Josh Caffe has long been a vital component of London’s ever-oscillating club scene, a figure whose productions, vocals and charismatic DJ sets are equally entwined to create a knowledgeable and sensual continuation of the roots of house and techno.
Truth be told, recent restrictions have not been kind to Caffe’s specific sound; late night, hedonistic, sleazy and understated records mixed with flair and filth, equally reflected throughout his own productions, released on labels such as Crosstown Rebels, BPitch, Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, as well as his own Night Sheen imprint and Love Child records.
What a pleasure then to welcome Caffe into the fold for the final #PHANTASYMIX of 2020, delivering an imaginary dark room soundtracked by the likes of DJ Hell, Carisma, Violet, Lady Blacktronica and former collaborators Paranoid London.
First of all, as always, tell us about the mix?
Well, pretty much all of us are missing being in a club but still dancing away at home. I wanted to do something that would cater to that and also fit in with the sound of Phantasy. Thanks for inviting me to do one by the way.
I think it’s fair to say that your style is very much ‘creature of the night’, something true throughout your contribution to our series. But of course, 2020 has been a very different year. Have you still managed to feel connected to the nightlife culture you’re so closely associated with?
Yeah totally, it follows me, hah. I’m very much a nocturnal person. I've been lucky to play at some socially distanced events during this time which has been great. Continuing to add a nightlife element to my mixes or music I've been working on has helped too. I think for some, taking a more relaxed or deeper vibe for music was a more comfortable route to take during this period but that's never fully going to be me. Overall I've definitely taken a different approach to it all and that's been fun to play around with.
Going way back to the halcyon rave days of 2019, your vocal on Paranoid London’s ‘Vicious Games’ is an absolute favourite. Who are some of the vocalists that have inspired you from house music’s history?
People like Grace Jones, Prince, Jamie Principle, Robert Owens, Carl McIntosh.
You have been a part of the London dance music scene for well over a decade (or more?) Your sound achieves what a lot of DJs struggle to nail; rooted in the legacy of Chicago house and Detroit techno, but always feeling raw and pure, rather than borrowed nostalgia or ‘togetherness’ cheese. Has it always been easy to find new music within the framework that excites you?
God, I’m getting on a bit aren't I?! Haha!
For me I find it easy. There’s so much undiscovered stuff from back in the day and present day that you can come across, you just have to dig that little bit deeper. Even better when you find something that's aged well. Also growing in a musical household I was exposed to so much underground music which now I’ll have a think back to and remember something my sister or my dad would play. When it comes to newer stuff I’m so grateful to be surrounded by so many amazing artists who send me music with a unique and authentic take on Chicago House and Detroit Techno.
What do you think has been the net positive change in London’s dance music culture over the last ten years? On the contrary, what do you hope changes as we return to dancefloors?
I think there is definitely more room for black and queer artists to shine on line ups, be part of venues, music labels. It was starting to happen more before the pandemic, I just hope it all continues once we’re out of this shit.
Finally, most importantly, are you more of a strobes or a smoke person?
Oh strobes all the way darling.
John Loveless, December 2020.