“I remember it being a Saturday night in the late 1980s, I was in Tin Pan Alley with a mate from work; I had been to the club before but never up to the top floor. Here, I discovered Slam’s Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle for the first time, playing the kind of records I was buying but had never seen people dance to in a club. That was definitely a real turning point for me”.
Scott Fraser’s recollection of how he originally fell in love with house music will no doubt strike a chord with many, particularly those familiar with Glasgow’s club scene in the early 1990s. Now, almost three decades after he was first handed releases on DJ International and Trax in the city’s former 23rd Precinct record shop, it is a passion which remains strong and one which has seen the London-based, Glaswegian producer to make a return to writing and production after several years’ hiatus.
Currently working out of Andrew Weatherall’s Basement studio, the last few months have kept him particularly busy with a track on Andy Blake’s World Unknown label, ‘Remains The Same’, the ‘Light Sleeper’ EP on Headman’s Relish imprint and a collaborative remix of Virgo’s ‘Lites Go Out’ with Capracara, all released.
It is a far cry from when he and three friends, Peter Walker, Alan Baxter and Alistair Gaffney all met an Orb gig in 1992 and decided to book into a local arts council recording studio to work on some tracks soon after.
“It was a bit of a shambles”, recalls Scott. “The resident engineer was used to working with guitar bands and did not really have a clue about electronic music, so, I thought, what the hell, I’ll teach myself. All we could afford was a crappy phonic desk and DAT machine, but I managed to learn how to mix and record everything and we went from there”.
While Alistair would later end his involvement, inspired by tracks on Relief Records, DJAX as well as early Chicago house, Detroit techno and Belgian New Beat, Peter, Alan and Scott went on to form BIOS.
“We played everything live, rehearsing it all before getting it down onto tape. Peter and Alan tweaked the keyboards while I did the drum patterns and the final arrangement. Originally we had a Roland 707, 606, SH101, Sequential Pro1, Six-Trak, Jupiter 6, an old Yamaha SY85 workstation, which bizarrely we used a lot for bass drums and also some guitar pedals for delay, chorus and overdrive. I also ended up getting an MPC1000 for sampling, looping and sequencing which helped when we eventually did gigs; before it we had no sequencer which meant we had to perform every piece of kit, 100% live on stage”.
However, it was not until 1995 and an opportune moment when Andrew Weatherall heard some of their music while in Glasgow’s Rub-a-Dub Records, that it actually earned a release.
“He was the one who really got it all started for us”, Scott admits. “We were regulars in the shop; the guys who worked there really knew their stuff and had helped Peter and I get properly switched onto early Detroit techno. One day they asked us to bring in some of our music so they could listen to it, so we brought a tape in and played it; as it happened, Andrew was in there at the too, buying some records before his set at their Club 69 night. Later, when the two of us were down there, he came over and told me that he really liked what he had heard and asked us if we would consider letting him put some of our tracks out on his label? Naturally, we were more than happy to do this”.
So, a limited 7” single ‘Klix’ was released, followed by another 7” double-pack, ‘Neutral’ on Weatherall’s former Special Emmissions imprint, gaining plays by the likes of Claude Young, Robert Hood and Jeff Mills, raising their profile and helping them establish a monthly BIOS night at the Sub Club.
“We had Surgeon, Joey Beltram, Colin Dale, DJ Skull and Andrew all play for us, as well as newer talent linked to Emissions, such as Rick Hopkins, Tony Sapiano and Alex Handley. I think we even managed to get into the NME’s top ten best new British clubs in 1997, if memory serves me right”.
However, it was one DJ booking in particular, Jay Denham, that helped further BIOS productions gain a release. Introduced to the producer’s records on a visit to London’s Fat Cat Records shop, Scott quickly became a fan and invited the owner of the Kalamazoo-based label, Black Nation Records over to play.
“He stayed at my house afterwards and we just hit it off. Peter and I let him hear some of our music which he really liked it and asked if he could release some of it out on Black Nation, which is how the ‘Black Emissions’ EP and ‘Minimal Funkateers’ came out”.
The late-1990s saw BIOS play at various nights in Glasgow, London and also further afield in Detroit, alongside the likes of Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakir and Jeff Mills, at a huge outdoor event in front 5000 people. Then, just as the next decade broke, ‘124’, a track from their ‘Turnround’ EP on Lars Sandberg’s Silver Knight label became very much in demand.
“Only about 800 records came out and it ended up doing really well. Pete Heller and Terry Farley included it on the first Pacha mix CD which they did and it was spun at Body & Soul in New York regularly too; I even had David Morales calling me at home asking for a copy which was a bit of a surprise”.
Though, just when they might have pushed on from this, two years later their studio was broken into with two drum machines and some speakers stolen but worst of all, Scott’s computer with six months worth of music on it.
“This set us back a long while”, Scott confesses. “I moved the rest of our stuff into my spare room again, but it was just not happening on the music front. I continued to DJ but if I was being really honest with myself, having got the bug for writing and production, I found it hard when I spent more time on the decks than actually working on music”.
The only BIOS material that came out after this was a 2006 re-release of ‘Basic Black’ from ‘Minimal Funkateers’, on François Kervorkian’s Wavetec ‘Frequencies’ mix and compilation. Then, about three years later, Scott took the decision to stop DJing altogether.
“Basically, I had got bored of playing mainly in bars. When you are doing that, you end having to buy a certain kind of music. I wanted to focus purely on trying to write again and started picking up stuff that was a bit more subversive and challenging, which helped inspire me to start mucking about with keyboards in my spare room again. I ended up completing a couple of tracks which will hopefully see the light of day at some point”.
A bigger change was still to come, when a few months later, he decided to leave Glasgow for London, bringing a particular chapter of his life to a close.
“I guess that the BIOS thing finished properly when I moved cities, it just came to a natural conclusion. Peter and I did lots of great things together and with Alan too, however, I felt that needed to make a change in my life”.
The switch definitely seems to have paid off. Having maintained their friendship since the mid-1990s he is now writing and recording in Andrew Weatherall’s east London studio, collaborating with him and his engineer, Timothy J Fairplay.
“The studio is very much about us all contributing something, there is a great atmosphere about the place. I think that the quality of music I have released recently shows how things have improved for me and that what I have been listening to of late has really broadened; rock but also dub, disco and other stuff from across the musical spectrum. The night that Andrew and Sean Johnston do, ‘A Love From Outer Space’ has been a real inspiration too, as has Timothy’s solo stuff and the recent Death In Vegas album, which was recorded in the studio”.
“I am really happy with my sound at the moment and feel my recent productions are the best I have worked on so far”, he continues. “I am now much stronger technically and can engineer tracks from start to finish, I have also returned to using analogue outboard gear and keyboards and have been buying interesting old synthesizers too. Recording it all has been a definitely been a challenge, compared with the early days, I am now doing it live through the mixing desk, then arranging things using Logic. From a creative point of view, new ideas seem to be coming again thick and fast as well, which has been brilliant”.
As well as recording, he has also made a return to DJing alongside Timothy Fairplay, with new night in at Glasgow’s Berkeley Suite, ‘Crimes Of The Future’.
“We hit it off straight away when we first met and have very similar tastes in music”, Scott explains. “Aside from being Andrew’s engineer, Tim is also a fantastic talent in his own right, with tracks on Astro Lab, World Unknown and one due on Emotional Response too; he was also the guitarist in Battant too. We do not view it as club night as such; more of a place where we can play some nice, leftfield music, the kind of stuff which is inspiring us in the studio and hopefully people will enjoy listening to, have a drink and dance if they want too”.
Finally, in terms of future plans, the upcoming months will continue to keep him busy, as he confirms:
“I am pretty much tied up with work right through to the summer. I have tracks coming out on Astro Lab, a Headman remix for Relish and a single ‘Life Of Silence’, the second on Andrew’s new Bird Scarer label, featuring his vocals which is also going to appear in instrumental form on his forthcoming ‘Masterpiece’ compilation. Coming out in May, is a techno EP on Italian label, Etichetta Nera and a remix for Semtek on Don’t Be Afraid and I am also working with a vocalist on a really stripped down, Chicago house project called ‘Nothing But Blood’. As well as all this, if we can both find the time, Jonny Burnip and I would like to collaborate again after doing the Virgo remix together and I expect there will be more Birdscarer studio collaborations too, as the label develops”.