Craig Smith has built a DJ career that has been going for over 30 years. He has been paving his way through the many different avenues of sound tracking countless nights in his home city of Edinburgh and across the globe whilst making music under his many different aliases.
He has had records out under his own name and various guises on labels such as Defected, Roar Groove, Instruments Of Rapture, Maxi, Restless Soul, Delusions Of Grandeur, Soul Heaven and his own label co run with Peter Oakden Fifty Fathoms Deep. Also, not overlooking his alliance with his longtime friend Graeme Clark (The Revenge) as The 6th Borough Project. Whilst also remixing the likes of Cevin Fisher, Roland Clark, Beverly Knight, Lay Far, Moloko, and Hercules & Love Affair amongst others.
For him it is about sharing his own style of quality 'good music'. His DJing and selecting abilities have also been referenced by author Irvine Welsh in his books who rates Craig as his favourite DJ of all time.. For this chapter of the Half-Lights it should be filed in the after party back to mine listening cannon, it is a top selection of deep vibes from start to finish.
1. Kool & The Gang Here After
2. Masse - But Then I'm Different
3. Billy Cobham - Heather
4. Cinematic Orchestra feat Fontella Bass - Evolution II (Mixed by Mr P)
5. James L'Estraunge Orchestra - We Rise
6. Yussef Kamaal - Yo Chavez
7. Herb Geller - Space A La Mode
8. Ahmad Jamal - Dolphin Dance
9. Michael White - The Blessing Song
10. Nesta Kerin Crain - Gongs In The Rain
11. Stanley Clarke - Butterfly Dreams
12. Pablo Queu - Move On
13. Iamnobdi - Faith
14. Tall Black Guy - Peace and Love
15. The Sweet Inspirations - What The World Needs Now
I thought firstly we could talk about your relationship with Edinburgh and how the city is evolving through your eyes. There seems to be a platform of smaller nights with a good variety of music on offer if you look a bit closer - would you say that is a fair assumption?
Edinburgh’s always had vibrant and forward thinking parties bubbling away from my first ventures out in the early 8o’s (Manifesto, the Hooch etc) right up to the present day but I think Edinburgh is suffering a little bit from a lack of good venues as the council have slowly but surely closed more and more clubs/live music venues in the city much to the detriment of the music scene. You’ve still got great places like Sneaky Petes and Cabaret Volitaire but unfortunately the council seem to be pretty blinkered. Also, maybe my age, but I’m being less and less interested in what the younger generation are coming up with. It all seems very generic now but I think thats a generational issue rather that locational. That said there are some good youngsters coming through in the city with ideals that I agree with, where passion and commitment override gimmicks and ego.
Over the years of going out in the city - what parties left a lasting impression on you?
As I mentioned before, seminal early 80’s nights like The Hooch, Manifesto and later on in the 80’s, Kangaroo and Spanish Harlem. In the 90’s and 00’s house wise you had nights like Tattoo, Gareth Sommerville's Yip Yap and Ultragroove parties and my own night Solefusion/Substance events with promoter Craig Wood as well as Audio Deluxe which I ran with Fleur Woolford who went on to run Soul Heaven brand. These nights dealt with some of the finest NYC/Chicago/UK DJ’s bringing many of them to our shores (even before London) for the first time. Although I only went a handful of times, Techno night Pure was one of the most renowned Techno parties in the World. At the same venue there was also the popular Tribal Funktion which had the whole Chi town thing locked down music and guest wise. Also the venue Berlin which was run by Harry Bennett was a fantastic underground venue through out 00’s. Early 90’s there was Chocolate City which was a very successful Funk / Soul midweek event which was then superseded in 1996 till 2008 to even greater success by Motherfunk which was ran by Gino Stornauolo & Euan Fryer (who currently runs the fantastic Athens of The North label). There was also the Lizard Lounge with Joe Malik and on Hip Hop tip 90’s parties such as The Blunt and The Big Payback and probably the most successful Seen with DJ A1.
Where in Edinburgh do you like to DJ, what is it about that venue that works for you?
One of my favourites was Cabaret Voltaire (formerly The Honeycomb which opened in 1995). I had a residency there 3 times totalling 8 years and numerous guest spot in the years between. The Vaults was also had some amazing events in it’s hayday and The original La Belle venue in the early 90’s (to big, too soulless now) was great. I also really loved playing @ Berlin the basement bar club in the West End but don’t think we really appreciated that till it was gone. Sky Bar is a newish venue in Edinburgh but Jamal and the SOS / LOR crew has made it very popular event space and one with the best view in town. Edinburgh has some amazing underused / unused spaces for one off / regular parties but unfortunately again the draconian local council make it nigh on impossible.
Outside of the world of clubs and music, what else do you recommend in the city? I really like visiting Edinburgh and have had some great nights out in bars, The Jolly Judge by the castle is probably in my top three pubs in the world - where do you go out when you are not listening to music?
Edinburgh has some popular bars like City Cafe, 99 Hanover, Bar Soba, Bramble etc but I’m not really one for going drinking anymore to be honest, I much prefer going for a meal these days and luckily Edinburgh has so many good restaurants from the most up market to the most simple but tasty. Baba, Nonnas Kitchen, Saboteur, Ting Thai Caravan Unicorn, Desi Pakwan, Ada are just a tiny amount of the places I love and would recommend.
Going onto making music now, I have always noticed your deep love of soul based music and I always think that has translated into your electronic productions with 6th Borough Project. How do you differ each sound to your various recording guises, is this something you are strict about or is it a natural process?
It’s a natural process really. I have a pretty large music collection and source all my inspirations and samples from there. A lot of the time I’ll sit down and make some music with no specific target and how it ends up dictates which project I’ll use it for. 70% is not planned for anything in particular though lately I have been a bit more focused and organised with my writing with regards which project the sessions work is for.
How did your relationship with Graeme Clark first start?
He left promos of his labels first release in the main local record store I picked mine up, thought it was brilliant and got in touch with him and we stated working together on some bits and bobs and doing remixes for each others labels at the time. That was in 1998 and he hasn’t been able to shake me off since. I’ve said it plenty times before the boys a genius and I’m very privileged to work with him.
Putting together albums as 6th Borough Project, for me, shows a journey of two people making music, how have the albums changed over the three releases in your view?
I think they grown with us, the good and the bad times. Our methods of recording have changed over the years (from the analog world to the digital) but our basic ideals never have. It’s good partnership because we both have different strengths individually but the gel together to make something stronger. In the ten years since we released our first, in fact since we first met 20 years ago we have never disagreed over anything ever which given what a stubborn pain in the arse I can be is a miracle.
Going onto the work you have done with Ricky Reid as Soul Renegades, I was really struck with Ricky's work as James L'Estraunge Orchestra. 'See You Tonight' was one of my favourite tracks of 2017, it's a haunting masterpiece which I have played to death. You must be really proud of him?
Yeah it really is a beautiful piece of work but I always knew Ricky was capable of something like this. Anyone that knows him knows he’s a very creative and emotional guy he just needed the right support and stable environment to work and he found both of them I’m pleased to say. I love that dude and I’m very very proud.
A lot of music lovers seem to get a buzz about hearing someones solo work against their collaborative work. Your music has been done as a duo with someone else a lot of the time. Is that a conscious effort and something you benefit from?
It’s a mixture of reasons I suppose. One like working with people that inspire me and I’m lucky to be surround by inspiring people also sometimes somebody might be doing some session work but I’ll feel their contribution is more than that so it’s a colab to me rather than session work. Secondly I think maybe deep down it’s my own insecurities in myself but I’m much more confident of myself these days. I’m definitely going to be releasing more solo stuff this year though.
Where do you go digging for records? Any Edinburgh tips? Are you a record store visitor or do you dig online?
These days, my digging is mostly when I’m away touring and gigging rather than back home and obviously Discogs, although nothing beats emerging all dusty with some nuggets after a days hard digging. For modern music I’m mainly on Bandcamp…..easily the best site for new music.
Your L.O.V.E. is a Four Letter Word are famous at my house, what was your thinking behind that mix series?
I’ve always had trouble getting to sleep or just switching off in general so I would always make chill out tapes for myself and friends from way back so the concept of it was nothing new to me. The first L.O.V.E is a Four Letter Word mixes though came about after really bad break up. I’ve always felt more able to express myself through music and this mix was my way of getting the feelings out I couldn’t deal with. I’ve always had a love of melancholy, of deep emotive music wether it was soul, jazz, ambient, soundtracks, ballads, rock, whatever genre really, so I find these a pleasure to do. To be honest, I thought people would find it all too depressing and I very nearly never uploaded the first one but it seems I’m not the only one who likes sad songs! The response to that series of mixes pleasantly surprised me. I need to do some more!
What labels, radio shows, blogs are doing it for you at the moment?
To be honest it’s something I’ve not been doing enough these last few years and I’m definitely trying to set more time aside to check shows and blogs. I do check things like Soulection, Worldwide and the Bandcamp radio but i really need to do it more.
Musically, who has influenced you? Who is your go to artist/bands/producers?
Far to many to name all the people that have influenced me and inspired me in the past and present but off the top of my head a few are Kenny Dope and Louie Vega (individually and as the mighty MAW) ATCQ, J Dillla, Lonnie Liston, Leon Ware, Minne Ripperton, Marvin Gaye, Kerri Chandler, Phil Asher, Madlib, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Osunlade, Bugz In The Attic, I G Culture, Dego, Ricky Reid, The Revenge, Burt Bacharach, Mizzell Brothers, Larry Heard, MCDE, Burrell Brothers, Anita Baker, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Dexter Wansel, John McLaughlin, John Martyn, Kenderick Lamar, Henry Wu, TBG, Frederick and Donald Byrd.
Can you tell us a little about the mix, where it was recorded and what music is on it?
It was recorded at my house in Edinburgh on a wet Sunday afternoon and there’s a selection of modern and old Jazz, Soul, Ambient, hip hop vibes all with message of peace, love and contemplation which given the way the society and the world are heading is sorely needed!
Lastly, outside of music, what else are you interested in - films, books, TV shows?
I very rarely watch TV now, just documentaries, films. box sets, the norm for most folk these days I imagine. I used to read all the time when I was younger, need to get back into it as a great book can have so much impact.
Craig's never ending churn of music continues this year with a 24 track instrumental hip hop long player coming out in collaboration with another Edinburgh producer (and life long friend Andy McGroaty) as Sound Signals called Soul Searching Vol 1 in May on SFSB Recordings. In May and June his own label 50 Fathoms is doing a double 12" vinyl only EPs of remixes from the last 6th Borough Project LP which came out last year ons The Revenge's Roar Groove label with remixes from Afronaught, Lay Far, James L'estrange Orchestra, Ooft!, Frederick and a host of others.