IN SOME ways, Archie Hamilton‘s journey from bedroom selector to international DJ is a familiar one. He played local clubs while studying at university, worked selling music tech to pay the bills when DJ work was slow and grew up in a house ran by a seasoned raver. But the familiarity ends there – the raver was his mum and, in his formative years, the apple fell far from the tree, as Hamilton favoured Britpop and a life in the army.
He would eventually get his priorities straight and do his mum proud; he begins 2020 coming off the back of a huge year, having released his debut album, Archive Fiction, as well as joining the pantheon of DJs to have recorded their own Radio 1 Essential Mix. Glass talks to the 35-year-old London-based DJ about his journey so far, and the music that makes him tick.
How did get your start in music?
I was cutting my teeth playing in clubs in Oxford where I went to uni, and then when I moved to London in the swanky West End clubs playing hip hop and chart music – to be honest, that was a great learning experience from a DJ perspective! Quick mixes, mixing all types of music etc. I was working as an intern at record labels and management companies desperately trying to get into the scene that was exploding in Shoreditch. Then I won a DJ Competition to play at a techno party at Cargo in about 2008 run by the crew who I went on to start Moscow Records with! The rest is history …
Archie Hamilton. Photograph: First Light Media
What did you listen to growing up?
All kinds of stuff. As a young kid it was all about Britpop – Oasis, Blur … My mum was going to raves, so I used to listen to her tape packs in the car – acid, hardcore, jungle, all of that, but it wasn’t until later than I got into it myself. Hard house and jungle/dnb came first, then electro and breaks and when I moved to London I discovered minimal and deep house at places like The Cross and Secretsundaze.
If you weren’t working as a DJ, what would you be doing with your life/ what was the job your parents wanted for you?
I was dead set on joining the army! Then I went to my first rave and nothing was quite the same after that. I was working in tech sales until 2013, so I may have just stayed in that who knows? Both parents were pushing me to do music thankfully.
Archie Hamilton. Photograph: First Light Media
Craziest place music has taken you?
All over the world! So many mad places – Georgia is wild and amazing, I played on the Star Wars set of Tatooine in the desert in Tunisia. In Krasnodar on the Black Sea in Russia: it was so windy my sunglasses got blown off my head while I was playing.
Is DJing as lonely as people say?
Yes and no…it’s a small scene, so you get to know a lot of the other DJs who become friends. For example, I am on the Eurostar to Paris and meeting the guys from Mandar (Lazare Hoche, Malin Genie, and S. A. M.) for dinner before we play together tonight. The travel can be lonely, but it’s a good opportunity to go through music, watch movies, read and have selective time to yourself. I am an only child so I enjoy my own company. The hardest part is feeling that you are losing touch with your best friends, as they have regular nine-fives and you work weekends. WhatsApp groups are great for keeping in touch.
Archie Hamilton playing at Studio 338, London. Photograph: Luke O’Brien
Hardest to thing to overcome in your career to date?
Perception. How people view you – some people think of me as a producer and not a DJ and others the other way round. It’s always nice to surprise people when you surpass their expectations.
What are you most proud of so far?
My album (Archive Fiction) in 2019 was a big thing for me. It pushed my boundaries and made me feel much more confident as an artist. Also, my Radio 1 Essential mix was a massive milestone for me and I was very happy with how it came out
As a collector, is there one record in your stash that you’re particularly stoked about?
I have a picture disc of Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird which is pretty special.
Which song do you really wish you’d made?
Tough one. I heard Prodigy, Voodoo People out last night and had forgotten how unbelievably thumping it is. Definitely one of the tracks that got me into electronic music. Also anything by Scientist – I would love to know some of those old dub techniques …
Is there an artist from popular music you’d love to have record a vocal for you?
I love Shingai Shoniwa’s voice – I think I could do something really sultry and trippy with her!
Photograph: First Light Media
Song you might play to show off your eclectic tastes?
Mulatu Astatke, Tezeta. One of my all-time favourites – makes me smile and cry at the same time somehow.
Song you want to be played at your wedding?
Ha! I’m getting married in May, so I actually can’t say as I don’t want to ruin it.
If you could be a DJ during any other era (time and place) which would it be?
1990s New York baby.
by Charlie Navin-Holder
Archie Hamilton is touring in the USA in February and March, before playing festivals in England, Switzerland and Holland