Sonny Fodera interview: ‘A lot of the rawness and purity of house music is being lost’

There’s been a lot of hot air in the last few years about the house revival that’s taken over the charts, festival fields and every shopping centre playlist around Ireland and the UK.

In an interview with The Star last year, Tom Middleton called it ‘donk’ house, based around that garage-y square wave bassline sound you’ll hear on big hits by Gorgon City, David Zowie and Dusky. We can thank, or blame, Disclosure for that one, after the duo moved from basement club regulars to festival headliners in the space of a year with their debut album.

Sonny Fodera is another producer and DJ who mines a classic sound, but he digs way deeper than that. Since emerging in 2010, the Australian has been on a timeless jacking house buzz, with his mixes and productions inspired by Chicago greats like Derrick Carter, DJ Sneak, Gene Farris and of course the late ‘Godfather of House’ Frankie Knuckles, who was also a big fan. Green Velvet’s alter-ego Cajmere has also jumped on board, collaborating and releasing Sonny’s tunes on his Cajual label.

We caught up with Sonny just before his appearance at Hangar in Dublin this bank holiday Sunday, to chat about his new Defected In the House mix, mix CDs in general – and moving from punk to hip-hop to house music as a teenager…

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With constantly updating Soundcloud mixes and streamed DJ sets, a mix CD almost seems old school these days. Does that play on your mind when you’re creating a mix CD – to try and create something that is a proper snapshot in time?
They are for sure, I still like the fact they are a physical copy. Not existing on a hard drive on some server somewhere, or a file on your computer. I think in this digital age a lot of the rawness and purity of house music is getting lost. I actually want to start pressing vinyl again with the launch of my new label. As far of DJ mixes are concerned to make them fit on a CD they can only have maximum 15 tracks where as a Soundcloud you could put a three-hour mix up on there which is amazing, especially if you want to showcase a 3-6 hour set. I think I saw Dusky actually posted a six-hour set recently on there, such a great listen.

Is that why on your recent Defected In the House mix has so many of your own productions – you’ll at least get to release a lot of your own tracks at once rather than an artist compilation or stacks of EPs?
With the In the House mix I really wanted to just incorporate what I am playing out into the DJ mix, and to be honest I actually play over 70 per cent of my own stuff in DJ sets, and wanted to use other people’s tracks that are working really well with mine. I also wanted to work a lot of the defected tracks into it, so I did lot’s of edits and mash-ups to do this.

What’s it like to work under the Defected brand? Does this influence your production style or do you think they went for you as you fit their roster?
It’s amazing! I actually have a full-length album dropping with them in October which is going to be called Frequently Flying. I tend to be flying a lot so the title really works. Simon Dunmore is a true pioneer in the house music scene and has so much knowledge to go with that. Defected is really a family vibe, and I am really grateful to be apart of that.

You just kicked off your Redlight residency at Ibiza last weekend, and Big Narstie is playing Redlight on June 6. What do you think of the resurgence of grime outside of the UK? Were you exposed to it much growing up in Australia?
I love grime! I actually just did a edit of Section Boyz – Lock Arff. Living in London for the last three years, the culture and the music has really rubbed off on me. I think it is a crucial and important part of the UK and I am really intending on working some of it into house music.

What do you think makes a good resident DJ?
I think week in and week out bringing consistency, energy and passion with your sets. It can get hard sometimes, but it’s always important to keep it fresh and add new elements into your DJ sets. Also knowing when to drop ‘that track. The one that lifts the roof off the place, it really defines a great resident DJ.

You were only 16 when you started producing, what were you listening to as an even younger kid?
It’s funny you ask that as I was actually just talking about this the other day. I used to listen to a lot of soul and blues when I was growing up. My mum was into Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Lenny Kravitz. When I was around the age of 12, I got into punk music listening to Blink 182, Pennywise and NOFX. Then smoked weed and everything changed, I went on to hip-hop like Tribe Called Quest, Mobb Deep, Nas a lot of the New York stuff.

Then I went out and may have tried a certain something in the form a pill and discovered house music around the age of 18… I was instantly hooked! The first DJ I actually went to see was Derrick Carter, a Chicago house legend!

Another Chicago legend you’ve worked with his Cajmere, through releasing on Cajual and collaborating. Has any of his Green Velvet persona rubbed off? Can you see yourself heading in a harder, darker techno direction?
I have been making a lot of techno and tech-house lately, but I think if I went down in that direction I would do it under another alias. He has definitely rubbed off onto me over the years, I love the quirky voice stuff he does and the jacked-up funky beats. He’s Definitely a true inspiration, probably the best in the business in my opinion.

Any other releases/projects you’ve got planned that you’d like to share with us?
I have Over This, the single from my album Frequently Flying, dropping on Defected Records in June. I have also remixed Lee Foss’s The Gift dropping on Jamie Jones’s label Emerald City next month along with a new collab with Gene Farris and another remix on Strictly Rhythm of Lee Walker’s – Freak Like Me.

Dublin’s been in your diary a few times over the last few years – any nights that stand out over the years?
Dublin is one of my favourite places in the world to play, and by far the best club I have played was at is the Hangar club, what a venue and soundsystem. The vibe was absolutely electric too. I can’t wait to play there again!

And we’ve just got news that Hangar is closing down later this year to make way for a hotel. What do you think of this trend of smaller clubs closing, especially in London?
Wow! I actually just heard of this, I can’t believe this is happening. Well I think we are going to have to make the night to remember then. I think this venue is legendary, although I have only played there once,  It is insane. Such a New York / London warehouse feel to it, this club will definitely missed, that’s for sure.

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