PHIL ASHER with BLUEPRINT , MORENO , FELIX & GANI , RICHARD BROOKS and ALI BLACK at Sunnyside Pavilion (1755 Lakeshore West), Friday (August 13). $15 advance, more at the door. www.garage416.com. Rating: NNNNN
Phil Asher is one of those veteran UK DJs who straddle the classic soul and contemporary deep house scenes with ease. Inspired by Masters at Work's post-garage soulful house sound as well as the mid-80s UK warehouse soul scene, Asher's productions routinely get played by many of the top New York deep house tastemakers. They've also been closely associated with the West London broken beat sound, a cross between soulful house, drum 'n' bass, Afrobeat and jazz funk that's slowly emerged as one of the first genuinely new rhythms of the decade.
"The broken beat thing was anti-climactic because people expected too much of it - they needed to tag it as something, but it's just another form of music," Asher says of the over-hyped movement.
"I think there's something bubbling under the surface right now, though. Bugz in the Attic just got signed to V2; they played the new single the other week and it's really heavy. It could be huge if it's promoted properly."
If you've been paying close attention, you'll notice that it's been a particularly slow year for Phil Asher productions, even if his contemporaries have been hard at work refining the form.
"I've been producing solidly for five years, but over the past year I've only been in the studio once and only released one song," Asher says from his London home. "I've been on a sabbatical, and lately see myself as primarily a DJ. I plan on getting back into it next year with a fresh outlook, and I'm going to start a small label."
So why turn his back on production just when he was starting to make a name for himself? Was he another casualty of the changing dance music industry?
"To be honest, I just wasn't happy with what I was putting out. I think I took the criticism a little bit too much to heart, and none of my friends was playing my music, which really did my head in. I figured I'd just get out of the game for a while, so my wife phoned up everyone and cancelled my obligations.
"I wanted to spend more time with my family. I quit smoking for six months and was getting in better shape and filling up my time with DJ gigs to pay the mortgage."
Asher has also been avoiding the press and concentrating on the basics of playing records for people to dance to. In this case, it's his affection for Canada that convinced him to take the call.
"Canadians are a little like the Japanese. They like to scratch a bit deeper into the music. I really like Canada, so that's why I agreed to do the interview.
"Some people might think I'm being arrogant because I don't want to talk, but truthfully I turn down most interviews just because I don't really have anything to talk about. I've got nothing to say that isn't already out there on the Internet."