Better late than never

Interview with Spencer

Better late than never

17-07-2014 | 11.30

As you’ve probably noticed, an interview usually precedes an event at Trouw. We’ve adapted quite well to receiving last minute replies but mere hours before an appearance proved too much for even us. An opportunity to share some of Spencer’s thoughts and experiences doesn’t come along everyday and we’d be fools to resign this one to the wastebasket. So without further delay and in the spirit of better late than never, may we present the Spencer interview.
Back in 2009, after a heavy night of carousing, a group of Glasgow’s leading revellers got together and decided that having various satellite parties was getting out of hand. They pulled all their resources under the Numbers umbrella and have never looked back. The original Numbers crew began life as a party back in 2003. “I think everything really centred around the record shop called Rubadub that Jack(master) and I used to work in on alternate Saturdays from when we were 15 & 16.  Rubadub and their club night, 69 shaped what we do with Numbers. 69 was held just outside of Glasgow in a place called Paisley, underneath an Indian restaurant in the middle of nowhere. I went there when I was 16 – my first club night – to see DJ Assault. It was pretty great and I went almost every weekend with jack and other pals including Richard and the other guys who run Numbers.  I think Glasgow owes a lot of thanks to Rubadub, Club 69 and the Sub Club - at least those were the places that shaped what I do and are all probably the reasons why I’m still doing it today.” Calum Morton aka Spencer recalls those early days via an email as he travels between Croatia and Amsterdam for his appearance at Trouw later that night alongside Leon Vynhall and the Colors gang. He goes on to reminisce on the early days of Numbers…
"We used to run our first shows inside a burger bar in the centre of Glasgow - it held around 120 people and ran until 3am. Jack and I actually had another night called Seismic before we started Numbers - we had people like Claude Young, a Stuffrecords launch party and lots of electro & techno guests before we started Numbers with another crew of people. Numbers was meant to be a party where we would focus on playing music from different genres - the idea was that the music policy would be completely mixed, compared to the other shows that were generally about darker and more boyish sounding Techno. The best memories are just doing small parties to 100 people with sweat dripping from the ceilings. We've up scaled to 1000/2000 people shows today, but we won’t ever get the energy we had in a 100 capacity club.” Numbers’ notoriety is certainly unquestionable today. The label and its various events are a household name in Europe and feature a spectrum of artists ranging from Grime to House and everything in between. “There are 7 people running Numbers right now so usually there’s a certain level of majority rules.  We’re obviously not a strict genre based label, it wasn’t a conscious decision, but we’re into lots of different stuff and we decided a while ago to just put it all out under one name.  We release a selection of music that we like. It’s a pretty simple concept I guess….  maybe we could have done it using multiple sub labels - but sometimes I think splitting hairs is a waste of energy.” This eclecticism and focussed dedication to music is also the foundation of any Spencer set as the DJ incessantly explores the boundaries of music from the booth.
He has constantly developed since playing that burger bar in his early teens and even now at the youthful age of 28, he exudes the maturity only a lifetime of experience can bring.  “I started playing happy hardcore when I was 13. My school had discos once a year that were basically like mini raves - it was definitely a bit weird looking back: kids with glow sticks and doing all this shocking rave dancing. I moved into playing more chart house stuff when I was introduced to Daft Punk, Roulé, Crydamoure and other French house.  I guess it was at this stage, I was introduced to a lot of music from Rubadub - labels and artists like UR, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Moodymann from Detroit and Larry Heard, Ron Hardy etc from Chicago, then heavier IDM, electro etc from Aphex Twin, Rephlex, Clone, Warp and so on. I moved to London when I was 18 to study music at University, and from there I then went on to work at Warp Records for about 8 years, so was naturally listening to a lot more music from London - stuff like garage, hip-hop, bits of grime, jungle, ‘funky’, dubstep - just the sort of stuff you would associate with London. So I think I’ve been through a lot of different musical styles & genres - at the moment I’m playing more house and techno and a bit less of the faster and more abrasive stuff that I was playing a few years ago - but I think things move around and I don’t see any reason to pin myself down to one style.” At Warp, Spencer’s keen ear for music and flexible attitude played an instrumental part in bringing Hudson Mohawke and Rustie to the world.  “I still have the 6 track CD I gave to Steve Beckett with Hudmo's tracks on it. I helped with Rustie's signing to Warp too and the Glass Swords album.  He and Hudmo are friends from Glasgow, and our Numbers sub-labels had released their music, so helping in-depth on the Warp releases was logical.”.
Meanwhile, back at Numbers, the label began a series of releases that established their position in the vanguard of the UK bass scene with the likes of Mosca and Randomer heading the charge. Last year the Numbers crew celebrated their 10th birthday with a party…what else. As you can expect from a group of professional partygoers, this was not going to be a few pints down at the local. It took the form of a festival called Pleasure Principle, which encapsulated the music of a generation with a stellar line-up that perfectly sums up Spencer and his associates’ genre-divergent attitude. “It was just a coincidence that it happened on the 10th year, it was something we were wanting to do for years and the opportunity came about via my friend Sam, who ran a festival called Deadbeat that we all went to around 2002 or 2003. We wanted to collaborate and recreate the sort of spirit they had at the festival with an interesting mix between house, techno, hip-hop and other music we’re into. It was a lot of work and looking back I have no idea how we managed it.  We’re taking a year break now but we’re actively planning to do something again - maybe in 2015.” Even though they might be taking a break on the festival front, Numbers is as virile as ever in 2014 with two of the year’s strongest releases coming from label regular Deadboy and grime stalwart Darq E Freaker, via the Glaswegian institution. Spencer spends his time today between the Scottish city and his newly adopted home, Berlin.
I wonder why he himself has never donned the producer’s cap and instead sticks to the ambiguity of the selector. “I’ve been making music since I was 12, I studied it at University and was making beats and stuff on Reason since school. I just don’t like playing my music to anyone, probably because I have high standards and I’ve not really hit the level of where I’d like to be at as a producer. I’ve been co-producing a lot of the Kool Clap album along with Kool Clap and Jackmaster. It’s really close to completion, we just need a week or so together to finalise a few things.  I think I'm a better arranger of other people's music than I am on doing my own. I also do edits of a lot of tracks I play - you know, simple things like removing or extending sections, pulling out the best bits, deleting the bad bits. I do that for a lot of the stuff on Numbers too, we all do. I’ll probably find a way to release some edits in the coming year if I get round to it, I need to do something with them.  Then who knows - maybe something original of mine will crop up somewhere.” I wonder if that’s a hint that something might likely be on its way. I don’t get the time to press him for an answer, as he is due on at Trouw any minute now, so I settle for a look at what we can expect from Numbers in the very near future. “There’s loads more SOPHIE material; a Redinho album that’s almost ready to drop; an album from an unknown Parisian producer called Kool Clap who you won’t have heard yet but we’ve been working on for 3 years.  We have about 5 or 6 other 12”s in the pipeline - including a re-release of classic DJ Deeon tracks, a Grain thing (aka Artwork), some more techno, some house, some acid, a pair of Tuff City Kids remixes of Sparky and a bunch of stuff that’s almost ready to master.”
It’s an impressive list. One or more of those artists are sure to crop up in your periphery in the future if they haven’t already, and if you were able to catch Spencer last time at Trouw, I’m sure you have already witnessed the magic in Numbers.  

Text: Mischa Mathys