Your roots are grounded in the breakcore/experimental side of things. Does that inform your approach to Dubstep and Bass music?
Knowing those people and doing those sort of shows – even though I’m not wholly breakcore – if you hang around with those guys, they never took what they did that seriously. So I just got used to existing on the very fringes of things. It opens you to doing different things. I couldn’t exist in a scene where you can suddenly make a track one day and people be like “what the hell are you doing?!” That’s not how I function at all. It’s just fun messing around. It’s what being creative is supposed to be. I like starting with a blank slate and making something from there, rather than if you’re working wholly within a genre, you’re constrained before you start, whereas if it’s drum & bass you know within 5bpm what the tempo’s going to be and what sort of frequency you’re gonna have the snares. A tune starts writing itself before you’ve actually comitted anything down. And that’s limiting. That’s not how I enjoy working at all.
Do you think your approach to producing or composing has changed at all since you started?
What’s changed is I’ve become more committed with my work to what genre it’s in. I didn’t make drum & bass for a long time, although that’s where I learned my production from, places like drumandbassforum. I was worried about the fact that it lives and dies in its production values alone. So it was only a month ago I made my first drum & bass tune and dBridge started picking it up and playing it. If I make a drum & bass track I want dBridge playing it. If I make and electro track I want Boddika playing it. Whereas before I’ve been very non-committal, now I want the tune to be accepted where it belongs for what it is rather than the random techno that’s not proper techno.
You’ve collaborated with and remixed quite a disparate range of artists. Who would you say was the most enjoyable to work with?
I really liked the stuff I did with Wiley and The Qemists because it was the first thing I did for Ninja Tune while I was there and I’m still really happy with it and it was the first drum & bass track that I was allowed to see the parts of, although I didn’t turn it into a drum & bass tune, it was the first tune by a drum & bass artist that I was allowed to mess around with. There’s some that have been awful though: I did a drum & bass remix for a pop guy called Frankmusik. I was really happy with it but they scrapped the release. I’ve got a recent one for Prodigy coming out which was a month of torrid misery trying to come up with stuff but it wasn’t happening, for what ever reason. I enjoy a fresh challenge, it’s a good way of trying out different things to what I would normally. Because I’ve already got a lot of stuff to work with, if I want to make a Hip-Hop track for example, I don’t have to worry about the vocals because they’re already there.
What sort of equipment do you use? What sort of software/hardware do you use?
Pretty straightforward, Logic for making stuff on. That and I just have stuff going out through a Apogee Ensemble through a Mackie desk and back in again and I’ve got a bass channel which is put through the desk via an Infinity preamp which is good because you can blend solid state and valve tones on that so it’s always good and a Moog Slim Fatty which is a rack version of the Little Fatty. I’ve found with those setups, because they’re so big, you have to work with them separately because they impose on the tune so much. I also have a Virus rack because it’s the last KC before they went TRN, but I just use it as a very expensive controller keyboard. It’s got too many effects on it for my liking. I wish I could go through the sounds or strip off the effects and gizmos. It’s like a lot of soft synths, it’s too cluttered up.
Some people make amazing tunes in Reason, it’s just down to what you use. As long as you’ve got a good monitor setup and you know what you’re actually doing. You can hear what you’re doing or you can see what you’re doing. I think Current Value use headphones; as long as you know how that translates as well.
A set up like that is going to take a while to accumulate, what advice would you give producers just starting out?
When I started out I pretty much just set up in my room and didn’t really know anyone else doing it. I just learned how to make stuff all off the internet. My dad showed me how to play guitar a little bit, but other than that I didn’t have anyone showing me. I have people around me now, since I started, and they happen to know other people who were making stuff so they would always be around theirs or they could pool gear together. But not everyone’s fortunate enough to know a mate round the corner that’s got decent equipment, so just download it off the internet. Ultimately, if you wanna make music and that shit’s there, just fucking download it off the internet. It’s a good way of testing it before you buy it. I’ve done that before but everything I have, I’ve paid for. I don’t want to open up a session and it doesn’t work because I need a plugin which is corrupted. You find with these that you can play with the presets but if you go to mess around with any of the actual settings something crashes and then you’ve lost the whole tune.
I still go on YouTube to see how I make different sounds like a dubby stab. But everyone learns differently. All you can do is to get involved, however you can because that ethusiasm you have at that early stage is the most important thing. I’ve found with music that it’s all about trying to keep that enthusiasm there and not let other factors come into play, whethere it’s how the music is perceived or stuff in the rest of your life like family and friends. It’s like being a kid and being hugely imaginative – it’s the same principle. So long as you’re willing to try something new and you have a keen ear. You can have all the gear in the world, but if you don’t have that you’re fucked. Or a talent searcher.
What are you’re influences at the minute, what’s exciting you?
What I;m really happy about is there seems to be a lot more open mindedness and a lot more cross-genre pollenation. I’ve always thought a good producer, no matter what music they’re making, you can hear their touches in. As a producer, I can’t necessarily hear my touches but other people can. I hear it in Modeselektor, whether it’s a Hip-Hop thing or a straight techno track, I can hear their sound. It’s been brought to a successful business model: dBridge and Instra:metal will play a set with some Electro, a bit of Techno and then drum & bass and they make tunes the same way as well. I know Instra:mental aren’t really making drum & bass or playing together. Like I said before, if you’re making tunes and being creative, there’s nothing more creative than being able to write what you want. That’s what really excites me. You’ve got people making lots of different genres, therefore it helps those individual genres, say drum n bass, because it doesn’t get caught up in its own little bubble, whether it’s Neuro-Tech or Liquid drum & bass it opens it up a bit more because someone can make a dancehall track and put that in a drum & bass track or take a drum & bass bassline and put into an electro track.
So where do you see music going in the future? What’s your prediction?
It’s so hard to keep up. If you wanted to make an album that’s trendy or cool like a juke album, by the time it’s finished and mastered and released everyone’s like “Juke? Come on, that’s like four months ago”. It moves so quickly now which is cool because you’re getting to hear lots of new stuff but things aren’t really getting a proper chance to develop. Every time there’s a new genre like Moombahton or Squee, my friend’s on it and I don’t think things are really getting a chance to develop. Therefore, you’re never really getting the next stage of that sound and how it reflects on other sounds. The only thing to have caught on really since dubstep is juke because it’s been allowed to develop for a few years. It existed for so long in Chicago it seemed like it couldn’t really develop outside of there. Maybe I’m being unfair as an outsider looking in, but it has developed because it’s been around for so long. It didn’t really work with Baltimore when Diplo got a hold of it; it became disposable party music. But with juke you’ve got the Machinedrum album… Hang on, we’re getting way off point! As far as where music’s going, I can only speak for what’s turning me on or turning me off. There’s no crime for me to make, musically, because everything’s so awful right now. I don’t want to stand in the way of progress because people who weren’t there in the beginning are taking it further and further from Skream to Skrillex. It’s turning into a bit more of a melting pot which spurs things on in a way because genres change so quickly so you’re not getting a purist’s distilled idea of it.
What are your plans for the future?
Trying to finish the album off is the main thing because I’ve been working on it for two years now and there’s only so much you can do before it reaches a natural conclusion. It’s got to the point where I really need to go back and listen through the demos I made two years ago when I first started writing it. Then that should hopefully be out by the end of the year. I’ve got an EP out in February, which is the first of the new stuff. I also want to develop my own A/V show, which is going to be hard because I’ve never even used MS Paint before so getting into final cut might be difficult, but you’ve got to throw yourself into the deep end I suppose.
I’ve not made any ultra-aggressive music for a year. People havbe an idea of how I am from the first album and they just want the same thing so it’s hard to mix in some of the newer stuff because there’s a lot of Electro and Techno. So if I do a whole A/V set for that, it’ll just be to make people dance. My plan has always been to make two albums and then survey the land. I know from being in terrible bands when I was younger that things have a shelf-life, after a while you need to make a change. I hate to think of it as a business, but it sort of is. I have bills to pay!
Finally, what can we expect from the new album?
It’s the same pallette of sounds, I can’t get away from that. In the same way that I took it from drum & bass and then put it into different genres like I did with dancehall on the first album. There’s a lot of 4/4 stuff. It’s a bit shoegazey, in a way, and there’s lots of my ow live playing on there; I play guitar, I sing on a few tracks. I made the first albm and then I realised I never listen to ti becauser it would be like the beginning of Scanners. I wanted to make an album I could actually listen to. I always really liked the albums I could listen to if I was walking home somewhere at 4 in the morning. I don’t know why they’re everyone’s favourite albums. It’s still really dark and the label said it’s darker thn the first album but it’s like a horror film. If the first album was Saw, then this album is Don’t Look Now.