July 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
Asa is from the South West and its pretty hard to pin him down musically. This mix is one of the longest and most diverse we’ve hosted to date on here. From purple, grime riddims to tear out dubstep, folk and two step, Asa stepped up to the plate big time. We talk Foley techniques, scene division and how not to screw your ears up.
Easy man, how are things?
Hey, things are all right. I’ve got a mountain of production work weighing down on me and I’m in the process of recovering from a perforated ear drum at the moment but other than that I’m all good.
Could you give a little introduction on how you got into production and music in general? Is it something that’s been there since you were a young lad, or was it your formative teen years that had the biggest impact on you musically? Was it always electronic music that moved you?
Well I guess it was pretty straight forward, I took on a lot of influences from family members. I was the youngest of three brothers so in the house sometimes it was as if there were five rooms playing five different types of music from varying time periods; it all contributes towards your influences whether you are aware of it or not. There were no other ‘musicians’ in the house really, though my mum could sing well. I ended up spending time in choirs and all that sort of thing at school, taught myself piano and then discovered sequencing. So yeah, I got exposed to a bit of everything. It really was a balanced upbringing in that respect, being simultaneously influenced by a lot of folk sounding stuff, metal bands, and a lot of garage & grime amongst whatever else my brothers were listening to at the same time. It was definitely a good thing in hindsight. Consciously or sub-consciously it has definitely influenced me, all of it has.
Your use of sampling and layering reminds me a lot of Burial and Zomby in places, making your tunes have that emotional depth that so many seem to fail miserably at. Would you say this is something you set out to achieve?
Ahhh, being mentioned in the same sentence as those guys is a bit daunting. But yeah, a lot of the time the bulk of the music I write is about telling little stories, or approaching things from a much more ‘songwriting’ perspective. But I don’t want to be pigeon holed as the sort of producer who only has that ‘one sound’, that’s the main thing. I realised recently that I wanted to make sure that people knew I write a lot of different types of music altogether, I can certainly appreciate anything when it’s done well. As long as the production value is of a very high level or the producers’ music is so unique, I can always appreciate it. I don’t have many other friends who make music with the same intention of having that real ’emotional depth’ all the time, it’s hard to explain without sounding pretentious but you can always tell well someone’s music comes is just an extension of their personality – when it’s really honest, something like that anyway.
The people I know and work with most tend to be known for their work as being some of the heavyweights in dubstep, where as I just like to do my own thing and bounce off of their creativity. I am completely against the whole segregation and setting up of “sub genre’s”. I mean “future garage”, now you can’t tell me that’s one of the most stupid tags you have ever come across? I don’t want to be associated with that, do people put on “Future Garage” events? I find it funny to be honest; but not to go off on a tangent or anything…
As I said, I do my own thing. Me and all my friends do. We inspire each other creatively on such a regular basis, because we are normally all working on such contrasting projects to one another which is a really positive thing.
The use of foley techniques seems to be prevalent through most of your tunes too, could you ever see yourself going down that route in the future? Sound designing for films and videogames and such like?
Well really creative sound design and such things are just a natural progression for any producer, I should hope so anyway. I certainly don’t see the point in always using these ‘traditional’ drum samples. I mean, there is no right or wrong way of going about making music. But yeah I guess the foley stuff is a distinguishing part of my process, you have to find a good balance of course. There is no point using pots and pans for ALL percussion work that’s for sure. But why does say, a snare, actually have to be a sample of a snare drum someone has picked out of a sample pack they found on a torrent? Even if you just invest in a half decent microphone and start recording your own sounds, it will do you the world of good in the long run. I don’t see how anyone could create their own ‘production palette’ without doing so. That’s the best way I can explain it. I’d choose my clattering cutlery recordings over a hi hat any day of the week. So yeah, for sure. That is definitely a route me and the producers I work with are exploring in terms of long term goals at least.
You just did a mix for DINmag, your choice of tunes is slightly different for this mix you did for us. When you DJ, do you base your sets on the feel of the crowd and the room, or do you go into them sort of knowing where you want to take things?
Well it’s always dependant on the context of the event, so it’s all down to the crowds reaction for sure, but I just try to ensure that everything is in key and I only really play my tunes and my friends’ tunes. That is the best thing really, I can play more or less a set of all my own music wherever if it’s a laid back environment with an open minded crowd or if it’s a room full of amphetamine fuelled teenagers. Which is a good thing I think.
I don’t actively seek out any new music any more because there is so much going on around me that I have a consistent supply of music from ridiculously talented and innovative producers. A really cool by-product of getting a bit more exposure is that we are lucky to have some very talented new producers approach us these days. it’s just the cycle of music between friends, the community side of it is still strong in our camp and more & more producers are upping there game – it’s all really productive and most importantly it’s still really exciting still!
For this mix I wanted to restore a bit of faith in the the ‘heavier’ side of dubstep to some extent, or something like that anyway. As always I’m kind of sitting on the next few months worth of projects and such things, there are always things you’re just not allowed to play until certain dates and all this kind of thing. This is just a mix of some recent bits and previews of a couple of upcoming releases. I think the only side of my music I didn’t bring out in this mix is all the 100bpm stuff.
With what you said about sub-genres, can you see the same happening to dubstep as what happened to jungle and drum and bass? Where it splinters off to the point no-one really cares any more and the scene sort of dies because there are too many little communities where all the artists sound the same?
I’ve been asked this question a fair few times before, sub genre’s and such things have reached a pretty ridiculous point these days in a lot of communities. It just pushes producers into a corner and by definition it pretty much kills off creativity. That’s just my opinion. Though, it will be a very sad day when people start calling themselves ‘liquid dubstep producers’ or ‘jump up’ ones. Can you imagine someone saying ‘Yeah fam, I write neuro-funk dubstep’. That would suck if people started tagging things like that. This ‘Future Garage’ term seems to be the most ridiculous one I have seen so far.
The perforated ear drum is something a lot of producers suffer from at some point in their careers. What sort of signs should people be looking out for so they don’t end up suffering from it themselves?
INVEST IN MOULDED EAR PLUGS!
This is my first experience with these problems. I forgot to bring any ear plugs to an event with me in the Netherlands not so long ago. That coupled with simply just working on music too much caused my right ear to pretty much just give up about 6 weeks or so ago. Its only been the last couple of weeks that I have been able to start listening to music at low levels again. It sucks, it really does. If you’re a producer then your ears are everything. Buying some good moulded ear plugs with frequency valves is like taking out life insurance for a DJ or a Producer. For any musician in fact. Tinnitus isn’t fun kids.
I think we can call it a day there, is there anyone you’d like to thank or shout out?
The usual suspects of course – KOAN Sound, Eleven8, Culprate, Satatix, Kito, Kahn, With Joyful Lips, Stumbleine, Tropics, Reso, M.I.K., Nowan. I could go on all day haha. Have to mention all the Screwloose family, and of course Tom Riley deserves endless thanks for helping get me and my friends the opportunities in music that we are so lucky to have, he works tirelessly for us. So, thank you TJ! Oh and my wonderful violinist Alicia!
Vodpod videos no longer available.
July 18, 2011 § 1 Comment
District is now a well known player within the Dubstep circles. From being broken to the scene via Distance last year and with constant support from the likes of Youngsta he is fast rising to the top of the scene alongside his sometimes collaborator Sleeper. Fresh from signing to Distances Chestplate Recordings, we caught up with him via email.
Easy, how have things been recently? Can you give a little introduction for those readers who may not be too familiar with your music?
Hi, My names Dan and i make dubstep under the alias District. I’m currently making tunes alongside another producer called Sleeper that focus on the darker sub-heavy sounds.
Distance was one of the main protagonists in bringing your sounds to a wider audience. How did the connection come about?
I just sent him some tunes over the internet. I tuned into one of his radio shows on RinseFM and thought I’d see if i had a shot at the new talent section. I emailed him a link for 3.5 grams and he hit me back straight away and asked if I had anything else. I think at the time I’d only written a couple of finished tracks and ended up having to send him some tracks a week later as well as some stuff I was working on with Sleeper at the time. He’s introduced us to a lot of people and listeners through the show and also to become part of the Chestplate family, which is a privilege
As someone who has come from relative obscurity to being a household name within the scene in quite a short space of time, are there any tips you can give to those who are trying to break through the invisible barrier?
Ha! I’m not too sure about being a household name just yet but if i was to offer any advice about getting recognition it would have to be send it to the right people! When I first sent tracks to Distance i figured if he didn’t play them or wasn’t feeling them I’d make something else and try again. It didn’t seem necessary to post it on internet forums or Soundcloud so that one or two people could hear on their laptops, I prefer to keep things a little bit more exclusive anyway. People like Distance and Youngsta are doing me a favour by playing the tracks on their shows, the very least I can offer back is that they are the only people with those bits.
Sort of tying into that, do you think an artists presence on the internet and the way they carry themselves on it can have quite a big impact on whether or not other DJ’s, producers and bloggers are willing to support them?
Possibly, I do worry sometimes that I’m guilty of verbal diarrhoea at times via twitter but its a bit less boring than static updates about where I’m playing etc. I think that it’s a natural side effect to having these things readily available on phones as well, its very tempting at times to grumble or moan about something straight away. There are times when its funny. Cyrus’ twitter rants always make me laugh. No one really needs to know what your having for dinner, but it shows you’re a normal person still I guess.
When you’re writing, do you have a set work flow or is it a case of whatever comes next?
When I started it was literally a case of piling sounds together until something started to come together. More recently working with Sleeper, we’ve built templates and presets that make the whole writing process a bit quicker. Anyone that has used Cubase will testify that the menu’s can be a bit long, we’ve just tried to cut down some of the time it takes to group sounds together or audition samples. Most of the time I’ll end up making sounds that don’t necessarily work in the track that is being made at the time. If that happens it gets saved as a preset or sample so that its quickly available next time I’m looking for sounds to fit in a tune. A pleasant side effect to this is that we’re using less and less sounds from sample packs and factory sounds etc.
Obviously as a producer, you’re aware of the loudness war, but which side of the fence do you sit on and why is that?
I’m really not too sure where I stand on this, I think people misunderstand what mastering engineers do slightly. Sticking a brickwall limiter on a track so it is as loud as someone else’s isn’t going to make it sound like that tune. I’m not going to tell anyone not to use anything though, I use compression and limiting on sounds when I think it needs it but not too often. I was quite lucky to have a few private tutorials on Izotope’s oZone mastering plug-in last year though so I have a rough idea what to do to tracks before I send it to DJ’s to play out. 99% of the time though mastering highlights something wrong in the mix so I go back into the project and pull things down that way.
The only time the loudness war bothers me is when I’m watching the TV and the adverts come on REALLY LOUD in the break. Fix up adverts (please).
I know the large majority of producers are geeks about certain TV shows, or other things. So outside of the production and DJ’ing thing, what makes you tick?
I don’t really watch a lot of TV these days but I’m a big fan of trailer park boys and the alien movie series (alien, aliens etc). The xbox takes up a lot of time when I’m not writing, I’m playing Skate a lot at the moment because its so easy to pick up and play. I have a pretty poor attention span but when i get into a game I tend to play it for a good few months. Other than that, some mild internet trolling and waiting for whatever crazy meals the epicmealtime guys on youtube put up every tuesday!
Your top five tunes of the moment?
1. Noisia – The Tide
This ones old but still gives me goosebumps. Their productions are always up to such a high standard but i think this track especially is one of their best.
2. Goth Trad – Air Breaker
Just a crazy tune, I don’t think I’ve heard a single song of his I haven’t liked yet.
3. Deleted Scenes – Ultimate moment
Can’t get enough of this, monster track. Nuff said.
4. DJ Madd – Good Old Days VIP
Another example of someone who just knocks out tune after tune, really looking forward to the album later this year too.
5. Biome – Propaganda
I could have picked any tune of his for this to be honest but this was for me (and probably a lot of other people) the first that really stood out and made me take notice/ feel nothing but unrivalled jealousy at how clean his production is.
I think we can wrap it up there, is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Distance for being incredibly supportive and the rest of the Chestplate family, Sleeper, Cyrus, Tunnidge, My family and Sam and Ben @ Esbe Creative who have put up with pretty much seven days a week of sub pressure banging next door through their office walls the last year or so. Props!
July 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
J-One aka Simon Jones is a good personal friend and one of the best producers currently residing in Kent. Blissed out two step to moody, deep dub-techno influences fall from every pore of his tunes. A master of vocal sampling and melody, Phaeleh just released his album through Urban Scrumping Records. He’s also kindly given away an unreleased tune called Air to go along with the mix. Enjoy…
Easy mate, hows things?
Hello mate, all good thanks. Just waiting for inspiration levels to recover so I can get finishing some more tunes!
Lets start at the beginning. How did you originally fall into the trap of beat making? Who were the major influences for you starting? If I remember correctly you used to make hip hop beats too, right?
Yeah it was all hip hop when I first started. I’d been interested in making tunes for quite a few years before, had a really early version of Fruity Loops (as it was called then!) but never really knew what to do with it. It wasn’t until around 05/06 when a few of my mates started writing lyrics and spitting over instrumentals that I thought I’d give it a proper go. Safe to say I’ve been hooked ever since. I was heavily inspired by artists like DJ Shadow and RJD2 and listened to a lot of UK hip hop.
I know you’ve not always done the sub heavy side of things, was there a defining moment where you decided to concentrate more on that? Was it after attending DMZ for the first time, or did you go to similar nights before that?
I was quite late getting into the more sub driven stuff. I’d heard the term ‘dubstep’ being banded about but it wasn’t really until around 2008 that I properly got into it after a mate showed me a load of tunes on YouTube. I was instantly sold before even hearing it on a proper system. Working in a completely different tempo was really refreshing and it got me excited about making music again.
Phaeleh is putting your album out through his label Urban Scrumping, how did the connection come about originally? Have you traded beats with him for a while or…
Must have been this time last year we started talking on Facebook after I sent him a few of my tunes. Was really flattered by his response because I’d been listening to his music religiously for the months before that. From there we started discussing a release on his label. The track listing has changed loads over the last year but I’m really happy with the finished product. Matt’s a top bloke, he’s given me loads of help and advice and he puts a lot of time and effort into the Scrumping releases.
You’ve collaborated with myself (Arktrix) and a few other local heads. Do you find the process more fun than making beats on your own?
Yeah I’ve definitely enjoyed the collaborations I’ve been involved with. It’s too easy to fall into the same habits so I find it’s good to be taken out of your comfort zone now and again and to work in a different way. Look forward to getting some more collaborations done in the future, got loads of tracks in the works. Big ups to yourself, Wen, Lex and Jungleboy!
Your choice of vocal samples are quite soulful and “deep”, what do you look for when you’re searching for samples?
I find vocal samples can add a huge amount of emotion to a track. I tend to treat them like any other sample and will manipulate them as such. The words or phrases can still be meaningful but I generally just look out for nice sounds and textures that compliment the other elements I’m working with.
Top five tunes of the moment
Off the top of my head..
Wen – Lo-Fidelity
Synkro – Look at Yourself
DJ Madd – Pitfall (Phaeleh remix)
Jamie xx – Far Nearer
Arkist – Fill My Coffee
Anyone you’d like to thank?
Thanks to all the local crew and everyone that’s supported my music over the years.
Vodpod videos no longer available.