One of our favourite compilations of the year, Personal Space (out now on Chocolate Industries) delves into the unheard world of DIY electronic soul, recorded between 1974 and 1984. To celebrate its weird brilliance, we asked Chocolate Industries boss, Seven, to put together a mix of his highlights from the 17-track collection, interweaved with some of his favourite moments from the last three decades of electronic soul.
Dazed Digital: What inspired this mix?
Seven: This mix was fun to do. I was more or less trying to showcase what I feel is electronic soul on a bigger scale, and highlight some of the artists that have been making music in this vein for a while. There’s a lot that didn't make it due to time constraints. However this mix is a great spread from my collection so I hope that people like it.
DD: How did you come across the tracks for Personal Space?
Seven: Dante Carfagna compiled Personal Space; he reached out to a lot of collectors asking if they had tracks that had an electronic element. He also had a few tracks in his own personal collection.
DD: Why did you decide to focus on 1974-1984?
Seven: That’s just where the research happened to land. If we could have gone back even further, we would have. After a while this is just urban archeology. At the time technology was such a new thing that people didn’t think to document until years later. There were a few bits that could have worked but didn't fit.
DD: Do you see a musical parallel between then and now?
Seven: The more I look around the more I see people who have been making music in this vein; there just wasn’t a title for it. I’m definitely not one for labels, but I’m glad to be able to sift through and really be able to categorize a large amount of music from the past and present.
DD: How many tracks were on the long list and how did you cut them down?
Seven: That’s what took this compilation so long to put together. There were not many other tracks on the long list. Dante searched for years to find the music that would fit the compilation, but after a while we had what we had, and we had to find what we had. Every track had to be on the compilation or it would have created an imbalance of what we saw the compilation as, so it took over 4 years to find everyone. Some of the artists had passed away, and some were just really hard to find, to where we had to hire a service to find certain people.
DD: What is your definition of electronic soul?
Seven: I feel the definition electronic soul is being defined now. To me the Personal Space compilation is more of a statement. But as a genre I think it’s all about connecting the dots at this point, because music in this style is not new it just now has a name.
DD: What have been the most inspiring moments of electronic soul evolved since 1974?
Seven: If we are looking at electronic soul as a genre, from that point forward some of the key artists would be Prince, Michael Jackson, Rick James, Eryka Badu, SA-RA Creative Partners, D'Angelo, some of the tracks from Attica Blues’ first album, Carl Craig… some of the tracks on Personal Space are instrumental and in that sense if we are talking about musicians using machines.. J Dilla is a great example, Afrika Bambaatta same for Flying Lotus, Madlib,Toro Y Moi, Swizz Beatz, Mr Mixx from 2Live Crew, Drexciya, Kelli Hand... There are so many to name I might have to make a new mix just for this question.
DD: Do you see this as a new direction for Choc Ind?
Seven: Not a new direction, just a path that we're on. If we come across something that we feel we should document as something on our path, then yes. But as much fun as it is putting reissues together I also love putting out new music whenever I can. A couple weeks ago I was watching David Bowie perform Fame on Soul Train, I was floored that this footage existed. And it unearthed a cool that I always knew David Bowie had that I had never experienced for myself. So it’s easy to think you’re cool and then see David Bowie perform and realise how you’re really not that cool. It’s always good to be humbled by the past and realise a lot of these things exist if we want to go find them. But if we want to truly contribute, releasing new art is the future.
DD: What's next?
Seven: I’m working on a new reissue now that I’ve been working on almost as long as Personal Space. It’s by a band called UNGH!, which is an old Chicago industrial rock funk band which featured pro skater Stevie Dread, who used to ride for Alva. Ben Stokes who is DJ shadows' visual guy, and these two other guys Carl and Eric Zimmerman. These guys also moonlighted as a music video director collective called H Gun who made early Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Megadeth videos. We are almost done with that one. I also have a couple artist albums coming out, top secret stuff!
Seven - Personal Space Mix