The Prime Numbers boss and underground favourite, Trus’Me talks new records, new cities, and new sounds
Since 2008, David Wolstencroft has put out a steady stream of albums and EP’s that’s revealed an artist who pulls his influences from a widely cast net.
From the dusty basement & disco sounds of Working Nights and In The Red, through to the clubbier inclinations of Treat Me Right and Planet 4, Trus’Me seems like an artist who is always searching for something new.
His recent move to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and its associated cultural melting pot of African, Brazilian, and European history, seems like an apt place for a producer who’s range has left him with a unique sound that is hard to categorise.
Alison Tara caught up with David to talk about his new record, life in a new city, the origins of his sound, photograph and musical inspirations. He’s also supplied a 60 minute mix of funked-up, cosmic dance floor killers
All right, let’s do this, David! Tell me about your new release.
My new release is an EP for a label and collective in Lisbon (where I am currently trying to live) called Carpet and Snares and they run a label called Groovement. They said they were fans for a while now, and asked me to do a release. I’ve only released with other labels one or two times . I released a special thing for Gilles Peterson on Defected, and the other time was on Fat City. So, this is one of the few times I’m actually doing a release that isn’t on Prime Numbers. The release is two songs that are actually from the “Treat Me Right” right era- two tracks I didn’t release that have now been re-tweaked. So, they definitely have a similar vibe to the “Somebody” track.
One of the new tracks is actually called “I Need Somebody New,” so it really ties back to that. It’s definitely from the same time period or same jam. The other track is also from the same week where I was working in a studio in Australia called “The Analog Cabin.” So, it has the same kind of feeling and essence to the tracks as well. Then we asked Delano Smith to do a remix because he was really feeling “No Harm,” which is the title track. I gave it to him a long time ago and he said he’d been playing it loads. We met years ago at a show and remained in touch ever since. I used to buy his stuff all the time at Emporium50.com and he was one of the first producers I looked up to. So, he was the first person I thought about to give it a remix. I wanted a nice Detroit touch on the other side of the EP and he did a really solid job.
How long has Groovement been around?
They’ve got quite a few releases since 2004. Molly did their last release- that’s how I heard of them as Molly and I are friends. Actually, Molly asked me to do a release for her new label as well, so I just thought it all tied in and I wanted to put my foot in somewhere Lisbon-based because I’m about to be living there.
How long has it been since the last Prime Numbers release and why the break from it?
The last Prime Numbers release was three years ago now and it was my fourth album. That was a concept album – I was really in a Drexciya/early electronics kind of electro stage. I was deep into my techno then – living in Berlin, and all that kind of stuff. In the past three years, I’ve really gone back into my world music disco roots, so I felt like I needed some time for the transition before I came out with something completely new. This EP really is a nod back to that former era, but a lot of the new music that I’m going to be putting out is more disco tinged, more soulful, more like what I was doing with “Working Nights,” really. It’s kind of where my head has gone after 10 years of doing this.
You’ve mentioned to me that you’re going to start releasing music under a new alias. When can we expect this music to start coming out?
The productions are already about 90% finished. Going back to that question before, after 10 years of producing and running around the clubs, I was just searching for a way to fall back in love with music again and not see it as a job or a business anymore. I went back to concentrating on digging for records and collecting world music, which is all different kinds of genres. I started to realize that I want my productions to sound more like this kind of stuff. I’ve always been a sample based producer, so collecting has always influenced my productions.
What direction is your sound moving towards with this new alias? Should we start to expect to see your releases in a new genre section in music shops?
I think after a decade of doing the Trus’me thing, I started to think I might come out with a new alias just so there’s no pre-connotations of what Trus’Me is, or what he did or is trying to do. There’s always references back to early albums, or people referencing the new albums and not understanding the old albums. I would just like to start with a clean slate again – possibly release some music without any information on there at all and just let the music do the talking for me. For me really more than anything, just to see if I can do that again.
Are you going to release under your new alias on other labels or only put them out yourself?
It would definitely be a label that I run. I’ve really gotten back into shooting photography again on analog film. I want to do new a label that will encompass these photos I’ve been taking and the concepts- creating music around those concepts so it would all come under one hood. I will probably run it with some of the people in Lisbon that I’m working with now, and have them work with me on these projects.
And you’re going to keep this all a secret?
Not forever, but until it’s proved itself. Until it gets to the point where people really want to know what it is, are asking lots of questions, and want to do interviews and all this kind of stuff. This is more for me really, to prove that I can do it again. And to feel the freedom of just putting out what I want. It’s not to say that I’ll stop doing the Trus’Me stuff. I’ll still make the Trus’Me stuff when I feel like it and I’ll keep working on music like that but I have so many different tastes in so many different genres that sometimes I think it confuses people and it always has. So, this will be a way for me to just do what the hell I want.
And you’ll be releasing vinyl?
Yeah. I mean I’m always vinyl based. It’ll definitely be vinyl.
So is this the end of Prime Numbers?
Nothing is definitive. Prime Numbers was started as a label for myself as a way to release my music. It just so happened that I had some really great musicians around me at the time so I put that stuff out and then people started to see it as a bona fide label rather than a label that just releases Trus’Me productions. I was making music as fast as I could, and in between that, if I had music to put out, Matt Triggs, who I was running the label with, was happy to put it out. And then we started to do these compilations EPs. It feels like another era now, that label; it did what it was supposed to do and it ran its course. For three years now, there have been no releases, so I feel like there needs to be a new challenge. I mean already, younger people probably don’t know what Prime Numbers is. They don’t understand what it is or what the concept is. So, if we put something new out, I feel like we’d just be in the mix with every other label, with no nod back to feeling the history of Prime Numbers.
Once you start putting out these new records, will you be releasing other people’s tracks as well? Or just your own?
At the moment it’s just going to be my own music, but if I come across some really nice musicians and talent in Lisbon, then I’m definitely going to try to help nurture them. I like the idea of helping other producers get out there and mentoring them, which is what I always did with the earlier artists that were on Prime Numbers. I was very strict about what got released. People would get a bit unhappy with me because I would reject a lot of their stuff, but it was because I was pushing them, while also trying to keep a sound and a standard that I wanted the label to have. So, this is something I’ll try and definitely do with the new label for sure.
Who are some current artists whose sound inspires you?
Rather than artists, I’m inspired by a few collectives at the moment. I’m really feeling The Heat Wave Collective based in Los Angeles. They really search for music and they’re figuring out a different way to put all of these sounds together. They’re appealing to the younger audience and the music is not necessarily all dance oriented. The music is to listen to and dance to. They accept electronic music as well, but they’re quite happy to play some Spanish guitar solo that just has an amazing hook and will keep you going throughout, you know? For me it’s been quite inspiring going to their parties in Silver Lake in LA.
Where do they throw the parties?
They do it at Gold Diggers in Silver Lake. The party is called Heat Wave and it’s every Thursday. They have a radio show as well on NTS. There are a couple of collectives in Australia I’m feeling as well. Like I said, I’ve just really gotten back into digging again so when I meet people who have so much knowledge of so many different genres and they’re putting it all together, it’s really interesting to me. You still want to dance, but you have no idea what genre it is. They’re playing pop music with Brazilian music, with Italian disco, with house tunes, with slow reggae jams. You never know what the next song is that’s coming in and that inspires me – people that love music that much, they’re just searching every genre to find the jam that they want to play in the next set. So, I’m more influenced by this per se than any actual producer out there. I’m not really following any one particular label either because I’m just listening to everyone and everything right now.
I want to talk about photography for a minute because I know that this is a new passion of yours.
Well it’s actually an old passion. It’s something I really was getting deep into as I was getting into music production. It’s just that the music production thing evolved more quickly than the photography did. I could have gone both ways really, when it came to what I was passionate about. I bought all the photography equipment. I had my Nikon FM2 and I was taking tons of photographs, I was actually working on a book called, “Almost 30.” I was touring all over the world with all these famous djs and I was taking photos of them- I still have all of these reels undeveloped. The idea was, I was going to put a book together that was about the troubles of turning 30 and what goes through your mind at that stage of life because that definitely was a significant period in my life. You’re dealing with leaving your twenties and basically going into adulthood and how that affects you. But I also realized at that time how many heavy weights I was surrounding myself with, people like Dj Harvey and the Ben Klocks of the world who were actually only just blowing up at the time, they weren’t as huge as they are now. I photographed it all and I still would like to do something with that project. But obviously, I can’t call it “Almost 30” now. Just recently, my girlfriend found that camera and she wanted to know all about it. We started to take fun photos together- I was showing her how to develop film and I really got back into it again. I realized that that was something I was desperately trying to do when I was younger.
You learned the process of developing film?
Yeah. When I learned the whole production thing- how to produce and record and all that- I was at a stage in my life where I was just learning stuff. So, with the camera, I learned everything about it from taking photos to developing the film, to burning the film. At the same time, I was working on my degree in graphic design, so I knew how to completely manipulate and edit the photos as well. So, it was always in the back of my mind that that was something I wanted to do, But the music kind of went into fifth gear and I left photography aside because I just couldn’t do both things at the same time. If you really want to master something, you have to just concentrate on one thing.
Are you going to be incorporating your photography into the artwork on your new releases?
Yes, I would like to go through my old photography as well as use the images I’m capturing now. I think it’s apparent I’ve always liked photography because of my album covers. I’ve always liked that portrait style, more kind of “photos of the ladies,” should we say. That style has always been something I want to do. That was definitely an influence when I was putting all my album covers together. This is quite obvious when you look for instance, at the covers of “Working Night$” and “Treat Me Right.” So yeah, this is something I definitely want to do and I’m going to try and make the photography influence the music that I make rather than the other way around.
In what way?
By looking at a particular image or a subject matter and then using the skills I have now after so many years of producing music, to try and make a soundscape, or a sonic idea that represents that particular moment of time in that image. You know, how art kind of makes you feel and what kind of sound comes out of that feeling. I think I’m at a stage where I can do that now. Maybe when I was younger I couldn’t, but I feel like my skill set now is at a level where I can create a piece of music that represents the image taken or created in front of me.
What is the art and music scene like in Lisbon right now? Has the city influenced your music?
Absolutely. Lisbon is such a melting pot. It’s not just Europeans- you’ve got Africans from every country going there, you’ve got South Americans, all different types of South Americans- it’s a hub for them. So, it’s full of Brazilians, Venezuelans, Chileans, and Colombians…. They’re all there bringing in their genres and styles and influences. People are going there because Lisbon is as close as you can be outside of Europe but still be in Europe. It has 32-degree weather and the most days of sun per year than any capital in Europe. Plus, you can fly to America and South America in under six hours so you can quickly hop home, but you’re still in Europe, you’re still in a European society.
There is great freedom in Lisbon, you know- everything’s been decriminalized. You can get away with anything. So, for art and culture, it’s a melting pot and a place to cultivate anything you want to do. There are very few restrictions. It’s one of the cheapest cities in Europe to live in. The cost of living is so low.
I know so many people from my years in Berlin who have moved to Lisbon. Is it a cheaper place to live than Berlin?
Incredibly. The average wage in Berlin is between 1200 and 1500 euros. In Lisbon, it’s like 670 euros. People don’t earn a lot of money there so you don’t need a lot of money to live. Food is incredibly cheap, taxis are incredibly cheap. Berlin is not cheap anymore- that’s an illusion. Plus, in Lisbon there is a 10 year tax free benefit for new residents, so that’s attracted a lot of people.
Are there tons of parties going on?
There are parties all over the place and they’re not just electronic parties. This is what I’m trying to say. All genres of music are represented there. You can quite easily go to a Cuban jazz night, to a Brazilian live punk funk night, to a disco night, to a house night. And then there’s also Lux Club (John Malkovich is part owner)and all of these various other clubs doing all the house and techno stuff. But there’s hip hop nights, salsa nights, and then these other parties where I don’t even know the genre of the music and there are 2000 people in there.
I’ve always been a sample based producer, so collecting has always influenced my productions.
Do they have the kind of club scene Berlin does, where you can stay at a club for days?
Well, the beauty of Lisbon is that as you get older, the mentality over there is 12 till 12. It’s amazing because it has beautiful weather and it’s always sunny. People go out at noon. When you throw a day party in Berlin, no one really goes out unless it’s like a kick on from the night before. But in Lisbon, a party will go from 12:00 PM until 12:00 AM and people are there from 1:00 PM at least.
And then people go home at midnight?
Yeah. People go home at a reasonable time. They go to bed and get up in the morning and enjoy the day. Sunday is just as fun as Saturday because you can do what you want and go to bed. You don’t have to stay up until 7:00 AM in the morning, you know?
So, is there not much drug use in Lisbon?
Oh, there definitely is because it’s all decriminalized- everybody can do whatever they want to do there. But the fact of the matter is that the weather is so nice there, the culture is so lovely, and the city is so beautiful to look at. You’re right by the sea and there are beaches everywhere. In Berlin it seemed like all I did, was go clubbing. Lisbon has the clubbing, but it has the beauty as well. You don’t need to spend a penny – you can just walk around the city, take in the fresh air, walk to the sea and go for a swim, walk up a hill. You can just have fun sitting outside with your friends. Everybody that makes the move there loves it. At the same time, we don’t want to tell too many people, we don’t want it to be overcrowded.
When I met you in 2007, it was because of your first release that astounded me. I was pushing it like crazy at Turntable Lab and selling the shit out of it. The music sounded straight out of Detroit. Little did I know it was made by a lad in Manchester! What was going on for you back then? Whose productions were you listening to?
When I fell into that, I was actually doing my master’s in business. At the time, I was obsessed with Slum Village, Jay Dee, Madlib – hip hop based music. I was collecting this kind of stuff from a record shop in Manchester called Fat City Records – predominantly a hip hop shop. Then one day they pushed some Moodymann and Theo Parrish records on me. “If you like this, you might like this sound as well,” they said, because they knew what I liked. I was getting more into collecting samples in hip hop, so I started to learn a lot about disco, jazz and boogie as well.
I got hooked on this whole sound because I felt like the Detroit house sound was a way to put all of your flavors and tastes together in one. During that time, I started dabbling in music production and realized that this was the kind of sound that I want – where I can have African rhythms and hip-hop rhythms. A hip hop mentality, but with a disco sound and house elements in there too. Put it all in one big pot and shake it all together. I think there were a lot of people in Manchester at the time who were deeply influenced by the whole Detroit sound because clubs like Eyes Down, Electric Chair, Mr. Scruff’s monthlies were playing a lot of Detroit music. Anything from the hip hop stuff to Carl Craig and Juan Atkins, Moodymann, Theo Parrish, and then all the boogie kind of stuff. So, Amp Fiddler, Dwele- all that kind of stuff was all in one big bubble. They joke in Manchester that a lot of us were “Detroit Childs.”
When we all produced music that sound came out of us because that’s what had been pushed at us for so long. It was just in us when we came out. When I made that stuff, I wasn’t predominantly thinking, “oh, I’m making Detroit music.” I was just making music, but from the outside everyone was like, “oh, this is very Detroit sounding.” I hadn’t traveled as much back then, so I didn’t realize that there were all these other genres of house and techno that were going on at the time. We were just heavily into the Chicago and Detroit sound to be honest.
What was the first piece of equipment you used?
I was so obsessed with Jay Dee that I was like, “right, I need this MPC 3000 limited edition,” blahdy blah blah. But in the end, I settled for and MPC 60 Mark 1, for the 12 bit sounds. That’s what you hear in a lot of the first two albums- me, painstakingly sampling beats of half BPM’S, then speeding them back up to get that grungy kind of sound. I used a Juno 106, I had a Sequential Circuits Pro One and a couple of other little bits like that. A Nord Lead 2X as well. When I was at university in Leeds, I was checking out a lot of people like Amp Fiddler (who I ended up working with), and Dwele, and the Soulquarians collective who started the whole neo-soul movement. All these kinds of people were coming in through the city and I was always checking what synthesizers they were using. Then I would go out and try and buy the same ones so I could emulate the same sound. So, my studio was very much this kind of thing.
And then the main piece of the jigsaw was when I bought a Fender Rhodes. The one I bought belonged to a friend of my brother’s, and he ended up being the keyboard player for Massive Attack. So, the Fender Rhodes that was used on the first two Massive Attack albums is actually what I used on my first two albums as well. I then sold it to a friend of mine who then sold it on to Max Graef. He has that same Rhodes now but I don’t think he knows the history of it. That was the backbone of most Detroit sounds, really. The Rhodes, the Pro One, the Nord Lead 2X, the Nord Electro, the Juno 60 or the 106, and a good MPC… then you had the basis of any kind of Detroit production for sure.
When you put that first 12 inch out, did you have any idea that you would get such a great response?
I mean, I listened to it and I remember thinking, “I really like this stuff.” When I was making that music, I was playing mostly in bars and I wanted a way to bridge songs. That first track, the Nard’s track- the whole point of that was to be able to go from hip hop to soul to disco and house without having to just immediately change the tempo like he did it in the record. So, every track on there has some kind of essence where it changes the bpm but also changes the style effortlessly. And then, as I put it all together it ended up feeling and sounding like an album. But when I was first making the tracks, the idea was just to make interesting twelves that had three different types of tracks that you could take to a bar gig for three different occasions.
When I pushed that record to a Chicago label, they instantly hit me back and the next minute it was the number one bestselling record at Piccadilly Records in 2007 in Manchester, which back then was like the Juno of record shops. From that Chicago release, Manchester label Fat City Records – who I’d been learning everything from – asked to do an album with me. Fat City Records is where I was shopping for my records nearly every day. They were everything to me. It was like I was nobody and then next minute I was asked to do an album and was like, what the fuck, how did this happen?
It was interesting – I had to take my music to Chicago first and then be recognized in Manchester as who they thought was another Moodymann. Then they realized I wasn’t Moodymann, I was just a guy from Salford, Manchester. People always ask me, how did it all happen for you? It was completely by chance. If I had of tried it the other way around – delivering my music first in Manchester – it probably wouldn’t have worked. It all happened very quickly, really. The next minute, Fat City asked me to do my own label with them and then Prime Numbers started.
When you’re not listening to electronic music, what kind of music inspires you?
I’m listening to a lot of Brazilian music and a lot of Italo disco stuff.
Any Brazilian artists in particular?
Here are some YouTube links:
Tell me a little about Bali as you’ve been spending winters there.
In the winter time, I always go towards Southeast Asia, China and Australia, and have been using Bali as a base because it’s really starting to become what feels like the early days of Ibiza. There are different clubs opening there all the time. People are starting to open studios, the food is great, and there are all different types of artists there. It’s is a nice home away from home musically and culturally, as well as being a beautiful place. It’s one of the most popular destinations in the world now. When I want to go to my gigs, I can fly direct. It’s like living in London or even being in Ibiza in the summer because you can just fly there direct. It really saves me a lot of time and energy. The down side is, Bali’s become so popular now, it’s heavily polluted. When you go in the sea, you are literally swimming in plastic. It’s really sad, but everybody seems to be trying to make a change. People are doing cleanups so it’s moving in the right direction.
If you really want to master something, you have to just concentrate on one thing.
What is your all-time favorite record label – any genre?
God, that is a tough one… It’s hard, isn’t it? I mean Peacefrog and Prescription are big influences for sure. But of the stuff that I collect now, it’s definitely the Elektra label. The range of music that label has put out is just insane.
If you were stuck on a deserted island and had one album to listen to over and over and over again, what would it be?
It would definitely be something like Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in The Wind.” The album is incredible – the lyrics and everything. You can sample the hell out of it. I have sampled most of it. It’s in a lot of my tracks.
Favorite club in which city?
I think the best experience I ever had in my life was at Eyes Down at the Road House in Manchester. The variety of music, the people – the vibe was insane. I was going there around 2005 to 2009.
They were playing every genre. I didn’t know you could do that. Like they would start with jazz and get to Carl Craig by the end of the night. It was a place were I realized, “Wow – you don’t have to just listen to one thing – all music is good.” You just have to listen to good music, you know? That’s always stuck with me for sure.
What do you think you’d be doing with your life if it wasn’t for music?
I think I would’ve fallen deeply into photography. And if it wasn’t photography, I’d be working with food. I just love food.
You messaged me recently about not wanting this new release to be in the “Deep House” sections of record shops.
Yes, I don’t understand why a couple of shops did that. They throw it in deep house and I’m like, “this is not deep house – have they listened to it?” It’s either Detroit house or it’s minimal or it’s techno-ey, but it’s definitely not “deep.” I guess that’s a problem with my stuff – it never really fit into any one genre, did it? They don’t know where to put me. Like where would you put ‘Working Nights’?
Moving forward, do you want to keep it that way or are you leaning towards a certain genre?
I want the music I make to be disco-oriented, not heavily house-y. The way I see it is: people that can make music, can make good disco. You can’t fake disco. You can fake house music, but you can’t fake disco. It’s not possible. You’ve either got soul and funk or you haven’t. Anyone can make house – put a 4/4 beat on, throw some parts and some keys in, and punch the hell out of it, you know? But to make disco – to make someone groove and swing at a lower tempo is really difficult if you don’t have any kind of essence of sound and a sense of how it all goes together.