News

MC DRS: Entering A State Of Flow

Posted: March 27th, 2015

Athletes call it “entering the zone,” but for the Manchester-based MC DRS, it’s called “entering a state of flow.” We’re referring to those moments in life when time seems to stop, and the mind, body and creative soul seem to come together and flow effortlessly. Athletes have it, dancers feel it, and musicians and artists of all stripes seek to attain it in everything they do.

Having just released his genre-bending Mid Mic Crisis LP for Soul:r (the album is available to buy exclusively via Soul:R for a week and will be on general sale next week), featuring the likes of Addison Groove, Calibre, Dub Phizix, Chimpo and Intalex, we thought it only proper to touch base with the MC, skater, illustrator and all-around artist known as DRS to take a closer look at his own creative process—in hopes of discovering some deeper truths we can use in our own pursuits of those moments of creative enlightenment.

 

You’re involved in so many different forms of creativity, from MCing to illustration to skateboarding—which is a great place to start! It’s a skill that not only requires a tremendous amount of mental and physical ability, but at its very best exemplifies this notion of flow that’s central to your work.

Skateboarding is and was the catalyst for everything good and creative in my life. Most people, including myself, who find a lifelong love affair with skating, are usually the kind of kids who are always out in the streets getting into trouble. But from the first time you stand on a board and just roll—it can be just for a few seconds—but if you catch it, your life will never be the same! Skating introduced me to so much music, art, culture, design and just a new way of thinking and looking at the world as a playground! This never changes, and it’s why skateboarders never grow old! I love you, skateboarding!

 

Your art is another great place where I imagine you achieve a state of flow in the midst of creation. What does it feel like to you when you sit down and are translating an idea or image in your head into something on the page?

My art is my sanity, my silence, my calm, my total freedom from everything! When I pick up a pencil, I never know what’s going to come out of it; I just start and see what happens. I can start drawing and lose 10 hours! Seriously, it’s like I black out and when I wake up, there’s a picture of some kind. Art is my freedom, and it’s the same with music.

 

With MCing, another element is added to the mix, so to speak, as other people are involved and a new kind of language has to develop between you, your ideas/voice/lyrics, and the producer and his beats.

When I get a beat, I know in the first few seconds of listening whether I like it. If I like it, I’m already getting words popping up in my head, so I just start jotting lines and lyrics in my phone memo pad.

Some beats are hook/chorus beats, like Enei ft. DRS “Obsession,” for example; or DRS ft. Enei “Count to Ten” was a verses/bars beat. I also establish that early on when listening. It’s usually the space the producer leaves in the music that determines that. Like I said, I work quite fast; so once I start writing, I will get a topic or angle worked out, and I’m away.

 

“The Puppeteer” seems like another one of those moments, as you and Jubei seem to just lock in on the same wavelengths! When you were putting the album together, did you give producers free reign to create whatever they wanted, or was it a more of a guided, collaborative process?

I never told or asked any of the producers to make any kind of tune or vibe for my album. I just wanted them to do them! That’s why I was asking them in the first place. Pretty much every single person I’ve worked with on both of my albums are people I respect, and real friends who I know personally. “The Puppeteer” was just another of those situations. I wanted Paul [Jubei] involved in the project, and I was lucky enough he said yes!

 

Everything we’ve been talking about takes place in the studio. When you’re MCing live, you having to enter yet another kind of creative space—one that I imagine is more related to skating, in that you have to be flexible, you don’t know what you or the DJ is going to do next, you’re just riding it out and staying in the moment.

Yeah, live is different again. It’s getting your point across, entertaining, being a tour guide, making the DJ look good, and emphasizing different layers and emotions in the music. I just try to move and adjust tone, vibe, style to what’s happening musically, or to the general vibe of the rave, festival or club I’m performing at. Both the DJ and MC should give each other the space to do this. When this happens, it goes OFF!

 

I imagine you work with a lot of artists who all have their own different ways of getting into a creative state. Give us a glimpse into the process of someone you’ve worked with that changed the way you look at the creative process.

Last year, Toddla T and me went to New York for a gig and a few days’ work in an amazing studio that we were borrowing from a Grammy Award-winning band while we were in town. Toddla had been trying to arrange sessions with various rappers, and all were out of town or locked down recording albums or projects for other people, etc., and being as we were in the city of hip-hop, we were both a little disappointed.

So we get a call from a well-known singer/songwriter’s manager saying she was in town and was down to come and jam. T and me are both a little nervous, as we don’t know what to expect; we’ve also heard stories about how the artist in question was a little quirky and eccentric. She arrived dressed head-to-toe in the purest white linen, these biblical-looking wrapped robes, with a matching headscarf. Toddla welcomed her and went to give her a hug.

“NOOOOOOOO!!!” she screamed. We looked at each other, shocked! She said, “I’m sorry, nobody has touched me for six months,” and then went on to explain how it was part of a yearlong cleansing process. Obviously, this has set the session off to a weird start.

She proceeded to ask T how many beats he had. T had around six beats prepared. “You’re gonna need at least 20!” We both laughed. “No, I am not joking, you’re gonna need at least 20 beats!” Oof! T proceeded to frantically flick through his hard drive for loops, beats, instrumentals, anything we could use. He came up with around 12–15 beats in the end.

Toddla pressed play, but before a single bar of music could play: “NOOOOOOOO!” she screamed! T pressed stop. “I don't listen to the music until I go in the booth and start recording.” So Toddla laid all the beats out on the screen in one continuous line, and the whole time, this is mind-blowing for me! This Biblical-looking woman is about to record and write 12–15 songs without ever hearing them before now! Live!

She went down the corridor through the kitchen and into the mic booth. Toddla and me were looking at each other like, WTF IS GOING ON!? But by this time, we both knew something AMAZING was about to happen. We weren’t wrong! The best way I can describe it is: MAGIC!

Each beat was around three minutes long, and from the second he pressed record, she began to hum, shriek, and sing noises frantically! One of the weirdest sounds I've ever heard in my life; like the sound of a wild animal falling into a trap and it scrambling to grab a branch or find some kind of grip or some kind of Tibetan shaman or something.

This went on for the first minute of each song; by the second minute, she had the melody and a few words; by the end of each three-minute beat, she had a full song written—and not just “a song,” an absolute banger! She did this 15 times, and I swear it’s one of the most magical things I’ve ever experienced musically and just in life in general. Madness!

 

Even with the madness, it seems the perfect example of how creative expression—whether through skating, illustration, MCing, music making, etc.—all seem connected at some deeper, life- and soul-affirming level.

It’s just all ART and different ways of expressing my emotions. I’m just lucky I found a few ways to do it. Without art, skating and music, I hate to think where I would be, as life growing up in the northern [Manchester, UK] inner-city of the ‘80s and ‘90s didn’t hold many options, did it?

 

I imagine there are a number of young bloods out there who were just like you: filled with ideas, energy and creative impulses but not sure how to shape them into something concrete and meaningful. What sort of wisdom can you share with them now that you’ve come out on the other side?

Just live life. Experience things! Listen to the language around you in your local area—words, slang and sayings unique to where you live and come from. Think about what the things are that all people share no matter what race, sex, sexuality, background or education they have. Connect with them. Make statements with purpose, hope or some kind of point. Don’t just repeat stereotypes and templates that keep young people and lower classes locked in a cycle. And finally: SPEAK THE TRUTH AND BE YOURSELF!

 

By Chris Muniz

 

This article originally appeared on Insomniac.com.

Read More >

Bungle Hypnotizes With 'Alone'

Posted: March 27th, 2015

The Brazil/UK connection is strong on this one as André Sobota (aka Bungle) unloads an awe-inspiring exploration into future beats in the form of this massive four-track EP for the ever-essential 31 Recordings.

Interstellar vibes form the backbone of the title track and the EP as a whole. Centered on mesmerizing alien atmospheres, Bungle takes his time in letting the melodic layers and breaks accumulate into a cohesive narrative worth listening to all the way through to the end. “Looking Back” takes things into deeper territory, the hypnotic vibes unravelling over trembling drums and warm pads.

Rounding out the EP, Bungle stomps and steps over an epic, sweeping soundscape he calls “Arcadia.” It’s one of those tunes to drop when you want to hit them hard and then pull back just a touch for comfort before hammering those heads in once again. “Fast Forward,” on the other hand, is where you close it out or transition between vibes, allowing the textures to reveal themselves gently yet ever-so-powerfully.

Prepare for your flight now as the EP drops April 13 via the 31 Recordings store.

 

By Chris Muniz

Read More >

Kronology Winds It Up On 'Timelapse'

Posted: March 26th, 2015

Having surfaced earlier in the year under their newly-minted Kronology moniker, the Los Angeles-based duo formerly known as Slogun and Ioh made the home team proud when their crunchy cut “Razor Sharp” landed a prime slot on Drumsound and Simon “Bassline” Smith’s 15 Years of Technique LP. The single was a highly-anticipated release ever since the duo announced that they had been signed exclusively to the esteemed UK imprint. Now, after all the hazing has been completed and super-secret handshakes learned and tattoos applied, Kronology unleash their debut in the form of the three-track Timelapse EP that immediately puts all fears to rest about the ability of the Stateside crew to hold it down in the international arena.

Flexing on all fronts right from the get-go, Kronology roll things out to the breaking point on “You & Me” before unleashing a tsunami of festival vibes and a running groove. Even when they take a sharp turn into grimy territory on “Submerge,” those hands stay up in the air as this dirty number handcrafted in collaboration with another L.A.-based crew, Divine Elements, runs it red through and through.

To close things out Kronology team up with singer-songwriter Without My Armor who lays down some heavy vocals on “Monster.” Don’t let the title fool you, though; this one also rides that fine line between the dark and the light centered on a catchy groove that grounds the mind-melting atmospheres and spiraling drop that is sure to bring those late-night shivers on.

It’s a great debut for the Stateside duo and one that hints at the massive bits no doubt already being crafted in the lab and due to surface soon. The EP drops Sunday so look out!

 

By Chris Muniz

Read More >

The Evolution of Datsik

Posted: March 25th, 2015

Datsik is over one hour late for our interview. I’m sitting on a bench in the backyard of his North Hollywood home, busying myself with unanswered emails and selfies, wishing I could take a dip in his pool without fear of getting hit with a trespassing lawsuit. That’s when I notice something in the window: a playful lil’ salt-and-pepper tabby cat begging to come out and play. I name her Catsik, obviously, and she provides endless joy with her kitten kisses and clumsy barrel rolls.

Datsik calls me and begins to apologize profusely. Turns out he’s buying a car, and he’s delayed at the dealer. Though he does sound frazzled and hurried, the new automobile addition is no big deal, it seems. Datsik is used to these life-changing purchases; he bought this very house less than a year ago.

When he does arrive, he shows me around his two-story house, and I finally get to shake Catsik’s paw (and find out her real name is Iris). He then leads me back outside.

Behind the house, adjacent to the glistening pool, stands a garage-like structure. Beyond its double-door entry lies a small yet technologically modern office, recently converted into Datsik’s own fully functional home studio. A keyboard is at hand, paired with sophisticated speakers. On each side of the room hang two large, silver emblems that look more heavy metal and devil horns than laser shows and strobe lights. They’re the logo for Firepower Records, the independent imprint he founded in 2012.

 “It’s like a bomb shelter in here,” he says.

He’s right. This is where Datsik creates his biggest bass bombs. This is where the walls shake. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Firepower.

Eight years after becoming a dubstep wunderkind, Datsik, born Troy Beetles, has evolved as much as the sound he helped forge. He’s moved from video game-loving fanboy—his moniker derives from his old Xbox Live gamertag—to chart-topping producer, internationally touring artist, and owner and founder of the enterprising Firepower brand. Owning this house, then, is a major step for Beetles twofold. On a personal level, it’s one of his key strides into total adulthood. Professionally, the house doubles as the official Firepower headquarters. And he’s totally on board.

“It’s great having people over here and partying, because you can totally turn up in here and be as loud as you want,” he says from within his dungeon studio. “Lately, instead of going out, I’ve just been bringing people over here. Bring a bunch of wine, and everyone parties. I have the sequencer open, and we bang out ideas.”

This simple statement resonates with me. Beetles, once the infamous party boy, is starting to sound like a grownup.

It’s impossible to imagine electronic music without Beetles’ influence. Despite his short career thus far, he played a significant role in pioneering the bass-heavy North American dubstep sound along with fellow Canadian producer Excision. Nowadays, “dubstep” is becoming a dirty term, with many of its star players criticizing it heavily or abandoning the genre altogether (see Skream and Flux Pavilion).

Beetles remains loyal to his dubstep roots, but he now identifies with the broader “bass music” tag. “It allows me the freedom to play more of what I want,” he says. “If people are expecting just dubstep, and I play drum & bass, they’ll be confused.”

Beetles’ first foray into music came when he started producing hip-hop beats in his bedroom studio back in his hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia—not quite the rap mecca by any means. His life was forever changed when his brother played him Method Man at full-blast on a new car sound system. That’s when he found his calling. That’s when he found his sound.

“I lost my mind. There was so much bass. That moment had a big impact on the type of music I wanted to make. I always think back to that moment, hearing a track on a proper system, and the impact it had on me.”

That love for hip-hop never left, and it is a core fundamental on his latest EP, Down 4 My Ninjas, which sees Beetles collaborating with DJ Paul of celebrated Southern rap group Three 6 Mafia and iconic rapper KRS-One. “I’m trying to bridge the gap between the edgy side of electronic music with the grittier side of hip-hop.”

Down 4 My Ninjas is a fine ballet between the ruggedness of hip-hop lore and Beetles’ latest take on bass music. He hints at some upcoming rap collaborations, featuring artists so huge he can’t even name-drop, but you hear his excitement when talking about his work with DJ Paul and KRS-One.

“Obviously, a current rapper like Kendrick [Lamar] is hugely popular, but that’s not what it’s about for me,” he says. “I work with classic artists because they're dope. Most artists would want to work with big names because it’ll give them more exposure.”

He references his track with KRS-One, “No Requests,” in which the rapper talks about remaining true to the underground: “I don't hang around at the top/It's too fake up there/Forget being in the front/I'd rather sit in the rear.”

“Instead of getting a status boost, I’d much rather work with someone like Method Man over someone prolific at the moment,” adds Beetles. “Once you become a bigger artist, it’s harder to keep that underground feel alive, and you soon realize that the way to make more money is to climb the ladder and work and collaborate with people that will boost your status. And that fame has an impact on their music, and they begin to focus more on how they will be perceived, even though what got them famous to start with was the fact that they were underground. It’s like a double-edged sword.”

The parallels between hip-hop and dubstep make sense, according to Beetles, which is why Datsik fans are often also hip-hop fans. Similarly, he thinks there’s room for cross-pollination between dubstep and deep house/future house. The key ingredient? Bass wobbles.

“There’s a lot of house music that I don’t like,” he says. “But this newer, more minimal kind of stuff, with garage elements and deep and low wobbles, I think is really cool. It kind of touches back on the old-school dubstep.”

Beetles, much like most of the electronic music industry right now, sees the potential of these surging, and resurging, movements in America, and he agrees it’s timeto pounce.

“It’s kind of like an uncharted territory right now, and I think that’s what makes it exciting,” he says. “You can be the best drum & bass producer in the world, but it’s not gonna matter because it’s still just drum & bass. I feel like it’s reached its point where, from a technical production standpoint, it’s already so good. Where do you really improve on that side of things? Same with dubstep. Whereas with deep house and garage and future garage and all that, I feel like there’s still so much room for interpretation. It doesn’t really have a box around it yet. That leaves a lot of room for experimentation.”

With age comes wisdom, world travels, and life experience. For Beetles, currently and constantly on tour, that all multiplies by the day. As such, he’s at a crossroads in life and in his career. The older, wiser Datsik is more experienced on all fronts. Herein lies the evolution of Datsik. It’s this mental and artistic growth that has sparked a new phase in the Datsik storyline.

His personal evolution mirrors the grander scope of the rapidly changing electronic music landscape he helped expand, as well as that of his personal fans. As he’s gotten older, his fans have gotten older, and their tastes aligned every step of the way.

“A lot of kids who were listening to aggressive dubstep are also listening to deep house, and are also listening to everything now,” he says. “The Datsik fan never used to be a Zedd fan, but now they like both sides of it. They see more than just one thing, and I think that’s important for the growth of the whole thing.”

The same goes for Firepower, which he hopes will one day outgrow the Datsik brand and stand on its own.

“It started out being paired up with me… but I feel like it’s taking form and doing its own thing,” he says of Firepower. “We have such a loyal fan base just dedicated to the label that it doesn’t have to be synonymous with Datsik anymore. It’s its own beast and runs wild and does its own thing and doesn’t need me. The label was never meant to be an extension of me. 

As Beetles dives deeper into the wider spectrum of bass music, his future sounds remain a mystery for now. What is known is that inspiration is coming from all sorts of places and people. He’s not abandoning the dubstep ship, but rather steering it in new, broader, and more exciting directions with more diversity. It’s this challenge of his personal artistic vision and his simultaneous attempt at revolutionizing bass music as a whole that holds new hope. It’s all in line with Datsik’s ongoing evolution. 

“As times change, you just gotta evolve,” he says. “I think doing the same thing all the time is cool, but at the same time, it gets boring for me. I didn’t choose this life to fall into a loop of being bored. I chose this life because it’s exciting, and I’m passionate about it, and I like music. My taste changes just like everyone else’s taste changes, and I think it’s important to keep doing what you love.”

 

Follow Datsik on Facebook | Twitter

 

By John Ochoa

Photos by Alexander Federic

 

This article originally appeared on Insomniac.com.

Read More >

Original Sin 'No Limit'

Posted: March 25th, 2015

Having established himself as the rock on which the Playaz imprint stands, we’ve come to expect nothing but the very best when Original Sin stands up to represent. Even for longtime fans of the man with the golden touch, this massive four-track EP for the Playaz family is sure to have the sweat dripping down the seat of your pants after a quick listen. Original Sin is not fucking around on this one as each tune feels carefully engineered for maximum dancefloor damage—just in time for summer!

Its jump-up madness at its finest, as the title track “No Limit” stomps and struts and sets the standard against which the rest of the EP is measured. Sure it’s a proper bone-crusher, but “Tetra” elevates the temperature to an even higher level as it teases with some melodic keys before turning on the afterburners. These two tracks along would’ve been a killer single but no, Original Sin wants to finish it off proper as “Get the Fuck Out” lurches in with an ill drunken groove before “Killer Instinct” unloads a drop-kick worthy hook that’s sure to have the heads bawling for more.

This one’s not due for a few weeks (April 6), so head over to the Playaz website to get a bonus track in the form of “Radical VIP” when you lock in your preorder now!

By Chris Muniz

Read More >

[Q&A] Loadstar

Posted: March 25th, 2015

Having made quite a name for themselves as Xample and Lomax, it wasn’t until the Bristol-based duo transformed into their current guise under the moniker Loadstar that things elevated to another level. Something about the name change and the ever-present support of the Ram Records family caused a seismic shift in their output as hit after hit started pouring out of their studio, including last year’s massive single featuring the double-barreled assault of “Stepped Outside” and “Under Pressure.” As that single perfectly illustrates, the duo continue to bulldoze dancefloors across the world with their signature mix of both the melodic and the straight rinseout styles in everything they do.

Now, as the smoke settles on the dancefloor mayhem they brought to Beyond Wonderland and the Ram takeover this past weekend in Los Angeles, we touch down with the dynamic duo as they prepare to close out their North American tour with heavy shows in Miami, New York City, and Toronto.

 

So much good music across the board seems to bubble up out of Bristol—what’s the secret? Is there something in the water over that way?

Yeah, Bristol is a great place for music. So many influential acts and artist have come through over the years and it’s been a great place to live and make music. Growing up we used to listen to acts such as Massive Attack, Kosheen and particularly Roni Size, who were a major influence in terms of getting us into electronic music and notably drum & bass.

When I (Gav) was sixteen I used to go to raves that Roni Size was playing in and around Bristol, mainly due to the fact it was the only places we would be allowed into as they were often in the roughest parts of town. It was those early experiences that really got us hooked on drum & bass and the underground culture that surrounded it.

 

Speaking of the old days, if you guys would have spent more time on your studies and the whole D&B thing had never come along, where would you be now?

We both worked in financial services before the music thing took off, so I guess we would be still counting numbers behind a desk doing the 9-5 thing. Thankfully music did work out and we feel so privileged to do what we are doing, as it definitely hasn’t always been the case!

 

You guys are currently travelling through the States as part of the Ram North America Tour. What’s the biggest difference between the UK and the US?

We love travelling stateside and it’s definitely a slightly different vibe and crowd to the shows we play in the UK and Europe in that typically the crowds tend to be a bit older out here, but they are always so excited and enthusiastic about the music. We played a show the other night where people had driven four hours to see us; that level of commitment is something you don’t get back at home as I guess the fans there are a little spot for choice.

Drum & bass in general seems really healthy out here at the moment and playing events such as Beyond Wonderland and some of the other big festivals has really helped open the genre up to a wider audience, which is a great thing. Shout out to Bassrush and Insomniac for being such great supporters of drum & bass.

 

You absolutely crushed it at Beyond and the Ram Records takeover this past weekend. Did you drop any tunes from the album that we should have been looking out for? Give us a title and a vibe and we’ll see if we can trainspot it from memory!

We always love playing the big festivals like Beyond Wonderland and L.A. is also one of our favorite places to play as drum & bass is really healthy in California, so this past weekend was a good one. “Get Lit” is a new track of ours that’s been going down really well; it’s a big dancefloor tune with a cinematic string intro so it should have been easy to spot!

 

Release-wise you guys have been quiet since the massive success of “Stepped Outside” and “Under Pressure” last year. I imagine you’ve been hard at work on your next album and your latest release, “Under Pressure VIP,” is just the first salvo in what is shaping up to be a massive year.

We’ve been locked away in the studio working on a load of new material, which we are really excited about. We’ve got a good mix of dancefloor tracks and deeper vocal stuff which is definitely forming the basis of a new album, but at the moment we are focusing on getting a good run of singles throughout the rest of the year.

 

by Chris Muniz

Read More >
Bassrush
BY CONTINUING PAST THIS PAGE, YOU AGREE TO OUR TERMS OF USE. ©2015 Insomniac Holdings, LLC. All rights reserved.