Rock and pop
Superstar DJ continues to Aim highDavid Sue
THE man who put Grand Central Records on the map. The Barrow boy who became a premier hip-hop tastemaker. Top-class DJ and remixer to the stars.
Aim may mean many things to many people, but to the man himself, 30-something musical alchemist Andy Turner, he's still the same Smiths-obsessed, small-town romantic dreaming of big things.
"I've not changed at all in recent years," he explains over the phone from his home in Barrow. "I'm not the type to let things go to my head.
"I don't really have any sense of ego. I find it funny that I'm associated with all this Manchester hip-hop urban cool. I'm still a small-town dreamer, really, with an unhealthy love of Morrissey and The Smiths."
Andy Turner is indeed many things to many people, but what he is, most of all, is low-key. In a way, it makes perfect sense that he chooses to settle in out-of-civilisation small-town, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
It's been five years since his last album, the wondrous and acclaimed Hinterland, made him Grand Central's boy wonder, and threatened to make him a major mainstream dance music player.
But that prospect clearly jarred with Andy, who likes to make music discreetly in his house, spend time with his wife and dogs, and indulge his addiction to ebay ("it never feels like you're spending real money!" he laughs).
At the same time, he also loathed his previous image of being Grand Central's token country boy.
Andy sighs. "People kind of get the wrong impression about Barrow - probably because of what I say. It's not exactly a backwater, it's actually a very inspiring place. I think the press always found it strange to associate me, this small-town lad, with Grand Central, this hip Manchester record label."
Still, if there ever has been any obvious thread to Andy's career, it's the art of building your own empire and knowing your limitations.
From his early days working in record shops, to those tentative first Aim vinyl releases, Andy has come to embody all the best facets of old-skool Manchester urbanite cool, while keeping one eye on preserving his title of premier pop alchemist.
Aptly, since leaving the Grand Central roster, he's continued building his own little empire, the latest chapter being his very own record label, Manchester-based ATIC records.
HE explains. "I hadn't really thought about starting a record label seriously until Grand Central came to an end. It was either look for a label or start one myself. What made my mind up was the fact that I was pretty much self-sufficient as it was.
"I didn't need some record company boss financing me, or telling me what I should or shouldn't be doing."
The first product of all this is sparking new single Northwest, taken from forthcoming album Flight 602. It's a record brimming with ideas, progressive in parts, but undeniably an Aim record.
Having set the nu-skool hip-hop template with Cold Water Music, and follow-up Hinterland, Andy's new material builds on the beats with cool, grandiloquent guitars and skewed vocal melodies (provided by long time associate and vocal chanteuse Niko).
After the subdued, almost soporific Hinterland, the latest Aim material is the closest thing so far to Andy unleashing his inner rage and demons.
Most surprisingly, in a move that's likely to bemuse hardcore fans, it heralds the start of Aim's `Nirvana phase'. For serious?
He considers. "Nirvana have been a huge inspiration in the last couple of years. Seriously! I guess I kind of missed the whole grunge thing the first time round, and it's only been the last couple of years that I've caught up.
"Discovering Nirvana just made me wanna take up the guitar again and learn to play properly."
He's aware of how strange all this might sound to the hip-hop aficionado Aim hardcore.
"The funny thing is, I've not listened to hip-hop in ages! I got tied in with hip-hop 'cos of my first record, but I'd definitely say this new record isn't that hip-hop, even though there are still beats and samples there.
"All I've been listening to recently is guitar music, stuff like Brian Jonestown Massacre, Belle And Sebastian. I guess I'm still an indie kid at heart."
Aim have evolved into a well-honed, kinetic sex-soul-groove-machine, complete with full live band. Their fans are still on a high from March's sweat-soaked Friends And Family headline show at Mint Lounge, and we can expect plenty more of that tonight.
Andy concludes. "Well, when we started with the band, I have to admit it was quite boring to watch. We relied quite heavily on backing tracks.
"But now there's none of that, there's a full band, and it's all organic sounding and full of energy. It's all live and spontaneous ... I love the fact that it sounds like it could all fall apart any minute!".
Aim plays Manchester Academy 2 tonight (June 23). '12. Call 0161 832 1111. Northwest (ATIC Records) is out now.
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