The Brit house DJ/producer Julio Bashmore, AKA Mathew Walker, presented one of 2015’s most acclaimed dance albums in Knockin’ Boots. But, while it made ‘best of the year’ lists in the UK, the album didn’t blow up on a Disclosure-like scale. Not that Walker worried.
The mysterious Bristol native, currently based in London, rarely grants interviews. Yet today he’s apparently down. Walker is returning to playtghe illustrious Bacardi Boiler Room at the upcoming Sugar Mountain 2016, Melbourne’s curated music and arts “summit”, where he’ll headline the Boiler Room stage. Also on the bill are Hot Chip, Kelela and, from New York, fellow DJ Tim Sweeney. “I actually just saw today – I looked at my calendar and I was like, Oh shit, I’m going to Australia soon!,” Walker declares. “I hadn’t really checked out who I’m playing with. Who is playing?” The DJ enthuses over one name in particular: “I’d love to see Kelela – she’s fab.”
As the fest blurb states, Walker is “a true house maverick”. He was exposed to club culture by an older DJ brother. Walker, who plays (hard rock!) guitar in addition to keys, gigged in bands, only to be lured back into dancedom. Growing up in Knowle, near Tricky’s old ‘hood, Walker might have gravitated to the dominant dubstep. But he was always more enamoured of Daft Punk’s vintage house, circa 1997’s Homework. Walker emerged as the deep house revival was underway. The novice was then making UK Funky – “a short-lived” and “weird” phenom, straddling house, garage and Afrobeat – but he was tagged “bass house”. The self-described “ginger bloke” chose the exotic handle of “Julio Bashmore” for its comic confusion. It sounds like an Armand van Helden alias.
Watch: Julio Bashmore – Holding On
Walker’s eponymous EP appeared on Claude VonStroke’s San Francisco tech-house label dirtybird in 2009. His major breakthrough occurred two years on with Battle For Middle You. The blog fave launched his own imprint, Broadwalk Records, airing the acid-inspired anthem Au Sève. Meanwhile, Walker connected with up-and-coming vocalist Jessie Ware, the pair sharing management. Their steez was that of a UK Timbaland and Aaliyah. “I think that’s what we kind of wished we had,” Walker chortles.
They crafted music in Walker’s bedroom at his parents’ house. “My Mum would be popping in every half-hour with a cup of tea or whatever.” The Walker-helmed Running and 110% (later If You’re Never Gonna Move) gave Ware her first cult hits. Ware’s debut, Devotion, heralded as post-dubstep soul, subsequently cracked the UK Top 5 – and was nominated for the Mercury Prize.
If early on Walker expressed doubts about recording his own album, he changed his mind. For Knockin’ Boots, Walker, increasingly ambivalent about the polished (deep) house in the charts, determined to cut a streetwise, authentic, song-oriented album. Knockin’ Boots is expansively retro-nuevo – being drenched in soul, funk and disco. Most surprisingly, it sees him resurrecting French house – or filtered disco. Walker sought lesser-known vocalists such as London divette J’Danna, Texan polymath Seven David Jr, and South African MC OkMalumKoolKat. Nonetheless, Knockin’ Boots has spawned big singles – notably Holding On with Chicago’s Sam Dew.
Walker is gratified with the reception. “It’s been great. I’ve been doing this [music] for six years now, so it’s pretty crazy to be dropping an album and everyone seems to like it. So I must be doing something right.”
Watch: Julio Bashmore – Simple Love
Knockin’ Boots received little promotion from Sony – even in Australia, where Walker has a profile. He should be as huge as Duke Dumont. Still, with their arty computer graphics, Walker’s videos underscore his reluctance to play the pop star. “It’s a funny one. I don’t know if everyone wants this, but one thing that I’ve always wanted is just to be in my own lane and to make the music that I make, that sounds like me – and [have] people connect with that. Whether it blows up big or whether it’s lowkey, to be honest, I’m fine with either, ’cause I’ve had both of [those experiences] throughout most of my career. I mean, not on the level of Duke Dumont – he’s crazy big – but I guess with tracks like Au Sève. I’ve had the hype – like, sizzling hype – and that’s intense. That’s really, really intense. I think that happened to me so young that it was quite hard. You have real ups and downs that come with that. But I feel like now, six years on, I’m prepared to deal with whatever comes my way… But, at the same time, I’m ambitious. I want to take things as far as they’ll go – whatever that means.”
Walker now recognises the value of LPs. “I’d definitely do another one. You get to paint a really broad picture. I think I’m pretty typical of an electronic musician where I like to show my personality with my music. With the album, you get to share quite a lot with people and, from doing that, people picked up on the vibe of what I’m about.”
Watch: Julio Bashmore – Peppermint (Ft. Jessie Ware)
Conspicuously absent from Knockin’ Boots is Ware – although she sang on Walker’s 2014 jam Peppermint. Walker produced a non-single, Keep On Lying, on Ware’s sophomore, Tough Love. However, the soulstress has forged a new alliance with BenZel – comprised of US super-producer Benny Blanco and London’s Two Inch Punch. Walker doesn’t say if he’ll work with Ware again. But, he volunteers, “we’ve never fallen out.” And, citing Nile Rodgers as a role model, he’d like more production gigs. “I think that’s quite a logical step, really.” Walker exquisitely remixed the late Bobby Womack’s Love Is Gonna Lift You Up.
Walker won’t abandon the decks any time soon. “I fuckin’ love DJing,” he blurts out. Even here, Walker is treading his own path. The UK dance scene has led the way globally with its deeper, housier influences seeping through US EDM culture. But deep house has been rinsed, Walker feels. He has other interests. “There’s a sense of open-mindedness that’s coming at the moment in dance music. The last couple of years there was a lot of pressure to play that whole UK ‘deep house thing’, which I’ve never really gone along with in my DJing and stuff, but I have felt that pressure to do that. I’m just playing whatever I want, really – always with the aim to make sure people have a good time. But, at the moment, I can take more risks and people get a vibe off that.”
At Sugar Mountain expect anything from classic house to acid to worldbeat. And there will be some UK Funky. Walker is hoping that, if grime can come back, his beloved UK Funky can. He sighs, “I don’t know if it will. I mean, it definitely will, but is 2016 the year? I’m not sure. But I’m playing it and people are liking it, so we’ll see.”
Julio Bashmore will be playing at Sugar Mountain Festival 2016, grab all the deets and ticket links below!
Sugar Mountain Festival 2016 Lineup
Harvey Sutherland & Bermuda
City Calm Down
Sampa the Great
Research & Development
Sugar Mountain Festival 2016 Art Program
NONOTAK (Japan/France – world premiere)
Daniel Askill (Aust. exclusive)
fuse* (Italy – Aust. exclusive)
Yahna Fookes x Martha Zakarya
Prue Stent x Honey Long x Clare Longley
Sugar Mountain Festival 2016
Saturday, 23rd January 2016
Victorian College Of The Arts, Melbourne (18+)
Summer Dance of 2016
Sunday, 24th January 2016
National Art School in Darlinghurst Sydney
Tickets: Summer Dance