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Interview with Chris Vaux from Portsmouth’s PunchFunk
Reported by K8-e
Submitted 04-09-06 18:12
I got to know Chris Vaux when I offered to review the night that PunchFunk (his promotion) brought Fergie to town. I’d never been to a PunchFunk before, but I was pleasantly surprised at the way this night mixed up house, electro and funky techno to create a wicked vibe. I don’t get much of a chance to club properly these days but I made the time when once again they played a blinder and brought Valentino Kanzyani to Portsmouth. Since the start of the year I’ve watched in amazement as Chris and his endless enthusiasm and dedication push himself and the PunchFunk brand further and further, bringing more and more quality acts to Portsmouth and Bournemouth and taking the PF brand on tour to places like Hi:Fi and Global. Hardly time to stop for a breath! But ahead of his debut release on PunchFunk records I thought it was about time I tracked the man down for some questions.
Chris welcome to HarderFaster! For those not familiar with PunchFunk tell us about the night that’s taken the South Coast by storm . . .
Well it’s a bit of a story you’d read out of a book. We started back in June 2004 at Po Na Na in Portsmouth, using the upstairs room. The club only held 140 people but we booked Phil Kieran who I had met previously at Slinky and it kind of set the standard.
It was a belter and every party after that has been amazing. Whether it be at a huge club or small bar, it’s always an intense experience. Techno and house didn’t really have a home in Portsmouth before PunchFunk so I thought I’d try my hand at promoting and get a chance to play the music I wanted.
We are very lucky to have an unbelievable following that have cultivated a really special community. Of course it’s about the music, but the people are what makes a party. And it’s that spirit that compels all of the guest djs we book to keep coming back.
2006 has been a massive year for PunchFunk, hosting a stage at Hi:Fi and also at Global Gathering and that’s just for starters! You’ve also brought the likes of Valentino Kanzyani, SLAM and Fergie to Portsmouth, not to mention your Bournemouth outings. What’s to come for the rest of 2006?
It’s been fantastic to be able to book the guys I really look up to and see the crowd reacting to them. Valentino said he had never had his name chanted in a club and least of all England and it’s those moments which make it all worth it.
After the rollercoaster of a year that we have had, which pretty much sums up what’s happened since we started, I’m looking forward to settling down a bit for the rest of the year. Don’t get me wrong hosting a stage at the festivals was great and I’ll never forget it, but it’ll be kind of nice to have a bit of normality and a regular party every month.
We had a chat with the guys at Breakneck which is the South’s top D’n’B night and we are now going to host South Parade Pier in Portsmouth with them once a month. We will take a room each and alternate with different bookings. We have the likes of Justin Robertson, Tim Sheridan and Jon Carter all lined up this year and they have some massive acts . . . it should be huge!
As well as that we will be hosting Dusk Till Dawn once a month with FiLtH, a more intimate affair in a wicked, wicked club in Bournemouth.
You’ve also played in Lithuania this year, how do the clubs and crowd differ over there? Have you got any more plans to play outside of the UK?
We are looking at going back to Lithuania really soon. Crowds abroad are different class and it’s a bit overwhelming. We have a few more irons in the fire including some very exciting plans, but that would be telling.
And what are your plans for next year? World domination?
Hahaha you make me sound like Baron Greenback. Well we have plans to do some more festival stuff but it’s a bit top secret at the moment. Sorry. We will also be getting some more major acts and really trying to cement our massive monthly in Portsmouth and our party in Bournemouth.
There are plans again for London which are very, very exciting but I really can’t let the rabbit out of the hat I’m afraid. Let’s just say it’s going to rock the boat.
So tell me how you first get into dj’ing?
Well I had started to go to “proper” clubs when I was 18 and was always going to Slinky. Back then it was a magical club. It had just opened in 1998 and there was this amazing vibe around the place. I had always been into dance music through school, and seeing djs up there and hearing the music playing on a massive sound system gave me the bug.
And was PunchFunk your first foray into promoting?
Weeeeell, I started out by throwing massive parties at my old house in Portsmouth. They were great and I found that the best fun for me was seeing everyone else having fun.
I never thought about promoting until I saw SLAM at Homelands, then I promised myself I would get them to play at a party I put on. Job done.
And if promoting and a hectic dj’ing schedule weren’t enough you are about to release your first single ‘The Ho’ next week (September 7th) on PunchFunk Digital! Tell me a little about PunchFunk Records (started last year) and the vibe you are going for with the label which has seen releases from Jon Gurd, Rob Mooney and Fergie already.
It started out as an idea in an internet café when I was chatting to Jon Gurd on Messenger in February 2005. He had just finished making a track which he was calling ‘Lemon Sherbet’. It was a great track which typified the style of music that PunchFunk was about.
I though, “hey why not give this label malarky a go?” Jon was up for it so I had a few get togethers to find out what I had to do and after finding a distributor who was willing to give us a crack we launched as PunchFunk Records.
PF001 was released in September 2005 and since then we have sold a total of 9000 units from 3 releases including Fergie’s track ‘Ken The Men’. The whole digital thing is really taking over, which is why we also have PunchFunk Digital now. ‘Feelin Electro’ by Rob Mooney was one of Beatport’s best sellers, so we are aiming some releases specifically at digital.
The vibe we are looking for is the sort of track that goes off at PunchFunk and gets the crowd worked up. I can’t wait for ‘The Ho’ to be released, it’s been doing some serious damage for me so should be interesting!
So moving away from PunchFunk, you are a cracking dj in your own right, winning Portsmouth’s Vinyl Meltdown competition a few years ago and getting through to the semi-finals in the recent d-joust competition. How would you define your style today and has it changed much from when you first started playing?
I started with trance but as I grew older my taste changed, especially when I wandered into the End arena at Homelands in 2002. After that I never looked back, techno has been a big influence in my life!
Right now I couldn’t say that you could really pigeonhole my style. I hate it when someone will say they’re a so-and-so dj. It really limits you I think, and that’s not what dance music is about. If you look at the sort of guys we have had headline at PunchFunk it’s a cross section of all that’s good about varied styles of house, techno and breaks.
Variety is the spice of life (sorry cliché alert) and by challenging a crowd you get a lot more from it. Even when I’m mixing I’ll try lots of different ways of dropping tunes, so it’s never formulaic. You have to see energy from the dj in my opinion to really be affected on a dance floor, that’s the only sets I ever remember seeing and when I’m jumping round like a loon I think the crowd quite enjoys it!!
What are your favourite tunes and labels at the moment?
There are so many cool little labels now with the advent of digital. It’s much easier to start up an indie label such as ours.
B-Pitch control are always a strong stable, while you have the likes of Get Physical and Brique Rouge who are releasing some really quirky sh*t. I like tracks that drop into something you didn’t expect and have a massive crunch to them with say touch of acid. Techno-wise, Intec are pretty reliable.
Deepgroove have been solid this year and Gabriel Ananda has had some amazing stuff out. But the Dahlbacks have really influenced the direction I’ve been going in production-wise.
My own track has a massive acid line with guitars and crunching percussion that kicks it everywhere. That’s where it’s at for me.
What’s your tune of the year so far?
I have to be greedy and say two. The first is by Sebastian Leger, who I think is really going to be a massive star. He makes music like no-one else and it’s that indefinable sound that I love. His track ‘Bad Clock’ has been in my sets since March and the reaction I get is immense . . . still!!
The second track is by Dave Robertson and Jon Gurd, two of my close friends. When they made ‘The Rendition’ I really wanted it for PunchFunk, but I understand why they went with Cr2. It’s a huge track and will be a big seller. It has been given a rework by Sebastian Leger as well so I can’t wait to have a listen.
Playing Hi:Fi and Global on your own stage must have been awesome experiences, but where would you most like to play that you haven’t already?
Hmmm, there are so many cool venues across the world but after all that’s happened already since I started out, I don’t look at anything as out of reach. I guess that I would love to go and play in places like Brazil at Warung Beach and some of the amazing underground clubs throughout the Continent. Maybe one day?
Despite your hectic schedule and commitments you recently took some time to do a charity fundraiser, walking 52 miles in 3 days from Brighton to Portsmouth, ending up back in Southsea for PunchFunk’s 2nd birthday with SLAM @ Tantrum. Firstly, are you quite mad? And secondly, how did all that come about?
Hahaha, yes I guess I’m a little mad but I thought it was time we did something for charity. I wanted to do something a bit different and one of our friends of PunchFunk suggested as he couldn’t get a lift from Brighton to our party he would walk it as a joke.
That led to me thinking the plan up. It’s funny as when it finished I kind of missed it. It was a great laugh and doing it with my co-conspirator for PunchFunk, Simon Blann and friends Chris and Matt, the time flew (even though we didn’t).
Throwing the party after was hard work but the SLAM boys were great and the whole night was brilliant (if a little hot)!
Finally, where can we catch you playing out soon?
Well we are just about to get the Pompey House EP tour on the road, which is what ‘The Ho’ features on. I’m playing in Preston at DiscoSlut on September8th and Dusk Till Dawn in Bournemouth the night after. Then at the end of the month it’s the massive launch of our parties with Breakneck on Sep 29th.
Photos copyright Richard Lewington (Ricardo). Not to be reproduced without permission.
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Other Features By K8-e:
The One and Only Eddie Halliwell
PunchFunk & Geushky Presents "Let's Make Rave" with Ian Void & Chris Vaux
Cream @ Amnesia - Ibiza 2010 - Reviewed
Pure Gold: Interview with Will Gold
Turning the Corner - Interview with IAMX
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.