Photo: Lauren Gesswein (Fort Romeau)
Michael Greene’s work ethos is hard to match: After releasing his debut album Kingdoms as Fort Romeau in 2012 via 100% Silk, the British-born producer soon joined Ghostly International for a slew of EPs and, in 2015, a second album while also putting out singles through tastemakers like Running Back and Live At Robert Johnson. Also in 2015, Greene started the label Cin Cin together with fellow DJ Ali Tillet. Anything else? Sure, Greene is also a prolific remixer who has reinterpreted a broad palette of music, ranging from Erik Satie Abstraxion and DJs “all over the place at the moment,” as he puts it himself. However, he still found the time to answer some questions and record a mix for our Groove podcast.
Your own productions are heavily informed by Chicago House music and you have also stated that you had discovered the classics very early on. How did that come about and which were the most crucial records for you?
I would say that my influences come from all over, Chicago House definitely was a big part of it, especially when I put together the tracks that became my first album Kingdoms, but also a big influence comes from Italo Disco, 80s proto-Dance Music and even early electronic stuff, as well as some more 90s things from my early years, all the UK Techno, particularly Future Sound of London and Orbital. I think the thing that ties all the stuff I like together is a kind of melodic sensibility and artists who really developed their own language, I think this more and more important to consider, especially now that everyone has access to all the same tools, its about expressing your own personality and particular tastes.
As a British citizen, can you already tell how the UK leaving the EU will influence your work as a travelling DJ who plays regularly in EU countries?
I think the whole thing is absurd and would be laughable if its ramifications weren’t so significant. We have no idea at this point to what extent it will affect UK citizens, we will have to wait and see. Maybe I’ll emigrate to Canada or something.
Besides your work as a DJ and producer, you are also a prolific remixer. What’s the biggest obstacles you have to deal with when remixing a track?
Well i think the most important thing about doing a remix is that you like the original track, or at least one or two elements, that way it really shouldn’t be too hard. When it becomes very difficult is when your working with something that really isn’t to your taste and your then trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, it will never work. For me, I want to try and respond to the original song in someway, find a meeting point between myself and the original, The approach of just totally mangling a track until its unrecognisable from the original to me is a cop out, and theres just no point in doing the remix if you have to resort to that. Occasionally, I’ll be asked to do remix a track that I really like but I just won’t be able to conceive of a way to change it significantly enough to make it an interesting exercise, in those cases its best to leave it alone.
For Decca’s Re:Works, you have reinterpreted a composition by Erik Satie. What’s your relationship with Satie, why did you pick his “4 Préludes Flasques” for a remix?
Decca gave me far too wide a remit with that project, they simply said “Remix anything by anyone as long as its released on Decca”. That’s a very large amount of music to sift through! In the end I chose Satie because I wanted to find a way of integrating the piece into a dancefloor(ish) track that seemed natural and didn’t necessarily sound like some idiot putting a 4/4 kick drum over an orchestra. The simplicity of Satie’s composition gives you a wide berth in which to manoeuvre.
In 2015, you have inaugurated your own label, Cin Cin. What was your motivation to run a label in the first place and could you elaborate on its concept?
The motivation was that I didn’t have enough stress and hassle in my life already, haha. No, Ali (Tillett) and I just thought it would be a fun project and as a DJ I’ve always loved split 12”s as you get a lot of music on one disk! (Great for reducing back ache!) So yes, I would say I started the label to reduce back pain and make record playing more efficient.
After split releases between you and Nick Höppner as well as Todd Osborn and Laurence Guy, Cin Cin’s third release was a 12″ with contributions by Ripperton and the – apparently – anonymous producer V. How exactly do you find those artists and what are your criteria for pairing two specific producers?
Well, first port of call is always to ask friends and producers who we admire and have some affinity with. We don’t want to pair each side of the record too closely, there just has to be some sense of synergy between the artists. But as it’s largely dictated by our tastes theres is always some strand that connects everything, even tenuously.
Did you have a specific idea in mind when you recorded your mix for our Groove podcast?
With podcasts, especially short ones, its just about trying to capture a mood or a feeling, so here we have progtrancehouse from Konstantin Sibold and Chymera married with deep space Techno excursions from LOR (forthcoming on Cin Cin) and Aera. I think that a good mix always tells a story, but its not always for the story teller to dictate it to the audience!
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the next weeks? And what’s to expect from you as a producer and label owner in 2016?
All over the place at the moment! mostly Europe for the next few months but possibly a few excursions further a field also. I have a project with a good friend of mine coming out soon, but i don’t want to give too much away! Cin Cin has a couple of really great 12″s lined up for the rest of the year too which I’m really excited about.
Stream: Fort Romeau – Groove Podcast 67
Unfortunately, the download is currently only possible via Soundcloud with a registered account.
01. LOR – Factories 1979 [Forthcoming Cin Cin]
02. Aera – Odessa Step Sequence [Innervisions]
03. Johannes Albert – All Things Mind Altering [Frank Music]
04. Renato Ratier Ft. Stimming – Filosofia [D Edge]
05. Chymera – Episode [Cocoon]
06. Plastikman – Purrkusiv [Plus 8 Records]
07. Benjamin Milz – Dc2 [Live At Robert Johnson]
08. Konstantin Sibold – Mutter [Running Back]
10. Bwana – Generation Nostalgia [Forthcoming Cin Cin]