Lester Batchelor is one of the main forces behind the legendary Brit-funk group, Atmosfear.
We are honoured to be able to reissue Atmosfear ‘Dancing In Outer Space’ 12” and ‘En Trance’ full-length album on Mr Bongo. Available now on vinyl and CD. More titles to follow later this year and in 2019.
Our resident encyclopaedia of all things Disco – and founder of the WOLF Music record label – Matt Neale, spoke to Lester about ‘Dancing In Outer Space’:
How did ‘Dancing In Outer Space’ come to life? Who wrote it, when, where..?
Believe it or not it came to me in a dream the night before our final day in the recording studio while we were recording 'En Trance', some time in May 1979. I remember this vividly because I spent my birthday in the studio that year. I can expand in more detail how I orchestrated the composition live in the studio in one take, but I'll leave that story for another time.
However, it would not have happened if we had used all the studio time to complete our recording for 'En Trance' – you see Andy had block-booked the studio to get a better rate and we still had time left on the clock and low and behold the album was done. So I asked Abbey the sound engineer to run the tape and run the clock down while we got busy playing the track that no one in the band had heard before. The result was 'Dancing in Outer Space'.
Who else were you listening to when D.I.O.S. was created?
Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers, Eddie Henderson, Prince, Brothers Johnson, Brass Construction and Donald Byrd.
Where was it recorded and who produced it?
It was recorded at Gateway Studio on Salcott Road in Clapham, near Wandsworth Common. It was produced by Andy Sojka, Jerry Pike and myself – we went under the guise of 'Freeway Productions'. 'Freeway' is Andy's play on 'threeway', as in all three of us.
Who played on the recording?
Bass Guitar, Bass Synth, Synthesizer - Lester Batchelor
Guitar - Andy Sojka
Drums - Ray Johnson
Sax - Stewart Cawthorne
Electric Piano, Synthesizers, Strings - Peter Hinds
How did it perform commercially upon its release?
When it was released, it had quite a curious effect on people; they didn't know who or where it was produced... and we didn't let on. In general people didn't know how to respond to it because it was so different to anything else that was out at that time.
It was very quiet for a few weeks following release... then suddenly all hell broke loose and everyone wanted you know who, where, what and why, and when can I get a copy! It first broke big in Bristol via a local DJ called Martin Starr.
Were you aware of the impact it was having in the NYC dance scene at the time?
No, we didn't have a clue initially. The dance scene in London was burning hot at the times and all the dance floor hoofers absolutely adored it. After a couple of months we got news that the US was blowing up too, and I think Andy got feedback from some of the exporters he was in contact with, that DIOS was taking off and he was invited to go out to NY. Of course I wanted to go out there too but I couldn't persuade Andy that he needed a companion. I was still a student so could not afford to pick myself up to go.
What did you think of the Masters At Work remixes that came out in 1997?
I personally loved it, MAW produced by far the best remix ever done. Francois K also produced an interesting mix.
Are you surprised by its continuing popularity?
Yes I am! I'm constantly surprised by the many, many conversations I've had with people all around the world who love DIOS, young and old. It appears to touch people in ways that I could never imagine.
What do you think the legacy of D.I.O.S. is?
D.I.O.S. was a gift to me. I am humbled and surprised that it has influenced so many creative people – musicians, artists, singers, dancers, sound engineers etc.; from accomplished musicians to the beginner House DJs, or Drum and Bass enthusiasts.
If it is 'The Gift'that keeps on giving; to inspire people to experiment with their creativity; to express themselves without FEAR!; to think freely with audacious ideas. Then I am a very, very happy man and I am properly grateful to have contributed to another persons happiness.