A Sit Down With DJ Fake Blood

Theo Keating, the once mysterious man behind the Fake Blood alias, has been twisting and mangling beats for almost 20 years now. Across his lengthy back catalogue, from the Wise Guys and the Black Ghosts to his Fake Blood remixes over the last few years, Keating’s certainly demonstrated an ability to change with the times, keeping his music up to date whilst still drawing on the sounds of his past. Cells, his debut album as Fake Blood, is no different.

 

 “Styles change, and the cloud of bullshit and PR has increased – but it’s basically the same animal.”

 

How did you get in touch with electronic dance music in the first place?

I first heard house music as a teenager, listening to pirate radio here in London. That was the pipeline to everything that was happening musically in and around clubs etc – the latest tunes from Chicago, Detroit, NY, Europe, and of course right at home in the UK. An incredible source of music, especially for those of us who were too young to actually go to clubs!

We’re loving the new remix for Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Is re-imagining other people’s work something you see as essential to what you do? How does the experience differ from writing your own music.

I’ve always enjoyed doing remixes, as it gives me a chance to try out ideas and sounds. It’s a great outlet for ideas that may not be right for the tracks I’m making for myself at that point. Plus you’re given a set of components right from the start, rather like being given ingredients and then told to cook whatever you like with them. There are many possible outcomes, but having those building blocks from the original song is what can start the creative process flying off in one direction or another. Whereas with one’s own tunes, you have a completely blank page to fill. Both are enjoyable and challenging, and I think both are great exercises in learning how to produce and advance. One hand washes the other!

What was the best and the worst gig you ever played and what was the funniest thing ever occurred during any of your performances?

I’m terrible with this question! I’ve always found it impossible to single out one specific gig as being “the best”, as there are so many factors involved. Although it’s probably more likely to be a mad sweaty basement party than a huge event. That’s the acid house in me talking! As for bad gigs, I tend to forget them unless something really terrible happened.

You also have your own record label, Blood Music. Was the inception of Blood Music primarily for the release of Fake Blood material, or did you always want to sign and release music from other artists?

I didn’t put out any of my own music until the 28th release! It was always meant to be a platform for me to give wider exposure to artists / tracks I was sent or discovered, rather than something that was self-serving/self-promoting. But fuck it eh – why not put out one’s own tunes! 

How has the process of marketing music changed for you since the start of your career? Have you noticed a difference?

Big question. The obvious answer is that the artists is now more in control of, and responsible for, their own publicity and profile. This can make things more “direct from the artist’s mouth”, which people usually prefer to being fed comments and pictures have been filtered through a public-relations net. But it can also lead to a slapshot effect, where everyone is just posting any old shit, hour after hour, in a bid to maintain things like “engagement” and “reach”. So pictures of your breakfast become some sort of marketing commodity. But having gone this far without any PR or management, I have a pretty ambivalent attitude about all this stuff!

You travel a lot. What are the essential things you need to have with you at all times and what are the things you miss when you are on tour?

I often travel with a small portable turntable, as I will go and hunt for old vinyl on days off. And I never travel anywhere without a book. The best escape for the mind is in books, and you can never be bored. I miss London when I’m away – the place itself – and also people I know; but never “things” as such.

With all the social media outlets that exist today, there is a lot of room for shameless self-promotion. Any tips for young up and comers?

Well firstly I’d say don’t use me as an example! I had no management, no PR, no label, nothing. It was just me and the tracks I had made. But the thing blew up incredibly fast, and all without any engineering by myself. I avoided all questions, photos, attention, and let people fill that void themselves – hence the weird blogs and sites where people speculated on who I was etc. I just sat back and enjoyed watching it happen. But I don’t know that it would work a second time for anyone else. It was a very specific set of circumstances, at a particular time. However it taught me that you don’t always NEED all the media and contrived hype. If you have the music, then it can work naturally, by people finding out themselves, and making up their own minds. Many people buy this kind of coverage, and it works, but to me it always smacks of desperation. There’s a fine line between letting people know you’re out there and have good music, and begging them – or even worse haranguing them – to listen to it.

How would you say the current electronic music scene compares to the late 90s/early 00’s era that saw acts like the Wiseguys rise to prominence?

There are differences of course, but the core of it is still the same. People want to dance to music, and there are all kinds of places from big events to tiny parties for just that. Styles change (or come back), and the cloud of bullshit and PR has increased – but it’s basically the same animal. Although now we do have a particular breed of artist/DJ who are basically cut from the same cloth as city traders.

What advice could you offer to anyone looking to delve in to the world of music production?

Don’t obsess on the above. Experiment weirdly and leave in your mistakes. Thicken your skin. Take nothing personally.

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