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Getting Crafty with Sly One: Part 1

Reported by Frani Heyns / Submitted 22-01-10 20:31

As one part of a hot London underground trance duo, Graham Crockford has been racing up the dance charts alongside his partner Jurrane. Now with a label residency at Discover Records as well as signings to world spanning Armada and remixes galore, 2010 looks sweet. Before taking the front stage at Odyssey, correspondent Frani Heyns went undercover to file this comprehensive two part report on the one they call Sly One.

In 2003 he took the trance scene by storm with the very appropriately titled track, Gamma Storm. And so, he paved his way to a bright and promising future that includes some of the biggest names in the industry and massively impressive productions under one of the UK’s leading dance labels, Discover.

Extremely talented and versatile, Sly One aka Graham Crockford continues to stir the imagination with masterfully produced tracks and energetic DJ sets in London and beyond. With his name already a favourite at some of the best underground parties in town, he has been booked to play at Odyssey’s next adventure in February. Ahead of this gig, we tracked him down to find out more about his past, present and future.

Tell us more about your very first taste of electronic dance music.

I started clubbing - if you can call it that - back home in Bournemouth, around 1997. I had no idea that it was a golden era for dance music on the South Coast. I went to the cheesy Saturday events and the Wednesday student nights at the Opera House, with no idea that if I'd have gone on a Friday night I would literally have been treated to the cream of the crop. Still, dance music was leaking even into cheesy nights back then and I found myself really looking forward to the end of the night, when the DJ would start spinning the likes of Café Del Mar, Born Slippy or Binary Finary '98. When an ex girlfriend played me a Euphoria compilation at university years later, I finally had a name for the kind of stuff that was really moving me – trance.

When did you first try your hand at a pair of decks and how did things develop from there?

A mate of mine at Uni had a set of 1210s in his room and played trance and funky house. I asked how it worked, then had a go and liked it. I had a load of mixed CDs at home (MoS compilations and the like), so I found a PC application called PCDJ that let me mix between them and started playing around. I had no idea that this was a really difficult thing to do and that full singles are twice as long with nice DJ-friendly lead-ins and lead-outs, but hey.

I also had no idea that I was also right on the cutting edge; in 2002 you were lucky to find a pair of rack-mounted CD players in a club that were even usable for beat mixing. It was vinyl all the way. I got my first gig and turned up with a laptop. The promoter didn't have a clue - he was weird about me even plugging it in. I had so much trouble like that in my first few gigs that I went and bought a pair of the cheapest CD decks I could find (Gemini CDJ-20s) and carted them to gigs with me when I could, and the rest of the time would turn up before the event even started and ask for a practice on their CD players. Some of those things were a nightmare.

I bought an old 1210 off a mate so I could record my own vinyl and from then on was an addict.

What is the story behind your DJ name?

This one gets hazier all the time. I always used "SLY" as my name on arcade machine high score boards when I was a kid. Since you only got 3 letters, GRA looked rubbish, and I thought it was all cool, like a graffiti tag.

When I was at Uni I used it as a nickname on an internal college web forum, and they took to lengthening it to "Sly One", although Sly seems to have stuck as a nickname too.

Do you draw inspiration from sources other than dance music?

Oh yeah. It's one obsession after another with me, from metal, to prog rock, folk and acoustic, 80s electronica, classical – you name it. I spent over 10 years learning classical guitar and three years playing acoustic before I got into dance music. Apparently, according to friends, my love of Celtic melodies comes out a lot in my music, although I don't notice it - it's just the stuff that comes out of my head!

Tell us more about your equipment and what is the one piece of advice you found useful in the early stages of your production career?

I love my studio! I've spent a lot of time getting the room sounding right and making it a nice warm comfortable place to be and I think that is the soundest investment I've ever made. Once you have that, a good, powerful Mac or PC and some good studio monitor speakers, you have all you need.

I think that is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received actually. You can make almost any sound on any decent synth if you have a good room, good speakers and the ear for it. The early dance producers made incredible sounds with just a few very basic bits of kit because they were forced to work their kit to its absolute limits. These days everyone seems to ask "what synth do I need to use to make X sound" and assume that by downloading more plug-ins or buying more expensive hardware they will start making pro-sounding stuff. You don't need any of that stuff. You just need one or two really good-sounding bits of kit and then the time to sit down and really, really learn how to work it.

There have been a multitude of defining moments in your career so far, but one of the earliest is definitely the release of Gamma Storm in 2003. Tell us more about the production of this track – from the initial spark of inspiration to the final touches.

Jurrane, myself and two other great friends, Ben Dunkley (aka Tequila Slammer) and Dan Stopani, both incredibly talented musicians, decided, before digital distribution became a reality, that the best way to get our tunes released was to start our own label. So we created Magic Beans Records, and set ourselves two weeks to go off and all write a tune each for a launch EP.

Gamma Storm was a real challenge. The big inspiration was probably the Instrumental Mix of DT8 ProjectDestination, with that huge strings breakdown. I wanted to make something that sounded that big, but with a funkier, rolling groove and some psychedelic touches, but I really didn't know what I was doing and that was one hell of a brief for a newbie. I had this idea for a chord sequence, and the melody and bassline just fell in around it, but I didn't have a clue how to engineer it to sound good. I read an awful lot of engineering books and was an avid Sound on Sound subscriber, but was really still finding my feet.

I ended up enlisting the help of Andy Young, formerly one half of the amazing progressive trance live act Bio, a good friend of Planet Angel, and now owner of Insight Records and collaborator with Ehren Stowers. He really "got" what the track was about, and helped me mix it at his house into a finished product I was happy with – a learning experience for which I am eternally grateful!

The final touch was a brutal limiting process I put it through when I got it home, so it had in the end been mastered three times by the time it hit vinyl. Phew!

Not only have you brought incredible solo productions to life, but you’re also working closely with Jim Voute aka Jurrane at the moment. How did you meet and when did you decide to form a production partnership?

We met at a Euphoria event at Heaven in 2003ish. A now mutual friend discovered him and Dan Stopani (one of the Magic Beans guys) chatting away in a corner and brought them to meet us all. We ended up taking them back to a mate’s house afterwards and chatting until the morning, all listening to each others' tunes! Before long we were talking about starting a record label.

As for starting to work together, I think we were both moaning about lacking inspiration and never getting any tunes finished, and we started talking about how having someone else keeping you on the straight an narrow can keep you focused. We decided to see what would happen if we worked together, and a month later we'd completed Timebomb, the track that got us signed to Discover.

Watch out for part two where Graham talks about Discover, new tracks and John ‘00’ Fleming next week.

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Photos courtesy of Sly One. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Odyssey presents A Decade of Trance
Send an eFlyer for this event to a friend Include this Event in a Private Message Direct link to this Event
On: Saturday 6th February
At: Ember [map]

From: 15:00 - 24:00
Cost: FREE
Ticket Info: Free entrance all day.
More: For our next adventure we invite you to step into a time machine. With each of our chosen DJs representing an era between 1998 and 2008, we’ll travel through time – blending the past and the present in celebration of the music that will live in our minds forever.

In preparation for this epic journey, we urge all voyagers to dress up in classic rave gear. We’ll reward the best-dressed male and female with a fabulous prize.

Region: London
Music: Trance. Hard Trance.
DJ's: Andy Dunford
Anthony Dean vs Pablo
Dave Bennett
Dj Erc
Ian Edwards
Sly One

Who's Going? (18) : Adam Symbiosis, Agnes Klos, Alan-Banks, Andy Dunford, Carine, djdirtyd, Evie D, Frani Heyns, Ian Edwards, jackVanChallis, Lorenzo Barrero, Marc Antoine, Matt, Menthol Taz, miss C, miss marie, Riff and Raff, Ryan Wilkinson 

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Other Features By Frani Heyns:
Finding the passion with Ben Alonzi
Put your hands in the air for Glyn Waters
Shifting gears with Corderoy
Perfectly Adam White
Getting Crafty with Sly One: Part 2
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.

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