Premiere: Arcane – Temples (Rua Sound)

“Temples” by Arcane is taken from the “Labyrinth EP“, forthcoming on Rua Sound. The release will be available on 12″ vinyl and digital download from September 11th.

The first release on the label by Arcane contains four tracks of pure atmospheric jungle goodness. A focus on bass and melody provides both ruggedness and musicality in abundance.

“Temples” is breakbeat science at its finest, intricate, emotive and melodic. The more drumfunk focused of the EP’s four tracks, it features a punchy low-end with complex Apache and Amen edits. A mysterious horn floats through the track, delicately skipping through its different sections like a mystical Sherpa.

Elsewhere on release, title track Labyrinth is reminiscent of one of my favourite Good Looking releases, “Travelling” by D.O.P.E with its multiple layers of atmospherics and cosmic chimes. “Planet X” featuring Samurai Breaks is a deep dancefloor workout, a blend of sophisticated drums and rude Reese bass. “Voyage” drops the tempo merging hip-hop, house and dub for a cosmic half-time 170 expedition.

The “Labyrinth EP” by Arcane is available to buy direct from the label now.

Buy: Bandcamp

Premiere: Mystic State – Mirrors Edge (The Chikara Project)

“Mirrors Edge” is taken from the debut LP, “My Own Private Island“, by Mystic State released on the Bristol-based label, The Chikara Project.

“My Own Private Island” contains fourteen tracks covering the bass music spectrum, from instrumental airy soundscapes to 90s jungle fused breaks. It’s an impressive debut that certainly captures the atmospheric side of drum and bass, from its early origins to modern, minimal and progressive 170 styles.

“Mirrors Edge” is the perfect blend of these two contrasting sub-genres. It’s half-time skeleton allowing breaks to twist and filter while remaining calm and melodic, adding a dancefloor twist to a sound often associated with intimate headphone listening sessions. The first half of the track is built around samples also used in “Terrorist” by Renegade, namely the “Think” break, Reece bass and Jah Shaka dub sound FX. The second section adds “Soul Pride” drums into the mix, adding a further injection of funk and nostalgia.

If you were a fan of jungle in the 90s and appreciated the cosmic, forward-thinking nature of the sound then be sure to check out “My Own Private Island” for an intoxicating excursion into melodic atmospherics.

The debut LP by Mystic State, “My Own Private Island”, is now available to purchase directly from the label via Bandcamp.

Buy: Bandcamp

Premiere: Cryptographic – Echo III (re:st)

“Echo III” by Cryptographic is taken from the “Echo EP”, forthcoming on re:st. The release will be available on a strictly limited edition vinyl, with only 100 being pressed, and digital download. Both versions can be pre-ordered direct from the label now via Bandcamp.

The re:st label is based in Switzerland and at the forefront of experimental 170 excursions into deep and dubby, techno fused modern jungle. The “Echo EP” is saturated in effects and atmosphere, expressive and percussive the release integrates ambient field recordings with weighty kicks and heavily delayed FX.

The EP captures a true sci-fi ambience with its robotic, industrial percussion and sounds that echo into the distance like ships venturing into space. Rainfall and informative vocal samples add to this Bladerunner vibe as you could imagine the educational messages being relayed on large screens as public service announcements in a futuristic city.

Buy now: Bandcamp

Fanu Talks Breaks, Headz, Ableton and Producing DnB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy: Bandcamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

This release is out now on Metalheadz Platinum.

Buy Now:

Repertoire Interview And “Post-Truth” Stream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you make this EP with Repertoire in mind?

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

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

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

Finally, what’s next for Repertoire?

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

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

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!


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.


Friske On His Different Perspective, Metalheadz And Goldie

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…

A Different Perspective” by Friske is out now on Metalheadz.