Back to the future with Dr Packer & Groove Motion
“The more things change the more they stay the same…”would be an apt description of the current state of music.
What with mainstream acts like Daft Punk’s collaboration with Pharrell Williams, Bruno Mars and Robin Thicke resurrecting the sound and feel of the seventies disco era.
This yesteryear-revisited formula often strikes gold among audiences and has gifted the aforementioned artists with chart toppers such as “Get Lucky”, “Treasure” and “Blurred Lines”.
While the growing infatuation with a retro-sound seems to be the “new” direction, niche House Music DJs and producers like Joey Negro and Dimitri from Paris have been channelling the sound for a minute now.
Closer to home the likes of Vinny Da Vinci and DJ Christos are synonymous with their own interpretations of the “good old days” which younger ears have not experienced firsthand.
We had the pleasure to chat with two acts who despite being located on different continents are crafting urbane edits and reworks that pay homage to the original recordings.
Interestingly their work can be found seamlessly intertwined in the sets of the likes of Vinny Da Vinci and other local connoisseurs of Deep House Music.
Dr Packer is an alias of Western Australia’s DJ Greg Packer which he uses for remixes and edits of mainly Retro Music spanning the seventies to the nineties.
His Dr Packer “You Got the Love” rework of Candi Staton, the Grammy Award nominated First Lady of Southern Soul, could make the hairs on a corpse stand on end.
A day’s flight away in Hampshire UK, Wayne Altham and Jack Henwood make up the DJ/Editing duo Groove Motion whose self-described” Soulful bangin’ music” breathes new life into old school tunes.
“So Good to Me” is a rollicking jam by the duo who host a weekly radio show, have performed across Europe and off course done the mandatory pilgrimage to Ibiza.
An edit to our mind is taking an original recording, updating this and adding our own musical elements (if required), making the track more DJ friendly and of course, treating the original recording with the upmost of respect,” says Wayne.
Dr Packer who is more into reworks, is a bit more technical in his description.
“A ‘Rework’ is when you actually add elements on top as you would with a ‘remix’, so by adding drums, replaying the basslines and chords, maybe adding some filtering etc…and generally breathing new life into an old song,” he says.
Wayne says that their retro feel is not necessarily contrived but is the result of toying with the music they enjoy listening to.
Our sound is simply the music we love to hear and then share with others in an updated format,” he says.
As an ardent collector of soul and funk records since the early 80s when he was still living in the UK, Dr Packer says that his reworks are like time travel to his youth when soulful/disco sounds dominated.
“I guess I’m re-visiting my youth and attaching my production skills at the same time and the result is ‘Dr Packer’,” says the now Perth based DJ/producer.
Dr Packer cites the classic comment ‘It’s not as good as it used to be’ as one of the major reasons why producers are looking backward increasingly for inspiration.
“I know as a DJ people always want to hear something they know rather than a brand new upfront song, so I find if you take something familiar and make it sound like a new upfront song its a win-win situation,” he says.
On the other hand, commercial reasons are what Groove Motion’s Wayne feels are driving the release of many remixes, re-edited and reworked songs using yesteryear samples.
“In today’s digital age it is harder to get revenue back from your track.
“We would love to make more original tracks using vocalists and session musicians (which we have done in the past) but we end up spending way more money than we ever get back in return,” Wayne says.
Coming up with source material for edits involves quite a bit of crate digging.
Groove Motion’s Jack says that a large majority of the material they use comes from their 30-year knowledge of dance music.
“It probably helps that we have a very large vinyl collection spanning over four decades covering all types of genres,” he says.
Dr Packer, whose personal vinyl collection takes up all of two rooms, also extends his search to collectors haunts.
“I have spent a lot of time digging around in second hand record shops, charity shops and car boot sales over the years, looking for certain samples and undiscovered accapellas,” says Dr Packer.
With the relief that comes after unearthing some forgotten gem, comes the creative process of conjuring up a new track.
“We always go in to the studio with an idea already in mind, some things work, some things don’t.
“It’s trial and error,” says Wayne.
On the other end of the spectrum Dr Packer says that once he hears the original he gets a pretty good idea of what will work or not.
“Some older songs may be lacking in ‘bottom’ end so once my bass layer drops in, it will bring it to life and sound big on a club system,” he says.
The end result is not always satisfactory to the producer though.
“Sometimes I scrap stuff if I feel it is not working out, other times it all just falls into place and these are obviously the ones I finish off,” laughs Dr Packer.
The Groove Motion duo lists Soul II Soul, Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), Grandmaster Flash and the early sounds of House Music as some of their inspirations.
Having grown up in the heyday of soul and disco, Dr Packer mentions seminal British DJs and producers such as Norman Jay, Gilles Peterson and Greg Wilson as some of his creative influences.
Unsurprisingly both Groove Motion and Dr Packer hold retro sound guru Joey Negro in high regard.
And just what kind of feedback do the edits and reworks receive from older school cats who were there when the originals were released?
“I mean I bought Joey Negro’s first vinyl release in 1990 and I have been a big fan of his work since then and to have him now approach me for remixes on his label is amazing!” an ecstatic Dr Packer exclaims.
He goes on to say that some of the original UK soul DJs from the ‘Caister Soul Weekenders’ have asked him for his edits which are now being played there.
Caister Soul Weekenders are regarded as the UK’s leading Soul Music event held twice yearly with special events being hosted regularly.
“Some of those DJs have been around since the very early soul days,” a chuffed Dr Packer says.
While Jack regards originality as one of the defining reasons why old school artists made such timeless music, the other half of Groove Motion salutes the new school cats.’There are of course new school artists that are contributing to timeless music, take Joey Negro for example,” he says.
For the party faithful who boogied in the glory days of the seventies and eighties the good times are surely back.
As for their children and other young ‘uns, well, the past is being teleported through your speakers.