Now into his second decade as a true innovator in the electronic music scene, Charles Webster is one of the few real mould-breakers in an increasingly stale & predictable dance music world (though whether a man whose favourite artist is Rickie Lee Jones, and whose records ooze such soul and depth should really ever be pigeonholed as dance is another debate…).
Charles has sold over 100,000 albums without ever being considered ‘mainstream’ or having a major hit single…he has toured the world with a full (genuinely) live band…he has also dj’ed worldwide, playing regularly in every continent, without ever having had the need to be feted by the dance media as a flavour of the month…he’s had the nous to have been running his own labels for years, frequently laying them to rest before they get tired and switching to other projects…he is comfortable making music at any tempo, straddles numerous genres (both real and imagined) with ease…bloody hell, he even writes songs.
See what we mean about mould-breaking ?
So what led to this blossoming talent? Well to truly understand that, let’s go back….way back…back into time…
…where we find a shy young lad in rural Derbyshire, England, first fascinated by this album of his dad’s called ‘Help’ by the Beatles…then enthralled by the madcap genius of prime era David Bowie…then seeing the electronic future thanks to Kraftwerk. And so our hero got his first instruments aged 15 (guitar, synthesizer and drum machine) and began treading the boards in early electronic bands a round Sheffield and Derby .
Then another fateful hand was dealt. Charles moved to Nottingham, started working in a restaurant… the owner of which also just happened to own the city’s ‘Garage Club’, definitely the first House club in Nottingham (and arguably in England ). The owner invited all the staff to the opening party of his new club. One Graeme Park is the resident DJ, Larry Heard and DJ Pierre are on the turntables, and suddenly Charles is aware that the genre-defying music he has been creating himself has by chance happened across a genre and a scene which can take him to their very hearts.
From hereon it’s a blurred tale of late nights in studios and clubs, collaborators aplenty, all pieces fitting together and helping to shape the king of electronic soul we know and love today. Earning his dance music spurs engineering for the great, the good, and just occasionally the godawful at the city’s seminal Square Dance Studios, Charles comes of age as a producer in his own right with 1990′s Sine and 1992′s Megatonk projects.
Ever keen to push forward, 1993 sees CW grab the chance to move to San Francisco , where his production career goes into overdrive as the prime mover behind the acclaimed Love From San Francisco label. This in turn leads to tracks coming out on other acclaimed Stateside labels such as Emotive, Nitebeat, Happy Tracks, Rey-d et al. Charles also meets a 16 year old Terra Deva around this time, and with mom & grandma’s permission, launches this prodigious talent into the dance music world via Furry Phreaks’ ‘Soothe’ and ‘Want Me Like Water’. Now one of the circuit’s most in-demand singers, Terra still collaborates with Charles, most recently on 2002′s ‘Ready’ (see below, ‘Born on the 24 th July’).
Back in the UK in 1996, Charles starts the Remote label, and begins to get serious props as a DJ. ‘Getting Lifted’ by Presence garners serious attention, leading to Pagan Records offering the Webster-masterminded project an album deal. The hugely successful ‘All Systems Gone’ release took the often staid world of so-called deep house into new stratospheres, won ‘album of the month’ plaudits in pretty much every publication that reviewed it worldwide (even scoring an unprecedented 11 out of 10 in one mag), and gave the world the classic single ‘Sense of Danger’, featuring Shara Nelson.
Shara and Terra are just two of many quality vocalists to have benefited from working with Charles. Other notable singers in Websterworld include Sara Jay and Steve Edwards, both of whom played a starring role in Presence’s 1999-2000 live tour, feature on ‘Born…’, and continue to work with Charles on new Presence material, and for his latest label project Miso (picking up where his legendary Love From San Francisco and Remote imprints left off).
2002 saw worldwide acclaim and success for his first album under his own name, ‘Born On The 24th July’ (Peacefrog / Statra). Perhaps the closest thing yet to a full depiction of Charles’s musical vision, it is a deep yet uplifting, soulful, diverse collection – and makes for a truly coherent album, rather than a patchwork of club tracks and fillers. It is the other side of the coin to the equally acclaimed, album, released by the
A remixed version of ‘Born…’, featuring such leftfield luminaries as Herbert, UFO ,Theo Parrish and Pepe Braddock, was released to acclaim in late 2003. 2004 has seen Charles dj’ing relentlessly worldwide, as well as remixing the likes of Salif Keita and Martina Topley-Bird. New Presence demos are being recorded, and more releases are lined up for the much-feted Miso Records (including the return of the Furry Phreaks moniker), so you’ll continue to hear a lot more from Matlock’s finest export. The quality control knob will, as ever, be turned up to 11.