Julio Bashmore’s Secret Recipe: The Story Behind Knockin’ Boots

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Julio Bashmore’s Secret Recipe: The Story Behind Knockin’ Boots

Out of the bedroom, and into the world.

It's with a good deal of calm authority that Julio Bashmore is detailing the history of Miss Millie's, a chain of fried chicken shops in South West England and Wales.

"It dates back to the early 1980s, when a few branches of KFC had to sell up for whatever reason. Some young, brash entrepreneur with a grand vision for a fried chicken future in Bristol approached them and said, we want to be involved. I believe they struck a deal that meant they could have the restaurants, but were only allowed to know around 70% of the original KFC recipe. So one of the colonel's daughters flew over to Bristol show them that much of the original mix. Yet from here, they put their own twist on the recipe. They took it to new places, they put hash browns in the burgers, they introduced gravy. Unrestrained by the conventions of Southern American cooking, they created something completely new."

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We're not really supposed to be talking about fried chicken, in fact our conversation began with his soon to be released debut album Knockin' Boots. But Bashmore, and his music, are a composite product of a menagerie of influences: people, places, long-plays, and poultry.

It is with these influences that our conversation begins, chiefly on my part trying to work out exactly why it has taken so long for the album to be released. Since appearing on the scene in 2009 the name Julio Bashmore has been attached to more "tunes of the year" than most producers get in an entire career, but talk of his first album has been more elusive — a mooted possibility that has been in progress for years.

"It's the fundamental fact that a dance music album so often falls short. People end up thinking, I need to put out this album, here's a load of beats, and they stick them together." Bashmore's focus, instead, was to build a record that reflected the standalone philosophies of the records he was raised on. "I grew up listening to 'albums'. My brother was very important in that respect, he got me listening to Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers."

He's got a point. Dance music albums, especially debut albums that accompany a rising hype around a producer, often lack the cohesion of vision, instead resembling a hastily assembled compilation of the producer's "best in show". This is something Bashmore was hugely conscious he avoided. "There was a really golden time in the 1990s with albums like Homework coming out. I thought, unless I could do something that would hold up against those records then what was the point?"

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While playing with the past can lead to dangerous expectations, Bashmore's approach has been resoundingly successful. Knockin' Boots is exactly what he set out to create. "People can be afraid of referencing the past too much, but there's nothing wrong with trying to copy someone, as long as you don't get too good at it. All the music I love is people trying to copy someone and getting it completely wrong. That's when I fall in love with a record."

It's absolutely an album of floor-ready dance music, yet it sounds as good through headphones sitting on a bed, as it does in pieces littered across a club mix. "My relationship with dance music began at a time when I was super young so there's always been an element of it being disassociated from the club. I love that, I want it to be interesting enough for some kid somewhere to really pick it apart."

While making a dance record for bedroom obsession sessions might sound at odds with the floor-filling joy that floods his production, the time he has spent poring over big pop records is Bashmore's secret weapon. It is his study of everything from UK Funky to Michael Jackson that allows his production to occupy an almost impossible position, dance music with a pop philosophy that is as irresistible to the 'underground' as it is to legions of Radio 1 listeners. "The truth is, I've been making pop records with Jessie [Ware] for as long as I've been making underground dance music. Maybe pop music and dance music don't easily go hand in hand, but I'm just making the music I naturally make, which happens to appeal to both of those groups. It doesn't come from a cynical place. I just don't see a boundary between the two as some people do."

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Another important product of Bashmore's meticulous streak is the attention and time he has given to his recording environments. His career started as a bedroom producer, in the most classical sense of the term, yet over the course of making Knockin' Boots he relocated to a string of different studios. "I like to put myself in different head-spaces, I've been in White City in the middle of an industrial space, then the middle of London around London Bridge. Then I moved to South East London, so I finished it off, in my spare bedroom in New Cross. It's funny, it started in a bedroom, went through two studios, and then got finished in a bedroom."

Of all the spaces, Bashmore talks about his time spent as the artist in residence at the Red Bull studios in London as having the most potent effect on completing the record. "I'm not going to lie, when I first started with Red Bull I was wary of a 'corporate environment'. At first I'd arrive in the morning and go straight into my basement and try not to see anyone, but it didn't take me long to realise, that they just wanted to support the album."

Artists collaborating with brands can be a prickly subject, but Bashmore's experience seems to suggest he found more independence with Red Bull than he would have done on a major label. "It's not like someone was knocking on my door saying "do this", "drink this can of Red Bull". Albums need support. It's about building relationships with people in a mutually beneficial way, and that's what I think I've done with them. I'm very independent, and they gave me that space."

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With the space and time he has given to the album, he has also had the room to grow in confidence as an artist. Earlier in his career Bashmore barely did interviews, opting instead to drop tracks with little fanfare on the internet. Yet now, in the build to his album's release, he is completely at ease talking about the record, and is even releasing a short film that details the worlds of Bristol and London, and how they have led him to this point. "It's been a journey. There have been ups and downs; "Battle for Middle You" coming out and going wild, but then things like "Duccy" where I released a track and there was a total backlash. Through all these things I've gotten a lot more confident in having shit to say, rather than being a guy in his bedroom making music. That goes for the album too, it's part of a journey. It's growing up."

The beauty about Bashmore's version of independence, "a guy in a bedroom making music", is just how far it rejects the notion of reclusive introspection. He does have shit to say. While every track has been constructed from the details of his studious imagination, the final product contains volumes of gut-bursting groove not unlike the heights of late filter house. Cuts like the already-everywhere "Holding On", or the soulful flourishes of "Simple Love", are celebrations, playing heartbreak off against the dramatic expression of the dance-floor.

Yet Knockin' Boots goes further, marrying this full-frontal funk with shades from further afield, a prime example being "Umuntu", a raucous, bubbling exercise driven by a blistering vocal feature from South African vocalist Okmalumkoolkat. "A few years ago I began a very long, extensive, and quite expensive obsession with early 1980s African electro which I'm obsessed with. It encapsulates what I love about making music, especially as a bedroom producer, because a lot of it is trying to emulate American music, like MJ, gets it wrong, but again creates something beautiful and new in the process."

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And so, at the end of our conversation, Julio Bashmore and I find ourselves at the same point. The genesis of something completely idiosyncratic, and completely brilliant, from the best intentioned attempts to re-create a pre-existing formula. It's true of the 1980s African electro, true even of his own process – reaching for the glories he heard during countless sessions locked in his bedroom, and achieving something totally singular as a result. However, it is also true of a brash young entrepreneur, with a passion for fried chicken, who took a muddled attempt at a classic recipe and produced a flavour sensation.

I ask Bashmore, is Knockin' Boots, deep down, the funkified embodiment, the ultimate testament to the spirit of Miss Millie's? He pauses, "I feel like that's something I would have paid a therapist a lot of money for."

Knockin' Boots will be released on Broadwalk Records on the 7th of August.

Watch the album teaser here.

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