“I think things are cyclical and in the advent of digital, people crave the physical”
“And I think record collectors will always be buying vinyl and building a collection of good music, then passing on that knowledge to others who might not collect yet, because it’s great and fun and a way of life!”
This is the second installment of the blog’s new series titled “On The Outside, Looking In”. As the title suggests, it is a retrospective sneak view into my guests’ photo albums, collections, musical diaries, hazy memories and internal monologues. The discussion timeline is non-linear, jumping back and forth in times and places, as it would probably be in a real-time conversation with friends, whose music-related work I admire and respect. The concept of interviewing my guests in pairs has been intriguing and thought-provoking, trying to find out how their paths have periodically intersected and eventually converged through music: from rented studio time in the early 90s to custom-made studios and modern production, from raves in warehouses and sweaty basements to transatlantic tours and remixing punk priestess Siouxsie (well, that’s a story for another day), from tape packs and pirate radio to record fairs, eclectic record collections, running boutique record labels in 2019 and everything in-between.
The head title of the series has been inspired from the first Modern Urban Jazz release by Glider-State (Blame & Justice), so it is with great joy that I present the man himself Tony ‘Justice’ Bowes alongside one of the most interesting figures of the new generation of producers Michael ‘Dissect’ Walsh.
Hi guys and thank you for taking the time. Let’s start with how you first met.
Tony: Mike and I met at the Clashmouth drum and bass market at ‘House of Vans’, in April 2018. I was there with Scott Metro and we had a combined MJAZZ/Ortem stall. I knew Lewis Sicknote already, as I had met him at a previous One Seventy event, where he had played. Sicknote and Dissect were sharing a stall with the guys from Skeleton Recordings. I took a record over to give to Sicknote and after I had walked off Mike had asked who I was. Sicknote told him and Mike came over and introduced himself. We had a quick chat about beats and so on. At the end of the event the guys passed me some G.H.O.S.T back catalogue, as well as the PAWS records. I listened to the records and was really blown away by the tunes. So, I hit them both up to tell them and the relationship grew from there really. We organized to do a session down at Sicknote’s studio and have subsequently worked on four or five pieces between both at their studios.
Mike: What Tony said! Sicknote told me he got a record from Justice and I pretty much fanboy-ed for a minute, asked which one was Justice and then grabbed him for a chat to say thanks for the music, as I have a few records of his. Clashmouth is great for that. You’re standing, surrounded by other stalls and then you find out that the person two stalls down is someone whose music you love!
- Section One – Early Days
When and how were you introduced to jungle/drum & bass? What kind of music were you listening to before that you consider as influence and inspiration? Your first recollections of early raves/clubbing and record shops?
Tony: I think my early influences and my route into electronic music have been documented already, possible even in this veritable blog, so I will go straight in on the early raves, clubbing and record shops.
The club that I would say started it all was The Grid in Luton. It was two doors down from 33, the studio we used. There was also a recording studio downstairs, but catering for more rock and indie. Upstairs though, there was a warren of different sized rooms, two especially large rooms spread over two floors. The upstairs would be run as ‘The Grid Club’ and hosted raves; hardcore upstairs and balearic downstairs. Friday was the main night and was run by a local sound system Lovelite and their djs, as well as guests from the exploding rave scene at the time. Lovelite had prior to this space put on events at a club called Hemmingway’s in Luton, where I distinctly remember μ-ziq doing a PA. I also remember that there was a fire alarm that very night and we all had to exit the venue whilst it was sorted. As I remember, it had something to do with the smoke machine….
They also used to do the Garage in Luton, which was just that, entered via an alleyway beside a chicken shop in Mill Street. It was dark, they sometimes had one strobe light and the bass rattled everything, it was exhilarating. I was lucky enough to cut my teeth dj-ing in ‘The Grid’ and various other Lovelite raves dotted around at the time. The records I was playing at those events would invariably been bought in Soul Sense, our local store, which used to be an outpost of Bluebird Records. White labels and promos would be put aside and rifled through, often another producer might turn up peddling his latest 12” from the back of his car and I employed the same tactic, when we did some of our early 12’s. There were numerous record shops up and down the country at that point. I would also make a point to visit Spin-a-Disc in Northampton, when visiting DJ Clarkee and then his Red Zone Records shop when it opened.
Mike: I am lucky enough to have a cousin (Ben) a few years older than me, so my introduction to Jungle and Drum & Bass was through him. When I was quite young, he had passed me a cassette of ‘The Prodigy – Experience LP’, and like a lot of people, I loved it, as it was so new and unlike anything I’d heard before! I listened to a real variety of other music ranging from artists like Michael Jackson to Nirvana to The Beatles and genres like Dub, Ska, Punk and Classical music. My Mum was a big influence on me with her musical tastes. As my cousin started to DJ I would get passed tapes of him playing Hardcore from 92-93 and Jungle from 94-95, as well as buying things like the ‘Drum and Bass Selections’ mixed by DJ Hype, which I’d have on my Walkman for school trips and holidays. Ben also used to DJ at a local night that would happen in Harlow, Essex on a Friday, where they had a Jungle room set up, so as a 14 year old I’d find myself in there hearing what was new. He was also really influential in starting my vinyl addiction by passing me copies of ‘Sonz Of A Loop Da Loop Era – Flowers in my Garden LP’ and ‘Randall & Andy C – Sound Control’, then later teaching me the essentials of beat matching on his 1210’s. I really owe him for my love of this music, as everything to do with Jungle and Drum & Bass like hearing it, getting my first record bags from Camden Market to use as school bags, DJing, playing on pirate radio and eventually writing it, came from him. He’s totally my Jungle and Drum & Bass hero!
- Section Two – Record Collecting/Label Managing
You are both avid record collectors and label owners and I am really interested in your views about the alleged vinyl resurgence. We’re suddenly in a period when it’s almost de rigueur to buy records again. Many labels still invest on vinyl; others selectively repress their back catalogues. Do you think it’s financially sustainable for record labels to support the vinyl format these days? Is this a temporary trend that will eventually cool off, or has vinyl reclaimed its well-deserved place? Apart from record collectors, is there an actual audience and market for new vinyl releases?
Tony: I think that a lot of small labels have kept vinyl going through a perceived quiet period. MJAZZ, as well as many others, still pressed vinyl during these times and as LL Cool J said ‘Don’t call it a comeback….’ To manufacture records has always been a costly process, many would say it’s an expensive hobby, but vinyl is still the pinnacle of delivery and the independents have kept the fires burning. Records’ popularity has grown and there has been a resurgence, which can only been seen as a good thing in the sense of prolonging vinyl, the art form and a fan base to service. I think things are cyclical and in the advent of digital, people crave the physical.
We have been repressing back catalogue and sought after releases, but we are doing lathe cuts of certain releases, which can shorten a lead time and allow a properly limited edition. I think a lot of people like to listen to and buy vinyl for many reasons including nostalgia, collecting, return to vinyl djing; for me personally is the primary source of listening to music.
Mike: I think there will always be a market for vinyl releases in dance music and, as Tony said, the independents have kept the fires burning regarding releasing vinyl, and I imagine will continue to do so. If a label is set up to push just the music of the artists involved, as PAWS is, then the big question is how much money you’re willing to put into it at the start and how much you’d be willing to lose from that pool before you decide it’s not sustainable to continue. That’s a subjective calculation that would change depending on the people running the label. And I think record collectors will always be buying vinyl and building a collection of good music, then passing on that knowledge to others who might not collect yet, because it’s great and fun and a way of life!
Owning a record label must be every collector’s dream (I admit I have often daydreamed about my own vanity project). You are both running boutique independent labels, with bespoke artwork and a musical direction defiant to trends and genre constraints. Walk us through the background story of your labels, the vision and ethos, the A&R process and the daily trivialities pertaining to managing a record label.
Tony: In a nutshell, MJAZZ was conceived back in 1995 as a vehicle for the productions that we were doing, which were experimental and ahead of their time. A prime example was the ‘Icons – Emotions With Intellect LP’, which sat for at least a year before I thought it would be better received, due to a more receptive climate. I think the vision and ethos remain the same, which is to put out challenging, sometimes experimental good music. This is not exclusive to drum and bass as Modern Urban Jazz has encompassed different styles and tempos also. MJAZZ works on a project to project basis, nothing is ever set in stone. We are currently doing a ‘Mixtape’ series on cassette, which is a great medium I really love, releasing some classic and unreleased material and doing a lot of lathe cuts containing very limited edits, as well as some exclusive forthcoming material; one being a clear lathe cut 8”, which allows a full length track at 45 rpm. This is the next installment of ‘Constructed Works’ and features ‘The Promise’ which is by Sicknote, Dissect and I. The label very much reflects what I am doing at the time. If something is offered and is right (for instance ‘Guitar Thing’ by Q Project), then I will release it. The daily trivialities of running a label are many and varied, but I think one of the most time consuming bits is being a glorified post boy. MJAZZ is very much a cottage industry and my hand touches most things physically, whilst Scott Metro is in charge of design. I think people maybe see running a label as being glamorous, however it can be anything but.
Mike: It’s a really interesting question. I think, firstly, the idea of setting up PAWS for myself, Sicknote and J Bionic was just to have an outlet to release what we were writing in the studio, without having to feel like we were reliant on a separate, independent label to fit us into their schedule. With all 3 of us being avid record collectors it was an exciting step to think that we could actually start our own thing and see how the market responded to what we were creating. Having our own imprint to release music, that was solely by us, gave us a little less of a financial risk than, say, an independent label that is also releasing music by other artists. All what we had to do was cost the first release, knowing that we had at least 6 tracks (so 3 vinyl releases worth of music that we were happy to put money into) and work out what we’d need to sell in order to progress past that, if we wanted to continue without adding more money to the pool. Then, we just had to try and market ourselves with a little promotion and take the label to record events, such as the Clashmouth market, to let people know that PAWS Recordings was out there and available. Lewis (Sicknote) is great at promotion and I’m a bit of a bargain shopper, so we just tried to combine our strengths and get a product made in a cost-effective way that we were happy to promote. Aside from that, there hasn’t actually been much more to do other than get the records pressed and distributed. So it’s been really good fun and a learning curve.
Online record shopping has made distribution and life easier and is the norm nowadays; however a casual visit paid to a physical record store, the socializing, the anticipation and the rush of discovering something new or elusive cannot be replicated. Which are your favourite outlets?
Mike: Regarding actual shops to go into and buy records, I have to confess that most of my buying happens online nowadays. But I do like to dig through vinyl at charity shops or in somewhere more dedicated like The Exchange or Flashback Records.
Tony: Currently the outlets that I visit most for buying vinyl are our local shop Vinyl Revelations, which is run by a good friend Andy and is within spitting distance of where the ‘Grid/ 33’ used to be. It is pretty much the only store we have left in town and it has an ever changing stock of mainly used records with a smattering of new bits. This is where I do a lot of my digging for samples and going through stacks of 45’s and Andy will make you a coffee also! I do hit up the charity shops on the odd occasion, but it seems to be getting harder to score anything these days. New stuff, d&b or Jazz-wise, I tend to try and support the artists by using bandcamp to grab their record or whatever direct selling method they may use, which I think is important in getting the return straight to the artist in question.
Let’s delve into your enticing record collections. What other musical genres do you collect apart from drum & bass?
Mike: I have collected a lot of genres in the past and in my collection I have many different genres and styles like Garage, Dubstep, Rock, Hip Hop, Classical, Jazz, Ska and Dub. If I’m not buying Jungle, then I tend to go for things like those good, party tunes that I’m missing, so things like ‘Malcolm McLaren – Buffalo Girls’, ‘The Bangles – Walk Like An Egyptian’ or ‘Bobby Brown – On Our Own’, if I see them in good condition somewhere!
Tony: I tend to collect a lot of 45’s these days and this is across the board, lots of funk and soul, jazz, hip hop 45’s and a lot of rave/house bits also. I am fortunate to have Andy at Vinyl Revelations, who will always sort me out and Chris Gibbs from HBSMA, who is a dealer too, so we often do trades. Also Nick down at Soul Proprietors in Brixton, who has a small, but well stocked shop. He will often turn up all sorts of rarities of all sizes and genres and is a fiend for getting up early and going to the car boot. It’s like the whole ‘vinyl’ thing, I have never personally, as a punter, stopped buying records and it’s the same with all the guys I am surrounded by. We have always and always will buy records. That’s not to say I won’t buy other formats, I buy tapes too and occasionally the odd bit of digital, I try not to discriminate!
Drum & bass is now on the third decade of its existence. Although it’s been going in circles, it is still one of the most exciting and innovative sides of the electronic music spectrum. Could you compile a shortlist of labels, artists and tracks that you think retrospectively best represent each era?
Mike: Regarding a shortlist of labels, artists and tracks that I think best represent the decades of this music, I’m going to be a total cop out and say I think it’s too difficult! There’s so much good stuff out there and it constantly surprises me that I can come across a label or artist whose music I haven’t heard before – and be totally blown away by it! If I think of it slightly differently and say which kind of labels, artists or tracks I will usually draw for, when filling up my record bag, then certainly within Jungle and the late 90’s Photek, Jonny L, Pete Parsons, Krome & Time, Source Direct, DJ Hype and the Full Cycle crew are usual picks. Anything by Photek will usually capture the mood I’m going for when playing, but definitely things like his System X bits will tear up a dancefloor! The ‘Sawtooth LP’ by Jonny L is one of my all time favourite albums and his other bits on XL like ‘The 2 Of Us EP’ are filled with killer cuts. Lucky Spin, Ram, Reinforced, Metalheadz and Suburban Base have so many good releases. These are my ‘go to’ 90’s records. But there’s so much more too!
In the 00’s, I would say Total Science, Ed Rush & Optical, Dom & Roland, Tech Itch, Gridlok, again Jonny L and DJ Ink are my ‘go to’ artists, depending on the kind of vibe I’m going for. I love Total Science, especially that 99-04 period, when they just had release after release of uplifting but also dancefloor, high energy, tear-out tracks that work at home or if you want to get down when you’re out partying. They’re an inspiration!
And in the last 8 years or so, I absolutely love what Mantra and Double O have achieved in creating that Rupture sound, what Law and the guys at Repertoire are making, what Silent and Sonic Force are starting or having Skeleton Records back. But definitely we’re spoilt for choice at the moment, because everywhere you look within the sub-genres of Drum & Bass there are quality artists and lots of amazing music to discover. Which is just like it was at the 90’s and 00’s. And that’s why I love this music!
Tony: I have to agree with Mike here and say that trying to distinguish certain labels for certain eras is a tough call. It was all happening at the same time and many labels were forging their way all at the same time. I will give it a go though and start with labels that were pushing through in the late 80’, like Warp with tracks like ‘LFO’ and ‘Tricky Disco’ and crossover tracks such as DJ Mink’s ‘Hey, Hey Can You Relate’ which was hip hop, but this was at a time, when there was a heavily diverse mix of stuff being played side by side. Network Records were pushing stuff in the same period by Neal Howard and Rhythmatic, as well as fledging rave act Altern-8 and their techno-sensible alter ego Nexus 21. Going into the 90’s anything on Shut Up and Dance was buy-on-sight, as sped up breaks and hip hop elements being transfigured into other forms was the way forward and beginning to take a foot hold. The other label to take seriously was Reinforced and again became a must buy imprint, as the music they released was all about the breaks, which is what was driving the scene we were being to become well immersed into. Add into the mix Moving Shadow, which encapsulated the whole of the 90’s from hardcore through to atmospheric and beyond, with no Shadow release ever sounding like the last, everything was different and that was a testament to the A&R that they never fell into a ‘signature’ sound. The last two labels to sum up the 90’s are obvious and are Metalheadz and Good Looking. I dug stuff on both labels, the early Alex Reece and Photek bits on Metalheadz are amazing releases and the first 15 on GLR and probably the first 10 on LGR are unrivalled, with Photek (under his Aquarius alias) featuring again on Good Looking, as well as his own Photek Productions imprint.
- Section Three – Radio
FM Radio used to be a central cultural pillar and the source for discovering new music and keeping up-to date with the scene, especially for people too young or with limited access to raves and clubs. Which were your favourite shows? Do you think that the emergence of online radio has improved the home-listening experience or are people overwhelmed by the over-supply, which is ever so difficult to filter, and resort to on-demand streaming services?
Mike: My cousin was really influential here, when it comes to radio and what I used to listen to. He was playing a show on Rude FM 88.2 from the late 90’s, so I’d listen in to him playing and stay locked on for the other DJ’s over the weekend or during the week, whether I was at home or driving around. There were a few Drum & Bass stations and loads of Garage stations available in the early 2000’s. Flicking through the dial where I was, just above North London, I was spoiled for choice. You’d pick up countless pirates playing everything from Drum & Bass, Garage and House, so you’d just decide what you fancied driving around too and keep it locked! Fabio & Grooverider’s Radio 1 show was also a show that most of the people I knew from Drum & Bass were listening to and Bailey or Flight on 1Xtra in the mid 2000’s, so when I started playing pirate radio, this is what the majority of DJ’s would be talking about midweek. “Did you hear that new bit by ‘this person’ or ‘that label’ that Bailey played?!” Then the rush would be on to get down to your local record shop and grab the promo of that track a week or two later.
Regarding today’s world, I think the fact that there are so many more accessible places to hear music nowadays is a great thing. FM Radio was very localised, if we’re talking about the majority of Drum & Bass shows that were happening around England, because almost everything was pirate radio. Obviously the internet is not localised in the same way, so if you were to consider that back in the 90’s or the 2000’s you could have all of those localised pirates available to you on one big FM stereo that picks up all radio shows in England, then you might also be able to make the argument that there was an over-supply then too. So the internet, in my opinion, has given us the ability to have a window into all the shows and hear all the sounds that you wouldn’t have had access to previously. There being lots of choice is no bad thing and it just gives someone like me the opportunity to stumble onto something new and exciting, whether that be an online radio show or a new artist via a streaming service, then sharing it with your friends!
Tony: I think choice is the thing here, if you want to check a show by a particular someone then you can, it’s much easier to do that now. If you don’t want to check it then you don’t, you can at least choose the DJ, style or sub-genre that you like, rather than possibly being bombarded by a broadcast that’s not for you. As Mike said it’s a lot easier to share an experience with someone, who is of a like-minded disposition and I like that about Internet radio/ streams. FM was great and likewise we had many a pirate in and around Luton, as well as – if the wind was blowing in the right direction – the ones coming up from London. These would have been the early incarnations of Rude and Kool as well as many other stations besides.
- Section Four – Djing, Clubs and Festivals
From warehouses and sweaty basements to big clubs and festival headline slots, drum & bass has made a remarkable journey through places and time-zones. Which drum & bass club nights have been the most influential along the years? Which are your favourite venues (as djs and/or punters) at the moment? Which are the most obscure or exuberant places you have dj-ed at?
Tony: Some of the first times I djed out were at what were called ‘Blues Parties’ in and around the Luton area. This would often be on one deck, which would be echoed out at the end of each song, whilst an MC would fill the silence and you would fling on the next tune! This was to a mainly reggae/soul loving crowd and we started to feed them early house and breaks stuff. It was good training and we went to some great parties; a lot of them in houses in the middle of town. The rave scene started to take hold and one of the sound systems from town, Lovelite, had the foresight to see what was going on with this scene and having out-grown the aforementioned ‘Garage’ and “Hemmingway’s” they secured a two floor loft type space above a recording studio, whose name became the name of the club ‘The Grid’. This was 2 or 3 doors down from the studio I used at ‘33’ and my interest in rave across the board really took hold. The Lovelite guys became friends and I cut my teeth DJ-ing in ‘The Grid’ on numerous different Friday and Saturday sessions playing the newly bought records I had started to collect. ‘The Grid’ was Luton’s regular weekly rave spot and it was the first time I would see people like Randall, Rider, Fabio, Carl Cox, Kenny Ken, Ellis D, Swan E and Bukem dj and see what they were playing, which would start to influence what I was buying and playing. ‘The Grid’ was really important, as this is where it all started really and Guildford Street became the hub of my life for a few years.
Alongside this was another night run by Steve who ran the Paradox label, which was in Oxford at a club called ‘The Arena’. He lived in Milton Keynes, so I honestly don’t know why he was doing a club that started on a Sunday afternoon in Oxford, but so it was. It was a bit like entering the Twilight Zone and for Sunday people could be a bit worse for wear. It was where Windmill, Metro, Clarkee and myself would attend and DJ on a rota alongside Phantasy, Bukem, Picci from World Beats, Steve Gurley and latterly Invisible Man, Spinback, Gwange and all the Legend Records guys who were all out of Oxford. It turned into a crazy but productive Sunday session, where a lot of early drum and bass would be tried out, listened to and where productions would be born, as in the case of Spinback and Windmill, which is just one example. Although we didn’t know it at the time and to pardon the pun, these were Legendary times in hindsight, but at the time a lot of people just having a good time, partying and enjoying the music, which is as it should be.
My favourite night at the moment is ‘One Seventy’ at Rye Wax, which is a perfect basement club with a low ceiling and reminds me of many clubs of old. The ‘One Seventy’ night is perfect; as it seems to span the spectrum of 170 music, primarily a lot of the deep stuff, but I have also witnessed Sicknote smash it up with a 94-96 too. It also puts me in mind of ‘The Arena’ in Oxford, as there are a lot of producers, artists and creatives who attend and it is a great place to connect with people. I met Sicknote there and we have gone on to produce stuff together and alongside Mike and it’s a place to catch up with other faces like Jason oS, Books and Cuelock. I have been a punter there mostly, but did DJ recently too with Metro for Books’ ‘Station LP’ launch, which was a really special night and I enjoyed playing alongside Scott. We seemed to go down pretty well!
One of the most crazy places I dj-ed was in a tent at some kind of mad circus/freak show in Paris. It was all dark and mad with loads of odd people in different tents and such like in really strange costumes. I must have blocked a lot of it out, because I know I did it, but can’t remember it in detail!
Mike: I was too young to experience the original Speed and Blue Note nights, so when I started going out in the early 2000’s it was mostly to events like Raindance, Moondance, Slammin’ Vinyl and One Nation that were the really prominent, big events that I remember. Camden Palace, SE1 Club, The Sanctuary in Milton Keynes… I was quite lucky going out and raving back then, as every Friday and Saturday night you’d have 3 or 4 big events on – every weekend! So choosing one was crazy. Raindance, for me, was really influential due to the size of it and the amount of different rooms, DJ’s and music was just insane. It was at SE1, under London Bridge in the old railway arches, and it would be packed full of people from all walks of life just having a really good time and vibing to the same music. Every arch would be rammed! I don’t know attendance figures, but the place was huge, so I’m guessing there must’ve been a thousand or more people there. I absolutely loved those nights. When I started playing on Rude I was lucky enough to play at the ‘Primal’ events in Turnmills around ‘04 – ‘05 and they’d be similar with the amount of DJ’s you could see or music you could hear. You’d have Andy C, Randall and Goldie in one room, Marcus Intalex and Calibre in another, Mickey Finn, Paradox and Dom & Roland in the third. Totally spoilt for choice! Rupture at Corsica Studios, for me, has that similar vibe to it and it’s a venue I like nowadays.
Talking of obscure places I’ve played at, I do have some good ones! J Bionic and I went to play a Dubstep set in the basement of an old mansion in Southend that had been painted totally black, so we genuinely couldn’t see a thing when we got down there! When we found the decks, we were picking out records by using the light from the green screen of his Nokia and had no idea if there were people in the room with us or not! Also some time in ’05 or ’06 for New Year’s, a few of us from Rude played at a place that was made up of tiny arches that were only about 6 foot high somewhere near Stratford. The sound system was so loud and bassy that you genuinely couldn’t hear the person next to you, even if they were shouting in your ear, it was like being inside a giant sub-woofer! We played for hours though, it was decent, but yeah I left that venue with a sore neck and didn’t get my hearing back until February!
- Section Five – Music production
You have both been recording for many years. What are the differences between working solo and as member of a group? Walk us through the creative process of producing a musical track. Which are your favourite sample sources (records, field recordings, sci-fi/cult movies) and what type of studio equipment do you currently use?
Mike: Usually when I’m going to write something musical I dig through for a pad or stab sound and then see if I can catch a vibe with it. Having some drums down looping is really helpful. I use a ‘Novation Supernova II’ as my outboard synth and then samples. Lots of samples! Mostly the samples I gather are recordings from when I’m out walking my dog or on the Underground. These are the times I tend to hear things that inspire me to write some music, like the natural reverberation of people walking up stairs and distant voices echoing down the corridors of tube stations, that kind of stuff. So typically I’ll start with a few drums looped and then find a sample, load it into a sampler, and play it around the keys, until something sounds good or I can get a riff going. Then, I just build it from there, so add percussion, drum edits and a bass and start trying to build it up and making it 16 or 32 bars longer, until I have some idea of how the track is going to flow. Then just keep building it until it has some structure. I always think it’s important to have a vibe going with the bits you’ve got, as it’s really easy to keep adding sounds to a track to fill in the gaps where you feel it’s missing something, which is cool, but putting too many sounds in might mean you’re missing the vibe in the first place! I’ll add FX sounds and bigger edits once the track is structured, and that’s the time I’ll maybe add a few extra incidental noises to carry it from section to section. Once it’s laid out I mix everything down through a ‘Mackie 24’ channel desk and use a ‘Lexicon Reflex’ reverb and a ‘Dolby A-Type’ to give some channels that extra air. I have a pair of Adam A7X and Tapco Monitor speakers to mix through. That’s pretty much my process.
When it comes to working with Tony, we’ve been pretty much just seeing how the sessions flow and letting what happens naturally happen! He’s got excellent samples and so much knowledge, haha! He’ll bring some really obscure records over and we’ll stick them on the deck and see if something catches our ear, then get to work on using them. It’s a really relaxed and easy process, we have a laugh, drink tea and all tend to jump on the same kind of sounds when we hear them. Putting together tracks with Tony and Sicknote has been all you can ask for really when it comes to collaboration, productive and full of laughs!
Tony: The way I produce has pretty much stayed the same in many ways. Since I started, I always dug for records and sampled them and I still do this. The samples are pretty much the backbone and I think that it’s been a real jumping off point working with Dissect, as he will sit and record endless episodes of TV shows like ‘The Professionals’ and we will go through and chop bits out and combine with some drum breaks and so on. Sicknote has a huge and varied collection too, so when we combine all the elements, between the three of us the results have been pleasing and as Mike says enjoyable. If you can enjoy yourself in the studio it makes the creative process flow. I do like collaborating, as it can be a lonely place in the studio sometimes and working with Sicknote and Dissect brings energy into the room, which provides that extra spark.
- Section Six – Exclusive Mixtape
It’s been a long read, but we are about to be compensated with an exclusive and eclectic mix of unparalleled cinematic aesthetics.
Tony: The mix that we have put together for this interview needed a theme as its jumping off point. When we had been working all together with Sicknote in the studio, we have been sampling a lot of film music, soundtracks and library music. The film influence has always been within drum and bass, so it seemed to be a fitting place to start. We have teamed this up with productions that have used and sample soundtracks and dialogue from movies. The mix progresses into various library albums, hip hop, version excursions and break to the beat influenced tracks. It moves through drum and bass territory and comes full circle at the end.
- Section Seven – A very important thought
Paraphrasing an excerpt from the classic album ‘Music Has The Right To Children’ by Boards Of Canada: “And now that the show is over, we would like to leave you with one very important thought”
Tony: I thought I may reflect slightly on the year just passing us by, I am writing this bit on the Winter Solstice 2018, so it seems kind of relevant. It has been a mixed year of emotions really, drum and bass has had its best year for me in a long time with the quality of releases across the spectrum and the labels putting out physical product. We have been really spoilt in all areas and whilst participating in this whole piece, the feeling and excitement I have felt this year has maybe not been reflected since the mid nineties or ‘The Golden Age’, maybe we are in ‘The Golden Age .02” right now. This though has been tinged with a certain amount of sadness, as two more of my contemporaries Tango and Spirit passed this year, which I guess makes you stop and look at yourself, but also consider the legacy that they have left behind.
Mike: Just want to say a big thank you to anyone who has bought or supported any project I’ve been involved in, past or present. It means the world to write a piece of music and know that someone enjoyed it enough to play it and spend their money on it. Lots of big ups for everyone writing and supporting this music, helping the Drum and Bass scene keep moving! Lots of friendly shout outs to Sicknote, Sweetpea, Sasha, Ben J, James, Tom at Resonant Frequency, Mark at Silent Force, the guys at Unearthed, Will Token, Will Escher, Gemma, Brian at Skeleton, Handy and the Launch crew, In Reach and anyone else I missed.
Lots of new music, collabs and projects coming so keep your eyes and ears peeled! In the very near future there will be some big things from Sicknote, Justice and myself that are lined up and ready to drop! Thank you for having us to do this interview!
Further reading from the archive:
The next volumes of the “On the Outside, Looking In” series will follow soon…