For more then a decade, DJs across the world have fought to get their hands on this incredibly soulful music made in Devon, UK, by an outfit known (appropriately enough) as The Rurals.
Their sound is impressive enough – but few artists can match the staggering quantity of material The Rurals have released.
The mastermind behind The Rurals’ sound, Andy Compton, has recently stepped out as a solo artist while continuing to remix music under The Rurals tried-and-true brand. I’ve long been fascinated by this House Music producer and DJ on the other side of the planet, so I got in touch to get the straight story on his roots, his solo work and the definitive take on where The Rurals are going from here.
Lately I’ve noticed you’re releasing more tracks under your own name than you have in the past. Are The Rurals still together?
Well, The Rurals will always be together in a way, as it’s more of a collective than a fixed members group. The Rurals are basically me and anyone I work with!
The Rurals over the last 10 years were classed as just me and Marie Tweek, as we were like the front people. In reality, most of the music has been constructed my myself and local fellow musicians.
Most of these guys have day jobs and other commitments so it was mostly the case that I’d arrange jams, and spend the next while in the studio editing the parts and finishing/arranging the songs. When the music was done, I used to get Marie in to start on the vocals if needed. With the absence of Marie now I’m still using the same formula but putting the songs under my name so as not to cause any confusion! I’m also still working on remixing as The Rurals.
Marie is now working with other artists, and I wish her all the best of luck!
I’ve never read much about your background, other than you hail from Devon. It kind of added a sense of mystery and myth to who and what this band is.
I’m a born and bred Devoniun! I grew up on a remote farm near a seaside town called Dawlish. When I left school I moved to the local town, Exeter, where I got a job teaching guitar in a guitar shop. When I was 17, the band I was in decided to move to Nottingham, This is where I really started to learn the lessons of life! I learnt a lot in Notts about music and culture. I’m now living back in Devon on a beautiful farm.
What’s the significance of being away from Manchester, London and the other major cities in the UK with a major underground scene?
Being in Devon for me musically has been like living in a bubble. It’s an amazing place to write music, very inspiring and laid back. I’m also lucky to have met great musicians here, like Peter Morris, Charlie Hearnshaw, Jeff Bass and Andy Barton, and fellow producer Bazil, who I often collaborate with. I also met Marie in Devon as well! It seemed like I had it all here so I didn’t need the cities!
Bazil also does a night in Bristol called Fruity Antics. I’ve been the resident with Bazil for years so that has always been a good place to test the new joints and get into the big city vibe. Nowadays, the internet makes it easy to collaborate with other vocalists so I can really mix up the flavours.
For a lot of people, it seems that House is something they found after passing through other sounds. What LPs might we have found in your record collection when you were 14 or 15?
I started to feel music from an early age – my parents loved music. I used to love the music my dad played, mainly Sixties stuff – The Beatles etc… From around 9 years old I got mad into Hip-Hop and Punk. And then I spread my thoughts to Rock, then Heavy Metal, then Thrash/Death Metal. At 16 I was exposed to Hardcore, which was the next progression, then to Jungle, then to Deep House, and nowadays Soul/Funk and Jazz. I’m kinda an all around music lover!
Around the age of 12 I decided that I wanted to make music and not just listen to it, so I chose the guitar and swatted up on it furiously. I turned into a hermit – between the age of 12 and 15 I just worked the guitar to the max and learnt all about music theory.
Something happened between the days of Ten City and today, when the notion of dedicated vocalists working with dedicated producers seemed to fall by the wayside. What was your inspiration for The Rurals?
I just followed my heart and went with what I believed. I live in Devon so trends don’t really mean much to me!
I want to talk about Peng for a second. How many releases are you up to at this point?
So far we’re up to 20 albums and 89 singles. And there’s plenty more in the pipeline.
Peng has always seemed to me to be more akin to some of the long-lasting indie labels, like say Ian McKaye’s Dischord, than a traditional dance music label.
Peng was born back in the days of Ideal Distribution. We had a label called Idea that I ran with the Ideal guys, but decided to take full control and created Peng, for The Rurals music as well as for others, as I was starting to get some great demos.
I’ve now made the decision to keep Peng just for my own music.
On the economic side, have you made any grand declarations about the future of vinyl in terms of what you’re releasing?
The vinyl thing is really sad. Peng is up to number 42 for vinyl singles. We will do more but very limited as they hardly break even nowadays. I cant moan too much, though, as I’ve been CD-only DJ for over five years now!
I’d guess you’ve written, produced and released at least 300 tracks in the last decade. Having a glut of releases is nothing new, but these are actual songs rather than just beat tracks. I haven’t really added up the numbers but I’ll go out on a limb and state you’re probably the most prolific producer in our industry. That’s a lot of build up for a simple question: How the hell are you able to do this?!
Haha! I don’t really know how many releases I’ve done, but I’d say 500+ is a good estimate!
But check this out – Roy Ayers has released over 100 LPs in his time. That’s a good goal for me! And in 1973 James Brown wrote four albums, one being The Payback, one of my fave ever LPs!
When me and Pete started out in 1993, we were very serious about our songwriting. We’d go to the studio everyday and not leave until we’d written and finished at least one song, and sometimes two or three. My method has always been to catch the vibe, not spend hours programming or getting too intense with writing. We just jam and get it down! I always get grief from my musicians for under-editing and leaving in the odd “dodgy” bit, but I do that to prove it’s real!
Have you felt any of your releases have been lost in the shuffle? Or phrased another way, is there any song that you had a great feeling about but failed to have as much impact as you thought it would?
Yeah, there have been many. The main problem has been promotion. Up to recently I’ve been a one man band in consideration to running the label, publishing, studio, online shop and everything else. And also with a limited budget, so some of what I thought would be classics have slipped through the net a bit.
But the thing is, they’ll always be there for peeps to discover! I have a massive love for old Soul, Jazz and Funk and I’m always discovering gems. So there’s plenty of ours kicking around and waiting for future generations. I now have someone managing the office side of things so I can be permanently in the studio doing what I do best!
And in addition to the huge catalog, how much unreleased material do you have in various states of completion lying around?
There’s a lot of unreleased music, and too many unfinished projects! If after one day of working on a project, I don’t feel it so much, it gets put on the back burner.
I’d say at a guess there’s gotta be around 1500 unreleased songs sitting on them DATS.
How many of the instruments on The Rurals albums do you play? On an average release, how many of the instruments that come out in the final mix were recorded live?
All the instruments are always recorded live! I like the sound to be loose and warm.
I can pull off most instruments to an extent, but my main one is guitar (and bass). Sometimes less is more! But sometimes I call in the crew for a full production.
You’ve really created a signature Deep House sound that’s strictly your own. I was amazed then by your last release, Rural Disco Vibes, which was one of the funkiest records I’ve heard in a long time. Do you ever feel boxed in by The Rurals’ legacy?
I’m breaking those boxes! I like to produce so many different styles, so I can keep the inspiration fresh. I like to do Jazz, Downtempo, Soul, Hip-Hop, Deep House, Acid House, Disco… anything!
Okay, check this out. I found all of the songs for Disco Vibes parts 1 and 2 on some old DATS, twelve or fourteen years old! That stuff was, well, too crazy to release back then – the time for them is now! I played all songs from both EPs back-to-back in Bulgaria last week, and the energy from them is relentless! When you thought it couldn’t get more intense…
The next two EPs in the special edition series are gonna be FAT deep unreleased babys…. and then I’m gonna compile them into the next Rurals LP.
Will there be more solo tours, DJ gigs and the like? How would you compare the experience of just being by yourself with a couple of turntables vs. touring with The Rurals?
My present situation has allowed me to hit the road. I’m on a mission now to spread the love through music, starting with DJ tours, and then I’ll work out a more “live” outfit. To be honest there was never an extensive Rurals outfit on the road. The musicians I use mostly have day jobs so it was awkward. I just used to DJ with Marie singing live.
We’re still getting Rurals releases as well as your solo work. What new stuff do you have coming up on both fronts?
There’s gonna be the Rurals LP and special edition Rurals singles, with Disco and Deep vibes. As I was saying, I’m also doing remix work as The Rurals.
On the solo front I’m working on wrapping my first LP, to be released by the end of the year. I’m putting special love into this one, as I feel I have a point to prove!
Singles-wise I have my EP “Save The Children” ready to drop in September – it’s a deep one!
Also in September I have a release on an Australian label “SHE” featuring Diviniti titled “In Time”, and in October I’ll release a new song on Peng featuring Kafele and Sophia, titled “I Don’t Want To See The Sun”.