Opal Block, a self-confessed 1992 obsessive trapped in 2013, has found a home for his first full-length release in Jon Phonics’ Astral Black imprint. Having released music from Phonics and Jaisu, and with a beat tape from Inkke in the works, the label knows a thing or two about how to bridge the gap between hip-hop and electronic music. Enter Tyson, the second in Astral Black’s introductory cassette series, which sees Opal Block combining crunchy hip-hop with swirling rave synths to devastating effect. A more poised affair than last year’s free Warm Up EP, Tyson’s ten tracks span crunk maximalism, cosmic rap joints and blissed-out electronica. Hold tight and read about everything from his shoe size, to his own voice on his forthcoming 12″, before proudly presenting to you our eighty-seventh Truancy Volume.
Stream: Opal Block – Star of David (Astral Black)
Hi! First up, for readers who may be unfamiliar: tell us a little bit about yourself. “Hey hey. If you’re a reader who is unfamiliar with me my name is Pete, I’m nearly six feet tall with blue eyes and I wear a size ten shoe. I have extensive knowledge of hair products and synthesisers and I enjoy soup. I can also use Microsoft Excel and Word to a high standard, I hope that helps. I moonlight under the pseudonyms Pete Cannon and Opal Block. Opal Block gives me a gateway to express my more electronic musical needs. In comparison, when I’m Pete Cannon I rely purely on making hip-hop with big banging drum breaks. I love hip-hop but I’ve been making it for about fifteen years. I’m a music lover and a musician, not just a beatmaker, so naturally I love to experiment and get as far outside the oblong as possible – hence the introduction of Opal Block.”
Last year you dropped the free Warm Up EP on Bandcamp, with the promise that your debut release was to follow on Prism. Are you able to tell us why that never materialised? “I still have a release coming with Prism, I guess it’s just the way these things pan out with release schedules and PR. I must big up Prism though, it shall materialise. Astral Black and Prism are fam.”
The main difference I noticed between Warm Up and Tyson is how boisterous and energetic the former is. Tyson seems so laid-back in comparison – especially in its darker, more contemplative moments. Can you talk us through how your influences and production methods have changed over time? “You know what? I sometimes look back through the music I’ve made over a year and I do see patterns. I suffer from rave nostalgia (it’s pretty serious you know, ha) and I wish it was 1992 about once a month. Having such an eclectic taste in music and an extensive record collection means my mind becomes a wash of excitement whether I’m listening to Sonny Rollins, James Blake or obscure gangsta rap. As my influences develop, I’d hope my skills and productions do too. Our experiences are our reality so as obvious as it is my music is a reflection of myself, which means it’s quite all over the place. It’s me being pretty much unapologetically me.”
Despite the divergence of genres that can be heard on Tyson, the tracks fit together very cohesively. Did you create Tyson with the album structure in mind? “Jon Phonics, the label owner, helped me with this. We’ve always traded music. With this it was just a case of sending Jon loads of tunes I was happy with and then him going through it and whittling it down to create something coherent. As I said before it’s more about matching my patterns and cycles of production. We didn’t just want a mish-mash of stuff, that’s for sure.”
Tyson is being released as part of Astral Black’s cassette series. How did your relationship with Astral Black come about? “As I say Jon is the label owner and me and him go back. We met in the UK hip-hop scene and I was instantly drawn to him because he was a bit of a sarcastic fucker, he looked like me, loved synths and was a dab hand with the beats. I feel like through the whole Louis Den beatmaking society (where I met Jon), a lot of producers would meet up and vibe together. I bloody loved it. There was so much talent and diversity; it was just a cross-pollination cauldron of music where we all developed. With that development we all took an interest in many forms of electronic music (not just hip-hop), and with that we wanted to express and explore different roots. In comes Astral Black.” I noticed you were responsible for mastering the Jaisu release; how involved with the label are you? “I help out with the mixing and mastering side of things for the label. I wanted to be part of the team so I offered my services to be down. I’ll be mixing and mastering the next release by Inkke as well. Jaisu smashed it though with A Short Album, go cop that if you haven’t. “
Can you tell us about your personal relationship with the cassette format and what is it that draws you to tapes? “Wow, okay. I told you I’m a big fan of the early 90s rave scene. Growing up for me was pretty much making music on an Amiga and buying new tape packs every week. It came to a point where I had thousands of the things in my house, and I still have a Walkman and a tape deck in the studio. I remember I could dub a whole 8 tape pack in a night on my dad’s stereo if I did it on high speed dubbing. Then I could go to school and sneak the headphones up my blazer and listen to the music through class, great times! We’ve seen a revival of the tape as it is a cheaper means for artists to produce something that is a tangible bit of art. Many are making handmade covers, numbering the tapes individually and getting the product out there themselves. It feels, to use a shit word, real. I mean this release is on orange tape – that’s cool as fuck, right?”
You did a remix of Submotion Orchestra’s “Blind Spot” a while ago and managed to create something that was pretty distinct from the source material. How did you approach the remix? “I know Fatty, the bass player from Submotion. We lived together at music college, he used to make Marmite and cereal toasties. He hooked me up with the parts for the track; when you get stems like that it’s easy. The ideas just start running round your head and you’re almost tripping over yourself to get your thoughts out into the sequencer. I based it around the keys’ parts and the manipulation of the vocal. I wanted something smooth to fit with the band’s dynamic and for it to be a little bit cheeky, that’s when that bassline comes in. Anyway myself and Fatty have been making other music so watch out…”
Do you play live at all? If so, talk us through your live show. If not: why not, and is it something you’d like to explore in the future? “Basically I’ve played out live many times but with electronic music it’s about how deep you want to go. In future I plan to incorporate the talk box a lot more and use the APC40 again. I also want to take the Sequential Circuits Pro One on the road, it’s just so powerful. I think using a mixture of the digital and analogue helps to stand out when playing live. I just need to put together a new set which I will be doing soon.”
Tell us about your Truancy volume. How did making it differ (if at all) from how you would handle a club set? What’s the ideal listening environment for the mix? “In a club, with Traktor or Serato and a hard drive full of music, you can read where you need to go – depending on the crowd, of course. The ideal environment for this mix is seven o’clock on a Friday night with your first drink.” What makes a good DJ set for you, and what DJs have you vibed to recently? “Being able to read the crowd and build a set; I love a good house set that can keep you interested for hours. I’ve been to Ibiza so many times, I love it there. It’s the DJs that can hold you right at the front and make you not want to leave. I saw some great stuff at Outlook too, I loved the daytime sets on the beach especially. All those DJs matched the mood perfectly to the time of day.”
You’re originally from Blackpool but now reside in Manchester; what inspired the move? What’s your impression of either area and what role have they both played in the development of your sound? “I also lived in Leeds when I studied music production at the College of Music. I loved it there, it was just a whole host of music heads vibing all day. There would be live performances in the uni bar every lunchtime and then it was over to The Wardrobe for a pint to watch more music in between class. Blackpool didn’t and doesn’t offer too much except cheesy clubs, but it was an incredible introduction to record collecting for me as they had some great shops. My dad is a huge vinyl fan so we would go around all the car boots and buy hundreds of records a week. I also lived in Bristol and Bath, and am often in London. I live thirty minutes down the road from Manchester but damn, I love it there. It has a great scene for hip-hop and electronic music. I guess the influence comes with the people I meet there and Manny has a great host of influential promoters and musicians.”
Whenever I speak to Manchester-based artists I always marvel that there can be such a healthy club scene in spite of Warehouse Project, which I’d always assumed held a monopoly over other promoters. Warehouse Project will be taking a backseat next year; how do you see this impacting the rest of Manchester’s clubbing community? “The Warehouse is incredible, some of the line-ups they put on are like mini festivals. I’m aware that there is a bit of a monopoly and that it really isn’t for everyone. I love it but might only get to a couple in a season due to the expense. It can’t be every genre under the sun every night but Manny is a big place and there are other wicked nights out there. Perhaps it’s an obvious thing to say, but next year we may see a few smaller nights expanding. Where would you recommend in Manchester for dancing? “Will Not Be Televised for hip-hop, Hit & Run and Hoya:Hoya for your electronic needs, and if you fancy entering a rap cypher get to In The Loop.”
You’ve got a 12” vinyl release due on Astral Black in 2014. How is that coming along and what can we expect from the record? “It’s in its infant stages but I’m planning on doing a lot more singing. I’m not the world’s greatest singer but I feel with the right amount of emotion I can hit the ideas home. Oh and more talk box.”
Thanks for talking to us! Obligatory final questions: what’s your drink of choice, and when was the last time you danced? “Spiced rum, fiery ginger beer, 2 segments of lime in a rocks glass with two small thin straws: bosh. With regards to my dancing, that would have to be in the shower playing “Ready to Die” by Biggie off the Fisher-Price turntable about an hour ago.”
Ludovico Einaudi – I Giorni
Kaytranada – At All
Stefano Esposito – Frog Pond (Original Mix)
Chris Malenchek – So Good To Me (EJECA Remix)
Ian Dury – Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt. 3
Lone – Airglow Fires
Cashmere Cat – Kiss Kiss
Homeboy Sandman – The Carpenter
Opal Block – If
Jon Phonics – Bruck Out
Opal Block – An Ode To Jon
Evil Needle – Vibin
IAMNOBODI – Thankful
Pomrad – Dwang
Opal Block – Lower 5th
Opal Block – Kickin The Moon Across The Aky
Morrissey – One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell
Words by Sophie Kindreich, 11 December 2013. Leave a comment
Matthew Kent’s Blowing Up The Workshop mix series is a riveting mix series – rather than easy, instant mix after mix after mix after mix gratification, the project deviates from the norm of intensive publicity and has a more focused selection of broadcasts who are often focused in their own turn. From commissioned work, sounds from ancient keyboards and mixes recorded on 4-track cassette recorders, the diverse collection of mixes by the likes of Shawn O’ Sullivan, the Honest Jon’s crew and Bandshell is a great pleasure to listen to. More importantly, the BUTW series is responsible for one of our favourite recent musical projects: Galcher Lustwerk‘s instalment entitled “100% Galcher”. If you aren’t familiar with “100% Galcher” yet, drop everything right now and get to know. No excuses – drop everything RIGHT NOW. The mix does exactly what it says in the title: it strictly consists of original productions (tracks and stems) by Galcher himself, produced in 2012 and carefully mixed together. We dare you to give it a listen or two and not have it on repeat for the rest of the month – it is a beautifully unique tape, and it is uniquely beautiful. If you have already listened to this over a hundred times and/or want more, this White Material mix for Welcome To The Room featuring man like Galcher himself as well as DJ Richard and Young Male will do the trick.
Stream: Galcher Lustwerk – 100 % Galcher (Blowing Up The Workshop 12)
The Midnight Episode is a duo based in Sweden (and possibly also Manchester) comprised of Nicola Cunningham & Karl Skagius. So far this short bio and three mixes are all that is out there about them. It is through Kassem Mosse (a kindred spirit musically with Cunningham & Skagius in many ways, as one discovers listening to their broadcasts) that we discovered the latest of their mixes. A guest spot on the Future Music FM show with Austin Cassell, Midnight Episode put together a selection of spooky synth tracks, moody house (including an untitled track from Mosse, whose Ominira label is releasing an album by the pair sometime next year) spoken word recordings, techno, icy synth-pop and all manners of other fun, idiosyncratic music.
Stream: The Midnight Episode…
As winter’s unforgiving cold and shortened days gradually set in, we have found ourselves increasingly turning to E.M.M.A’s Lost Encarta Files mix that surfaced back in August. The crystalline, ice-laden melodies that course throughout seem particularly fitting for the hoods-up, gloves-on bitterness of night time journeys as December approaches, whilst providing a warming effect through just how lovely this quirky collection of tunes is. In addition to a smattering of tracks from her debut LP, Keysound’s recently released Blue Gardens, a number of earlier, unreleased works crop up. Whilst perhaps a little less refined than some of the album material, tracks like “Grey Garden” and “Glass Eye” capture this kind of magical, forgotten sound that’s like an echo of music from bygone times; twinkling arpeggios and splayed metallic twangs like pins strikes on the rotating cylinder of one of those old music boxes, laid out over sparing drum applications built loosely from the percussive structures of grime, hiphop and funky. As the title might suggest, the mix comprises of tracks that have drawn inspiration from the pre-internet encyclopaedic CD-ROM series, and for anyone that remembers the incorporated game, Mindmaze, you could imagine the aesthetic E.M.M.A has created providing the perfect soundtrack for wandering through those medieval halls and shadowy, candle-lit corridors.
Stream: E.m.m.a. – Lost Encarta Files
We’re big fans of Sonic Router here at the Truants Mansion, with an ethos so similar to our own it’s great to acknowledge what’s going on over there. This particular mix comes from Joe. Now, Joe is a producer that needs no explaining, to those of you with your ear to the ground (which Sonic Router so obviously did with this mix gracing the internet in January of this year) you’ll have picked up on this extraordinary talent. Releasing some big tracks last year, some dropping on Untold’s Hemlock Recordings label, 2012 proved to be a big one for Joe. If it’s possible 2013 may have been even better, with a meticulous eye for detail and a well executed precision, Joe dropped two tracks on none other than Hessle Audio for their 25th release. Given the nature of his past releases, this mix on Sonic Router shows a unique side of his taste; starting with Mama Cass’ “California Earthquake”, and rolling into Ahmad Jamal’s “Misdemeanour” sets the scene for this calming 70′s inspired tape that flows effortlessly into his own production. This one definitely falls into all-rounder category, we force anyone not to sit down with this and feel instantly better about the state of the world, or day, or whatever.
Stream: Joe – Sonic Router mix #149
We already know that Zach Koeber, aka Kroba (one-third of Brooklyn outfit Archie Pelago), is a beastin’ sax player, but – and this comes as no real surprise – he’s got great taste too. His “Lifetime” mix blends lengthy jams by legendary players and band-leaders (Grachan Moncur III, Eric Dolphy) with contemporary techno segues (Donato Dozzy plays Bee Mask), Hi NRG disco (Sylvester), of course one of Archie Pelago’s own tracks and, of all things, incidental Kurosawa music. Two words – NOT MAD.
Stream/download: Kroba – Lifetime
Written by: Soraya Brouwer, Eradj Yakubov, Oli Grant, Jess Melia & Aidan Hanratty.
Error Broadcast have had a good year. They’ve been sparing with their offerings, but if nothing else they’ve given us the beautiful melancholy of Soosh’s Colour Is Breathe. Closing out the year they’ve released an album from Romanian producer C L N K, who previously released on the label as Montgomery Clunk. Black Ecstacy, an album of glowering, pulsating electronic music, is an intriguing body of work that both operates within and subverts the well worn tropes of house music today.
The innocuously titled “Shave and Haircut” opens with dark, overbearing bass notes simmering alongside police sirens and the sounds of a highly charged domestic confrontation. Lingering, desolate synth lines hover above hint at melody yet never quite reach it, and the whole thing crashes with a blast of noise before the onset of “Dristor”. Named after a district in C L N K’s city of Bucharest, this track shuffles along on an awkward pattern of plodding, heavy footstep-like percussion, as well as blasting a series of alarm-like pitches. Murky swathes of sound drift below before a jerky acid line comes into focus midway through. Together, acid and bass combine to recall the Sabres of Paradise remix of Red Snapper – no bad thing, we’re sure you’ll agree. Though only the third track, “Tears For Fears” could be seen as the album’s heart and soul. By some way the longest number here, it operates in comparably dark territory, with rattling hi-hats and driving percussion added into the mix. Warm, organic chords collide with twitchy, atonal synths before a blast of horror-movie chords plunges the listener deeper into darkness. Five minutes in we’re presented with an arpeggio riff straight out of classic trance history, seemingly incongruous but working exquisitely. On paper all of these elements just should not work together, yet in C L N K’s hands they fit marvellously. It’s a strange track all told, but who ever said strange was bad? Just to keep make sure things don’t get too intense, “Home” blends found sounds and dark, rubato chords, and just as that ever-present bassline fizz overpowers everything, it all rises in stark crescendo.
“July Tense” is an equally strange beast, especially on an album like this; it’s a banger. Starting with nervous, discordant bleeps, a yawning bassline shuffling percussion, it seems like a resolutely ominous and unsettling affair. Then, as if from nowhere, comes a “falling down the stairs” riff as brilliantly infectious as that of, say, “AC/DC” or “Musak”. It’s a wonderfully unexpected thrill. The title track, however, kicks off with muffled, syncopated chords that would be right at home in any dancefloor anthem, yet there’s something too sparse about it – and then, in similarly unexpected fashion, there follows a gripping acid riff that bears out until the track’s end, at times even evoking, if not imitating, that “nother dimension, another dimension” line from “Intergalactic”. You know what we’re talking about. Closer “CPR” seems like an outtake from The Campfire Headphase that’s been twisted and distorted, its smooth, haunting pads overwhelmed with fizzing bass and uncontrollably uncertain bleeps up above. A ravishing piece of work, it’s a gloriously appropriate way to finish. Dark things for dark times – Black Ecstasy indeed – but never so dark that it makes you want to switch off. Essential.
C L N K – Black Ecstacy is out now on Error Broadcast. Buy here.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 09 December 2013. Leave a comment
While the first few tapes in this series focused their orbit around the Boxed massive, we now turn to those honing in on a skeletal, highly percussive, Jersey-inflected take on grime. Miss Modular and Sudanim of Her Records have presented us with exactly that, for the most part leaving behind grime’s evil sound palette and instead focusing on its relentless structure and searing rhythmic energy. Hailing from South London, the two are joined by Fraxinus and CYPHR to form the core of Her Records, with a variety of releases available here. Seemingly inspired by Jam City’s incredible Club Constructions appearance, Miss Modular and Sudanim (along with Neana and Georgia Girls) have Jersey’s ferocious kick as the pumping pistons in their motor – the engine around which grime’s rapid-fire claps and techno’s mechanic soundscape revolve. While others, such as Neana, display an industrial, factory-in-motion style within a similar framework, Her have taken a more melodic, synth-heavy approach. The result feels, when heard in conjunction with Bok Bok’s RA mix and Neana for the Astral Plane, like a strikingly new sound. It’s crucial that most of the producers featured on this mix had their moments of revelation not at Fantazia or Metalheadz, FWD or Sidewinder, but at Night Slugs and Hyperdub raves, replacing Slimzee pirate tapes with Total Freedom mixes off soundcloud. Hence those, like MM and Sudanim, coming of age during the reign of labels like NS, Hyperdub, Hessle and Livity are schooled in a genreless mess of dance music history rather than a unified sound. Here, kuduro shares the floor with funky, with juke, kwaito, ballroom, bmore, ghetto house, RnB, whatever. As all these musics come together and speak to each other, new ideas, new concoctions, new sounds emerge – this mix is one of them.
Once again, some bits and pieces you may have missed out on: Dark0’s self-released I Ain’t a Sweet Boy EP creates a vivid neon soundworld, with tracks like “Scyther” following down the Nguzunguzu sexy-scary path. Visionist’s single on Ramp sees the man further honing his angelic, otherworldly vibe, with the B-side, a plodding piece of murky house, truly reaching ascension. Look out for LOLGurlz and the Oracle’s forthcoming EP on Visionist’s label, Lost Codes, as well. Our old friend Strict Face let off a barrage of snares on “Dream Ripper,” while Helix’s party pack featured a couple of huge 8 bar remixes. The Levon the Don edit bangs particularly hard.
Stream: Functions Of The Now: Sudanim & Miss Modular
OK, to kick us off could you give us a bit of a history of Her Records? There’s not much to find on the internet.
Miss Modular: “We started September last year because we were all making music. Everyone I knew was making really, really good music, but no one was really taking it that seriously. We just wanted to throw parties and put the music under a banner, so we put on a party, it drew some attention and it kind of rolled from there.”
Sudanim: “The NYE party, our first, went shockingly well… I can’t believe it didn’t fuck up. It was all DIY, we had some carpenter mates in to build a bar and a stage in an arch, got some portaloos in, no security. It was a really good party. From there it was just ‘let’s do this properly’ and now we’re here. We like the fact that our nights are in south London. Most of the good DJs are playing east, so we really try to keep our venues in south.”
What’s going on in greater London? Have you guys checked out Boxed?
MM: “I’ve been a couple of times. It was literally just me, the guy who runs Coyote Records, four other guys off the street and… Spooky. It was a great vibe, mad music playing. But it’s a different kind of club experience. I mean, they make music that’s like “wow that’s fucking crazy and weird”, but you can’t necessarily dance to it that well. I feel like, with our music, we have a bit more of a dancefloor agenda. But we are definitely into the Boxed stuff as well, slipping in Rabit at the end of the mix was kind of our nod to them. And Murlo also started his FOTN with “Sun Showers” so, for the sake of continuity, we had to finish with it!” Continue Reading →
Every so often, here at Truants, we’ll receive something that stops us in our tracks. Most recently, that something came in the form of Imami’s debut EP. A continuation of the exciting, forward-thinking output from Apothecary Compositions, Madhouse caught us completely off guard. Taking pre-existing dancefloor formulas to task, we’ve treated you to five lots of Imami’s warped visions, all carried out with the panache of a seasoned pro. Here you’ll find spots of blissful sunshine-funk, you’ll find harrowing industrial techno, and you’ll find much more in between. There’s also a good chance you’ll find the most exciting piece of music you’ve heard in a while. Remixes of title track “Madhouse” come from young guns SCNTST and Visionist and are predictably excellent in their spinning of playful techno and paranoid grime, respectively.
Madhouse had such a resounding effect on us here that we caught ourselves searching for Imami’s back catalogue on Discogs. Nothing. We googled, we wiki-ed, we did everything in our power to find out anything we could about this producer. Nothing. Naturally then, we had to get in touch. The results are as engrossing as they are informative. Hang around to read about Imami’s twenty years of music making, his musical influences, his LuckyMe affiliation and his love for ginger beer!
Stream: Imami – Melted Love (Apothecary Compositions)
There isn’t too much information about you on the internet right now, which seems pretty strange in a time when you can more or less chronicle every meal that 2 Chainz has eaten for the past few years. For those that might not be so familiar, could you tell us a bit more about yourself? “I was born in the north east of England in an area that was considered the most polluted place in the UK at one point, maybe it still is. There’s a huge chemical factory there that you can see and smell for miles around. Awful place… Thankfully I spent a lot of time in France as a child because my dad got a job there as he couldn’t find work in the UK. We moved around a lot when I was young and we never lived in the same place for more than a few years at a time. I’m still like that now. We have itchy feet in my family. When I was 18 I moved to the USA and lived over there for quite a while; 8 years in Brooklyn, New York and 4 years in Baltimore. I moved back to Europe a few years ago, I was in Amsterdam for a little while and then I came back to the UK so I could get more involved in music stuff over here. The 8 year period that I lived in Brooklyn was the longest amount of time I’ve spent in one place…people say I have a bit of Brooklyn in my accent but I don’t know.
When I lived in New York I was heavily into clubbing. Every Friday night I went to see Danny Tenaglia at a club called Vinyl in Manhattan. He would usually play all night but sometimes he had friends hanging out with him in the booth like Francois K and people like that so they would take turns playing stuff. On Sunday afternoons at the same venue there was a fairly well known club called Body & Soul which had DJs Joe Claussell, Danny Krivit and Francois K as residents. The crowd was a mix of gay and straight people and they played deep house. Real deep house I mean. One of the promoters was an English guy actually. I would also go to a place called Shelter sometimes which is somewhat well known in the realm of house music.”
Some people might assume, with this being your debut EP, that you’re relatively new to the game but as we understand it this might not exactly be the case. Could you tell us a little bit about how you got started making music? “I started making music very early, when I was about 11 or 12. This was over 20 years ago. I was somewhat precocious due to having siblings who were much older than me. I didn’t have any equipment or money, and you couldn’t make music on a PC back then, so I was quite limited in what I could achieve. We had this electric organ thing that had little rhythms that you could play along with, like “bossa nova” and “foxtrot”, stuff like that. It sounded really cheesy but I opened it up and messed around with the parts inside, like potentiometers and stuff, and got it to make really weird sounds until one day I accidentally stuck my screwdriver between two wires and fried the whole thing. It never worked after that. I also had a PC with Windows 3.1 and I made crude gabba tunes using random .wav files in the sound editor. Then my uncle gave me an Atari ST and it came with some sequencer software. That was my first real foray into music composition in terms of what I do now with sequencers and stuff. I still didn’t have any synths but you could play samples through the internal Atari sound card. Then I saved up enough money for my first synth.
When I was 13 I used to skateboard quite a bit. One of the other skaters in my town was this older kid (he was about 19) and he got into wanting to make tunes. He was aware that I knew about producing music using midi equipment so we ended up making stuff together. His parents were quite well off and we had some pretty nice toys to play with, my favorite of which was a TR-909. We made industrial hardcore techno because that’s what the guy was into and it was mostly his equipment. My tastes were a bit more eclectic but I liked the stuff we were doing and was happy to go along with it. We performed live at some raves despite the fact that i was so young. When I was 14 I moved away from that town so that came to an end, but by that time I’d scraped together enough equipment to make some tunes on my own. I made everything from house to jungle through techno and ambient etc.. Even some dub (not dubstep, that wasn’t around then).
Later on I became obsessed with Goldie and Metalheadz so I made a lot of that kind of stuff for a while. I tried to copy a lot of production techniques from that first Goldie album, Timeless. To me that was the pinnacle of electronic music production at the time. The first time I listened to it I was just floored. I never sent any demos to anyone back then, even though I believed some of my tunes were on par with some of the stuff that was coming out on Metalheadz. This was in the dark ages before the internet so I didn’t know anything about how to get my music out there. I basically had no connections and no idea where to get the information that I needed. Not to mention that I was just a kid, who was going to give me the time of day?”
Stream: Imami – Panlight (Rinse FM clip) (Forthcoming LuckyMe)
“I know it’s kind of a massive cliché for me to say this but kids these days don’t know how good they have it with the internet, full production suites inside laptops etc.. Information on demand. Absolute luxury. I had to figure everything out on my own, no YouTube tutorials and message boards, just the occasional synth magazine. In some ways it was a disadvantage but in other ways I think it had a beneficial effect on the music I make. I think when you hear my music you can maybe tell that it’s coming from a different place than the music of someone who learned to produce in the last few years. Not that it’s necessarily better, just different. Maybe being forced to use whatever random weird equipment I could get my hands on has forced me to be more resourceful and maybe sent me on some weird tangents as far as the sounds I produce and the methods I use go. Or maybe I’m just trying to build some half baked romantic mythology about my origins.
In the early to mid 00′s, like a lot of people, I got bored and burned out on dance music. I got into producing more downtempo psychedelic indie-rock/electronic crossover type stuff and learned a lot about old-school 60′s and 70′s production techniques and equipment and started lusting over old Neve’s and Api’s and things like that. I made a vacuum tube mic pre-amp based on a schematic for an old RCA broadcasting console from the 50s, which took me about a year because I had no knowledge of electronic engineering before I started. A guy I used to talk to on an audio electronics mailing list had some of the original audio transformers from that console and he let me borrow them for a while to use in my pre-amp. They were great monolithic metal hunks of cold war technology, they felt indestructible.
One day I accidentally erased my hard drive and lost everything I had ever worked on. I was so upset that I ended up taking a break from producing and kind of forgot about it for 5 years. During that time I opened a home made ice cream shop but that’s a whole other story. Around 2010 I sold the business and had started to feel excited about electronic music again so I got back into producing. I have spent the last few years synthesizing all this knowledge and these unique experiences into a sound that I hope is equally unique and specific to me. I will leave it to others to decide whether the fruits born of this synthesis are worth their valuable time.”
Stream: Imami – Ambulate
We think we’ve managed to track you down to Leeds, how do you feel about the scene there at the moment? “Well I did live in Leeds for a bit when I first moved back to the UK but I’m not from there and I have since moved to another city. I moved to Leeds because I have some connections in the scene there and I have some family and friends in York which is just down the road. It also seemed like the most cosmopolitan of northern cities and I was considering studying science at the university. There are a lot of good producers who come from Leeds and there’s a fairly active scene there but to be honest I was never particularly involved in the local scene.
When it comes down to it, I have always been kind of an outsider. I think it’s from moving around so much and living in foreign countries for most of my life. There is no place that I could say that I ‘belong’ but I’m fine with it because I’ve never known anything else and it’s just who I am. I have a tendency to isolate myself from people but I’m trying to change that.”
Now, let’s talk about the release. First off, congratulations! It’s been on heavy rotation here at Truants and I know we’re all digging it. It’s out on Apothecary Productions, how did you first connect with Druid Cloak? “Thanks! As far as I know he first became aware of me through the LuckyMe radio show on RinseFM and then he contacted me and said he was interested in releasing some of my music. His label was brand new at the time and had not released anything but I had no qualms about working with him as he is also a talented, well respected producer in his own right and is very passionate about the whole thing. I knew that he would run a serious operation and that I would not be disappointed in the outcome. I think he wants to make his label something special and he has the vision and determination to see it through.”
How’s the reaction been so far? “The reaction has been very good so far and I feel very blessed that there are people who appreciate my music so much. After all this time, it’s nice to be putting stuff out there and to be getting some good reactions from it.”
What’s your recording process like and what set up are you using at the moment? “All the tunes on the Madhouse EP were made in the box, in Ableton with only a keyboard in terms of external hardware. I’ve recently moved into a bigger apartment so now that I have extra space I’ve started to acquire equipment to build a more traditional studio with samplers and synths etc.. I’m trying to find some unusual sounding stuff. I like a certain gritty character to my sound that is easier to achieve with external hardware, so I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun with that in the future. I look for the kind of old equipment that might have been used on my favourite records from the 80s.”
It’s fair to say that each track on Madhouse is markedly different, did you sit down and specifically write an EP as a cohesive unit or was there another intention to it? “No, the EP wasn’t written as a cohesive unit and the tunes were made at different times. I guess Druid Cloak just picked the ones he liked the most and thought would make a good EP. I realize it’s quite varied compared to most records but I think it works. There’s a sense of fun to it and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. That’s a certain characteristic I like to have in my music.”
With that in mind, I’d imagine you take inspiration from a wide cross-section of artists. Who are some of the people you take inspiration from and can you remember what, in particular, you were listening to when you made Madhouse? “Yes, I’ve always had very eclectic tastes in terms of music and love a lot of different kinds of music. Not to be cliché, but I take a fair bit of inspiration from Prince. The name Madhouse came from a side project that Prince had going on in the 80′s with Eric Leeds. So I was listening to a lot of that around the time when I made Madhouse and obviously the tune is inspired by it. There’s also this band from the 80′s called The Family which was formed by Prince and he wrote all the music and songs etc.. I was listening to that a fair bit at the time. Besides Prince I listen to a lot of other 80′s stuff too; Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Art of Noise… All kinds of stuff.”
“I love Sonic Youth, The Cure… The list goes on. This is stuff I’ve always listened to so it’s sort of ingrained in my psyche. Not that I think it’s particularly ground-breaking that I listen to that stuff and take inspiration from it. I don’t think I’m the first or anything. Of course, all the electronic music from my youth is also a big inspiration. I had a friend who was obsessed with Strictly Rhythm so we used to listen to that stuff a lot and that’s kind of where “Melted Love” came from.”
When I hear “Ghost2Ghost”, I always think that it would fit perfectly over an old-school driving game like OutRun and you’ve got some other stuff on your Soundcloud like “Orion Part 1″ which I hear a lot of “Golden Age” platformer influence in… Would you say you’re also influenced by video game soundtracks? “That’s interesting, I can’t really picture that tune being in a video game for some reason. I used to play OutRun like mad but I don’t remember the music. Like a lot of my peers, I grew up playing all those old-school games to the point of impairing my vision, so I’m sure those soundtracks and sounds are a big part of my psyche now too. I think it has been done a lot at this point though so I don’t really use those kinds of sounds these days. I would rather try to come up with something new.”
Stream: Imami – Orion Part 1
We recently interviewed The Range who said he discovers a lot of his samples in the depths of YouTube; where do you gather your samples, or inspiration for your samples from? “I like using acapellas for vocal samples… Yeah, I can definitely say there have been moments of inspiration brought on by watching random weird videos on YouTube and hearing a sound or something. I remember getting samples from a YouTube video once or twice in the past but I can’t remember specifically what they were. I’ll take samples from anywhere really, I don’t care. If I think it’s right for what I’m doing I will use it. I sample records that I like… Anything really.”
You’ve got remixes of Madhouse on the EP from SCNTST and Visionist, what can you tell us about these? “I became acquainted with SCNTST online through Soundcloud about a year ago and we send each other tunes. Visionist, same thing, but I think I’ve been in touch with him a bit longer. He is involved with the label/collective 92 Points and I know a couple of the other people who run it with him. I respect them both as producers and they are very talented so I knew they would provide some interesting remixes, and their styles are quite different so I figured it would add some interesting variety.”
Can you talk to us about your LuckyMe affiliation? Obey City recently put Ghost2Ghost in his Fader mix and it seems there’s always something new from you on the label’s RinseFm show. From what we understand you’ve got a forthcoming release with them, is that right? How did that come about and what does it mean for you to have their support going forward? “Yes, I will be releasing on LuckyMe in the future. Basically, the way that came about is that I sent some tunes to Eclair Fifi and she ended up playing some stuff on their RinseFM show. I just kept sending stuff and they would play it on the show. After a few months of doing this they got in touch with me to see if I would be interested in doing an EP for them.”
A lot of the artists on LuckyMe’s roster tend to do some work with rappers/vocalists. You’ve obviously got HudMo doing his thing. Rustie’s on the new Danny Brown album. Obey City’s done some beats for Flatbush Zombies…the list goes on! With versatility being one of your strong suits, is this something you’ve got any interest in dabbling in? “That’s not necessarily what I’m aiming for personally, but it’s not something that I would rule out. If someone approached me and I liked what they had going on I would give it a shot. Why not? I like to try new things. Actually, for a long time when I lived in Brooklyn I was just making hip hop beats all the time and using acapellas on top, so you could say I’ve dabbled in that kind of stuff before.”
So other than the aforementioned, what else is on the horizon for you? We’d imagine you’d want to get out and play some of these tracks! Are you working on a live show? “Yes, I’d like to start playing a lot more gigs in the near future so I’m looking forward to that. As far as a live show, I have thought about it and I’m quite interested in the prospect of doing that. I wouldn’t want to half-ass it though. I will only do it if I can make it interesting and not just play a bunch of pre-programmed sequences otherwise I don’t think there’s much point. I do have some experience of performing live with a 909 and some synths years ago and it was a lot of fun so I would probably go that route again if I did. I’m already buying synths and studio hardware so it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch. I’d want to make sure it’s different every time by not preparing stuff ahead of time and just seeing what I come up with on the spot.”
If I may I’d like to end with some Truants classics! What is your drink of choice and when was the last time you danced? “My favorite drink is ginger beer. I love it! I sometimes make my own… I dance all the time, around the house and stuff. I dance for my cats, they’re a tough crowd though. It’s OK, it just makes me want to push myself harder and be the best dancer I can be!”
Stream: Imami – Madhouse (Apothecary Compositions)
Imami – Madhouse is out now on Apothecary Compositions.
Words by Matt Coombs, 30 November 2013. Leave a comment