DJ, producer, remixer, label boss… for nearly a decade now Graeme Sinden has stealthily been establishing himself as one of the leaders of UK dance music as we know it.
Growing up in Hockley, rural Essex, the first music that really struck a chord with a teenaged Sinden was rap music, “a potent controversial force, more rebellious than political than anything around at the time,” with Beastie Boys, NWA, 2 Live Crew, and Dr Dre proving to be the soundtrack of his formative years. Trips to record shops in nearby Southend soon fostered an interest in Jungle, which by his own admission took over his life; a huge influence owing to its intrinsic Britishness, attitude and time stretched beats.
He quickly amassed a vast record collection which was showcased at university parties, playing an eclectic mix of old funk and disco 45’s, Latin and Afrobeat, rap, jungle, dancehall, 2step garage, house and techno. “I was inspired by Gilles Peterson’s ‘joining the dots’ attitude to DJing,” he remembers, “where you could move a dancefloor on your own terms, entertain and educate.”
Trips to London soon followed, where, hungry for more, Graeme headed straight for Bar Rhumba’s That’s How It Is night and Metalheadz at the Blue Note and later, East London’s seminal basement club Plastic People. These nights would prove to have a lasting effect on the young DJ, opening his already eclectic tastes up to an exhilarating world of new music.
Making the move to the capital when he was 21, a chance meeting with Dave Taylor – recording as Solid Groove at the time before he took on his better-known Switch sobriquet – would prove more than fruitful. The pair met through Made To Play boss Jesse Rose during a late night flyering session outside Rhumba and hit it off immediately. A collaboration was soon in the works, despite Graeme decidedly lacking in studio time compared to the more experienced Taylor. It was a risk that would soon pay off, however, with the young upstart’s extensive vinyl collection coming in very handy indeed, delivering a wealth of samples and loops they’d soon incorporate into choice cuts like ‘Overbooked’ and ‘Red Hot’.
It was also around this time that Sinden would meet another soon-to-be long term collaborator, Joshua Harvey aka Herve. The pair would go on to release their debut album as The Count and Sinden on Domino Records, featuring a wealth of special guests including the Mystery Jets and a young Katy B. “There was a big collaborative ethos within the group – Jesse Rose, Switch, Herve, Trevor Loveys and myself would frequently as a unit all make music with each other,” Graeme recalls. “That’s when we started that whole wave of new house music with basslines, inspired by the jacking house of Chicago and NY but mixed up with a UK sensibility – basslines from jungle and odd leftfield approaches. It was reactionary to all the really boring house that was around.”
A weekly Kiss FM radio show was soon in the works, providing a platform for the fresh, innovative tunes that Sinden relishes discovering. And then in 2010 he took the leap that many producers hope to do and founded his own label, Grizzly. He said at the time, “I want Grizzly to reflect my style of club music which is all-embracing, fun, disparate and twisted up… ‘grey area’ sounds, music you can’t quite put your finger on, stuff that sits between genres and puzzles you at the same time. Grizzly will bring this sense of unexpectedness, flitting between styles – it’s serious music without taking itself too seriously.”
While this undoubtedly still rings true, two years later a full-to-bursting release schedule, a recent European tour and the same uncompromising attitude have seen the label evolve into a veritable hotbed of new talent, launching the likes of Melé, Brenmar and Distal and seeing early releases from XL’s masked man SBTRKT and an incognito Felix Buxton of Basement Jaxx as disco lothario Jon Giovanni.
Sinden himself has helmed four releases on Grizzly – two collaborations with SBTRKT in ‘Midnight Marauder’ and ‘Seekwal’, and this year’s ‘Pull Up Wheel Up’ and ‘Keep It 1000’. This is a label boss who likes to get involved. And he still finds time to remix the likes of Willy Moon, Dr Gonzo, Gucci Mane and Passion Pit. The year 2011 saw him chosen as the official producer of the second Gucci Mane mixtape, ‘Free Gucci 2’, featuring a who’s who of British producers including Hudson Mohawke, Toddla T, Duke Dumont, Mosca and Rustie each offering their own unique take on the biggest Gucci jams.
Always keen to set new challenges for himself, itchy feet and the need for a change of scene prompted a move to Los Angeles in January of last year, which was and continues to be a hugely positive experience for Graeme. “The music scene in LA is at a really interesting crossing point, there are some great parties and some really open minded folk. Dance music is exciting here, plus there is loads of scope for working with new rappers and singers.”
Fast forward to 2013 Sinden was drafted in to executive produce rapper Mykki Blanco’s Betty Rubble EP, has released EP’s on A-Trak’s Fools Gold label & Unknown To The Unknown as well as collaborative releases with Vato Gonzalez and Brenmar, has launched his new collaborative project, The Crystal System, via Pitchfork and is set to release on Boys Noize’s BNR Trax label in October.
With XLR8R recently declaring that Sinden is “primed to make the leap into the mainstream”, the future is looking pretty rosy for the fresh-faced crate digger from Hockley.