When speaking of House-Music the name Charles Webster is inevitable, but that only depicts one musical side of the British DJ and producer who currently lives in South Africa and loves to dedicate himself to downtempo and jazz music as well. The Miso-Records-label head worked or remixed artists such as Dennis Ferrer, Phonique or Fish Go Deep, released on labels like Defected, Strictly Rhythm,Freerange, Sonar Kollektiv, Dessous or Buzz’n Fly and is responsible for one of House music’s instant classics: Justin Martin ‘Sad Piano (Charles Webster Remix)‘. Additionally the artist released his much anticipated album ‘Born On The 24th Of July’ at the beginning of the noughties and delivered further underground hits like his remix for Logan’s tune ‘Flash’. Shortly before the completion if his new album Torture the Artist had the chance to chat with Charles.
Torture the Artist: Charles, tell us something about your day.
Charles Webster: It’s been a nice day as the summer is coming here in Cape Town and I am very much of a summer person when making music. I am now 90% finished with my new album as all the tracks are written, so the timing is perfect for me. The album is at the mixing stage with 3 tracks done and 7 more to go.
Torture the Artist: Where does the preference for remixing come from?
Charles Webster: I have done a lot indeed as I get asked to do a lot of remixes, but I have also made a lot of my own records. And since I also release music under different aliases, it may be that some of my releases are not noticed.
It is a constant juggling act between getting paid for work and staying true to one’s creative goals
Torture the Artist: Is it possible to be truly creative while pursuing commercial ambitions?
Charles Webster: Yes, I think so, although it is a constant juggling act between getting paid for work and staying true to one’s creative goals. Usually, I feel that I can satisfy this issue in my work. I’ve never really compromised my creative output for the sake of getting a higher payout. It’s a dangerous game, as you risk losing your fan-base. For me, it’s very important to stay true to myself when I make music, as I consider it an honest self-expression that shouldn’t be tainted by the lure of money.
Keeping too much of the original means it is not creative enough, whilst not using enough of it comes across as arrogant, lazy or just pointless.
Torture the Artist: What’s the challenge of creating a remix?
Charles Webster: Well, apart from making a really good piece of music, the goal is to either be improving on the original or taking it into a new direction, to a new market. It’s important to keep strong elements of the original track being remixed whilst also stamping your own mark on the production. After all, that is why the artist or label has asked for the remix. Keeping too much of the original means it is not creative enough, whilst not using enough of it comes across as arrogant, lazy or just pointless. The challenge for me, like everything in life, lies in striking the right balance.
I guess you can never tell which track is going to capture people’s imagination.
Torture the Artist: Which track or remix made you further your career?
Charles Webster: I can name quite a few that have been important to me. ’Better Day’, ’Soothe’, ‘Sweet Butterfly’, ’Ready’, ’Cafe de Flore’, ’La Mezcla’, ’Sad Piano’ is probably the most popular, although there are many of them. It always surprises me when people pick out random remixes that I did years ago or very recently and name them as their favourites. I guess you can never tell which track is going to capture people’s imagination.
Torture the Artist: As you studied ‘Art’ in Derby, England, how has the theoretical approach that comes with academic studies influenced your own artistic output?
Charles Webster: I have a huge interest in both visual arts as well as music. Painting, film and photography all have an influence on my music.
Torture the Artist: Do you consider yourself an artist?
Charles Webster: Of course!
Torture the Artist: If you could be an artist in any time period in history, when would it be, and why?
Charles Webster: I would love to have been Goya. He lived through terrible times yet he had such a passion for documenting the things happening around him. His pieces of art are amazing in recording history. Another one would be Andy Warhol. What exciting times!
I can certainly say I’ve inherited my love for Kraftwerk from my mother.
Torture the Artist: Which record from your parents’ collection would you consider sampling in one of your future productions, and why?
Charles Webster: I have many records from when I was a child. My parents were very interested in music and had quite a wide taste ranging from jazz to folk, through to electronic. I can certainly say I’ve inherited my love for Kraftwerk from my mother. Although I’m not a big user of samples, I take a lot of influence from my parents’ record collection. Amongst them were MJQ, Dylan, Carole King etc., all these are artists that have shaped my musical genetics. That being said, I would love to work with one of the great folk singer/songwriters such as Natalie Merchant, Rickie Lee Jones or Joni Mitchel.
Torture the Artist: Does the way you DJ differ when you wear a certain outfit or style for a gig? (e.g.: all dressed up in a suit and tie or wearing all black clothes).
Charles Webster: Yes, sometimes I do like to wear a suit to DJ, or shorts and sandals when I’m on the beach as it really changes the way I mix and affects the selection in a positive way.
Torture the Artist: What’s the best lie you’ve come up with in your life?