High Contrast: Different Angles
A staple of the drum & bass scene for almost a decade and a half, High Contrast is a name that graces every self-respecting d’n’b collection in one way or another. From his home on London Elektricity’s Hospital Records, the Welshman has rolled out a whopping four studio albums, plus a plethora of EPs and remixes, earning himself a reputation as a highly prolific and versatile artist.
As one would expect from a Hospital stalwart, High Contrast’s focus tends to land within the realms of liquid. His most recent delve into funky roller territory, ‘Who’s Loving You (Part 2)’, sees him team up once again with singer-songwriter Clare Maguire, for what can only be described as a high energy dance floor smash. We caught up with the man behind the moniker, Lincoln Barrett, who braved a fever, to talk creativity and collaboration.
So tell us about the new single, how was it working with Clare again?
Yeah good, you know. We’ve worked together in the past a couple of times and I’ve just been a big fan of her voice, but I didn’t realise how good she was at lyric writing as well. I wanted us to get together for some studio sessions for quite a while and it didn’t happen for whatever reason. Finally she came down and we had a sudden burst of creativity and ended up with like 10 tracks over like 2 days. It was like everything had built up and it suddenly all came at once. I just like to be in the studio and hear this amazing voice come out of her; to me that’s the job done, that’s the best bit! Whether other people like it, I’m not really bothered, I just enjoy hearing her singing; it’s like a little private audience. I don’t know what’s gonna happen with all the tracks yet, I assume some of it might be for her album, some of it might be for mine, there could be a collaborative project… I haven’t worked it all out.
It’s nice to hear you enjoy the creative process as much as fans enjoy the end result. Do you feel that’s an important part of your production? Well, I’m completely selfish really. I should probably approach music making as a career, but I just can’t make myself do that. It’s got to be fun and interesting to me on a creative level; I can’t just do something for the money, although sometimes you might actually want to do something like that, and I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I go through periods of feeling really creative, and then maybe it cools off a bit and I try my hand at different things, but I always seem to come back to making drum and bass.
Obviously this is a two-part release, can you tell us what to expect from part one?
It’s kind of had an interesting past because it began as a song Clare wrote, just her voice and a piano. Then I developed it and we made a track that’s kind of 130bpm, ravey breakbeat – maybe a massive attack kind of feel. We were really happy with that and then as more of an after thought, I did a drum and bass mix. I thought it would be a bit obvious just taking her vocal and speeding it up; so I wrote all new music for it and then radically re-pitched and mangled her voice, which I felt a bit bad about, but once I had the track in shape I thought: this isn’t really a remix, this is more of a re-imagining. It feels more like an additional track in itself, so then I thought, let’s call them part one and part two.
It seemed like the natural thing to do, to put that drum & bass track out there first, because people expect that of me. I also like the idea of part two coming before part one because it’s not the obvious thing, it makes you think; but he reaction to it has been so strong that now that ‘Part 2’ version seems to be becoming the main track. It’ll be really interesting to see how people react to ‘Part 1’ because that is like a full song and I’ve never put a single out that’s not drum & bass. I think it’s definitely got a drum and bass feel, it’s just at a different tempo. I think with a lot of drum & bass producers, they cant get away from the drum and bass that’s in their DNA; whatever they make, whatever style, you can always tell they’ve come from that background.
Is that something you could see yourself doing more in the future, moving away from drum and bass and expanding into other sounds?
Sure. I’ve got a lot of drum and bass tracks on the go that I’m really happy with, but I just really enjoy song writing full stop. I enjoy writing lyrics myself, for whatever tempo that may be. There’s some stuff I’ve been making that’s almost like rockabilly, so I dunno what the hell is gonna happen with that! I dunno if there’s an audience for that, I’m just following my inspiration. I make whatever I want to make; I enjoy it, even if no one else will.Does that also explain why this is your first release outside of Hospital, after it being your home for so long? Yeah, I mean I dunno how much to get into it yet, but basically the ‘Who’s Loving You’ thing began as a project from Clare, so it’s coming out through her label, which is Virgin. It’s a new way of doing things for me, kind of an experiment, and I think that it’s just good to try new things and work with some different people to keep things fresh.