Hailing from the rainy Pacific Northwest, you may not have heard much about Korma aka Tommy Mertens, but get ready for that to change. We’ve had our eyes on him for a while now and others are starting to take notice. Last month he released his Bootlegs EP on Hush Hush Records full of remixes and edits that showcase his audible agility. We got a chance to speak with him to hear what the future has in store and he also graced us with a mix for the latest edition of our Truancy Volume series.
For those of us that don’t about you, tell us a little about yourself. “My name’s Tommy, I’m 21 and I live in Redmond which is about 20 minutes outside of Seattle. I had to do this for my Red Bull Music Academy application – ‘say five fact interesting facts about yourself’. It was hard because I just don’t think about myself like that all the time. I went to Bellevue College for music production for a quarter or so but I wasn’t feeling it. I should go back to school though, I’ve been thinking about it.” What would you want to go back to school for? Music production again? “I could do music production again if it was actually relevant, the class I was in was just too basic, maybe business or cooking. They’re totally at the opposite end of the spectrum but that’s what’s been on the horizon.”
Cooking, huh? If you Google ‘Korma’ it’s an Indian dish, what does the name mean? “At first I didn’t know it was an Indian dish. It was the name of an old Skream tune, I thought it was a cool name and was sort of disappointed when I figured out it was a dish. Only about half the people I tell really know it’s a dish.” More people know it’s a Skream song? I didn’t know it was. “It’s actually a pretty unknown Skream song. The other half just thinks it’s a word. It’s nice that it’s a bit ambiguous.”
How long have you been producing for? Your Soundcloud used to be a bit fuller than it is now. What happened to most of the tracks up there? “I’ve been producing for 4 or 5 years, since I was a junior in high school. When I first started producing I would just upload all my stuff on Soundcloud but now I’m a bit more careful about how I curate it. I’ve reined it in a bit. I did do a free download of a D Double E remix recently, which is a bit of a rarity for me now.”
First time we ever met you was at a weird underground pizza party in South Seattle. Can you tell me a bit more about that? “My friend Tony Miller who runs Datafruits hit me up about that and that was before I really played out a bunch. There was 2-3 people in a basement – not even a basement really, no insulation, or floor. I brought my Technics out for that and played an all vinyl set.” So you’re not spinning all vinyl as much? “I just use Serato now, vinyl’s so expensive it’s not really viable. Moving it around is tough and it’s so heavy that if you’re going to play for more than an hour it’s not worth it. There’s nothing local in Seattle for vinyl, so it’s hard to get ahold of newer tracks. Shipping is expensive to Seattle, getting it shipped out, sometimes it doesn’t show up and it doesn’t have tracking. MP3’s also tend to be much more exclusive.” We once got a record that had a huge chunk out of it, like someone had taken a rock and just scratched it. “I think it’s cause we’re from the US and people get mad that we’re buying the good records!”
What else happened to get you connected with Hush Hush? “Another DJ at KEXP, Sharlese, helped me get into contact with Alex. This was about a year ago when I went to a Ben UFO show at Q and hung out a bit with Allen who I met at the Datafruits party. I had just got my friends old ID and met a ton of people that really helped me get to where I am now. I think this was 4/19 last year, after Ben UFO. I kicked it with Allen’s friend Liz who introduced me to Sharlese later that night. After we met, Sharlese was hitting up Alex the whole time like “you’ve got to play this kid on the radio!” That’s when I knew that Seattle would be supportive.”
Describe the Bootlegs EP you recent put out. How did it come about? “It’s seven R&B remixes of popular stuff with varied production and my own style. I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll do again but it’s fun. I was just uploading R&B remixes on Soundcloud and Alex heard a couple he thought were cool. He asked me if I wanted to do an EP so I wrote up a few more tracks after that.” Is there a back and forth or what? “Alex is generally pretty positive, he’s never said anything negative about anything that I’ve sent him. He wanted little changes for the end of some tracks but he’s never really been harsh about it. Maybe it’d be better if label heads were more blunt. I’ve never sent something to someone and they were straight up like “change it.” It’s not something that I would really hate if I knew the person had good taste in music and knew what they were talking about. It’s obviously not something someone who runs a label wants to do.”
Is it hard to not have that, do you feel like sometimes you get a bit inflated? “As an artist you kind of just have to be self-aware enough to know what’s gonna fly and what’s not. I feel like you can go back and forth on a track, like I hate it I love it, but I think I’m at a point now where I can know if it’s good or not. I know the rhythm I want to do before I even put it down, I hear it in my head and know it’s going to sound good.”
What sort of equipment are you using to record? Any hardware? “I do everything in Ableton and then master it in Ozone. I don’t use any hardware. That’s a world that I need to start exploring because I just use pretty basic digital stuff. It’s cool but it’s obviously an unneeded expense. Tape decks would be something I’d like to get, rolling your track through a tape recorder so it sounds more analog-y. On that French Fries release “Drums / Traxx” you can hear it hissing. Sounds like shit from the 80’s and they’re using 808s and all that hardware. I’m not sure I could incorporate that into my sound, I’m just trying to push into the future and be a bit ahead of the sound. I’m inspired by visuals, I see something and I try and visually represent it with music. “Skyline” was inspired by shit I see on Tumblr.”
Stream: Korma – Skyline (Mumdance 26th Rinse rip) Continue Reading →
Words by Tim Willis, 24 April 2014. Leave a comment
The D.C. producer sprang Rules up late in 2012 with a self-released, eponymously titled EP, attached with it the sort of experimental, alt-R&B pastiche that that particular year perhaps began to see too much of at the time of release. From looking at SoundCloud statistics, EP cut “I’m Patient” provided the biggest splash for Rules on the net since his project’s inception, and was a convincing conduit of the aforementioned style—a sound that speaks more to a certain time and less of a place, but one that continues to reappear if only without the same sense of novelty. Rules’ penchant for bluesy tones, then-virtuosic vocal pitch manipulation and spare drum programming would seem only ephemeral looking at the bigger picture, what with new showings of tracks like “Free” and the announcement of an EP with cuts of (assumedly) similar style.
Stream: Rules – I’mPatient
Freed up from Rules’ vault as a demo, “Free” represents a marked change in the producer’s MO. If it’s not a complete directional pivot, the track seems to at least indicate a change in musical pace—including tempo, which is realized most clearly in the final third. Beginning with bare percussion components and slow, pummeling kicks, one would be quick to equate it with Rule’s understated preceding material (which, besides the EP, only amounts to a couple remixes) but things take a turn for the atypical when a magnificent lead riff takes hold. However the producer went about getting the sound, it’s undeniably predominant in the mix, and paired with the sampled refrain “I do believe that I can break free” becomes this uplifting wake-up call to existence, really. “Free” even rolls through a short episode of deft footwork, if collective interests weren’t piqued enough about the upcoming DEMOCUTS01 from Rules.
Stream: Rules – Free
Words By: Michael Scala
Words by Truants, 22 April 2014. Leave a comment
When you come from a background that mainly involves instruments, fellow band members and Slayer and Pulp covers it’s always interesting to see how the venture into straight up electronic based music might pan out when working solo. Enter Winter Son, a Manchester based producer who cut his teeth playing in a series of successful groups prior to starting the later project. Described by himself as something that’s grown from working on once a month to spending many hours a week on, we first learnt about his music from Daniel Avery, who at the time had made his track “Here Is A Ghost” a regular fixture in his Rinse FM shows. With no interviews online as Winter Son and the recent release of the Here Is A Ghost Remixed EP release featuring Houndstooth’s House of Black Lanterns, Will Azada and Orbis Terrarum, we thought it would be a good time to get to know him. We talked about the visual aspect of his music, scoring short horror movies, the process of releasing your own music and the reaction from finding out your track went off at Panorama Bar.
Hey Tom, hope you’re well and thanks for taking out the time to chat with us. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s an interview with you online as Winter Son yet, so I was hoping to get away with asking you to run through your musical background and how you first got into contact with electronic music. “Hey, the pleasure’s all mine. I don’t think there’s anything too in-depth online, so this question is a really good start! I started listening and paying attention to electronic music in the late ’90s. Me and all my friends just used to call it ‘dance music’ and we never knew what to do with it, or how to react when listening. We’d put on Aphex Twin’s Classics or New Forms by Roni Size and smoke weed for a few hours in the dark, thinking of how it was all made. It was mind bending as we didn’t have the internet, so we’d have to guess how the sounds were made. We were all playing in bands and covering Radiohead, Portishead and Pulp songs and then moved on to heavy stuff like Slayer, Tool and Deftones, but we started going to clubs to dance and go crazy. My first taste of a live DJ set was in 2000 watching Marcus Intalex & Ed Rush at Room in Hull. I still have the ticket! I’ve always played instruments and gigged in bands, and I don’t come from a background of DJing or being around DJs. I’m an instrument guy.”
You’ve produced music under the alias worriedaboutsatan in the past and currently also produce under Ghosting Season with Gavin Miller. I am keen to ask how the solo Winter Son project possibly grew out of this. Had the idea been on the cards for a while? What does this project mean to you? “I think I just wanted to make some music that was purely my own, which I’d never done before. I like tons of genres, and I had a bit of an itch to make some synthy techno! I think the good thing about electronic music is that you can do so much with it, there are no restrictions. I love how people like Legowelt and Atom™ have all of these pseudonyms and go off on tangents with their music. I don’t see why people can’t make up tens of different artist names and carry on releasing music. I’d been thinking for a few months that I’d love to have a go at writing something and playing live on my own, I’d never really experienced it before doing electronic music. I’ve done solo shows before doing classical guitar recitals, but this is something different! It’s grown from something I worked on once a month to spending many a hours every week and getting releases ready. It’s all gone a bit serious, and I love it.”
You recently scored the music for a short film called Shell Shock under Ghosting Season. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about and the way you approached it. “I’ve worked with Dominic Brunt (the director) a few times, and I’ve known him for years. He’s on a TV programme called Emmerdale, and I used to work on the show in the script department, so we got talking about horror films (he’s a massive zombie film buff). He started making films a few years ago, and I asked if I could score all of his projects. Before I start writing the score I like to watch the movie through a few times and get a good feeling of what’s happening and the interactions between the characters. I like all the emotion to be brought out with music and I don’t like doing ‘underscoring’, I like the music to guide you and let you know exactly what’s happening. The music has to make a strong statement, otherwise I’d rather it be silent!”
In the press release for Here Is A Ghost you say that “[a]fter watching a lot of the first horror films from the 20s & 30s, I wanted to write something almost romantically paranormal, and influenced by the melancholic lives of some ghosts and spirits.” Is there always such a thorough thought process behind the music you make? “Yeah, I find it really hard to write music without it being based on a theme, even if it’s a really small one that’s personal to me! It makes it so much fun too, knowing that your music has a meaning and purpose. I like to imagine I’m scoring a scenario from real life, and I look back on memories a lot. I usually start reading about something and think ‘hmm, that would be a good focal point for an EP…’.”
A while back you mentioned that the visual aspect of your music is really important to you and that you’re always looking out for creepy books, horror movies and old buildings, and the CD package coming with a page from a ghost story was a nice touch too. Can you possibly expand on this interest and the visual aspect of your music a bit more for us? “I think it goes back to the work I do scoring films and TV programmes, as I’m so used to having a visual idea in my head and letting it guide the music writing. When I’m writing I’m always thinking how the music would look if it were an imagine or film. I want people to experience more than sound with music too, I want to put people in a location and a certain time, creating a vivid world. I’m not really into the idea of just releasing a track or an EP, I want to create a whole universe around it and let people into the inspiration behind the music. I love doing too, I get really proud of packaging! ”
Daniel Avery has been stressing that “Here Is A Ghost” has been a real highlights in his sets and I remember seeing you post that Baikal had gotten a great reaction from it when played at Panorama Bar. Did you have any idea how well the track would lend itself to the club when you finished the tune? How was your own experience of hearing it out? “Not at all! I didn’t really think anyone would listen to it all that much! I made it in around five hours whilst Gavin (who runs the label and part of Ghosting Season) did paperwork for his job in the studio. I sent it to a few people randomly and Avery and Baikal got back to me with all these amazing comments and feedback. I don’t know them personally, they were just people I admire and enjoy musically. The first time I heard it in a club was when I played it live. I play drums live at my gigs, and people air drummed to the massive claps.”
From your streams I’ve seen you use Roland TR-808s, Junos, Korg MS-20s, xoxboxs and an assortment of other hardware based products. Is a computer even part of your production process or is it a more jam based affair when it comes to making music under Winter Son? “I do a bit of everything when I’m in the studio. I like my instruments and jamming, so I like having the keyboards, drums and guitars around me. I use a computer to record everything, but most sounds are made using instruments that I play in live. I wouldn’t say I’m an analogue or digital person as I like to use both as and when I feel like it. I have some amazing bits of software that I love to use, and the same goes for hardware. “Here Is A Ghost” is 100% hardware, but that’s just what came out on the day! The soundtrack work is mostly computer based, but that’s because it has a very particular sound to it I don’t think you can easily get with hardware. When I’m doing Winter Son stuff I start with a simple drum pattern or maybe a little arpeggio from a synth and then jam around for a few hours. Sometimes you waste a day messing around, but sometimes it clicks and before you know it the best four hours of your life have gone by!”
From what we’ve gathered you and Josef K seem to spend a lot of time in the studio together. How did you guys meet and what’s the relationship like whilst working on tracks? “It’s really cool! He’s very different to me as he’s 100% DJ through and through. And a very good one he is, I might add. Jozef seriously knows his craft and is highly experienced in track selection and everything else that goes into being a DJ. The dynamic he brings is very much like that of an old skool producer – he might not know how every bit of kit works, but he knows what sound he wants, and what will work. He knows what will destroy a dance floor (in a good way!) even before we’ve played a single note. We met at a very dark techno night in Germany’s most prestigious nightclub…”
Can you tell us a little bit about your label This Is It Forever? As someone who has been self releasing their music since 2011 you must be pretty clued up into the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. I can imagine it taking a fair bit of confidence to start. “It’s been so much fun doing the label. I don’t really do a great deal as it’s largely Gavin’s thing, but I get to see what happens on a day to day basis and offer my insights into signings etc! It’s definitely a challenge as you’re instantly up against every other label, but we’ve found that it’s best to work with people and not against them. I think the main focus is to offer people something unique with the packaging and to highlight that music can be presented in a loving and personal way. Gavin works mostly with people he feels close with on a personal level, and I think this is massively admirable. There don’t seem to be any genre constraints too, and there’s been everything from classical to techno to prog rock releases so far.”
You recently released the remix package to “Here Is A Ghost” which features some great names. How were the artists chosen? “Just like with the label’s mentality, I wanted to work with my friends and people who I love musically. I’ve known Dylan from House Of Black Lanterns for a good while, since when he was making music as King Cannibal. The guys from Orbis Terrarum have become good friends too over the past six months or so. They’re just starting out and are making some amazing stuff that’s coming out. Will Azada I’d never spoken to before, but thought I’d drop him a line after his Hypercolour release, which I died for. We ended up talking about synths and got on really well!”
What else can we expect from you from the rest of the year? “I’ve been in the studio absolutely tons already this year, and produced an unspeakable amount of stuff! I’ve done music as worriedaboutsatan, Ghosting Season, Winter Son and done a lot of soundtrack work! For the Winter Son side I’ll be having a good few releases (maybe even an album…) coming out, and plenty of live dates too with my 808. I can’t be bothered to sleep, so I’m just going to make sounds. I’ve got EPs signed to Let’s Play House, Stem Records, Kinda Soul and another This Is It Forever release on the horizon.”
And finally, a Truants fave, what is your favourite drink and when was the last time you danced? “I love those Zombie drinks! The ones that are on fire and in fat glasses. Definitely into those in a big way! Last time I danced was the other weekend in a nightclub called Spiders, to Gary Numan’s “Cars”. We were all stood in a circle just nodding ours heads. Imagine those goth kids from South Park and you’re not far off.”
Words by Riccardo Villella, 21 April 2014. Leave a comment
We find it kind of hard to believe it’s been nearly three years since Brooklyn’s Octo Octa‘s debut effort Let Me See You was brought into the world in all its euphoric 90s steeped glory. It even managed to get dropped in the middle of Move D’s outstanding Boiler Room Berlin set, a testament to how good it is (it’s seriously amazing though). The label that brought us such joy, 100% Silk, has since built up an impressive arsenal of releases which fall somewhere in the spectrum of lush, raw house and more experimental house-structured drone and noise, an indicator of the label’s affiliation with now long-running San Francisco label Not Not Fun. Michael Bouldry-Morrison aka. Octo Octa falls firmly in the former end of the spectrum and with new release Cause I Love You adds to his catalogue of 100% Silk records with his now familiar class.
Stream: Octo Octa – Cause I Love You (100% Silk)
The title track opener is a straight up body mover. The chopped vintage house vocal lifts the track off the ground and into more heady dimensions whilst still providing a pulsating, suggestive tone to the track. The airy synth stabs give it a light euphoric feel but ultimately “Cause I Love You” explores a sexier realm than Octo Octa’s previous work. We’re ultimately provided with an exceptionally well executed tribute to deep house masters that’s hyped and tumultuous to bring out at the peak of the night. “So Lux”, while still keeping the EP firmly within the sphere of deep house with Rick Wade and Theo Parrish the obvious reference points, eases on the throttle. This is music made for summer nights when the sun sets a bit too late. “Give” is similarly laid-back and its hazy chords give it the lo-fi Balearic quality which incite memories of chillwave. The vocal guest spot from Raw Moans, who sounds a bit like Toro Y Moi, reinforces the vibe and a gleeful reminder lazy warm evenings. We exit the EP with a return to the party mood of the opener with “Mine (Second Chance Mix)”. Not as forceful or immediate in its quest to get you to dance, it slides in to the subconscious without making much of a fuss with tasteful vocal stabs throughout. It’s one of those ones that gets you going a lot more than you realise and when combined with the humidity of the track, next thing you know your shirt is soaked through. “Mine” swoops and warps with Octo Octa’s customary flair just as the rest of the EP does and it is this uncanny flair and understanding of atmosphere and groove that Bouldry-Morrison has that distinguishes him from the current mass of platitudinal deep house.
Words by: Antoin Lindsay
Words by Truants, 18 April 2014. Leave a comment
Bristol’s house label for only rough-edged, local produce — homegrown and organic, if you will — readies two cool and casual house cuts from a newly-arrived artist on the city’s jostling production scene. Samuel‘s simple identity fits well with the rest of the no-frills label’s roster, this new release following the debut records by Shanti Celeste and Jay L, not to mention the recent release by the anonymous Lily on affiliate label Idle Hands. We get two straight-to-the-chase rhythms here, with more attention to general vibe than formality and pernickety details. This is the case especially on “Groove Therapy”, a track that doesn’t seem to attempt anything more than a familiar and functional pulse and flow, in a relaxed, bumping blend of floaty pads, percussion sheen and serene synth scales. For all its nicely worked details and well-crafted sense of unified motion in its parts, it’s quite standard, albeit with a UK feel in its strong sub bass that underpins the kick drums.
Stream: Samuel – Groove Therapy (BRSTL)
Allowing barely 16 bars for a intro, the heavily-weighted house beat on “Numberuma” is suddenly joined, unexpectedly, by a freshly-scented jumble of plucked strings and lo-fi, granular bass. It transports you instantly somewhere more tropical; the instrumentation sounds handmade and indigenous to West Africa or South America. It’s a fresh approach, like a traditional deep-house track buzzing with a zesty squeeze of Shangaan Electro melody; the blend of modern Western club music and distant world music timbres has some recent parallels in the form of the Honest Jon-released Shangaan Electro remixes and some of MMM’s material. We do wish that it would have pushed this strangeness all the way though; the emergence of clichéed deep-house pads, mars the rusty chug that the tune began with. Overall, this record is the work of a producer still finding their feet, in which case they’re doing a great job of it, with traces of real originality already present.
Stream: Samuel – Numberuma (BRSTL)
Words by Gwyn Thomas de Chroustchoff.
Words by Truants, 16 April 2014. Leave a comment