Dance-music journeyman Nick Muir began his career in the late ’80s as a session musician, playing piano/keyboards with Take That, Fire Next Time and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. He even worked with the late rock singer Johnny Hallyday.
Muir gravitated toward the pulse of the nascent UK rave scene in the early ’90s, where he began DJing. Along the way he met an upstart DJ/producer named John Digweed, and together they’ve formed one of the strongest partnerships in dance music. Over the course of countless productions and remixes, they forged the blueprint for Bedrock Records’ matchless progressive-house signature.
Fresh from releasing an evocative solo EP, “Mirror Walk” / “In The Room,” on Bedrock, we asked Muir about early tracks that strongly influenced his musical point of view.
1. Xpress 2 – Muzik Xpress
This is one of my all-time favorites. One of the qualities of music that I love is that it instantly conjures up the feeling it generated in me at the time I fell in love with it and it instantly takes me back to the euphoria of the early ’90s. The elements used, the sound of the percussion, the insistent “music, music” vocal sample, the way the elements weave in and out … it’s inspirational.
2. Underworld – Cowgirl
Bit of an obvious choice, I suppose, but the part when the resonant ‘melody’ slams in after the first vocal section just before the three-minute mark is one of the great moments in all of recorded music in my opinion. The way the band (I guess it was Rick in truth) was using the resonant filter at that point to suggest melody is unequalled, even by them. One of the first times I realized it was possible to automate parameters such that they perform as musical elements in their own right. I’ve been doing it ever since.
3. Brian Eno and David Byrne – Help Me Somebody
My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts just blew us away when it came out and this track in particular is dynamic, driving, and exciting. The thrill of listening to it has stayed with me through the years. Such imagination and original thought in the production — I mean who would’ve thought of putting a flock of rooks calling at the start of a track? Yet it works so well. Eno is a towering figure the world of record production.
4. Eon – The Spice Must Flow
Another track that takes me back to rave times. Not sure that it’s considered a classic or anything, but listening to this as I was just learning to sample stuff and sequence taught me so much. The idea that you could sample sound from almost anywhere and use it in your tracks was totally new and also that tightly sequenced and quantized tracks was something to be celebrated. The fact that the production didn’t sound “human” didn’t matter two hoots, In fact that was what was so brilliant about it. An awesome production!
5. Hardfloor – Trancescript
I remember John Digweed and I were at Stress Records’ HQ trying to remix in one of their broom cupboard studios. It was quite hard-going so I ducked out for a break and heard this record coming out of one of the other studios. I stood at the door with my jaw on the floor. The way this record builds from nothing to a symphony of 303s is truly remarkable. Also the unashamedly machine-like quality of the lines used and the perfect judgement of how long to leave each sequence turning over before you develop it. It always seems just a little bit too long, which of course is the secret. Once I figured that out, I was off and running.