To celebrate reaching 4000 followers on Soundcloud, here is an exclusive stream of a remix made for John’s appearance at Rupture in June 2019.
Fusing the original 92 track “Dubbing You” by Foul Play and an unreleased VIP of Dom’s track “Exit 13”, the end result is a dancefloor-friendly mash-up of the two tracks titled after the Motorway junction to Northampton.
2020 has seen the release of lots of great music and the launch of several exciting labels. One of our favourites is Modern Conveniences, the brainchild of producer and graphic designer Akuratyde.
We sat down for a chat about the project, releases and its beautiful artwork.
What inspired you to set up your own label? Can’t be the easiest time to do it!
Yeah, I actually had this planned well before COVID struck but it took awhile to get all of the pieces in place so the first EP didn’t end up coming out until August.
It started early 2019 with a favor. I do graphic and website design for a living, I designed Kid Drama’s site and in return he remixed “Plume” from my first album. Around the same time Kharm reached out to me and offered to remix a song from my album, and then I ended up designing the website for Random Movement’s record label, Flight Pattern, and he also did a remix for me. I sent them to Chris BMT and he liked them but didn’t feel they were quite the right fit for Blu Mar Ten Music so he urged me to release them myself. He even got me set up with their distributor so that the release could be on Spotify, iTunes, etc.
Originally I was just going to release those 3 remixes but more people kept reaching out wanting to remix my tunes and I figured I should do a proper label instead of a one-off release.
We will come back to your graphic design a bit later on but I’m interested to hear more about that first EP. Was it a bitter pill to swallow when Chris said he didn’t want to put them out after having all these artists remix these tracks?
Not really. Chris is very straightforward and blunt with his feedback because he keeps the bar extremely high when it comes to quality and consistency. I know him well enough to know it’s not personal. Plus, I knew it was a bit of a risk getting those remixes done without consulting him first. He was very supportive and helped me a lot with getting my label setup. I’m really happy with how everything turned out because I’ve wanted to run my own label since 1999.
Seems like they really supported you as an artist, how come it took you 21 years to finally take the plunge and set up a label?
Honestly, I didn’t know where to start. When Chris offered to set me up with his distributor that really set things in motion. After that I began researching business licenses, etc.
Yeah, that side of setting up a label is enough to put anyone off. So, now you’re up and running, how are you finding it?
It’s a lot more work than I realized! I’m finding that it takes up a large part of my week, but that’s partially because I’m taking it very seriously and trying to offer a really high quality package; from the branding and artwork to the releases themselves. It’s stressful but also really rewarding. I love reaching out to artists and asking them to do an EP for the label and then getting it delivered a few months later. I just received two different ones in the past week and both EP’s are sick! I can’t wait to share them with everyone.
Are you prepared to give us an insight into who these artists might be?
Not yet, I’m still sorting out the release schedule for 2021 so I don’t want to announce them now and then keep people waiting.
I can tell you that I have an EP from RQ dropping on Dec. 18th. It’s called Solar Wind and it’s backed with a remix by Tellus. The EP is a bit different than RQ’s recent output, it’s a little darker and techier. I’m hoping people will think it’s an interesting direction for the label because it’s a sound I’d like to explore on further releases while still keeping the main focus on melodic music.
Ah, that’s interesting. You know I’m a big fan of RQ, I look forward to hearing that for sure. I love it when a label inspires producers to try something different, can we have a sneak peek at the artwork?
Your label, Modern Conveniences, has a very distinct look and style to it. Can you tell us a bit about its inspiration?
Thanks man, I really appreciate that. I’ve been surprised at how many people have commented on the artwork, it’s really fulfilling as a graphic designer to get feedback like that.
The direction of the art was inspired by a couple of different things: first was the name. I’ve had that name kicking around in my head for awhile as a potential song or album title. It’s a commentary on how we have all of these amazing technologies and completely take them for granted. Once I settled on that name for the label I knew the artwork should be a bit edgy as a counterpoint to the somewhat bland and vague name. I’d been looking at a lot of ’90s cyberpunk artwork online and though I’d try to incorporate some of those elements along with something a bit more current.
The second source of inspiration was the desire to do something completely different from my other artwork. I do a lot of artwork for different record labels: Flight Pattern, Locked Concept, and none60 to name a few. I wanted to create something completely unique to my label so I wouldn’t feel like I was repeating myself. It’s fun and challenging as a designer to try something new that I’ve never attempted before.
Do you think the art will inspire the music producers make for the label? Or vice versa?
I always wait until a release is finished before I start on the artwork so it’s definitely driven by the music. I do a 3D render for each cover but I try not to interpret the release title too literally. I usually listen to the release a few times while doing the artwork for extra inspiration. For me it’s more about finding a vibe that fits each release and also reflects the aesthetic I want for the label.
I suppose at some point the label’s aesthetic might inspire some of the music I’m receiving from producers and if that happens it would be really cool. Visuals often inspire the music I make so I could see it happening once the visual style of the label is more established.
With that in mind, how did the music on this new RQ EP influence the cover design?
Great question. The title track is called “Solar Wind”, and there’s also a song on the EP called “LV-426”, which is the famous planet from the Alien franchise, so I began thinking about terraforming planets and big wind turbines. I ended up making this geometric render which sort of reminded me of a fan or turbine. As I mentioned earlier the EP is rather dark and moody so I went with a color palette which I felt reflected the vibe of the music.
The music is also pretty stripped back and minimal so I wanted to reflect that in the design. I kept it a bit simpler than some of the other covers, just one big image as a focal point with some clean typography.
RQ is a really well-respected designer and it’s always a bit nerve-wracking sending my work to other designers for approval but he was really happy with it and didn’t suggest any changes.
You recently released Redesigned Vol. 2. How would describe this set of remixes and how did they come about? More web design favours?
The Random Movement remix was a web design favor. The rest were all producers that reached out to me and wanted to do a remix. I’m friends with Method One in real life, every time he comes to LA we hang out and the last time he was here we got brunch and talked about him doing a remix of “Lost Summer”.
I’d been pestering Kharm for years as I’m a huge fan of his stuff. Every year I’d message him and ask when he was going to write some new music. That eventually lead to our tune “Enamoured”, which we released on Microfunk earlier this year, and then he decided to take a crack at “Into The Sea”. I love the way he flipped it into an autonomic tune. I really like when producers change the tempo of a song for a remix, it gives it a completely different feel.
The Margari’s Kid remix came about from us chatting on Facebook. I love how stripped back his remix is, it’s also got such a different vibe from the original. I tried to be really thoughtful about the way I grouped the remixes on Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 because I waited until all of the remixes were complete before deciding on the tracklists. Vol. 2 is definitely a bit brighter and more joyous and that was by design. I wanted to have a nice contrast between the two and I’m really happy with how they both turned out.
Metalheadz just keeps going from strength to strength! The latest in a serious year of releases is “The Rain EP” by Jem One, featuring six tracks of classic Headz darkness. We caught up with Jarrod to discuss the EP, graffiti and being part of the Metalheadz family.
Check the premiere of “Shadow” below, which is taken from the digital version of the EP that is available now from the Headz site and Bandcamp,
Hi Jarrod, cheers for taking time out to talk with us today! Your latest release, “The Rain EP”, is out now on Metalheadz. What can you tell us about it?
I suppose it features various tracks from a period where I was experimenting with my style a bit. Before Headz, my tracks were very amen/breaks influenced, quite retro-sounding and in this period, I was trying other things out. However, my sound is retreating to its original roots once more.
It features six tracks in total, all with that distinct dark Headz vibe. Seems pretty fitting for these uncertain times! How did these tracks take shape?
They were made through a desire to explore different shades within my music. However, they all contain that darker Headz vibe as that is really the core of my being. There’s also a vulnerability that I hear within the music as well, this I feel is due to the stress and anxiety I felt when getting signed to Headz. Obviously for me to get onto Metalheadz was my dream and when I finally did, I instantly began to feel pressure as the quality of music is exceptional, to be honest, I’m only just relaxing after three years.
I hope you feel in a better place now, it’s refreshing to hear such honesty. Does producing music help you to deal with the anxiety or does it put more pressure on you?
I’m much better thank you. It can be a double-edged sword. I’ve realised it is all about the ego and acceptance. When we make music, we put our heart and soul into it? and then we either gain acceptance or rejection. This goes even beyond getting stuff signed, even now when stuff is released to the public, I can fear what people may think of it, worry that I may be judged, that people might think that its shit. However, there’s also the other side of the same coin, whereby I may get my ego stroked a little and that can be very empowering believe it or not in the way that gives you confidence. But, over the last 6 months, I’ve finally learned to let go a little and just let be. It is what it is. I’m not afraid of these feelings, or about talking about them, they are part of the human condition and I think that vulnerability within my self and the music I make is an integral part of the sound I create.
Do you have a favourite from the EP?
Yes! Monkey man. This track was made straight after a bout of sleep paralysis. During the episode I was aware of this skinny tall being with no face just staring at me around the corner of my door, I couldn’t move, and I was freaked! When I awoke, I was full of fear and went into my old studio to take my mind off the feeling and wrote the basis of this track over the next few hours. Still to this day when I hear it, I can feel that ‘being’ caught within it, I find that fascinating.
Do you often use music/art for cathartic purposes? Are they other examples like Monkey Man?
Yes, I have done. Sometimes they might not be full tracks, they can be parts within a track like say a string section, or even an aggressive bassline/ beat structure. I often use emotions that are within myself and express them through sound. I’m sure that sometimes I don’t even realise that I’ve done it and it’s a subjective experience. However, there must be a release in a healthy way for emotions that may be in me at times in my life. In days gone by, I would have used other means to exorcise my demons through bingeing on alcohol or food, or through anger or other negative means of trying to express pain, but that just creates a loop of pain that goes on to feed into the emotions that are already needing to be expressed. Nowadays, I meditate, I have done for about 10 years, but over the last few years, its become my lifeblood, that and my partner, Sarah and my close family. Through these positive things within my life and by allowing myself to express through art and music, I’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of myself as a physical and spiritual being and I can better navigate strong emotions that may befall me.
What do you want people to feel when playing this EP?
Well, I’d like them to enjoy it! Lol. To be fair, I hope they catch a vibe and at least feel something if they feel nothing I’d be worried haha.
We’ll get into your art in a minute, but I feel your musical style is very much like visual graffiti. While the beats are bold and upfront, like graffiti, the background is equally as important with sounds morphed from their original form adding depth and colour to your tracks. How do you go about producing your music?
Yes, I can defiantly see the connection between Graff and writing music, to me, it comes from the same place. Everything starts with a feeling, a concept and a loop. I can’t create anything without a vibe as a solid foundation. From here, I usually start with the breaks and begin to layout the pace, flow and step. Then will come the bass and ill maybe chuck in a few samples or a pad and begin to create the overall vibe. From here I’ll use these building blocks to create the arrangement and it’s here that I begin to see the piece as a whole and see where it needs balance, detail, shape and space.
This is the third year in a row now you’ve released an EP on one of the Headz related labels, how did you originally hook up with them?
I originally signed a few tracks to the old Ruffige label back in 2007, 2008? I knew Goldie from years before that in the local Graff scene. He lived in Walsall, West Midlands at the time, and ran with a mutual friend ‘Dez’ (RIP). However, the Ruffige things never came out. It was three years ago about that I began to chat with Script from Scar and we became close. He passed some bits to Ant for me and Ant thought a couple of things had potential, so I then went on a mission writing a shit load of music until they found some tracks that they wanted for Methxx, they forged the basis for the first two EPs.
Did you get one of those calls from Goldie I often hear about?
Haha, yes! I still do and they are always a highlight. The only problem is they are always at God knows what time in the middle of the night. I blearily answer the phone and hear maybe Yoda or some other madness chatting at me for 20 mins, lol.
What was that like!?
Goldie is an absolute legend man. Back in the day, Id stand watching him when he painted in awe, he was just the king man, I can’t explain how we looked up to him. Now, I’m an adult, I’m still in awe of his genius, however, I also know my own self-worth now and I see him as a guiding influence. Sometimes he just calls to give you strength, to send love and show his support, other times he calls and gives you the benefit of his knowledge and musical guidance. I’m not ashamed to say that he’s part of the power that drives me to create.
One of the things I’ve always loved about Headz is the sense of community, similar to Reinforced and Moving Shadow the label had a group of artists that helped shape their sound. What does it mean to be part of the Headz family?
Its surreal, and I still can’t fully accept within that I am a part of that legacy. The label is one of the most professional labels I have worked for. You are looked after every step of the way and nothing is forgotten. Goldie, Ant and Tom and all the others behind the scenes, run a tight ship and it’s a pleasure to be on the label. I am so very proud of every artist and release on the label. I’ve made a really good friendship with Script and I thank him for being integral in my reintroduction to the label.
I think it’s probably fair to say it’s most producers dream to have a release on Headz. What is it about the label that’s kept them at the forefront of drum and bass?
In my opinion, it’s the sound and the vibe that it offers. There’s something about a Metalheadz track that hits you in all your senses. It’s the B-Boy mentality within the music, the forward-thinking experimentation. The freedom to create whatever the artist wants. There’s also a reflective aspect within the music which nods to the forefathers of this label and you can hear nods to the past within all the tracks that come out.
Their artist roster is now worldwide, demonstrating the reach of drum and bass and the allure of the label. Who are some of your favourite artists?
Man, I love all the artists on the label to be fair, it is hard to pick favourites. I’d say Dillinja, Adam F, Source direct, Goldie. And more recently Friske, Blocks and Escher, SB81, Scar, Rolodex, Fanu, too many to mention.
Do you have any stand out releases from the last few years?
The Blocks and Escher album, “Something Blue” was just wow! And The recent Friske track “Untitled killer”… what a fucking tune.
Talking of community, I mentioned your art earlier. We both share a passion for graffiti. I see you’ve recently been hitting the walls again, do you do that solo or as part of a crew?
I paint with my crew DZB (Double Zero Boys), we’ve been painting together for about 30 years and were all lifelong mates. I’m doing my adult nursing degree now and in training to be a nurse within the NHS, so we only paint at legal spots, however, it’s just great to link up again as a crew and paint wild style. Shouts to Media, Sane, Wingy and Attai.
Any stories you’d like to share from back in the day?
Ha, if you know you know. You’ll have to use your imagination.
There is a clear connection between taking a letter and transforming it and taking a break or sound and running it through effects, putting your stamp on the subject. What parallels do you see between the two artforms?
There’s no difference between them. The feeling behind twisting a letter to create funk and flow is the same as how I approach my music. It’s about putting that feeling that’s deep within me and using that to create the letterform or the breakbeat. Trying to be forward-thinking but having an eye on the past. Also, it’s that B-Boy mentality. Back in the day we didn’t have all the fancy caps and paint that we have nowadays if we wanted a skinny line we had to make adapters to put on top of the can or steal different caps off your moms household products, we had to overcome and adapt. Personally, nowadays, my music set up is proper ghetto. I have a laptop, Cubase 5, a soundcard, a Spirit folio desk and headphones, and I use what’s available to the best of my ability. For example, last week, SR and I had a studio session planned, but due to Covid 19 measures it was called off. However, we adapted and overcame, we linked up via Zoom audio and screen share and made a killer. This is definitely how we will work now in the near future.
It seems you release a batch of music at a time, do you have any other tracks in the pipeline to come out soon or do we need to wait another year?
The release schedule is huge I imagine, so there always going to be a delay from conception to release. However, there’s a couple of things that we made six months ago that Goldie and Ant were interested in, so now it’s just creating those other tracks that will fit nicely with them. SR and I have been working on a few things that we have nearly finished that we hope the label will love, so hopefully, that will wrap up another EP, but nothing is concrete yet. I will only release on Metalheadz nowadays and all my output goes to Headz first and foremost, but I have a couple of good mates with labels and if there are things that Headz don’t want I’m not against putting them out with those. SR and I also set up a personal Bandcamp to distribute more experimental sides to our music like techno, breaks and jungle, but we’ve yet to find the time to take that further.
Cheers man, been fascinating talking! Where can people find out more and connect with you?
My social media profile is pretty small; however, you can find me on Instagram under the tag @jemone_soultek.
The Constrict remix of “When I’m Over” by Dominic Ridgway, Stratowerx & Magugu is taken from the EP of the same name, available now on Dominic’s own label, Regression Media.
“When I’m On” is the first official vocal track produced by Dominic, after a string of unofficial hip-hop bootlegs, reinterpreted into atmospheric 170 dubplates.
We caught up with the producer to find out his favourite vocal DnB tracks as well as more about the release and the effects of COVID on the drum and bass scene.
I thought we could start by talking about vocal drum and bass tracks. Do you have any favourites? Say, one old and one modern…
Yeah, I’m definitely a fan of vocal DnB tracks, I do feel it has to be done right though. I think there’s a fine line before stuff can sound a bit cheesy.
An oldish vocal track I love is by Mr L (Jonny L) called “Oh Yeah”. Great summer vibes. Will never get bored of that track!
A much more recent one is a track off the 2017 album “Delusions of Grandeur” by Soul Intent called “Nearly There (Sula Mae Vocal Mix)”. Played it on a big rig a couple of times. Such a tune. Gets better with each listen.
So, what made you want to sit down and create “When I’m On”, your first official vocal track?
The original beat was just me and my close friend Stratowerx messing around, we were trying to make some sort of grime beat with no real intention of doing anything with it. I’ve known Sam for more than 10 years as we went to university together, he also runs a label called Caught London Sleeping, I feel we have very similar musical roots. More than anything, we were just trying to create something using both our influences.
I met Magugu last year in Croatia and have been talking about doing something together for a while. I sent him the beat on the off chance to see what he thought, I think within a week or so I had the vocals back from him. I have to give him massive credit for recording his vocals and adlibs etc, I could have just released the acapella as it was, extremely well produced! It all happened quite naturally, to be honest. This is the first real original vocal track I have made I think? It was a challenge but really enjoyable and well worth the stress!
I recently heard some of your bootlegs including Wu-Tang and the Fu-Gees, you’ve taken a fresh modern 170 approach to remix these. How did you go about producing them?
Bootlegging is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, I think it has been a big part of dance music in general. I’ve only ever bootlegged something I truly love, to be honest.
I think the biggest part of bootlegging is the availability of sounds. Whosampled is a massive help, not just for certain tracks but also as to how modern music works. The Fugees bootleg was all sampled off ‘The Score’ record. The intro was exclusive to the vinyl I think?
The Wu-Tang bootleg was a bit different as I used Whosampled to find the original samples they used and just repitched them to 170, as well as an acapella I had on my computer for several years. Bootlegging is more an exercise to see how much you can get out of limited samples and pushing them to be something else.
Is it much harder working with a pre-recorded vocal, especially well-recognised ones like these?
No, I don’t think so, stuff you already know is much easier to work with, both of the bootlegs you mentioned are fully dominated by the main vocal. My job there is just to create a rhythm track to the vocal.
I’ve often said that music should help capture the moment, as much as I love old-sounding stuff there is so much going on in the world at the minute that could be addressed through the music which isn’t. What do you think?
I think its an extremely good point! Some of the best music and art have only ever been created through adversity. Music and art are supposed to reflect the society in a way that politics and words can’t do. Without question, some great art has (or will be) made as a result of what’s currently happening. There has always been a strong connection between how people consume music and how it ultimately sounds. I’ve seen a few posts recently about sit down clubbing and the effect of that. I think its a sad state of affairs but at the same time interesting.
Do you feel, like a lot of others, that the current pandemic has zapped your energy to be creative?
I don’t feel like it has zapped my energy but may be changed my energy. We are in a strange state of affairs right now but I’m convinced something good will come out of it.
I’m not sure that’s something I can answer! Lol. Hopefully fewer masks and more bass?
I’m not sure how involved you are with social media but it seems that different sides of the jungle scene are tearing into each other with their opposing views of COVID and illegal parties. What impact do you think this might have on our already small community?
The idea of divide and conquer in social media will always be prevalent! Its a shame it now goes so deep into a scene that is as small as it is. The COVID thing is a whole different conversation that should not influence the music people are making or consuming. Using that sort of thing to your advantage is just a reflection of the utter madness of what’s going on.
At the start of the year, before COVID, I commented online about wanting to hear more tracks with vocals in them. Seems even more relevant now. Do you think this could be a way forward as we approach 2021? Sounds crazy even just saying that…
Yeah, I think without doubt tastes will change as I said before. As to what that is we can only speculate about. Maybe we will get to a point of dub bingo where we all sit down with a card of pre-stated dubs and we can check them off on a piece of paper when they are played! As long as we are all sitting down…. Very sad state of affairs!
You’re releasing “When I’m On” via your label, Regression Media, what kind of stuff do you put out?
I generally release my stuff and some other bits around the 170 speed/ethos. I suppose most things are ethereal deep music that has to be felt and not heard. This release is something new for me and the label. Creeping much more into grime/dubstep.
You also run a sister-label, Regression Media Limited, which focuses on small run lathe cuts. What’s the philosophy behind that project?
The limited thing is more of an exercise to find more value in music I suppose? I’m releasing things that I feel should be released on wax purely so they hold some value, I’ve had issues and messages saying £20 is too much for a record, but in reality, most people would spend much more than that in a pub on a Friday. At least with a record, you get unlimited plays…..?
I have literally stamped RGNMLTD003 today which is available now.
What’s it like working with Lewis and Dexta from 1-800-Dubplate who cut that release for you?
I think we have a good relationship! RGNMLTD003 has taken a little bit longer to happen than I would have liked, but like everything this year things have been a bit wonky. They are both seriously driven people and I’m proud to be having stuff cut there, let alone being able to cut records from both of them for my label. Serious guys. Hopefully, 1-800 and Disc World have a great future.
So after these two, what’s next for the label?
The next digital thing after 019 will be a compilation of everything up to this date along with some new remixes and maybe a couple of the RGNMLTD things in a digital format of 20 tracks. None of this will be confirmed until next year now though I suppose.
As we enter 2021, what would you like to see more off?
I’d like to see more politicians held responsible for their actions.
One last question, why do you all this? I’m fascinated by people’s desire to create.
Lol, that’s definitely a question I ask myself every day. Even more so recently considering what’s going on. I feel a lot of what I do is about legacy and what you leave behind effectively! As to how that eventually turns out I don’t feel is up to me, but up to the people that enjoy my music and the label.
Jon Dixon’s Ambient Edit of “Redemption” by Goldie is taken from Part 1 of the “Journey Man Remix LP”, forthcoming on Metalheadz. Part 2 of the remix series also features a four-four mix of “Redemption” by Jon, alongside fellow Detroit Techno producer, the legendary “Mad” Mike Banks from Underground Resistance and Galaxy 2 Galaxy fame.
Placed between the rolling jazz fused mix of “Truth” by Zero T and the uptempo robot funk of Belgian producer Phase and his take on “Prism”, the ambient mix of “Redemption” provides respite from the albums drum and bass core. Six seconds short of eight minutes long, the track unfolds gracefully, steadily building layers of lavish pads to create a soundscape that’s immersive and stirring, a sonorous symphony that oozes elegance.
Elsewhere across the two albums are remixes by Digital and the late, great Spirit, with a tearing mix of “I Think Of You”, a heavy powerhouse of energy and technoid funk. And mixes from the current roster of Metalheadz artists including Artificial Intelligence, Mako, Grey Code and Lenzman.
Remixes often shine best when transposed to a different genre, one of the reasons this ambient mix works so well is that Detroit Techno and Drum and Bass are perfect allies, with a similar formative history of young black producers eager to create a new sound, introducing elements of science-fiction to create something expressive, personal and futuristic. When the two styles come together like this in unison, they create a truly mesmerising cosmic atmosphere.
Both volumes of the remix series are now available to pre-order.
We caught up with Jon to discuss the bond between the two genres, his production process and the “Redemption” remixes for Goldie.
I’ve always been fascinated by the connection between early drum and bass and Detroit Techno, a lot of my favourite artists were heavily inspired by what was going on over the pond in the Motor City, not just the music itself but the producer community working together to craft something new, resulting in a powerful musical movement. What’s your take on that? Were you exposed much to the jungle scene in Detroit?
I think community is important in any genre when you’re working towards something that is unique and in the moment. What’s amazing to me is that while Techno was evolving in Detroit, it began to make a powerful impact globally as you’ve mentioned. As Detroiters, we’re influenced not only by other musicians around us, but also our environment. Detroit in the 80s and 90s wasn’t the prettiest, nor was it a destination for tourists. Yet, across the entire city you had these “creative genius’” who were in their studios creating this music for the future….only to realize that it would slowly impact the world as it did.
There have been some amazing remixes between techno artists and drum and bass producers, the Claude Young mix of Jacob’s Optical Stairway (4hero) and the Alex Reece remix of Kenny Larkins “Loop 2” instantly spring to mind. What parallels do you see between the two styles and from a production perspective, why do you think they work so well together?
I think it’s the ear of the producer more so than the genre of the music. Personally, I’ve always loved finding similarities and differences when it came to doing a remix. In the case of anything Goldie has done and techno for example, I would have to imagine also that he’s gone through some things in life that triggers certain emotions. Those emotions go into the music and make it that much more meaningful. Everyone has their own approach to a remix. For me, especially since getting to know Goldie very well over the past 6 years or so, I knew what direction to go when he asked, and I also knew where I wanted to take it
How did you get the opportunity to be a part of the Journeyman Remix project?
In 2014 I met Goldie in Croatia in a van overseas travelling to an airport. The ride was about 3 hours but seemed like 20 minutes. Somehow, we both got on the subject of Pat Metheny and his music. From there I knew all I needed to know about him, and vice versa. We discussed Pat’s catalogue and the late Lyle Mays (Pat’s keyboardist for many years and my favourite keyboardist). Having never met before, we both understood the complexity of Pat Metheny’s music to be able to talk about it as if we both discovered it at the same time. It was that van ride that let us both know we knew how to understand music on a visual, emotional and spiritual level. We exchanged emails and I hit him up as soon as I got back to Detroit. As he mentioned in the van, he was going to start working on his new album and he wanted to involve me. I can’t mention how many early morning and late-night calls I got, emails, texts, you name it. Goldie knew exactly what it was he was hearing and how it should sound. And even though we were both in different countries, he was able to draw something from me that I didn’t know I could do. From those many conversations I was able to co-write ‘Horizon’, ‘Tomorrows Not Today’ and ‘This is Not a Love Song’. I was featured on ‘Run Run Run’ (piano) and ‘Redemption’. Since then I talk to G about once a month or so and he’s always involving me in many of his projects, including Subjective. He asked about me doing a remix a while ago and nothing made me happier than to say yes.
One of the reasons your Ambient mix blew me away was because it follows straight after the jazzy rolling remix of “Truth” by Zero T, you go from listening to these tight drum loops and deep bass to eight minutes of chords, FX and vocals. I’m sure a lot of people will listen to it as an album and think “when is the beat going to kick in”, it’s a powerful moment when you realise it’s not going to and the beauty of your remix unfolds. Have you heard the album in full and what did you think?
I’ve heard the album in its entirety and it flows very well. Goldie is very particular about that stuff and I know the ambient track was placed where it is strategically. All the remixes are incredible, especially when you know the original so well.
The album features two remixes of “Redemption”, the ambient version we are premiering today and a techno version featuring the legendary Mike Banks. What is it like working with him? Am I right in understanding he has been like a mentor to you?
Mike is a mentor yes, but much more than that. Before graduating the “UR boot camp”, Mike has spent countless hours showing and teaching me all he knows musically, but about the business side as well. He told me who I should know and work with. He also told me who to stay away from and avoid. Everything that I released always goes past Mikes ears and this remix was no exception. I let him hear it and he said “Jon, you should let me put some strings on it”. The rest is history. His strings really give the track that UR/Detroit sound and that’s what I was going for.
Talking of which, halfway through the original version of Redemption, it launches into the intro keys from Galaxy 2 Galaxy’s “Hi-Tech Jazz”. Where you tempted to feature those in your mix or was it a conscious choice to leave them out?
I was tempted at first, but I wanted to take the approach of doing something that wasn’t to be expected. If I were a listener and knew the song “Hi Tech Jazz” and to see that a UR member, was doing a remix on “Redemption”, I would expect to hear it in the remix. So I stayed away from it.
Can you run us through your mindset when tackling this project and the two remixes?
With the ambient mix, I wanted to create a mood. What type of mood that is all depends on the listener. I envisioned colors and layers,similar to the art Goldie does actually. With my remix that features Mike, I just wanted it to be good enough for Goldie and it was.
Can you let us know a bit about your studio and your creative process, what motivates you to sit down and produce?
My studio is 10 keyboards, a few smaller synths and 2 sets of speakers. Since I’m a musician first, I love using hardware so all my sounds come from my gear. As far as the creative process, it varies. Sometimes I’ll go into my studio and it’s completely silent. I’ll wait and see if I hear an idea. It can be a melody, a rhythm or a chord. Sometimes I don’t hear anything and I’ll shut everything down. Other times I have an idea of where or how I want to start a track. I never force anything. When I feel myself forcing parts into a production I save it and shut it down for a day or so. For me, making music is a way of life. It’s something that I know I was created to do. The world has probably heard only 2% of music that I’ve ever made, but everything isn’t meant to be released. I do it because if I don’t get the ideas out, it’ll drive me crazy. With the musical training that I’ve gotten over the past few decades Im grateful to be able to go into the studio and use my keyboards to make what it is I’m hearing, or what I’m picturing visually, or what emotions I want to evoke.
Finally, where can people find out more about you and can you recommend some of your back catalogue to people who are yet to discover your music?
My entire catalogue of 4EVR 4WRD can be found on my Bandcamp. And for other releases and collaborations I do my best to keep my social media updated.
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.
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.
The next release on DROOGS sees Metalheadz regular SB81’s debut for the label. Inspired by artists like Boymerang and the glory days of No U Turn, expect plenty of sci-fi atmospherics and chopped breakbeats. We caught up with the producer to discuss his past, DROOGS, Headz and remixing J Majik’s “Your Sound”.
“The Blue Room/Drone Zone” is released on UVB-76’s sister label DROOGS on 7th August 2020, available on 12″ and digital.
Downloads can be pre-ordered from the labels Bandcamp now.
Some people may not know but you used to record as Nolige, can you please tell us a bit about your background and journey up to now?
I’ve always loved music from as far back as I can remember really, but when I first heard tracks like Inner City “Good Life” on Top of The Pops as a kid I switched onto that rave vibe. Also Prodigy’s “Charlie”, that one stands out a lot; the good vibes, very themed and colourful music. By 1991 I was fully hooked by early Reinforced, Production House, Brain Records, etc. The main thing I was fascinated by was the breakbeats, especially amens, but generally breaks that had that real funky bounce to them!
After listening to all this wicked music from the early to mid-’90s, it was a natural progression for me and my mates (Skitty being one of them) to take things more serious and get deeper into actually being involved in this music thing.
In 1998 I started buying vinyl pretty much every single week, that was before I even had turntables. Ed Rush & Optical’s “Wormhole” album was what really did that for me, I just had to own that. I then started learning to DJ around a mates house who had a pair of turntables. After being so inspired I got “Music 2000” for the Playstation a couple of years later, just for a mess around really; I think that program did a lot for me, it showed me some of the fundamentals into how to lay out breaks and how a track is put together. Around that time Skitty and I used to get studio time from a local hip-hop guy, 2003 was when we all got our studio setups. At this time it was all being done in the box, without spending tons of money on outboard equipment.
In 2005 I got one of my first fully finished tracks signed to Bassbin; massive thanks to Rohan for taking me on! That one gave me a lot of confidence to get on the right track. I have to give a big shout out to Loxy, Ink and Bailey as those guys used to give me a lot of love in my early days. Loxy and Ink always used to give me feedback and advise, and Bailey used to play a lot of my stuff on Radio 1/1Xtra, which was a big boost!
Around 2010/11 was when my life was taking on a bit of a different direction outside of music with a lot of changes happening, so I took about a year or so out. In 2013 I changed my name to SB81 and I intentionally approached making music a bit differently, more stripped back and modern. I had a new perspective on things after a long break and my first Metalheadz release showed that change of direction from making very ravey/Jungle influenced DnB to a more fresh take on it; I felt like I wanted to get back to being more creative and looking more into the future as an artist. I just wanted a change and getting on Metalheadz to kick start it was the best start I could have ever wished for!
Apart from Headz you’ve recorded for some of the most respected labels in the scene, namely Sci-Wax, Foundation X and Narratives. What has your experience in the music scene been like and give us an idea of some of your career highlights?
I’ve been very lucky early on in producing music to be accepted by those labels, I appreciate it greatly. They are labels I’ve always wanted to be on as I feel we share the same vision in this music. My biggest highlight so far has most definitely been getting signed to Metalheadz. That was a big deal to me as that was my main goal pretty much from the get go. Headz always felt like such a far reach due to my lack of confidence in my music and just the heritage of the label. Goldie has given me that extra push I needed, not only for letting me express myself as an artist on that label but the advice and encouragement I have been given along the way. With Goldie being from the same city as myself, I’ve always felt a big connection with him and the label, so for me, it has always been something very close to my heart.
Talking of Headz, you remixed “Your Sound” by J Majik for them, how did that happen and can you tell us a bit about the remix process? Fun or daunting?
I like a challenge to remix an old classic now and again (sorry!), but on this occasion it happened as an accident, to be honest. If I remember I was going through a folder of Oldskool sounds I’d recorded years ago and there were a run of samples from the original and the remix of
“Your Sound”. Before I knew it, it was all finished and laid out, it flowed and came together very quickly. I did have in mind halfway through that I wanted to keep it very close to the original, but with a modern twist, which is the switch after the first initial drop of amens. It was fun more than daunting producing it because I didn’t intend for it to get released. The daunting part kicked in when I sent it Goldie, ha! I didn’t actually give it to him until about 6 or 7 months after I’d made it because I wasn’t sure about it. If I remember I’d sent over my “Blueprints” remix first, which Goldie and Ant both liked so I thought, lets just see how my remix of “Your Sound” goes down, and so they both came out on Razors Edge as a 12″.
DROOGS/UVB-76 has the same vibe to me as Headz, completely different in style but always pushing and striving to create something new and not afraid to take a few risks. How did you hook up with the label and what influence did this have on the tracks you produced for them?
Yeah, DROOGS has that Headzy vibe going on with that old but fresh sound. It’s the more rufige/breaksy side to their labels, which is what I like. I’ve known those boys for years, way before the labels started. Me and Skitty were booked on their early Abstractions nights in Bristol when they started those. Since Nick and the boys started UVB-76 Nick has been asking for me to get something over to him for quite some time now, but like most things, I guess it’s all down to timing! I wanted to get the right tracks over and at the time I was writing a lot of music for Metalheadz.
The previous releases have been purely for the dancefloor, contrasting the more techno/halftime sound of UVB-76, “The Blue Hour” is one of the deepest and progressive tracks DROOGS have put out. Can you tell us about it?
“The Blue Hour” was actually made around 2008! Around then I made a lot of tracks that were a bit different to what was coming out at the time and I think that was one of those, which is maybe why it didn’t get picked up. Those were the times when I was still experimenting with production, just before Skitty’s Foundation X label started and we delved more into the Jungle sound. Around that time the Dubstep thing was in full flow and it was crossing over into DnB, hence the halftime kind of flow in the track. I think Gremlinz has a bit of a soft spot for this one, he’s played it out a fair bit over the years. I’d recently rediscovered a load of WAVS of my previous tracks from a hard drive that didn’t get a release, so it felt like it made sense!
The track we are premiering today is called “Drone Zone”, reminds me of the classic Blue Note era and the Boymerang sound, tech-step but with lots of layers and atmospherics. What was it about this era you find influential?
I love the mixture of atmospheres, the dark jazziness, the breaks and musical elements from those times, there’s just something about the energy that struck a chord with me I guess. With artists like Photek, Optical, Matrix, Jonny L, Goldie, Krust, Dom & Roland, Boymerang, Deep Blue and all those Grooverider Jeep remixes, I feel like DnB had something really special going on with a futuristic sound that still resonates with me to this day. A lot of those tunes were way ahead of their time. Listening back to “Drone Zone”, it has a Dom/No U Turn vibe going on, which wasn’t intentional at the time of making it. Generally, I do try to do my own thing with production, but sometimes I do strongly gravitate towards my early influences. Hopefully, my vibe comes through the music as much as my influences!
As mentioned earlier, you are also a DJ. I know you enjoy putting together 90s sets, what era do you like mixing the most and why?
I started as a DJ, that was my first passion in music. I do love to mix Oldskool now and again, especially on vinyl AND live streaming it, ha! Now that keeps you on your toes! Particularly the very early 90s. 1993 is my favourite year to mix I’d say. That was a special time for me, there’s just too many classics and as the Blue Note era, it was another breakthrough year for the darker, slightly more technical sound from the more ravey sound of 1992.
What effect does DJing have on you when making music?
I guess DJing has affected my production over the years but it’s not really something I tend to think too much about, especially these days. I’m very much a process led kind of producer and I just like to go with the flow. It’s something new I learned about myself in uni when I did my Fine Art degree. I like to get in there and work through the process rather than have a set plan as such. It has its advantages and disadvantages I guess. It’s probably the reason why I haven’t written an LP yet because my idea of an album is for it to flow throughout and have cohesion. If I don’t bang out many tracks in a short space of time, I tend to have lots that all sound a bit different from one another. I love to get completely lost in music to the point where I don’t know what I’m making, which normally turns out to be the stuff that is not geared towards the dancefloor, but I’m happy with that!
I’m curious as to the effect that Lockdown has had on the music producers are currently making and what direction it might take the scene. Has it made a difference?
I don’t think I’ve really noticed anything, personally, but these days I’m a bit lost in the world of Drum & Bass anyway, I like to just get my head down and do my own thing. I haven’t really changed my process, let’s say that. I’d like to think it has shaken a few things up for the good, though. Maybe DJ’s who used to be amazing producers can get back in the studios again. Maybe it’ll give producers more time and the thought process to delve into themselves and put some real soul back into the music. Now and again I think we all need a bit of a change and a shake-up, in this case, it’s not necessarily the best kind, but hopefully, musicians can think outside the box and find some kind of strength from these challenging times.
Going forward, what’s next for SB81?
After my DROOGS release, there should be another Metalheadz EP by the end of the year, all being well. There are a couple more things in the works for some nice projects coming in the near future, which I’m really excited about! In the last couple of months I’ve also slowed the tempo down between 130-160bpm which has really inspired me so hopefully, I can get something to the right people for those to come out, possibly even start something myself, hmm, we shall see!
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…
The LP contains a mixture of tempos, moods and grooves drawing on influences ranging from jungle to downtempo and dubstep to drone.
Including contributions from Rider Shafique and London based MC Killa P, known for his collaborations with artists like The Bug and Pinch, “Planetary Sound Fiction” is a sprawling collection of both vocal tracks and instrumental rhythms, providing moments to dance as well as time to pause and reflect.
With over twenty-five releases to his name and a decade of productions behind him, now is a great time to delve into both the LP and RDG’s bass-heavy archive.
“Planetary Sound Fiction” was mastered by Beau Thomas at Ten Eight Seven and is available now on double vinyl and digital, the physical version contains a poster of the futuristic turntable cartridge spaceship designed by Freshcore.