Since Zepherin Saint launched Tribe in 2008, it’s motto of “One Sound, One People” has captured their very essence, breathing new life into dance music with their worldly approach to their sound. We check in with the label boss on his new single ‘Hurry’ with Sara Devine, launching a brand new Miami cruise party this Spring and more!
Interview by Miss Ratha Gud
Zepherin Saint, a big welcome back to DMCWORLD…where in the world are you right now?
Currently living in Berlin. I needed a change of city and Berlin seemed like the right fit.
What exciting things are you up to over there?
I’ve just set up my studio here and started work on some new projects as well as getting a lot of unfinished material completed. I am taking in the creative atmosphere that exists here, be it the bands playing in the parks every weekend, constant live shows across all genres and of course the club scene. I don’t think there is another city (that I have witnessed anyway) that has that level of creativity thriving across all outlets for music. So it feels good to be immersed in it and as a result inspired.
What was the first piece of music you heard this morning after crawling out of bed?
Donald Bird – Wind Parade.
How’s the Tribe Records label going and what can we look forward to over the next couple of months?
I am pleased with where we are at right now with the label, it’s evolving more and more in to the sound I want for it, crossing electronic genres whilst appealing to it’s fan base whilst reaching a new audience. Coming up we have a new compilation series that features Louie Vega, Larry Heard, Ron Trent, Danny Krivit and Tyrone Francis, to name a few, who have all done great dubs and edits of past releases on Tribe that we have now compiled for those that may have missed them. New singles from Souldynamic ahead of their great Album ‘Origins’, IFA IYAY is a new project will be coming on Tribe Trax which finds and joins dots between African folk and Techno. Jose Marquez releases his follow up single ‘Mali Blues’ featuring musicians and vocalist from Mali and it’s a killer. Sean McCabe and Nathan have teamed up again to create a soulful anthem called ‘Love Yourself’ and finally my single ‘One Sound’ named after our Tribe motto which is a fusion between Jazz, African folk and electronic music.
We know travelling is a passion for you and Tribe’s artists comes from all over the world, how do you go about your A&R process and what are the essential credentials of a Tribe Records release?
First it has to be something I would want to play and support myself regardless of it’s dance genre, it’s all House music to me. I keep that as my guideline. Sometimes I receive tracks and the song or mix is not right, so if the producer is up for it I would suggest reworks on the song or it’s technical aspects in order to bring about the full potential for the release. I like to get the original right and not rely on remixes that way we build a true artist profile. I am not interested in the stats the artists have on social media, it’s about the talent first but the artists have to be willing to work and be consistent with their work, be in it for the right reasons and be able to extend their talent beyond the studio in performance.
Your new single ‘Hurry’ is out with Sara Devine, known largely for her works with Louie Vega and MAW, how did you hook up with her?
I brought Sara over to perform at my London UK Party called RAW about 8 years ago and we have stayed in touch. It was always my hope to one day get to record with Sara and eventually our schedules and fate lined up.
Tell us a little about the single and what to expect musically.
It’s an expression of dance music from from past eras that used the RnB structure in the arrangement of the song. This was important for me to implement in the song in order to capture the best delivery from Sara to show her range and writing abilities. Expect lots of live instrumentation and goose bump chord progressions.
You’ve worked with a variety of vocalists over the years, have you got particular favourite and is any one else out there who you’d really love to coax into the studio?
Everyone I have worked with I enjoyed and all have a different magic that appeals to me. I can not say any one is my favourite over the other as I am very picky with vocalists and only work with ones I consider to be great. I am working on a few to coax into the studio but will keep that a secret until it happens.
What is the most important factor to consider before working with someone?
Work ethic and compatibility in personality. It’s what brings the magic in to a track. You can hear when people get along well in the music that is created. There needs to be an openness void of ego on both sides of the mixing board. That’s the beauty of collaboration, being able to listen to each other and realize that the final result is bigger than getting one’s opinion heard. The fact is not every one in this world will get along and that exists in creativity so for me its important that the energy connects first. In regards to work ethic, I like to work with people that’s got their focus and drive in check. You could have the greatest musical gift, but if your work ethic is out of sync it will not manifest anything.
How do you set about writing your tracks and where do you get your inspiration from?
Depending on the genre I am writing for I will have different approaches. For instance, on ‘Hurry’ myself and Damian Smith, my writing partner, worked on the chord progressions with no other accompanying until we got it right from start to end to ensure we had a strong song first. Other times I build a good solid backbone beat or even a particular sound that can give me the starting point. If its something more African inspired I tend to go and record with a band of musicians and then create from there. I listen for my inspiration anywhere from a coffee shop or retail outlet playlist to watching people dance and respond to music. Musical discussions and conversations with friends introduce me to new artists or genres and my children also play a big part in that introducing me to music that I would not otherwise have found and keep me tapped into the younger generations ears.
You’re organizing a giant cruise party in Miami this May with US co-promoters Tambor, what have you got lined up?
Yes, very excited about this. Its been in planning mode for over a year now and will be the first cruise to host our style of music. Line up includes Stan Zeff, Joe Clausell, Chosen Few Dj’s Alan King and Wayne Williams, Tyrone Francis, DJ Angelo, Mark Francis, Yogi, Djeff Afrozilla and Jose Marquez. It will take place over 4 days as we cruise around the Bahamas on the Royal Caribbean with two island visits. We are already sold out but will be releasing information for the next one shortly.
There seems to be an increasing trend in promoters putting on cruise parties this year, what inspired you to take Tribe to the Floridian waters?
We wanted to have an alternative for the soulful scene to WMC where the prices were reasonable and the talent was consistent. WMC has got harder and harder every year for individuals to support due to the inflated prices at that time of year. So this offers an all inclusive package for nearly the same duration so we give people choice.
What’s your take on the current London clubbing / festival scene?
Not much I am afraid. It’s not what it was and has reverted to small bars to hear anything interesting. Corsica is in my opinion the only club that is forward thinking in their approach to programming, but innovation seems to have disappeared and turnover is paramount for the majority. I understand that its business but what makes a club business last longer is innovation not cashing in and London has become a cashing in club land. The lack of protection for the clubs in London is also a huge problem and constantly ignored by the powers where in other cities in the world its embraced as part of the culture. Festivals for me are becoming a bit predictable, however it’s good we are starting to see more of them.
What events / festivals are you most looking forward to year?
Can You Dance To My Beat festival in Kefalonia Greece is now in its 5th year. I started it in partnership with Katavothres club on the island set in a beautiful location. It’s a boutique intimate festival and has now grown to be a family affair. Also looking to try and attend Chosen Few Picnic in Chicago. It’s the biggest festival for the soulful scene and I need to witness it.
Are there any up and coming DJ/producers we should be on the look out for?
I have been a champion of producers Jose Marquez and Mark Francis for some time and I think now you will see them come into their own in their respective styles.
Which record makes you say “Damn, I wish I’d made that”?
I never say that. I am content with what I make.
Lastly, what 5 current records are at the top of your set list?
Jose Marquez – Mali Blues
Afro Warriors – Uyankentenza (Hyenna Remix)
Nathan Adams ft Sabrina – Love yourself (Sean McCabe vocal mix)
Carissa Nicole – Be Patient (Mark Francis Remix)
C Minor – Behind The Clouds (Enoo Papa Remix)
Zepherin Saint ft Sara Devine ‘Hurry’ is out now on Tribe Records