic music and I was really taken by it," he says.
Although the Berlin superclub has a reputation for being arbitrarily selective with its guests, it never ceases to leave a lasting effect on all those within its industrious walls. "It's not for everyone," says Edwards. "Nightclubs are about sex, drugs and rock n roll, that's what it's about. It's about letting loose. You have to give people that sense of freedom—Berghain is a place like that." While Edwards may credit a significant influence from his new surroundings, his music is still somewhat of a constant homage to his roots in the UK. He also credits the UK for having brought him together with artists like Rekids mainstay Mr. G. Formed in 2006, Edwards' label Rekids has been releasing music constantly, ranging from house to techno and amassing almost 80 releases in the process. In 2013, suffering from financial disarray, Edwards was forced to put the label on hiatus. "It was always with the intention to keep it going, but, unfortunately, the break took nearly 18 months," says Edwards. An intervention by his accountant managed to get the label back on its feet. "I just wanted to put it right and do the best for the people involved, because for a long time things weren't right."
Today, Edwards' time is spent as a balancing act. "As much as I love making club tracks, I like making stuff for home listening," he says. For Edwards, too many DJs are on the road all the time, resulting in a loss of quality in their art. Without time to go record shopping, or to produce creative music, they no longer have the time to make the quality product that made them famous in the first place. This led to a shift in perspective for the Englishman. "I didn't know in what direction to go," he says of a temporary lack of creative inspiration. "I had done too much. I just had to take a step back and find my feet again."
Edwards is quite sure of what direction he would like Rekids to head, though. Looking back through the catalogue of the label, he says things have come full circle and are similar to the music he was producing almost a decade ago. "We are living in a day and age where there is so much music from 20 years ago that is still relevant and still playable," says Edwards. "You've just got to go out there and find it—and dig for it."
In addition to the seemingly endless amount of music released by Edwards, he has also debuted his own clothing project called Electric Uniform, which features a selection of football-inspired t-shirts with specific artist's names on the back—mainly his friends. Edwards is donating five euros to a Berlin-based charity for every shirt sold. Whether it's Nina Kraviz rocking her Acid Jesus top or Chris Liebing and his beloved number 23 kit, Edwards is taking advantage of the positive impact a fun project like this can have. "It's similar to selling records, it's the same kind of vibe," he says. "I'd never been involved in the rag-trade and it's really exciting."
On Saturday Edwards will be performing in Toronto, at Nest behind his Radio Slave moniker. "I'm definitely going to go out digging Saturday when I'm in town." The more digging Edwards does, the better it is for everyone.
You can buy tickets to Radio Slave at Nest here.
Photos by Sime Eskinja.
Originally published on Thump.