In Conversation With North Base

Operating as a unit for almost 12 years, but good friends for twice as long; North Base comprises Silver and Prophecy, two men who have deep ties with each other, their home city Manchester and the D&B scene.

As well serving up XXL dancefloor bangers, they’re both involved in a whole menu of behind-the-scenes and community-based projects. Dean Silver is the studio powerhouse behind North Base, he runs Nemesis Recordings and teaches. Wilf Prophecy is behind a host of event brands and other projects such as Manchester’s famous Metropolis, The Warehouse Project and drug-harm reduction group Loop who famously pioneered on-site pill-testing in the UK two years ago.

That’s not even a smidgeon of the tip of their CV iceberg. But right now all eyes and ears are on the music. Following Them Old Skool Vibes earlier this year, they’ve teamed up with rising Russian producer Dima Pulsar, Kiwi king Trei and the legendary MC Dynamite for the chop-bopping new single on Rene LaVice‘s Device imprint: Raw.

Raw by name and nature, it’s a bass sledgehammer to the senses and lands just in time for the raves to open up once again. Safely through the worst phase of lockdown they’ve experienced so far – including them both getting COVID and Wilf being stuck in Portugal – we called up their Manchester HQ to chat about their deep ties… 

I’ll start with the obligatory lockdown question. How has it been for you both?

Dean Silver: We took a big hit. All our gigs got cancelled, as did everyone’s. Wilf had to cancel shows he was running. It was the not knowing and lack of information that was the hardest. Nothing could be planned. But I got on with music and did some teaching and did what I could. I got to big up people like Music Support and the PRS, if it wasn’t for them and their grants, or the help of friends like Wilf, then I wouldn’t have had any money. It’s been dire straits. It’s been horrible, we need to get things open!

I was going to ask about lockdown silver linings, but you actually had COVID didn’t you?

Wilf Prophecy: Yeah, two months ago. I really wasn’t well from it and somehow gave it to Dean before I knew I had it!

No way!

Wilf Prophecy: Yeah it was doing our weekly radio show where we just have a laugh, play loads of old school tunes and have a buzz. That was a benefit of the year we’ve had. We wouldn’t have done that without having that time. It didn’t matter if we had only a few listeners or loads but we built up a little community around that. And through that I got involved in another broadcast where I help people going through recovery, which was great. I also got stuck in Portugal because of quarantine so Dean flew the flag for us during that time. We got through it, though. We’re still here!

Dean Silver: Yeah, all that’s been good. It’s kept us busy, but we are seriously waiting for the clubs to come back at the end of the day.

Where does the new track Raw come into all of this? It feels like a roll-your-sleeves-up, let’s get back to business type of track. Maybe it was written with that in mind?

Dean Silver: It started last year.

Wilf Prophecy: Nah it was before that. Got to be two years ago.

Dean Silver: Yeah I played the first version at Parklife didn’t I. But then I sat on it for a bit before Dynamite got involved last year. Then it was a case of mixing it down and passing it around to Trei and to Pulsar. It was a long process.

So you’re bouncing it around from UK to New Zealand to Russia and then maybe even to you in Portugal, Wilf?

Wilf Prophecy: It has floated around. I can’t take any credit for this one, the guys were well away with it. I don’t spend the majority of my time in the UK so we jump on things together when we can. Otherwise Dean would be waiting for me, like an old creaky skeleton with this little roach.

Dean Silver: Haha. There’s always something to get on with this end.

Yeah like that Them Old Skool Vibes track last year. You mentioned playing old school on your radio show and I think a lot of us went through some nostalgia vibes during lockdown didn’t we?

Dean Silver: Yeah me and Dima did that one. The scene’s got all the wobblers and rollers but we wanted to bring in some of those old Trace vibes, those Virus and Ed Rush & Optical vibes. We wanted to have a big reese in there. That’s what that was all about.

Take me back to 2019. You were celebrating 10 years of North Base before the lockdowns so take me back.

Prophecy: I just think of this flat me and Dean had in Moss Side, we just about had electricity and were making tunes in the living room. Then suddenly 10 years later I wake up in this new world and it’s like ‘did that all happen?’ It’s hard to analyse for me. You don’t get time to stop and look at what any of it is. It scares me sometimes when I think ‘when did we tour Sao Paulo?’ or ‘where were we when we made this one?’

We’ve gone through some changes over the years, but the main constants were me and Dean. I love that for what it is. We’ve been around each other since the Iceabar where we’d play every Saturday. That was just before the IRA bombed Manchester, which was 25 years ago the other week. I was like 16, 17 back then. It’s been that long. Then Dean moved to America and worked there, and I’d go over and visit a few times a year and we’d play dubplates. It’s family. So North Base is 10 years but Silver and Prophecy it’s been more like 20 or 25 years.

What were you doing in America, Dean?

Dean Silver: I was doing stuff with Sonic as Sonic and Silver and that was doing well. Then he moved to Vietnam and I got offered a job at EMI over there. I was just a teaboy, taking masters to places and that. But I got to the use the studio there. I made my first album there, I mixed down other band’s albums like Righteous Movement’s. I was living with a mate Jeremy, he looked after me. I played at Respect, I was resident for EDC Bass Rush. I came back in 2007 after about eight years out there and yeah, I loved it.

Long before EDM. It was still quite underground out there, wasn’t it?

Dean Silver: Yeah, but the guys were always coming over. Andy C, Mampi, SS with his World Of Drum & Bass shows and then the conference in Miami would be every year and everyone would come down. All the scene, all the Manchester lot. I used to do a party in a club called the Laundry Bar with my boy Juan who I lived in Miami with. It was such a wicked time out there. It reminds me of what’s going on in New Zealand now and that was a similar thing out there at the time.

How much had Manchester changed when you came back?

Dean Silver: Nothing changed bro, it’s home!

Wilf Prophecy: You say that, but we started Metropolis together and then you left. By the time you came back we had The Warehouse Project, which is a beast. It was a real animal.

It literally started in 2007 didn’t it?

Wilf Prophecy: Yeah it did. So that was a major change in the city from our music and clubbing perspective. I remember Dean saying ‘bruv, there are police on the door!’ I’d be like ‘Yeah, go and say hello if you like!’

Dean Silver: Yeah, that was a massive change. There were definitely no police on the door in the old days! We’d run our own doors. You’d never say hello to a policeman in the club before those days. So yeah, big changes in that way but in terms of family it was still Manchester. We are all connected and supportive of each other. From Children Of Zeus and DRS to us, to everyone, we’re all in the same pot. That’s why I love Manchester.

There’s something very special about the city. Wilf you mentioned helping people through addiction, Dean you mentioned teaching. It doesn’t matter how much you scale up in operations, you’ve got time for other people and community based stuff. This seems to happen in Manchester more than other cities…

Wilf Prophecy: I have to agree. A few fucked off – like Morrissey – but Manchester musicians always come back to Manchester or have a strong tie there. Carl Cox is from Oldham and he’s got a big affiliation up here. Stone Roses, all the bands. Not many people who leave stay away. Well, maybe Oasis but they support Man City so they’re not real Manchester anyway.

I don’t think anyone from Manchester thinks they’re bigger than Manchester and that’s a humbling thing. I feel sorry for people in Liverpool. It doesn’t matter how much you do in music, you’ll always be measured up against the Beatles and that’s a shame. In Manchester we’ve had the Beegees, the Smiths, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Oasis. So many massive bands. But we’ve never got stuck in one era, or just celebrated one success. Everyone’s always been very future-thinking and helping the next ones come in. It’s like a ladder of help that keeps building and building.

Look at where Bou is now and how he’s doing it now. Or Children Of Zeus! Look at them. I speak to big, very big people in hip-hop and soul and play them Children Of Zeus and they love it. That feeling of playing them music that comes from my mates from my city is priceless. And it creates a connection then; local people love seeing local people do well. It’s like ‘oh yeah, I was there when they did their first show ort when they did that record’. It’s really cool and that keeps us in that groove.

Dean Silver: We’ve been on this since early. Guys like Wilf, me, Mark XTC are old men of the scene now and what I love is that we’ve seen the guys who were just behind us like Chunky and Fox, all coming through now. I remember when Chunky came on the road with us and he was 13 or 14.

Wilf Prophecy: All that lot. Everyone is repping. LEVELZ, Tonn Piper with Andy C, Strategy… Everyone.

Back to North Base now, though. What comes next after Raw?

Dean Silver: After Raw we’re working on a single with MCAD, which is the first time he’s been on a track. That’s with Pulsar and Smooth.

Woah… MCAD has never been on a track?

Dean Silver: Never! I keep telling him and it’s taken me ages but that’s happening and I’m buzzing about that. Then we got a track with Pavan and Burr Oak.

Wilf Prophecy: We’re in the studio with Hazard too.

Wow. How about on the live event side, Wilf? You must be very busy…

Wilf Prophecy: Yeah, we got some time to make up for. We got the RTRN II Dance event on Clapham Common, which sold out and showed great strength from the scene. We got a lot of stuff through Afronation and Rolling Loud, stuff with EDC. Different places are opening now, the UK is beginning to look okay, we just want to get back to a safe standard of living and there’ll be shows all over. Australia, New Zealand, America is opening up already. We’re coming out of this now…

North Base, Trei, Dima Pulsar – Raw Ft Dynamite MC is out now on Device

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