Artists [Charles Webster]
People love Charles. DJs love him for making their jobs easier, producers love him for the inspiration he provides, his loyal fan base love him because they can trust him to deliver time and again. Twenty odd years in the game and Charles has the RESPECT of several generations of music lovers.
So how did we get here? Well Charles is from a blessed generation. One whose parents owned Beatles albums, one which was seduced by the likes of Bowie and Marvin Gaye, then had its senses awakened by the double whammy of the DIY-indie ethic and Kraftwerk’s electronic revolution...and crucially was still young enough to embrace the possibilities of the digital age. And so it was that this unassuming, musical troubadour from semi-rural England (Derbyshire to be precise) set about making his mark on the world.
Charles got his first instruments aged 13 (guitar, synthesizer and drum machine) and began treading the boards in electronic bands around, Nottingham and Sheffield and then eventually the ‘musical mecca’ that is London. Then another fateful hand was dealt. Charles moved to Nottingham, started working in a restaurant... the owner of which also just happened to own the city’s 'Garage Club', definitely the first House club in Nottingham (and arguably in England). The owner invited all the staff to the opening party of his new club. One Graeme Park is the resident DJ, Larry Heard and DJ Pierre are on the turntables, and suddenly Charles is aware that the genre-defying music he has been creating himself has by chance happened across a genre and a scene which can take him to their very hearts. From hereon it’s a blurred tale of late nights in studios and clubs, collaborators aplenty, all pieces fitting together and helping to shape the king of ‘electronic soul’ we know today. Earning his dance music spurs engineering for the great, the good (Blur, Juan Atkins etc..), and just occasionally the godawful (secret...!) at the city’s seminal Square Dance Studios, Charles truly came of age as a producer in his own right with 1991’s Sine and 1992’s Megatonk and Symetrics projects.
A brave move to San Francisco in 1993 enabled his production career to go into overdrive as the prime mover behind the acclaimed Love From San Francisco label. This in turn lead to tracks coming out on other acclaimed Stateside labels such as Emotive, Nitebeat, Rey-d , Happy Traxx, Prescription et al. Charles launched the prodigious talent that is Terra Deva, then 16, into the dance music world via Furry Phreaks’ seminal ‘Soothe’ and ‘(Want Me) Like Water’.
Back in the UK in 1996, Charles started the Remote label for his increasingly in demand output, and began to get serious props as a DJ. ‘Getting Lifted’ by Presence led to Pagan Records offering the Webster-masterminded project an album deal. The hugely successful ‘All Systems Gone’ album took the often staid world of so-called deep house into new stratospheres, scored 3 top 75 singles, won ‘album of the month’ plaudits in pretty much every publication that reviewed it worldwide (even scoring an unprecedented and never repeated, 11 out of 10 in DJ mag), and gave the world the classic singles ‘Sense of Danger’, featuring Shara Nelson, ‘Future love’ and ‘better day’. Keynote remixes for the likes of Dr Rockit (Charles’s remix of Café de Florre by this Matthew Herbert pseudonym must be one of the most licensed mixes ever) and Groove Armada (‘At The River’) saw Charles conquer the ever-growing chill out market much as he had with the deep house one, and helped pave the way for his first album under his own name, ‘Born On The 24th July’ (Peacefrog / Statra), released in 2002 to universal acclaim. Perhaps the closest thing yet to a full depiction of Charles’s musical vision, it is a deep yet uplifting, soulful, diverse collection – and makes for a truly coherent album, rather than a patchwork of club tracks and fillers. A remixed version of ‘Born...’, featuring such leftfield luminaries as Herbert, Theo Parrish, UFO and Pepe Bradock, was released to similar acclaim in late 2003.
2008 a definitive and long-overdue Webster compilation (Defected presents Charles Webster) project was released, on the world largest dance label Defected; swiftly followed by a Coast 2 Coast compilation for NRK records and ‘Strictly Rhythms volume 4’..then he was given the honor of compiling his own ‘Charles Webster House Masters’ cementing his status as one of ‘the’ great producers. He has produced luminaries such as; Tracy Thorn (everything but the girl/massive attack) ,Cathy Batistessa, Vanessa Daou, Wendy and Lisa, Robert Owens amongst countless others; and the global dj’ing continues (clubs include... Ministry of Sound, Fabric, Yellow, Liquid Room, Air, Loop, Haomann 17, the Rex, Weekend, Panorama bar, Moxa, Watergate, Robert Johnson, Aquabooty, Stereolab, Deep, Cielo, pacha, eldivino , The Big Chill, Independence festival, Flow Festival, Pink Pop, Movement Festival (DEMF)..amongst many many others ...pretty much every club there is ! ). And we haven’t even mentioned his internationally syndicated radio shows.
His remixes for the likes of Salif Keita, MiCasa, Bucie,Martina Topley-Bird, Michel Clies, Black Coffee, Dennis Ferrer, Kaylow, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Ben Watt to mention but a few of the hundreds of artists and labels he has remixed for continue to light up charts and dance-floors and radio playlists up worldwide..and the number of quality compilations still falling over themselves to feature his work (old & new)..proves his lasting market appeal. A true innovator in the electronic music scene, Charles Webster is one of the few real mould breakers in an increasingly predictable dance music world (though whether a man whose favourite artists are Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Thelonius Monk and Steely Dan and whose records ooze such soul and depth should really ever be pigeonholed as dance is another debate...).
Charles has sold over 250,000 albums without ever being considered a sell-out ...he has toured the world with a full (genuinely) live band...he also dj’s worldwide, playing regularly in every continent in the worlds top clubs, and was one of the first foreign DJ’s to break the now huge South African market (also releasing 3 compilations just for the S.A market) without ever having had the need to be feted by the dance media as a flavour of the month...he’s had the nous to have been running his own labels for years, frequently laying them to rest before they get tired and switching to other projects...he is comfortable making music at any tempo, straddles numerous genres (both real and imagined) with ease...bloody hell, he even writes songs.
In early 2014 Charles released the album ‘No Lucky Days’ by his new project; The Webster Wraight Ensemble ..the album has already had plays on the BBC2 Jamie Cullum and BBC 6 Gilles Peterson shows and the album release will be supported by live shows in the near future....the album will be re-released in an expanded and re-mastered edition in 2015 featuring remixes from Juju and Jordash, Pepe Bradock and Kuniyuki.
Summer 2013 saw the release of the Charles Webster- House Masters compilation ( Defected ) .... the double c.d compilation is a retrospective of the last 24 years of Charles’ ever evolving career, the album was a huge success hitting the number 1 spot on album/download charts worldwide. That’s all in the past….always looking forwards and never a ‘laurel-rester’…2015 will see a huge amount of activity from Charles…amongst continued remixing and one-off singles he is releasing a new house based album in South Africa (and worldwide) featuring a collection of 11 new songs recorded with South African vocalists (he is also hoping to take this project on the road for live performances)....a cinematic down-tempo album by his new project Daylight (with one half of Danish band Bliss)…a left-field modern soul album by his new project Love Tapes with vocalist Emilie Chick…he is also launching a new dance-floor focused label Kristiana in q2 2015…..and….he has started a music mentoring initiative in Cape Town, ‘African Dan ce Music and Technology’ (ADMT) and hopes to take this all over South Africa this year, spreading knowledge and inspiration to young people and helping them achieve their musical ambitions.