Archive Monthly Archives: July 2017

Meet Simon Watkins aka Saffaboy

Who are you?  I have been a DJ for well over 25 years now. I started producing my own stuff about two years ago and have not looked back since! I spend as much time as I can producing- on the train, during my lunch hour, over the weekends basically whenever I have a few minutes spare you will find me plugged in.  

Tell us about your and your background in dance music? I originally started out as a radio presenter back in the mid 90's in South Africa. Rave had just hit the scene and I covered (for the radio station) most of the big parties that took place at that time. I had the privilege of interviewing Tony De Vit watching Carl Cox mix on 3 decks up close, met Frankie Knuckles and many other great memories from that time.

 I decided to move to the UK in 1998 but could not find any work as a radio presenter. So I decided to lock myself in a friends basement in London for 4 months and teach myself to mix using vinyl and an old Gemini 626 mixer. In those days it was all about hard house! Following that I left the UK to go travelling and ended up playing in Thailand - Indonesia and Australia. I landed up back in the UK where I played professionally and promoted gigs in one of the best towns in the U.K. For dance culture and live music: Brighton that is where I find myself today- not playing professionally any more but I do get out at least once a month - the DJ bug never lets go 🙂  

 Describe your skill level as a producer? I would say that I am at an intermediate level. My skill set improves all the time. To quote one of my favorite producers: Maceo Plex: " Make a lot of shit music and you will eventually start to make good music" I have made a lot of crap music! I am happy to say that I have started to turn a corner and every next tune I make is better than the last one! 

 Where did you look for production related tips and tutorials before finding the Underground Elite course and I am a course junky! I have used : Producer Tech / Sonic Academy / Fader Pro and loads of you tube videos in the past. 

 What was/is your #1 sticking point? My number one sticking point was moving away from what I call clip based production and using midi to create my own sounds and patterns. 

 How has the course helped you over come it? The course cut through the noise and uncertainty by being a no BS one stop shop to finishing music quickly whilst achieving great sound. 

 How long did it used to take you to complete a track? It used to take ages to finish tunes mostly because of procrastination and self doubt. 

 How long are tracks taking you now? I knock them out super quick now. I have a six month release schedule of tunes all ready to go. With at least 3 more in the pipeline. My main focus right now is getting the social media stuff in order to increase my followers and fan base. 

 How has the course save you time, money, or frustration? The price was super reasonable and Eric is always on hand to answer any questions and feedback that I have. Being on hand to discuss is what sets this course aside. I haven't done another course since this one and have completed at least 4 records in a couple of months. 

 Can you name 3 other things, good, bad about your experience? Good: very informative and easy to understand. Bad: not having access to all of the plugins! 

 Is there anything that stands out that you'd want others to know? Do the course spend a little money and you will get so much more in return! Hands on help and weekly updates with plenty of useful free stuff that will assist you to make better music quicker! 


Here's a track Simon recently finished. Check it out.


the weekly wrap up

Here are some news items I didn't want you to miss.

Coyu drops more truth bombs stating that DJ sets today are too niche focused and that breaking out of one's box limits growth and creativity.

I agree, there's not much of a journey in 1-6 hour sets where DJ's stick to what they are known for.   Personally I'm not a fan of hearing a DJ play for multiple hours in what sounds like them piecing together multiple hours of their pod casts.  

In a other 3-5 years, the game will change again.  Trends are cyclical.  

Read Coyu's stuff here.



Here;s some long raw footage of Larry Levan giving advice to new DJs. 


Keeping It Simple

Dosem and Hollen share studio footage.  Less is more.  You don't need racks of analog gear and a room full of gadgets.



Make techno chords with Form by native Instruments. 


Get Booked

Tips from DDJTips.  Yes, you have to promote and get your social shizz in order.



"...working towards releasing an album.
Four tracks done... Two more just about finished.


Till next time.

the weekly wrap up July 14

Here's what caught my eyes this week.

In defense of lazyness - this is an article about sports and how some athletes with better genes have a natural ability to recover fast from intense workouts.  Obviously this is an advantage - in addition to other talents.  Give this a read and apply it to your music making and professional lives.  I say that because it's a slap in the face to the "work hard" "hustle' mentality that's so popular right now.

Everyone says they work hard but what does that really mean?  How do you define do you know you're really working hard.

People love to believe that "working hard" will get them success while failing to acknowledge  the role that luck, and timing play.  And you see the reward for hard work play it self out in things like movies. We love to see people rewarded for their effort which makes for a nice story but reality seldom works this way.

How many producers catch a lucky break because they are already connected?  Many.  This is part of the reason I made Underground Elite, to get people good at production fast so that when you make a connection and start building a fan base around your DJ following it doesn't take you 5 years to produce a piece of music.

It's the lazy smart approach.

Being lazy smart is ideal, however don't brag about it.  It usually won't win you any fans in the office because most companies glorify work martyrdom and "putting in the hours."  Ever go to work and get frustrated by all the stupid pointless procedures? I have many times.  The obsession with email distribution lists and getting emails you just don't need.  Pointless reports, endless analysis of data...fuck that.  If you've ever done anything entrepreneurial you realize how pointless this crap is and you rid your self of it.

Sadly this thought process spills over into the production world - it's not about hours logged but results.  So yeah, think about how you can apply being lazy smart to production as this coach has done for athletes.


When you get to that level Anthony Parasole and others have advice about leaving your day job.  I can't say Im the biggest fan of Anthony's flavor of techno however he seems like a regular working class dude turned DJ.


Sadly some people did quit their jobs to work at Soundcloud and sadly found their new positions gone.  News of this along with learning about their lavish office culture has been a complete turn off.  I've been a paying member for 4 years now, so I won't be sad if the whole shit house goes up in flames.

I guess they never really figured out their product and in the process let some rounds of funding go to their heads.  Plus the founders must have made some big promises about sales growth that were based on hopes and dreams and not traffic and conversion.  One day this thing will be sorted out - could take 5-10 years.  So work on your music and grow your fan base.



bootlegs and remixes

First a few things.

A remix is when you're officially engaged by the original artist to remix their work.  When you take it upon yourself to do un-authorized remixes, it's not technically correct to call it a remix.  It's really a bootleg or edit.

That said, edits/bootlegs can still be totally awesome!  They can add to your sets and be your secret weapons.

Finding great bootlegs is usually done in the record stores because that's where you find un-authorized pressings. Yes, I reminisce about my vinyl buying days.  The experience of getting to the city, going to the store. Picking up flyers and free magazines and throwing them in my shopping bag on the way out.  That was all fun but one of the huge things I miss are those hard to find white labels.

One example that comes to mind is a mix of Depeche Mode's Only When I Lose Myself. Now, Lexicon Avenue did a fabulous remix Jon Digweed used to play.  At the same time "DNA" seemed to have made an edit of theirs and released it on vinyl with a Lenny Kravitz mix on the other side.

The DNA mix was a big tune at New York's Sound Factory, I happened to have bought a copy.

Discogs has more info. 

It now goes for $20 and up.

I also recently got the Lexicon Ave remix along with some other old gems from Discogs.

One of which was the old classic pop dance song by Black Box "Everybody Everybody."

Hell of a tune.  I love techno, house, metal, blues, and love a lot of 90s dance/pop of the time.  Toni Toni Tone, Bell Big De Voe, Notorious Big, Dee-Lite. Shit like that.

One of my mates, a real vinyl junkie, buys a ton from Juno and has them shipped over.  We were spinning a nice set.  He plays this nice tech house groove.  Some chords start, they sound super familiar.  Ahh I know this tune.

Then more of the record comes on and I realize it's a boot leg of Black Box everybody everybody.

I recorded our set which made for a good commute soundtrack.

But I needed that black box track, so I was like fuck it I can make my own.  I realized that the bootleg my friend had used this a capella which has the vocals plus some strings and keys. I wish it was just the vocal but oh well.

Anyhow, I got the 12 inch and recorded it into ableton and did the usual time stretching.

From there I started chopping the keys and adding a kick, bass, hi hats and other parts.

I didn't add a ton of stuff because I like the rawness of it. That's usually the vibe of these edits/bootlegs.

Good places to find material for edits/bootlegs are:

Beatport - look for tools and stuff.

Vinyl - shop discogs, get a turntable.

And this new website I just found out about that sells legit a capellas.

Once you've found a tune you want to try your hand at remixing you'll need to identify the musical key.

Not so hard with Rekordbox or Mixed in Key.  These will analyze the root note of your track. I think Traktor does the same.

From there you'll probably want to find a kick drum that works. After that adding bass is easy because you know the key so start playing a bass note in the root of the song.

In the case of the Black Box tune it's "F."

From there you have to arrange the tune in a sensible way.  If you need help on that go here. 

Bootlegs are a great way to try your hand at producing!

You're starting with a lot great source material so things like a nice vocal, or catchy melody are already handled.  Some of the arrangement is done so you can work w/ the flow of the source material.

Give it a shot, here's how my bootleg is shaping up.