Returning to his roots and flexing for the legendary Metalheadz imprint, John B’s effortless blend of the ruff and smooth on his latest single (out now) for the Headz merges old-school sensibilities with new-school vibes in a mash-up of epic proportions.
From razor-tipped bits like “Lava” and “The Colossus” on through to the hypno-tech, breakbeat-driven vibes of “Lie To Me,” John B offers up a quintessential selection that makes for the perfect entryway into unearthing the tunes that have changed his life and continue to influence his sound to this day.
Salute to Robert Smith….and his hair. Another important inspiration, actually!
Wendy Carlos ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (Original Soundtrack) (Columbia, 1972)
This one’s [at the] top of the list in terms of changing my life, or at least very much affecting it. I still remember being around 9 years old and my parents sat me down and said there was something they thought I should hear, (strange really as it wasn’t really something they would regularly do at all). I listened all the way through and just fell in love with the music; I think I might have even cried a bit! It opened my eyes and ears to electronic music and the way you could take something from a completely different scene, in this case Beethoven’s “9th Symphony,” and transform it with synthesizers and electronic studio techniques. An incredibly inspiring and wonderful piece of music, especially when you consider it was done in a time before MIDI and with analogue synthesizers, played live, one by one, to a multitrack tape. Be sure to listen to her Switched on Bach album as well. Awesome.
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The Cure “Disintegration” (Elektra, 1989)
Someone gave me a tape of this whole album when I was at secondary school and it definitely got me into goth music and just darker stuff in general really: Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails, etc. Out of all the Cure’s albums this one is definitely my favorite, and I’ve listened to this track as a kind of motivational anchor before any important moment in my life, mainly exams when I was younger, before the half marathons I did a few years ago, and then before the two horrible operations I had back in 2013—but we won’t go into that here! Amazing track—salute to Robert Smith….and his hair. Another important inspiration, actually!
Doc Scott “Blue Skies” (Metalheadz, 1995)
It’s very hard to pick one drum & bass track as being the one that turned me on to D&B in the first place. I can’t really remember the exact moment but I have a little selection of five or so 12-inch vinyls I bought in my local record shop. These were the first ever D&B vinyl I bought, and this track by Doc Scott was in there and is a track I go back to again and again. Similar to the way I return to the Cure track I just mentioned, this one anchors me back to that time. If you think of the climate in D&B back then, this track was very forward-thinking and brave. I’m not sure if “intelligent” D&B was in full swing yet but there was loads of harder stuff about—a lot of jungle and ragga-ish stuff, too—and Doc Scott came with this incredibly restrained and simple track, and most importantly it showed how you could incorporate jazz into D&B and make it work. I was a right little jazz nerd at the time and all the first D&B tracks I had started producing then all ended up being very jazz-influenced! I still remember sending my first official demos out to Goldie, Grooverider, SS, etc. on CASSETTE with little hand-designed covers printed out from my computer with musical notes and saxophones on and all sorts! Will have to dig one out for Instagram next week.
John B “Up All Night” (Metalheadz, 2001)
This one definitely changed my life. It’s still probably my best-known track and really signified a point at which I was starting to have real success and recognition in the industry. I still remember the day I made it; once I had those beep arpeggios in and the vocals I just knew it was going to work. I was so excited I got the first version done in just a matter of hours. Wish I could make tracks that fast these days! When I occasionally get approached by random D&B fans when I’m out in the supermarket or hardware store or whatever usually the opening line will be something about this track!
Mount Sims “No Yellow Lines” (International Deejay Gigolo, 2004)
This track is more of a general representation of a movement that really affected my musical tastes and output. I really got into electroclash around 2000. I was going to a lot of the original club nights whenever I was in New York, and generally pushed hard to develop the “electrostep” sound for the next decade, really, making drum & bass that also happened to be acceptable to the electroclashy crowd. Being a huge fan of ‘80s music and synthesizer music in general, I loved the way you could combine all of that and take it into the future. No one else really messed with combining electro and ‘80s stuff with drum & bass, so I had a lot of fun with it, and still do! Not sure it would go down so well with the young crowds today but it was perfect for the time and I still try to pull in the ‘80s/Italo/synth influences if I can get away with it, just in a more subtle way. Anyway, Mount Sims is a genius. I really should try to track him down for a collab of some sorts, or at least some vocals!
Nicki Minaj “Here I Am” (Cash Money, 2010)
Okay, this one definitely changed my life and helped pay the mortgage! My track “Red Sky” was sampled and used as most of the instrumental backing for Nicki’s track “Here I Am” on her debut album, which was a great break into the magical world of hip-hop production. Hopefully more stuff to follow!