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The Natural History of Anthony Collins

Bittles’ Magazine | Interview

Looking back it’s hard not to conclude that Anthony Collins has had a pretty damn successful career to date. Gaining his first DJ gig at the tender age of 18, moving to Paris, playing at the fabled Rex Club, releasing tunes on the likes of Get Physical, Poker Flat, and Mule, releasing his excellent debut album on Freak N’ Chic, and being responsible for some of the most spine-tingling house music to hit record shop shelves. An Interview by JOHN BITTLES.

Anthony Collins by Lexi Lambros
Anthony Collins. Photo: Lexi Lambros
Oh, and he has also recorded with Ricardo Villalobos, and runs two respected record labels, Scissor & Thread and Natural History from his musical base in Brooklyn, New York. Phew!
I first came across Anthony Collins’ work through his Shades EP that came out on Darkroom Dubs way back in 2007. Containing three tracks of the deepest, funkiest house music that I had heard in years, a love affair was swiftly born. His other releases were quickly tracked down with gusto. Here was a producer who understood the musicality of sound and how to create a seven minute track with a beginning, a middle and an end. Something that, surprisingly, is not that easily done!

Recently he has been working on the Frank & Tony project in collaboration with Francis Harris which sounds almost indie in its emotional complexity. Being a child of acid house he is also continuing to release more club-friendly fare through his rather fab Exhibit series of EPs. This March sees the release of Exhibit F which contains two tracks designed to make you dance like a loon. Difficult to pin down, each tune utilizes various elements to quite stunning effect resulting in 15 odd minutes of music that pretty much makes you feel glad to be alive.

That’s why in a world of tired, jaded music it is important to support artists such as Anthony! With each and every release you get the sense that he is doing this not to be cool, or for the money, but because this is something he simply has to do. It is his passion for sound that drives him forward. And when was the last time you discovered an artist you could say that about? Eh?

Anthony Collins ExhibitIn this brief interview we discuss Exhibit F, Francis Harris, Scissor & Thread, record shops, feeling old and a whole lot more. So make yourself a cuppa, get your reading glasses on and let us begin!

For the uninitiated can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

I am Anthony Collins, label owner of Scissor & Thread and producer under Anthony Collins and Frank & Tony which is Francis Harris & myself.

The 3rd March sees the release of Exhibit F, the sixth in your Exhibit series which contain two tracks of house-based goodness. How did the EP come about?

The Exhibit series is a sub label to Scissor & Thread called Natural History. It’s focused on strait up raw analogue house grooves. No bullshit, just good house joints.

Panther from the EP has a gorgeous almost piano-house melody and a real melancholic vibe. What is the idea behind this song?

It kind of came naturally, I had the beat/bass action going which was quite driving and wanted to get a special moment that would stick out in a club, piano just did the trick.

In contrast Union is a bit more of a percussive dance-floor bomb. Were you specifically thinking of the clubs while making this track?

Yes, like I said the idea of the label is strictly dance-floor focused doesn’t obviously mean banging, could be super deep but as a dance-floor appeal.

The record comes out on your own label Natural History which is a subsidiary of your other label Scissor & Thread. What made you set up a second label?

I am always making tracks for my DJ sets and wanted an outlet to release the tracks that worked the best, and Scissor & Thread has its own moody and indie oriented sound so seems natural to start a sub label.

How does the output on Natural History differ from those on Scissor & Thread?

[With] S&T there is much more work behind each releases and a real artist development of every artist of our crew, proper artwork, videos etc, etc [which] demands a lot planning and work.

Natural History is more like ‘we have these 2 killer house cuts’, ‘ok, well let’s put them out‘. As easy as that!

Speaking of Scissor & Thread, you started this label in 2011 with Francis Harris. What made you decide to enter the fragile world of running your own record label?

I came to point in my career were I felt I needed to start from scratch & have total control of my identity & music. So starting a label was the best way to achieve that + I had a clear vision of what I wanted for myself but I could not find elsewhere.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from running Scissor & Thread?

Taking passionate musical risks usually pays off, if you really believe in something you will give yourself the resources to make it work.

You have brought out some great EPs as part of the Presents series together with Francis Harris as Frank & Tony. What made you decide to start working together and what is your working relationship like?

When we started the label we also started to make music together and our first ever track was Worked which I still play today. The collab went so great that it seems natural to go on & when we started to DJ together this amazing chemistry formed and the deal was sealed. Tony could not get enough of Frankie and vice versa.

How does the music you release as Frank & Tony differ from your solo output?

Frank & Tony is more musical & we use a lot of guest vocalists. My solo output is more ruff edged.

Scissor & Thread is just about to release Minutes of Sleep, the rather excellent second album from Francis Harris. Can you tell us a bit about this record?

I am so happy to release this and proud of the work Francis has done. The album is truly a piece of art and I could only recommend giving it at least a couple of listens.

It has been a few years since Doubts & Shouts appeared on Freak N‘ Chic. Are there any plans for another album?

No solo album for now, but a Frank & Tony one is in the pipes. We’re almost done actually as we speak!

Anthony Collins. Photo by Lexi Lambros
Anthony Collins. Photo by Lexi Lambros

What is the secret of a great DJ set?

Selection, timing, good sound system, working vinyl decks & a cued in crowd.

What was it that first got you into music?

When I discovered vinyl record shops! I would basically go there for hours every day [when I was] around 18. From there it’s been a chaotic but inspiring journey.

And house music?

That was when I was 18, before that some punk rock & old-school hip hop. As I was big into skate boarding my second passion was the soundtrack to that scene.

What was the catalyst that made you realise that you were destined to produce?

Once I was shown by a friend how to make beats it opened an entire new world to me! I went to buy my first computer and the rest is countless hours of leaning curve & still is today.

I was first introduced to your music through the wonderful Shades EP that came out on Darkroom Dubs back in 2007. What was it like working with Silicone Soul?

I just released an EP on their label! I never actually worked in the studio with them. As for that EP, when I listen back, it was in my first years of music and sounds very amateur.. but fuck that was already 7 years ago. Ouch, I am getting old haha.

What does the future hold for you?<

A lot of new music for 2013. Exciting project on Scissor &Thread. Basically, I think the most busy year of my career.

What upcoming releases on Natural History or Scissors & Thread are you most excited about?

Francis Harris Album.
Gry EP
Black Light Smoke EP.
Bob Moses EP.

Now, as a journalist of middling talent I really don’t feel it is my place to be telling people what to do! But, I still think you should head over to Anthony Collins’ Soundcloud page at to hear just how great house music can be.

| JOHN BITTLES

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