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Interview with Man With No Name ahead of The Cream Reunion

We caught up with psy-trance legend Martin Freeland aka Man With No Name ahead of his special live set of classics at the Cream Reunion on the 26th November at Nation in Liverpool.

Jayne Robinson

Date published: 7th Nov 2011

We caught up with psy-trance legend Martin Freeland aka Man With No Name ahead of his special live set of classics at the Cream Reunion on the 26th November at Nation in Liverpool.

So Martin, what have you been up to this Summer?

It’s been another busy summer on the festival scene in Europe playing at Glade, Life in Ireland, Azora in Hungary to 27000 people, Aurora in Greece and also in Israel at the Sea Of Galilee to name just a few. The psy scene is really strong with quite an old school sound at the moment.

It's over 13 years since you were last at Cream. What is your memory from performing in the Courtyard back then?

My memories are a little hazy from the mid to late 90’s as I was so busy!  I do remember being very impressed with the set up and the way the booth was geared to the DJ more than any club I had seen. I also remember it closing at 2am which was a bit of a shock, though I was even more surprised to see huge queues at 7.50pm, I thought it must be a queue for a different night on before Cream but that was the buzz surrounding the club and people wanting to be in as soon as the doors opened.  I'm really looking forward to playing there again and alongside TILT who we toured together with Grace and Paul Oakenfold for Perfecto.

Do you think your sound was more accessible to wider audiences due to your chord arrangement and melodies being more 'catchy' and uplifting than perhaps other psy/goa producers at the time?

I always think the rhythm sounds better if you've got a good melody over the top but I never intentionally made melodies to be commercial. I see myself as a much more of an outdoor trance artist but Paul Oakenfold took me into the peripheries of the mainstream crossover because of my melodic style. 

How did you get involved with Oakey?

I knew Paul back in the 80’s before he was working at Def Jam when I was working At EMI. I met him again at one of the first trance parties called 'A Concept In Dance' that Paul’s friend Ian St Paul was running and he kept going up to the DJ asking what the record was and as it happened most of them were mine! He already had my number as well so that’s how the Perfecto thing started and he asked me to make an album like I had made for XL with 'Moment Of Truth'.

One of my favourite tracks from 'Moment Of Truth' is 'Sugar Rush'. What's its history?

Sugar Rush was made in 1993 on kit that cost £300. I actually made it in a day at a friends house, it wasn’t even intended to be a finished mix but it got such an enormous reaction when it first got played that I felt I had to get it out. I tried to emulate the vibe of the 93 version on a better production (Refined Mix) but I couldn’t get the magic of the original. It was like a jam session that worked and I’ve never been able to make it better. I think if I’d have had another day in the studio with it then I’d have probably spoilt it. It’s just one of those enigma’s!

Your next album 'Earth Moving Sun' gave us many Cream classics like 'Vavoom!' and 'Own The World'. Was it more of a cross-over album for you?

As Perfecto was owned by Warner Brothers, there was always a push to get radio friendly music and for it to be more accessible. Vavoom was written knowing I was on a major label and I wouldn’t have written that if signed to Dragonfly for example. Paul didn’t push me to do that but I knew that what he played was more mainstream and my sound was at the hardest edge of where he would go so I wanted to make something that was easier for him to play rather than something that had to be the last track in his set. I've never been interested in music on the basis that it was commercial. I always wanted as many people to like my music as possible but without wanting to compromise on the music in order for people to like it! I’m not very good at making music that I don’t like so I wouldn’t do a good job at it anyway!

This was a busy period for you, were you getting a lot of remixing requests as well? 

From 1995 to 1998 I was extremely busy, doing a lot of work for Perfecto and Hooj, touring and even did a Radio 1 Essential Mix. The remixes used to frustrate me in that it didn’t give me a lot of time to make my own music but now there’s no money in remixing that’s completely dried up!

I’m not a fan of remixing for the sake of remixing which is why you don’t see a lot of my own tracks remixed because I don’t particularly want them done! When people offer you money to do it then it’s hard to say no but I feel it almost devalues what it is in the first place and it’s only dance music that does it. For me a piece of music should stand up and be what it is. If your market is small then so be it. The record labels obviously don’t see it the same way!

Perfecto Fluoro have recently released a selection of your classic tracks with brand new remixes. Were you tempted to update them yourself or do you feel they are best left untouched?

Paul approached me about the remixes for Teleport, Floor-Essence and Sugar Rush and requested the parts. The trouble was I didn’t have them as back then there was no back up, I just mixed the track down and got it to DAT and moved on to the next record, so I had to do all the lines again for him but I was happy for Perfecto to release them. 

Going back to the beginning of your career, how did it all start for Man With No Name?

Man With No Name came about in 1990. I got the name from the Clint Eastwood Westerns and released the first track 'Way Out West'. I had no idea anyone was playing it but it sold 12000 copies and got to 96 in the charts. I’d have probably got to Number One with those sales now! 

Before that I was making music under different names and making Acid House, coincidently at the same time Paul Oakenfold and Trevor Fung were doing 'Spectrum' and playing my tracks there, so we’ve always had a kind of parallel existence Paul and I!

Teleport still features heavily in your live sets around the world. Is this your favourite and proudest production?

Yeah, in fact I’ve yet to do a gig without playing it. I think people outside of the psychedelic scene will always refer to my big tracks being Teleport, Floor-Essence and Sugar Rush. I wouldn’t label Floor-Essence as a goa trance track at all so would only play that in a more club environment. Sugar Rush I would occasionally play as an encore if badgered enough to do so! 

Your samples have always been short sharp profound statements that work perfectly with the music. How important is getting the right vocal sample and are they all taken from films? 

Vocal samples need to be synced and say something with meaning in a rhythmical manner. They can also act as a motif or identification for a track. Back in the days of record shopping you could go in and ask the name of the track with those set of words in. But I wouldn’t just use a sample for the sake of it, it would have to be rhythmical and work or I wouldn’t use one.

I’m not a big film buff but tend to use samples when I hear something on tv or on a film and then think I can use that. A favourite of mine came from my 3rd album and the Willy Wonka sample, ‘We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams’ which says everything I want to say about the music and scene that we’re in and it works rhythmically. 

Are you still producing with your old analogue gear or is your studio based more around a laptop and soft synths these days?

I just don’t have the physical space for the old analogue gear, now that my studio is smaller. When everything is digitally in sync and sample accurate, when you try and hook something analogue up the fact that the digital is so tight just makes the analogue sound out of time. When everything is analogue that’s fine and I acknowledge the sound it creates but I just don’t have the space for it all now.

Where do your ideas usually come from and do you have a set process in producing?

The best tracks I’ve written usually start with a melody idea. I think the problem with starting from the bottom up and putting the kick and bass down hoping for an idea to appear is you end up getting these grooves going and no matter what you put over the top they get in the way. If you start with the melody you can compliment it with everything around it. 

What track do you wish you could have made?

As we’re doing a night that revolves around more 90’s progressive house and trance I shall go for Vernon’s Wonderland on the excellent EyeQ label. There’s so many I could choose but we’ll stick with that one or I’ll have an everlasting list! I hope to hear a few at the Cream Reunion!

Catch Man With No Name at the Cream Reunion on November 26th. 

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