A few weeks ago we went for an in-depth chat with Craig Christon, head honcho of the widely acclaimed edits label Passport To Paradise and living memory of a whole face of the UK and balearic club scene’s history; a discussion during which we got to evoke his new project Beyond Paradise – the newborn complement to PTP which will be fully dedicated to original content, as opposed to its sister label’s disco-house reworks focused catalogue.
With the label’s first instalment set to drop next week, courtesy of the equally seasoned yet just as fresh and lively Nancy Noise, the occasion was too good to miss, so we caught up with the always smiling and loquacious pair to give you further insight in their exciting collaboration and how they laid out some exciting plans for the future.
Interview by Baptiste Girou
"Beyond Paradise Recordings will be a new platform for original music only [...] There will be no specific theme, just quality music with a twist from the norm."
Craig, you return to write a new chapter of your musical life with this new imprint, Beyond Paradise. Please tell us more about the label and its purpose. What will you be focusing on?
Craig: Beyond Paradise Recordings will be a new platform for original music only. I plan on introducing some known and unknown artists to people who love underground dance music really. There will be no specific theme, just quality music with a twist from the norm, something interesting that hopefully you can dance to. Music from all genres.
Even though it is independent from Passport to Paradise, the label’s name itself evokes a clear lineage… What is the crucial difference between the two projects?
Craig: Passport To Paradise is purely an edits label and Beyond Paradise will be original music.
The label’s first iteration comes courtesy of you, Nancy, with Leo Mas, Tim Hutton and Man Power on remix duty. How and when was the EP recorded?
Craig: The tracks ‘Kaia‘ and ‘Azizi’s Dance‘ were recorded in February 2016 after a heavy weekend in Leeds where the night before I threw a party to launch the Passport To Paradise label that Nancy came to play as my guest DJ. Initially Nancy was doing some music for me for PTP and that’s where the idea for Beyond Paradise came from. I thought it was best to keep original music separate from the edits stuff. So Nancy is to blame for a second label really, haha!
The first session day one went really well as Nancy and I had been backwards and forwards with her ideas the previous weeks and working with Tim Hutton, being the best musician I know, everything went just how we wanted it. I’m just the third pair of ears really, all the ideas have been locked in the mind of Nancy for all these years and working with Tim, everything just worked. I was really excited to get Nancy in the studio as it was her first experience of making her own music.
Nancy: Yeah Craig had asked me about making some music for his new label, so as he said I had gone up to play for him at his Passport to Paradise party, which was loads of fun! We then went into the studio, Craig had told me how great Tim was. I had all my ideas with me & Tim was brilliant and really understood what I wanted to do.
Leo & Fabrice and Man Power have both done beautiful mixes of Kaia. Also Leo & Fabrice worked on ‘Azizi’s Dance‘ with us adding a bit of their flavour to it which was just what it needed and for the second release Andrew Weatherall has done two excellent mixes of ‘Azizi’s Dance‘ and we have another wonderful mix from Leo Mas & Fabrice of Kaia. I’m honoured that they are all involved.
What triggered your interest for house music initially? Any memorable souvenir of a record/party that changed everything?
Craig: I have collected all sorts of music since the mid eighties and it was going out to clubs that introduced me to house music. The Hacienda in Manchester, Kool Kats Nottingham and the Warehouse Leeds is where I heard the early house music sound. This music was usually from the USA and there was this natural progression from disco so it was something interesting and different at the time and I naturally gravitated to start collecting house.
House music today is very different from the early days where the sound was more raw, and raw house is more to my taste than some of the newer stuff. Although music progresses as techniques and technology evolve and thats what I love about the house genre there is some great house music out at the moment and I will always love this sound. House music I suppose, as it had developed out of other music styles I had already been listening and dancing to in clubs, so to me at first I didn’t really think of it as a new sound as such.
"I remember hearing 'Love Can’t Turn Around' being played in Amnesia in the summer of 1986 and noticing how the dancefloor would totally erupt every time this was played."
Early tracks like Nitro Deluxe ‘Let’s Get Brutal‘ – what an amazing track that was… so hypnotic. In London at the time this was being played in clubs along with different music styles such as rare groove… etc. I remember hearing ‘Love Can’t Turn Around‘ being played in Amnesia in the summer of 1986 and noticing how the dancefloor would totally erupt every time this was played.
I also loved J.M. Silk ‘Shadows Of Your Love‘ that year In Amnesia. In 1987 tracks like Housemaster Boyz ‘House Nation‘ and Kenny “Jammin” Jason’s ‘Can U Dance‘ were massive in Amnesia, these really set the whole place off, they had such an effect, it was quite something to experience! Back in London I heard house stuff at nights like Delirium. Then when the whole acid house thing was kicking off and I was then playing the tracks as well as dancing to them, I loved early Todd Terry stuff with his use of samples and his drum style… etc.
One of my favourite Acid tracks was and still is Jack Frost and the Circle Jerks ‘Shout‘ as well as the overwhelmingly beautiful ‘Let The Music Use You‘ by The Night Writers with those killer cowbells, then came epic things like Derrick May’s ‘Strings Of Life‘, a masterpiece! This all lead the way for so many more tracks, labels and styles of house music. There would be an endless number of tracks to speak about.
Nancy, Craig speaks of you as a “maverick” in the press release. Do you feel it is a suitable definition of your character?
Craig: Hahahahahaha! Do I?
Nancy: Hahahaha, does he? Ahhh well if he did I’ll take that. I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit!
"I became a total devotee of Amnesia, I was crazy about their music and the place."
Nancy – this may be your debut 12″ but you’re far from being a newcomer in the world of electronic music – more specifically balearic house… can you tell us about your background?
Nancy: I’ve always worked in music since I left school and my dad was a musician. Then he went on to manage bands so my whole life has pretty much revolved around music. I went to spend a summer in ibiza in 1986 thinking it would be fun, dossing around in the sun for a few months, which is what I did, but during that summer I found Amnesia where I heard Alfredo and Leo Mas playing their eclectic music selections.
I became a total devotee of Amnesia, I was crazy about their music and the place, I then repeated it and did the same the following summer. During this time I had been buying the music I had loved and heard at Amnesia and had also met Paul Oakenfold in the summer of ’87.
I hadn’t ever DJ’ed before but was very passionate and enthusiastic about music. This then lead onto being asked to play with Paul at the Future when it first started in London at the beginning of the whole balearic/acid house thing… Those times were so influential to all what I have done since.
How did you two meet in the first place?
Craig: Nancy and I met about four years ago in person. It’s crazy how our paths had never crossed in the early days and now we have spoken about the parties we used to go to up and down the country and it’s mad that we were at some of the same parties. I often traveled to London to party with my southern friends and I had heard Nancy DJ at some of the parties as she was a well-known name on the London circuit.
I didn’t see Nancy’s name around for a while as I later found out she had taken some time out from DJing to bring up her kids. It wasn’t until I saw she had done a wonderful mix on Test Pressing that made me thing “Ah I would love to bring Nancy up to Leeds to play at Outlaws Yacht Club“. I got in touch and the rest is history. We had a great night playing music together, dancing, laughing and story telling about the lost years.
"The next thing the ball came over hit the decks and knocked the needle off the record... it was the best crowd reaction I have ever had."
Nancy: Yeah like Craig said it’s crazy that we hadn’t met before having done lots of the same kind of parties over the years and yeah I had done a mix for Test Pressing – it was the first thing I’d done in ages. The guys from Outlaws got in touch to say that they loved it which was really sweet of them and that they had been playing it in the bar. Craig then called and booked me to play there.
The first time we met in person was the night I had gone up to Leeds, when Leo Mas was over to play at the Outlaws first birthday party, it was an amazing night! Leo was brilliant as always. We all partied long into the night so this was the start of a great friendship with Craig.
You both have a well-established family life aside from your musical activities. Isn’t it too hard to combine these two life models sometimes?
Craig: It’s not hard at all for me, it’s family first always. Kids grow up too fast and I don’t want to miss any experience or memory along the way. It’s about having life balance. I’m also one of those parents that don’t stop doing things because of the kids. I’m lucky really my two boys Cole and Luca love music and I have been known to drag them along to some of my gigs.
When they were young they would happily run around festival sites with their mum whilst dad played some music. In fact they were causing havoc backstage (just like their dad) at one festival I played. I had dragged them along without their mum this time and gave them a football to kick about in the backstage area while I played to a crowd of about 800 people. The next thing the ball came over hit the decks and knocked the needle off the record… it was the best crowd reaction I have ever had, haha! Once the crowd saw the culprits it brought a totally different vibe to the occasion.
Last year we went to Ibiza for our family holiday and I had a couple of gigs to do whilst I was there. Cole and Luca were hanging out with Ibiza legends Tony Pike at Pikes and Dave Beer of Back To Basics. They love chilling with their dad whilst I play a sunset set at Hostel La Torre too. The next Balearic beat generation haha…
Dave Beer and Craig's sons
Nancy: Ahhhh haha! Brilliant, bless your boys Craig! When my son was born I was still busy DJing and involved in a bar in Ibiza town. After I had my daughter it was a little more difficult to play out so much with 2 babies, so I concentrated on bringing them up while still playing out sometimes.
I’ve always had my decks and my records around at home with the music on and driven my children mad by playing the tracks that I love over and over and over again! I always laugh thinking that my poor kids have been brainwashed about Amnesia, Ibiza…etc. as it’s all I’ve ever spoken about!
Having always listened to so many different kinds of music my kids have been exposed to that which I hope they will be thankful for one day! My daughter was the go to kid at school if someone needed to know who a song was by, ha! Now they are older and it was my son who was out in the clubs last time I was in ibiza with him.
What keeps you going after all these years? Don’t you ever grow bored of partying/DJing? (Rhetoric question, ha!)
Craig: You’re only as old as you feel, Baptiste! (laughs) Some days I feel 47 – my real age – and a lot of the time I feel 18 again. The love of music and the reaction from a crowd of people who are into what you are playing is what keeps the boredom from setting in. Oh and traveling to exotic places you would have never visited if it weren’t for music too. Plus I was born with a hedonistic nature so it’s something I can’t seem to shake… You’re a long time dead so enjoy life is my motto, party hard and recover gently, ha!
Nancy: If you get bored of partying and DJing there must be something very strange and seriously odd going on! I’ve loved to party from word go and I’ll be crazy for music always! There’s no better feeling than partying, dancing and connecting with people. Amen!
"You're a long time dead so enjoy life is my motto, party hard and recover gently."
What’s scheduled next on Beyond Paradise?
Craig: After Nancy’s release I have the remixes of ‘Kaia‘ and ‘Azizi’s Dance‘. Two remixes from Andrew Weatherall, another mix from Leo Mas and Fabrice and a mix from Project Paradise (myself and Tim Hutton ). I’m just about to finish the remix with Tim later. Actually I have met an unknown singer called Gabriella Alfoldy who has such a sweet voice and she is Hungarian so expect something a little different…
After that I’m thinking of releasing a couple of tracks that myself and Bonar Bradberry of PBR fame have been working on. Before Christ is the name of our project and I plan on getting the tracks remixed by some of my favorite DJs/producers who happen to be good friends. Frank T. Butters will be adding his special space dust to one of the tracks.
Also Ruf Dug and Alexis Le Tan are getting involved on this one so it’s very exciting. I have a couple of other projects on the go with Tim Hutton, my partner in crime. I was in the studio with Ben Shenton and Dean Meredith of Mind Fair (Golf Channel Recordings) so let’s see what results. You never know this could be on the label too.
Also I have been having conversations with Mark Gilbert (Stupid Human) who has been working on new material especially for the label. Mark lives in Norway now after leaving London and his neighbour is Dan Tyler (Idjut Boys) so a remix from Dan could be an idea too. There is another project that I have talked about since 2016 with Stephen Chin who did music on one of my favorite labels of a few years ago (Rong Music)…
Mr Chin turned me onto some old reel-to-reel recordings from the artist Gary Davis. He did some amazing music in the ’80s that was never released and when I heard the sounds he got from the old analogue synths and drum machines I thought “Wow let’s release these unknown gems and get friends again to do some remixes”.
This could be a very special record. I won’t reveal who is at the top of my list to do the remix until everything is signed on the dotted line, but I can say it will be a very special EP already. So there are a few things penciled in and I’m constantly looking for new talent so if any of your readers are budding producers looking for a label, please get in touch! Something interesting, a little oddball – left of centre is what I’m looking for.
Kaia is released via Beyond Paradise on 10th March, pre-order a vinyl copy from Juno.
A1. Kaia (Original Mix )
A2. Kaia (Un Beso No Mata)
B1. Azizi’s Dance (Original Mix)
B2. Kaia (Manpower’s Bottle Poppin 89 Remix)
Discover more about Beyond Paradise on Inverted Audio.
Craig ChristonNancy NoiseBeyond Paradise10 March 2017House