Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get into electronic music?
I come from a place in England that is considered limbo: where the East Midlands becomes the North of England. It’s a location which is a mixture of a prominent industrial past set within a world renowned national park: The Derbyshire Dales. I was born down near London but moved up to Derby just before I’d turned 1, so I didn’t know anything about where I was born, only where I grew up.
My career in music didn’t start with dance music, or even electronic music for that matter, quite the opposite. I used to look up to guitarists like Joe Satriani, Angus Young, Carlos Sanatana, Zakk Wylde, Dimebag Darrell and Herman Li. With my parents noticing I was spending most of my waking time watching either Kerrang or Scuzz (the rock and metal channels on Sky) they decided to buy me my first guitar: a very cheap and cheerful Squier Stratocaster in Sunburst with a whammy bar! I have been playing electric guitar since around age 8, but the first time I performed in front of a crowd was at my primary school leaving ceremony, aged 10. With my Squier Strat I played to a crowd of about 100 including my very teary and proud parents. Once I had mastered some scales and chords and was ready to further my study of playing guitar, my parents bought me my first proper guitar (which I nearly fainted at when I opened the box for it on my birthday), a Gibson Les Paul Studio, Limited Edition in silver with chrome scratch plate, unmarked frets and personalised EMG active pickups (basically it absolutely roared). Alongside this they also bought me a really nice Epiphone Les Paul ‘Slash’ Limited Edition in Tobacco Burst. Both excellent guitars.
It wasn’t until I was around aged 13 before I became more interested in dance music. I can pin point exactly which song it was that started my pursuit of making electronic music, when I first heard Strobe by Deadmau5 (which I managed to rack up 4000 plays on my iTunes by the time I was 16 years old). After this I began searching through classic tracks like Make Luv – Room 5, Starlight – The Superman Lovers, Music Sounds Better with You – Stardust, One More Time – Daft Punk and Discopolis – Kris Menace & Lifelike. Whilst looking more into this music I came across the DJ’s who played these sort of tracks out at the clubs in Ibiza like Carl Cox, Erick Morillo, Roger Sanchez, Danny Tenaglia, Pete Tong and Laurent Garnier. Having seen them playing these amazing tracks in such an amazing atmosphere that clubs like Amnesia, Space and DC-10, I decided this was something I was interested in pursuing. At the age of 13, I downloaded the Traktor software to begin mixing these tunes together and learning how to do so to the same standard as the DJ’s I was becoming more fixated on.
Fast forward 7 years to when I started university I had access to both DJ’ing at clubs as well as time to study and begin producing electronic music of my own. In my first couple of years at university I played at numerous clubs in Exeter where I studied, clubs in London like Egg and Lightbox, and then once at Hush in Ibiza. Alongside this growing experience and familiarity with playing to larger crowds, my productions were progressing at a similar rate, by my second year at university I had featured on BBC radio for tracks I sent in to Monki on Radio 1.
I hope to have given you an insight into myself, my musical beginnings and progress to date.
You have recently released your Hologram EP. What did you set out to achieve when making this EP and do you feel you successfully did so?
My new EP was really an adventure into making music that I wanted to complete for a very long time. In the electronic music industry, there is this overwhelming pressure to make complete crap that will be played by a selection of key DJs on the scene. I took about 2 years away from music because whilst I was making it during university, there seemed to be no room for growth as an artist due to this insatiable demand for generic tech-house garbage. Although I know these names will be gone as quickly as they appeared, due to the superficial nature of tech-house’s fans, what they represent needs addressing. I’ve always liked the tech-house and techno rhythms, but I feel the social media era DJ’s with their flowery shirts, Essex haircuts and cool sunglasses are feeding into the death of electronic music. It is no longer about creating memorable experiences for listeners and fans, or acting as good role models to young musicians and people, but instead pushing political correctness to seem fashionable, and get as much sex as possible, incredibly sad. And since music is where people go to get away from the real world, this is something I cannot allow.
Therefore, the aim of this EP was to act as ground zero for a shift in the electronic music industry. I wanted to take the house and techno rhythms the social media DJ’s had for so many years murdered and give them new life, and a fresh, interesting perspective. It was to mix club rhythms with bold, inspiring sounds from cinematic scores. And to mix the sounds of dance with the futuristic themes, noises and character of futuristic films such as Tron Legacy, Prometheus and Interstellar. I really wanted to capture the awe and size of the challenge facing humanity regarding breaking away from Earth into outer space, the separation (or lack of) from robots, AI and humans, and the dystopian future global warming is bringing closer and closer unless we wake up to solve it.
The album took such a long time to finish, but then I’m glad I didn’t rush any of it for the sake of release as I would have been disappointed to put my name on a product I wasn’t happy with. Overall from start to finish the project took around 6-7 months but I think the wait was worth it as an artist and as a listener. I hope the project has breathed new life into the dance / house / tech-house genres, and I hope listeners and artists can take inspiration from the sound and example I aim to set.
What is your studio set up like? What would you say is your most used bit of kit, whether it be a plug in or hardware?
The entire album was done on nothing but a Macbook Pro and a really crappy pair of £10 in-ear headphones I picked up from Derby train station since I lost my other ones. Another thing I really enjoyed about making this album is that I had to do it with a serious lack of equipment. For example no studio monitors, audio environment optimisation, analogue synths or external hardware. I like to compare making the album with this equipment to winning the Monaco Grand Prix in a dated and semi broken down Vauxhall Nova.
Although I had minimal equipment there are some very important pieces of software I have in my virtual studio. My favourite piece of software I use to create everything from pads and bass lines, to stabs and drones is the Serum VST plugin. I used to be big fan of Native Instrument’s Massive software, but it sounds dated and is generally incredibly non-user friendly.
I have recently moved into studio’s in Hoxton near where I live which has a far more professional setup. KRK studio monitors, dual ultra wide Samsung split screens for visuals, Moog Sub 37 analogue synthesiser and a full length Akai MIDI keyboard. My next releases will all be made with this far heavier duty and professional equipment, and I’m very excited about creating new material with it.
Why did you decide to self-release this EP through the LANDR platform?
I think this is a particularly good question as it makes me think you know about or want to broaden your audiences knowledge on independent artists, and the breakaway from the traditional record deal setup between the artist / creator, and the distributor.
I was really excited and intrigued when I found the LANDR platform, I couldn’t believe it existed for a while and I’m not quite sure how I discovered it. However, there are several reasons why I chose to use LANDR for this release rather than approaching labels to do so. The first primary reason is that using LANDR allows me to control my own intellectual property and oversee how it is used and where. In that respect, I don’t have to ask any labels or middle men about its use. On top of this it also gives me full holding of all earnings from the release, I don’t have to give any percentage to the label or anyone else, and I can receive all the money I earned from my work.
The second primary reason I chose LANDR rather than using a record label to release it with is that I strongly disagree with having to build an artistic presence via releasing with shit, questionable labels for the sake of saying you have a release. I’ve seen a lot of people do this, and think this is helping push their career forward. However, realistically all you are doing is proving how desperate you are to ‘release a record’ and are willing to sacrifice artistic integrity and direction for the sake of releasing with a poorly marketed, poorly designed and frankly very poor record label. Although I could probably find a record label to release this album with, I wanted to release it independently to avoid falling into the trap of giving what is a really forward thinking, well-designed composition to a label that doesn’t represent what I believe in or represent what my music stands for.
The third reason is to do with a non-compliance with the politics and brown nosing involved with signing a record deal. With past experiences with record labels its all been based around how much of a brown nose you are as to whether you get signed or not. I’ve seen people with absolutely no talent sign some big deals simply because they’re complete experts at massaging label owners and associates egos. I’ve never been one to overly praise someone who doesn’t deserve it, and just because you own a record label doesn’t mean you’ve earned my respect or praise.
This isn’t to say I’m not open to releasing records with music labels or that there aren’t record labels I respect for their integrity and selection of releases, I have a handful of labels I’d definitely work and release with such as Drumcode, Mood Records, Anjunadeep, Set About or Truesoul ( I particularly enjoyed Truesoul’s most recent ‘Curveballs’ album from Riva Starr). But, until the point my music is seen as appropriate by any of those labels mentioned I think I’m going to stick to releasing my material independently.
Who would you say are some of your biggest influences that have helped create the sound you produce today?
My biggest influences vary as time has gone on. As far as getting me into electronic music and capturing my attention it would have to be the early work of Deadmau5, Eric Prydz (or Pryda as he was known when I was listening to him) and Daft Punk. All these created different and imaginative stuff, and even to this date I’m still inspired and base a lot of my work on these artists. More recently however, I’ve really enjoyed the work of Yotto, Jody Wisternoff, Pig&Dan, Julian Jeweil (I’m very keen to hear his album releasing on Drumcode in January) and Enrico Sangiuliano. I particularly like Enrico’s newest album ‘Biomorph’, where he’s clearly spent a lot of time modelling and creating synths to make his work stand out.
If you could get one artist out there to remix your works who would it be and why?
Like I mentioned with the situation regarding selling out on content for record deals, I also wouldn’t let any artist I didn’t like the music of remix my music, no matter how big the name.
There would be a handful of carefully selected artists I would choose but I think number one would be either Enrico Sangiuliano or Jody Wisternoff. The reason I chose these as contenders is because I think they’re both the masters of their genre. If I wanted a heavier, peak hour techno style remix it would be great to have Enrico to do that. Similarly, if I wanted a solid, festival tier deep / progressive house remix doing I can’t think of anyone I’d choose rather than Jody Wisternoff. All his work is flawless both in composition and in sound engineering.
What do you have lined up for 2019?
I’m really excited for this coming year, having just released my first professional work via major streaming platforms, it’s given me real inspiration and drive to push on in exploring my sound and creating new music in a judgement free state of mind. I’ve had an amazing and whirlwind past few years but it’s seeming to all come together and merge into something very special. So, I’m both nervous and excited as to where this will lead.
Everyday I’m happy to be alive and enjoying the small things so although I’m excited and have numerous project aims for the coming year, I’m mostly focused on enjoying the present and doing everyone I know and who’ve supported me proud.
It is nearly December so I feel I can ask this… If you could remix one Christmas song what would it be and why?
Another excellent and important question! I think my favourite Christmas song is I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. The guy who wrote it, Roy Wood, actually lives about 10 minutes from where live back in Derbyshire which is weird as I see him in Marks and Spencer’s sometimes. Maybe if I remixed his track I could ambush him at the supermarket whilst he’s shopping for his essentials with a copy of the track on a USB, in the hope he gives it his blessing as a future Christmas number 1.
Hologram is out now and available to stream here