Behind The Scenes with Ultimate Sound Academy UKFebruary 25, 2021
We are talking today with resident DJs Paul Packham (DJ A1) and Keane Ullathorne at Housemasters Radio who are pioneering a new concept born out of the lockdown.
Mike Mannix: So lads before we hit on that tell us about who you are and your journeys from early influences to being involved in the dance music scene, what ignited the spark?
Paul Packham DJ A1: I first starting djing back in 1994 when I was 15, by 17 I had my first residency at a place called Cuba on Brighton seafront warming up and playing house music. I was brought up from the rave background as my sister and her boyfriend would go to sterns in worthing and would take me along, the nights were under 18s and some over 18s. I would steal her rave tapes and listen to them constantly. Back then it would be all about the likes of Slipmatt, DJ Sy and Swan-e, etc.
I would constantly listen to their tapes listening to where they were dropping their next tune in to mix in. They each had their unique style which is what I liked. As my DJing progressed I looked up to DJs I warmed up for and learned a lot. You can learn so much just by watching. I was told never play just one style of music, Otherwise your limiting yourself to being booked. Play as many genres as you can, it’s hard but it can be done, and for me, it’s allowed me to brush shoulders with some of the biggest names in the dance scene like Sonique, Slipmatt, Altern8, Judge Jules, and many more.
Keane Ullathorne: If I think about it, there was no spark as such, music (dance music in particular) has been drip-fed into me from birth. I have vivid and amazing memories from my childhood hearing the incredible sounds of the original early rave and acid house scene DJs. My Dad and I would drive to football on a hot summer night with Sasha and DJ Nipper mixtapes blaring out of the speakers of his Golf Gti MK3. I can remember being fascinated by the glowing trancey synths as his Nokia N95 ringtone would alarm the sound of Eye Q Records Classic ‘Vernons Wonderland’.
For Christmas one year I received an iPod and the first thing downloaded onto it was an 808 State Radio Show, recorded on 9th March 1993. It had tunes on it like ‘Liquid – Time To Get Up’ (a definite overlooked classic), ‘Chase – Music Is My Life’, ‘Ultra V – Pure’, and ‘McKoy – Fight (The P.G. Tips Battle Dub)’.
I would listen to it religiously. I was just obsessed with the energetic, raw, and deep housey-techno sounds that seemed to swirl and overlap into each other accompanied by passionate and eerie vocals,
that I had no idea what they meant, but I understood them, all creating such a dark but uplifting soundscape.
With help from the parents, I acquired a pair of Technics 1210s, and finally, my old man was able to dust off his old black discs from the attic. And so it began, my desperate attempts to beat-match and the endless search to find that perfect “third record” between two tracks within the mixes. My Dad and I spent countless hours mixing, and even after all those years, the art hadn’t left him, nor had the memories and stories that come with those noisy pieces of wax faded.
Mike Mannix: Time never stands still in music with you both actively seeking out new underground sounds of today, kinda like the sort of music that would have turned your heads 30 yrs ago? Is this the driving force behind the new concept?
Paul Packham DJ A1: Absolutely the influences from back in the day would reflect on what I go for now in a tune, although I am also drawn to new sounds and beats especially from the techno and breaks background. I like to keep it different and fresh but also with an oldskool twist. We are constantly being approached by underground producers with new tracks and Keane is always finding hidden gems along the way from places like Bandcamp and Soundcloud. We are like music magpies taking the best tracks that we think will rock a crowd.
Keane Ullathorne: Time doesn’t stand still in music, however, music itself never ages, it’s the people and technologies that do. Although the sounds and styles of the underground are constantly evolving, within and as a part of the evolution, Paul and I are trying to dig out tracks that are fresh, new, and exciting, but timeless, and in a similar way that music from 30 years ago still turns heads on a dancefloor, we hope the tracks we select will still turn heads in 30 years from now. Hoping too that we enable a platform for some incredibly talented producers to have their fantastic creations heard.
Mike Mannix: What producers and DJs are inspiring you at the moment?
Paul Packham DJ A1: We don’t want to play the mainstream than other DJs constantly drop, as far as new music I’m really into Chris Bensons productions at the moment, Bad Haz techno on Bad Haz records, Michael Wells who was GTO back in the day is making some very hard-edged techno and Tim Marsden from Force of Impulse makes some great acid techno too. On the house tip, I’m loving Pure Klass DJs’ work at the moment too. I like a lot Drumcodes productions, Umek, Charlotte de Witte, etc. There are some fantastic new producers out there at the moment who are less known and that’s where we come in. That’s what the shows all about.
Keane Ullathorne: Ohhh, there are far too many to name without listing them. Like the DJ’s during the early rave days, I love bouncing from genre to genre within sets and shows, I have found over time that it works better for me and the listeners when building a set to keep increasing the tempo and energy levels as the journey plays out by infusing Acid House, Breakbeat, Electro or House and Techno. For me, no genre exists as such, just emotion. I’m also always listening to the productions and mixes of Brame & Hamo, Kin Anne Foxmann, Denham Audio, Dawl, and Jerome Hill, to name a few, then referencing their sounds back to old DJ’s, mixes, and records to see if I can somehow paraphrase the old skool and acid house rave scene, but with a new twist. I’d love to name-drop some good friends too if I can, as their productions are unbelievable – Force Of Impulse, The Droid, Tom Caruthers, and his label Non-Stop Rhythm and Body Program. They bring such amazing quality productions which are sprinkled with classic flavouring to the scene.
Mike Mannix: What do you hope to achieve?
Paul Packham DJ A1: With the Ultimate Sound Academy, we want to keep showcasing new music that’s been sent to us or that we think will blow people’s minds.
It’s about playing music that hits you in the face and leaving listeners wanting more, we want to take the listener down the rabbit hole to a wonderland of underground pleasures
It’s about showcasing people’s music and giving them a chance to be heard. I will be playing tracks on a techno/breaks tip whereas Keane Ullathorne will be going down the acid techno route (which he is the bollocks at !!) but there are no rules on what we going to play, if it moves you we will play it but It can be anything at any time. That’s what the shows about. Both me and Keane bounce off each other’s influences which is making the show successful right now.
Keane Ullathorne: I am with Paul with what he has said above, that is exactly what we would like to achieve. But If I could add,
I feel too that it is Ultimate Sound Academy’s responsibility, this generation and the people involved within the scene itself additionally, to carry the legacy of dance music that came before us into the present
in such a way that we can positively and securely build on the foundations that house and techno built, but still progressing the scene into what will unfold as the industries future. I also think that it’s not just the job of the DJ, but the presence of the clubber and listeners, to react instantaneously and truthfully to the music, to positively continue the evolution.
Mike Mannix: Music is cyclical, and before covid, we were witnessing a massive resurgence of interest in the early Acid house scene, is this set to continue?
Paul Packham DJ A1: Oh yes 100 percent, it’s kinda funny how history repeats itself, for the better of course. The scene I think needs this. I’m enjoying that vibe, not because it’s familiar but because the kids these days get a chance to hear what we heard and what it was all about for us back then.
The early sound with new sounds can only make the music better in my eyes and that’s what makes it exciting
Keane Ullathorne: Indeed, it is, although trends change, good music will always be good music and naturally, will stand the test of time. I believe it will continue, it is a sound that has been in the scene from the start. Although the timeless sound itself hasn’t changed, it still influences dancefloors in a way that keeps the true spirit, ideology, philosophy, and meaning of dance music alive, especially for the generations that follow ours.
Mike Mannix: If you got your mitts on a time machine and could transport back to the maddest gig event in your lives what and where would be?
Paul Packham DJ A1: I would love to go back to Sterns, back in 92. The vibe, the music, the atmosphere. I mean if u hadn’t experienced Sterns then u wouldn’t understand. Raves are Raves but sterns was special and is responsible for a lot of the legendary DJs we have now. As far as a DJ gig it would be Fantazia at Motion Bristol in 2011, this is because it was my first main room gig and I loved every minute, but I actually believe I haven’t played my best gig yet, I’m a perfectionist and always striving to better my performances. Imagine the first gig after covid, people will be up for it more than ever and Ultimate Sound Academy will be ready to blow their heads off with quality underground sounds.
Keane Ullathorne: That’s a tough one, I have spent a lot of time on the dancefloor and the majority have been a blur, however, one that springs to mind for me personally was Mella Dee when he played all night in 2019 at the Hopeworks, a warehouse venue situated in the Industrial city of Sheffield. Great music, great people, unbelievable atmosphere, and to top it off for the last push of the night he smashed out 45 minutes of pure early 90’s Hardcore and Jungle. The night was topped off with Mella Dee leaving and a load of us punters wanting more, without realising, we were all talking and dancing to some folk and country music while the tech guys packed down. After a good while, the staff finally plucked up the courage to heard us out. Good times.
Mike Mannix: What’s next for you both?¹
Paul Packham DJ A1: Our next steps is to keep doing what we do and keep it real you know? It’s a crazy world out there right now and people listening in on our shows and enjoying them is one of the key factors we aim for. It’s about quality music produced by some of these producers who are not heard and to make them heard so get in touch guys if you want exposure. Due to the current climate, there’s not much on the Dj gig front but I would like to start getting in the studio myself and putting some ideas down. This I think is the next step for me.
Once covid is done we want to take Ultimate Sound Academy out to festivals and clubs but we will have to wait and see what opportunities exist after this mad time, the main thing is keeping busy and keeping the music pumping !!
Keane Ullathorne: Find me one of those time machines from the last question Mike and you’ll be the first to know. In this chaos I am just hoping that with Ultimate Sound Academy, we can be a part of piecing the scene back together, get plenty of wicked DJ’s and producers heard and supported, and be a part, even if it is small part, of the resurgence and economic growth as the industry kicks itself off again and bounces back, it will inevitably do so, people need it. I am quite excited though to produce and release my own classic & Acid House-inspired tunes soon too, feel like I am ready to bring my own accumulation of music knowledge and experiences into the world.
Let’s just get us all back into the place where it doesn’t make sense, but at the same time makes perfect sense, the clubs
Next show 27th February on housemasters-radio.com
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