Telfort on his Rooms For Speculation EP

We meet Edinburgh-based DJ and producer Sam Telfort ahead of the release of his new EP Rooms For Speculation

Feature by Michael Lawson | 25 May 2018

When we catch up over Skype on a balmy Friday afternoon, Sam Telfort is bracing himself for a rare weekend off. On the back of a flurry of gigs and regular travelling to maintain a long-distance relationship, he insists that this sporadic window of free time will be used for “something productive.”

The Edinburgh-based DJ and producer is looking ahead to the imminent release of his new EP, out this month on local label Lionoil Industries. It’s an imprint that’s been instrumental in shaping the electronic backdrop of his hometown since its formation back in 2014, and one that Telfort has developed a strong affinity with.  

“I definitely feel part of the label as a collective. I’ve played a bunch of their parties, alongside the likes of Move D and Jane Fitz, and I think, other than my girlfriend, I probably speak with Matt [Belcher, Lionoil label head] more than anyone,” he laughs. “We’ve always had a mutual appreciation of the same kind of music, so we’re constantly sharing new tracks and mixes and bouncing ideas off each other.” 

The record itself feels like Telfort’s most accomplished work to date: four tracks spanning the breadth of the deep house spectrum, purveying an air of confidence that was less prevalent on previous releases. It’s clear that what he describes as the “mandatory five-year sucking period” – the early period of a producer’s career where the end product doesn’t always match the initial aim – has long been surpassed.

A politically-charged dystopian dream is cited as inspiration for the EP's title, Rooms For Speculation. Inspired by the current post-truth era of politics, where the general public are intent on disregarding facts and expert opinion, the dream instead offered a glimpse of a world where lies, spin and exaggeration were completely outlawed. “It all rebounded the other way to the point where no one could talk shite at all – especially politicians, which would be nice!” he laughs.

“Everything you said in public had to be substantiated, evidenced, backed by research etc. and because of this, people sorely missed being able to speculate and chat pish. So, there were these designated spaces where you were allowed to say anything you want – lie, add spin to things, whatever – and these were the Rooms For Speculation.”

Telfort took the somewhat unconventional step of starting his own label, TLFT, to release his debut EP back in 2015, and Rooms For Speculation marks the first time he’s moved away from that imprint to put out music.

“For a few reasons I felt my first output should be self-released,” he explains. “Partly so I could control the context of my music, but also in terms of longevity, and not releasing on a label where a couple of years later it suddenly goes off on a direction that I don’t like or can’t relate to.”

This desire for longevity extends to the music itself, with Telfort reciting a quote from Workshop Records label-boss Lowtec to reiterate this point further. “It says, ‘In my opinion, if you’re going to release a record, it’s very important that you should be able to listen to it in fifteen years and still think that it’s cool’, and that’s something that’s firmly in my mind when making music." He continues: “I’m also careful not to be overly influenced by some of the quite tight, sensitive tangents that house and techno take for very limited periods of relevance, which are often discarded without a second thought.”   

In terms of influences, Ron Trent and other Midwest icons are the first that spring to mind, but he’s quick to point out that some of the Scottish capital’s finest house innovators also had an impact on his musical development. “Locally, Firecracker [Recordings] struck a chord in a big way,” he enthuses. “Going to see the likes of Linkwood and Fudge Fingas perform really brought the relevance of a lot of other stuff I liked into a local context.”

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This engagement with the house scene at local level is something that Telfort’s made a conscious effort to maintain. Glasgow has long been considered Scotland’s electronic music capital, but he is keen to talk up the blossoming scene that’s emerging at the other end of the M8 motorway. “The Edinburgh scene’s been great recently. I think it took a long time to shake off the impact of The Venue closing back in the day. It’s had some catching up to do after feeling quite behind for years.

“But thanks to a lot of the newer, clued-up promoters and collectives, as well as a few older ones still going strong, like Substance, it’s surely one of the best cities in the UK to come and play at the moment.”

As well as throwing semi-regular, Telfort’s Good Place parties at the cherished Sneaky Pete’s (“Sneaky’s literally is a good place so it’s perfect”), he also often appears at the monthly Lionoil nights – spread across Sneaky’s and The Bongo Club. An artist who’s well-connected on the international front, these events have given Telfort the opportunity to DJ alongside close friends and contemporaries from further afield. “I’ve had the Smallville Records guys over from Hamburg; Matt Karmil has played; Baaz from Berlin; Karima F from Norway, it’s purely to showcase what I’m into and who I want to play with.”

But have these deep connections with the international DJ community had a bigger influence on his musical development than that of his local scene? “I think certainly both,” he opts for pragmatically.

“Dance music in the UK as a whole is always really forward-thinking, which makes for some really interesting results, but almost to the point where it’s like ‘that’s great but what’s next?’ Whereas in mainland Europe, particularly German scenes, tend to know what they like and pretty much stick with it. I try to take inspiration from somewhere between those two paradigms.”

Rooms for Speculation is released 1 Jun via Lionoil Industries