In twenty years time a teenager's going to walk into a record shop and between the crap and toss they're going to find a gem. That gem is going to be a copy of Social Housing, the debut album by Berlin based producer Marquis Hawkes. They're going to hold it up and peer at the front cover and they're initially going to think that it's a dub record, something like Scientist Wins the World Cup or King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown. And they'll buy and get home and delicately place it on the turntable and hear a house record. A proper, no nonsense, old fashioned house record.
Having spent the last few years releasing records on the likes of Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, Clone Jack for Daze, and Aus, Hakwes has decided to drop his first full length on fabric affiliated imprint Houndstooth. The result is 12 tracks of undulating, club-damaging dancefloor magic.
We recently caught up with Hawkes ahead of the record's release, to chat about albums, ambition, and, errr, Bob Crow. We've also got an exclusive premier of "Locked Out" which is quite possibly our favourite track on Social Housing — a twinkling, minimal, twisting and turning little number. Check it all out below.
*THUMP: How's 2016 been so far? Productive? Reflective? Exhausting?*
Marquis Hakwes: All of the above in varying degrees, but as ever, more productive than anything else.
Do you want to tell us a little about your relationship with the Houndstooth crew? How'd you get involved with them?
Rob Booth, with his trademark enthusiasm, got in touch after hearing my Dixon Avenue Basement Jams releases, saying that he was very keen to get me on board. I'm eternally grateful to him, and the rest of the crew, for giving me the opportunities which have come about due to our relationship, and above all else, for letting me do my thing. I'd not really considered doing an album before, until they suggested it, as they don't sign artists just to release a few EPs, they are always looking for a much more committed, longer term relationship with their artists. I was cautious at first, but it's been a good call, although certainly a stark change of direction for them to sign an artist with a sound like mine.
Is there any pressure attached to releasing a debut album? Do you feel like it's a reflection of a moment in time or something more permanent?
Of course, there is a lot of pressure attached to releasing any album, but especially a debut album, particularly if you are approaching it with the thought that it's not going to be just a double EP, you know, just like a usual release that you would do times two. But I should also say, it's been particularly epic putting this thing together just from the scale of ambition that Rob and everybody else at Houndstooth have for the label, I think it's a little bit beyond just your usual underground house release. I certainly wanted to try and create something as timeless as possible, but I think artistically whatever you create, at least as the creator of something, it's going to be a reflection of where you were at yourself at a particular point in time. But whether others perceive it as such, I mean, everyone has their own perception of things, it's impossible to truly view anything through someone else's eyes.
The title's quite provocative in a way…what's the rationale behind it?
I think it's only really provocative if you hold the kinds of opinions I'm trying to challenge by naming it what I did. From birth, the first two places I lived in were council flats in East London, and I've been living in social housing in Berlin for four years now. The original concept of social housing has become muddied and lost over the years, at least in the UK, it was never meant to be only for socially disadvantaged people, it initially was envisaged as housing for all during post war Britain. But it's obvious that it's been turned into a political football, and used as a means to reinforce the wretched class system which still plagues the UK to this day. It's like when Bob Crowe, who was head of the RMT Union, basically the railway workers and dockers union, got a lot of stick for still living in a council house even though he was earning a six figure salary. He was only sticking to the original concept of what council housing in the UK was supposed to be about, egalitarian, and a mix of people from different backgrounds, which then leads to a richer and less segregated society, and gives those kinds of neighbourhoods better role models for the kids to aspire to be like.
The rub came when the process of selling council houses and flats came about, the promise to replace sold local authority property from the profits gained from that was renaged on, and then an abject faliure by successive governments to replenish the housing stock, which has contributed in a big way to the housing crisis the UK finds itself in. The fact that it became considered only suitable for underpriviledged people, that's just ghettoised the poor, and entrenched the poverty into a vicious circle which people find hard to get out of.
But looking on the brighter side, at least over here on Germany, where I've emigrated to, they still have quite a bit of social housing, and it's quite affordable, which has enabled me to concentrate on more artistic projects rather than being stuck on the working shit job treadmill I was on the last time I lived in the UK. And I definitely say I emigrated, because I don't see myself as an expat here. I'm an immigrant for sure, I have no plans to leave, I speak the language, and I integrate with the society here. I gotta say it grates on me when I'm described as an expat, I'm certainly not sat on a lounger wearing a straw boater, drinking fucking Pimms and complaining about the "barbaric" behaviour of the locals.
I guess also the album name was a bit of wordplay, maybe like dancing to house music and being sociable, so you can take it that way also I guess.
When was the last time you got locked out?
About four years ago in our first flat in Berlin, when we stupidly went out leaving the flat keys on the inside of the door. Ninety euros to a locksmith to get back in. Expensive night out.
There's a story behind the name of that track as it goes. I played a gig a couple of years back in Southend On Sea of all places, and had assumed that late check out had been arranged, which by midday the next day it transpired it hadn't at all. I tried to get on the phone to the promoter to no avail, so I figured "whatever, I'll just go to the airport four hours before my flight out of there and chill there". Southend On Sea actually has an "airport", if you can call it that, but the terminal building is pretty much nothing more than a warehouse with a costa coffee at one end. It was freezing cold, there was no wifi, and I had four hours to kill, so I started writing the track "Locked Out." I could have called it "Kicked Out" I guess but I thought "Locked Out" sounded better. That was actually the first track I wrote for the album.
Marquis Hawkes' debut album Social Housing is out on June 10th via Houndstooth. Pre-order it here. To celebrate the launch Marquis will be playing alongside Carl Craig, Nina Kraviz, and Blawan at fabric on the 4th of June and tickets for that are available here.