When it comes to introducing new music to the UK, there's not many people more qualified to do so than Annie Mac. She's been on Radio 1 for 12 years, last year taking over the weekday early evening slot from the departed Zane Lowe, and it's through her shows the Dubliner champions young, breakthrough acts. She was one of the early supporters of Disclosure and you've only got to look what they're doing now to know her ear for a star act's is on-point. Taken from our recent cover feature with her, here's six she's sure are going to run riot in 2016.
Annie: "I found out about Denis (pictured above) when I asked Jackmaster for help with booking some solid local Scottish DJs for my AMP show up there. He suggested Denis. One of the things I like most about him is his natural ability to have fun in his music. The mixes are really well put together, you can tell his record collection runs deep. His productions are really accomplished for someone who hasn’t been making music that long."
Released at the tail-end of 2014, a tune that cast a long shadow over the following year was Denis Sulta’s ‘A.A.S.’ (Night & Day mix). It’s a sultry, pared-back tech-house reworking of the old Smokey Robinson classic ‘Being With You’, as smooth as coconut oil but with enough percussive bite to keep dancefloors moving from Ibiza to Miami.
The 22-year-old Glaswegian responsible, whose nascent DJ career had been nurtured by local mecca, the Sub Club, was more than happy with the response, which saw a rise in his bookings, including a night at Fabric. Not bad for someone who, only four years ago, was headed in a very different direction when his skill at freestyle skiing took him to the British championships during his last year at school. He started talking to a friend’s dad about how he couldn’t find a Saturday job anywhere, even at McDonalds.
“My friend’s dad was Wilbert Sandison, owner of the Rubadub record shop,” Sulta explains, referring to a key hub for dance music in Scotland. “He said if I could make a good impression I could work there. I started on Record Store Day, a baptism of fire, and I loved it. When I first started I was into EDM and dubstep, which wasn’t what they stocked. I soon got into more underground stuff, the disco side of things, Moodymann, Underground Resistance. I was thrown into an amazing world.”
He was soon working full time, finding Glasgow clubland hugely supportive of his DJing, and eventually quit an engineering degree to focus on music, with a couple of releases (including ‘A.A.S.’) for Dixon Avenue Basement Jams and another, ‘It’s Only Real’, for Jackmaster’s Numbers label. He had recorded previously as Atlas, making heavier techno, but as Denis Sulta he found a new recipe – although it turns out his real name is actually Hector Barbour.
“Hector doesn’t play clubs, Denis does,” says Sulta. “When I moved on from dark, heavy techno a wee character popped into my head, an Arab Emirates guy, a young oil baron named Denis who’s into the underground club scene and has to come here to make a name for himself.”
The second of three children, Hector was raised by a father who works in TV and a mum who heads the board at the Glasgow Art School. His younger brother is captain of the Scottish fly-fishing team, something the young Hector was also once good at.
“I used to be absolutely boss,” he says. “I’d take my little brother fishing, catch a couple and show him what to do, but eventually it got the point where he’d turn up, and just pull ’em out of the water – one, two, three, four, five. I thought, ‘I’ve had enough of this, I’m off home to EQ some kick-drums man’.”
It’s probably the only occasion when we can say that Scottish fly fishing’s loss is dance music’s gain.