LSB’s first forays into Drum & Bass came in the early 2000’s as the co-promoter of the hugely successful ‘Bounce’ nights in Norwich. Cutting his teeth behind the decks as one of the resident DJ’s, he had already turned his hand to production by the time the team behind Bounce called it a day in 2007. His first productions surfaced on Bingo Beats (run by the legendary DJ Zinc) & Deep Soul Music in 2007-08 and after a small hiatus spent honing his craft, he returned with fresh music in 2011 and his stock has been rising ever since.
Releases on Spearhead, Integral and more recently Soul:r have won him myriads of fans the world over with their blend of soulful musicality and dancefloor weight. Now working on follow up projects for Soul:r, producing remixes for some of the biggest labels in bass music, in addition to playing an ever expanding number of DJ dates across the world, he is assured of his status as one of the brightest up & coming talents in Drum & Bass.
He dropped his debut album ‘Content’ recently on Soul:r, so we asked him to walk us through the stories behind each of the tracks, how they came about, interesting recording methods, collaborations to give you an insight in to how it was made. You can get a copy of the album from http://www.soulutionradio.com or listen to it on Spotify below, whilst you read the stories.
This is a track I can write quite a lot about actually, because the process was a learning curve for me. Firstly, I’ve always enjoyed the anticipation of, resolution in music. I think that dance music is quite quick to achieve anticiaption with kick rolls, white noise risers, pitch bending FX etc and often the resolution within dance music is the drop itself. I liked the idea of a track that stays melodically suspended for some time, and this was my attempt at it, melodically it only resolves occasionally through the track. Some people may find it boring but I hope it’s something that rewards the patient listener
Secondly, I found the track confusing, I have a very limited knowledge of music theory and I find that the more I try and learn, the more confused I get. This track appeared to me to be in C minor, but a few notes that sounded good to me weren’t part of the C Minor scale. I have a good friend who is a music teacher and a great writer, (Chris Harrington) and I occasionally lean on him for knowledge. When I explained the issue I had, he said it was possibly in ‘Lydian’ a musical scale. I named the project it and the name stuck, it’s also nice as my sister is called Lydia and with the track listing artwork as it is (eye test format ) it spells her name out. I’m not certain it’s in Lydian, or even in C Minor but it hurts my head to think too much about the theory of it all.
Lastly, the vocal. I went to a friends place to record a folk singer (Dain Stuart, who also appears on the album) his girlfriend was there and I asked if she could sing, and she certainly could. I had this idea of little vocal adlibs littered over this track, I just played her the record and just asked her to just sing whatever come in her head, but not worry about words. I then took them and used them like samples. For me, they really lift the track, but also I feel serve to the ambiguity of the whole track.
One of the benefits of an album is you can get away with under production more than with a single. I wanted to write an album that was all DnB, I felt that I would be a bit fraudulent to try anything else. This track is 174bpm, I’d call it DnB but I did attempt to nod to Hip Hop culture. I am a sample based musician and this is all samples, when I talk about the under production, the beat is not layered up, the bass just thickens the bottom end without dominating etc. The vocal is raw, not really layered, not tuned etc.
I gave Sense MC the backing track, and some ideas about the album. I’d decided on the name of the project already, and just dropped him an email about the fact I felt producers/musicians are now expected to just generate content as opposed to create something more artistic. He come back with lyrics, he’d taken a subject which might have been quite mundane and flipped it to be about Pandoras Box and all the contents within the box had gone, all that was left was hope. I think he really captures the mood perfectly and expresses it in words I could never write.
I used the outro to really express myself, just developing the theme and trying to weave a sample together in a coherent way into something that could feel like it was recorded by a bunch of musician’s having a freak out. The outros on the album are often quite long. It’s me trying to create a balance between music I can play in clubs and stuff people can listen to at home. I wanted to create an album that someone can listen to on headphones the whole way through without getting too fatigued. I also wanted to reward listeners who listen to the end, dance music can be a bit impatient and for a generation for decreasing attention spans. Music for me is something to invest time in.
I feel Del or Tyler should really speak about this one, the lyrics are really personal to both of them and I could never do them justice. They both were going through periods of loss in their life, Ty with some family members and Del (and others) the loss of a dear friend to him and the whole Manchester scene in Salford John. I think the emotion comes through very strongly.
I took a few techniques I’d learned recently and put them into this. It’s very simple, a piano loop, and bassline and a break with busy high end and no snare drum, but a rim shot. I find the lack of snare gives a bit more room for the piano to come through. Plus I’m a terrible engineer and making snares are really fucking hard! So it’s easier to drop them out. It almost didn’t make the album as I wasn’t sure it had enough identity, but at the same time I always enjoyed playing it. The Vocal was a last minute addition which meant it got the nod! The title is a reference to one of my favorite albums of the same name by Turin Brakes. I listened to it loads in my late teens.
I Need Love
Continuing on the theme of The Optimist this is a nod to my own past catalog. A merge of a load of different samples that I try to get sound coherent. It’s something that came together quite quickly and as such doesn’t have such a story behind it. At one stage it did have a 44second piano outro, but It felt this it was probably one outro too many…
I wrote the backing track to this years ago, but I was never sure what to do with it, partially because it never sounded big enough to be a modern single. I was never sure I’d do an album, in fact I was quite certain I would never do one as I never felt confident enough I don’t think. Anyway I tried various vocalists on it, whilst got a couple of great performances it was Tylers vocal that really suited the mood. Tyler adds a Neo Soul vibe to the track which provides a contrast to quite a jazz feel. I like the contrast
Another track I can speak a bit about the process (sorry). I had the name of the track first and just let it build organically around the chord progression and arp which came first. The title is about an eye disease I have which has already left me blind in my left eye and for which I am losing the sight in the right.
The track was then built in 3 sections over the course of 18 months or so. The sections run sequentially. After the intro it descends into something quite steppy and angry, the chords and arp are meant to descend into a wall of nosie noise from which the bass line line emerges. The second section comes about 5 minutes in, the intro re-emerges and the bassline changes and gets a bit more harmonic and a bit more uplifting. Before the final section, a long outro (again!!!) in the outro you hear some new synths elements, some strings are tucked in there etc and there’s a bit where you hear vocal, bass and pad with all the beats stripped out.
I didn’t consciously build it up like this, just every time I went to work on the track I felt differently about it, whether it was me feeling differently about my eye disease, or just (more likely) what I happened to stumble on those days in the studio. I am quite proud of the way I stitched it together into an arrangement. I am tinged with regret that I really didn’t execute elements of it better; I just think my technical skills were prohibitive in its execution.
Capture my Heart
To Dain this tune sounded a bit Jamaican, I couldn’t hear it myself, he sung what would become the vocal in one take, it’s a terrible recording but we could ever recreate the vibe with numerous takes and another session.
Another tune where I liked the idea of resolution occurring sporadically, the change in chord from F to C minor is a pretty standard progression but it only happens every 32 bars with the addition of the vocal. It’s quite raw and under produced, nothing is very clean. There is an organ sample that underpins the whole melody and it’s got a lot of bass in it, it thickens the mix in some ways and gives it movement, but it also filled the mix a lot.
Sketch for My Sweetheart/Catching Lightning
I see the last two tracks of the album as a single piece. Sketch started when I got a second hand JD-800 synth, it’s something Tangerine Dream used a lot. I just played in a midi pattern into the synth, pressed record and played with the synth. That’s the intro. I then wanted some big chords in there, the first iteration sounded far too close to About Tonight in it’s progression, and it took ages to get s new progression that still kept the energy. It then has a little change up where the progression changes, the original arps and pads drop out and some new ones come in. I wanted it to sound almost bit trance like.
Catching Lightning is a different progression still with some common elements. I had the DRS vocals from an old session but it really suited the mood. The last 3 minutes might be my favorite part of the album. I think it’s my trying to make something a bit OVO. The album starts building up from silence and fades back to silence, I like the synergy of that.