Neil caught up with our GOOD friend Sally Rodgers from the pivotal electronic duo 'A Man Called Adam'. An integral band from the late Eighties Acid House and Balearic scene.
Her mixes boast a wide range of anything awesome. Sally and Steve of AMCA have a unique sound that when people have tried to categorize, the closest they come is Acid-Jazz-House-Disco-Pop.
If you haven’t seen it already, you should check out their appearance in the great Ibiza documentary ‘A Short Film about Chilling’.
Why dont you listen to one of Sally's Solo Mixes at La Torre, Ibiza 2018, whilst you read trough this interview.
So Sally, I just read online that you were born in Michigan but I think that's another singer called Sally Rodgers? Though if this is true it would certainly explain your impeccable house music credentials, just for clarity can you confirm exactly where were you born?
''Definitely not me Neil, I was born in the North East - in Middlesbrough to be exact.''
Where does your love of music come from and how did it develop into a long and successful career?
''I did the usual stuff at school, played the cornet then the French Horn in the school brass band. But our house was full of music when I was growing up. My parents ran working mens clubs so we always had the ‘artists’ who were performing in and out - they used our hallway as a dressing room. I grew up one fire door away from a stage, a dance floor, microphones, a PA, a piano, a drum kit and later a massive Hammond organ with built in drum machine, all that stuff. On Sundays when the club was shut me and my school friends would play in the concert room - I guess that has its impact on you. But my elder siblings were both music heads, disco, punk, reggae, post punk - all sorts - so I was very lucky to get that musical education too.''
AMCA’s tunes seemed to be defined by having ‘moments’ in them that tend to stop you in your tracks or stick with you for long after the song has finished. How do you go about creating ‘a moment’?
''I think it’s probably true to say we do chase that when we’re recording. But it isn’t something we can formularise. We just keep pushing through with a track till we feel it’s there, that wave breaking. It can take time, some of our best tracks have taken a long time to produce - to take an emotional spark and turn it into a great sound recording that has light and energy in it - that’s the goal and that’s what we still do. But we’ll take a track every which way until we’re happy we can do no more.''
Equally you seem able to create total bangers and blissed out numbers in equal amounts, how do you decide on what direction to take when making new music?
''Steve and I have been friends for a very long time. And we talk. About art and life and what we want to be doing with our lives and what will satisfy us. We’re two individuals with differing needs and sometimes different goals - we live our own lives - so we decide together what music we want to make together. At the moment we’re exploring some more experimental ideas, because that’s where our heads are at.''
Ibiza: A Short FIlm about Chilling is still a really captivating documentary to watch to this day and something of a rarity in a scene where everyone was far too busy having a good time to bother filming anything. What memories do you have of being involved in that genre-defying doc and being in Ibiza around that time?
''It’s funny but that doc captured a moment in our young lives and in the lives of those featured. But it also meant a lot to a couple of generations - I have younger friends who were too young to experience that scene but lived it vicariously through that doc and they shared and re-watched on VHS tapes. Life is full of unexpected surprises and I guess the doc is just one of those weirdly serendipitous things that happened to us. Angus and Kevin had the vision to document that trip and we’re still friends with them and all the people featured in it. Ibiza was a lot of fun then and it still is – whatever age you are it has something for you.''
Your tunes have popped up in some interesting places (such as Yachts regularly being dropped on ‘Sex in the City’) where’s the most unusual place you’ve ever heard one of your tunes being played?
''Hmmm… I remember being in a bar in Oakland CA and hearing some rad skate kids playing one of our Beachflea tunes at the wrong speed. That was ace. I get mad messages from friends in different time-zones saying things like ‘we’re in a bar in Guatemala' or wherever and your tracks just come on ‘Thinking of you!’ - I love that.''
You’ve just started an ace new radio show called ‘Sally & Company’ who have you got lined up to be interviewed so far and who else would be your dream guests, living or dead?
''Well I broke myself in gently with Steve and another dear friend Patrick Vidal, and this month I had Vladimir Ivkovic and the architect Tonkin Liu. I have a wish list of guests and I’m working through it - I’m asking people I admire and who inspire me so that there’s some passion in there. I was thinking about that question, you know,' who would you have at a dream dinner party?' and I realised I’d love to have all my guests around the same table. They’re all brilliant, funny, cool and wise and they’d all get on great. In the fantasy realm I guess I’d like to hang with Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan maybe… I reckon they’d compliment each other!''
Part of the reason for doing these ‘Getting the measure of’ interviews is to discover another side to our talented friends. So as well as being a songwriter, producer, singer, sound designer, DJ, label boss and radio host you’re also a senior lecturer at Leeds College of Music. How did that happen?
''Steve and I took a break from releasing as A Man Called Adam in the mid 00s. We both wanted to study and understand the history of electronic music and lyricism better. To figure out where we fit in that continuum, and to get better at what we do. Teaching flows naturally out of that time we spent in Universities during that time I think, and neither of us have kids so at some point I think you just think I should probably share my knowledge with the youth!''
Are your students aware that they are being taught by a Balearic god?
''Not in the least! I have one student who calls me ‘teach’ and I like that.''
In all seriousness it must be great for them to have someone who has walked the walk and is still talking the talk in the music industry. What sort of subjects and areas do your courses cover?
''I always say I try to teach them how to make a living - to do what you want to do creatively and turn that into a sustainable life for yourself. In some ways that’s what I do for me and Steve so it’s just a continuation of that - but with that academic structure and critical thinking I learned and experienced in my own studies.''
What’s the biggest misconception your students have about working in music?
''There’s still a bit of the idea that if you’re talented enough someone will come along, a label, a manager or whoever and steer you right. I’m more of the school that even if that person or support does turn up, you should be involved in those decisions and know what’s right for your own creative output. I used to teach a Hip Hop module and if you consider that genre and the entrepreneurs who built it, it’s often the artists themselves - same with Grime.''
In terms of the business side of music what impact do you think the pandemic will have on the industry?
''Ugh. I feel at the moment it’s difficult for new music to have an impact - without a scene to support it. Because music is about the memories you associate with it and we don’t have the same opportunities for experiencing wonderful musical moments. That beach/ club/ festival/ party/ afters when so and so dropped that track and you were with your friends, having a brilliant time… and then later when you hear that track it takes you back to that moment. In some ways our older music has done well through all this because people can access happy times by listening to it. That’s harder right now with new releases. Vinyl is selling but I think it’s for that endorphin rush you get when you make a small purchase to cheer yourself up. Music and memory and people are all bound up together and until we can be together again things will feel a bit flat imo. And of course, there are also all the people that work and make their living in this scene – performers, promoters, techs, security, the ones who make things happen… I’ve seen my friends adapt and do what they need to do to survive this but I feel for everyone who is suffering the loss.''
Not that we’re jealous or anything but how come you chose Leeds and not Manchester?
''Oh I didn’t really! I LOVE Manchester and play there often. It really is a town that appreciates music and the people who select and play it for a living - I always feel that every time I play there. And I’ll come teach at any Manchester Uni if they’ve have me! I am a bit nomadic so everywhere feels like home to me when I’m there :)''
What projects and productions have you currently got up your sleeve?
''We’re just feeling around with some new tracks and ideas. We sort of cleared the decks with the Oddities albums - all that music that was sitting on hard disks and shouldn’t have been is now out there so we feel free to explore some new ideas. I won’t say too much because who knows where we’ll go with it musically - but we’re hoping to release new music in the autumn.''
Where can we check you out DJing next?
''I’m on at We Out Here and a couple of other lovely bits in the summer if they definitely go ahead. And I’ll be doing a little binge of London dates and down to Margate later in the summer all being well!''
Your music is synonymous with the legendary Cafe Del Mar, so what for you is the ultimate Ibizan sunset record?
''Ha! Gawd. I mean I would probably never play them myself now because I’m always looking for new or forgotten music to play but I guess Music For a Found Harmonium or State of Independence take me back to Jose's classic sunsets.''
Check out Sally's new radio show ''Sally & Company'' on Worldwide FM to listen to her sensational mixes, accompanied by some of her artist friends talking about their experiences in the biz and creative processes. You can find her latest show below.
Interview by Neil Summers.