Esa interview

Joe Jones
May 17, 2013

Ahead of his Huntleys & Palmers label takeover appearance at London’s legendary Fabric, Burek’s teaboy Joe Jones took the opportunity to talk with Esa, aka Mervin Granger, one of Burek Agency’s recent signings and the mind behind the forthcoming 6th offering on the Burek label.

When I phoned Esa a cheery, a slightly clipped Western Cape accent, still untouched after almost a decade living in Scotland, warmly greeted me. I contacted him just before the Sub Club resident embarked on a hectic 3 day schedule that would see him appearing on television (alongside Brian D’Souza) as part of the build-up to the
Scottish Album of the Year Awards (which Auntie Flo have been nominated for), introducing his own South African ‘Boeri’ burgers (spiced with coriander, nutmeg and cloves) to Glasgow’s diners and hosting a local Ableton User Group event.  And that was just his itinerary for Thursday...

JJ: You’re going to be playing with Brian and several other members of the extended Huntley and Palmers family this weekend at Fabric, but what is it about Fabric that gets you excited, compared to Sub Club?

E: Sub Club feels like my home, it’s a really special place for me. Harri & Domenic (the legendary founders and residents of Subculture) really bring a massive sense of continuity. Plus the place sounds great. Of course it’s not the same at Fabric but when me and Brian first played Fabric we were really impressed with how it sounded there too, once we rehearsed we were just “WOW, this is going to be great”. And after the crowd’s reaction we knew we’d found another great club, with a great sound, to play at.

JJ: Can you tell us a bit about your various musical influences, especially growing up in South Africa?

E: My father was a DJ who introduced me to so much, including classic house music anthems. And growing up in the Western Cape I was also influenced by the emergence of African hip-hop in the late 80s and early 90s, especially the seminal Prophets of Da City. I’d also say there’s some influence from my Cape Malay roots too. But it was when I visited my uncle in Germany in the 90s that I was introduced to techno.
I think my most major influence really is my incessant need to drum. When I was a kid, I’d drum on desks, benches, anything that was at hand. And it was my drumming that first got me noticed in the Scottish music scene, though I’d been DJing for years too. Now I can express everything, my drumming, my production, my DJing.

JJ: So what’s it like when you and Brian jam? Do all those influences from around the world make it a bit messy?

E: Not really. Brian’s got a vision of what he wants, pulling in all these different strands from around the world. Then I help by giving him another perspective, he can bounce things off me. It’s kind of how we work when we’re performing live, except in the studio we’re sitting down a lot more.

JJ: Your forthcoming EP on Burek is amazing, we’re really happy to be releasing it. What thought processes went into it?

E:  I’m really proud of that EP. Music is about experiences and it was made as a reaction to going back to South Africa after being away for so long. The first track, Serenity 021, is about that feeling of returning home. The 021 suffix, that comes from the area code for Cape Town. So the whole track is about feeling serene at home after being away for so long. I had been living in Scotland for years with just a visa to enable me to legally live and work here, which was a major hassle, so I always felt that Scotland, even though I love it and it’s my second home, was still a sort of forbidden place to me, hence the second track’s title. When I asked Fudge Fingas to remix it I had just found out I had been given indefinite leave to remain, so finally I had found some serenity in this forbidden place. The whole EP is about the feelings I’ve had living as an ex-pat, in a new home, but still being in touch with what goes on in my other home.

JJ: And can we expect any more imminent solo releases from you? Or are there more collaborative projects in the pipeline?

E: I’ll continue working with Brian on any Auntie Flo projects he cooks up. We’ve been mates for years and when we work together (Esa provides live percussion when they’re recording as well as being the other half of the Auntie Flo live project) it kind of helps me get back in touch with my roots. I’m also currently working on a project with Ooft! called Prophets of Da South (Ooft! Is based on the south side of Glasgow), where I’m doing some vocals to go alongside the live percussion. I’m also very busy with my DJing, Ableton User Groups and everything else at the moment, but maybe I’ll find some time to make some more house on my own soon.

JJ: And lastly, what do you like about living in Glasgow?

E: I love travelling and seeing the world. I had no fixed plans but everything, from my first journey abroad on a school trip to Saudi Arabia, to Germany, Aberdeen and now here, has been leading to this. I love where I am, all my friends here, the really tight community we have in Glasgow making music, and what I’m doing, and now I have indefinite leave to remain, I can start thinking of this place as another home. I’ve really found serenity in a forbidden place.


Esa plays as part of the Huntleys & Palmers label takeover of Room 3 at Fabric, London, this Saturday (18th May 2013)

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