Interview with Sally Rodgers from A Man Called Adam
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
I remember coming across A Man Called Adam back in around 1989 when I stumbled upon a copy of their Musica De Amor record on one of my many record shop trips. It was strikingly mature, catchy and underpinned by the Latin house magnificence of Amoeba on the flipside. Sally Rodgers and Steve Jones had captured mine and many others' attention with subsequent releases which held the glow of the post Acid House scene; most notably with the timeless Barefoot In The Head. An album followed and then their own Other imprint which set sail on a Balearic infused journey across many different musical oceans which is a reflection on their diverse tastes. Many earworms were born before they expanded their horizons into academia and sound design. In recent years they have brought their AMCA imprint back into focus with a new album expected very shortly later this year. We were really lucky for Sally to join us for a quick chat just as their latest single Starlings is released.
When you set out as A Man Called Adam you can’t have ever expected you’d still be here three and a half decades on?
No at that age I think you’re just living (or as one of my guests, Tia Cousins, on my WorldwideFM show says ’S'livin’)
Prior to setting out on your AMCA journey what were you both listening to in terms of dance music?
We were both in the rare-groove, warehouse party, WAG club type scene and prior to that, when I met Steve he was a rockabilly, into doo wop.
It was Musica De Amor and Amoeba that first brought me to your attention. I suspect I picked it up in Manchester and still have my copy. Both were notably competent and mature in terms of UK house music production but didn’t seem to get the attention in the same way some of the tracks coming out in the UK at the same time.
It’s always been a very beats oriented world and I guess we’ve always made music on the melodic end of the spectrum. Don’t want to be too binary about it but that might account for it in some way?
They both still really stand up, did you get much attention across the Atlantic and Europe given the blend of American and European influences?
Yes, I think, for listeners in the US, that record and Earthly/ Techno Powers were more defining of the Acid Jazz genre than that more retro James Taylor Quartet type sound. The b-sides were real hybrids of Rare Groove/ Latin Jazz and the new technology led House sound.
Barefoot In The Head is really quite timeless as is much of your music, you must have known you had an anthem when you produced this iconic record?
You never know how a record is going to go down when you’re making it. You’re just compelled to make it and keep pushing until it’s ‘good enough’ for you.
At which point did you both decide to turn towards academic endeavours with your PhDs and how closely tied has this been to your own music ideas and composition?
We moved to Cornwall in the early 00s. Had a big outbuilding that became a place of pure experimentation. We did some sound art commissions for museums and radio and some collaborative stuff, classic song writing. I think we both just wanted to be better at what we do - in all directions. We’re both amateur visual artists as well so we did a lot of film making and experimental stuff on the visual side of things. I did a poetry Masters at St Andrews and then a PhD there about technology’s impact on lyric forms. Steve did a Masters in sound design at Edinburgh and then his PhD at DeMontfort in Leicester. I think you get so far in your work and then maybe you need mentors to push you on. I had the poet Don Paterson as mine, Steve had Jon Richards of Dirty electronics as his.
Sally & Company is your show on the excellent Worldwide FM , the show highlights a rich depth in music tastes, how did the show come about?
Gilles (Peterson) asked me. He’s a brilliant mentor too and we had a mutual friend in Ed Wilson of Brawn. They both liked Farmarama and Gilles is good at hitting the right moment for everything he does.
AMCA has picked up your 90s thread and continued to expand your wide portfolio of sounds, what influences you both in 2022?
Steve’s always been a sonic wizard and I find DJing to be a very poetic outlet for me so I guess we combine those things. The new album represents Italo/ Sheffield/ Indie/ ambient/ Detroit.
How does the production side of things work with AMCA? After 35 years making music, you must have a good understanding of each other and studio workflows?
If I told you that I’d have to kill you ;)
You must feel in charge of your own destiny musically given your wide portfolio of sounds, what happens when one of you throws a curveball in to go off in a different direction to where you were the month before?
It doesn’t really happen like that with us. There are no curve balls. Anything is worth looking at and considering.
Tell us about the forthcoming album, it sounds quite different from previous releases?
What’s different about this album is that it very much expresses a sense of place. I was born and grew up in the North East and ended up back here about five years ago. Almost three of those years have been in lockdown so it made me immerse myself in the place and my memories of it. Steve’s lived in Paris for years but our studio is here and he came back a few years ago too.
Much of your music makes you think of sunshine, beaches, Ibiza and a festival vibe. You worked on this latest release in lockdown, how much of that period shaped the sounds you were working on?
It’s more industrial because the studio is here in Teesside. Still beaches and the elements but grittier, more Northern.
Ammonite is the vanguard of that release, it has a more driving, techno influenced sound to it which sits on the edge away from much of your more laid back or dubby house sounds. Was there a conscious effort to go down that road, or was it more reflective of the times we find ourselves in?
Ammonite started as a little keyboard riff Steve gave me. I loved it and wanted to add some ferocious beats to match its power. But anything we do comes from where we are and how we feel and perhaps, after all we’ve all experienced there’s a bit of rage there.
What plans have you got going forward with regards to live performances and DJing now things are turning back to some semblance of normality?
I’m getting nice DJ opportunities these days and we’ve started to do a few low-key live shows.
Do you consider yourselves individually as children of Acid House or Balearic beat?
We are rave generation. It’s all the same.
Ultimately, what is the thread that runs through AMCA?
Just two people trying to externalise their inner lives so we don’t go mad.
Their latest single Starlings is out now and can be ordered via their Bandcamp page.
A Man Called Adam - https://linktr.ee/amca_hq
A Man Called Adam - YouTube
A Man Called Adam - Bandcamp
A Man Called Adam - Mixcloud Discover new digital dance music with Trackhunter