Catch Up With: ABSOLUTE.
ABSOLUTE. is one of London’s most prolific electronic producers, as well as a DJ and live artist in the spotlight of international electronic music. Ahead of his debut headline show at Islington Assembly Hall, we chatted with ABSOLUTE. (aka Anthony McGinley) about his obsession with rave music, tackling climate change and the creative process behind his Wonderland mixtape which is set for release on 07 May.
We can’t wait for the release of your forthcoming Wonderland mixtape! Your new tracks have been described as ‘party music for a time without parties’ – how did you start the creative process for this mixtape and where did you take inspiration from?
“Ah thanks! Just as I was about to go on tour and things were starting to pick up momentum, we went into lockdown. Everything stopped, there were no clubs, no gigs, I was drained and feeling at the lowest point creatively. It was then I started an idea generation course to kickstart my creativity.
I would be dreaming of being at the biggest outdoor raves with all my mates, or longing to escape the restrictions and be a part of something again, to be reunited with friends old and new on the dance floor. It was during this time that I was completely drawn to euphoric rave, for about two months it was all I was writing. During that time I had the weirdest coincidence by discovering that the very building I was locked in and writing from, used to be on the site of the legendary rave space, Wonderland Arena. Thirty years earlier, Frankie Knuckles, The Prodigy and Carl Cox would be regularly playing there. It felt like I was absorbing the energy from those days gone by and was reinterpreting it for a new generation.
On the flip side of that, having no clubs also opened my music palette up and led me to explore more emotive, cinematic genres.
Writing this album brought me back to life, I really was writing music that I needed to get me through the pandemic, to feel free and even just for a while to be transported somewhere new.”
Despite the pandemic, you managed to record over one hundred new demos in the space of two weeks in lockdown – what motivated you to create at this pace?
“It started when the first lockdown hit. I, like many others, was completely demotivated and had no creative drive at all, so I enrolled in an idea generation course by Mike Monday to try and kickstart my studio motivation. It transpired into one of my most prolific studio outputs so far and was the starting point for the mixtape album. I would highly recommend it for any producers in a creative rut.”
Wonderland opens with words of liberation from activist Ravyn Wngz, how important is it to you to incorporate activism in your output?
“I always want to make a difference and have a positive impact where I can, the biggest tools I have to make that impact is my music and events, we’re stronger as a collective. I spent eight years putting on underground events and creating safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ to be celebrated and feel liberated, so it’s been something that feels natural and necessary.”
Can you share some of the activism music or art that has inspired you?
“The biggest inspiration for me was when I went to Extinction Rebellion’s first London action. I was blown away that so many people were coming together and creating an impact and bringing the climate emergency into the front of people’s minds. It was the same time Greta Thunberg gave a speech to EU leaders and David Attenborough released a documentary on the need to act now. I went home that night and wrote Rave Against The Machine which sampled Greta’s ‘I want you to act as if the house is on fire’ quote. That developed into a club night with LWE and Boomtown to create awareness and funds to fight the climate crisis. That was paused because of lockdown.”
The pandemic has forced the world to take a pause and has given us an opportunity to start anew, what positive change would you like to see the live music industry take to tackle climate change at this time?
“Aim to be carbon neutral. Use green energy where possible and minimise waste in all forms, from plastic to energy. Build up local talent and make sure the line ups are diverse.”
What originally sparked your obsession with dance music? Are there any tracks in particular that first got you in to the dance and rave scene?
“I was always obsessed with dance music as a kid, I’d be listening to rave cassettes in primary school. Then, when I was 13/14, my Dad gave me some money for school clothes and I realised with a bit of haggling I could get one record deck. My Dad was livid but that fuelled my passion and I would spend most of the money I had on vinyl, and as I only had one I would listen to Pete Tong on Radio 1 and best match to the records he was playing to learn how to mix.
I was really into The Prodigy, Daft Punk / early Thomas Bangalter and Chemical Brothers growing up.”
For anyone out there that is wanting to start out as a producer or DJ, what piece of advice would you give them?
“Write everyday if you can, even if it’s for a small amount of time, and finish AS MUCH music as possible, without thinking about the outcome or how good it will be. Just finishing and never ever give up.”
Having come from the LGBTQ+ club and rave space where you’ve promoted influential events since the start of your career, what have you missed most about the club scene over the last 12 months?
“There’s nothing quite like a good queer party, they really are some of the best events in the world. Outside of playing, I miss carrying on with my friends without a care in the world, I miss hugging everyone and I miss making new friendships that can last a lifetime.”
You mentioned earlier that you were writing the Wonderland mixtape on the site of the Wonderland Arena, a legendary East London nightclub that is now closed. To what extent does the history of London’s club and rave scene influence the music you’re creating today?
“With Wonderland, part of it was heavily influenced from the UK rave scene, partly because that’s what I grew up with and because it felt like the antidote I desperately needed to go against being locked down. I’m excited to reinterpret that sound and energy and share with a new generation.”
It’s just over a month to go until your debut headline show here with us at Islington Assembly Hall and we’re so excited to get you on our stage! Are you able to tell us what we can expect from your set?
“This is an energetic celebration of the Wonderland mixtape, a full ride through emotive breaks, house and techno to high energy disco and the ultimate euphoric rave, one that we’ll all come out of feeling more alive and hopeful for the world to open back up.”
Finally, how do you usually approach live sets? Do you have any pre-show rituals?
“I’ve upgraded the show to include a Roland Jupiter X, TR-8S drum machine with Ableton Push and Allen & Heath Xone K2 controllers, some effects pedals and mics for the vocalists.
Ritual wise, a good creativity meditation and two shots of vodka ?”
ABSOLUTE. will be celebrating the release of his debut Wonderland mixtape with a special, physically-distanced live show at Islington Assembly Hall on Saturday 19 June, tickets are on sale now.
Neil Cowley – Thursday 17 June 2021
Nubiyan Twist – Thursday 27 May 2021
New show added! Nubiyan Twist’s late show has now sold out so we’ve added a second show on the same evening for this special album launch spectacular. The band will be performing tracks from their new album ‘Freedom Fables’ in front of a socially distanced audience, plus the 9-piece will be joined on the night by album collaborators Cherise, Ria Moran & K.O.G. Tickets are on sale now via DICE.
Makaya McCraven – Saturday 20 November 2021