The 10 Best Pieces Of Music Production & DJing Advice, according to High Contrast
So now that you’ve released a few records, what is it that will prompt you to start making a track? Is it something you hear when you’re out maybe?
Yeah. I mean it could be a lot of different things. I mean sometimes I’ll hear a bit of a tune and I’ll think, that’s really good. And then I’ll think I could do that, but with this. That sort of thing. A lot of my music is I think an amalgamation of music by other people. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe.
Taking bits from anywhere, stitching them together?
Yeah yeah, and a lot of times it will be not stuff that’s relevant to the song, the music I’m making. Like I might hear something in an old disco record, and then do that sort of thing but with a jungle tune. Just trying to take lots of different elements and make one, kind of, big thing.
Do you ever think it’s something personal that’s happened to you that prompt a tune? I mean I don’t know. I always wonder with producers nowadays whether that ever comes into it.
Yeah… I don’t know… I guess it does. I guess everything personal that happens to you is going to influence the music you make. I mean music is, you know, kind of a personal thing. I think a lot of people look at the vocal samples I use and assume that there’s something going on there. But it’s just like… I think it’s just more interesting to listen to something quite emotional. For me, anyway.
Yeah I was going to ask about your choices of vocal samples. You seem to use these simple, really emotionally to the point phrases. Like on the new record “I wish you were here”. How do you pick those out?
Umm… I spend a lot of time just like looking for accapellas, downloading acappellas, and then I go through them all and try and find little bits that will… that are to the point. And will work on their own out of the context of the original tune. Loads of my tunes you can see where the acapellas have come from. They’re really obvious tunes. But a lot of people don’t recognize where they’ve come from? Because, like, you’ve worked something so out of context.
That happy-sad line that exists in a lot of R&B, a lot of pop music. I guess that’s something you find interesting?
I got really into bassline when bassline started venturing down south. And I was really into the kind of… it’s really like, it’s the most kind of hyped sort of fun music, but it’s all got this sad depth to it that a lot of that kind of music doesn’t really have. I loved it. And I started doing that sort of thing. There’s a tune by Iron Soul called You Liar, which was a bassline tune that I was really into.
Yeah, because like, with a lot music of that type, you feel like they’ve taken the vocal and manipulated it so that there’s more emotion in it, as opposed to making it mechanic. By taking it out of context you have more emotion?
Yeah totally. They just always took the most concise part, or even just the part that didn’t really make any sense, and just like added a whole new meaning to it. So I try to do that. But mostly, it’s because I don’t have anyone to sing on my records. I mean I do like a lot instrumental music, I buy loads of it all the time. But I do think that a vocal on a track… Especially my tracks, where there’s not a lot else going on. So if you’ve got a vocal on there, instantly it’s something recognizable. Something that people can lock on. Or something I can lock on anyway. Whenever I’m listening to music, a good vocal always interests me.
People’s attention spans seem to be so short nowadays. You’re unusual in that you’ve been putting out records over quite a large period of time. How do you think you maintain people’s interest?
Hmm. I don’t know. I mean, I always try and not do the same record again. Even if it means people are going to be like oh I used to like his old stuff, but not anymore. I’d rather have that than keep making the same record. I think if you’re making music then the best thing you can do is cover as much ground as possible. You’ve got too. I mean it’s not about doing stuff just for the sake of it, but, I want to cover everything that I like. I want to make a record that does that.
Your new EP ‘Here’. The first track Wish U Were Here sounds massive. What kind of things were you listening to around making it?
I was listening to a lot of disco when I made that. A lot of disco, boogie, stuff like that. And yeah, I was just like I’m gonna have a go at making some disco. I was never even going to send it to anyone, but I ended up just sending it in an email to Jack along with a bunch of other tunes for consideration for the EP. And I just sent him that one as an after thought thinking oh he probably won’t like it, it’s just this disco thing. And then he replied saying yeah that’s the one. He wasn’t really interested in any of the tracks I meant to send. He just wanted this nine minute disco tune! Yeah, so I was surprised after that that people actually liked it. I didn’t think it was what people would want to hear.
Do you think that alongside the people you play with out, others on your label, that you’re part of a scene?
Well, I guess so. There comes a point where all the people that you used to listen to on the radio, you’re now meeting up with on the weekends or whatever. So I guess in that respect. But I’ve never made music as like a group. I’ve never like… I don’t know. I don’t really go out so much to many raves anymore. I do occasionally, but most of the time I’m playing at them. And then I don’t want to go on my day off to another rave. Unless it’s something really good! I don’t know. I guess there is a loose scene out there, and I guess I do feel I’m part of it in some way, but I wouldn’t want to be lumped in with anyone when it comes to making tunes. You’ve got to stand on your own merit really. If you get too tightly affiliated with one scene, then eventually when everyone gets bored of it, or it falls apart, you’ll go down with it. Just make the music you want to make.
Would you ever want to collaborate with anyone? In fact, didn’t you? As Hyper Black Bass?
Oh yeah, Hyper Black Bass, yeah. That was my friend who makes like Dancehall and Soca and stuff on a pair of gameboys. And I just put like acappellas on top, and like air horns and sirens and stuff. It’s kind of just like a joke party band that got going, and then we started getting some bookings. And rough trade asked us to do a record! Yeah, which we may do, we might not. But yeah, (laughs) it’s another of those things that started as a joke! And people take it seriously.
Ha. Sounds great. But back to the new record. It seems to have quite a strong ‘ravey’ feel to it. Is that influenced by you playing out to those kind of crowds?
Yeah I think so. I think whenever I make tunes I’ve always got raves in mind, even if I’m not going to them. Well, I’m going to them like every week, but you know, not as a punter. But yeah, my early experiences of raves I think are always going to be what I base my tunes on. I think it’s the time that a lot of things change for people, that time when you first start going to raves and first start taking ecstasy, and then… that, without overstating the role of drugs…
Well, it is something that’s part of it…
Yeah, definitely. I think all my records are ecstasy records.
So what are you up to at the moment? Anything else planned?
Yeah… I’ve kind of started work on an album. Basically I don’t want it to be just like a collection of tunes. I’m really wary about dance albums. Because, I couldn’t really name a good one. There are good ones, but they’re rarities. Umm. So I’ve just been working on it. Pretty much haven’t left the house for two weeks. I’ve kind of been waking up, doing it. And I’ve put all these records around the walls of albums that I want to somehow inspire the album. So I put up the Sade record, the Goldie record.
How is it shaping up?
Basically, it might have one or two, but I don’t think it’s going to have club bangers. I want it to be a bit more like a mixtape. None of the tracks longer than like two or three minutes, and like loads of little sketches and ideas rather than a bunch of full blown tracks one after the other. Just go all over the place a bit. Everything.
Sounds a bit like what I think of some grime mixtapes.
Yeah definitely. More of like a hip hop mixtape.
Yeah, would that be on Numbers as well?
Unless they hate it! (laughs) We’ll see.
So are you nearly done with it?
No… I don’t really know, because I’m trying to make a few new bits for it now. Don’t know. The idea is to do loads and loads of stuff I’ve done over the years as kind of like little snippets in there… So, I think it’s going to be a long time. It’s going to be a long time coming. But I’m just going to work, focus on it at the moment.
You said you wouldn’t really have bangers there…
I just think that no one listens to albums in clubs. If you’re listening to an album you’re either at home, or driving around or something. So I want to make something that’s more like… something you’d want to listen to in that situation. Lots of detail. My favourite albums are the ones that every time you listen to them, you hear something different. That way you don’t get bored of it. So I want it to be like that.
So you were saying with the last record that Disco was something new for you. Has anything else new recently come into play?
Yeah, a lot of ‘90s hardcore, jungle.
Upping the BPM?
Umm, I’m trying not to actually. Trying to keep the BPM down, but incorporate that kind of sound, of those like old rave tunes. Old rave sounds. Old rave breaks.
It always sounds really spontaneous.
Yeah, that really raw sound.
Will you still keep the R&B vocals?
Yeah yeah. Trying to anyway.