Sharp Boys in Dubai

Remix masters Sharp Boys will be getting the Hat Club jumping at Plan B this week.

Interview, DJ feature

You and George have been together for, what, 15 years now?
Actually in March it’ll be 14 years since we went into the studio for the first time. We hadn’t recorded before and we just decided to have a crack at it. But our first EP, Sharp Tools, got a lot of support from DJs and a lot of interest by A&R guys and it got us a lot of work. And it’s just continued from there, really, with residencies all over. I realised the other day that in the last 10 years I’ve hardly spent a Saturday night/Sunday morning away from the decks.

Why do you think you’ve lasted for such a long time?
I think it’s because we’ve been open minded, and a lot of our success is thanks to the remixes we did. We’ve remixed some of the biggest artists in the world, like Madonna and Britney Spears, and some of the coolest artists like Mary J Blige and Aretha Franklin. Sometimes we get slated for doing pop but we’ve always been big fans of that kind of thing, and one of our specialities is to do big club remixes of pop tunes. We did a b-side for ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ and that did amazing things for our profile – we suddenly got calls from Japan and Australia just because our name was on there.

So what will you be playing in Dubai?
Last time we were there, it was more commercial than we expected, but we’re not complaining – we’re flying for seven hours from the UK to play this gig so we want to be able to deliver. Sometimes you see DJs playing self-indulgent sets, only playing for themselves rather than the crowd, and that’s the wrong idea. We’ll play a mixed set – there’ll be some electro, some funky house and some club classics. It’ll all be warm and friendly – I don’t like cold, dark minimal records. They need to have some soul, some essence. And the beauty of CDs is that you can bring a real selection to make sure that the crowd is happy.

What about MP3s?
No, we just prefer CDs. And I’m not sure about the effect of MP3s on the industry. These days you can take one CD and copy it for 10 people, and that’s having a terrible effect on the industry. The biggest UK distributor, Chemical, went bust before Christmas. They distributed so many cool underground tracks and labels, and now the big labels have carte blanche control of the industry. We didn’t put out many tracks on our label, Sharp Records, because we wanted to sit back and see where things were going.

But MP3s make it easier for DJs to get tracks now…
Yeah – we used to fly over to New York at the start of each year to get all the latest vinyl, but now you can just download it. Carl Cox was doing a show on [UK radio station] Kiss FM and he made the whole playlist available to download after each show. So on the one hand all these under-ground tracks were suddenly being sold to a much wider audience than they would usually have had, but on the other hand anybody in their bedroom could get all these little gems that make Carl’s sets so special. You lose that prestige of having hunted down all these classic little tunes. On the plus side, the moment we finish a remix we can send it in a high-quality format to the artist and it’ll be ready to master.

Speaking of the 300-plus remixes you’ve done, were any of them genuinely intimidating?
In 1998 – we did George Michael’s ‘Outside’. I’m a massive fan of early 80s pop music, so when the American label Epic asked us to remix something by him we were just incredibly happy. But when we got into the studio, we were too in awe of it and so we took too long on it. I’ve read reviews where people have said they spend months remixing something, but we always feel that if we don’t get the balance right within a couple of days we’ve missed the point. And you’re always on deadlines from the artists and the record labels so you need to keep your s*** together.

Sharp Boys play Plan B, Dec 15

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