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Adam Shelton Interview: Below The Surface

Birmingham's Adam Shelton spoke to Mark Dale about the Below parties in his hometown, his own productions and Ibiza.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 12th Aug 2016

Image: Adam Shelton

Adam Shelton has been buying records for over two decades now and put his considerable collection to good use by establishing himself as a DJ in his native Birmingham. After playing summer seasons in Ibiza, national recognition in the UK and local infamy came in 2005 with the founding of his own Below parties, an extended, daytime Sunday session of house music held in The Rainbow Venues. For a time it was one of the very special places to go clubbing in the UK.

It was at this residency that he first met Ashique Subhan aka Subb-an, a sound design student who passed some of his music productions to Adam who was suitably impressed. A friendship formed, Subb-an was invited to play at the club and in the time since the pair have formed a production partnership as S.A.S. and founded a record label One Records.

Founded in 2009 One Records is already highly respected as a purveyor of dependable dancefloor destroyers and has released music by the likes of D'julz, Dan Ghenacia, Alex Arnout, DJ W!ld, The Martinez Brothers and Samu.L.

Adam also records solo and has had releases or remixes issued by Visionquest, Illusion Recordings, Siesta records and 20:20 Vision. Although his Below parties have now ceased, Adam has a busy international DJ schedule, holds his new One Records parties across Europe and at a residency in Birmingham and has been promoting his own Foundation parties in his new favourite city Rio.

We caught up with Adam Shelton for a chat about Birmingham, Below and other things besides before he hits Liverpool for Statk.

When you were playing at Below you would often be called upon to play warm up, peak time and after party periods of the night, accommodating what time the guest DJs were available. Which were your favourite slots to play and how did your music alter depending on which time slot you played?

Well as a resident that’s your job, to fill all slots and play a solid reliable set that works for that desired time, I love playing music any time and am happy to be playing any of those sets. Early slots would be made up of a more varied selection ranging from stripped back house to slow breaks and disco edged stuff, blending it on the mood of the room.

Later sets would be more solid house and tech house. As any afters sets tend to be wherever you go it was always loose and fun and if I am honest some of my best memories were at the afters, listening to new stuff ‘b-sides’ etc. and testing new music and rediscovering old music through friends. That brings good feelings when I think back.

Some of your earliest audiences were in Ibiza and in Birmingham. Describe the difference between those audiences as you saw it and how did those differences and the different environments affect what music you played?

I don’t have to tell you that these places could not be any further apart, back then anyway. Nowadays, in funny ways, they are not so far apart on the music scene. Ibiza opened my eyes to the more techy side of things coming from the Italian djs at the time, mainly the early residents of DC10, Cirillo and Fabrizo playing really deep sounds but with such a energetic response.

I guess that’s a combination of people wanting more at the time and sounds changing, so it felt new and fresh to a lot of people, me included. Birmingham was always a more soulful city music wise, the places I went anyway. So when I started playing in 2000 my music was a mix of soulful sounds and deeper house. I guess a label that sums that up is Naked Music. At the time this was a sound I felt comfortable playing.

Give me your top five tracks to please an outdoor audience in the sunshine and your top five classics that really make the vibe for a warehouse crowd?

Outdoor in the sun:

Cheek – 'Venus

Cerrone – 'Give Me Love'

 Don Carlos – 'Alone

Glenn Underground – 'Dance Slam'

Ron Trent – 'Pop Dip Spin'

Warehouse crowd:

Headman – 'It Rough' (Chicken Lips remix)

Armando – 'Don’t Take It' (Johnny Fiasco remix)

Adonis – 'Rocking Down The House'

Cevin Fisher – 'Shine The Light'

Ace & The Sandman – 'Let Your Body Talk'

Within your own productions I can hear a lot of American house music influence. Would that be fair to say? To an outsider like me Birmingham's known for more uncompromising sounds – heavy metal, techno. Where did you pick up your love of American house music?

I have buying records for 20 years now, I have covered a lot of ground in my collection but I don’t feel yet I have come to a point where I have a ‘sound’. I feel this with production too. Whatever I bring to the table is a jam of what I like, that’s mood depending and gig depending.

I do love a lot of sounds from the States, some of my early influences were the Body and Soul crew, also Derrick Carter, Todd Terry, Masters At Work. These guys were all so on point in 1995 when I started, so it was only natural I would discover and be influenced by these guys.

I can hear less of a distinct American influence when you make records with Subb-An, so what kind of an extra influence does Ash bring to the mix when you make records with him?

I think you're right to say that our music is different together. We have the dance floor in mind a lot more. That’s the direction we took with One Records, pure dance floor killers. That’s what we do.

Do you ever miss those long Sundays and would you ever revisit that party name, venue and time slot? If you had the chance to revisit it which guests that have come to light since Below ended would you like to invite to play?

For me Below was one of the special parties that’s happened in the UK over the years and having ten years out of it was amazing. I feel it's 100% done now, the venue is so different now, it's still an amazing space but part of the fun for me was being involved in the venue.

I don’t really want to make another Sunday party, but if I did there is a whole new wave of people I would be bringing who would go down a treat. I mean, if we had a time machine and could bring them back to when Below was rocking it, names like Kyle Hall, San Proper, John Heckle, Tama Sumo, DJ Qu, would have really had fun there, I feel.

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