Today I’m launching a new mix/interview series called ‘Selections’ to coincide with the advent of Bassweight Society’s first official logo and the next chapter for the in the blog’s history. For the remainder of 2014 I will be featuring at least one artist within the borders of the USA per month, and have accordingly deemed the forthcoming subset of the ‘Selections’ series ‘[Stateside] Selections’. My aim with this is to build a strong foundation within the roots of my home turf, as analysis of the blog’s current demographic is significantly skewed towards audiences across the ponds. I have ZERO complaints about this whatsoever as I find the fact that people from all over the world are connecting on a similar platform amazing. However, there are two main thoughts behind this decision: There are too many great artists in the US not getting the recognition they deserve; I would like to forge a connection with the scenes immediately surrounding me for both personal and pragmatic reasons alike. So, here’s to the next bit of BWS’s evolution…
The inaugural feature comes from the Dirty South don, Deafblind. While hailing from the UK, he is currently residing in one of the most chopped and screwed parts of the USA – Austin, TX; home of Janis Joplin and Donks. Rich is faced with the tough task of pushing digital craft out of an area most notably associated with proper live bands. He has seemingly found the right channels to plug as the uninterrupted growth of his back catalog since 2012 has registered imprints like Bacon Dubs, Soulstep, Gradient Audio, Sub Pressure, and most recently, Foundation Audio. Following the drop of his ‘Substitution’ EP, Rich was generous enough to spare some time to answer a few questions and build a mix for your listening pleasures. Have a glance below for some insight into the mind of Deafblind…while listening to this f*cking SICK mix!
Big up Rich, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer some questions for the readers.
Easy man, no stress, cheers for asking.
I guess for anybody that is not aware of your sound, can you give us a few words about who you are and what you do with regard to the underground bass scene?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I guess you could call me an extremely enthusiastic amateur. I’d classify myself primarily as a producer and engineer, but I’ve recently gone back to DJ’ing either for radio, or for the occasional live event. When I say “gone back” I used to bedroom DJ back in college on my mate’s turntables, but never really took it beyond there.
In terms of my sound, I’m trying to carve out a little niche that’s a unique fingerprint, I dunno if I’ve got there yet, as with all things each tune I write seems to be pretty mutable from the previous examples because I’m always trying different things.
In terms of who I am in the underground bass-music scene, I’d say I’m pretty much a newcomer as an artist and a DJ, but I’m hoping to expand that name recognition a little more this year if possible…without being a total whore of course and letting the music do the talking.
What’s your view on the importance of understanding basic music theory prior to experimenting with production?
Good question. I’d say that formal understanding of music theory can both be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it helps if you know the rules of producing a piece of music, or, knowing how to progress a piece through a specific chord sequence etc, but on the other hand, those rules can also be a limiting factor to my mind because if you’re not careful, you’ll never go off the beaten path and try something new.
In my experience, a lot of the interesting music out there breaks a lot of composition, arrangement, instrumentation rules so I guess your mileage may vary, but at least some of the basics is a must in my opinion.
Do you feel there needs to be some prior degree of understanding, or that learning as you go is just as viable an option?
Learning as you go is a great option, I think being inquisitive can teach you a lot, plus honestly those happy mistakes you make while you’re learning opens a lot of doors creatively. I found that whilst experimenting, and finding a particular chord structure or whatever, I was always asking “why does it sound like that, and why do I like it?” and from there I discovered, I really like writing things in D Minor for example. Did I know what D Minor was? No, but I learned to recognise things and build that innate knowledge from there. I grew that inquisition into more formal musical knowledge.
You seem to be quite the informed audiophile. Does your musical knowledge and experience have a root in formal (classroom) or self-taught platforms?
I’m a total geek, I work in a very technical field, my father was a gifted engineer and a very smart man, so I’ve always dabbled in technical stuff. It’s not enough for me to know what an end-result should be like, I have to know how I got there. I’ve never had much formal training in music production, short of a short stint doing some piano lessons in my adult years, but pretty much everything else has been self-taught.
Talking with other engineers and producers has also given me lots of little tidbits of useful information that I have integrated into my workflow over time, and mutated them to fit the way I like to work. And that process is always evolving.
From memory of your past interviews, you progressed from drum and bass to dubstep like many other bass enthusiasts on the cusp of that early 2000’s movement. Pushing further back, what were some of the first sounds that hooked you into electronic music?
The 80’s band “The Art Of Noise” were the main reason I started listened to purely electronically derived music, I’d never heard music produced by sampling real world sounds, and reusing them in a musical context. Stupid things like samples of horses running at a derby and it being turned into a rhythm track, or people shutting doors etc. From there it was pretty much bands like “808 State” or laughably early “Shamen”, notably the “En-Tact” album.
My dad also loved Stevie Wonder, Yes, Phil Collins etc, so the sound of synthesisers and effects integrated into music was there as a pretty early influence.
What would you say THE most instrumental, if any, album/single/artist/show in your decision to pursue music production was?
Impossible to say with accuracy, like The Art Of Noise – “In No Sense, Nonsense” or The Orb – “Blue Room”. The original extended 74 minute album was just…mindblowing. That taught me how to paint a picture with music and take people on a journey in their head. Of course, I didn’t have anything like the level of equipment required for these kinds of production, but it was an inspirational source.
In addition to music and career aspects of life, you’re also a father. That’s a big plate! How is the workflow dynamic in your writing affected by such a demanding, and equally rewarding I imagine, responsibility?
When my daughter arrived, I took a pretty long hiatus from production. Her arrival also coincided with me getting pretty sick and tired of the cliquey drum and bass scene. So it was a good opportunity to focus on being a dad. And frankly, I was so incredibly tired the thought of working on music was just the furthest thing from my mind.
Now, I take great joy in it, because when she was just 1 year old, she’d love to bang away on my Yamaha digital piano and it was something we shared together, which has remained as she’s grown up. She’s actually progressed to learning violin and things like that so I am hoping that the enriching aspects of making music continue to rub off on her.
Does your daughter have a large impact on the ethos of your music? Have you recognized patterns in your music that parallel with the different stages of her development?
Definitely. I have quite a few ambient tracks I’ve written that have samples of her in there at various ages, I am compiling them into a little album to give to her when she’s older. Needless to say, they are very personal expressions of my love for her and how she has enriched my life beyond measure. She’s also named a few of my tracks for me, I keep a notepad with silly things she says sometimes and they align with amusing regularity.
You’re currently located in Austin, Texas, but spent the first half of your life in the UK, yeah? Have you noticed any recurring themes within the ebb and flow of electronic music’s popularity or scene politics, across both stateside and UK demographics?
Yup, well, I was born in the UK, I spent a large amount of my formative years living in South Africa and then moved back in my mid-teens. So, I’m kinda from there, but also not.
To answer the politics question, and to do so delicately is going to be really difficult, so I’m just going to plough in. Let’s just put it like this, the UK scene has always been a hotbed of innovation in a lot of different musical genre’s, particularly anything dance related.
Now, I feel like I can say this, because I am British, and I did feel similarly at one point. But, as a result of being the early innovators they have always eyed people writing music in a particular genre from a different country to be secondary in terms of quality, or innovation. Which is ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT. So, for people making a traditionally UK based sound like dubstep and doing it from somewhere other than the UK, they almost have to climb this enormous mountain before they get taken seriously.
Now from a US perspective, things like bro-step didn’t help, it was emblematic of the US scene for a while, and personally I am REALLY happy that it’s passed. With all that being said, there are a number of really positive moves I am seeing in the trans-Atlantic scene, US artists getting signed to UK labels, frequent tours by key UK based talent etc.
I’d argue both markets have their issues, but the one key thing that the US does well, is when it gets behind something it’s an absolute juggernaut and the opportunities are really there for people to experiment, perform and build a homeland fanbase, which oftentimes will translate to other markets.
How is the scene in Austin been lately? Any recent shows from the Mad Classy crew that stand out as notable?
Austin really has upped its game, I think the effect of having organisations like Gritsy in Houston bringing in the big-guns of the UK dubstep scene has given the state in general a real shot in the arm. As a result, people tend to roll through the state and Austin generally gets a visit, we’ve had Truth, Mala, Distance, Yunx in Austin, Demon, Biome etc roll through Houston.
I know that SXSW last year was really a turning point for bass-music culture in the city though, I was fortunate enough to get to the Submission showcase with Mad Classy at Barcelona and it was ABSOLUTELY HEAVING! Most times I hit Mad Classy on Sunday’s and there’s a solid crowd there that are up for it…and it’s a Sunday. Nutters.
We have Mala and Coki rolling through, and Yunx as well, the Mad Classy guys are definitely going at it hard this year.
2013 was a solid year of releases for you, signing with Sub Pressure, Soulstep, Redshift One, and Gradient Audio. 2014 is kicking off nicely with your EP on Foundation Audio, ‘Substitution’. Can you tell us a little about that release? Any particular theme the listeners should pay a close ear to?
Yeah, I’m happy with every single tune on that release, usually there’s one or two that you’re not SO sure about, but I can honestly say each of them I still like, which is rare.
“Substitution” is probably one of the more aggressive things people will have heard from me, it’s just a good raucous stomper.
“Giedi” I’ve been told has a Commodo vibe to it, which is a high compliment, not sure if it’s fully deserving, but it’s one of those weird tunes I started in a different genre and it slowly morphed into what it is now. I still like the sloppy clap/snare/rimshot “snare” in this one.
“Untitled Forever” was another accidental thing that just happened, I was messing about building synths one afternoon and it magically shot a tune out the other end. It’s magical when that happens, and I think because it was so off-the-cuff it feels pretty loose in terms of instrumentation but still rock solid and metronomic on the percussion and weighty.
They were all written over a 2 month period when I was pretty angry at a number of things I guess, I’ll leave it up to the listener to work out where I started angry and where I calmed down *grin*.
Any information you’d like to convey to the readers, or shoutouts you’d like to give?
In terms of information, I’ve got quite a few interesting collaborations and solo projects in the works this year, but I am taking a new tack and working on a single tune a month and making sure it’s absolutely the best piece of work I can manage. In retrospect I spent too much time in 2013 working on 3 to 4 tunes at a time and it was both exhausting, and really unfocusing, so I promised myself to slow down and really push the quality levels this year.
As a result, you’re probably going to be seeing less activity on things like Soundcloud, but rest assured, I am still making music. It may not always be bass music, but it’ll be ready to show when its ready
Finally, HUGE shouts definitely to everyone who has supported my music through 2013, shouts to the DJ’s and producers and anyone who’s pinged me on Facebook or Soundcloud or Twitter. Shouts to my missus for putting up with 16 bar patterns repeating endlessly for days on end while I try and get tunes wrangled. Shouts to my label brothers at Bacon Dubs, Vulcan Audio, Sub Pressure, Soul Step etc.
Thanks for stopping through everyone, I hope you enjoyed the read and mix. Make sure you give Rich some love! I’ll catch you soon.