Magnus Asberg interview

For over 25 years Magnus Asberg has been devoting his life to dance music. From playing parties and school dances to opening his own nightclub aged 17, and on to becoming a worldwide recording artist, there’s always been a constant mission to explore what sounds and noises people react and move to. “One weekend I’m up in London, then the next I’m playing with Nightshift, then after that I’m down here in Brighton with Berlin, then I’m off to the Czech Republic to play there,” he tells me. “I play with lots of different crews, and I’m blessed. It’s easy to get stuck and just repeat. But it’s always different. I’m always really blessed that I can play the music I like, I don’t really have to compromise.”

He started out aged 12, listening obsessively to hip hop and rock. “My dad drove me for about five hours to get my first turntable. I was scratching with just one deck and an amp, I didn’t even know what a mixer was.” Back then he’d have to play a selection of styles to get gigs, but this semi-pro skateboarder would still be packing out venues –gaining enough experience to enter the DMC championships in 1986.

His discovery of house music saw him quickly move onto playing raves in the early 90s, and enjoying a six-year residency at Stockholm’s gigantic Berns club. Then came a stint amongst the French ski scene, before he made a move across the Channel. He’d been visiting England ever since childhood, and was already frequenting legendary record stores like London’s Blackmarket, and Brighton’s Ugly and Urban. It wasn’t long before he was making an impact on the UK underground. “I played some warehouse parties with dub sound systems. They used to let me go on the decks because they liked me. I’d turn up with a bag of tunes, and go: ‘Alright!’” After a while he became famed for playing marathon sets for crews like Charlie Hall’s Sugar Lump and the south coast’s own Positive Sound System.

Coming soon, the mighty Positive are celebrating 25 years of being Brighton’s best underground sound system, with one last official party on Sat 16 Dec. This all-night affair sees Aberg joining other Positive residents: Simon Atkinson, Kooki & Shreddie, along with extra special guests Terry Francis, Eddie Richards and Liz Edwards, at the newly refitted Bau Wow club. His association with the crew dates to the epic parties they hosted on Ovingdean beach. “These were some of my first gigs in Brighton. I knew the organiser and I was quite handy with sound systems.”Asberg reckons he’s played out every weekend for the last quarter century, unleashing a mellifluous and unique blend of house and techno. “What inspires me is the new modern house music. My sound is not tech house, it’s not electro, it’s not deep house, it’s not any of that – it’s all of that mangled into one. That’s what inspires me – it’s new music all the time.”

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He’s moved on from playing Concorde 2 and The Richmond in Brighton, to rocking Fabric and Ministry of Sound, along with providing sounds at the British Snowboard Championships and Urban Games on Clapham Common. There’s also his successful Monochrome night at London’s Mass, and On the House, a title he attaches to club nights, a record label and a distribution company. The connections he’s built over the years means plenty of big names come to play for him, but he still describes the talent he brings in as ‘friends and family’.

He holds a suspicion there’s too many DJs out on the scene who play for the wrong reason. “They haven’t got the passion and that 100% dedication to the music. It seems there’s also loads of great DJs who don’t book shows because they lack the appropriate self-promotional skills.” He’s not been content to simply play other people’s records either. As one part of the C-Soul collective, and more recently on his own, he’s had a prolific release schedule through labels like Plastic City (including a hit with Robert Owens), Viva Recordings, Bogota, Household, Evasive, Tastie Music, and Suited & Booted. “Back ‘in the day’ you needed to be much more musical. Nowadays it’s not how clever you are on keyboards. All the talented musicians have given up, because it has been taken over by noise and sounds.” Affirming the unifying and universal language of dance music has thrown up another oddity – Asberg acknowledges he’s sold thousands of records in Guatemala. Apparently, it has a bourgeoning house scene.

He’s still driven to evolve and expand house music’s boundaries, even after those 25 years. But he knows there’s always more to learn about its hypnotising rhythms, and about himself. “I’ve learned to have other things to do. It’s the same thing I had with skateboarding back in the day, I like a bit of food and gold. You have to give 100% to something, that’s how you become good.”

Magnus Asberg appears at Positive Sound System’s 25th Anniversary party, when  comes to Brighton’s Bau Wow on Sat 16 Dec 2017

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