Becca Frankland caught up with Sonny Fodera to discuss putting together mix CDs, his relationship with Defected and going to the Arsenal match with Dusky.
Last updated: 7th Jul 2016
Few younger artists manage to embody the spirit of house music in their own productions and involvement within the scene, but with a constant stream of forward-thinking, fresh tracks and a devoted attitude towards his profession, Sonny Fodera is just the type of act that dance music lovers across the globe have been calling out for.
Relatively new on the block, he started to make his mark back in 2010 but it wasn't long before his career snowballed. Sonny Fodera is now a key player for Defected, with one Deep Down and Defected album and one In The House compilation under his belt, alongside consistent gigs for the brand and occasional radio takeovers.
It's not just his production skills that have earned him his stripes, Fodera's technical ability behind the decks is spot on. Meticulous mixing and energetic selections have made him a firm favourite with crowds. And with support from some of the industry's true greats including the late 'Godfather of House' Frankie Knuckles, Cajmere and Derrick Carter, it's not just ravers that Fodera has garnered respect from.
We caught up with him ahead of his Defected date at Ministry of Sound, which marks the launch of his In The House compilation, to talk about his career, the appeal of mix CDs and living in London.
We were listening to your Defected Radio take over (above) in the office earlier, you seem really comfortable on air. Have you had much experience presenting?
Yeah, absolutely. I have a monthly show on Rinse FM.
We were loving that new track from Green Velvet and Claude VonStroke 'Mind Yo Bizness' (listen at 11:03 on the radio show above). We know you've worked with Green Velvet/Cajmere in the past, how did that come about?
Amazing isn't it? Well basically I did a remix of a Gene Farris track on his label Cajual and that went down really well. I met him in Miami when I was at the Winter Music Conference, I saw him at this rooftop party and the remix had just come out so I went and introduced myself.
We exchanged numbers and kept in touch and then I released an EP on his label and after that we sorted two albums on the label. So we've become pretty close.
So how did you make the transition from sending demos to Defected back in 2009 to mixing one of the brand's biggest CDs plus playing at the Defected shows?
I had released a few bits on Defected, I did some remixes then I did an EP and started playing at their events. I moved to Ibiza and was a resident at the Defected parties at Ushuaia, after that I started talking to Simon (Dunmore) a lot and made more connections with the agency and then yeah, over time it just progressed.
I put together the Deep Down and Defected compilation which came out in 2014 as well. Just slowly I've been working with them and building things up, I've hosted a couple of radio shows, put out some more tracks and now we've got the In The House compilation on the horizon.
With the In The House mix compilation, were you given the complete freedom to do what you want with it and structure it how you wanted?
Yeah it was complete freedom. I really wanted to put my own touch on the compilation. I wanted it to include tracks that I've been playing out in clubs, I wanted to showcase what I play out and stuff like that. It's come together really well.
And of course I tried to incorporate a lot of my own productions on there as well (listen to one below). There's a lot of mash ups with acapellas that Defected had, there's a few edits too. Obviously I wanted to include some of the stuff that was doing well on label too. It's part my sound and part Defected's sound.
How did the Deep Down compilation compare to this one?
I think it was a bit different because with Deep Down I wanted to remix the classics, where as this one is more straight-up club. I did a version Kings of Tomorrow's 'Finally' on the last one, you know, really big tracks that were doing well? But this one is more stuff that I play out, a bit more tough.
Defected are really committed to putting out mix CDs, it's not something you see as much anymore in comparison to the nineties, especially with the introduction of Spotify and other music platforms where people can readily listen to albums and make playlists themselves.
How important do you think it is for a brand like Defected to distribute something like this which you can keep hold of?
I think it is important. In general I still love to listen to mixes on Soundcloud and podcasts, it's more continuous but obviously with platforms like Spotify it's just track after track, there's no other technique there's no build to when that bassline drops and stuff.
I myself haven't bought a CD in a while, but I think they have struggled because you've got iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music but at the same time it's really nice to have a physical copy, it's something that you can add to your collection and revisit in a different way.
I've got a lot of the Ministry of Sound compilations and some Defected ones too, I like to collect them. But these days it's hard, it's all bluetooth in your car and what not, but I still think there's a market for it.
You'll be touring with the new album over the next few months across the UK, Australia and the US. Which gigs are you looking forward to the most? Surely playing in your home town of Adelaide and Defected's spiritual home of Ministry of Sound must be up there?
Yeah I'm really looking forward to the Ministry of Sound event, that's going to be the launch so to speak for the compilation. Then I've got Bali at the W Hotel and it's just so amazing to stay over at that place, I get four nights to chill out at probably the best hotel I've ever been in.
Then going back home to Australia will be amazing. My sister is actually having a baby when I'm over so it's perfect timing. I'm going to go back and hang out with my family.
I think the most exciting part is Australia but to be able to play in the US is just great, there are a few clubs that I've really wanted to play but haven't had the chance like The Mid in Chicago and Coda in Toronto, apparently it's just amazing.
Your accent isn't that strong I don't think, it's sort of a mix between a Southern British twang and Australian. When did you come to London?
Nah it's not strong is it? I moved to London about three years ago, but I lived in Birmingham about two years before that so I've moved around quite a lot. I've lived in San Francisco, Melbourne, and Ibiza so my accent is a mash up of like, American, Australian and English.
What was it like living in Birmingham? That's not a city you'd initially think of an artist choosing to live in unless they grew up there.
I played there when I was about 23 at Rainbow Warehouse and I played something like six until nine in the morning and it was this huge industrial space, I'd never played a party like this, I was fresh from Australia so I was just like, "Wow, it's amazing in here."
Guys like Chris Lorenzo were rising then. Adam Shelton and Subb-an were putting on parties and it was just a really cool vibe. I would have stayed there but I had to go back to Australia because of some family stuff. I've thought a lot about moving back there but I love London too much right now. But Birmingham's a great city, there are a lot of crazy parties there, really cool spaces.
I interviewed Joris Voorn the other day and he was explaining that London just isn't suitable for him, that it's really expensive and it wouldn't really work because he has a family. It seems really suitable for someone like yourself though, what do you love the most about being in London at the moment?
I think it's just really inspiring. I think because it is so expensive, you really want to push yourself and do well. I love the culture here.
A lot of people who I speak to say that London lacks culture but I just don't think they've seen enough of the city. Most go to the touristy spots but I live in Dalston which is East and there are so many good restaurants and different scenes, it's just a really cool environment.
There are some spots which people just don't even know about, but the people that know, know, if that makes sense? I think that's why I love it so much.
Don't Richy Ahmed and Route 94 live really close to you? Do you ever hook up?
Me and Richy have hung out a few times at after parties and stuff. Route 94 has just recently moved and he's actually moved really, really close to me but I haven't caught up with him in the studio. I used to a lot when we were both in South London. I think we've both just been super busy, I'm finding it hard to get in the studio at the moment. I've been doing a lot of stuff on the road, which is hard without speakers.
Nick from Dusky, he lives round the corner, he's an Arsenal fan and we've gone to a few games and we've gone to the pub and stuff. I think pretty much most DJs live in Dalston, I've heard Seth Troxler lives this way as well, and Ben Pearce. It's nuts.
So in regards to the studio, where are you up to with your album which is due out later in the year? Is it hard to juggle all these bigger projects?
Well the album is pretty much done at the moment, I think there's two more tracks I need to do. I had the tracks signed off and I finished them last year but it's coming out later this year so I really want to make it more current. I just want to get a few new tracks boxed off.
Obviously I'm always making stuff and I'm constantly doing little edits but yeah it's always a lot harder to make time for bigger projects, you need a proper studio to do it. I mean the remix that I just put out on Strictly Rhythm (above), I did that on the plane from London to Milan and I think that's gone to number one on Traxsource so maybe you don't need a studio [laughs].
Ah, the life of a DJ! Anything else you'd like to tell us about which is lined up for 2016?
Yeah, I've got a track coming out on Lee Foss' label Repopulate Mars, it's one that I produced with MK and Route 94. We did it probably a year ago and it's going to come out in February.