With neurofunk going every which way nowadays, the label who has taken up its mantle most in recent years is definitely Eatbrain. Rather than trying to say something is or isn’t neuro, this label and Jade, its sole head, have embraced the idea that neurofunk can be as flexible and experimental as any arm of drum and bass, and possibly even more than other subgenres.
Jade’s last EP, Awake, released earlier this year saw so much experimentation with tempo, syncopation and even genre that many neuro fans and even the D&B community were left reeling. As a label head, he also encourages experimentation from the artists releasing on Eatbrain, and thus the label has seen techno, halftime and even breakbeat on various EB EPs just in the past year.
So what does it take to steer a ship made entirely of steel synths, angry sub bass and sound design? According to Jade it takes a good ear, not too much interfering in an artist’s vision and continuing to recreate himself.
With his newest EP out on the label this week, it’s clear he’s got the creating part down, with a heavily requested VIP of “Man Eating Lizard Dragon,” a collab with Rido and a healthy dose of social commentary, Jade definitely walks the talk. To learn a little more about what “the talk” entails for Eatbrain nowadays, we decided to go straight to the source.
How did you come to put these tracks together for Propaganda and what was the goal versus your last EP?
It was an entirely different work flow for me. The previous EP (Awake, released May 14 this year) had tunes on it I worked years on, perfected them as much as I thought I could. This EP was made “in the zone” not even half a year after the Awake EP. On that one, “Man Eating Lizard Dragon” (MELD) was the only one I wrote quickly but the other three took insane amount of time. For Propaganda, all the tracks went quickly. “TV Says” was done in one session, the collab with Rido was made in two days at his place in Prague, and the “MELD” VIP was just probably the most fun I had in years in the studio.
What made you want to do a VIP for “MELD”?
[Laughs] Essentially because there was a fan outcry for it. I posted a story on Instagram asking if I should VIP it and I got a hundred plus private messages. That’s never happened before. Not even close. So I was like, yeah, I consider that mandatory now.
That track was pretty different tempo and structure-wise. How was it converting it to drum & bass?
At first it was so strange sped up. I was so used to it at 150bpm, but then I found the flow for it. You know it really is crazy how much harder it is to make D&B than slower music technically, simply because there is less time for every sound. First even the beats were too long and they ran into each other as I simply sped it up. You have to tighten up every sound when going up to 170 plus BPM. I worked like a month on the sound for the VIP. The 150 version took only a couple of hours.
Did you have to cut sounds up, or did you try for the most part to make them more compressed?
Compressing wasn’t enough in this case. If you want to talk tech, AHDSR is the key. It’s a shorter decay and release. Compressing can only change the dynamics of the certain sample but it only works on the length in extreme cases.
Sounds like fiddly work.
It was. When the tune was done, everybody was happy about it. I ran it by a bunch of guys at the label. Dayan (L 33) told me it needed an alternative drop, so I went back and opened it again and that is how that part came to be at around 2:05. Mindscape argued after that that drop needs to be the “A” drop, but I wanted to keep the original flow for the first drop.
I think I like to experiment more than some of the big labels. I take some risks, but I enjoy working with new talent.
It’s nice to have a tight knit group of people you can bounce ideas off who you know will get what you’re trying to do. Do you feel that’s part of the culture you’ve created with Eatbrain?
Yeah, I’m certainly blessed. In the very beginning it was an outfit for me. I intended to launch a label for my work mostly. That was phase one. Later I started to sign new crazy good talent like Mefjus, Neonlight and Teddy Killerz but of course I couldn’t keep them. The label was too small for their exploding talent but I see those early signings as phase two. Phase three was when we started to grow in-house talents like L 33, he became big on the label and is still with us. Agressor Bunx is a great example too, although they joined us when they were already in the spotlight but I think they really blew up with us.
Lately this year—I would call this phase four—we were able to sign top-level guys. Fourward, Mob Tactics came on and of course we welcomed Teddy Killerz back. But we still focus on bringing up new talent like RedPill, Mizo, Kolt, Akov, Cod3x, Synergy, Gydra, et cetera.
You seem to have a really good ear for finding and cultivating new talent. What do you look for in the artists you bring on?
Thank you! I think I like to experiment more than some of the big labels. I take some risks, but I enjoy working with new talent. It’s definitely not as easy as with established producers, but can be rewarding. Like Synergy…I feel like right now their music is right now the reference for flawless sound.
How do you approach the A&R end of the job and giving feedback to the artists? That must be another interesting task.
Feedback is a major part of A&R. I have the privilege of a fresh ear and sometimes that helps me give game-changing feedback, but to be honest in a lot of cases these days I’m just happy I can sign the tunes. The skill level of most producers at the label is breathtaking. There can still be a lot of A&R with the up-and-coming-artists.
How does that look when you take on a newer artist?
There is a feedback loop. They send the tune and then I analyze it deeply and send feedback. It usually helps in most of the cases but sometimes, and luckily this is not very often, it can confuse them. Then the feedback loop extends and I try a different approach to explain, or change the feedback to fit their vision more. It’s 90% about tech. In some cases I have content feedback too, but I never enforce that. I only give content advice if I’m 100% sure it helps. I try to restrain my involvement to sound technique.
So back to the EP, how did you come up with the theme of Propaganda? Is it a reference to a couple of the tracks and just the general state of what’s going on right now in media and politics?
Yeah, it started from “TV Says.” The words are from a pop cult series. It says, “Oh my God it’s raining blood!” and then, “It’s all right, the TV says there is nothing to worry about.” I thought “that is so typical.” Excellent satire. Mainstream media is turning into propaganda more and more, and we get used to it.
There are two big portals here in Hungary. One of them is kind of independent and the other is 100% government controlled. One day I took a screenshot of both of their websites when they both had an article about the same topic: government run TV’s viewer statistics. One of them said, “The (name redacted) TV is more popular than ever!” the other said, “the (name redacted) TV’s ratings have dramatically collapsed” based on the same fucking data! They just chose to look at different parts of the statistics, and made a general conclusion. They were both bending reality. So that’s what inspired the cover and the EP title after making “TV Says.”
I have the privilege of a fresh ear and sometimes that helps me give game-changing feedback, but to be honest in a lot of cases these days I'm just happy I can sign the tunes. The skill level of most producers at the label is breathtaking.
That’s definitely a strong statement. How did the collab with Ridocome about?
We are long-time friends and I admire his work. We had a collab years ago, but it was never finished. Last year in December I played Prague’s X-Massacre and I went up there two days early to spend time at Rido’s studio working on this track. It was a lot of fun. We have been playing this tune for almost a year now.We had another session more recently where he came to Budapest for a couple of days and we made a new tune called “The Maze” which will be out on his forthcoming EP.
When is that EP coming out?
November. It will be called Rido & the Gang because it will feature collabs only: Counterstrike, Joe Ford, me, and one more.
Any other releases coming up soon you want to mention?
“Definitely! Mindscape’s album is due out in October, then Teddy Killerz will have a release and Fourward return as well for theirsecond EP on the label. RedPill is ready with his EP called Lunch Time, and Agressor Bunx is 90% done with their second EP of the year, called Death Meadows. Mizo’s next one is called Dust Devil, Akov will be back with some surprising stuff, Gydra is working on a huge project, and State Of Mind is preparing a remix EP.
You’ve got the US tour coming up. Which cities do you plan to hit this time? Who will be on the tour?
We’ve got me, of course, Fourward, Teddy Killerz, State of Mind and Mob Tactics will be involved. Starting October 26 we’re hitting San Francisco, Puerto Rico, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Edmonton Canada and Vegas. Not all the dates are nailed down yet and we may hit some more cities as well so stay tuned!
Jade’s new EP, Propaganda, is out now on a Beatport and Spotify exclusive, and will release on all platforms on October 1. Check out the Eatbrain website for upcoming release announcements and all the dates for the label’s fall US tour.