For the first IRL iteration of Record Store Recs since its launch in May 2020 to support record stores and artists during the pandemic, a few of the DJ/producers who played CRSSD Festival 2021 joined us at the Stellar Remnant popup. First up is London’s T.Williams, who began dropping grime records as a teen in 2001 and has continued to evolve his sound and create dancefloor bangers. These range from bass to breakbeat to a more classic house sound in recent years.
Sharing in the excitement of his first shows back, he shares his dance record selects with GRAMMY.com—along with his motivation to make music, what he thinks makes a great dance record, and more.
How’s your CRSSD going so far?
It’s going really good. I’ve just played and had a really great set. Actually, it’s my first festival back, so very special moment. I’m appreciating this moment, to be in a festival, to be around people and all the rest of it. I’m just so gassed. I’m having a really, really, really good day.
Yes! Any other sets you’re trying to check out while you’re here?
I wanted to check out Mood II Swing, but I missed it just now.
But Kerri Chandler, for sure. I’m a 100 percent big, massive fan of Kerry, I’ve got loads of his records, all the rest of it. And any opportunity I get to see him playing, I’ll take that. So hopefully I’ll get to see him today. Maybe Dennis Ferrer and Cassy, as well. That will be dope. And Moodymann, of course.
T.Williams shops Stellar Remnant pop-up at CRRSD | Photo: Ana Monroy Yglesias
When you’re digging—like you just were—what are you usually looking for when you pick out records?
When I’m usually looking for records, it’s two-tiered in my head. So, there’s one tier which is something I’m actually going to play in a set. It might be classic. It might be new, whatever it is. I’m now on a very specific sound of classic house, U.K. garage, the mixture between the two. That moment we would play those U.S. songs sped up in the U.K.
And, yeah, just going back to my heritage of the ’90s, also people in the U.K. that influenced me. People like Matt “Jam” Lamont, the whole Tuff Jam thing. Also MJ Cole, even back to MK, these guys that really influenced me in the ’90s and that sound. So, that’s one thing that I’m looking for.
And then, on the other hand, I’ve also got my producer hat on and am thinking about things that I can sample. If there’s a really nice kick or really nice break or something that’s in a track, or a label I know that released some really cool stuff back in the day. It could be something ambient I take from it or whatever it is by just looking in those two tiers.
And then I’ve forgotten to say there’s a third tier of this; just something that’s rare. I might look at this record and I see that it’s rare and I see it in a used section and that it might be a little bit cheaper. It doesn’t happen too often now, because we have Discogs and people know they can just look at Discogs as it’s coming in.
But every now and again, you might find something. That used to be a really big thing for me between 2011 and 2017 when I was touring really heavily, I would really be going to record shops and really looking. Going to secondhand and new record shops and just looking for those bits that are really rare and getting a deal, of course, and then looking for bits that are new and interesting and from local people.
Before you could get it all on Discogs…
Before Discogs was the hype. In that period, before Discogs—I really appreciate Discogs for this—my records that I would’ve released and my aliases, when I was a kid and making grime music and stuff like that, people were basically throwing those records away, at one point. But now, on Discogs, those records are really rare.
The big ones, we would’ve sold like eight, 9,000 of those. The really raw ones, you would’ve sold 500, so there’s only 500 out there in the world. And so, now, seeing those on Discogs going for 80 to a hundred and all that, I really love that. It warms my soul to know that now those records are getting seen as valued.
Ultimately, I’m always thankful for it, but then also I get a raw end of the stick now where a record that I wanted when I was a kid, now has a lot of value in it. Some of them are quite expensive—two-step garage, house music, grime as well.
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Let’s talk about what records you got. Tell us what you got and why you picked it out; either for the artist or if you know the track.
Mr. G, Inner Soul Talkin’ EP (2021)
All right. So, this one I’m looking at right now is Mr. G’s Inner Soul Talkin’ EP. I’ve been told it’s new, it’s fresh, and I always try to keep up with what Mr. G’s doing. Straight off the bat, Mr. G is an artist that I really appreciate. Another U.K. guy, he’s part of the heritage in itself.
And I really look up to him, as another Black brother from the U.K. doing his thing and has been doing his thing for a very long time, just nothing but respect, nothing but love. Musically, I can’t go wrong with Mr. G, to be fair. He’s just always so important and [his music] always feels like a one-take situation, which I love as well.
I’m really in the studio, really getting back into doing one-takes and just like rolling the gear out and just letting it roll. Mr. G’s been the guy for that. When he plays live, sometimes he does that as well. I’m excited to hear exactly what’s on this EP.
Bicep, Isles (2021)
Number two is Bicep, Isles. So Bicep, again, are some boys that I’ve really seen go from strength to strength in the U.K.
Really cool story. I played after them at a festival in the U.K. called Secret Garden Party, where the pagoda is the most amazing stage. Basically, they have this statue thing in the middle of the water, and then they burn it up at the end of the festival. So dope. If you get to play the sunset set, that happens during your set. I played that set, so it was a really special time.
Bicep played before me. Super dope guys, lovely to me. They were on their way in [to the industry] at this point in time, this was probably 2013 or 2014, so really early for them. So, this one’s a bit special, in that respect. Just seeing these guys really kill it, releasing on one of the coolest labels from the UK industry as well, Ninja Tune. Amazing stuff.
T.Williams holds Gherkin Jerks record | Photo: Ana Monroy Yglesias
Gherkin Jerks, 1990 (1989)
The gentleman who runs Stellar Remnant, Ed, really sold this one to me. It’s a Larry Heard [aka Gherkin Jerks aka Mr. Fingers…] reissue from 1989. He really sold it to me saying, “You know, it’s a reissue and the money’s going to the right person.”
We were talking about people getting taken advantage of by Trax Records from back in the day—really controversial. So of course, I said, “Let me check it out. Let me actually support the cause and get involved; get something from Larry Heard where the money’s going to go back to Larry Heard.”
Gemini, Gemini Traxx Part One (1995)
Similar vibe here. I actually just picked this out because I just love Chiwax artwork and label in itself. Again, it’s going to be a reissue as well—of Gemini. And what’s on here? “If You Got To Believe In Something,” “Joker,” “Don’t U Know” and “Psychosis.” “All tracks written and produced by Spencer Kincy [aka Gemini].” Not very familiar. I’m not going to pretend like I am. Chiwax, I’ll take it.
Funkmaster Flex, Sad And Blue (1993)
So this is probably one of those ones which is basically from that other headspace of “Maybe there might be something really cool to sample on here.” There might be a dub that I’m really into. It’s Funkmaster Flex, one side is “Sad And Blue,” the other side is “6 Million Ways To Die.”
We have five tracks on one side of the record. That’s perfect. Instrumental dubs one, two, and three, then a vocal and an instrumental. This is a perfect example of a record that I would buy just to figure out if there are any samples in there, something cool going on, which I’m sure there will be. There’s a lot going on here. I can guarantee I will find something cool to take from this. So I picked it up, basically, to sample.
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You got a good mix there. What do you think makes a great dance track?
You know what? This has really changed over the years and I’m really in a [different] space now. So you’re getting the T. Williams out-of-lockdown version. [Chuckles.] What I think really makes a great dance track, now, for me is that the artist has put their feelings and emotions and whatever their headspace is into that piece of music.
It’s about someone really connecting to the music, really connecting to their truth in itself. And that’s just the space that I’m in right now. This is where I’m really at. I’ve come through a journey where maybe certain acts that I came through with, we know what we can do to make a popular dance track. And what I feel makes a great dance track is living in your truth and actually presenting something that is representative of you and who you are.
“What I feel makes a great dance track is living in your truth and actually presenting something that is representative of you and who you are.”
You’ve processed some emotions and some stuff through that music and you can feel it on the other end.
Exactly. That, for me, [is great] when that shines through. I’ve been in a few sessions since I’ve been here in the States, and I’ve been talking about how maybe there isn’t enough spoken about certain people’s emotions that are embedded in dance music itself.
Yes, it works very well on the dancefloor and all the rest of it. But a lot of the [dance] music is coming from African Americans, Black music in itself, and a lot of it comes from pain, from suffering. So of course, that suffering and that pain are embedded in that music. And sometimes it’s escapism, sometimes it is just that raw feeling of, like, “Well, we don’t have much, so we’re going to create this music.” And that always shines through. we always connect with that raw feeling and emotion. And that’s what I feel makes a great dance track.
And it goes back to me and my heritage of grime music where I didn’t have money for a computer. I was borrowing my brother’s computer. I had to make something in a very short period of time. I was literally just making it sitting on the floor of my uncle’s ex-girlfriend’s flat with headphones in, and I sold 8,000 copies of that out of the back of a car. There’s something to be said about that raw emotion of how I create something in that moment.
And it wasn’t from a space of me knowing exactly how to make a track. It wasn’t from a space of me knowing or having the greatest musical theory, just from a space of trying to embed my emotions in that and connect with other people via that emotion. The emotion and living in your truth.
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How do you usually approach a festival set versus a club set? We could use last night and today [at CRSSD] as an example.
So you’ve got to think in terms of it being a different time a day, for sure. And I guess people are more open to hearing classic, fun stuff in a festival, especially in a setting like this. So today I played some really classic, fun vocal stuff. Whereas I played two sets last night, one at 11:30 ’til one in the side room, and then I played another set from two to three a.m. in the main room. So, to approach it, it’s just to think about where the headspace is of everyone at that point in time. Of course, we have to take into account the level of intoxication [of the crowd].
So, today I played early, so people aren’t so intoxicated. They’re walking in [to the fest]; the sun’s shining. I always approach it based on how I might feel in that moment as I’m walking into that space and how my friends and I were, in that moment. Ultimately, by the level of intoxication and the time of day and what the surroundings are like. Last night was a really dark room. So again, you’re in that space where you’re trying to feel out the room and trying to fill it out with music that makes sense, like dark ambient.
You’ve produced a lot of different styles of music. How would you describe your sound?
My sound now, for the T.Williams project, is probably getting closer and closer back to straight-up U.K. house, which is influenced by Chicago house and New York house. And of course, there’s always a little zhuzh and a little element of London in there with the bass music. So a little bit of grime, a little bit jungle, always a little something embedded in there from those genres, as well.
What is most inspiring you to make music right now?
You’re asking me this question at a weird time. I’m not really feeling that inspired if I’m being honest. I miss the club spaces, I miss being at festivals, I missed all of this stuff. So I struggled. Some people really flew away in the pandemic and were feeling really inspired by having the time. I was feeling super uninspired.
I was in a space where I just haven’t really been creating. I’m just getting back into that inspired space where I’m going to hear music loud, seeing people dancing, seeing people dressed up, all the rest of it. And this is what has always inspired me. It’s always been about me making music for a club space, me making music for a dancefloor, and now I’m getting back that thing.
So, I was really uninspired. I’m slowly creeping back. And that’s literally what has inspired me throughout time. I’ve been making music since I was 12 years old. It’s been a long time, but this was the first time that there wasn’t that club space. This today is an inspiration.
I mean, it makes sense.
Yeah. As I said, most artists went one way or the other. It was like, either you were super inspired by the moment and really going ham. Or it was, like me, and I’ve just been going back through my record collection and seeing everything for what it was and having that time to just dig through and listen to music, to be a fan of it again.
Ultimately, I missed that. I was missing that in the moment. Because everything was work, work, work, work, go, go, go, go. So I guess in a way, it was a great time to just reconnect with music on a fan level, but that wasn’t spurring me on to get back in the studio. It was just spurring me on to just listen more and just be a fan more, which I’m now in a space where I’m happy. And now I’ve got all of that stuff that could inspire me going forward.
Do you have any other like upcoming or recent releases that you have your eye on picking up?
No. I’ll be honest, there’s nothing out there, particularly, that I want to buy that’s coming out. But I am in the process of collecting all the jungle records. I was a little bit young for jungle and jungle bass in the ’90s, the early stuff, between ’92 to maybe ’94, ’95.
So I’m in the process of being online, collecting all of that stuff and paying big money for it, paying over the odds for something that, if I was old enough, I could have got for $3.50, $4.50. But I’m that guy. I’m just digging for loads of classic stuff at the moment and just hoping that things come through.
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