As a diehard devotee to all things underground in the UK music scene, you'll undoubtedly already know about Dalston-based radio station NTS. If you don't, then sorry, you're obviously just not as cool as you thought you were. Think Rinse FM with all the terrible, dark 'n' deep dubstep replaced with consistently good records across every genre imaginable. Except for gypsy jazz, because that stuff sucks so, so hard.
Charles Drakeford hosts a show on the station, "From The Depths" – a two-hour-long house and Detroit-techno set – every Sunday and recently set up Principals, a new night at Birthdays on Stoke Newington Road, with friends Bradley Zero and Nic Tasker. I called him up to chat about his night, sentimentality in dance music and Skrillex fans watching Jeff Mills. Oh, and he also made this mix for us, so you can listen to that while you read the words he said.
VICE: Hey Drakeford. So, at your new night, you're only ever going to have three DJs – is that right?
Charles Drakeford: Well, the main focus is that there’s only three resident DJs performing at any of the nights; myself, Nic Tasker and Bradley Zero. It’s not as if it’s going to be exclusively a no guest-DJs thing, it’s just we want to lay the foundations before we get ahead of ourselves. If we do end up booking others to play the night in the future, it’s going to be more about seeing that guest in the specific setting that we’ve created.
So it’s more about an creating an experience for those who are serious about the music?
Yeah, we just don't want it to feel like it's been set up purely to make money, you know? I’ve not got anything massively against that, but the clubs and people that have put on parties that have influenced us, like Plastic People, are more than just a club that makes money. They do their best to genuinely nurture whatever scene they focus on, which is great.
How does DJing at a club compare playing your radio show?
It’s a constant struggle between playing what you want to hear and what the audience want to hear. The radio feels a lot freer, so it’s amazing as a DJ to have a platform like NTS where you can just play whatever you like.
Yeah, also there's the risk that you could play something at the club and it just completely bombs.
Yeah, that’s the great thing with radio; you don’t really know if you’ve bombed it or not. Unless you’ve got people in the chatroom hating on you, you never really find out. But, I mean, I’d never play 30 minutes of ambience at a nightclub, obviously.
What do you make of that recent Terry Farley article about the decline of dancing?
Stuff like the smoking ban and having people constantly walking across the dancefloor can kill the vibe. To be honest, the only time a night feels really special is when you have everyone on the dancefloor moving, which may be because it’s rarer than it used to be, even though I haven’t been clubbing for that long [laughs]. I think people tend to get misty-eyed when they’re recalling the past and how good it used to be.
Do you think that kind of nostalgia is something that comes through in your DJing?
I suppose so, although I never have the direct intention to foster a retro vibe. The only time you ever hear about great DJs or nights is from the past, so it makes sense to recreate that kind of past glory. I listen to a lot of old and new music and I think it’s important to deliver both of those side by side without it seeming odd.
What’s your own past in house and techno?
It was quite a slow process, really. The first dance music I really got into was probably Daft Punk when I was 16 or so, which I think did have a lot of credibility to it, even though it’s seen as a bit of a joke nowadays.
I get the feeling that it’s "cool" now for DJs to say they listened to house music when they were a three-year-old, or whatever.
No, it’s not like that at all with me. And I don’t really know if it’s true of anyone, actually. I get bored of music quite quickly and I think a lot of people do. If I’d been listening to the house I play now when I was 14, I don’t think I’d still be into it, to be honest.
What sort of stuff are you into at the moment?
Detroit has got it good right now. I went there recently and saw this guy called Jay Daniel, who was incredible. Like a young Theo Parrish.
What were did you get up to on your trip?
We went there for Movement, which was great, if a bit odd. We were watching Detroit legends perform in front of a couple of older dudes, then hundreds of people in day-glo gear who are just into stuff like Skrillex. It’s weird. Fucking weird. It was an amazing experience, though. The second-hand record scene is insane, because people have just sold their entire collections and moved out. The only people on the streets are crackheads who can’t afford cars and everyone just stays indoors.
Listen to more of Drakeford's mixes here.