This week we at TNG were introduced to Cheekbones: a UKG producer hailing from Texas, USA. Having captured our attention with his new tune “My Life’, which perfectly encapsulates the pitch-shifted vocals and four to the floor breakbeat rhythms that define the UK Garage sound, we were eager to find out more about how he came to be producing this distinctly British genre so far away from its original origins.
‘My Life’ opens with drawn out piano chords and echoing pitchy female vocals prefacing the introduction of its dominant vocal hook. With a cheeky, funky bassline and snappy percussion establishing its core, reverbed vocals ride the beat in a mesmeric fashion. Whilst the track is composed of a more traditional structure than some of the more junglist-style garage tunes you might be used to hearing, Cheekbones retains those hesitations in the groove and teasing, tantalising gaps that we all know and love so well.
Make sure to check out the track below, and read on for an insight into Texas’s underground dance music scene, the producer’s EDM ‘safe havens’ and a good ol’ enthusiastic reminder of the immense power held within the internet!
Hello! To introduce yourself to our readers can you tell us your name, where you’re from, and how you’d describe your sound?
Hello The Noise Gate! Thanks for having me. My name is Cheekbones but in real life people call me Aaron. I’m from Austin, Texas, which used to be a quaint city when I was growing up but it has transformed over the past few years due to the recent influx of young twenty-somethings making their mark on the city.
As for my sound, it’s a bit vibey, a bit bubbly, a bit melodic, and a bit melancholy all at the same time. With lots of TR-909 kicks and high-hats in between.
You’re currently producing UK Garage, considering your own roots are so far from the original scene can you tell us about what drew you to this particular sound?
Well…I’m an Ebay junkie. One day I came across a bunch of Pure Garage CD comps going for $1.99 each. So, naturally, I copped every PG comp I could get my hands on and DJ EZ showed me the way. The Internet is a powerful thing!
Tell us about the music scene in your area, is there a UKG revival going on in Texas that we don’t know about yet?
The deep sound is really starting to catch on in Austin for people in the know. For the true heads seeking refuge from the onslaught of Trap, EDM, and American dubstep, there are a couple of great venues in town, such as Kingdom, that cater to the underground dance music community. I wouldn’t call it a UKG revival quite yet but I wouldn’t rule it out either.
How long have you been making music? How did you get into producing?
When I was 18 I went to a rave in Tijuana and experienced my very first paradigm shift. I was the only white boy in the place and I had never felt more at home. After that night, I bought a copy of Ableton (5?) and locked myself in a room for about 7 years or so. I only emerged from my apartment for Gardettos, and Arizona Iced Tea. Occasionally I’d leave the house to do a late night DJ set but that was mostly just to fund my Arizona Iced Tea habit.
Tell us about your creative process for putting a song together?
I usually start the process by having a bit of Macarena in my room to whatever tunes I’m vibing at the moment. After a proper Macarena, I like to lay down the drum track and rest writes itself, really.
What hardware / soft ware do you use when you produce?
I primarily use Ableton 9 along with a mess load of vst’s and plug-ins. I used to use a lot more outboard equipment but in this modern age, I prefer to work inside the box. My favorite plug-in has got to be WOW2 from SugarBytes; it’s endless fun.
Who are your musical influences?
Todd Terje is my hero. I saw him play in LA at A Club Called Rhonda last year and it was the most mesmerizing experience. When somebody asked him what he planned on playing that night, he simply responded with a confused shrug and said, “…all originals.” KING.
MCDE is another hero of mine. His DJ-Kicks compilation never gets old and his style is unmatched in my book.
OH, and Greg Wilson as well. He’s always cherry-picking the best feel-good tunes from yesteryear.
Is there anyone you’d really like to collaborate with?
I would love to work with Karin Dreijer Andersson from The Knife or Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead. Their voices are haunting and captivating. If neither of them were available though I suppose I’d settle for Enya.
Have you got any projects in the pipeline you want to put the word out on?
I’m currently working on a new single for Mix Le Fun Records’ first ever compilation! It’s got a Summery feel-good vibe to it. Something for the pool or beach…or any body of water for that matter. Look for it to drop in a month or so.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Before we go do you have any shout outs?
My pleasure! I could never miss an opportunity for a good shout out.
Shout out to Corey Hurley a.k.a. Colourvision for cookin’ up sizzling tropical disco straight out of Palm Springs, CA. *airhorn*
Shout out to Gabe Vega in San Diego! *airhorn*
Shout out to Kingdom Nightclub in Austin *airhorn*
Shout out to the Internet for making this trans-Atlantic interview possible. *airhorn*
And shouts out to The Noise Gate for fighting the good fight for producers like me! *airhorn* *airhorn* *airhorn*