As we reach the 50th milestone mix in the series, we celebrate with a genuine legend of the house scene; DJ Spen. The Waveform Transmitter’s Ste Knight presents a session primed for the dancefloor.
It is difficult to think of house music without thinking of the individuals who have pioneered the sound. DJ Spen is undoubtedly one such figure. Having dropped his first single in 1995 – A Feelin’ with gospel house crew Jasper Street Co., which was released on Basement Boys Records – Spen hadn’t stopped for breath since, racking up an impressive back catalogue that, inclusive of mix comps and such like, exceeds 150 records.
Spen started out on his illustrious career at the tender age of 13, and it seems he knew what he wanted to do from the off. Laying down mixtapes and DJing at block parties in his Baltimore city home, Spen quickly garnered a name for himself as word spread of his talents as a DJ. Fast forward to today, and his name is known on a global scale – a firm favourite for house heads across the world.
Spen‘s vast experience shows. Not only have his productions been picked up by the likes of Nervous Records and Defected, but he has remixed some of the biggest names in the entire music industry as part of The Basement Boys. And when we say “biggest names” we mean Michael Jackson kind of biggest.
Looking a little closer to home (Liverpool) and it is easy to see that Spen has a lot of love here. His sets at Southport Weekender (which takes place this year at London’s Crystal Palace on August 31st) and Liverpool Disco Festival always attract a hefty crowd, and his reputation for working his audience into a house-fueled frenzy precedes him.
Not only does he produce and DJ, Spen also runs his own record label, Quantize Recordings. Their first release dropped in 2012, and the label has attracted hundreds of artists ranging from Danny Krivit through to Sheila Ford, via Tony Humphries. Sean Spencer is a man who has truly immersed himself in the scene, and we are all better off for it.
Luckily for you, Spen has very kindly recorded an exclusive mix to mark the 50th anniversary of our prestigious Waveform mix series. We are delighted to have reached such a milestone, and we are even more delighted that it is DJ Spen behind the wheels for this fantastic session. He has packed it with absolute classics so prepare to be reaching for the rafters when this hits your speakers. You can find the track list at the bottom of the page.
First, though, you have prepared some interview questions for DJ Spen ranging from subjects as complicated as controversial cover versions, to those as simple as hot beverage choices. Check out what he had to say, below…
Q: With yourself hailing from Baltimore, do you watch ‘The Wire’? If so who is your favourite character and why? Alan Bethell, Liverpool
A: Being from Baltimore, I’ve seen so much of what happens on the wire in the actual streets. Therefore, The Wire has never really been something that I’ve really wanted to watch beyond a few episodes. I would have to say, however, that if I did watch the show, and being that I work with him, I’d have to say that my favorite character would be Sean “Shamrock” McGinty who is played by a singer that we work with named Richard Burton. Yep, a lot of people don’t know that one!
Q: What is the one track that changed your style of production from early hip hop sounds to more garage/house orientated tracks? Dave Coates, Liverpool
A: That’s a good question. There are quite a few of them, but I would say that the track that had most impact on me as a producer is “Love is the Message” by MFSB. It says everything to me when it comes to Disco, Soul, Gospel, Funk etc. from hip-hop perspective I believe that song would have to be something like “They Reminisce Over You“ by Pete Rock and CL Smooth.
Q: What has been your favourite gig and why? Nick Gartland, Liverpool
A: My most memorable gig is Freakazoid, which was in Melbourne, Australia. It was on Easter Monday in 2001. I’ve never done a day party that was that intense and everything that I played they went for. Didn’t matter what it was from Funk to Soul to R&B, they just were the most receptive crowd I’ve ever played for.
Q: You were born in Baltimore. What made you steer your sound towards house rather than, say, Baltimore Klub? Ste Knight
Well, Thommy Davis, Wayne Mallory and myself actually recorded what would be the first Baltimore Klub record…I believe it was in 1984 or 85. It was called “Git The Hole”. This was when I was well deep into hip-hop and Chicago underground house.
We’ve recorded some Baltimore Klub records under different names, but it’s never truly been a complete passion of mine, even though I really like the sound. Nothing has ever really moved me like Soulful dance music. It’s just what I love to create and play.
Q: As a gifted technical DJ, what’s been the biggest learning curve for you playing out? Simon Huxtable, Bath
A: Making sure that I pay attention to what’s going on with the dance floor has always been somewhat of a learning curve for me. Sounds change all the time, and so do the records that people dance to. Being able to adjust to what makes the dance floor engaged with what you’re doing is always tricky. A lot of new and up-and-coming DJs think that it’s easy to do, but that is the skill that will make or break you as a DJ in certain arenas.
Q: Obviously you wrote the original version of Girl You Know It’s True. I’m interested to know your perspective on how the song exploded with Milli Vanilli, and then how that whole project just fell apart so publicly after that. Did you have any knowledge of what was happening, what was your reaction to it, and how much do you think what happened with them has tainted the song you wrote? Sean Ponsonby, Liverpool.
A: To be completely honest, I never really saw our song or anything we did having to do with the demise of Milli Vanilli. They covered our song. That’s the long and short and the beginning and end of it. They made our song a hit as far as we were concerned. All I remember feeling as a teenager having our song rerecorded by this enormous pop act was conflicted. As performers we really wanted to be in their position, but it was just never meant to be for us.
Q: Your 50th Anniversary Waveform mix features a rake of classics. How did you select these from such a vast pool of music? Was it planned or more of an ‘off the cuff’ mix? Ste Knight
A: Oh, that was definitely planned! It’s your 50th anniversary and I love classics! I tend to play quite a few classic tracks during my normal sets, but they are usually updated with a little more oomph than the original versions which helps me to connect with almost any dance floor worldwide.
Q: Tea or coffee? Andy Whitsun, Manchester
A: Tea, definitely Tea!
So, there we have it. Possibly the most surprising answer there is the discovery that some American’s favour tea over coffee. Wonder what milk he uses…
Anyway, here is the tracklist for Waveform 050: DJ Spen. Enjoy, you lucky people!
David Harness – Emerald City
John Morales & Thommy Davis ft Richard Burton – Was That All It Was
Dubplate Disco – Pick Up (Yam Who Edit)
Delano Smith – MoonDance
Neil Pierce Ft Hanlei – Lessons Learned
Dav Risen + Paul B – You Raise Me Up (Happy Day) (Garage Dub Mix)
Master Kev & Roy Davis – DEMO 2
Marvin Gaye – Whats Goin’ On? (Big Moses Mix)
MFSB – K-Jee (Joey Negro Philly World Mix)
Tasha LaRae & DJ Spen – I Wish I Didn’t Miss You
Those Guys – Love Love Love (DJ Spen 2020 Reproduction)
Sarah Dash – Somethin Inside
“Glantry” (Jovonn 4 to da floor rmx)