Podcast 621: Desert Sound Colony
Deep house and breaks from Liam Wachs.
Podcast 621: Desert Sound Colony
Deep house and breaks from Liam Wachs.
Liam Wachs’ work is founded on an enduring love for house, garage, breakbeat, techno, and electro, and these all form part of his sound as Desert Sound Colony. He discovered music through his parents, avid music collectors and enthusiasts, but also performers who introduced him to acts like Pat Metheny, Jill Scott, and Steely Dan before he’d even reached adolescence. Electronic music entered his life when he was 16 when he attended a London warehouse party, where he saw Benga for the first time. “I remember ‘Lean Forward‘ by Mala getting rinsed,” he recalls. “At the end of the night, my friend and I played it on repeat after everyone had gone to sleep.”
From here, Wachs was hooked—dubstep replaced heavy metal as his music of choice, and it remained that way through his university studies at Leeds, which he chose because of its burgeoning dubstep scene. From 2009 until 2010, when he dropped out and left for New York, Wachs was a regular in the northern city’s nightspots, in particular The West Indian Centre, a small community center, and Wire, as his tastes became more refined. During this time, he worked on making music using GarageBand, and played selector at some of his friends’ house parties. His earliest music, more tech-house than dubstep, formed part of an experiment to try and write dance music using only live instruments and recorded audio.
Wachs became Desert Sound Colony in 2014, just after he’d moved to Bristol, United Kingdom, with a lovely run of melancholic house music informed by ’60s psychedelia, but the lure of mind-bending, transcendent dancefloor experiences proved too great. Around 2017, at which point he launched Holding Hands, his label and artist collective that includes Breaka, Adam Pits, Baby Rollen, and Guava, Wachs began releasing bass-driven, club-ready techno with all the earmarks of a producer with a background in dubstep.
Earlier this year, Wachs took his work to Nick Höppner’s Touch From A Distance and also to South London label called Scenic Route. He also launched a Holding Hands podcast to discuss music production and life in the industry. Next up is an EP from On Loop, the label of Moxie, which Wachs marks with his XLR8R podcast, an intense ride that doesn’t let up for a minute. Many artists tend to take their foot off the pedal for a studio podcast but Wachs has put his foot down, settling into his London studio for just over an hour of driving deep house and breaks, laced with unreleased cuts and the first taste of his own upcoming material.
What have you been up to recently?
Lots of wicked gigs including some new label showcases and the Sock It To Me parties which I run with Dr Banana, Alec Falconer, and Harry Wills. It has been a seriously fun few months. I’ve also put out a couple of new EPs in quick succession on a killer new South London label called Scenic Route and Moxie’s ever-wonderful On Loop.
One more thing. I just started a new monthly radio show on Rinse FM which will be 1—2 pm on the third Thursday of each month. Get yourself locked in for all sorts of audio goodies.
Talk us roughly through your journey into electronic music. What are the key turning points?
Quite a lot of it hinged on going to a house party with some older friends up in Sheffield when I was 17 and hearing dubstep for the first time. That got me totally hooked on that sound and obsessed with making music. I chose to move to Leeds for university because of the music scene there and it was in that city that I really broadened my taste in electronic music going to Louche, System, and Back To Basics at Mint Club, Wire and Stinkys Peephouse. After I left Leeds, I moved to Bristol and started the Desert Sound Colony project which at first sounded very much like a band but has slowly transitioned into something very dance floor- and club-focussed. I started Holding Hands a couple of years ago and now here we are today.
What are your processes with finding music for Holding Hands?
Almost one hundred percent of the music on the label comes from my very best mates. Fred Quest and Yutaro were the only people that I wasn’t already very close with and in the end, it turned out that Fred and I actually had about 20 friends in common anyway.
When and where did you record this mix?
In my studio last week.
What can we expect with it?
Absolute slamadamdams. There is a little respite here and there but in general you probably just want to strap in, get those goggles on, and hope your face doesn’t get too melted off.
How did you select the tracks that you included?
It’s a mix of some of my music from my latest EP on On Loop, some unreleased bits from myself and my friends, forthcoming tracks on Holding Hands, and also some old records I’ve found on my travels recently.
When and where do you imagine it being listened to?
At your house, when you are getting ready to go out with all your mates. I don’t go to the gym but I imagine it might also work quite well in that environment.
How does it compare to what you play in clubs?
Very similar, although I do also play a lot of garage in the club and if I am playing with the Sock It To Me guys then I would probably pull out some more silly records as well.
What are your long-term ambitions with music?
Have as much fun as possible and elevate as many friends and new producers through the label as much as I can.
What’s up next, looking forward?
I’m currently in the middle of a little U.S. tour which is mega fun. Then there are a few more UK shows to round off the year in Newcastle, Corsica in London, and Oxford. Potentially a little NYD party as well so stay tuned for more info. In the new year, we have an absolute belter of an EP coming out on Holding Hands as well as another reissue on Holding Hands Again. Lastly, we at the label are working on a very cool project with Rhythm Sister so keep your eyes peeled for more on that soon as well.
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to download the podcast you will need to subscribe to our Select channel. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
01. Ultra Red “A16” (Fat Cat)
02. Alec Falconer “Something For Mtkvarse” (Unreleased)
03. The Afro Boys “Sound Boy” (Warrior Records)
04. E.B.E Audio “Zaxxon” (Solid Grooves)
05. Desert Sound Colony “Can Can Wingspan” (On Loop)
06. Desert Sound Colony “Pompey Cruiser” (Unreleased)
07. Joe Moss “Body Scanner” (Unreleased)
08. Guava “Lift” (Control Freak)
09. Oceantied “Luru” (Self-Release)
10. Xray Xperiments “Take No Chance” (Xray Xperiments)
11. Desert Sound Colony “Mox Diamond” (On Loop)
12. Gallegos “Blue Mountain” (Holding Hands)
13. SLP “Supernova” (Skunk Records)
14. Basic Bastard “Signals” (Gallegos’ Yoga Mix) (Spiral Handshake)
15. Jack Michael “Bad Bwoi Sound” (Desert Sound Colony Remix) (Orbital London)
16. Gallegos “SHOULDACOULDAWOULDA” (Holding Hands)