Two of the most charismatic kids in our crazy scene, Hamish Blair and Mark Bedders have always done much more for music than just rock up and play records. Not content with producing some of the most cracking parties London has experienced, it was no doubt a natural progression that they’d also dabble in the world of music curation and have a crack at running their own label.
Ten years on, Furthur Progressions is going as strong as ever, and this Saturday night the lads are planning an event of epic proportions – PRISM at London’s recently refurbished Steelyard – to celebrate. With the excitement brewing and the clock ticking, we managed to catch up with Hamish and Bedders to get the lowdown on music, mud and um horse bites…
Hi guys, thanks for taking some time out of your hectic lives to answer a few questions!
First, congratulations on 10 years of Furthur Progressions! That’s one awesome achievement, especially in today’s fickle industry!
Thinking back to 10 years ago – which I do appreciate can be hard – what was the initial drive and inspiration for setting up a new label?
M Hamish and I had been DJing together for a couple of years, busy on the London circuit if you will, and we both shared a love for the same style of progressive trance which was really gaining popularity at the time. We wanted to put the UK on the map for this style.
H We were having a lot of fun – the parties, the people we were meeting, the places we were visiting – and promoting a lot at the same time. Starting a label felt like the next logical step.
Where did the name ‘Furthur Progressions’ come from?
H The name ‘Furthur Progressions’ came from two influences. Furthur is taken from the name given to the bus that carried a group of people known as the ‘Merry Pranksters’ on mad adventures arounds the USA in the ’60s. The bus was named ‘Furthur’ – initially spelt with two ‘Us’ – painted in wonderful psychedelic colours, and decked out with an array of audio equipment, microphones, delays, feedback loops and speakers making it a crazy, warped, sonic visual experiment, which careered around the country carrying a group of people, including a chap called Ken Kesey who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, dosed to the eyeballs on hallucinogenic drugs.
It was an apt name for an events brand I started in 2006, and the record label was an evolution of this. We added ‘Progressions’ as it denotes the music and style which we love.
What have been the highlights of the last 10 years?
M Highlights for me would have to be the obvious one of playing the Boom Festival main stage together in 2008, but other great moments like playing the last ever set at the legendary Synergy Project in London...... and countless moments like the pirate ship back-to-back in Universo Parallello! Or our Mario & Luigi set at Noisily Festival!
H I think you’ve hit all the sweet spots there Mark. Away from music there is obviously the several years living together, which I would compare to a south London version of Friends (with more raving).
And is there anything on your bucket list you’ve still to tick off?
H Rainbow Serpent is top of the festival bucket list. It’s supposed to be one of the very best and would also entail visiting Australia during the summer. Yes please.
M Yeah I would second that. And Burning Man too.
You’ve released some ground-breaking compilations, such as the incredible London Landscapes series. Can you remember how those first comps first came together? Did you do all the licensing etc. yourselves or did you have a crack team of helpers?
M I was working at a music distribution company at the time – Arabesque – so had an understanding of what it took to put out a release. We contacted the artists ourselves and asked them for tracks, getting a positive response from every one!
H Thanks to the parties we were running and DJing at – doff of the cap to Nigel & Dream Temple – we were meeting producers such as Yoni Ace Ventura, Emok and Liquid Soul and they were keen to help us out!
Are there any more comps on the horizon or are you mainly sticking to artist digital EPs these days?
H Releasing music these days is very different to 10 years ago. Listening habits have evolved, and sources such as Spotify are now at the fore. Singles and 2–3 track EPs are how we can make a record label work economically, but compilations and albums will always have a space when the time is right. There will be a 10-year compilation coming out soon as well as more Furthur Session compilations.
What releases do you have in the pipelines over the next few months?
H In addition to the compilation and Furthur Sessions, we have an amazing EP just out from Cimi called New Synthesis (featuring a track with yours truly), and releases in the pipeline from Multiphase and Doppler.
As well as running the label, you’re both great DJs in your own right. Would you say your own music and sounds have changed much over the last 10 years? And if so, has that has much impact on what you’re releasing?
M My musical taste has evolved more in to a tekky sound. I always loved techno anyway and usually played music with a tekky edge to it. But in the last few years it’s really started to veer more and more into a tek-trance sound (artists such as MVMB and Allaby as an example) and of course pure techno. Less melody, less jazz hands and certainly NO TRIPLETS!!!
H My style has in part stayed true to the progressive trance I fell in love with 14 years ago – I know when I’ve found a track in that area because the same tinkle goes down my spine, and I have also fallen heavily for 126–130 bpm music, Beatport defines it as progressive and deep house so I’ll use that label. But again, like progressive trance, it’s got energy, intelligence and creates emotion.
In an industry where so many labels have crashed and burned, what do you reckon has contributed to your sustainability?
M Bad jokes on Hamish’s part….
H I don’t know what you mean there Mark. On a serious note, a pure love for the music. As a label we’ve had a few quiet years due to us both having other responsibilities, and the label is a passion project that has to be managed as best as possible, while fitting in with our lives. It’s a balancing act that we are always aware of.
On a less serious note, I know what goes on tour is supposed to stay on tour… but having DJed and run events for most of your adult lives you must have seen [and done] some pretty crazy shit over the years. What’s the funniest story you can share with us from back in the day?
M Erm… how blue can we go here?! I mean… having been to a number of squat parties there are a million sights that shouldn’t be re-lived. Ejecting the wrong CD on the main stage at Universo Parallelo having arrived at the festival 5 minutes before my set is always a classic.
H I tried to convince my mum that my career choice of psy trance DJ was viable by inviting her to come and watch me at Glade Festival, thinking that a lovely sunny festival during the day was certainly better than a club filled with gurning ravers. Unfortunately it was 2007 when the festival was a complete wash out, and my mum, uncle and aunt came to watch me DJ in an empty slurry pit.
M Then there’s the time you were bitten by a horse, then had the septic bite cut into by an Italian doctor whilst ‘under the influence’ at Sonica Festival.
H There is that one too.
Having played and help produce some of the planet’s top events, if you both were given a million dollars tomorrow to put on a festival, where would it be and who would you book?
M On an island… somewhere hot… lots of tekkers.
H Crikey where to start… Perfect Stranger, Stephan Bodzin, ANNA… a Prodigy set paying tribute to Keith. And Leftfield.
Being industry veterans and pillars of the prog scene, what advice to you have for the new kids on the block who want to start djing, producing or setting up a label?
M Have fun!
H Label-wise, today, think carefully about how you’re going to make it a success for the artists you are supporting, and where do you want you and it to be in 5, 10 and 15 years.
Working full-time, having busy lives, DJing, producing events and running a label takes an incredible amount of dedication and constant juggling. What do you both like to do in the limited amount of down time you have?
M Spend time with my son, having fun and making him laugh.
H Discovering New York with my wife, where we’ve just moved.
You’re planning an epic knees-up in London on Saturday 23rd of March at The Steelyard called Prism. Why ‘Prism’ and how did you go about putting the line-ups together?
H The brand is called Prism London, which I started with Chris Williams as an event brand under which we can do some really cool events in London. Lineup-wise we want to bring together a collection of artists that we really admire, and that are going to be able to create something special through the evening. The Furthur Arena has label stalwarts Cimi and Multiphase, plus two of our all-time favourite artists in Protonica and Allaby, and the Prism Bar has a top line-up of house and techno with Unique Repeat, Audio Anonymous and Mara LeFay, along with up and coming DJs Ryan Smith and Sam Strutt.
Why should readers come down to Prism on Saturday 23rd March? It’s going to be much more than just about the music isn’t it?
H It is: the music is going to be something special with 4 international artists and 10 acts across 2 rooms, but these events are always more about the people, the atmosphere and how we can transform the venue into something unique. It’s going to come together in a beautiful way.
You’re also running room 2 at the next Tribal Village on Saturday 18th May at the Steelyard. How did this come about?
M Jay OM gave me my first ever gig, and Tribal Village is a main-stay of the UK psy scene. We all discussed doing something together and he has given us a room on 18th May to do something special with.
H Yes being part of Tribal Village is fantastic. We’ve got two great live acts in Altered State and Neutrino, plus Spindrift, Miss Kiff and Miles From Nowhere. Gonna be tasty!
Finally, festival time will be upon us soon: what else do you both have on the horizon for summer and the rest of 2019?
M Fun in the Sun, can’t wait!
H Noisily Festival is the only place to be. Truly one of the best events around now. We’re doing a special session to open the festival on Friday so be there!
Thanks so much for your time! Looking forward to seeing you at Prism on the 23rd!