Into The Drone Zone With SB81

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!

SB81_profile

Premiere: Sonar’s Ghost – In A Soul (7th Storey Projects)

“In A Soul” is the title track from a forthcoming EP by Sonar’s Ghost for 7th Storey Projects, released early August on transparent yellow vinyl, it follows last years split 10″ with the man of the moment Coco Bryce. The “In A Soul” EP marks Dominic’s full debut release for the label.

Inspired by the great 3 and 4 track 12’s from 92-94, namely the Planet Dance EP by Studio II, the self-released King Of The Jungle EP’s and the first 6 or so Kemet and Third Party 12’s. “In A Soul” captures the moment were those influential releases moved away from crowd noises, pianos and chipmunk vocals yet retained a “ravey” quality with their energetic beats, ragga vocals and techno bleeps. This era in drum and bass resulted in the dawn of a notion that EP’s should show four different sides of the scene or reflect a variety of the current trends of the time.

“In A Soul” is drum and bass at its rawest, inspired by Nut Nut’s “Forbidden Planet” Dominic flips the famous amen from Bukem’s “A Couple Of Beats”, adds hip hop vocals, serene pads and light percussion to create the perfect tribute to 1994. Elsewhere on the EP, “Same Old Ting” picks up the pace with its ragga vocals and soundclash FX, “Gimme The Vibe” blends a sweet rare groove sample with reggae musical elements and rave stabs while “Science Of Silence” goes for a dubbed-out approach with its delayed FX and time-stretched breaks.

The “In A Soul” EP will be available to pre-order directly from 7th Storey Projects.

Buy: seventhstoreyprojects.com

Premiere: Friske – Untitled Piano (Metalheadz)

“Untitled Piano” is taken from the forthcoming debut album by Friske, titled “A Different Perspective” the LP is released on Metalheadz on 26th June 2020.

The album features 16 tracks covering both light and dark elements in equal measure, a beautiful balance of rough and smooth. “Untitled Piano” is reminiscent of the original Good Looking style, reminding me of PFM’s “The Mystics” with its cosmic sounds, rolling drums and elegant flourishes.

“A Different Perspective” highlights the distinctive sound and production approach of Friske, often otherwordly and scientific yet still ripe for the dancefloor. A style firmly rooted in hip hop, the LP draws influence from classic drum breaks and samples from the iconic graffiti documentary “Style Wars”, resulting in a perfect blend of sci-fi and B-Boy culture.

“A Different Perspective” is available to pre-order now direct from the Metalheadz Bandcamp and store.

Buy:

Friske – A Different Perspective

Premiere: Chet Matuto – Hermanson (Context Audio)

“Hermanson” by Chet Matuto is taken from the second volume of the Context Audio series, “Per Ardua“.

Taking its name from the latin for “Through Endeavour” the “Per Ardua” series aims to explore different sonic territory from the labels usual mainstay, delving deeper into the rich strata making up 170bpm music.

Taking several years to curate, Context Audio have put together eight tunes that, while from different producers, all share strong thematic elements. All parts melodic, gentle and emotive, the eight tracks are each a celebration of everything that 170bpm music can acheive and a reminder that drum and bass doesn’t just have to be about processed breaks and huge basslines.

Buy: store.contextaudio.com/album/per-ardua-ii

Exclusive Premiere: Barefoot – There Is Nothing Else (re:st)

“There Is Nothing Else” by Barefoot is taken from the “Fulmar EP”, released on the re:st imprint out of Switzerland. This will be their first digital release available separately, with downloads previously only being available when purchasing the vinyl or messaging the label with other purchases.

The EP contains four ambient soundscapes by the UK producer. With previous tracks on labels including Med School and Literature Recordings, it will come as no surprise that he tends to focus on the deeper and more experimental end of the electronic music spectrum, building atmosphere and emotion rather than creating dancefloor anthems.

Compositions steadily build, with layers of synths, field recordings and bleeps constructing immersive environments for the mind to wander reflectively. A profound journey for the listener, the release conjures emotion and stirs memories of joy and adventure with its delicate melodies.

An important release for the label, and the start of a new chapter, as re:st is launched into mainstream stores and streaming sites, an exciting time and a great opportunity for one of our favourite labels to reach a wider audience.

The 12” is a limited edition of one hundred with the majority of the run being pressed onto standard black vinyl, a highly collectable orange version is also available. Purchases direct from the re:st website will come bundled with the digital download.

Release date: 21st February 2020

Buy: relationreset.com/shop/barefoot-fulmar/

Exclusive Stream: Foul Play – Being With You (Army Of Ghosts VIP)

Originally put together for John’s Foul Play appearance at Rupture back in June, this VIP of “Being With You” was crafted by Sonar’s Ghost and myself as an exclusive for his set.

Also known as the Rupture mix this was made using stems from an old track we made for the blog several years ago, a remix of “Understand The Process” by Soza, and samples from different versions of “Being With You” including the Van Kleef mix John sent me on CD.

Essentially a rinse for a DJ set we hope you enjoy this exclusive stream as we celebrate 250,000 plays on SoundCloud and approach 3k followers.

Thank you for all your support.

Soundcloud: Two Hungry Ghosts / John Morrow

Exclusive Premiere: Sun People – Black Sphere (Rua Sound)

“Black Sphere” by Sun People is taken from the four track “These Days EP”, forthcoming on Rua Sound, released on November 29th.

Born out of a love for progressive electronic music, the Sun People project fuses elements of techno, hip hop, footwork, jungle and rare groove. The resulting sound is a perfect alchemy of musicality, soul and carefully placed kick drums.

“Give It Up”, the opening track on the EP, sets the tone with its mutated rare groove sample, old school vocal and chopped breaks. What could easily lead to a vintage jungle rinse out, and a good one at that, instead heads for a classic Hidden Agenda sound evoking memories of “Get Carter” and “The Flute Tune”.

There is an excitement that runs through the EP with tracks morphing quite unexpectedly and samples finding new spaces to inhabit, often out of context but sounding perfectly in place.

Contender for EP of the year “Black Sphere” draws the release to a close, an elegant halftime exit awash with mystery and grace.

The “These Days EP” will be available on both digital and vinyl formats, mastered by Macc and featuring artwork by Arkof and Graphic design by Barry Prendergast.

Buy: Bandcamp

Exclusive Premiere: Model – Jupiter (7th Storey Recollective)

The first release on a new sub-label from 7th Storey Projects sees two previously unreleased tracks by Model finally see the light of day. Produced in 1995 expect chopped amens and cosmic pads in a GLR style on the nearly 9-minute track “Jupiter” and a pure tribal work out of intricate panning drum edits on “Surroundingz”.

Sourced from the original DAT recordings these have been mastered by Beau at Ten Eight Seven then cut at 45 for a rich, loud 12″ with excellent clarity. With all 7th Storey Projects releases, attention to detail is paramount so this has been produced by Optimal Media (based in Germany) for a high quality pressing then packaged in a full-colour sleeve, designed by Model.

Check the Two Hungry Ghosts blog next week for an interview with Model where we find out more about these tracks and the story behind “Flight”, the holy grail of unreleased dubs played by LTJ Bukem back in 1995.

Vinyl only and available to pre-order now direct from 7th Storey Projects.

Buy: 7th Storey Projects

Exclusive Premiere: Necrotype – Fools Wisdom (Mettāsonic)

“Fools Wisdom” is the title track from Necrotype’s new EP on Taiwan based label, Mettāsonic.

Interweaving an abundance of classic breakbeats, “Fools Wisdom” is a reflective take on the iconic 90s sound. Occupying a space somewhere between uplifting and melancholy, the track switches between energetic drum sections and chilled moments of ambience. A melodic horn sample brings both styles together in a cohesive fusion of dynamic bliss.

Necrotype has had recent releases on Ortem, 7th Storey, Diamond Life and MJAZZ with new music signed to Repertoire and Amenology due for release over the coming months.

In the spirit of Metta, meditation focused on the development of unconditional love for all beings, Mettāsonic is in the process of converting to an official non-profit project, a concept we wholeheartedly endorse.

Buy: Bandcamp

Exclusive Premiere: Sicknote And Escher – Taster (Stereocilia)

Exclusive Premiere of “Taster” by Sicknote and Escher taken from the second release on the highly limited and ultra-collectible Stereocilia label.

“Taster” is based around a subtle drum machine rhythm, sparse and steady the beat provides the perfect back drop for twisted bass tones that snarl and gyrate their way throughout the track. At times upfront and prominent, at others quietly in the background menacingly filtering around gentle percussion like a shark circling it’s prey.

The true beauty of “Taster” lies in its natural arrangement, noises fade in and echo out, a held string causes tension then departs, drums rise and fall without a drop, mentasms pierce the track but only occasionally.

The track is haunting, not overbearing. An uncluttered masterclass in making the most out of a few sounds and a perfectly executed idea without an amen in sight.

Exclusive to the Clashmouth independent drum and bass label market in November this will be available as a highly limited lathe cut vinyl release backed with “Emerald Estate” by Sicknote.

Link: Clashmouth