We like a good chat at Ticket Arena, and so it was a pleasure to hear from London-based selector Alex Celler ahead of his show at Printworks on Saturday 8th April. Touching on topics including the influence of his family, early life in Greece and how music took him to some of the world’s best clubs, we were only too happy to feature Alex in our latest In Conversation piece. Here’s how it went down.
Hi Alex, hope you’re good. For those who haven’t come across you yet, how would you characterise your sound?
All good here, thank you. I like to think that I play House music, influenced by all kind of other genres. Jazz, Funk and Soul being my prominent influences and elements from further afield too. I like to blend sounds from the past with modern stuff and create unlikely connections between tracks of different genres. So, taking risks is part of my sound. I don't like to stick to a certain sound.
From what I’ve read, during the nineties and noughties your hometown Thessaloniki had a pretty vibrant underground music scene, but it was only when you moved to London that you fully embraced the electronic dance scene as an active participant. Would you say that your formative years in dance music were those in Greece or the UK?
Greece is a great place to be, one of the most beautiful places on earth. For holidays, a relaxing life, blue skies and good food that is. There wasn't much available information for me during the late 90s, early 00s in Greece unfortunately, other than listening to the big DJs spinnin' in the city regularly. That was my only source of inspiration, but being young and starting off I could only make so much out of it. The majority of the youth population back then was not into house, deep house or techno, but more into progressive house and trance, so it was hard to get an all around view about music. It was when I moved to London in 2004 and started listening to Craig Richards and Ricardo Villalobos at Room 1 in Fabric that I managed to fully form my taste.
Your career has seen you playing out at some massive venues down the years, with the likes of DC10, Amnesia and Underground in Ibiza, Fabric in London and Watergate in Berlin all in your scrapbook. Does the experience at clubs like these always match the reputation?
It all comes down to the specific night, the crowd, the vibe of the night, but generally the answer is yes. After all, those places have a reputation for a reason and they rarely fail to deliver!
You’re one of the friends recruited for Luciano’s party at Printworks London. How do you feel sharing a lineup with Luciano and Martin Buttrich?
It will be a great opportunity to be joining the guys at such a beautiful and edgy venue like Printworks, I am sure it’s going to be a blast.
Is there a difference in your eyes between playing a day party like the one at Printworks to playing a standard nighttime event?
I think the main difference is that during daytime people have more energy and more time to spend and party. Sometimes it’s hard to get friends to join on a long late night, so the daytime means more of them will be able to join and enjoy the vibe at Printworks.
You’ve got some minimal goodness coming out on PAL SL in the next week. Tell us about how the release came to be on Baby Ford’s label.
After I recorded & released my first EP ''Haz/Pacificon'' for Peter's label Trelik last year, I sent him another batch of tracks I made few years ago. Peter likes to take this time and listen carefully, something that I really appreciate; so when the time came he asked me if i was into releasing Feudade & Vis-a-Vis on his other, more Techno orientated imprint PAL SL. I am honored to have released in both of these seminal imprints, its a great opportunity to showcase my sound.
Given that your father owned a disco and both your parents were avid music collectors, was there ever a point where you have found a career in music unappealing?
Thankfully my parents were always there for me when it came to music. They saw my natural inclination to arts since i was young and I feel blessed that they embraced my passion and love for music. They saw it as a real potential for a career for me when they could have persisted that I study something more conventional to ''secure'' a future. On that note I can't say I have ever found a career a music unappealing, this is and was always what I wanted to do.
There is definitely a less glamourous side to professional DJing, with the constant travel and late nights in particular putting physical strain on your body. How do you stay sharp and prevent yourself from becoming disenchanted with the strenuous lifestyle?
This is true indeed. One needs to stay focused, get enough sleep, rest, eat well and try to lead a balanced lifestyle. It's not always easy but I find that taking the last flight to a gig always helps. You can get enough sleep the night before and then arrive there late and start your night late. So come the morning you’ll always have a later start and thus more energy left.
You’ve spoken a lot about Fabric having a profound impression on your career. Are there any other clubs that you feel a debt of gratitude to?
I would say that Fabric is the place I owe the most because it is the place that I grew up at, spent most weekends at and where I got educated musically. It is the place I learned the most by far. However, I have had some amazing nights listening to Masters and Work, Kerri Chandler and Todd Terry at Ministry of Sound, playing extremely authentic and original House music, so Ministry of Sound has taught me a lot too.
Let’s have some music to finish. Is there a track that you inherited from your parents’ collection that you would still play in clubs today?
I am pretty sure this was not something my parents were grooving to, but as my father run a disco and got a lot of promos, this gem ended up in his collection.
Alex plays at Printworks’ Luciano & Friends show this Saturday, with Martin Buttrich, Guti and Adam Shelton also in attendance.
Photo courtesy of Alex Celler