Drum-n-bass producer and member of Autonomic crew sits down with us for an extensive interview about his past and new album

Interview: ASC

The Present Is Certain

You’ve recently joined the Autonomic crew with Instra:mental, dBridge, et al. How did you meet them and what drove you to join forces as it were?

I’d been speaking with Damon from Instra:mental for a while. We used to swap tunes with each other, and we were both into similar music outside of drum & bass, so we were on similar wavelengths. He began to show more interest in my recent productions and he and Al began playing my stuff in their sets late 2008 / early 2009. They encouraged me to keep sending beats and I came up with a bunch of stuff, which included “Porcelain.” This led them and a bunch of other high profile labels to start enquiring about it — they made me an offer, and I felt NonPlus+ was the right label to be with for the kind of music I was writing, and here we are.

Just as much has been said about dnb itself, much has been said about NonPlus+ and its associated producers as ‘saving’ dnb or driving it in a different direction. How do you feel about this?

Yes. NonPlus+ is definitely my home, although I am starting a new label very soon. Al and Damon offered me the chance to work more exclusively with them and build something from the start. This was appealing to me and I was excited at the plans they had for the label.

Did you feel any specific pressure or expectation knowing that Nothing Is Certain would be the first LP on the label?

No. In fact, I was very pleased my LP would be first and privileged to drop the first artist album on NonPlus+.

How long was the LP in the works?

I started it about April 2009, and it was finished roughly around about December 2009, so about nine months or so in total.

What about the title, Nothing Is Certain?

It actually came from an AIM conversation with Damon, which went something like:

Damon: nothing is certain yet
Me: ‘nothing is certain’  good lp title
Me: kinda like that
Damon: yea that is – ASC – Nothing is certain
Damon: hmm… has a ring to it
Me: yeah i think that might work you know
Damon: yea i quite like that

And that was that; the LP title was decided.

This LP is a lot more varied than some of your past albums. There seems to be more of a penchant for experimenting with different tempos and sounds. What were some major influences on you while you were writing?

From the outset, we all agreed that the record should be a collage of different sounds, tempos and ideas. I’ve always liked the way Future Sound Of London made their tracks interesting and the general way their earlier LPs flowed, so that’s always been an influence of mine when it comes to sitting down and thinking about the first steps for an album.

There seems to be a lot more techno and even dubstep-influenced sounds on this record — do you agree with this or is it mostly just people reading too much into things?

I don’t know about dubstep — perhaps with some of the grooves in the 170 stuff — but yes definitely techno, but mainly ambient influences I’d say.

On the technical side of things, it feels like this LP is much slower in mood and sound, even if the actual BPMs don’t really reflect this. What drove you in this more meditative direction and can you shed a little light on the actual tempo of most of the album? How much of is actually at sub-dnb tempos?

I guess that’s just the way some of the tracks are programmed. Even though the majority of the LP is at 170 (10 out of the 15 tracks – including the 12” sampler), it probably doesn’t seem that way, as a lot of the spacing of the percussion and drum kits doesn’t fall in the conventional way they would on what you’d call a standard drum & bass track. For anyone curious, here’s the BPMs for all the tracks:

01 – Midnight – 120
02 – Absent Mind – 170
03 – Fade Away Seasons – 170
04 – Lost For Words – 170
05 – The Depths – 170
06 – Textura – 98
07 – Losing You – 170
08 – The Ubiquity Incident – 170
09 – Yatta – 120
10 – Matter Of Time – 170
11 – Opus – 170
12 – Conversations – 130
13 – Microsia – 170

And the two tracks on the sampler:

1 – Phobos – 170
2 – Oort Cloud – 123

The LP feels very tightly sequenced; was there anything driving the sequencing, and was it a difficult album to sequence?

The sequence only fell into place at the last minute. I was over doing a tour in Europe in November 2009, and I was staying with Al when I played at Fabric in London. I went to his and Damon’s studio, we sat down and went through all the tracks so far, and started to come up with the running order of the first 3 or 4 tracks, which we stuck to and built around. So no, It wasn’t too difficult to sequence and get right once it was all decided on.

It seems to me like your LPs have always had a certain theme or concept running through them; perhaps Astral Traveller is the most transparent in this regard. How do you think Nothing Is Certain relates with and compares to your previous albums? Is there a concept?

Well I think it’s my best work to date by far, but there’s no concept to it. It was written as an album of styles that were made to be listened to altogether.

It seems like there’s more and more bleedthrough between genres, especially as the internet tears down physical and geographical barriers.. What do you think of the current interplay between dubstep and dnb and do you feel that influence seeping into your music at all? Would you consider any of your tracks ‘dubstep’ or plan to release any?

I don’t consider anything I’ve written for this LP or my ‘Autonomic’ releases so far as dubstep. That’s not to say I wouldn’t venture into that area again at some stage in the future.

Do you feel like the increasing popularity of dubstep has led to an increased (re)interest in dnb? I ask this as someone who approaches your music from a more dubstep-oriented place… do you get frustrated when you sometimes get lumped in/associated with ‘dubstep’ producers? Or is it just something you try not to think about?

I get the feeling that the majority of dubstep heads are people who got fed up with drum & bass and stopped following it. I see a lot of producers who didn’t make a name for themselves in drum & bass, now trying to do the same in dubstep, so I think the two scenes are inextricably linked. With that link there, I think both scenes are subconsciously influenced by each other whether people like to admit it or not.

I don’t see myself lumped in or associated with dubstep producers at all to be honest. Maybe I am, and this is the first time it’s been pointed out to me so it hasn’t crossed my mind until then? I dunno…

You’re married to Christine Clements, aka Vaccine, a producer who has been making waves in the blurred lines between dubstep and dnb for a while. How has she influenced your music?

She hasn’t influenced me as such, but we do share the same studio and have a good understanding of each other’s goals and production skills. We usually play our works-in-progress to each other for feedback and just to bounce ideas about, which works really well for us both.

There’s a few collaborations on the new LP — what about the collaboration process appeals to you? Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with that you haven’t been able to yet?

If I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of collaborating. I’m very stubborn about how I work and how things should sound, and that often makes me hard to work with in the studio by my own admission. I know what I like and how to achieve it, which is why I usually work alone. Having said that, working with Vaccine has always been great, as I taught her the ropes production wise, so she’s very much of a similar mindset on how to achieve what she wants in the studio, which makes things run smoother when we do collaborate.