Where do you start with a guy who's been involved in more projects than a US building marshal? Where do you start with a fellow, who's as happy slinging reggae , funk , rock , soul , disco and jazz on the metal platter, as he is house music ? Where do you start with a guy whose productions have been championed by Danny Tenaglia and also by Fabio and Grooverider; by Gilles Peterson but also by John Digweed? Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
Ashley Beedle was born in Hemel Hempstead to a Barbadian mother and English father (his parents met in the local hospital where they both worked). After an aborted attempt at settling back in Barbados, the Beedles moved to Harrow where Ashley spent most of his early childhood. It's probably no surprise to his folks that he eventually ended up working in music. "Well, my dad had an amazing music collection and my mum loved her Al Green, gospel, ska and she loved things like Brook Benton and Mahalia Jackson," recounts Ashley. "But my dad's collection went from Bach to Big Youth and all points in between. He still is a massive record collector." At the moment, Ashley's dad is assiduously hoovering up Bob Dylan / Johnny Cash bootlegs, ever the music fiend.
Music came at him from all angles: from the radio, school friends, parents, everywhere. "When I was about 16, in my last year at school, a friend of ours started to go to Crackers on a Friday lunchtime," chuckles Ashley. "And we used to go into the school toilets at lunchtime, get changed into our granddad shirts, Bowie trousers, plastic sandals ( soulboy gear ! ) bunk school and get on the train to Crackers.That was where I saw people like Norman Jay, Paul Anderson, who was a dancer down there."
Bitten by the club bug, he left school and worked firstly as a spot welder ("I used to weld shopping baskets together!") and latterly in airline offices in and around Heathrow. Money earned went straight into fuelling the soulboy lifestyle and a growing interest in sound systems. Ashley, along with a group of friends from Edgware, founded the Shock sound system. "It started off as a little boy sound', which was what we used to call them. We started off doing house parties. And then Stanley, who was the owner, inherited a load of equipment from his older brother, so all of a sudden we had this big sound to play with ! Where we made our name was in Powis Square, Ladbroke Grove at Notting Hill Carnival. We started around 1984 and went all the way through the early house thing. We were the sound that popularised house music at Carnival, before anyone else I can think of. We started playing a lot of the really early house records because to us, they had the same rawness as the reggae records."
At the same time as his involvement with Shock, there were the trips to the weekenders, the road trips on a weekend to Southend and Hemel Hempstead and the jazz-funk circuit. "Then I had an epiphany", he says. "I was working for Zambia Airways. I was going out a lot then and I was already involved with sound systems. Then I started going to Queens, Phil Perry's club and I'd never been to anything like that before. That's where I encountered the suburban Balearic vibe and started hearing these records I'd never heard before. I thought, I really wanna get into this, but I was sick of my job. So I remember one Wednesday I went for lunch and never came back. That was it." He's never had a proper job since.
There have been many DJs along the way who had an impact on young Beedle, but none more so than Colin Curtis. "That's the man as far as I'm concerned," he enthuses. "Berlin's was the place. We used to get in my mate's van and travel up there. He turned me on to a lot of harder, trippier stuff from the jazz funk scene. He played stuff like Let The Music Play by Players Association and fast samba records on Japanese import albums and things like Brainstorm's Wake Up And Be Somebody, which is as much a southern as a northern record, because of DJs like Colin Curtis."
Early forays in the studio produced one of the first British garage tunes in Give Me Back My Love by the Boys In Shock feat. Carol Leeming (Which Jeff Mills included on his Choice comp for Azuli) . He even got to do a PA at High On Hope promoting the single: "We did a PA with Blaze and they were on first, so we absolutely shat ourselves. They got on stage and did Can't Win For Losing in gold lamé suits! But it went really well." Then there was the Psychic Vitamins, a Hendrix-sample paean to Balearic. But it was his first single for the then nascent Junior Boys Own which helped cement his reputation in the studio with the classic Where Were You by Black Science Orchestra.
"I did it with Rob [Mello] and my flatmate at the time John Howard who helped finance the studio session and he played the hi-hats. John just wanted his name on the record. That record came about because I was in Cheapo Cheapos , a second hand record shop that was in the West End .I was up a ladder going through the old vinyl and next to me was Norman Jay and he said, I've got a good record for you' because he knew I liked Philly. And he pulled out this old Trammps record.I Fell in love with the record and was in the studio with it in two weeks. Just chopped it up. Didn't know what I was doing really." Everywhere you went Where Were You was usually somewhere near a turntable. Not bad for someone who didn¹t know what he was doing in the studio at that time.
He'd already met Rocky and Diesel through clubs like Queens and Full Circle, friendships that were cemented thanks to his work behind the counter at London's famous Black Market record store. They thought it'd be cool to make a record together. Again, it started life as a disco sample, but the loop got smaller and smaller; the sound got bigger and bigger. "We were big fans of the Wild Pitch sound, plus Hardfloor," explains Ashley. "So we thought that we would marry the US wild pitch with the extended breakdowns and the acid of Hardfloor." The result was X-Press 2's Muzik X-Press, a record that still is an anthem worldwide today.
X-Press 2's next single, London X-Press was even bigger. The boys went over to the Sound Factory, then home to Junior Vasquez's epic 12-hour sets. "Well, it's like coals to Newcastle isn't it?" reflects Ashley of their popularity in New York. "When I went over there, I couldn't fucking believe it. Half an hour of X-Press 2 records!"
The remixes poured in for Ashley. Remixes for pop bands, little house labels; hip hop mixes, house mixes; as a solo remixer, and as part of X-Press 2. There really are too many to mention !
There were more offshoot projects: Delta House Of Funk's two EPs for Go! Beat, a one-off single for Positiva with David Holmes under the moniker of De Niro, Roots Revolution for Narcotic, the demon dub-house of Jamayka Boys for Junior Boys Own, Black Jazz Chronicles for Nuphonic. And, of course, the Ballistic Brothers, an X-Press 2 side project (with Nuphonic's Dave Hill and female producer/keyboard player Uschi Classen added to the mix), which produced two very fine albums, London Hooligan Soul and Rude System. "To this day," claims Ashley, "I still think those two albums are brilliant."
Ashley also took time out to compile the first in Stru's Grass Roots series, a brilliant compilation of music that had influenced him as both DJ and collector. Taking in everything from Patrick Adams' produced My Baby's Got ESP to the awesome Stan Ivory and his Ominificent Orchestra, both highly collectible records. What you got was a wicked set of music and a few hundred quid's worth of tunes ...and all for the price of a cinema ticket.
Over the past couple of years, Ashley's mind (and, it has to be said, time) has been largely occupied with the Phoenix-like reappearance of X-Press 2 who scored the massive hit, Lazy in 2002 thanks to an inspired collaboration with former Talking Head , David Byrne. The boys are presently working on a new album, which will contain plenty of surprises for hardened X-Press 2 fans. They also have compiled a Choice album for Azuli in fact being the first and so far only UK DJ's to be asked!! As well as djing all over the world from Buenos Aires and Tokyo to Ibiza and Moscow !!!
But not so busy that there isn¹t time for Ashley's little side projects and sneaky little one-off gigs, playing everything from roots reggae to classic Philly disco and dancefloor jazz. There¹s also the same matter of an album of his own and a new label called Out Hear Audio for future Ashley Beedle releases . Also plans for some more amzing compilations... No more aliases for his new project, either. "I'm going to be doing an Ashley Beedle solo album," confirms Mr. Beedle. "I have to do it, because it's been in me for so long now." But not for much longer, we'd guess.