Godisnolongeradj caught up with Lee Batchelor of Future Engineers in Athens after his gig, to discuss his new Exhale compilation on his own imprint Transference Recordings and all things Future Engineers, starting from day one.
Q1: It’s been almost 16 years since the Future Engineers discography debut on Renegade Recordings in 1997, with the seminal “The Silence b/w Shattered”. Tell us a few words about how it all started and how you came up with the name “Future Engineers“?
A1: I moved to Glasgow in 1994 with the beginning of a small home studio. We locked ourselves in the studio for probably about two years until we both felt we were in a position to start sending out a demo. Back then we were trying to imitate producers like Photek, Source Direct, Foul Play, Hidden Agenda, Omni Trio to name a few. Every time a new release came out we like, damn we need to go back to the drawing board! Ha!
In 1996 we finally handed an early version of “The Silence” to KMC, an established Drum and Bass DJ in Scotland. Keith gave us really positive feedback and support for the track, which helped our confidence in the studio. It was at this point that we sent a DAT of “The Silence” to LTJ Bukem who went on to cut the track to dubplate. It was actually thanks to KMC that “The Silence” and “Shattered” were signed to Renegade Recordings. Keith was cutting some of our tracks in Music House, London when Clayton from Renegade heard “Shattered” being cut and pounced on him to find out who it was by. This led to us sending him a DAT with some other tracks, one of which was “The Silence”.
In terms of the name “Future Engineers”, we were both heavy X-Files fans and we used to always record it on VHS for samples. We were trying to think of an Artist name for our production and there was a scene where the words “Engineers” and “Future” were in the same sentence, so we though the two sounded good together. I suppose the name may have contributed to our sound going forward, we were always in to all the sci-fi, futuristic, soundscape, atmospherics anyway…
Q2: You were initially based in Glasgow, Scotland, where you hooked up with fellow-Scot and established drum and bass producer KMC; a synergy that led to a couple of immaculate releases on Temple Music. Would you say that this was the ignition point for the successful career that readily followed?
A2: I think hooking up with KMC and Temple Music played an integral part in our musical development and direction as Producers and DJ’s. Keith was a well-respected DJ on rotation at Speed back then and I think having someone else we could join forces with was a real benefit. Having a Glasgow based outlet for our production through Temple Music definitely served as a catalyst for the releases ahead…
Q3: Not long after your first releases, you joined the Partisan Recordings collective and FE was responsible for Partisan’s inaugural release, followed by two more 12”s in 1998. Signing with Partisan exposed your music to wider audiences, during an era, when drum and bass was dominated by tech-oriented, dark productions, sometimes obsessed with sophisticated drum edits. FE however, emerged as champions (alongside Blame & KMC) of a more atmospheric sound in contrast to the trend of that period. Had you ever thought at the time that you were defining a blueprint soon to be followed by many producers?
A3: I think producers very rarely appreciate the significance of what they’re writing at the time. It’s not until years later when you meet people who have grown up with and been inspired by your music, that you really get a sense of how important the music is to people. The late nineties was a special time for drum and bass and we’re glad to have been a part of that and are fortunate enough like most producers from that era, to have the majority of our discography released on vinyl, so there is a physical memory out there of our past and where we’ve come from…
In regards to the style we were producing, I guess we were just amalgamating all the stuff that influenced us at the time. We loved all the uplifting musical stuff and always got a buzz from the dance floor aspect of drum and bass too, so I guess we were trying to cater for both sides of the fence. We were also starting to DJ more and we wanted to be able to drop tracks in our set that would have dance floor impact but still retain some musicality for the home listener.
Q4: Shortly after, you were signed by the Good Looking Organisation and a string of highly influential releases on GLR and its sub-labels was released to critical acclaim, receiving overwhelming reviews by the press and fans. You remained under the GLO umbrella for almost 7 years, how do you reminisce your GLO days, being part of one of the key labels of the drum and bass scene?
A4: It was amazing for us as young producers to have an outlet for our music through Good Looking Records. Back then there was more of a monopoly on the scene, certainly for the genre in which we were producing. Signing to Good Looking was just the natural progression for us at the time.
I remember hearing “Time Shift” being played by Bukem at Logical Progression, Ministry of Sound London. It was probably one of the first times we had heard our music played out on a proper club sound system and we were blown away by how different the music translated in a club. Personally, I think one of the best feelings you can have as a producer is hearing and seeing the reaction your music has for people of all ages and cultures.
Q5: After a 3 year hiatus, in 2006 you terminated your exclusive contract with Good Looking in an amicable fashion and shortly after you emerged ever so prolific with a number of appearances on labels such as Camino Blue, ASC’s Covert Operations and Electrosoul System’s KOS.MOS Music. The sound the aforementioned labels championed wasn’t too dissimilar to your productions; was it the main reason for the collaborations?
A5: Yeah, PBK, ASC and Electrosoul System have all become friends along the way. Certainly due to like-minded appreciation for the music we all produced. Electrosoul system booked me for a gig in Moscow in early 2000 and Andy (Andrey Burtaev aka Electrosoul System) gave me a CD of about ten tracks and they all seriously blew me away! I consider this to be one of the driving forces behind the motivation for my production to follow. The music that Andy had produced, which was clearly inspired by our music, then went on to inspire me to continue developing my music. At the end of the day, music is inspired by music…
Q6: Apart from your production skills, you have been dexterous remixers as well (remixing tracks from the likes of Future Loop Foundation, Electrosoul System, Matizz, ICR, Pariah, Scarlet Lake and LM1). When invited to do a remix what is the approach in terms of musical and technical matters you have always in mind?
A6: When I approach a remix, I try to retain some key elements from the original and also try to add a new angle or interpretation to the track. Sometimes however, it can turn a completely new direction and the parts used from the original are almost unrecognizable. Unless the artist has given some guidance on a particular style or direction they wish me to take (which is rare), the approach is generally no different to a track I’d produce from scratch. Sometimes there might be a particular sound or hook from the original that I think, yes that could be interested if used a certain way and that can often inspire the direction of the mix.
Q7: In 2010 you eventually decided to create your own imprint Transference Recordings, mainly to release your own material. What is the ethos of the label and what does it take for a new (or even a well-established producer) to draw your attention and sign him?
A7: Yes, Transference is primarily an outlet for Future Engineers material; however, building relationships with other producers and labels is something I really want to work on going forward. Of course, if something strikes a chord, then I don’t see why I wouldn’t release it. It’s hard to pin point a sound or particular style for the label, I guess it’s just something that feels right when you hear it. Originality is important of course to make a track stand out and it would need to have substance and musicality for it be memorable and stick in peoples minds.
Q8: You have just had the 3rd release on Transference (Exhale Compilation) featuring new FE material and remixes by fellow artists Cutworks and Electrosoul System. Apart from “Scratch In The Surface”, which you can tell by a mile that it is a Future Engineers track, you have explored new musical paths, not deviating though from the traditional drum and bass tempo. Are you planning to proceed in a similar fashion?
A8: I consciously set out to have a variety of styles on the compilation. The bulk of the tracks are primarily aimed at the dance floor but tracks like “Exhale” and “Dystopia” have given me the opportunity to experiment a bit more with the music and the beats. It is quite nice to work on music and not have the restraints of “dance floor compatibility” in the back of your mind. So I would like to work on some more experimental releases going forward. The flexibility of digital I think also gives you more freedom to experiment.
Q9: What are your future plans; any FE album on the cards, or material in another music genre?
A9: I have a few remix projects in the pipeline this year. One of which is a remix of a Mav track called “Makati Oasis”. This is forthcoming on Mav’s Sounds of the Deep LP along with other tracks remixed by Seba, Bungle, Chris Su, ASC, LM1 and Paul SG. The second is a remix of a Kredit track called “Ascending Red”. The remix is schedule for release on Advection Music at some point this year.
I also have a couple of brand new FE tracks planned on Kos.Mos Music later this year, plus there will be some single releases planned for Transference along with some remixes too hopefully.
After that, we’ll see how it goes; maybe there’ll be time to think about a Future Engineers album… When I do venture in to this territory, I will definitely be delving in to some material at a different BPM again for sure!
This latest, slightly longer-than-normal offering from Transference Recordings comes in the form of six deep, innovative tracks from Future Engineers and includes the special sounds of Electrosoul System and Cutworks on remix duties.
‘Scratch in the Surface’ is a sweet melancholic roller with a retrospective vibe and heavy bass, infused with dolby style surround fx – front, back, and side to side. Another one for the fans of deeper drum and bass seeking something that cuts through.
‘Shape or Form’ steps things up a level with its ethereal sci-fi synths and atmospherics, stomping beats and simple bass hook, making this one for the dance floor. The breakdown brings into focus a futuristic scratching vibe that sets up a superb drop for maximal impact.
Russian producers ‘Cutworks’ have taken the samples from the track ‘Through the Motions’ originating from the first Transference EP and have produced a stunning remix and label highlight. In retaining the beautiful piano keys, strings, and mid-bass sounds from the original, but introducing old school, sparkling beats and wobbling cyber bass, this track is so at odds with itself that it smacks of brilliant originality. Another deep, musical track that also works the dance floor.
Electrosoul System’s remix of ‘Side-Effects’ is a smooth, jamming organ roller with a magical twist of next-level euro trance synths that arise in the midst of proceedings to give it a welcome injection of something a little bit abstract and different. Electrosoul System consistently delivers top quality D&B and this track is no exception to that rule.
The title track ‘Exhale’ gradually draws together a combination of emotive, cinematic soundscapes, intricate drum programming, and deep technological bass, to take the more thoughtful fans of drum and bass on an epic musical journey.
Finally, the EP is capped off with panache, in the form of the future-visionary drum funk stomper ‘Dystopia’. As the name suggests, this is no idyllic set filler… expect this track to take you somewhere you haven’t been before!
Buy now the Exhale compilation by Future Engineers from Beatport or itunes, following the links below:
Future Engineers bio & selective discography
Lee Batchelor and Keir Cleminson are Future Engineers, a Glasgow based drum and bass production outfit, best known for their music that was released by LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Organisation between 1999 and 2003, and also for the progressive, dance floor friendly DJ sets that they have performed across Europe.
They released their seminal 12” (“The Silence”/“Shattered”) on Renegade Recordings in 1997, quickly followed by popular material on labels such as Temple Records and Partisan Recordings. Almost 10 years since they first broke onto the scene, they have retained their reputation as a boundary-pushing and prolific drum and bass act. Their solid working relationship has been built on the foundations of a life-long friendship, having grown up together in North London and then Glasgow when Keir relocated there in 1990, followed by Lee in 1994.
From early childhood they were constantly surrounded by music – from studio sessions to live concerts – due to their fathers who were working together in the industry. Most notably, Keir’s father was lead guitarist in The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Lee’s Father co-produced some of their albums (he also co-produced “Slide Away” for Oasis on their debut album “Definitely Maybe” years later!) As a result of this exposure and the uptake of musical and studio know-how, it was a natural choice by Lee and Keir to pursue a similar career to their fathers.
As teenagers in the 1990s, they listened to London’s pirate radio stations, following the progression of early Hardcore through to Hardcore Techno, Jungle Techno, Jungle and then Drum and Bass – learning the sounds along the way with a view to producing material of their own in future. When Lee moved to Glasgow, bringing with him some studio equipment that he had collected, the pair began to experiment in writing a variety of styles of drum and bass. But it wasn’t until they heard LTJ Bukem’s first Radio One Essential Mix in July 1995 that they identified the kind of sound they were most interested in creating, and tailored their approach in the studio accordingly. Around this time, they also befriended a fellow Glaswegian drum and bass producer, KMC, who had built up a good reputation (and knowledge of the scene) outside Scotland, and he encouraged them to relinquish a demo DAT in order to start the process of getting material signed to record labels.
The relationship with Good Looking Records began in 1999 when LTJ Bukem selected a track entitled “Timeshift” to be part of the third volume of his legendary Progression Sessions mix CD series. It was an instant fans’ favourite due to the futuristic synths and technological vibes that would become two abiding ingredients of Future Engineers’ sound. In the ensuing years, the duo released tracks on a variety of labels under the Good Looking Organisation umbrella – such as PHD’s Ascendant Grooves, Tayla’s Nexus Records and Blame’s 720 Degrees. The latter proved to be a particularly significant outlet for them within the Good Looking camp and their 12”s, “Changes in State”/”Rogue Comet” and “Momentum”/”Organism” played no small part in the fast growing reputation of that particular label.
By 2001 they were so highly regarded by the Good Looking Organisation, having almost all of their new music picked up by the labels within, that Lee and Keir accepted the offer to sign an exclusive artist contract. In addition to agreeing a structured release schedule, this presented an opportunity for Future Engineers to showcase their DJ talents at some of the Progression Sessions nights throughout Europe. It proved to be a good year for the Engineers; a track entitled “Merge” was selected to appear on MC Conrad’s Logical Progression Level 4 CD, and the boundary pushing, dance floor shaker “Echo-Location” was one of the highlights of LTJ Bukem & MC Conrad’s Progression Sessions 6, recorded live in the USA. 2002 saw the release of the “Technetium EP” – four slices of hard-edged, techno-orientated, atmospheric drum and bass – which was widely acclaimed by fans and music critics alike. This actually turned out to be the penultimate Future Engineers release on Good Looking Records – the last being a remix of Pariah’s “Midnight” in 2003.
Almost three years later, in early 2006, despite a lot of support and guidance from LTJ Bukem, MC Conrad and the rest of the Good Looking Organisation over the years, Future Engineers’ request to terminate the exclusive contract they had signed with them was accepted very amicably. This event marked the beginning of a new era and they did not hesitate to make their mark on the scene once again, releasing the popular “Down-Time” and a remix of Matizz’s “Through My Eyes” on Camino Blue Recordings, and a three track plate (including the much anticipated “Eon”) on Covert Operations Recordings.
From 2007 onwards Future Engineers have re-established themselves by releasing material on labels such as Camino Blue, KOS.MOS Music and Covert Operations. As of 2010 Lee and Keir have gone their separate ways and Future Engineers is now just Lee. He launched a label entitled Transference Recordings in 2010 to release Future Engineers material. To the time of writing 3 eps have been released on Transference.