In this new feature, we ask our favourite maestros of the mixing desk to take us through a listening-lineage of influences on their production style. Here, the UK master of dubbed-out minimal, house and techno Steve O’Sullivan runs us through the tracks that have informed and continue to inform his work in the studio, and as curator of the legendary Mosaic Records label. Steve is one of those modest giants of the electronic scene, quietly exerting an influence with a consistent sound, and ever-rolling release programme. Not only this, he delivers one of the supreme live sets on the techno circuit. Subterranea are treating us to just that on 7th April. Warm yourself up for the night with Steve’s selections below.
“Rather than pick some obscure tracks which don’t seem to have any relevance to my production I’ve chosen the ones that inspired me the most and the ones where, if you listen carefully (or not so carefully!), you can hear the influence in my productions.”
Robert Hood – ‘Internal Empire’ (1994)
‘Minimal Nation’ is always the record of his that gets mentioned as a game changer as it set the tone for much of what followed but this album was my biggest inspiration back then. It has everything I love about minimal techno when it’s done well and demonstrates his mastery of the art. The energy is driving without being in your face, the hypnotic musical elements lock you in and the subtle variations and fx, keep you totally engaged as a listener. The purity of the sound captured my attention and made me realise that I didn’t need to fill my tracks with needless elements (as I had been up until that point) and could just focus on the essentials of the groove.
Millsart – ‘Gamma Player’ (1995)
Jeff Mills may not be an influence that will be wholly apparent if you look at much of my discography but this had a real impact on me when I was finding my musical feet. It’s a serious slice of deep techno that still makes the hair on my arms stand up when I listen to it. Bleepy minimal riffs fused with beautiful chords – what more could you ask for? At one point, I think I was listening to this and ‘Growth’ every day and ended up making a series of records in this style on my Green imprint.
Octave One – ‘Conquered Nation’ (1995)
Between 1994 and 1997 Octave One were on fire. So many great tracks and Eps with a real swing and funk that was missing in so much European music at the time. As much as I love the classic sound of the first wave of Detroit techno the Octave One records of this period resonated in a way that the others didn’t. The simplicity and purity of the minimal sound championed by Robert Hood is in there but with a greater focus on the funk and groove. The subtle elements of house in their productions helped me look beyond making straight techno when I was developing what became the Mosaic sound
Tan Ru – ‘Changeling’ (1995)
I could’ve chosen any track from the early Trelik catalogue but this one from Ian Loveday as Tan Ru is pretty special. A dubbed out minimal house masterpiece that was well ahead of its time and still sounds relevant some 20 odd years later. There weren’t many records like these being made back then and it was one of a few from that period that made me up my game, experiment more in the studio and develop my own blend of house and techno
DB-X ‘Ghetto Trax’ (1993)
Along with Robert Hood, Daniel Bell, is one of those producers who can do no wrong in my book. So many records to choose from, including the hyper minimal ‘Losing Control,’ but this one, in particular, was a hugely important in a period when I was locked into the sound of labels like Relief and Dance Mania. I’m a sucker for a good tracky drum machine workout and I could sit and listen to these sort of tracks all day.
Rhythm & Sound w/Tikiman – ‘Never Tell You’ (1996)
I remember being introduced to Basic Channel by a friend of mine and although I liked the records and could appreciate the quality they just weren’t tracks that I loved. I guess some will call that sacrilege but the Rhythm & Sound records, along with the M series, just mean so much more to me. I was always a lover of 70’s/80’s dub and these guys had fused that vibe within the techno/house template so you can imagine how impressed I was when I picked this up back in ’96! It opened my eyes to what was possible in the studio and, as with the other records mentioned above, pushed me to experiment and develop my own musical identity.