Native Mix #061: Sunship

The Native Mix

Kieran Mallon

02 Mar 2018

The producer behind 2000's iconic garage track 'Flowers (Sunship Remix)' joins us in the mix.


It's not every day that a legitimate dance music legend rolls through town, but that's exactly what's happening on March 24th at Sticky Mike's.

If you don't know Sunship, don't worry, because you definitely, definitely do:

With a compendium of remixes for Sweet Female Attitude, Misteeq, and Craig David, some of which peaked as high as No.2 in the UK chart, you've been listening to Sunship for over 15 years. 

With a list of career collaborators as long as your arm, Sunship's body of work speaks for itself. Today, we're delighted to be able to welcome him to the Native Mix series:

So I thought we’d start by discussing your jazz background. Can you tell me about that part of your life?

The early 90s, yeah, I was a keyboard player with The Brand New Heavies on the Acid Jazz label. They were great times, late 80s early 90s, we were all listening to, well, we called it 'rap' then, it was before hip hop. Funk, soul, jazz-funk, early dance music, house. A little bit of everything.

We toured the world, Japan, American, I kind of started production with Sunship around then as well, about 1990. 

And as Sunship - your debut (self-titled) album won a MOBO award in the jazz category. Have garage and jazz always been intertwined to you?

I think music is a very unifying thing. Sometimes things crossover sometimes they don't. I think with the early jazz it's all about the groove - it was the dance music of the day. Then it became a bit more widdly-diddly and intellectual and it lost a lot of the groove.  

When did you make the transition from playing live music to DJing? Does one inform the other?

I've always been DJing in some form or another, playing music even just for fun at home from a very early age. I wouldn't call myself a 'DJ' particularly. I'm a musician that does DJing. Foremost I'm a musician/producer but I do very much enjoy playing music, mixing.

I’ve noticed a lot of collaborators on much of your work - is this something that transcends jazz and garage? Is that what drew you to those genres?

I listen to all sorts of music, I'm not just into dance music. That only represents a very small part of my music interest. I listen to absolutely anything. I could sit here and go through so many different styles of music but there's no point you know. I just think sound is very interesting.

Your latest record Missing in (East) Acton was released in 2017 - what have you done differently on this album compared to previous works?

Only a couple of the tracks on that were actually recorded in 2017, a lot of it was actually recorded in about 2003/2004 when I was signed to do an album with Go! Beat, it was kind of the peak of the garage heydey, managed to get an album deal with them and they, unfortunately, went bust and the music in the album never really saw the light of day.

I released a couple of tracks on vinyl at the time, promos, and I thought you know there are some great vocals on there from Suncycle, Charlotte Kelly, Dom Kelly, her sister. I just really wanted it to see the light of day.

Your track Try Me Out (Let Me Lick It) featured on Kurupt FM’s debut compilation The Lost Tape - what do you think of the Kurupt FM crew? Were you involved with the compilation much?

I think they're funny, Kurupt FM. They actually film it very close to where I live - I live in Brentford, which is ironic. I wasn't involved in the compilation apart from them asking me to use one of my tracks. They actually asked me before when they originally did the series.

Where do you think garage sits today in the electronic music scene?

I think garage... It's great to see so many youngsters appreciating garage and I was talking about this the other day to a friend of mine. I mean after the late 90s when it really got going over here, UK garage, it kind of peaked around about 2003/2004 and after that it absolutely plummeted. I mean I continued to make garage up until today pretty much, but there were some very lean years when it was basically a dirty word. It was like no-one ever cared that it happened [laughs]. 

People really weren't fucking interested at all. So it's kinda nice to see that it wasn't just a waste of time for us all and its great to see that people still enjoy the music as much as we did back then. It's very influential in a lot of music today. Yeah, I think it sits very well in today's electronic music scene.

Can you tell us a bit about the mix?

Yep. It's 100% Sunship tracks. I start off and finish with my next release on Sunship recordings which is called The Silence EP by Xanthe, which I've co-written with her and co-produced. There's a Sunship 2-step mix and a Sunship bass mix which feature at the beginning and the end and a lot of the rest of the mix is a selection of Sunship tracks over the years. I very much enjoyed doing it. 

You’re playing in Brighton on March 24th - have you played at Sticky Mike’s before? What’s been your experiences of Brighton throughout your music career?

I may have played at Sticky Mike's before. If it's the one I think it is, I played keyboard there with Jamie T. I was very much involved with Jamie T in about 2006, very much enjoyed touring and playing with him. I think I've played there. It's a little place downstairs... I could be completely wrong. But I always love coming down to Brighton. It's always nice to see the sea and it's always been a good vibe.

Finally, what are you listening to right now?

A lot of bass stuff. Bassboy, Zinc, My Nu Leng. Just a little bit of everything. A lot of stuff from the 80s, the 70s, all sorts. Right now I'm listening to anything from Supertramp, Gerry Rafferty, to obscure classical music like Olivier, Messiaen, Morton Feldman, Brian Eno, I love a bit of Brian Eno at the moment. A lot of post-punk - Cabaret Voltaire, I really love their early stuff. I have a very eclectic music taste, long may it stay that way.

I'm out of questions now -  I'm very much looking forward to coming down to Brighton and I hope you enjoy the mix. Big up from Sunship.