Nov 24, 2005



--When Michael Black was a young music enthusiast — growing up in the shadow of the Ministry of Sound in South London — he quickly became exposed to the technological cachet that was coming into the country during the first wave of exported New York buzz brands.

During the influential early ’80’s he couldn’t help notice the presence of this rotary mixer that reigned high on the hog in central command at James Palumbo’s new venture in Gaunt Street.

The presence of the UREI 1620 stayed with him 20 years until he himself was a professional DJ — operating on Power Internet Radio out of Dublin, where he moved five years ago.

“My big influence was black music — reggae and soul — growing up in south Wandsworth,” he said. “And although I was unfortunate to miss (Paradise Garage’s legendary) Larry Levan when he played at the Ministry, they were one of the first clubs to adopt the UREI 1620, which at the time was not a big European thing.

“This was the American way — and the Ministry was right at the centre of the movement. A good sound system is 50% of a club’s success and the sound here was one of the factors responsible for getting me into mixing.”

The Ministry made a point of promoting the UREI as a rare and vintage mixer. It featured in their flyers and PR, he remembers, as a succession of top DJ’s like Tony Humphries, Jazzy M and later Erick Morillo passed through.

By the time Michael Black started doing parties with two colleagues in the early ’90s, rotary fader mixers had all but disappeared. “And of course it was the era before eBay, so I had no chance of finding one.”

By the end of the 90’s the man who was working as a retail manager by day, decided to make something of his skills and moved to Dublin to work on Jazz FM pirate radio, presenting the Saturday night show. “Pirate Radio was largely accepted in the city and I was playing house, garage, soul and funk.” But eventually the station closed down and Michael took his house groove to NOVA before ComReg (the Irish regulators) ended his tenure there — and he moved to Power.

However, along the way he had heard that the 1620LE was back in circulation “from a lot of American heads who really know their shit” via logging onto the Wave Forum.

But the turning point came when his mates over in Cork, the DJ crew Fish Go Deep (Greg Dowling and Shane Johnson), told him that the 1620LE was now in stock at Audio Warehouse (Soundcraft’s distributors in the Republic).

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Since my mixes on Power are in a club format, the 1620LE is perfect for creating club mixes.” As he is broadcasting from a residential block, Black pre-records his Delicious mix sessions using the 160LE by day and then plays back the cocktail of classics and new tracks between 11pm-1am on a Monday.

“What appeals to me is the rotary mix — a long smooth mix, and you can see the mix building,” he says. “At the Ministry of Sound, when you could hear the track coming in, it just increased the tension — but with faders you don’t tend to hear it until the final quarter. Sonically the UREI has much more punch — producing a very clear sound with a much more powerful bass.

“I also love the simplicity of the machine, with no fiddly buttons to negotiate. It just has the individual pots for each channel, with a Headphone Out, a Master Channel … and that’s it.” He optimises the mixer by using it in conjunction with an Isolator, to gain greater frequency control.

Outside his studio, Michael Black continues to use his UREI 1620LE on live work with a Dublin collective known as Bodytonic (built around DJ’s John Mahon and Taylor), playing US and Deep House.

“I love the UREI 1620LE — but even though I’m using an old school mixer, I’m still very much of the MP3 generation,” he emphasises.

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