Fanu Talks Breaks, Headz, Ableton and Producing DnB

To celebrate the release of Fanu’s second EP on Metalheadz, we caught up with the Scandinavian DnB and hip-hop producer to discuss what it’s like to record for Metalheadz, collecting samples, how his studio set-up has changed and some production/studio tips.

You can check out his track “Through Thick And Thin”, taken from “The Legacy EP” below.

So, before we talk about your new release on Metalheadz I feel we need to discuss “Siren Song” as that’s where I was first drawn into your sound. I was a massive fan of Good Looking in the early to mid-90s but then began to drift away from drum and bass and began to listen to more techno, house and early prototype broken beat at the end of the century. “Siren Song” was one of the main tracks that turned me back onto DnB in 2004.

Ah, thank you! If I have helped bring one person back to DnB or turn them to it, I’ve succeeded.

That period was very dear to me. I remember how this more synthetic, more drum-machine-beats driven sound was taking over, and I wasn’t feeling that, and that track just happened, and I somehow knew it’d work.

In a way, I guess my sound has always been slight ”counter-movement-ish”, but that period, around 2004–2008 was really about breaks being chopped and all that. I suppose it struck the right nerve in many. I was in touch with TeeBee a lot back then and it struck a chord in him, too – the melancholy that resonates in one Scandinavian will likely resonate in another.

I guess that song is the one from me that a lot of people know about, and I’m just happy about that. That song literally took me around the world and gave me my quick 15 minutes of fame, and it happened at the perfect time, as I was a student with surprisingly much time on my hands, so I could travel a lot all the time just to DJ and spread the sound.

It had everything I was so passionate about when GLR where at their peak, perfectly edited drums, bass that took the track to a whole different level, pads that genuinely took you on a journey, plus those vocals… The track had a genuine cosmic quality, everything fuses so impeccably it’s hard to believe that it’s made from a variety of samples from different sources as its so natural.

Safe to say I wouldn’t be what I am if it wasn’t for GLR, either. Their 90s releases were SO GOOD. I’ve always said, in that era of DnB, producers were bringing plenty of outside influences into the scene. Just putting music into DnB, without trying to sound like DnB too hard, if you know what I mean? In general, music was way more heterogenous back then, and diversity and individual voices were celebrated more, I feel.

The GLR camp was sampling deep house, jazz and all that – I sorely miss that organic vibe of those days. That music took you on a journey each and every time. That music you had to LISTEN to, and you did; it wasn’t just some light-hearted background music – it was so strong.
In general, DnB was a crazy melting pot back then.

This ability to forge different elements together so tightly has become a trademark of your sound, from your drum and bass productions to your hip-hop beats, from your first release to this new EP on Headz.

Thank you! I’ve been absorbing music passionately since I was 10 or so, so I guess that’s it.

What’s your vision as an artist and how do you set about making such emotive music?

That’s a broad question! When I started making music, I was 12 years old. My primary goal was to recreate those magical moments I experienced when listening to the music that seemed to resonate in me. And you know what they say: when you make music that’s true to you and makes you FEEL something, there’s a high chance it’ll vibrate in other like-minded people as well.

I always felt that in a lot of 90s music, or at least the stuff that found its way to my speakers, there was often this sense of “otherness”, this level of depth that you didn’t find in the mundane everyday life. Music always took me to places. E.g., I remember listening to FSOL’s “Lifeforms” album while just lying on my bed in a dark room, watching stars, and that was magical. I grew up in the countryside, and back then the climate was way colder there and you could see the stars and Northern Lights in the winter, the way my parents raised me and my twin brother when we were young was kind of relaxed and we mostly got to do whatever we wanted: we were always playing computer games from a very early age, and in them, I also felt that sense of otherness and escapism from the everyday life, too. And we got to enjoy nature and freedom a lot. I think all that kind of contributed to me becoming a creative person somehow; that’s how I see it. I guess the art that comes out is somehow a reflection of what you are inside.

Continue reading “Fanu Talks Breaks, Headz, Ableton and Producing DnB”

Premiere: Trinity Carbon – International Bassline (Art-E-Fax)

“International Bassline” is taken from the “Downfall Of The Nemesis EP” by Trinity Carbon, released mid-September on Art-E-Fax.

The sixth release on the Berlin-based label follows in the same fashion as its predecessors, treading the ground between techno, house and 90s breaks. Described as “5 raw club weapons rooted in UK club culture”, the EP packs a punch with its coarse beats, mighty kicks and heavyweight basslines.

This area between genres has always been one of the most exciting for me in electronic music as it often leads to new ideas and reinterpretations of old themes. Similar to the experimental hot-bed that was the early 90s, this EP takes inspiration from across the dance spectrum, using elements out of context in a way that creates a sound that is as rough as it is refreshing. It’s amazing how vibrant a track can get by simply adding a breakbeat to a techno melody or throwing a loose 4/4 under an old school drum loop.

“International Bassline” is one of those tracks you want to hear in a dark club, surrounded by dancers bouncing up and down in unison. The sublime combination of an infectious bass melody with a disorientating vocal sample induces both a euphoric rush and a mild sense of panic. As it builds, the breaks and percussion bring all the tracks aspects together in a dynamic alliance of underground nostalgia.

Featuring artwork by Planet Luke (Klasse Recordings) the “Downfall Of The Nemesis EP” by Trinity Carbon is available to pre-order now direct from the Art-E-Fax Bandcamp.

Buy: Bandcamp

Premiere: Fanu – Through Thick And Thin (Metalheadz Platinum)

“Through Thick And Thin” by Fanu is taken from the “Legacy EP“, available to buy now on Metalheadz Platinum.

Featuring his trademark blend of funk breaks and sci-fi atmospherics, “Through Thick And Thin” encapsulates a rough and bumpy journey through the cosmos. Bright pads pierce the soundscape, then plunge into darkness. Breaks roll out then contort, stirring vivid imagery of space debris and intergalactic peril.

Fanu is a unique talent, with his productions combining high-energy jungle for the dancefloor combined with a strong narrative and purpose for the heads, his music has the ability to tell stories and evoke emotions, which makes Metalheadz the perfect home for this release.

For me, this EP captures everything I love about drum and bass and Headz in particular. All the elements are at a utopian level of balance, from the light and dark atmospherics to the breaks which have crunch yet don’t muddy the clarity of the productions, it’s no wonder to see why Fanu is such a respected mastering engineer.

I believe if you’re lucky enough to have music on Headz you need to up your game and the attention to detail on the “Legacy EP” shows Fanu has certainly risen to this challenge again, two years after his debut for Metalheadz Platinum, the “Black Label EP”.

This release is out now on Metalheadz Platinum.

Buy Now:

Repertoire Interview And “Post-Truth” Stream

To celebrate the release of the “Post-Truth EP” by Law & Wheeler, plus the launch of new sub-label “R-WHITES”, I caught up with Ben and Law, the hard-working duo behind Repertoire to discuss the new releases, the last few months and the direction the label/industry is heading.

Check out an exclusive stream of “Post-Truth” by Law & Wheeler below.

It’s been a little while since we last spoke guys, in that time you’ve released a free compilation featuring up and coming artists called “Streetlight Volume 1”, celebrated ten years of the label and are now about to launch a sister label called “R-WHITES”. We’ll come onto the new label in a sec but can you start by telling us a little bit about those other projects?

Law: The compilation for up and coming artists, “Streetlight”, has had a fantastic reaction and loads of interest. I’m not shocked the tunes went down well, but people really got behind the idea. It’s been great to work with these artists, all of which were really excited to be a part of the label. That’s what it’s all about really.

Repertoire 020 celebrated 10 years of the label, hence the title “10/20”. It was a big deal for us as it was a pretty big investment and took ages to get together. We spent a long time thinking about which artists should remix what tunes, and the results didn’t disappoint. I like to think of it as a pretty decent snapshot of that side of underground jungle/drum and bass.

When we were chatting at the beginning of the year you were about to launch your latest club night alongside Skeleton Recordings. With everything that’s going on at the minute, clubs still being closed with no reopening date on the horizon, what effect do you see that having on the scene and industry?

Ben: I have to say the landscape for the industry is looking pretty tough. Hopefully, the clubs can survive until they can reopen safely but at the moment I cannot see that happening until later this year, possibly even early next year. I am praying they get some support from the government. What has been interesting is the way people have been adapting and looking at alternative methods such as paid streams etc, which is great but it’s not the same as a night at Rupture! In terms of the scene, I still think it’s really healthy and there doesn’t seem any sign of that changing and music drying up. There have been some great releases coming out every month this year.

As I mentioned earlier you’re about to launch a new label called “R-WHITES”, what’s the plan with this and how is it different from your main imprint?

Law: We came up with the idea for a sub-label, and the name “R-WHITES”, over four years ago now. But we weren’t exactly sure of the direction the label should go in as it had to be different to Repertoire in some way.

During that time, I’ve ramped up my production output massively and have been making a tonne of retro jungle stuff. So that’s the idea behind “R-WHITES”, a no-frills white-label home for retro stuff by the core Repertoire crew. The first one is jungle, but Kola Nut, Wheeler and I have been making techno, house and garage too. So anything could end up on there, so long as it has the 90s/ravey vibe.

I love a bit of nice artwork yet feel I’m more likely to check a vinyl with a white-label, partly due to that mystery I mentioned earlier. Being honest, I’m also really put off checking a lot of digital releases by bad art. I know it’s wrong but it’s true, with the influx of new music coming out what advice do you give to artists or labels just starting out?

Law: Artists: Persevere. Make loads of music. If you’re starting out in production, concentrate on finishing stuff and moving onto the next. Don’t spend ages on labouring over one tune. If you’re making two or three tunes a year, you’ll be lucky if one is good enough. Make thirty/forty tunes, and you’re probably gonna strike gold a few times.

Ben: Labels: Patience and hard work. Try to build an identity and be prepared to put the effort in. Repertoire has been going for 10 years now and like all labels, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that people do not see. We also made a conscious decision to focus on quality over quantity to hopefully cut through the volume of music that is constantly getting released. Rick and I have to be really, really feeling something to put it out especially as we try to release everything on vinyl which is a costly exercise but reinforces how much we believe in what we are putting out.

What do you think makes a label successful? Some focus on sales and others prioritise likes, listens and features. What’s important for you?

Law: For a new vinyl label: self-sustainability. That’s the current measure of success for me because this style of jungle/drum and bass is REALLY niche, so selling it on vinyl and not losing money is a win.

I certainly loved the mystery of those early 90s white labels, a lot of that has been shattered by the internet now though, whenever I think about doing a label I always think about withholding artist names, perhaps giving a clue in the form of a puzzle but never actually confirming anything. In this day of information overload, do you think we’re missing that mystery from the music? A lot of the time we didn’t even know who the music was by!

Ben: I think it’s such a shame that the mystery has disappeared a bit and takes away part of the journey of listening to music and the excitement. I quite like the idea that “”R-WHITES” will have no artist info on the record. It means people can go digging online for more information (if they want) or the artists can remain a mystery to them, it’s their choice.

Speaking of which, Law, before Repertoire you ran a blog called Drumtrip which alongside Blog To The Old School and various internet forums was one of the main places online that covered 90s jungle and drum and bass. What was that experience like and what made you end it?

Law: Drumtrip started as a sandpit to learn about WordPress for a new role at work. I figured I’d learn more if I wrote about something I love. As no doubt you’ve experienced yourself, writing a blog can be very rewarding, but you have to be so consistent to make a success of it. When Repertoire was back in the frame, something had to give, so Drumtrip was sacrificed. I’ll probably keep it online as it is or at least until it gets hacked to death.

Shouts to Pete Blog To The Old Skool, that site was a major inspiration and it’s still going strong!

The Drumtrip sessions often featured choice selections of records that were the foundation of the scene, whereas the Repertoire Excursions featured upfront sounds from today. Between them, you’ve put out some great mixes that really help to capture certain points in time. How did you go about putting these together and do you have any favourites?

Law: We had some great guest mixes on there from the likes of Serum, Monita and Djinn, but my favourite by far was the J-Rolla one. He mixed all his favourite pirate radio anthems from 92/95, but also spliced them with audio from the live radio recordings he had. It makes for a really authentic snapshot of the pirate jungle scene.

Before the current nightclub situation, which we talked about earlier, the pair of you had been DJing out more with sets at high-profile events like the Metalheadz stage at Back Of Beyond, Rupture and even putting on your own nights alongside Skeleton Records. What have those experiences been like and how do you prepare for them?

Law: I don’t really do much prep. For an hour set, I’ll just make sure I have forty/fifty tunes to choose from and know what my first and second tune will be. Then I’ll just feel out the room. Anytime I’ve played at Rupture has been memorable. The last time was one of those sets where you’re just in the zone and everything feels easy. It was great to play some of my own productions too, which isn’t something I’ve done too much of.

Talking of your own productions, you’re releasing the “Post-Truth EP” by Law and Wheeler the same day as launching “R-WHITES”, seeing these two contrasting styles release the same day is really refreshing and shows your commitment to the genre as a whole. What can you tell us about this release?

Law: “Post-Truth” kind of feels like the next stage of Wheeler and mines production output. Until maybe a couple of years ago, I was mostly doing “over the shoulder” production with minimal time in the DAW myself, with Wheeler handling most of the technicals. But after a long break from making any kind of music, I hit Ableton hard and spent the last three or four years really getting into it again.

We’re very fluid in the way we produce. Either one of us will start things off with an idea or a loop, then we’ll go back and forth sharing project files online. The one constant is, I handle arrangement, and Wheeler does the mixdowns. He’s on a different level on the mixes.

Did you make this EP with Repertoire in mind?

Law: Not especially. These are part of a wider collection of tracks we’ve put together over the last two years, some of which ended up on other labels, and some nearly signed to one or two bigger ones. But in the end, I felt it was only natural to do it ourselves through Repertoire. So we picked the best of the bunch that worked together.

The four tracks on this EP really help show the diversity of modern jungle, it’s an exciting time, did you ever think you’d see the day where Source Direct was giving you feedback on your promos?

Law: It’s been a bit mad to see producers I really rate and respect say nice things about this, or any release. I am, and always will be, a fan of the music first and foremost, so Source Direct or Om Unit – producers I’ve literally dedicated whole mixes to – giving that kind of feedback, yeah it’s pretty swell.

Finally, what’s next for Repertoire?

Ben: Next up on Repertoire we have an EP from Necrotype and after that one from Concealed Identity. Both EPs really showcase what each artist is about and we cannot wait to get them out there. We also have our first artist album in the works which hopefully will be released by the end of this year/beginning of 2021. There are also some other projects in the works, details of which we cannot fully divulge just yet, but they include working with some of the artists that featured on our Streetlight Volume 1 compilation.

Buy: Law And Wheeler “Post Truth EP” / Law And Kola Nut “R-WHITES Volume 1”