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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with DJ/disco-dance/electro-pop musician Ali Love

Fans of the 1980s-inspired electro dancefloor movement rejoice! The Summer of Love is here...

Written by Kat Phan

Big Chill Festival 2010

I am standing on a sweaty tube to Ladbroke Grove and boy do I want to bust a move. I want to glide across the carriage, this wind it up, look shake my bootie (even though I don’t have much of one), viagra do the robot, shimmy back and forth and clap – but I don’t. Instead I repress all of my disco dancing energy into a few gentle taps with my fingers on the pole I’m meant to be holding onto; my inner Tony Manero bound and gagged.

Summer has arrived in full bloom as I listen to Ali Love’s latest single ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ on my hot pink ipod; I am on my way to meet the man himself. If truth be told, the first time I heard of Ali was only a few weeks ago when I was invited to a one-off exclusive show at East London art venue, CAMP. Although initially weary of all the hype, on seeing him perform and hearing his latest material, I couldn’t figure out why it had taken me so long to ‘discover’ him.

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

Storming onto the stage dressed head-to-toe in black with a cloak, studded vest and what oddly enough appeared to resemble a tassled curtain tie-back around his neck, Ali worked the stage with his two slinky backing singers dressed in rubber black cat suits, stitched with fluorescent electric blue tubing, like a veteran pop-maestro. As the girls writhed behind him in synchrony with lashings of mascara and kohled eyes, Ali delivered his anabolic steroid pumped disco tunes, filled with dirty bass lines, swirling-synths and throbbing melodies, laced with Prince-esque vocals, to an enthusiastic party audience who seemed to know every word.

Ali’s sound may not be groundbreaking in its 1980s electro-inspired genre nor particularly durable, but it is fun, upbeat, catchy and infectious, and his new album, Love Harder, features plenty of floor-fillers, such as ‘Done the Dirty’ featuring Lou Hayter from New Young Pony Club, reminiscent of Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love, and ‘Show Me’, sampling Steve Winwood’s Higher Love, which deserve to be hit singles.

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

Today, there is no cloak and I arrive at Ali’s early to find myself loitering outside his flat, waiting for him to return from picking up his DMX drum machine. I spot him approaching me in distinctively 80s attire; a bright green t-shirt, blue skinny jeans, white Nike high tops with a fluorescent orange tick and a gold vintage bling watch. Ali towers over me, greeting me with a hug and a Sarf London accented: “Hey babe”.

On stage, Ali appeared extroverted, flamboyant and massively confident. On a one-to-one, however, he is more reserved than I had imagined, making little eye contact and often flits between intense and evasive, lucid and incoherent. As the evening progresses, a cheekier and more spiritual side of Ali emerges, as we talk about his cosmic stage sets, his preference for recording in the studio over performing live and potential collaborations, over a nice strong brew in his cosy flat in Notting Hill…

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

I loved the cosmic theme of your stage set at CAMP. How did the idea come about?
In colour, the music I’ve created is black and electric blue. When I visualise the sound, I can picture things like arpeggiators and my DMX drum machine (Ali points to the electric blue lines on his Oberheim DMX drum machine). On the cosmic theme, well I like cosmic music coz I’m a cosmic guy.

How do you go about composing your records? Do lyrics or a tune come to you first?
Most of the time, it’s the melody that comes to you first. Then I’ll just pick up my guitar and try to re-create it. Other times, it’s being struck by a word that someone says; something that you instantly pick up on and connect with. A good word can just spark off an idea. Songs write themselves most of the time. It’s like a flame; you have to keep feeding it with your creative energy.

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

How would you describe your new album, Love Harder, in three words?
Electric love music.

What has been the general response from the audience who you have played to so far?
What I’ve done has been well-received by the gay community and all over Europe. They’re mainly my kind of people; slightly left of centre, so not mainstream. I don’t really make music for closed-minded people; I make music for open-minded people and cosmic party people. I don’t know if that sounds snobby but those are the kind of people I want to impress. When musicians like Aeroplane say they love my music, it’s a really great feeling because that’s the kind of audience I’m trying to reach out to. It means a lot to gain respect from the people that I respect.

There’s a track on the album where you collaborate with Teenagers in Tokyo. How do you think they complement your sound?
Well the opportunity arose to work with Sam (Lim) who has a lovely voice so I just grabbed it. I told her to sing like a space siren and she nailed it. She really went for it on the record and to me, she sounds like an angel singing. I think it’s a great track to end the album on.

Photography courtesy of Pietro Pravettoni.

Your sound is distinctively 80s – is this an era that you look to for inspiration?
I don’t see myself as a retro artist. The palette was slightly electro and analogue so that lends itself to sounding 80s. The machines that I used are all 30 years old. I don’t care whether something is retro or not, it’s about whether you can hold a tune or whether it’s good to listen to. We live in a post-modern world and it’s hard to create new ground.

What has your career highlight been so far?
I’ve been to lots of different places in the world and have experienced a lot of stuff and that’s all because of the music – that aspect has been good. I’m pretty even minded about most things in a Buddhist middle way; I try to stay emotionally consistent, whether things are good or bad. My most blissful musical times aren’t when I’m doing gigs – they’re when I’m in the studio, recording material. That’s what I love doing the most.

It’s interesting you should say that as most musicians tend to enjoy the gigging aspect the most…
The last gig was really good and I felt really confident and happy that people were there, which felt like a breakthrough. I’d like to be like Harry Nilsson, he never played live, he just made beautiful amazing songs in the studio. Same with Georgio Moroder – he gave up playing live. I’m more interested in being a recording artist.

What do you gain from making music from a spiritual point of view?
If I didn’t do music I’d have to do meditation or something to stop me from going mad. Music for me is meditative. I need to concentrate on something and it’s been the one thing I can concentrate on. I was terrible at school. My dad died when I was 13 and it stopped me from caring too much about things. I became quite spiritual as I was suddenly hit by the question of death. My whole mind started to move in a different direction. It has given me a place to escape to and a lot more empathy for feeling things in the world. It has enhanced my musical palette which happens to a lot of musicians. You need to find a place to visit to write songs. If everything in your life was normal, it would be quite difficult to find inspiration to write. Having said that I do still really like boner jams about sex; they’re all fine.

How have you changed as a person since you started out in the music industry?
When I started out I was living above a club on Kingsland Road in East London and high all the time. I was living on the dole but passionate about my music; just the classic clichéd punk rock vibe. But somehow I managed to get a big record deal. So because I’d been on the dole for six years beforehand, it all went to my head a bit. I went a bit crazy and the partying outweighed the music-making even before it all started. But luckily I had the hit with the Chemical Brothers which kept me financially afloat for a while. I wouldn’t change anything; it was a good journey. Now I’d love to have a guru or teacher and learn kung-fu in the hills; get more in touch with my spiritual side.

Who interests you most on the music scene at the moment and why?
I’m mostly drawn to disco people like Aeroplane and the guy who did my remix, Bottin. I really like the work that Prins Thomas does and the Lindstrom stuff. Pop wise, I like Empire of the Sun.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I’d like to collaborate with rappers, some kind of US stuff. I think it’s because I’ve just moved to West London and there’s a bit more rap around where I live and that’s starting to soak into me.

So do you find that where you live influences your sound?
Well I was living in East London before which is why I made a totally gay disco record!

And finally – what random piece of advice can you offer readers of Amelia’s Magazine?
Be nice to each other and always look right twice when you cross the road.

Ali Love’s new album Love Harder is out on 9th August on Back Yard Recordings.


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