Finest Wear Interview
Finest Wear has been part of the UM family for years now - his remix for Dj Deeka was quite the story for those that know, but his trademark warm sound and rich sound productions have made him a firm favourite of some of the best deep house labels around from UM, to Colour & Pitch, Nordic Trax, Large, BBE and many more.
Thanks for doing this Cenzo. I wanted to start with your back story - how you got into Dj’ing and music production?
My Pleasure Richie, Thanks for asking me, Well for the Dj side of things it all started for me back in around the late 80s, about 87 ish when I was around 14 years old, There was a group of us who grew up together in south west London being myself, Darren Handley (Dj Hanlee) David Claiden (Davey Cee) and Mathew Brown (Matty B) We was all massively into the pirate radio scene and would listen too and follow the likes of Kiss fm, Don Fm, Freek Fm, Girls Fm, Time Fm and religiously listen to them week in and week out to find what the best tracks where out and then by the end of the week a few of us would make a trip up into the big city to go and buy some of the tracks on vinyl we heard that week, most of the time it was a battle to get the tracks as you would be battling at least 20/30 other people in various shops to get to the counter to grab these limited copies but eventually it all came good as we used to get noticed and they would make sure we got them which was always a buzz for us all.
Then we would skip back to either our own homes to listen or we would meet at a pals house as he was they only one with a set of turntables for us to play them on, As time went on we got more into wanting to learn how to put them together as an art form as we would hear it done on the radio and thought it sounded wicked how they blended them together. As kids we all did not have much money for equipment as what we did earn always went on vinyl cause we was obsessed with it.
A couple of us could only afford an all in one set up like them old Alba / Phillips stereo with the twin tapes and vinyl deck on top but we still improvised as one time when we started throwing parties round friends houses and we had no decks I ended taking my Alba stereo round to my pals Darrens Mum’s flat and sitting it side by side with his Phillips ( i believe?) so we would have some kind of set up to play 2 vinyls together, 1 speaker in one and one in the other and using each volume knobs as the mixer, It was so tough but we managed and improvised so we could get the party going and do what we loved which was to learn how to mix and let others hear what we brought, and also to have a good time :-)
Then as the years went by and worked and partied hard I could slowly afford some decent decks and thats how things progressed. My first time ever Dj-ing was at a Spiral Tribe Free Rave in Oxford I think back in 91/92?, I was there for a few days partying and I used to hassle them to let me spin a few tunes then eventually they let me play in the daytime.
Ok I only played a few tracks but to me that was it i needed more of this which i did and pushed my self to play out a lot more.
As for the production side I was slowly getting more fascinated into how these tracks where put together, it amazed me how you could create these sounds? I had no knowledge at all and no musical background but did have an ear for it so I really wanted to learn how to make a track, I suppose on the production side of things it all started for me around 15 years ago. Luckily being in the scene for a few years previous I became friends with a lot of people that owned studios or worked in studios so I asked some of them if I could tag along and just sit there in the back ground and watch what they would do and I found it amazing.
If I was to mention one person it would have be my good pal James Hockley who has the patience of a saint as he owned a studio which was just past Oxford and i used to travel up there from London many times to sit in with him working his craft and learning as much as i could.
I was dedicated to wanting to learn there was a few times I was Dj-ing at the Ministry of Sound or Camden Palace or Club Colosseum on a Saturday night and I would drive straight from them clubs and go to James’s studio just to learn from him. There is a funny story when me and my pal Luke Sawyer was Dj-ing one night and we drove up to Oxford straight after about getting pulled over by the police when they was on a chase on the motorway one time which apparently I interrupted somehow on the motorway which got very heated but was really funny for me and Luke but I wont go into to much detail but we was lucky and we made it there in the end.. Haha.. So after all that I decided to invest in my own set up which I purchased a second hand Apple G4 and started to learn my path with Logic.
What attracted you to deeper, atmospheric house music specifically?
There was no specific genres in the early days just House music then as we all know it started stemming of into sub genres with lots of different dance music being created which I found myself getting massively into the early hardcore/breaks scene around 91/92 ish? and started Dj-ing at many free parties around London and Oxford as this was the thing for us in them days. Then the Drum and Bass sound came and I i got hooked into that whole Deep bass lines and floaty sounds that the artist’s would create and that had me hooked.
Around 94 I believe when the justice bill came in (sorry if dates are wrong I don’t remember much these days) the free parties got harder to do so they slowly disappeared and I eventually started doing the club thing which pushed me more getting back into the house sound because i did not like the drum n bass vibe in clubs i found it getting to moody.
Believe it or not I used to play a lot of vocal house as it was happy times with no attitude in the clubs and this was the sound people on the dance floor wanted to hear at that time but after a few mores years later I got a little bored of the sound and got my self back into the underground where there was a massive real Deep sound going on and this is where I got the buzz of wanting to produce which eventually led me to the path of trying to create Deep Atmospheric House Music.
Favourite labels, artists, DJ’s or tracks that inspired you in the early days?
Wow there is so many to mention here but for inspiration on the productions for labels it would have to be the likes of Sub Urban, Trax, Hott Records, Nordic Trax, Soulfuric Trax, Nervous, King Street, Large, Swing City, Basement Records, Fruit Tree Records, Freetown Records, Diffusion. So many more I could mention but to name a few these are on the top of the list for inspiration.
As for artist’s again there is so many to mention but to name a few it would have to be the likes of Kerri ‘Kaoz’ Chandler, Tommy Musto, 95 North, Lenny Fontana, Grant Nelson,Mike Delgado, Frankie Knuckles, Timewriter, Jimpster, Mood II Swing, This list could go on but I’m sure you get the idea from this lot mentioned how varied there sound can be.
You started out as MrCenzo, and then changed to Finest Wear, why?
When I was just a Dj I used to go under the name Dj Cenzo and built up a bit of a following so people knew the name so when the time came to learn the production side of things I could not think of a name at the time when my first release was coming up so I thought of using my name again but with out the Dj bit and be known as MrCenzo.
But at that time too which was 12 years ago roughly I was really still learning my craft and really could not find my sound then after a few years of releasing under MrCenzo I was understanding things a bit more and listening to other established Artist’s comments / Feedback as to what I was doing wrong and doing right so I eventually pushed my sound into the deeper side of things.
I felt I really needed to step away from the whole DJ Cenzo / MrCenzo thing and wanted to come back fresh with my new sound which the transition all happened in about a year or so and I always had the name Finest Wear written down on a piece of paper as i liked that name so that was it for me the name was now Finest Wear.
Do you see yourself as a producer or DJ?
These days I see myself mainly as a producer but am always ready for the wheels of steel. :)
What’s your usual preparation for a DJ set? Sleep, choose tracks to the moment you start...?
I really try and keep my self upfront with the tracks I play. I normally leave it till the upcoming week to select what I think may work in my sets.
What I i seem to pick seems to work quite well, I just load the USB’s up and away I go and it usually works for me and the floor. :-)
Any advice for young DJ’s looking to make their name?
Not to sure what advice I really could give on this one but just to learn your craft well. Learn to beat match, You can get lost in this digital world these days, go to the clubs read the crowds, pick your nights wisely as there is so much going on these days even I can’t keep up with it all. Try and be different from what the rest is doing. Good luck cause its tough out there.
Favourite venue to DJ at?
Well I have played at quite a few venues over the years in the Uk and abroad and had some great times and still do now and again. But i got to give a special mention to my good pal Pippo who runs a night called ‘Sweat’ in Brescia / Italy. I spent a good few years going out there to Dj and these happened to be some of the best organised parties for me, good hosting good attitude and good music. I even had people come over from Uk to hear me play out there cause they heard what it was like there, Good Times. :-)
Who are your personal favourite DJ’s to hear play?
I do not really have a favourite these days as there are so many good Dj’s out there but if i was to pick a few that I listen to on rotation it would be the Timewriter, Cj Mackintosh, Jimpster, LTJ Bukem, David Morales, To many to mention…
Your sound is very analogue, can you tell us the reasons, ideas behind that approach?
Good question this as I get asked this a lot :-). Funny things is I don’t own any out board gear I seem to manage to get warmth and depth out of my sound and use the plugins and EQ’s to get that analogue sound flowing through my trax which seems to come naturally with my work flow, i suppose it comes down to having the ears for it and coming from that old skool sound that i used to love listening to and hearing how warm and deep they used to get that sound on the black gold.
How do you approach your music production - do you have a routine or wait for inspiration to come for music?
Most of the time for me it all starts with that groove, I need to get the beats rolling and let them flow then things normally just come, there has been many occasions though in the middle of the night where I find myself with a pattern in my head so I quickly turn the mac on and lay the groove down before i forget it and go back to sleep, when i do sleep, haha…
Do you collaborate with labels other producers when you’re producing, to fit the label or just create the sound you want?
I have collaborated with other producers in the past yes Jon Delerious being one of them, We hooked up through both of us releasing on Nordic Trax and got talking about doing a collab which we did which we made the Sun & Moon Ep which got signed to Large which was a massive boost for both of us, There was no specific plan in the process of these 2 trax we just worked on bits of the tracks and fired them over to each other and laid down what we felt worked and boy did it work… :-)
What’s your typical production set up?
Like i mentioned I have no outboard gear all my set up is digital. My platform is Logic with bundles of plugins like Arturia, Native, sound toys, Plus the usual Logic ones, Also A good set of speakers and a good set of headphones too.
Any key things you think every aspiring producer should know or do to make their best music?
Just make the music your own, Change things you hear, Stem away from what everyone else is doing. Try and find your’e own sound, Be patient and don’t rush things. Your’e time will come. Oh invest in a good set of monitors that are best for your room.
Do you have any personal favourite releases from your discography, and if so why?
I don’t really have many favourites as I like them all equally but if I was to pick a few it would have to be my ‘Distant Memories Ep’. Especially the track ‘The Storm’ which I released on Colour & Pitch which is run by my good pal Will Sumsuch. This was my first kinda hit under the new name Finest Wear. I also had a release under UM Records called ‘Born For You’ - this was my introduction to the SA Deep House Community as I had many good comments from that part of the world.
Then it would have to be my first EP release on Nordic Trax called ‘In motion Ep’ because I have been a fan of Nordic for many years previous I really wanted to get my sound on Luke Mckeehan’s label as I liked how versatile his label is.
This release got some huge feedback from Artist’s all over the world and some names I have been following for many years actually liking what I am doing so proved to me i must be doing something right.
You can check out a few that I have selected on the 10 years of Finest Wear Guestmix I have recorded exclusive for you :-)
Who are your favourite labels and producers right now?
There are so many but a few i have been playing out recently get a mention -
ARTIST’s - Atjazz, Black Loops, Kevin Yost, Jimpster, Dwson, Jazzuelle, Kerri Chandler, Spiritchaser.
LABEL’s - Nordic Trax, Colour & Pitch, Stay True Sounds, Toy Tonics, Salted Music, Oblack Label, Moulton Music, Myriad Black.
What does your average day involve balancing work loads for both?
I currently hold down a full time job as we all know this music business don’t wanna pay us no more, So my weekly day consist’s of early starts, longish days to earn my crust then home to the studio. I try to get a couple of hours an evening getting some ideas together then shut off around 9/10pm as i found these long nights through the week don’t help with your flow to much. But soon as the weekend is here its pretty much all systems go with the music.. :-)
What big plans have you got for 2020, releases, projects, gigs?
I got 3 brand new eps lined up and ready to go, Currently in talks about a couple of gigs in Italy and Amsterdam, Also me and my Pal James Nelson had road tested a few club nights last year in 2019 called Sonder which turned out pretty cool so we are hopefully going to push Sonder again with a few dates this year and invite a few of our friends from the Deep House Community to come and play so keep your eyes peeled for that..
I have also started doing a few edits that I have been giving away on my sound cloud page for FREE as a Thank you for all the support i have been getting so I will be carrying that on again this year as I have been getting some great feedback for them so far… Oh did I mention I might be getting married too my boss and partner in crime Sarah - watch this space!