Freemasons headline Snowball party 

Eurodance and disco club night closes the 2015 Whistler Pride and Ski Festival

click to enlarge PHOTOS SUBMITTED - English beat Russell Small of Freemasons headlines the Snowball Closing Party at the Whistler Convention Centre.
  • Photos submitted
  • English beat Russell Small of Freemasons headlines the Snowball Closing Party at the Whistler Convention Centre.

Russell Small, half of U.K. DJ duo Freemasons, is apparently a believer in cheeses.

He is standing in the middle of a cheese shop in his hometown of Brighton as we conduct our interview, with cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, stilton and camembert awaiting his purchasing decisions.

Seems like a ripe place to talk music.

Freemasons, named after a nearby pub rather than a semi-secret fraternity, is known for its disco, Eurodance and funky house. They were nominated for a Grammy in 2006.

Smalls and his collaborator James Wiltshire put out their latest album, Shakedown 3, last September.

"It's everything we are about in terms of music, from the beat side to the more pumping disco side," Small says.

Freemasons have built an international following in the past decade, but Wiltshire stopped performing onstage after damaging his hearing four years ago.

"We were doing this gig in Croatia and we had the monitors too loud, as you do, and the headphones were cranked up. He ended up with a bit of tinnitus," Small recalls.

The pair still creates music together in the studio, but Freemasons live is now Small DJing their music solo.

You're not any less busy than you were, I remark to him.

"No, no, no, no. I supposed if we were still together we could charge more money," he laughs. "But it's not a good enough reason to lose your hearing, to be honest. It's a shame, but I've got used to it."

Small will close the 2015 Whistler Pride and Ski Festival with a late night performance at the Snowball at the Whistler Conference Centre on Saturday, Jan. 31, from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. DJs Landon James and Del Stamp are also performing.

In response to a question about what he'll be bringing to Whistler, Small says:

"Fun, basically. That's what every club needs. There will be a lot of Freemasons old, new and whatever else I feel like chucking in in between."

Freemasons has performed at Vancouver Pride in the past, but never made it up the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler before.

"I would always look up and see the signs to Whistler and wanted to go there. Everyone tells me it's amazing. I'm really looking forward to it," Small says.

Still staying busy, Wiltshire has made up for the loss of the performance side of his career by creating a Freemasons audio website where music samples created by them can be purchased directly.

Small explains: "People can go and buy sounds and tracks. You'd be able to make a track out of what you download; you can choose what you use to make a track."

From this, the discussion turns to the state of the music industry these days.

"Obviously, music has become a little bit throwaway. Sales are down. You have to look at other ways to try and make an income these days. You have to have your hand in so many tills, so to speak. It's becoming tough out there," says Smalls.

"I'm feeling more sorry for the people who are coming up. James and I are lucky enough to have been able to earn a living, but it's frightening now the amount of money you have to spend getting a record marketed anywhere."The artist is responsible for much of the marketing of music now, he adds, thinking of videos, radio plugs and reaching out to media.

"The return you are going to get for that, it's scary, to say the least. So people coming through, it is really tough for them. I could talk about it all day long," he says.

"You're going to lose so much talent as well because people will only be able to do it as a part-time thing instead of doing it as a career."

Smalls notes that music is in a transitional period with streaming.

"It's gone from CDs, to digital, to streaming in a very short time. "People aren't going to see any revenue from streaming for a couple of years and what revenue there is, unless you are working at a high level in dance music, you're not going to see a great deal," he adds.

Charmingly, he ends it with "Let's move on, shall we?"

OK, the music. There are 32 tracks on Shakedown 3 and Small calls it the last of their mixed compilations.

There are two CDs, a poolside mix and more of a nightclub mix.

"We are doing mixes for the next single, which is called 'True Love Survivor.' On the album it is quite a deep disco affair, but we've remixed it and made it a little more pumping," he says.

Small and Wiltshire are pleased with the results.

"Shakedown 3 has done really well, considering the facts that we've just talked about," Small says. "We thought rather than pay to have all our remixes that we've done on the album... when you use music by people like Beyoncé they charge you £1,800 ($3,400) to license your remix back. Financially, it's just not viable. We made the decision to make it more of an artist album."

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