A mere eighteen months ago, Miguel Campbell would have been a name that most people wouldn’t have recognised. Sure, those with a depth of disco knowledge would have known the Leeds based producer as the figure behind Outcross Records and one half of French-touch duo MAM. But on the whole he was a single figure in a mass of hard-grafting DJs who, despite having a solid back-catalogue and reputation, was far from a marquee name.
Then came ‘Something Special’, which, living up to its moniker, was indeed something rather special. “Nobody knew that it would make the impact it did,” admits Campbell when we phone him on a rainy Monday lunchtime in Leeds. And, indeed, it would be hard to see how anyone could have foreseen it. The biggest selling track on Beatport in 2011, it ended up being licenced all over the world, proving popular with everyone from Jamie Jones to MTV addicts to tuxedo-wearing wedding DJs (this writer can attest to having seen the latter).
And now, riding on the crest of his recent successes, Campbell has just released a new album. Entitled Back In Flight School it’s not only his first album for Hot Creations, it’s the very first that Jamie Jones & co. have ever put out. No pressure or anything then…
You grew up in Leeds, tell me about your early music experiences.
I started off as a hip-hop DJ at my local youth club, and when I was about fifteen I started going to nightclubs, like The Music Factory in Leeds and Bowlers in Manchester.
Was it those clubs that facilitated your change in taste from hip-hop to house music?
Yeah. It was the early ‘90s and Italian house music was big, so there was a lot of love going on in those clubs. It was that community vibe that got me into house music, [especially since] hip-hop was a lot more aggressive.
Can you remember what the first dance record you bought was?
Yes! It was Kym Sims’ Take My Advice, which had an E-Smoove remix on the B-Side. It was a big inspiration.
People use to mock me for the music I produced, they would call it “elevator music” or “gay house”, but I stuck to my guns & just continued to make what I thought was cool...So, how did you make the transition from clubber to producer?
I had been a DJ for a few years and had got to the point where I was wondering how tracks were actually made. Back in 2000 when I started producing, the [technical] information wasn’t as readily available as it is today, so I started by toying with basslines on top of acapella.
And then you launched your label Outcross Records. How did that all come together?
Once I’d got into the music production side of things, I took a career break from work and did a short course in music production. After that it was quite epic, because I realised that the only way I could carry on making music full-time was to sell my house.
So in 2004 I sold up and moved back to my mum’s. It was around the time of the property boom, so I made quite a lot of money off the sale and blew it all on building a studio. Having done that, I decided to just go for it and launch my own record label to go with it. The first release on Outcross cost me £1,500 to market and put out, so it was immediately a serious venture.
How is Outcross Records doing at the moment? Are you more focused on Hot Creations?
I’m focused on Outcross now more than ever. Because of the contacts I’ve made in the last six months I have a new distributor and label manager. Recently, we’re putting out more releases than ever, in fact our next release is by Inland Knights who were some of my idols when I was younger. I was that crazy fan in the front row during their sets, so it’s great now to be putting out one of their records.
How did your involvement with Hot Creations begin?
I had given some of my tracks to Richy Ahmed, which he played during the 2010 WMC in Miami, and Jamie Jones and Lee Foss heard them. I was playing at Back To Basics in Leeds when I got a phonecall asking if I’d sign an EP to Hot Creations, and when Jamie Jones got back to the UK he asked me if I’d be interested in writing an album for them.
The track ‘Something Special’ which you put out on Hot Creations has been a huge global hit. It must have considerably changed things for you as an artist?
People often ask me that, but I’d actually been touring and stuff before I’d released anything on Hot Creations, although being associated with them certainly has helped with bookings in the UK and Europe.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to follow it up with something similar sounding?
I’ve had lots of people asking me to remix them and do the ‘Something Special’ thing on their tracks, but I’ve not succumbed to any pressure, I’ve just carried on doing what I want to do. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now and in my opinion I’ve made hundreds of cool tracks in the past. It’s just that previously there’s been no press or attention, mainly because the minimal sound was so popular. So, I try not to pay too much attention to what people say and think around me.
Do you feel you’ve been over looked in the past?
Yes, definitely. I was always told that I was a good DJ but I was only ever offered gigs in back rooms. There was never a chance for me to showcase my disco sound on the main-floor. That certainly held me back for quite some time. People use to mock me for the music I produced, they would call it “elevator music” or “gay house”, but I stuck to my guns and just continued to make what I thought was cool, and it has worked out great, with artists like Jamie Jones and Soul Clap opening up doors for disco.
And the huge success you’ve enjoyed must be a real slap in the face of all those detractors.
It makes me chuckle. We have lots of big labels here in Leeds and [in the past] nobody gave me a chance because the music I made wasn’t ‘cool’, and now everybody wants me to make them a track.
Let’s talk your album Back In Flight School. Could you explain the ‘flight school’ concept to the album?
Throughout the late ‘70s and ‘80s, there were quite a lot of records that had an in-flight ethos, [that is] using soft pads and basslines to give the listener a feeling of being in the sky. Stevie Wonder’s Love Light In Flight, for instance. A lot of my inspiration comes from that era, and because I was spending so much time in airplanes, I arrived at the aviation theme.
And this is the first album on Hot Creations from anybody. Have Jamie Jones and Lee Foss had an active role in the album’s production?
I was pretty much left to my own devices. Of course the tracks had to be signed off, and Jamie and Lee helped tweak things like the running order, but they didn’t interfere with the tale I was trying to tell.
|Miguel Campbell Online|