I’m not going to lie, I have found it quite hard to connect with new music for the last few months. I’m lucky to be sent promos from a variety of labels and PR companies, a lot of which turn out to be unoriginal 2-step foghorn “bangers” designed for the dancefloor with barely enough of an idea to progress beyond four minutes. There is always one label that I know I can rely on and anticipate their new releases with genuine enthusiasm and excitement, Metalheadz. “A Different Perspective”, the debut album by Friske, recently managed to lure me out of a dark pit of despondency with modern DNB so I jumped at the chance to talk about the LP, working with Goldie and releasing music on Headz.
Before we get talking about your debut LP, could you tell us a little bit about how you got into producing and your journey up to now?
I have been learning, playing and making music from an early age. My Dad has been my biggest influence behind my musical journey and played in a band in the ’70s so it’s in my blood. He bought me an Alesis SR16 drum machine as a birthday present one year around the age of 10 or 11 and I would spend hours and hours attempting to recreate the drum beats I heard listening to the radio and such. My Dad then took me to keyboard lessons with one of his old bandmates, Buzz, who taught me some extremely valuable knowledge at a young age. I’d learn how to play each individual part of entire songs, he always used to call me a ‘bass freak’ because learning the bassline was always the part I wanted to do first.
I grew up in Essex/Southeast London in the ’80s and ’90s and started finding out about jungle when it first came around from the older kids at my school who all had the Slammin Vinyl, Unity and Bangin Tunes jackets and record bags, I became intrigued. My sister, who is a few years older than me, gave me a Kemistry and Storm mixtape which I then claimed as my own as I was obsessed with it. I was always into hip hop, but I eventually clocked that the two genres were connected by breakbeats. Then I discovered “Inner City Life” by Goldie and “Circles” by Adam F, this spiralled my love for hip hop and drum and bass onto a whole other level. I got into djing and bought my first pair of decks around 16/17 years old and bought my very first records from Vinyl Conflict in Bexleyheath, which was run by Special K, and very quickly learnt how to mix. After a few years, I managed to secure a graveyard slot on Kool FM around 2003, located in Bromley by Bow, this was my first experience being within the scene and I met many known names during my time there. I only held the show for around 6 months or so, when I had the opportunity to go and live in the USA in Toledo, Ohio, which is about 45 mins from Detroit where I played on quite a few occasions. That is when I fully got into producing and writing my first full-length tracks and working out how to make a tune. I returned to London at the end of 2008.
Your time in the scene has seen you release music on some of the biggest labels for well over a decade, including Renegade Hardware and Warm Communications. What have been some of the personal highlights from your career and what was it like working with those labels?
Working with Hardware is where I met my long time comrades Loxy, Ink, Gremlinz and Nolige/SB81 etc. We formed a crew called “The Horsemen’ and were militant in our approach. We all share similar tastes and values when it comes to DNB and being brought into the fold around 2004/05 by Ink and Loxy was a dream come true for me. They really gave me encouragement and feedback about tunes, both good and bad which taught me a lot. After sending them quite a few tunes over the space of a year or so, “Troublesome” became my debut release on the first Horsemen album, “Apocalypse” in 2005. This was where I had several of my early releases and was my first experience dealing with a label, it was all a learning process.
I hooked up with Heath and Warm Communications around 2015 to produce “Sustain”, “Cold Signal” and “Marksman” for the label, which was released in 2016. I see Warm Comms as highly respectable with very tight quality control and was more than happy to sign with them.
How did you hook up with Metalheadz and what did that feel like?
I remember first speaking to Goldie after I sent him “Venture”. That was the tune that got his attention, he originally wanted it for “Platinum Breakz 4” and then I sent over a folder of tunes, one of which was “Covert”. I remember being at my girlfriend’s cousins house when I got another call to say he wanted “Covert” and “Venture” as a 12”. Goldie was an icon to me and probably the sole reason I got into drum and bass as he bridged the gap between hip hop and DNB. Headz has always been the ultimate label in my eyes so it was kind of a dream come true in a way. I was at a pretty dark time in my life at that point, I had a couple of situations occur and was technically homeless, so it was a massive boost and it gave me belief again. I’d already been active for around 7 years by then, I had my struggles, so this was really the breath of fresh air I needed, and being encouraged by someone who I admired was a blessing.
I described the LP as the perfect blend of sci-fi and B-Boy culture, it’s certainly got a Headz vibe to it but not in sound, you’ve managed to avoid the iconic palette of sounds many producers use to replicate that Headz style. I mean more in the approach, it’s epic and full of personality, unpredictable and varied. What was your approach in putting your debut LP together?
I wanted to make something that’s not all necessarily for the dancefloor, something people can actually listen to, with depth and potential longevity. Most drum and bass LP’s these days are not really albums, just more like a collection of random tunes which is exactly what I did not want to do. In my opinion, an album should be a journey for the listener and that’s what I wanted to create. The order of the tracklisting was carefully chosen and the titles tell a story in itself. If you look at the titles, and the order they are in, the album begins on the lighter side of things and ends dark and moody.
This is not an LP for plug-in nerds, or anyone who wants to hear an album full of “bangers”, if you were looking for that then your gonna be disappointed. I personally don’t give a fuck about current trends, making dancefloor “bangers” or trying to appease the sheep. This ain’t for you.
When I grew up on jungle/DNB, it was the sound of the streets, the inner city. I used to go raving at places like Stratford Rex so the street element of this scene is its roots and that’s where I want to take it back to. I also wanted to make something that could potentially appeal to people outside of the scene who maybe once were fans of the genre but became alienated when the sound changed in the early 2000s. This is actual music, with soul. Something that is seriously lacking these days or, has not been getting pushed rather, as it should be. People want the genre to be more diverse, including myself and its gonna take looking at doing things a bit different for that diversity to come to fruition in my opinion.
I hear ya on that front, back in the early days when the scene was beginning that diversity was everywhere! As mentioned, I get a strong B-Boy vibe when listening to your music. Especially the graffiti elements. Is this something you are involved in or influences you? That Skeme sample bought a nostalgic smile to my face.
I have always been influenced by hip hop culture from an early age, the 4 elements. I started to get into graf at around 11/12 after seeing tags around my way and after watching “Style Wars” which has probably inspired me more than any other documentary, I’ve sampled it many times over the years and there is probably still more treasure to be found. I did art at school, one of the few subjects I was good at and was actually interested in, my sketchbook was full of graffiti pieces but I never really got to the point of getting really deep into it because my main love is the musical element and that’s what I chose to focus on. When I saw “Juice”, which is probably my all-time favourite film, it made me get into DJing. After I got into that, everything else took a back seat, I’d found my calling. Music is my passion.
I remember watching “Bombin” on TV while growing up, it was like our version of “Style Wars”. There has always been a close connection between the two artforms to me and people like Goldie certainly seemed to apply the process of subverting the standard to create something fresh and complex, whether that was letters or drum edits. I saw you thank Goldie for supporting you as an artist and guiding you through the process of putting the album together, what can you tell us about that experience?
It was a long process over a couple of years. The first track that was chosen for the LP was “Destination. After I sent that was when talk of doing an album began. It gradually took shape over the next couple of years and was formed slowly piece by piece. I’d sometimes get a phone call from G about, “extending the breakdown of this tune”, or “make the drop come in earlier on that tune”. That kind of thing but mostly the tracks were accepted as they were. I was given total creative freedom, something that is extremely important to me as an artist. I grew up looking at Goldie as a true icon, so I was very inspired to make this album and wanted to draw from all my influences and create something I can look back on and be proud of.
I have a few stand out tracks from “A Different Perspective” I’d like to ask you about. Can you tell us something about these? I’m really curious to hear how they took shape, any direct influences and what your production process is like.
A Different Perspective: This is probably my personal favourite from the LP. It stemmed from the main pads I laid out that gave me a feeling of ‘freshness’ in a way. Then, as it took shape, the vibe really gave me the feeling of “a new beginning, a fresh start, a different perspective” like I get the image in my mind of an early morning in the city, its just been raining and the sun starts to come out and there’s a feeling of optimism. I would say this is one of the more uplifting tunes I have made.
Untitled Piano: This track started with the piano sample, one that I’ve had in my collection for a long time, one of the very first samples I got from my Dad’s record collection when I first started producing and collecting samples. I laid out the piano and then decided on the break and everything else fitted in quite easily. It was definitely one of the tracks that came together quicker than others on the album.
Urban Decay: This is a very personal track for me. I wanted to capture the vibe of living in a city like London these days. It’s a very tough environment, and there are many struggles and hardships for people including myself. The sample “Imagine life” is like a message to try and persevere through the hard times, to strive, hope and to never give up and have faith.
I took a Sade sample, done some processing and this became the main pad that you hear in the intro and throughout. I then brought up a nice pad sound on the midi controller and played the keys along to it and came up with the extra pads and everything else. The drum pattern kind of wrote itself, then I added the bassline. The track gave me a very strong vibe and the vocal snippet I used tied it all together nicely in my opinion.
Crime In The City: I wanted to take it back to the raw elements with this one and make something reflective of the times, and there is always crime in the city. I found the Skeme sample, another of which I’ve had in my collection for years, laid it out and the idea just flowed. Sometimes I can find a sample and it instantly paints a picture in my mind and I can envision each element, which is easier said than done to translate into logic but I managed to get it sounding just how I wanted it with this one, which is not always the case. The last piece of the puzzle was the “Nautilus” sample that fitted in nicely and, to me, gave it a grimy, dark texture that I was looking for.
Rebel Force: This was actually the last tune I made for the LP. I wanted something with a more classic dark Headz vibe without trying to copy anything else. I laid out the Apache break and the dark pad chord on my midi controller. I usually try and come up with a chord or 2 that resonates with me, then I have the notes to write the bassline and other parts. I sent it to Goldie not thinking that much of it, to be honest, and was a bit surprised how much he liked it. Sometimes I make tunes and don’t think they’re my best but then I’ll hear back from G or Ant and they say it’s my best work, I never really know how something is going to be received, one of the obstacles of being a solo artist perhaps?
I for one have found it quite challenging to get fully submerged in new music recently but “A Different Perspective” really struck a chord with me, I love the beauty and optimistic first half then the darker elements of the second. I always think the time an LP is released can really help define its legacy, with everything that’s going on around the globe right now, how would you like it to be received?
I wanted to create the sound of an urban landscape, where the music paints a picture in your mind. I would love for it to be looked back on as a classic, timeless album, this was my goal, whether or not I will achieve that remains to be seen, but I would say it contains the elements and has the potential for that, hopefully. It’s up to the public though, at the end of the day, all I can do is try.
I also wanted to show people, especially outside of the scene, that drum and bass can be respectable music. It does not all have to be the same 2-step beat, wobbly bassline and/or a foghorn. This is real music from the heart with little to no plugins at all. I wanted to make something authentic, never, ever synthetic. I have never ever given a fuck about trends in any walk of life, if you’re an artist you’re supposed to be expressing yourself, not trying to sound like someone else and if you just follow the latest wave then you are not a real artist. This album was not intended to impress plug-in geeks or anyone looking for an LP full of “bangers”, this is for deeper thinkers. I wanted to express myself fully and made this with the intention of touching peoples souls… and hopefully make someone’s favourite ever tune. But I’ll have to wait and see about that…