Interview: Boca 45 (+ New Album Stream)
Fifteen years ago, UK producer/DJ Boca 45 eschewed all vinyl formats other than the 7″ as his weapon of choice for DJing. Big things with small records followed: a debut on Grand Central Records, mixtapes for Solid Steel and Ninja Tune–and now a new album on Mass Appeal Records.
Today marks the release of his new album Forty Five, three days before his own 45th birthday. The album pays homage to the 45 record and hip-hop in general. Sample-driven tracks made together with close friends such as MC Emskee (of The Good People), Geoff Barrow, Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno, DJ Woody, and Malachai bandmate Gee G Ealey.
45 years… Congrats! It must’ve been an exciting journey from being a music lover to becoming a DJ/producer yourself. What are your earliest memories of discovering music?
Why thank you very much! My dad used to play 50s and early 60s stuff in his car. I particularly remember loving The Honeycombs’ “Have I The Right” from 1964. Turns out it was produced by Joe Meek, who I reference quite a bit even now in my productions. I loved the space he found in music: everything had its own place, with great use of compression.
Did that track lead to buying your very first 7″ record?
No, the very first 7’’ record I ever bought was JoBoxers’ “Boxer Beat”. Pretty good for a 7-year-old kid! Then by the time I was ten or eleven years old, it was all about hip-hop an electro albums in particular. These were compilations of US hip-hop of the moment compiled by Street Sounds. Being in the UK, I had no idea what the people looked like or where they were from. I just listened to those records over and over. The interesting thing is that each side was mixed together by a DJ so it was seamless. Without knowing, I was already listening to DJ mixes!
So there was the first spark…
More like a bolt of lightning! When hip-hop hit in the mid-80s everything changed for me. I loved the whole thing. All four elements: DJing, MCing, graffiti & B-Boying. I tried all of them and eventually stuck with the first element. I’ve earned my B-Boy stripes, though…
“I remember it being exhausting, thinking why did I decide on DJing strictly with 45s?! I’ve got no 12″s to fall back on… But like a marathon runner, I trained myself and got used to it. It’s second nature now.”
How did you learn the tricks of the DJ-trade?
I worked at a record shop in the mid-90s. Ben–who owned the shop–was making records at the time for a label called Cup Of Tea Records. He had a small studio set up in the attic of the shop and showed me the ropes. Then I made my own way. I started making music to play as a part of my DJ-set and to get noticed outside of my home city of Bristol. As time went on this progressed to working with vocalists and getting LP concepts together and developed.
Is making music part of your bloodline?
Not at all. I’m from a very working-class family whose ethics were always ‘Work Hard.’ My dad played music in the car but very little at home. I became obsessed with music from a young age buying 7’’ records from the local stores.
Which eventually even led to the decision of using strictly 7″ records for your DJing.
I’ve always used vinyl, but 45s were cheaper back in the day–which isn’t always the case anymore. So not being a trust fund kid I had to watch my pennies. 7’’ records also tend to be cut well so they are loud and work great in a club environment. It was probably about fifteen years ago I did a gig at The Jazz Cafe in London and decided I’ll do the full 2-hour set from 45s. I remember it being exhausting, thinking why did I decide on this?! I’ve got no 12″s to fall back on… But like a marathon runner, I trained myself and got used to it. It’s second nature now. My DJ style is also pretty rapid and quick-fire so I can bang 7″s in and out really fast.
“Forty Five takes lots of twists and turns and I wouldn’t want to single one out. They all make up the patchwork quilt!”
The press release about your aptly-titled new album, Forty Five, mentions you’ve “honed-in everything learned over the years into one killer solo record.” Can you tell me a bit about some of the most valuable things you’ve learned, now reflected on this album?
Being honest: I’ve not really deviated too much in styles, genres or fads over the years. I generally stuck to my guns. That’s what I’ve learned. You see it all the time when people jump from genres trying to be a part of the new scene or something–it just ends up being a bit stinky! All of the records I’ve made I’m proud of. There are things I would’ve changed here and there obviously and other things aren’t perfect. But with this album, I think it’s a true and honest representation of where I’m at right now in my life. The 45th year on this planet. Forty Five takes lots of twists and turns and I wouldn’t want to single one out. They all make up the patchwork quilt!
How exactly is Forty Five a true and honest representation of where you’re at in life? Can you give an example of that?
“Bryan Munich Theme” was recorded in the Spring of 2018 with a bunch of friends I’ve been playing football with for the best part of twenty years. We play every Monday–five or six aside–but we are also associated with a league called The Bristol Casuals League. It’s for players in the swan song of their football career, so to speak, but who still like playing football. I think it was Geoff [Barrow] who named us Bryan Munich. All of the teams had funny names like Real Madras, so Bryan Munich was a fitting name.
Being that a load of us are musicians, I had a plan to do a theme tune in the style of the old UK library records or Incredible Bongo Band; those odd records that you find with b-boy breaks on it. Geoff booked some downtime at his studio at Invada Records. We set up, I had the idea, we drank beer and ate pizza, and after four or five takes we got it. Bryan–as we refer to ourselves–now had a theme tune!
Aside from that, I’ve written comprehensive breakdowns of each track on the album. So you’ll have to hunt out the wax to find out more on how each tune represents my life.
Talking about your life: if there could be one 45 record summarizing your 45 years, which tracks would be on the A-side and B-side, and why?
My 45 will be a strange doubleheader. On the A-side, I’ll have “Marley Marl Scratch” by Marley Marl and MC Shan. That is probably my all-time favorite hip-hop tune. It’s so precise and to the point–there’s no fat on it! MC Shan is biggin’ up his DJ. It’s so ridiculously HEAVY! In fact, on my new album, I made a track called “Energy Boost” where I asked MC Emskee to reference this track and explain what I’m about. It’s a good opener to Forty Five!
The B-Side will be “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles. I don’t think that’s ever been on a 7″ and it’s a genius piece of music. I’m a bit of a Beatles nut and this track was made using lots of studio trickery which we take for granted now. Like tape loops, samples… It was made totally on the fly with all four Beatles on the faders bringing loops in and out. It’s totally unique and totally brilliant!