Bullion has had a busy July, to say the least. Earlier this month the Trilogy Tapes released their 58th record, a record that’s caused quite a stir online with it’s sea-shanty anthem title track ‘Blue Pedro’. Bullion’s regular feat of producing catchy, rhythmic melodies shines through on this jaunty jam, and it’s a superb follow up to his previous Young Turks release from 2011. Long time fans of Bullion, or anyone remotely interested in J Dilla, will also have heard his hit 2007 mixtape, ‘Pet Sounds: In The Key of Dee’. Taking apart The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds LP, Nathan turned it into a stylistic ode to J Dilla, who had passed away a few months earlier. To mark 10 years of the mixtape, he recently assembled ten musicians to recreate the album at the Jazz Cafe in London. Players included Mica Levi collaborator Giles King-Ashong, Raven Bush of the Heliocentrics and saxophonist Wayne Francis. On our 182nd Truancy Volume, Nathan works his way through blissful 80s jams from Barry Reynolds, Nick Höppner and Tent. We caught up with Bullion to discuss his early garage days, his debut album Loop the Loop, DEEK Recordings and his new EP ‘Blue Pedro’ on The Trilogy Tapes.
Hey Nathan, thanks for taking out time to answer some questions, big fans of the new EP. Just like starting back a little with the the first questions and was wondering if you could tell us a bit about your garage days growing up? The little parties and radio stations you were playing on. “I played on a station called Hype for a while in West London. One day the flat we used was rumbled by police or something so we relocated to a family’s flat in a different block. We did our set surrounded by toddlers, then went to leave but the station manager hadn’t paid the family so we were held hostage for a few hours until he came with the money. We had our monthly meetings in McDonalds.”
Were you playing in any bands at the time too or did the progression into garage music mean mainly producing electronic music from early? “I was a bit shy to play in a band so got into making music on my own. A friend who’s now a policeman had a little studio in his house and he showed me about sampling and drum programming. My family house was always the place my friends would gather to make tapes at the weekend. We’d all have a go DJing and MCing – yeah, me included on the mic… Hype FM were doing a night at Gas club and I was billed as an MC. I turned up in a tracksuit and told the bouncer I was 16 so was (thankfully) turned away and scuttled off home for an early night!”
There was an interview back in 2011 where they asked what you ultimately wanted to do with your music and you replied along the lines of saying that music with singing sounds like fun, as well wanting to rely less on samples. With Loop the Loop, and some of your other recent music what’s your take on that original question. “I did go off sampling and I was back into playing guitar and not buying records so often. I think I was trying to get away from the beats thing a bit as well, find something I felt more attached to. I surprised myself with the singing – took a push from some encouraging people! I’ve gradually returned to sampling, the Trilogy Tapes cassette and 12” are the latest result of that.”
Similar question to before but with DEEK, do you feel like you’ve achieved what you set out to do when you started the label back in 2012, or has it morphed into something more unplanned? “The best part is seeing how the collaborations develop beyond DEEK. An old family friend introduced me to Ben Reed who’s an incredible bassist, he started playing with Nautic and Laura Groves and has been part of Laura’s life since. He plays bass on Frank Ocean’s latest albums and has bleached blond hair and is basically Frank’s main man on stage. I’ll never forget when he told me as a kid he buried a 7” record thinking it’d grow into a 12”. Sublime.”
I was reading that you had originally passed an early draft of your album to a few labels that knocked your confidence, spending another three years to finish Loop the Loop as it was released. What sort of changes went through those three years? Did motivation to finish drop any point? “There were a few stages where I’d decided it was done but as soon as I showed it to anyone my heart would sink knowing it had a way to go. Previously I’d always turned longer records into mixtapes, that got me off the hook from fully realising tracks and songs – having the patience to finish them individually. In terms of the knock backs from labels, that was good for me to hear, but I’m sure I allowed too many voices in.”
Let’s talk about the new EP ‘Blue Pedro’ for a minute as I’ve majorly enjoyed reading the comments and descriptions on the title track since previews went online, especially as it’s such a great tune. Sure you’ve seen the comment “this track got me fucked up, like I’m doing ketamine in the 18th century with my buccaneer homies.” on your Soundcloud. With it being your first release on the Trilogy Tapes can you run us through how the EP and some of the tracks came about? “Ha, I was asked to DJ at a night recently and the promoter told me the club owner said ‘he won’t be playing any of that jig nonsense will he?’. There’s a time for being serious with music no doubt but I like the relief just as much. Seeing circles of people kicking their knees up and laughing in a ’serious’ venue is a joy. The TTT All Abawd mixtape started out as a jigmix but developed beyond that into something quite worldly I guess. The 12” features 3 tracks from that mix, given a bit more space. Feels like a follow up to the records I did on Young Turks years ago.”
You recently performed Pet Sounds In The Key Of Dee Live at Jazz Cafe as part of a special 10 year anniversary of you putting out the album. From the email exchanges in setting up this mix it seemed like a lot of preparation was getting put into this. As well as wanting to know how the gig went, can you tell us how this gig came into motion and how the 10 musicians came together for it? “As soon as the doors opened an older lady came in and sat right by the stage with a little notebook and didn’t move all night. She was a huge Beach Boys fan apparently so I’m curious to know what she thought but she disappeared into the night! It was a bit terrifying being on stage for the first time especially since we only rehearsed once as a full band on the day of the gig. All credit to Giles King-Ashong and Raven Bush for showing me how it’s done. There may be more shows but I’m also interested in performing some newer music having done that.”
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve done for us today? “Recorded at just the right volume so you can’t irritate anyone around you, it’s somewhere between the radio show I do on NTS and what I’d play for a dance.”
What else have you got in store for the rest of the year if it hasn’t been mentioned yet? “I’ve just finished a track for the next Whities dubplate which will be out soon. The next DEEK release (due late Sept) is our 3rd covers compilation where I ask a bunch of artists to make versions of their favourite songs, either in collaboration with me or solo. The contributors are a bit different this time and the songs are certainly quite upfront! Oasis get the treatment put it that way.
I’ve been getting people to do guest weeks for the Pop-not-slop playlist on the DEEK website. We’ve had Suzanne Kraft (also on the covers comp), Elena Colombi and Sean Nicholas Savage among others and we’re starting some nights off the back of it. Reckonwrong and Bahamian Moor play the first one this Friday 4th August at The Yard in Hackney Wick.”