The long-awaited War on Silence album project from Crissy Criss has finally touched down and it’s already being hailed as a future classic. The end result of a years on the grind in the studio and behind the decks, Crissy is quick to point out just how much blood, sweat and tears went into the 18-track behemoth. From his early years under the tutelage of his step-dad Kenny Ken all the way through to his own role as an internationally recognized drum and bass icon whose BBC Radio 1 show continues to push all aspects of the genre to the masses.
Similarly, his album flexes on all fronts, unfolding like a proper journey through a world where names like Funtcase, Wide Future, Malux, Erb N Dub, and Orange Hill come together under a single genre-defying project. Still, the album is drum and bass at the core and Crissy’s own headstrong vision lays a foundation for what is undoubtedly his best work to date.
To celebrate the full release of the album (out now so lock yours in here) and to get a glimpse of what comes next, we sat down with the man himself and went all in on a wide-ranging interview that producers and fans alike will be inspired by.
Take us back to the birth of War on Silence the imprint.
I’m gonna be real—if you have a vision, only YOU know how to execute that vision for it to become a reality, and that’s pretty much what was behind this project. I didn’t want to waste my time with a label potentially making it harder for me to get this project together in the way I wanted, even though it’s taken me bloody ages to finally get it done and finished. However I actually needed that overwhelming stress for me to get it done right and exactly how I wanted it. I do like throwing myself in at the deep end which is why I’ve taken on the work load and decided to do everything myself. I’m not saying all the labels out there are shit and no one does anything, but when you’re putting in all of your time and energy into a project there’s no one else out there other than yourself you can really rely on to get the results you want.
What was your original vision of the imprint and how far in advance did you have releases lined up around the launch?
I made sure I had the whole album complete before I even started putting tracks out. My plan was to have all of the album singles, especially with individual artwork (which showcases a lot of hand drawn images), ready to be released every two weeks, on a Friday, from the end of November straight up until the album launch date 05/04/19. Coincidentally, that was a year to the day since I first released the name of the album so timing all of that together was key.
So the album was already part of the vision at that time? Amazing!
Yeah, pretty much as soon as I thought of the name I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to happen. I had been working on many tracks over a period of years, as any producer does, but the idea for an album wasn’t really there before the name came about. For a while there I was having big trouble finishing any music, it was a real struggle. I’d pretty much start a track, go to bed, then the next day start another. I had a backlog of tracks that weren’t getting finished. As soon as the name came to me I had this burst of creativity and this whole overwhelming excitement and plan appeared in my head instantly. I went through all the music I had been working on and put a folder together of about 40 tracks and just started to work my way finishing them all off, one by one. I mean, the folder would change a bunch of times! Taking out tracks, starting new ones, then going back to the original list of tracks I had, it was an absolute headache! But I finally choose about 20 odd tracks to work on that I really thought deserved to be on the album.
Listening back to them as a whole can you sense an evolution from the earlier tracks to the more recent ones? What were some of the last songs to be completed?
There’s a few tracks on there that I made about 2-3 years ago like “Airlock” and “Spark Plug.” “Real” was something I had been working on for about four years but just couldn’t get it right. I was gonna do it as an instrumental but I felt it needed something, something else I couldn’t bloody find but after hooking up with WiDEAWAKE and programming a trap and drum and bass arrangement on the track it just took the right vocal to make it all come together. “The Ride” featuring Carasel was the very last track to be added to the album and people really seem to be feeling that one as well which is a good last minute addition!
If you have a vision, only YOU know how to execute that vision for it to become a reality.
The album seems to work as both a collection of bangers but also as a concept album. What’s the concept behind the album in your eyes and how do you see that working itself in the cover art?
It starts with me being a DJ and the way I play music when I’m out. It’s a mixture of styles and energies, the same with a crowd at a venue. “War On Silence” could stand for a couple things; in this case it’s trying to break the mold of having a specific sound for an album. The tale behind the artwork is simple, me and my army of characters, known to many in the scene, take over the city and break the ‘silence’ or ‘force fed style of music’ with a variety of tracks. The whole album is a mixture of different styles, jungle, liquid, neuro, jump up and more. If a listener was only a fan of one of those styles, the goal is for me to make them see a bigger picture of D&B and hopefully open up another style to the listener and create a wider audience.
You’ve become a master at the collab process it seems. Any surprises coming out of those you worked with on the album project? Anyone you hadn’t worked with before or collabs you were hoping to make it onto the album but had to shelve until later?
There were a few collabs that were meant to be on the album that weren’t completed in time, but it won’t be long until you’ll be able to hear them I’m sure! It’s always a good session when I link up with Malux & Erb N Dub, them guys have some serious techniques and knowledge when it comes to really fucking around with sounds. Every session is always a real head spinner which is great. A lot of the other collabs came together online as everyone lives all over the place and has their own schedules so it’s always hard to physically get in the studio together. Me & Heist worked on ‘Rumble’ at his place whilst me and Upgrade smashed ‘Global Riddim’ out over WhatsApp pretty much. Me and FuntCase were firing stems back and forth over email, it’s pretty easy these days to collab with the right people.
The core of the album is still you grinding it out solo. It’s not only a testament to your vision but your work ethic as well. Give us a sense of how you were managing your time during the creation of the album.
This album took about 3-4 years to make mostly because of touring, other projects and just life in general. There is only so much someone can do in a week which can make your creative output very limited when it’s time to hit the studio. I found some times when I would get back in the studio after two weeks of touring, meetings and all the other stuff, and I would be relearning or trying to remember what I was trying to do with certain tracks. Things were getting frustrating and that’s when anxiety kicks in which can really make you feel terrible about your own music. I managed to get through it by just getting my head down in the studio every day and making a habit of finishing music which finally kinda paid off, I guess. [Laughs] I also moved studio about three times during the whole album project and towards the end I didn’t even have a studio, I had to keep using Erb N Dub’s studio to get things done.
Now that the album is out, I imagine there’s a sense of relief. Did you go out and celebrate or are you already back on the grind and off to the next thing?
Making the album and getting every little bit of promo ready is one thing; promoting it after it’s out is another. Thursday night I stayed up until the album came out and had a little drink to celebrate, it was a relief that it was finally out there.I would love a vacation right now but it’s not possible! I’m pretty much always on the grind, every day. Even if I was to take a vacation I’m always thinking about work or coming up with ideas and I end up wishing I was in the studio. For now, I’m going to continue focusing on the album as long as possible. It’s kind of a whole year project in my eyes. I want to start thinking about a remix project for the album and just getting it out there even more. I already have ideas for another album but who knows when that would come together! There will be a bunch of singles to come at some point and a few other projects up my sleeve that will arise very soon. For more details on that you’ve just gotta keep an eye on my social media!