Ex-Squatter Alex Powell is behind Untidy’s Zander Club signing. Not only is he signed to the label he has also been snapped up by the newly launched Tidy Management. We caught up with him to talk about this latest chapter in his life…
Alex, welcome to the Untidy Collective! You are no stranger to house music are you being one half of the infamous Squatters. How does the music you make now differ from then?
In fact, My music now takes more influence from The Squatters days than anything else. Not in the sounds I am making, but in a way that I have thrown all the rules out of the window without limiting myself with boundaries, sticking to certain sounds and methods. I am back in a super creative frame of mind like I used to be when myself and Oli started The Squatters. It’s taken me years to be able to find that creative freedom again. The saying “The more you know, the worse off you are” is so true when it comes to producing music. I’m now a mastering engineer by trade and there was a point where perfection overshadowed creativity for a long time.
Now, I have learned to separate the two mindset’s and be creative, then be critical later. It’s really refreshing to write music I love with nothing but vibes I feel will flow and I’m super grateful Tidy see something in my output. The Zander Club sound is a fusion of fast tech house beats, techno baselines, French house looped samples and old skool licks and stabs. But that could change track by track as I never want to be a 1 trick pony.
Aside from music production and DJing what else do you do within the music industry?
For the last 7 years, I have shifted from the main stage to behind the scenes. I am very grateful to have made a career in the shadows of the dance music industry working for Label Worx, the worlds biggest distributor of electronic music. My role there has evolved over the years through business management, Artist Manager, Mastering Engineer to now spearheading our new Mixtank project which is an educational platform that spans all genres of electronic music. From D&B to House Music, we film masterclasses with some of the worlds leading artists so new producers can learn from their idols. This is something I’m very passionate about, as when I started producing 17 years ago, I didn’t even have YouTube. So to be part of something that gives aspiring producers a chance to learn from their influences and also earn revenue for artists that have had a tough time during Lockdown is something I’m very proud of.
As The Squatters you have admitted you were tech geeks and had the ultimate studio setup with a wide array of hardware. You have toned this down somewhat, why?
I learned a valuable lesson through my journey with The Squatters, and that was… master your tools. We spent so much money buying synths and hardware chasing the sound of other producers and still couldn’t get as good as them. We had a ton of keyboard, rack gear and achieved very little using it in comparison to what we spent. Listening to old Guyver and Lee Haslam TidyTwo releases I was convinced I needed a Nord Lead and an Access Virus, later to have found it was all done in FL Studio with it’s built in synths.
When I started to learn about mixing and mastering, I learned it’s all down to the right sounds, the right placement and good EQing. Over the years this has made me learn a few solid tools and I now write and mix the best music I have only ever worked on using a MacBook, Some Yamaha HS-5’s and a UAD Soundcard. I can now write anything, anywhere and it has been quite empowering and has allowed me to have endless creativity without feeling I need to be in my studio with all my gear.
Tell us ow the Zander Club EP on Untidy came about?
It was purely accidental really. I started writing my new vibe under this name and had my first release on Sense Traxx which is a cool “heads” London based label my mate runs, which is a lot more French House / fast Disco than my newer productions. I sent this to Mr Townend just having a catch up through lockdown and he loved it. We had a chat and I wrote two tracks in a couple of days and fired them over to the Tidy crew. They loved it and signed them both. The rest is yet to come!
There are two cracking pieces of music on there… what was the influence behind them?
In all honestly… The fact Tidy asked me to make something with my vibe for them, was enough inspiration for me to sit and write these tunes. It’s amazing to be part of something that fuelled my love for music at an early age and have the backing of the brand I saw as my clubbing church when I was younger! My first legal rave I went to when I hit 18 was to see The Tidy Boys at The Welly in Hull! As I have progressed working behind the scenes I have worked with Tidy on various other things such as Mastering their CD compilations at Label Worx, but never thought I would become one of their artists. And now couldn’t be any better time for it to happen!
Do you feel you have found your comfort zone within house music now?
Absolutely. I write completely different music under my own name as Alex Powell which is dark, proggy, breaksy, melodic kind of vibe, and fun happy party stuff as Zander Club. I guess it’s a reflection of my mind and how I am at times and it’s great to channel that in to music. As cliché as it sounds, I’m fuelling my productions by my emotions and it’s the most comfortable I have every felt in the studio writing.
You are now signed to Tidy Management, what opportunities do you think this will bring you in the future?
Firstly I will say to any upcoming artists. Management doesn’t make you. Management only works if you can’t manage your self and you are already proactive at making music and dealing with your affairs. It’s great to be managed by Tidy as Lee actually used to manage me as The Squatters, and I already understand my role to make the whole machine to turn as a team. As long as I can keep making music that resonates with Tidy and our fans, it could lead anywhere. I mean… two Billionaires went to space within the space of 2 weeks… Who knows where we can go with this sound, a great team behind not just me but a super cool and talented bunch of artists signed to Tidy Management.
Now normality has resumed to a certain extent, where do things go from here with Untidy?
While being responsible and exercising caution with the Delta X variant taking people I know that are far too young. Hopefully to places where people can feel free again and enjoy good people and good music. I want to be in the middle of it!
Big thanks for taking your time to speak with me Johnny. You’re a legend x
The Zander Club EP is released on Untidy Trax on Friday 30th July and you will be able to stream or buy it from all the usual platforms. Pre-order your copy from Beatport here.