We had a chat with head of Tribe Records and producer Zepherin Saint to discuss his influences, Tribe Records and living in London. Read what he had to say below.
How would you describe your sound?
We can hear a lot of different influences in your music: what is your favourite artist and why?
It’s hard to for me to pick one artist, but if I can look at pivotal moments when I discovered someone that had a huge impact it would be these two gentlemen.
Larry Heard is the reason I wanted to make house music when I first heard him in 1987. I was captivated by his songs, effortless production, chord progressions and use of sounds. The fact that he would release so many styles, vocal, acid, instrumental has always influenced me as I like being free to produce all the variant styles under House music that moves me.
I tend to gravitate to songs with meanings and purpose so when I first heard Upside down from Fela Kuti it blew my mind. His style of arranging, drawing you into the groove with horn and percussion arrangements is hypnotising, then he hits you with lyrics that brought a whole new meaning to the first 8 mins you just heard. Bliss.
London can be considered as Europe’s capital of music even if the UK are set to leave after Brexit referendum: how is this going to change the industry in the City?
Without knowing what is really going to happen it’s hard to say, however the multicultural spirit that came to London from Europe in the 80’s and 90’s was great for the club and music industry, so my hope is at least this can continue.
Regardless of Brexit, London has changed a great deal already. There is a lack of support towards creative industries and individuals, in addition to club culture and live music not being respected as growing industries to support not close-down.
How do you see all this Brexit stuff, more?
Shambles! It’s been 2 years since the referendum and we still do not know what is happening with Brexit. There is a failure of leadership from the conservative government that has left families and businesses in the UK worse off. There has been nothing mentioned about those hardworking Europeans who contributed towards the country’s economy for decades, if indeed they will be allowed to stay.
I voted to stay in the EU and right now the UK is in limbo. It’s a shame that the next generation may not have the possibility to explore the rest of Europe freely as I have been able to.
It’s done now, and I will be very surprised if we get another referendum to challenge the decision. The government is spending too much time arguing with themselves rather than trying to find a deal that works for everyone.
Can you tell us a bit about the label, Tribe? What’s in a name and what was behind your motivation to start it in the first place?
Having worked for record labels, I knew I would start one., it was just a matter of when. The right time came nine years ago when I had been made redundant and with some great music in hand that was unsigned I decided to finally take the chance at starting a label.
I did not feel at the time there were enough labels supporting a high standard of releases when it came to songs and musicianship. It seemed to have been lost when it came to House and there was a saturation of quantity over quality. I wanted the label to produce artists and songs not just tracks. There was a lot of music at the time I was playing that was not getting signed so I signed and put out music I loved first rather than thinking about what would create a good return in sales.
When it came to the name, I wanted a name that summed up how I felt about House music. Since the beginning for me, it’s always felt like this unique tribe bringing people together no matter their race, financial status, sexual preference or locality. As soon as we met we were all and still are one. So, I first had a motto before the name, One sound, One people, One Tribe.
And same question with Zepherin Saint. Are you saintly in any way?
The only saintly thing about me is where I am originally from St Lucia. Zepherin is my actual name.
OH! I have been known to help little old ladies across the road.… Does that count?
Your music seems to maintain a positive aesthetic. Is this something you’re conscious of? Or more just a case of the music you love making?
For sure I am a fan of positive lyrics. I like a song to have a deeper message. It translates to the dancefloor in a meaningful way other than “oh baby I love you”, not a fan of generic lyrics.
The thought that someone can be inspired or even healed in some small way from words, solo’s or percussive rhythms for me is reason for music. Music is powerful and I make it my aim to create music that truly connects with people.
How long have you been a full-time musician and at what stage did you realise it was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
When I started playing the drums at age 8, I knew then, that all I wanted to do was music.
It was all I focussed on throughout my teenage years and signed my first deal when I was 17 to Jack trax records in London who had just released Fingers inc debut album.
I thought I had made it lol, however, there was not enough income for me to go full time, but I stayed within the industry working for Black Market Record store, Azuli Records and opened a commercial recording studio. But, I would say the last 9 years has seen me more focused on being a producer and running the label full time.
So, what do you reckon you would have done had you not been a musician?
I consider myself more a music producer nowadays than a musician. There are people who play far better than I can. I like the idea of motivating others, coaching and I think this would have been a natural direction for me outside of music. Who knows, it may still be in my future.
Can you tell us a bit about your future and what you’ve got coming up?
Next year will be Tribes 10th Anniversary so we are busy making plans for our compilation and a series of events to mark the occasion.
Last year we started The Lost Compilation series with ‘The Dub I lost “that featured tracks on the label that remained unreleased. Included dubs and edits from Ron Trent, Larry heard, Danny Krivit to name a few. “The soul I lost’ is the next edition and features a collection of soul driven house that remain unreleased that I have been playing in my sets from Louie Vega, DJ Spinna and Dj Beloved.
Studio wise, I am working on a project that is completely live and downtempo in parts featuring musicians from Mali fusing indigenous instrumentation with electronic sounds. This is very exciting for me, as it presents new challenges and takes me out of my comfort zone which is important to consistently do.
This summer I will be in the studio with vocalists Sara Devine and Monique Bingham working on new material for release late 2018.
Every year I team up with Tambor party and put on an Annual cruise called Tribe Tambor Cruise where we invite our Dj mates and house music lovers from around the globe to join us on a trip to the Caribbean Sea and islands for five days celebrating house music non-stop. We have just launched the 2019 cruise which will take us to Cozumel Mexico.
If you had the chance to have dinner with a legend from the past, who would you pick and why?
Jimi Hendrix. We don’t know enough about him and his magic.
What do you suggest to a guy who wants to start a career as a Dj?
Be yourself and play the music that truly resonates with you.
Zepherin Saint & Miranda Nicole – Butterflies is out now on Tribe Records. Buy it here.