I went on a scout camp once, and we had this (how could he be anything other?) slightly crazy scout leader, that wore shorts all the time, and usually a hat, not a scout beret, but instead a sort of Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee sort of affair. I prided myself on being one of the least enthusiastic scouts ever, even to this day not really realising why I kept going, but, in actual fact, he managed to make it (sort of) bearable. And that stil sort of grates, because without doubt, now all these years later, he’ll probably be permanently attired in a bow tie, and refer to himself as an eccentric. And, who doesn’t hate that.
One summer, we went on a camp, and he told us to expect the unexpected. Then, early in the morning, he let our tent down.
Expecting the unexpected is something a lot more pleasurable with Leeroy Powell, who DJ’s under the alias of Sir Vinyl Instinct, with sets that veer from funk to hip-hop to……..well just about anything, and who also runs a label, Sheffield’s Itchy Pig, which similarly puts out release that delight and suprise and are, well, unexpected.
We caught up with him recently about his (ahem) Tales of the Unexpected…
So, was there a track that made you first fall in love with music?
Not really. It was always the feeling I got when I listened to music. I remember being around 7 or eight when we would go to my great aunties on a Saturday night and to keep me quiet they would give me some headphones (proper hi-fi modules that I still remember, some Japanese titled Philips reference) and just let me loose on all their vinyl in order to keep me quiet. Going back to that memory always makes me smile with great warmth as it was when I realised you can get lost completely in music. So to have that from a very early age was probably what set things off. I had access to a huge amount of vinyl when I was young which was a great blessing.
And then what, you got into more? What was the first record you bought? Do you still have it?
You always read things like this and people always say the first vinyl they bought was some iconic piece which is usually a load of bollocks to make themselves look good. That certainly wasn’t the case for me and I don’t have any shame in pointing that out. Although I can’t remember the first vinyl I bought, I can certainly remember the first tape I bought: ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’ soundtrack… Shocking. Thankfully my purchases began to get better with age.
And you got into messing about with tapes early? Tell us about that?
Yeah I remember having a tape splicer back in the day. Something which got me into a hell of a lot of trouble as I did disseminate one or two of my folks tapes which they were not particularly happy about. I also used to do what everyone else did who had a tape recorder at that age and pretend they had their own radio station. I used to have the tapes until a short while back when they got left in a car of mine that got sold and forgot they were in there. Never mind. A great treat for whoever bought that motor I suppose.
How did you get into DJ-ing?
I was very fortunate with my folks in that they would rather me (and a shitload of friends) be at home instead of roaming the streets so we joust used to have youth clubs in our house at the weekend before properly starting clubbing. DJ-ing was just something we used to do before we went out. I got into it heavily but then gave it up for a good while. Since starting again proplerly last year I have been fortunate to see my schedule increase which is lovely as there is nothing more fun than playing records (and CDs) to people who just want to dance.
Can you remember your first gig? Nervous? Can you remember what you dropped?
An old uni friend entered me into a competition without telling me in Sheffield. I can’t remember how bad the other contenders were but they must have been atrocious because I stopped two of my tracks by accident while performing and still came second so hey ho. Good fun though and we all got a load of free ale out of it which you can never have too much of, especially when you are a student.
What 3 tracks are you NEVER without when your DJing?
Impossible to say. I play a complete medley of music depending on where I am whether it be house, techno, disco, funk, hip hop etc. Although saying that… nah, I would be here all day.
Can you describe your sets?
Random. Most people I know play one type of genre (trust me, there is nothing wrong with that) although my brain is far too scatty or impatient for that so I tend to go all over the place with my music. I really try my hardest to make sure the next time I play is absolutely nothing like the last and it is quickly becoming known about what I do so in answer to your question is I don’t really know if I’m honest. Sometimes paryty related, sometimes music nerd related, always different I suppose.
…and your guilty pleasures?
I’m not going to say I don’t have any because that would be a complete an utter lie. My ‘going to the shops in the car’ track last week was Snow ‘Informer’. I spend more time sorting the music for the short journey than it does to get their and back which can sometimes drive my missus up the wall.
Snow – Informer
And how did Itchy Pig come about? Does it have a ethos/style?
I have my missus to thank me for that really. I got made redundant and I was at a loose end. She told me to do what I wanted and music was always that. So I began to looking into seeing if it was possible and then it went from there really. The ethos behind the label’s style is to completely stray away from genres. Too many labels / artists / people get caught up in this debate. If it’s good, then it’s good enough to put out. So long as we like it and we something when we hear it then we want to be part of it. It’s really that simple. Since then we have been lucky enough to grow from just being a label which now has its sister companies IP Publishing which is the publishing and film and game synchronisation arm of the business, as well as the agency Itchy Artists that look after the likes of Moodymanc, Bozzwell / Hiem, Michael McLardy, Stretford Dogs Club and Abe who you really need to keep an eye on as they are a Sheffield act that are destined for good things. We also recently set up a music Pr company called Just Good Music which is already building up a superb client base including Saytek, Ray Gibson (not the cheesy Canadian chick – the decent one from Berlin).
Ray Gibson – Modern Earth
..and the name itchy pig?
‘Itchy Pig’ was originally a photography company which a very close friends stepfather had way back when. Ever since hearing the name I was in love with it as it grabs your attention straight away. I was originally going to open up a record shop in Sheffield a few years back but when then I though against the idea, given the way the retail market for music was heading. Being surrounded by music anyhow and being the recluse that I am, then I though why not.
What provided the inspiration? Were there other labels you wanted to be like copy?
I spent the first 6 months trying to be like a label I know and I got sick of myself trying to chase what other people were doing. I sat down and had a bit of a chat to myself and since then I have literally done my own thing. You can get bogged down with what the next man is doing and it can seriously cloud your judgement. What do you want? It’s you doing the venture so it has to be personal. Too many people want to be like someone else and it goes against everything about being creative. Be yourself and do your own thing because there is only yourself you should be out to impress.
Sheffield – home of electronic/synth music – has that been influential?
Sheffield is superb for music and arts in general. When I first started the label I had a load of contacts in other cities and countries so I always advertised what I do on a global scale, and is something I will always do. However I have loads of friends in Sheffield that are doing great things for both the local scene and pushing what can be achieved sonically so it was impossible not to integrate that into what we do. The only problem with Sheffield and although I can guarantee it will look bad on my part, I really don’t mind voicing my opinion in that it can be a little to cliquey at times and there can be a lot of bitchiness involved. I always ignore it which can be hard sometimes, but if you forget all that and don’t get involved, then you see the true greatness of inspiration that is available in abundance in Sheffield.
And you’ve some exciting releases coming up?
Some amazing things on the horizon including works from myself (Sir Vinyl Instinct / SVI), Toby Tobias, Saytek Live, Rubberlips, James Johnston, Michael McLardy, and Abe – Watch out for Abe as they are a beautiful collective of music minds and have some huge things in the pipeline with them – also from Sheffield. We are also about to be the first label to have their flag put at the top of Everest, albeit the trip goes smoothly.
Tell us about the festival you’ve got involved with in Croatia?
Yeah we were recently asked to help out Hideout Festival, The Warehouse Project and Field Day in London to create a new festval in Croatia and has the likes of Actress, Four Tet, Henrik Schwarz, Ame, Dixon… the list goes on. I was overwhelmed when that one came about and am very excited and humble at the fact that I am a part of that.
Any other big things coming up?
We have a huge project where people can remix a track for this years record store day and have it released on vinyl: https://www.facebook.com/events/508771929168354/
Who is really hot right now?
There really are too many to mention. However one right at the top is Abe: https://www.facebook.com/abesmusic
The best record I’ve heard this year is…..
The new Maurice Fulton album under his Syclops guise is great.
Syclops – Unmatched
My scout leader taught me something that camp. Since then I’ve been ready to not only expect the unexpected, but also accept it. Itchy Pig/Leeroy/Sir Vinyl Instinct has taught me that the unexpected can be liked, be loved even. And surely, thats got to be better than wet canvas on top of you at 6am, hasn’t it?