"I just build beats in my room. Nothing has changed."

Interview: Guido

Photo by Rory Mizen

Bristol’s Guy Middleton, more commonly known as Guido, should need no introduction. Swapping tunes and tapes in Bristol since the mid-2000s, his music finally made the jump outside of Bristol city limits with the release of his “Orchestral Lab” single on fellow Bristolian Peverelist’s Punch Drunk label, a single that took the bass music world by storm. Guido’s unforgettable melodies, expressed through vivid palettes of strings and other instruments, were a remarkable twist in a scene so focused on percussion and rhythm. His melodic infusions, among many other things, owe much to the catchier side of early grime music, and he’s often lumped in with a number of other Bristol producers who channel the same influences into different sounds, sometimes known as the “Purple Wow” collective. The Purple Wow sound is perhaps less prominent than it was in 2009, in no small part due to the massive success of Joker and the sudden silence from Gemmy, but Middleton himself sees logic in the comparisons and associations: “I’ve known them for a long time, we’ve all been influenced by the same sounds and swapped beats from early on. We’ve all got roots in the Bristol grime scene.” For him, it’s a community-minded thing — referring to Joker, he says “he’ll always be a part of the grime scene.”

“If I wasn’t from Bristol, I guess my music wouldn’t be the same. People are always influenced by their surroundings no matter where they’re from.”

The city itself has become somewhat of a buzzword — it’s the first word in this article, after all — for its flourishing music scene home to a number of different styles and trends, and a thriving bass music community driving some of the most forward-thinking music doing the rounds. While it’s easy to make convenient geographical associations, it’s more than just editorial laziness or coincidence, as Middleton makes clear: “If I wasn’t from Bristol, I guess my music wouldn’t be the same. People are always influenced by their surroundings no matter where they’re from.” Indeed, Guido’s first release came mostly as a result of Bristol’s musical fertility, explaining it as “I was selling my mixtapes through the record shop Tom [Peverelist] works at, Rooted Records, so I know him from back then. Tom was into the music and we made the decision to put out a single on Punch Drunk.” A year later and he’s dropping one of the best albums of the year.

“It’s my soundtrack to a futuristic otherworldly refuge.”

The LP, titled Anidea, is a stunningly confident statement, an album that sums up the essence of Guido and the Purple Wow sound while building on that same blueprint, exhibiting a slightly more mature, stripped-down sound than his earlier tracks — along with the requisite grimy bangers and the already infamous “Mad Sax.” Even the album’s title is striking, sounding like some exotic far-off locale, but the real story is more interesting: “It’s the words An Idea put together, pronounced ‘an-nid-e-er.”” The painted cover art is like primitive sci-fi, futuristic but dreamlike, fitting what Middleton calls “my soundtrack to a futuristic otherworldly refuge.” The album is a “mixture of old and new,” reflecting the amount of time spent conceiving Anidea — “I’ve been working at this for a while. It takes time.” Far from being forced, the idea of making an album “just made sense and came together naturally. I chose the order, it’s what makes sense to me.” Considering Anidea is his debut LP, the sequencing is impressive and displays a keen grasp of cohesion and the dynamics of tension and release.

The inclusion of previously-released tracks on albums is a bit of a sore point for some, often seen as a sign of stagnation or resting on laurels, but for others it’s just giving great tracks their dues, and Guido falls firmly in the latter camp: “Beautiful Complication and Orchestral Lab just made sense.” One of the biggest talking points surrounding the album is the flip to his first single, “Way U Make Me Feel,” newly updated with a vocal from Bristol diva Yolanda (who featured on Pinch’s ubiquitous “Get Up” in 2008). What may have been blasphemous to some came natural to Middleton, ever the sensible, logical individual: “I always heard a vocal on that track. It took a while to find the right singer. It has always been a favourite track of mine which is why I wanted to release it on my debut 12” single. It stands up on its own as an instrumental, but Yolanda smashed it with her vocal cut. She’s an amazing singer.”

“I just built beats in my room. Nothing has changed.”

The music of Guido, rooted in grime as it is, is most commonly described as dubstep. Given that his ‘Purple’ contemporaries are some of the bigger names in dubstep and that most of his music falls somewhere around the universal dubstep tempo of 140 beats per minute, this doesn’t seem far-fetched. Placed in this sometimes-narrow template though, Guido’s music has larger implications with his penchant for live-sounding instruments and catchy melodies. The man himself insists he’s not concerned with such trifling matters: “I’m just happy people like my tunes. I don’t get caught up in genres.” When questioned about dubstep specifically, he gets a little more defensive: “I have never once said I make dubstep. Dubstep is just what is happening at the moment. In Bristol, that doesn’t mean a certain sound, it’s just producers doing their own thing and people are open to that.”

Even as his reputation swells larger and larger and his work gets more recognition, Guido remains grounded and humble. When asked about the increased attention and whether or not it has affected his work, he stubbornly replies “I just built beats in my room. Nothing has changed.” Part of the increased attention means more gigs, “lots of DJ bookings in the pipeline,” but he remains tight-lipped about his plans. “That’s all for the future,” he says. Indicating that releasing on another label is “of course” a possibility, he reiterates, “but that’s all for the future.”