Friday, 2 October 2015

Interview with Joe Corfield

Joe Corfield is a local producer who I’ve had my eye on for a while, from him working with Beat Circle, Eatgood, and appearing wherever there was good hip-hop in the city. Before doing this interview I genuinely thought that he had been producing way longer, judging by the quality and consistency of his production.

He’s been working hard recently, getting deeper into crate digging for obscure breaks, and is now working with High Focus, one of the UK’s most respected hip-hop labels. 

I wanted to interview Joe to shed some light on what it takes in today’s massively flooded genre called ‘beats’ and get a snapshot of where he is now and where he’s going…

Joe, how long have you been producing?
I've been producing for 3 years now, I started in college. Although before that I was always into making music of other forms.
I understand you use a BOSS SP303, is that right?
I sample everything on the SP404sx; I make the majority of my beats on my computer but sometimes on the drum machine.
From listening to your productions it's evident that you're a crate digger, but don’t go for obvious material.  What older artists inspire you in that sense, either to listen to or sample?
69 – 82 is the period I’ve noticed everything I like seems to be from, I’ll pick up anything when I’m digging but the instruments used around this era I really love. Dudes like Lonnie Liston Smith, Chick Corea, Roy Ayers; Fender Rhodes stuff. Jazz fusion, bossa nova and Brazilian fusion bands like Azymuth.

Now I can see why I think some of your production is very Madlib influenced - Madlib LOVES Azymuth! Have you heard his album Madlib interpreta Azymuth?  (This album is VERY hard to find as it was a project just for himself! If you find a download link GET IT. It’s an amazing Wonky Jazzy trip to Brazil!)

Well the guy does so much! It’s hard not to be influenced by at least a couple things he puts out. His work rate alone is an inspiration.

Listening to those unreleased gems you sent me, sometimes you go completely against the grain of Jazz and have a much harder sound. You have a very impressive diversity whilst retaining that classic hip-hop sound. Can you elaborate on maybe why that is?

Yeah I’ve always been into music, my dad was a big influence because he taught me guitar from a young age, and I learnt a lot from his record collection at first when I found out about sampling, that’s where I first looked. He has various soul, disco and rock records, and a few dope British ska things. 

I guess from this I just learned that music shouldn’t be confined to genres; good music is good music. I had always bought records here and there growing up but as soon as I got into hip-hop this definitely became something I did A LOT. 

And referring to me moving away from jazz sounds sometimes in music – yeah I would agree, but jazz itself was about pushing the boundaries; I always think about that when I’m digging or making tunes. When I’m buying records I can find music from any country or any era, and you have the technology on a computer nowadays to do anything you want, so why stick to one sound? 

I enjoy experimenting, although sometimes you’ll spend a whole day and all your money digging and all you get is shit. But it’s all education.

Okay so let’s bring it into a modern focus, what current producers influence you?  Is there anyone within UK hip-hop that you rate?

Anyone that shows good diversity is what I like. A lot of my friends and people around me make music or are involved in some art, everyone in my group The Oddysee are a constant influence, we are constantly making stuff. Everyone involved in the Birmingham scene, just being around these dudes is an influence to put in work, so shouts to everyone at Listening Sessions
Talking actual production techniques, I have to mention J Dilla, Havoc, and Madlib.
I don’t know if I like much US rap at the moment, nothing that directly affects the way I produce right now; which might be a surprise to hear.
I’m really into the Juke/Footwork scene though, DJ Spinn/Rashad (RIP) 

But mostly I’m more influenced by the people around me and what they do, and day to day things like walking home from work or making an omelette. 

Some of my favourite UK (hip-hop) producers right now are 2late and Drae. Also, whoever produces all the mouse outfit stuff is dope. The Mouse Outfit are a Hip Hop production team and 9 piece live band based in Manchester. If I’m honest though, I find it hard to name many modern names that really influence how I make beats.

What’s going on right now?

The Oddysee project is happening. We have no dates set yet, but a lot of songs ready to take to the studio, so we are going to be releasing a Single or EP once we’ve all decided what we want to do with the tracks. This project has been my main focus for a couple years now so I’m looking forward to people hearing it. 
Other things happening include work with various groups and MC’s. I will be producing a bit of Concept of Thoughts new album, which is in the works. My dude Revilo (Coma Beat / Yalla / Mr Hungs) from Brum is working on an EP with a handful of my beats. 
I’m also toying with ideas for a producer album where I produce a full length project featuring some of my favourite artists; I’ve spoke to a lot of people about this and people are down, but it’s not a main focus of mine at the moment. 
An instrumental album is also something I’m working on, slowly.

I met Dirty Dike at Boombap 2013, I won the beat battle that year and met a lot of people thanks to that, shouts to Kosyne (head of Eat Good) for telling me I should do it, I wouldn’t have otherwise. The first beat I played actually ended up being the first single on the Dike album. I also met Leaf Dog. He was really into what I was making, we did a track together and spoke about working on an EP, this is yet to formulate but I still aim to make it happen.

That little push can make all the difference! The amount of amazing producers I know, who just stay in, and keep themselves to themselves is crazy. You produce hip-hop, so need rappers to make more people aware of your skill. Now we’ve covered past influences and what you are doing now, can people catch you live anywhere? Also the collab with Revilo - will we are seeing any Juke or Footwork influence there?
Yeah for sure, I never thought people would actually want to hear anything I made before then. So it’s a good feeling. 
Definitely, the response to the Dirty Dike stuff has been pretty nuts, I’m grateful he decided to put me on this project. And I aim to keep the work rate going to build from this platform I’ve been given. 
I’ll be performing with the Oddysee later this year in and around Birmingham. Not sure how much I can give away but we’ll be at the next Yalla event which I’m really excited about.

We’ll also be performing at the Rainbow sometime supporting brum locals OG Horse – no date on this yet though.
Next up and very soon is RUN PST part two (Joe will also be playing some exclusive Deviant beats here!)
And we’ll be at the next Listening Sessions/Rupture vs. Skutta (Round 2!) at PST Birmingham on December 5th.
Not particularly with the Revilo stuff, it’s more wonky boombap / beats stuff. Although there is a definite more upbeat influence on the new Oddysee stuff, I know Frank (Sigmund Frued) makes a lot of dope footwork.

From your new unreleased batch of beats I’ve noticed that your drums are very strong.  They have that classic east coast Pete Rock, Large Professor sound. Do you use any plug-ins to achieve that?  Or do you dig just as hard for drums as for loops and sounds?

All my drums are from vinyl or random files I have on my computer, not sure how a lot of them got there. I took a lot of drum files from college when I was there, so there is years’ worth of recordings knocking about in my computer! But apart from that I just use the standard Reason compression and EQ, some occasional reverb, nothing incredibly technical. I think that solid drums can make an average beat sound dope, so they are always a main focus of mine.

You use the SP404sx, would you ever consider going to a completely software based set up? One of the drawbacks I have being MPC based myself (I am moving to Ableton and Push - slowly but surely!) is that your workflow literally doubles. Or do you think you would lose an aspect of your sound?

I have no reason to change my set up at the moment, I love the sampling side of what I do and I don’t believe I’ll ever remove that from my process of making music. I don’t have a great understanding of software at the moment either so I doubt I'll be going completely software based any time soon, if ever.

I am not alone in loving that aspect of your sound, so that’s music to my ears! Would you ever consider adding any more hardware to your set up?

I’ve always wanted to buy a shit load of synths and just play with them 'til I understand how they work. I can programme synths on my computer but it’s just not the same. So whenever I have enough space for such things I'll definitely start looking into it. And I’m sure it would probably change the music I made, I’d also love to buy acoustic instruments like a Fender Rhodes. Basically start a one man fusion group … ha!

That would be amazing. Well you’re very good at combining sounds and loops already, that’s half the battle with composition! In time though eh? Now as I’m writing this you are clocking up a fair amount of views with this Dirty Dyke video (around 55,000 views at the time of writing!) How does it make you feel, getting this level of recognition, fairly early on in your production career?

It’s good, I can’t complain about it at all. The amount of views is pretty nuts and all the people asking to collab is nice as well. Although I feel that the process of releasing music takes so long that the tunes that are out right now aren’t really a representation of what I’m making now. 
I made the Dirty Dike tracks fairly early on when I started making beats, like mid 2013; but then again its cool knowing that people are feeling them even though they are old news to me.

Yeah that happens a lot with beats like Raekwon using a Necro beat from 1997 on Only Built for Cuban Linx 2! What first bit of UK hip-hop really got your attention or caught your ears?

A few things, like I had heard of Jehst a while ago and thought Return of the Drifter was a classic, and I’ve loved a lot of what Roots Manuva has been doing for ages now, used to bump Witness (1 hope) daily when I was skating. 

But if I’m honest I never knew that much about ‘modern’ UKHH until some friends showed me Four Owls and that, I liked Leaf Dogs beats on their 1st album. From there, me and a couple mates went to the 1st Boombap festival and it was cool to see all the artists were just standard dudes making good music; and at this point I had just started making beats. 

I had soon met the Oddysee guys soon after that, Suf (O’malley) has a deep knowledge of all things hip hop and he showed me a lot of old school UK shit I’ve never heard of. 

So I guess the process of discovering a whole scene just as I was starting to make beats really got me inspired, especially as the scene was really starting to grow.

Ok yeah my first real thing was the Low Life releases back in the late 90’s and Blak Twangs ‘Rotton’ and obviously Roots Manuva’s ‘Witness’ too. It really helps having slightly older heads around, my one was Rich Crowson who now runs Crate Escape he tipped me onto A LOT of old school UK tracks and great 90s US stuff that went just under the radar. 
Ok now onto the future I’m aware that you’re thinking of moving from Birmingham to Bristol? Personal reasons aside what are the musical reasons? I know a lot of D&B heads have made that move as there is more appreciation for what they do - do you feel the same for hip-hop is true?

I just feel Bristol as a place is a lot more open to creativity, places like London are mad competitive, I’d just like to be in a place where good music can be appreciated for what it is. Everyone I’ve met there already has been real into what I do and what the Oddysee do, and some of my favourite UK hip hop producers are living there.

I’m not sure if hip hop is appreciated any more in Bristol than it is in Birmingham but there are definitely more creative outlets to delve in to in Bristol, which is nice to be surrounded by. 

I suppose I just want to expand, I know a lot of people that are making Brum/Bristol links and really reaping the benefits, it’s just about time I did the same. Plus a lot of record stores in Brum have closed down now so I need to be somewhere where there are more records!

OK now to wrap up, sample based hip-hop beats are never going to stop. As a younger producer out there, what helped you to find stuff to sample other than are there any blogs that you can recommend (don't feel obliged to give out any secret sources!)? 

Yeah it sucks there aren’t many digging spots in Brum anymore, but The Diskery has definitely supplied me with nearly all the best stuff I’ve made, Liam and Jim are real nice guys as well; I hope they continue with the shop for more years to come.

When it comes to sample sources, I’m not gonna lie! I learned by just going out and digging all day, spending all my money on a shit load of stuff then doing the exact same the next month. When it’s YOUR money going on it, you soon learn what’s good and what isn’t! You don’t want to be wasting your money on a record that has the same names on it, as a bag of shit record you bought a few weeks ago. You learn about labels, names and instruments. Occasionally you’ll find something that looks terrible but is actually fire, but this rarely happens by clicking around on a blog. 
I’ll turn to the internet, when I’m short on cash, but I just always have that feeling that if it’s on the internet, someone already has it, and someone has already sampled it! A lot of kids, these days, turn to the internet to dig. 
I like to find records that aren’t on any YouTube channel or blog.

That’s the thing though isn’t it, if someone has whacked it out there for everyone online it becomes 'everyone's' source material then! OK Joe this has been a great look at where you're at and where you're going. Thank you for taking the time to do this and before we finish are there any shouts you’d like to give?

Shouts to all the Brum family! You know who you are!!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Next Phase Records: "We want to bring out the music we love"

Photograph by S. Huizing

Robbert (Infest) and Leon (Leonux) run Next Phase Records - a label that has been releasing an eclectic mix of breakbeat driven music unrestricted by BPM. An impressive group of like minded musicians from around the world have helped to create the sound and direction of Next Phase. Here's an interview with Robbert, where I find out a bit more about Infest, and the latest release from Next Phase…..

I know you make music as Infest, and you run Next Phase Records which is your record label. How long have you been producing music and running the label?

I started out with music as a teenager in a Indie/Rock band with some friends when I was 15/16 years old. During that time I started to make beats too. In 2004 I seriously started DJ'ing and making Jungle.

Next Phase Records was raised after a long period of organising party's with the Pitchcontrol crew (2005 - 2009) and putting in long hours in my home studio to work on my sound. I always had the idea to launch a label someday and in 2012 me and Leonux (who was also a member of the Pitchcontrol crew) shaped the idea for Next Phase Records. At first this was only as a DJ duo on our radio show at and at live gigs. In December 2014 we released our first CD made out of a custom wooden case.

The latest project you're about to release is 'Time Will Tell', what is the project about?

Yeah this album is finally landing on Next Phase Records. Half of the tunes were created during the process of my debut album 'Darkofi' which was released on Omni Music in 2013. I started with designing my own CD sleeves from old records which I think was the start of the concept how Next Phase Records can grow. I had no money back then and needed to come up with something to realise the release. So when I was brainstorming one night, I was looking at all of my records which consisted of good records but a lot of crap too that I used to sample from and wouldn't ever play again. I came up with the idea to make my own sleeves of those records. Time Will Tell is the second chapter of that ethos. Working with a DIY attitude I always had since my punk-rock days as a teenager. Both the format and music are based on the idea of analog vs digital. Music wise I played a lot of live instruments like guitar, bass, keys and field recordings which were recorded and processed through tape decks, samplers and a noisy Soundcraft desk. The arrangements and mixing were done digitally inside Ableton. Design and format wise you can also see that analog vs digital balance. The analog side is the packaging that was all made by hand from old matchboxes where I did ink transfers on with a photo and typo I made in the North of Ireland during a trip with my dad in 2014. The USB format reflects the music in a digital world but with the thought you can touch and feel it. 

On your bandcamp page for the album, it mentions that movie soundtracks have been a big inflence in the making of the album. What movie's in particular, and why were they an influence? Were there any specific scenes?

Yeah that's right! I'm a big fan of David Lynch and the soundtracks he uses in his movies and of course one of the biggest inspirations is 'Twin Peaks'. It has that dark and eerie vibe which I love the most in balance with the more atmospheric light side of sound. I think Lynch uses the right balance in his work both visually and for the ear. It grabs you and takes you to that place which you can lose yourself in. I guess my influence of a movie soundtrack is not based on specific movies but more the journey and creating soundscapes which the listener can float on to create their own little movie for a little while. At least that's what I do while making it hehe.

A couple of more movies with great soundtracks: The Fountain, Dune, Bladerunner (of course), PI.

You also released on Sector 12/12. How did that come about?

Me and Dave Sector had a lot of chats about life, art, music, jungle, techno, breaks, soundtracks, rock, funk, etc just about all the stuff we are into really and what kept us going. He had his idea with Sector 12/12 and I wanted to do something outside my comfort zone. So we compiled a huge list of my tunes that had never seen the light of day and made a new EP based on this idea which ended also as an artistic outlet. The music was released on a tape with handmade artwork for the sleeves. And yes old record sleeves again, love the stuff hehe

Do you still listen to indie/rock, or did you stop listening when you became interested in jungle?
Yes of course! I mean I don't listen to only electronic music, I do a lot but always like to swing moods with music. So it can be very obscure ambient to some nice jazzy vibes and build it up to some punk rock and go jungle or back haha. I like a lot of music so and always hunting for new/old stuff.

Can you name 3 songs/tracks from your past which you love?

I was already afraid for these kind of questions because you can't ask me this, I can't choose there are too many good tracks that are poppin' in my head already, but ok I will choose some random tracks then.
1. Radiohead: Talk Show Host

2. Boards Of Canada: Smokes Quantity

3. Roy Buchanan: The Messiah Will Come Again

Damn and now I think of a lot of more haha.

Can you name 3 songs/tracks from 2015 which you are crazy about?

You ain't stopping with this uh ;)
Ok there is a lot of good music coming out these days I think and lot of vinyl which is great.
1. Code & Mecca - Ice World 
On subtle audio, a drumfunk/jungle tune I was waiting for, for some time. I only heard a preview Code had sent me some years back, and back then I already was like man I need this tune! Proper original Sci Fi Bladerunner vibes.

2. Godspeed You! Black Emporer - Peasantry or 'Light! Inside of Light!
One of my favourite bands which also can give you that cinematic feel, saw them a couple months ago in Amsterdam performing their new album together with old tunes and it was a good musical and visual journey with old 8mm movies.

3. Black Classical - The Molly Brown Incident
This is more of a long soundtrack released on tape by Sector 12/12 which brings you a dark Sci Fi inspired ambient trip.

There's a lot of record labels out there, new ones are appearing all the time. What does Next Phase offer which sets it apart from everything else out there? And why did you start the label?

Yeah there are a lot of labels out there and we felt that there isn't something we fit in here in the Netherlands with the stuff we do on the breakbeat side of music so that was an important motivation to launch the label besides that we want to bring out the music we love so we are not focussing on one specific genre. We always looked up to labels like Ninja Tune and Mo'Wax for example because they released what they feel like was needed to be heard.

For me personally it's an outlet of all the stuff I'm into, the music, art & design and bringing that all together into one.

What advice can you give to anyone thinking of starting their own label/imprint?

We just started out and have a lot of things to learn but I think you need to follow your dreams in what you want to do. Don't go for the easy way, work hard and things will follow.

What plans/releases have you got lined up for the rest of the year?

Yeah we have some projects lined up for the rest of the year. Next one up is gonna be a beat tape which will be released on cassette and digital. And hopefully were gonna release our first vinyl EP at the end of this year.

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Thank you for letting me tell my little story and to all the supporters of Next Phase Records and my previous release so far.

Big up Infest/Robbert for the interview, check-out the following links for further research:

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Project Birmingham - Limelight 2

A few months back, Rob Ashby hit me up to let me know about something that he and a friend were starting. This something is 'Project Birmingham'. They are running a series of events showcasing Birmingham's creative talent and their second event 'Limelight' is taking place at 112 Space on the 18th July. 
Their first event showcased a mixture of art, live bands, DJs and food. I was interested to find out a bit more as some Futurepast Zine family (Anjin and Hollow) played a few records at the first event and they reported back good things :)
Tell me about yourselves?
My name is Rob, and along with James Cronin I help run a cultural collective called Project Birmingham. Our aim is to showcase the best of Birmingham based artists, musicians and chefs. Me and my partners grew tired of the stigma surrounding the second city and wanted to show the rest of the UK what Birmingham has to offer!
How did Limelight come about? What was the motivation for it?
The motivation behind it... I remember me and James were sat in a pub on a Friday night and we thought to ourselves: "what is there to do?" We didn't fancy the Rainbow and there weren't any gigs on. There were no art exhibitions either. We suddenly realised that Birmingham lacked a certain variety, which we found ridiculous considering Birmingham is supposed to be the nations second largest city. We therefore started to draw up plans of putting on our events aimed at young people who have an interest in art and music but were finding it difficult to access these type of events.
Your last event was at 112 Space. What is it about the venue that appeals to Limelight?
I met Matt who helps run 112 a while ago as I'm a massive fan of the Provide shop. It took us ages to find the right venue and when we heard Matt had started 112 space we leapt at the idea. The space is informal and tucked away which is just what we want. We also fell in love with the architecture of the building, especially the windows. The space feels like your living room which therefore makes you feel at home which is the feel we were trying to go for.
You've got another Limelight event planned for 18th July, what can people expect?
For the next Limelight expect a relaxed, pretentious free atmosphere with great music, art and food with a Birmingham themed twist.
What other plans have you got for Project Birmingham?
In terms of future projects we are hoping to collaborate with a well known charity here in Birmingham. We try not to give to much away though...

Have you got a line up together for the 18th yet?
Again with the lineup we like to keep things exciting and introduce people a few days before the event to keep everyone on their toes!

So there you have it… They have got 4 artists signed up already with a space for one or two more; an array of musical talent that they're currently finalising. The food for the evening will give you a taste of one of the city's thriving culinary scenes. As well as this, there will be some interactive bits going on all night, so plenty to look forward to. 
Spread the word, look forward to seeing you all next Saturday at 112 Space, Digbeth. Free guaranteed entry for the first 60 on the night

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Trash Comics Workshop at Rope Press

On Thursday last week I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at Rope Press. Rope Press is a book shop located in the Jubilee Centre in Birmingham. On my first visit I was blown away by what they had there. And they also specialise in risograph printing which is something I’m interested in. Sometime last year I purchased a comic from there entitled ‘Neon Noir’ which also contained a comic called ‘Dirt – The Debate’ which was written by Michael Kennedy. I thought that Dirt was unreal for a lot of different reasons, it felt fresh. It was Michael that was running this workshop on Thursday so I was pretty excited, but I can’t draw to save my life and I’ve never written a story since I was at school! Reece, that runs Rope Press with his partner Elyse, assured me that I didn’t need to have either of these skills.

There were a handful of us at the workshop, and I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I found out that we were going to be making ‘trash comics’. I’m not sure what the correct definition is of trash comics, but we were given books and magazines and told to cut out pictures and create 6 panels/frames for an A3 page. Then while we were half-way doing that, Michael took another book and ripped out a few pages and handed them out. Our instruction was to use words and sentences from the material he’d just provided. While participating in this, it felt very similar to making music (for me anyway). There were a lot of parallels, such as cutting pictures and sentences from a book or magazine is like sampling a piece of music to make something new. And even though the images when stuck together might look like they don’t work together, when it goes through a printing process it all seems to feel cohesive – and this is almost like the ‘mastering’ process for when you have finished making a piece of music. The workshop was a lot of fun and I would really encourage anyone interested to check it out. I wouldn’t say I was a creative person because I haven’t got those skills, but making the trash comic made me feel like it didn’t matter whether I was creative or not, because it’s all about experimenting and trying things out – the results of it almost feel unimportant because it’s the process of cutting and pasting which is the fun bit (again another parallel to making music). It was very inspiring and it is something I will definitely do in my own time.

Once we had arranged our panels onto the A3 paper, they got printed on the risograph in any colour we wanted. The results that all of us developed were pretty awesome, there was some really good stuff that came out of it all. When I got back home I was eager to put something together sonically to go with the trash comic I had created. I tried to stick to the same concepts in the workshop. I dusted off my trusty SP505 to chop up a few samples, recorded them onto my computer and then I added a few more sounds. Within a few hours I had put together 6 very short tracks (less than a minute) to go with the panels. So I decided to make a little video of it all, here it is:

Rope Press:
Michael Kennedy:
Trash Comics:

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Don't Believe The Hype

Something incredible happened last week. Something for the history books.

An event took place on Friday night last week (June 5th 2015), ‘Listening Sessions presents Rupture Vs Skutta’. For the uninitiated out there: Listening Sessions is a night that started over a year ago – the focus of the night is on local (Birmingham and surrounding areas) producers playing their music to an audience that’s keen on keeping their ears to the ground when it comes to underground music; Rupture is a club night (based in London) that’s been going strong for nearly 10 years, something to be respected because it’s no easy feat. They are an outfit trusted for representing the forefront of Jungle/DnB and they have a loyal fan-base that will soldier to wherever the Rupture crew are doing their thing; last but not least is Skutta – a record label that has been releasing some excellent music, they have a regular show on Jungletrain where they play their perspective of cutting edge Jungle/DnB.

One thing I’ve realised about music events is that you can have the best line-up of artists/performers, but if the sound system isn’t up to scratch, if the venue isn’t right and people aren’t interested, then it’s not going to work. The venue for this event was PST in Digbeth, home to many Listening Sessions events. The key word in the last sentence is ‘home’ – that’s exactly what PST is for a lot of us. There’s a unique vibe to the club, and the people that run it are friendly and they look out for you to make sure you have a good time. The sound system was powered by ‘Creative Hertz’ – renowned for their earth shattering set-up, I can happily say I’ve never experienced tinnitus on any of their set-ups because they have an understanding of frequencies and which ones sound good at a high volume! Definitely one of the best sound systems I have ever experienced. The last and probably most important ingredient for this successful night was the crowd. People had travelled from all over the country for this night. The team involved in putting on the night had made a lot of effort and put in a lot of hard work promoting the event as much as possible, so it was inevitable that this was going to be an epic night.

There were two rooms, Rupture Vs Skutta in the main room and Listening Sessions on the rooftop. The line-up of DJs in both rooms was really good, and so I had a plan of hopping between the two rooms every half an hour so that I could catch most of them. My plan started off well, Slaine kicked things off in the main room. People were already moving on the dance floor and he played some really dirty grimey beats, he also played a few of his own productions which I know have been getting support from DJs like Ray Keith, it was good to hear them on a phat sound system. I then ventured upstairs to catch Onira for a bit. I always look forward to Onira’s sets because he plays a good variety of music and easily switches between the bpms. It’s a difficult job being one of the early DJs of the night because it’s too easy to get straight into it (i.e. playing bangers, anthems, crowd pleasers), that’s why I think Onira is a wicked DJ because he gradually lifted up the vibes – so much so that there was someone that wanted to grab the mic for parts of his set. Before he finished I nipped back down so that I could catch DAAT.

DAAT kicked things off by breaking it right down. No beats, no basslines, just some kind of sound. Then something which loosely resembled a beat faded in – Jason (one half of DAAT) really took his time, it was mesmerising and I was really into it, then before I knew it he played ‘Twitchy Droid Leg’ by Sileni – a personal favourite of mine. I remember looking at my cuz when it came it on, that typical look when you hear a wicked tune and look to a friend in appreciation of it haha. I remember he also played ‘Phytochrome’ which was released on Subtle Audio, it’s a really soothing track. Soon it was time for me to go upstairs to check Elkie who is one of the guys behind Listening Sessions. People were already moving to the music he played, it was an awesome selection and the crowd that was there was really feeling it – I know he played a few M:Pathy tracks which hit the spot. After him, Krytikal came on to the stage, he is a brilliant producer and has released music on a variety of labels including Area Recordings and Dubsalive. His set consisted of tracks that he made or collaborated on, they are very much on a dubstep tip – the basslines were heavy all the way, and to be honest I wouldn’t expect anything less from this guy. Next up was Goosensei who, alongside Elkie, run Listening Sessions. Goosensei played a top notch set full of lots of different grooves, he had Nature Ambassador on the mic.

I nipped down for a bit to check out LA Johnson & Baddesley, they played some good variety – the Footwork/Juke style tracks worked a treat, it’s something I’d like to hear more of. I ventured back up to catch the rest of Goosensei’s set and discovered that another MC had taken control of the mic, she goes by the name of Fedzilla – she worked the mic like a champion and people were lapping it all up.

I absolutely loved everything I was hearing upstairs. My plan to check all the DJs across the two rooms had failed because I ended up staying on the rooftop. I was gutted I missed out on Loxy, and I only caught about 15 minutes of Double O and Mantra. The music from the Listening Sessions cru on the roof top was magic, it felt like we were witnessing the evolution of something new and exciting. Especially when Wooda played THAT tune. Oh boy. I have no idea what it’s called but LORD HAVE MERCY, because the tune was something else, it was HOT. I was one of those annoying people that got my phone out to record it (but someone decided to talk to me while recording! Arghh! Said person has been forgiven and shall remain unnamed). I remember Elkie was by the CDJs and I said to him that the tune needed a rewind and thank god it was! People were making peacock sounds in appreciation – if there is a god out there I will be able to hear it again soon! Yilan played after him, it must’ve been difficult but he rocked it out, and he played a lot of his own selections – I’m a fan of his music, some of it was kind of hard grimey techno, totally banging and at times I would say it was almost brutal – even had Baddesley from Skutta come out of the sweaty main room to show some of his provocative dance moves! It’s a cliché, but if you weren’t there, you really missed something special, it was pure quality from start to finish. Everything I would want from a night out. Shortly after I went back to the main room so that I could hear HEADGEAR b2b with Threshold. Bare smashing of breakbeats to smithereens to say the least, couldn’t help but brock the hell out for a bit before I left.

It was a strange night because it wasn’t just a regular night out for me, the music I heard on the rooftop from the Listening Sessions crew, was the sound of Birmingham developing something new. Not a fad, or a trend, but the sounds of a community of musically minded misfits developing themselves and coming into their own. It reminded me of going to a Technicality all-nighter at Mass in Brixton (2006) – the line up in the main room was amazing (Breakage, Fracture & Neptune, Nookie, etc…) and in room 2 there was Loefah, someone I’d never heard of before playing Dubstep which was fresh to my ears and I remember having the same feeling then. I count myself fortunate that I was able to witness and experience a growing movement taking place. You might think I’m hyping this up like I’ve never been out before or something like that, maybe I am, but the next time there’s something like this going on, don’t believe the hype – come and check it out for yourself.

Photographs courtesy of B Harvey Photography

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Falty DL interview from Futurepast Zine #7

Falty DL is going to be in Birmingham this Saturday 13th June. And so I thought it would be nice for people to read an interview I did with him back in 2014 for issue 7 of the zine. Be sure to get down there early as a few of us will be DJing on the night too :)

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Interview with Yilan

I first heard Yilan's tracks at one of the Listening Sessions nights in Birmingham, and witnessed a memorable night where he tore the PST Rooftop (literally!) with a set that featured mostly his own music. At the time, I was putting together a project (Agents of Disruption) and I knew I needed a track off him. Also, he is playing a set this Friday (5th June 2015) at PST in Digbeth so come and shake a leg because that night is just gonna explode - seriously! Anyway, I think Yilan is one to watch, you may not know much about Yilan, so find out and check out his mix at the end of this interview…….

FPZ: How long have you been making music for and what got you into it in the first place?

Yilan: I started playing in a band when I was 13 (2005). Originally I was on vocals/guitar and we played Linkin Park and Blink 182 covers. I started getting into electronic music in about 2007/8 through dubstep which completely blew my mind and made me fall in love with bass music in general.

I decided to give producing a go when another band finished in my final year of uni (2012). By then I was already way more into a variety of stuff rather than just guitar music. I started going to Listening Sessions about a year ago which lead to me starting to DJ towards the end of 2014.

FPZ: I’ve noticed a change in your music that I’ve heard you play at Listening Sessions. Initially, your tracks covered a few genres (like footwork and breakbeat styles) whereas the recent tracks I’ve heard of yours are more ‘techno’ sounding. Especially when you played your first set at ‘Listening Sessions LIVE’, there were so many people vibing and I remember Hollow and me just kept saying that the tunes were on fire. I still remember the set now lol. Was it a conscious thing to change your music? If so, was there a reason behind it?

Yilan: Glad you enjoyed the set man! That was actually my first DJ set ever, so that sort of explains it really -  I just wanted to make stuff that would fit into the kind of DJ set I wanted to play. Before that I'd been getting more into dance floor based music through nights out but I was still mostly making whatever I wanted at home, a lot of chilled instrumental hip hop and ambient stuff. Then I went to Listening Sessions and heard my own tunes on a club sound system, which made me want to try more dance based stuff. I still make a variety of sounds depending on how I'm feeling, but I'll save some of it for some other projects (or probably just keep it on my hard drive).

Techno has definitely been an influence lately but I'll play anything that I really like and fits a set. Most of my own of tunes aren't four to floor anyway. Theres just a ton of quality stuff around that techno/house bpm thats coming out at the moment that doesn't quite fit those tags and I'm really keen to share it with people.

FPZ: You contributed a track, ‘Visibility’, for the ‘Agents of Disruption’ project I’m putting together. It’s a pretty noisy tune! How did the track come about?

Yilan: Thanks, the main lead sound came from messing around with a filter and distortion plugin over a tom tom. I added that distorted kick and built it around those 2 elements. It's definitely one of my noisier/harsher tunes.

FPZ: Have you worked with any other producers? I know that Krytikal did a wicked remix of one of your tracks. Have you got anymore things like that in the pipeline? Also, have you got any releases coming up?

Yilan: Krytikal did a great job remixing 'Contortion'. The original will be coming out on a compilation on Rawganics later this year.

I've worked with The Deviant on a hip hop track for his EP, and I've just finished a remix of Krytikal's track 'Illusions' (the original was released on the Futurepast 'Light of Day' compilation!). Apart from that I've got a few unfinished bits here and there, hoping to collaborate a lot more in the future.

(FPZ: No one told me about this remix!!! Lol. I need to hear this!)

FPZ: How did u hear about listening sessions?

Yilan: I was searching for some music production tips and tutorials online and found the 'Birmingham Producers Community' group. Someone posted the second Listening Sessions event in there and I thought I'd head down and check it out even though I knew literally no one there and I was by myself. Everyone was really friendly and it was great to talk to other people who were deep into their music too. The tunes that get played there are such a high standard and the vibe was great. I went a few times before I felt ready to bring some tunes down but 'Hoods Up' got a really good reaction and I was so surprised. Every time since then I've met more people making some really sick music. I cannot big up Listening Sessions enough!

FPZ: What's your influences and what music artists do you look up to or draw inspiration from?

Yilan: Anyone in any field who just does something a bit different. I like music with a focus on bass and a sense of space especially. Hodge is absolutely killing it at the moment. I love how Four Tet just plays whatever the hell he wants in a set. Mumdance, Objekt, Blawan, Gantz, Dyl all make crazy stuff. Away from the dance floor I'm really loving Fis recently and TCF. I also love post-rock bands like Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You, that music is so cinematic. 

Burial will probably always be the most played thing on my iPod by far though.

FPZ: How do you approach making music?

Yilan: I just usually mess around with samples or maybe put some drums together, mashing different ideas, resampling. I want to get more into synthesis so I can create the sounds I want to hear more quickly. I try out whatever ideas I think of, but I've learnt to just let go of any ideas that don't work to just try and finish the tune in the past few months.

FPZ: Tell me a bit about the mix you put together.

Yilan: This mix has got some tribal sounds and a few of my own recent tunes too amongst ones from Troy Gunner, Hodge, Pearson Sound and Lurka. Things get a bit more spacey and weird at the end.

Finally, I just want to thank Rawtrachs from Futurepast Zine for doing this interview and hosting my mix, hope you enjoy it. A massive thanks to all the Listening Sessions family too!

FPZ: Check Yilan out!
Photographs of Yilan courtesy of B Harvey Photography
Come and get sweaty:

Monday, 1 June 2015

Interview with Headgear (Part 1)

I first met fellow Midlander, Alister (Headgear) at Listening Sessions (Birmingham, UK), and went on to find out that he has a pretty deep history in Jungle/DnB. From various chats and facebook posts I found out a lot more info about his involvement with music including the music he makes. This week, on 5th June, he and a few other peeps are putting on an incredible night at an incredible venue, so this seemed like a good time to be my nosey self....

FPZ: Who are you and how did your interest in music begin?
Headgear: My name is Alister Head I'm 37 and I'm from Birmingham. I'm a Drum and Bass / Jungle producer / DJ and go under the artist name HEADGEAR. In the 90's I went under the names Soundcraft (Tech Itch Recordings), T.I.C (Back 2 Basics), Threshold (Second Movement Recordings) and Logistics (Dubz).

My interest for music goes as far back as I can remember, I started learning the saxophone when I was 8 and picked it up pretty quickly. I knew then that music was something that I wanted in my life. Jazz was one of my early influences, Hip Hop was something I also loved as a kid and during the late 80s and into the early 90s dance music started becoming more accessible to me through pirate radio. Hearing stuff by Frankie Bones, Silver Bullet and Rebel MC drew my attention to sample based music. 

I was heavily into my gaming back then, I owned a Commodore Amiga and would get magazines with demo disks taped to the front. One of the disks had a demo of OctaMED, a clever piece of software that allowed me to sequence samples together using four channels of audio. Thankfully I gave it try and from that point on, I was hooked. 

FPZ: You mentioned Back2Basics which gets me excited because I used to go record shopping there, but before we get to that, can you give me the names of some tracks by the artists you mentioned like Rebel MC etc... that caught your ear at the time?
Headgear: Luckily I discovered the names of some of these tracks in my more recent years - gotta love the internet haha. I was 10-13 years old when I heard these tracks.
The 'Rebel MC' album 'Black Meaning Good' had 'Tribal Base','Wickedest Sound' & 'Comin on Strong' on it. All of them had a prototype jungle sound to them.

Looney Tunes EP Vol 1 (Frankie Bones & Lenny Dee) - Another Place Another Time

The Ragga Twins had some wicked tracks like 'Spliffhead', 'Hooligan 69' & 'Wipe The Needle'.

The 'Silver Bullet' album 'Bring Down the Walls No Limit Squad Returns' was one that I'm pretty sure I wore out the cassette from playing it so much.

Then you've got the first 'Bomb the Bass' album 'Into the Dragon' which I've not heard in years so not sure how it holds up now but as a kid I loved it.

FPZ: What pirate radio did you listen to? And were there specific DJs that you looked out for?
Headgear: Starlight FM was the one station that stuck in my mind from that period, unfortunately I can't remember any of the DJs.

FPZ: It's interesting that Jazz was one of the first types of music you listened to, sometimes people start with Hip Hop, House, Jungle etc.... and then get into Jazz via samples and crate digging. Is Jazz something that you still listen to and get influenced by? Are there any albums/tracks that you always reach for?
Headgear: My dad was into his Jazz when I was young so I got to hear a fair amount of stuff back then. I don't listen to Jazz now to be honest as I have limited time as it is to listen to the stuff I really want to hear. Some of the artists that stood out to me were Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson they were also part of the group Jazz Warriors which was co-founded by the vocalist Cleveland Watkiss. Years later Steve Williamson and Cleveland Watkiss featured on Goldie's album Timeless then Cleveland Watkiss went on to MC at the legendary Metalheadz Sunday Sessions held at Blue Note.

FPZ: You've mentioned how you started taking an interest in music, how did this progress into buying records? Where did you go record shopping?
Headgear: Well, being a kid I didn't have an income except for a bit of pocket money I was lucky enough to receive every other week. With this I'd make the journey into Birmingham town centre to Pure Records which was run by Lee Fisher and MC Lenni (think he just hung out there to be honest) who was one of the better known MC's on the rave circuit at the time. I'd heard of MC Lenni through a DJ SS mix tape that someone gave me in '92. You can find the mix on Youtube under the name 'Dj SS Mc's Lenni & Bassman - Dance Planet 1992'. The set was jokes due to the amount of technical issues and Lenni screwing at people on the stage. It's maybe difficult to listen to now, but I'll always remember the effect it had on my little impressionable mind at the time.

Anyway, back to the answer. As my craving for music grew I wanted to check out other places that I'd heard of and one of them was Bang-in Tunes in Coventry. Now this place had some serious history connected to it as well as being not far from the The Eclipse which held some of the best raves in the Midlands at the time. DJ Luke & Neil Trix (FBD Project) worked there so you'd know that what they stocked was always worth checking out. I pretty much tried to make that long ass bus journey to Coventry every weekend and I rarely came away disappointed.

FPZ: When I saw you last we chatted about record shopping at Don Christies in B'ham. And you said that you worked there, what period was that? And what was it like? I feel like record shopping is an important part of music culture.
Headgear: I was never a paid employee at Don Christies but I helped out occasionally around '95 when Shock C worked there. Ian (Shock C) was a mate of mine back then and he used to have a regular slot playing Jungle on Choice 102.2FM. He also put on a regular Wednesday night do at Marco Polo which I played some of my first DJ gigs at. Don Christies was one of the best reggae outlets in Birmingham and in the basement they sold Jungle, this is where I spent most of my time. Unfortunately the building no longer exists as it needed to make way for the new Bullring Markets. 

FPZ: I'm gonna skip a few questions now, as I'll save these for part 2 of the interview! There's a Rupture X Skutta Recs X Listening Sessions night happening on the 5th June, how did that come about?
Headgear: Well, back in 2011 I went to Rupture at Corsica Studios (London, UK) with my long time friend Ben (Rondema). He'd been on about this night for ages and said I needed to witness it first hand. Now for me, I'd not been doing any kind of production and had little interest in Drum & Bass for over ten years. Ben kept passing me CDs that he'd burnt from either Equinox's 'Scientific Wax' or Double 0 & Mantra's 'Rupture Sessions' show that are on The sounds they were playing reminded me of what was missing from the music I used to love. The Amen break was being smashed all over the place and the basslines had weight that you could feel.
For me, going to Rupture was a life changer - I'd not witness such vibes and great music since the 90's. Everyone down there was so into the sounds being played, you had DJ's, producers, music lovers all going there to witness something special. No egos just love for the music. At that point I knew I wanted to get back on the beats and start contributing again to a sound that I once loved.

Being a Rupture regular and chatting with people online I started to develop friendships with many of the people involved with the night. Obviously Double 0 & Mantra are the heads that have been putting on these nights for nearly 9 years so getting to know them has been one of the factors in getting them to bring Rupture to Birmingham for the very first time.

I've known Anthony (Baddesley) from Skutta Records for many years and he's always wanted to put on a night here in Birmingham. I took him to Rupture a while back, I think he was a bit sceptical at first but that changed quickly. Like everyone that has been down there, he loved it. 

The final piece to the puzzle came about by going to the Listening Sessions nights held at PST (Birmingham, UK). Tom and Mat have been providing a platform for up and coming Birmingham producers to listen to their work on a real sound system. It's an opportunity to get their music heard by other producers and like-minded people. Listening Sessions, PST and all involved just seemed to create a unique vibe that you don't get anywhere else and for the first time in a long time Birmingham had something I could get excited about. So it didn't take long before we all started talking about bringing something special to Birmingham and that's how the night was first conceived. 

All these factors seemed to have converged at the right time along with the recently built sound-system that has had a number of showings at PST. Those Creative Hertz guys have built one serious sound system so it made sense to get them on-board. We want this night to be memorable for a lot of reasons and having a thunderous sound system always leaves a good impression.

FPZ: You're playing b2b with Threshold on that night. Will you be trying to 'out do' each other (in a friendly way of course)? What can the crowd expect from yourself?
Headgear: Threshold likes a good old fashioned sound clash and I know he'll be bringing some unreleased dubs for the night. This man has too many gems at his disposal so I'm just looking forward to hear what he brings. I've got a few bits he's yet to hear so I'm hoping to get a couple of 'what's this tune?' reactions from him. Let the battle commence.

Listening Sessions presents Rupture vs Skutta is going to be something unlike anything brought to Birmingham before. The wealth of talent across both rooms, the venue, the Creative Hertz sound system all need to be witnessed by as many people as possible. So, run go tell your friends, family and neighbours this night is not to be missed. 

Look out for Part 2 of this interview as there is still a lot more history to dig into. Big up Alister Headgear! Check his music out here:

PS: Another interview soon to come from another artist that will also be featuring on the night on 5th June :)

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A Mix by Burlish

It's been a really long time since I've heard a mix from the 'Smooth Operator' aka Burlish. He's been a supporter of Futurepast Zine since issue #3. This mix features a lot of his own unreleased music, it was recorded using vinyl and acetates - the good ol' fashioned way ;)

Burlish has had releases and support from a select few including Justice (MJAZZ), Beneath (No Symbols), and Rob Booth (Electronic Explorations). Listen and enjoy:

Burlish - Last Chance
Tessela - Butchwax
Burlish - Bleepo
Omar S - Psychotic Photosynthesis
Burlish - Shutta
Burlish - H8o8
Planet Soul - Set U Free (Mars Mix)
Burlish - Weird Cup Riddim
Altered Natives - Crop Duster
Rawtrachs - Untitled Alien Ting
Burlish - Felix
Burlish - CTBW
Theo Parrish - Beat These
Burlish - Octave Won