The deep house renaissance shows little sign of losing speed, but for Mike Greene, better known as “Fort Romeau,” slow is the way to go. On his sophomore album Insides, out today on Ghostly International, the London-based producer takes a languid approach to club music drawn from his DJ experience. For a record inspired by crate digging, it’s only fitting that Insides is charming and eclectic, with hints of early disco and German kosmische softening his trademark Chicago house sound. Measured, mature and masterfully crafted, Insides is a compelling statement of intent from a rising young talent.
We caught up with Greene to discuss creating the album from scratch, online discography K-holes and “Slow Listening,” his own philosophy regarding music consumption.
You said you wanted to move away from sampling. What replaced that in the music making process?
“It was really a case of trying to make as much of it from scratch as possible, in terms of using synthesizers and working with drum machines. I wanted to work with real instruments. On Kingdoms, I guess probably 75 percent of all the sounds were sampled, even if it was just the case of taking a chord from a track and repitching it in a pattern. With this record I thought it would be more interesting to have more control over the overall presentation. With sampling, some part of the language is already formed by whoever made the sample, so there’s already a lot of existing meaning.”
Do you feel that the analogue process drew you back to the earlier electronic sounds showcased on the record?
“Partly that. With LPs you put in a lot of work for quite a long duration, so you’ve really got the opportunity to explore a lot in comparison to just doing singles. I wanted to make sure that it felt aggressive and evolutionary in some way. I didn’t just want to do the same thing from a conceptual standpoint. There are definitely still influences that were in Kingdoms, but I’ve broadened out the scope and made it a bit richer. That comes from looking to the hardware for inspiration but also from DJing more and more and playing longer sets, like five or six hours. I’ve been looking for the rare gems that other people don’t know about and that process has fed into it as well.”
Did playing those longer DJ sets inspire the album’s relaxed pace?
“That’s definitely had an impact. The more experience I have DJing tends to change the pace of things. I like to have things develop and allow the tracks to tell their story. From a compositional point of view, if things are slower, from about 150-120bpm, it gives you a little more space to breathe. When you get to higher tempos you become a lot more constricted with what you can get away with.”
How do you go about finding those rare tracks for your sets?
“Discogs is a really good resource, but there’s absolutely no way of finding a bargain. It’s good for wasting hours browsing through endless catalogues. I live in London, so we’re spoilt here for good quality record stores. They’ll have a whole basement full of records and you can pick stuff out for a pound. 99 percent of the time there won’t be much going on but sometimes you’ll find something interesting.”
How does this all play into your idea of Slow Listening?
“As a concept, it’s about how we consume music and our relationship to the mediums of music. I’m not really interested in being all vinyl and no digital—I listen to and discover a lot of music online, but the good thing about records is they inherently restrict your attention. Unless you want to get up and down every two seconds, it’s difficult to switch between tracks. The format embodies a certain way of listening. The less things vying for attention, the more you can concentrate and engage better with the music.”
You’ve only released one music video in your career so far. Do visuals play any role in this?
“Visuals are really important. Even plain white label vinyl, which seems kind of anti-aesthetic, has an aesthetic in itself, so I don’t think there’s any way from escaping the visual element of it. One of the reasons people like LPs is the large-format artwork, so that’s an opportunity to do something that reflects the work or contrasts against the sound. From my perspective, I don’t tend to watch that many videos but I have had one made for one of the tracks off this album. It’s just about doing what’s appropriate.”
Apart from the video, what else are you doing in conjunction with the album?
“I’m just going to be playing and DJing all over. I’m going to States a couple times and going all over Europe. After that I’ll probably start working on music for later year, maybe a couple 12”s. DJing’s mainly the focus for now.”