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Inside the Groove: An Exclusive Chat with Andy Bainbridge of Not An Animal Records.

Kono Vidovic October 25, 2023 97 5 5

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It’s a pleasure to talk to Andy Bainbridge, one half of Not An Animal Records. The super cool imprint out of the East corner of London is headed up Bainbridge and his long-time partner in crime, Chris Stoker. Together they ran the Bad Passion parties which hosted a starry line up of guests, and later on developed into the label which echoed the parties’ ethos.  Here we have the chance to sit down with Andy as he releases his debut solo release on his home label.

Andy Bainbridge - Not AN Animal Records

Thanks for taking the time to talk. Where are you at this moment and how are you spending the day?

No worries at all, thanks for having me. I’m just at home chilling out watching the football, I’m a big Sunderland fan we’ve just been humped by Middlesborough unfortunately so I’m drowning my sorrows in red wine.

Paint us a picture of where you grew up?

I’m from a Market Town called Chester-Le-Street in the North-East of England. Growing up it was a pretty bustling place and its smack in the middle of three of the main cities up there Sunderland, Durham & Newcastle, so there was always plenty to do. However, when I got into clubbing, I spent most of my nights in Middlesborough, there were two amazing clubs there, The Arena & The Empire. Those two clubs changed my life.  

Where are based these days?

I’m now based in East London, been living down here for over 20 years.

What is it you love about where you are?

I love London, especially East where I live, just the whole diversity of the city has really opened my eyes and influenced me in so many ways. I love the choices you have down here and how the city is constantly evolving, the food, the music, art, everything. I’m glad I was able to make a home here. 

How long have you and Chris Stoker known each other?

Chris and I have known each other properly, around 18 years. We knew each other when we were both living in Newcastle but never really hung out. He came down to London to visit my flat mate at the time and stayed with us for the weekend, we hung out and realised we were into the same kind of music and really hit it off. He moved to London a few months later and we just carried on where we left off really. We’ve been stuck together ever since. 

When did Not An Animal begin? 

Yeah, we always had the idea floating around to start a record label as we had so many friends who made music and we were both making music ourselves – Chris as part of Ess O Ess and myself as part of Machete Savane. Throwing the Bad Passion party was getting pretty frustrating as Hackney Council were clamping down on licensing and finding a decent venue was getting harder and harder. So we just decided to concentrate on the label, throwing the odd party whenever a decent venue became available.

So, it all started with the Bad Passion parties. Tell us about the party history a little. 

Bad passion was a party run by Dan Mitchell, Chris Stoker, and me. It was at The Shacklewell Arms, a Jamaican bar on Shacklewell Lane in Dalston and it was a great party! It had a dark sweaty room out the back and an outdoor area that had these mad murals that just lent itself to an amazing party space. 

We had the three of us as residents alongside Felix Dickinson and Phoreski who were kind of semi residents. We were playing a lot of the music coming out of Japan at the time, so we booked a lot of Japanese DJs – such as The Backwoods, Chida, KZA and Kenji Takimi. 

We had DJ Buck across from San Francisco who’d always been a bit of a hero of mine, Thomas Bullock, Young Marco, Justin Vandervolgen, Mark Seven, Strangefruit, Idjut Boys and loads more – we always booked DJ’s that played all over the place musically and weren’t really genre specific, so the music was always on point.

When the label NAAR began, what was its musical mission? 

We didn’t really have a mission as such, we just wanted to put out music that we both love. I said to Chris when we first started that it would be nice to have people say, ‘that sounds like something on Not An Animal,’ and to an extent I think we’ve kind of achieved that. We’ve released so many different styles of music, but I think they all have a kind of feel that ties them into the label and creates an overall sound.

Does the vibe remain the same today?

Kind of, we’ve been trying to steer it in a more electronic direction lately, but we’ll release anything that we both agree sounds good and fits the label.

What was the first release on the NAAR?

Our first release was by Man Power – Power Theme. Geoff’s a good friend so it was nice to start things off with someone close to us. Chris and Jamie did an Ess O Ess remix along with The Backwoods. We got Geoff down & flew Kento over from Japan for the release party in Hackney Wick, it was a brilliant and really kicked things off for the label.

What do you feel has been the release that has made the most impact?

It’s hard to pick really, we’ve had some great releases, but I think Modxi – Amalgam just shades it. It’s by Sam Watts (Maxxi Soundsystem) & Thomas Gandey. They did this track with Sam’s dad Trevor Watts who’s a famous jazz saxophonist and played with the likes of Don Cherry & Archie Shepp. It’s a total killer, deep and brooding with this haunting rasping sax that runs through it, it’s very minimal but massive at the same time. We got Roman Flugel to remix it and he gave it this great electronic edge that takes it to another level without going overboard. It’s a future classic I reckon.

How do you go about sourcing the artists and remixers on NAAR?

A lot the artists we’ve released are friends with remixes coming from people who’ve played at our parties, or we’ve met through DJing. It’s also just a case of reaching out to artists we both admire.

As DJ’s you’ve been prolific at Love International and Houghton. Any highlights?

Yeah. We did Houghton this year, but sadly we had to skip Love International. They’re both amazing festivals and I’d highly recommend anyone who’s not been to get themselves there. Highlights? I’d say for Houghton, opening The Warehouse the first year it was on. As soon as they opened the doors it was a kind of ‘Slam Tent’ moment and was packed to the rafters within 30 seconds. 

For Love International I’d say the boat party we did with Last Waltz & Tiago, that boat was rocking before we’d even set off and everyone absolutely smashed it that night, such a good party! 

How do you and Chris play out together as DJs.

Over the years our musical tastes have obviously progressed and changed so we normally meet up and have an afternoon going through records and having a mix together just to sort out where we’re at. Depending on how long we’re playing we either go 3 on 3 off or start with half hour slots. Unless you’re super on it I think straight up b2b can be a bit limiting in terms of where the music goes as it’s harder to deviate from a path once you’re on it. 

Do you think you have a kind of telepathy between you when you’re playing, or do you not think about it that much?

Once we’re up and running we don’t really think about it, we’ve been doing it for so long now that we kind of know what the other’s gonna do. Unless one of us is a bit worse for wear then we keep tabs on each other.

Do you both bring different sounds to the set? 

Yeah totally, like I said our musical tastes have changed quite a lot in the 15 years or so we’ve DJ’d together, Chris likes a lot more of the Cold Wave synthy stuff and I’m more into Deep House and Jazz these days. We play all the bits in the middle that we both love but we’ll slip a bit of our own preferred tastes into our sets when the other one’s not looking.

Tell us a little about your Future Boogie release. What’s happened to that label these days?

Yeah we’ve done a couple for Future Boogie, we did a Bad Passion mix of Last Waltz’s Trinket and a Machete Savane remix of Felix Dickinson’s Burning Flame – which I’d say is one of my favourite productions, we tried to channel Loui$ – Pink Footpath & Gallifre – Don’t Walk Out On Love with the guitars and production and I think it turned out pretty good. 

I’m not 100% sure on what happened to Future Boogie, I think Dave just wanted to go out on a high with the label and move onto newer things. He’s a super busy guy running festivals and DJing and he’s since set up Love International Records all of which are doing amazingly well.

UP Too Much EP Andy Bainbridge

You’re releasing on NAAR with your ‘Up Too Much EP’ with some killer talent on board to remix. But talk us through the original a bit. 

Yeah, it’s my first solo release. I’ve been making music for 11 years now but always with other people, which was great, but I just thought it’s now time to concentrate on doing my own thing.

The track started out with just playing about with some new bits of kit I’d bought during lockdown, then I found an acapella from an old Hakan Lidbo record that I tried over the top which when I pitched down to key seemed to fit perfectly. I always loved the gated vocal on the dub from Satoshi Tommiie – And I Loved You, so tried to emulate the effect. I really like the fact that you can’t quite understand the lyrics and people can just make up their own interpretation. The final mixdown was then done together with Conrad McDonnell (Idjut Boys) who kindly let me take it into his studio to give it that extra oomph.

You’ve worked with Komodo before, right? 

Yeah, Gerhan is great! I approached him for some music for the label which we released a few years ago. He seemed like the perfect fit for the remix and was the first person I thought of when we decided to release my track. He’s done exactly what I’d hoped he’d do and more, given it that kind of raw organic edge that he has on his own productions. It’s a killer remix.

What can you tell us about Donald’s House? How do you feel about his version?

The Donald’s House guys were also top of my list when I was thinking of remixes, I love their stuff on Touch from A Distance and was playing their Budge-E Beat track loads when I asked them. We were after a proper peak time remix that had lots of musicality. It’s just James doing it on his own now and I think he’s massively delivered with the remix. It’s brilliant!

Not An Animal has been fairy reserved in its output. Slow and steady but keeping the quality high. What’s happening next on the label and are there plans to release with more frequency?

Yeah, we took a bit of a break over lockdown, back at it now though and have a few new things lined up. We’re also working with a new distributor – Prime, who have some sort of superpower when it comes to vinyl pressing times. Still, I’m a big believer in quality over quantity so we’ll see how we go.

I hear that your wife is a DJ. Do you ever play out together, and is she better than you sometimes?

Totally! My wife Renata is an amazing DJ, the music she plays blows my mind! We play together quite a lot actually, it’s more on the Jazz and Deep House tip so we play at places like Spiritland & Brilliant Corners, listening bar vibes. She also plays regularly at Houghton, and we’ve done a couple of early morning B2B’s their which have been really good.

End Conclusion.

A heartfelt thanks to Andy Bainbridge for this insightful conversation. As we traverse the ever-evolving world of music, stories like his remind us of the passion and dedication that underpins this industry. If you’re a fan of electronic music or just looking to discover something new, be sure to check out the latest releases from Not An Animal Records. Stay in the groove and keep supporting these fantastic artists!

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Kono Vidovic at Dirty Disco

Kono Vidovic

DJ | MUSIC CURATOR & SELECTOR | PODCAST MAKER | BLOGGER Professional online interpreneur. Coffee practitioner. Electronic music culture maven. Total music guru. Infuriatingly humble problem solver. Food & sports fanatic.

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