Following on from the FatKidOnFire Presents feature with the DJ Distance, the next interview and guest mix in the series is with Sleeper, another Chestplate artist. But this FKOF Presents feature sees one of (if not the first!) the first ever FatKidOnFire techno mixes…
The end of 2013 saw Alex join forces with District for the Resurrection EP on Distance’s imprint. However, the first release of 2014 sees a techno EP from the producer, the latest in a number of such releases, on Osiris Music – a label once known for homing some of the best and most important dubstep artists.
Is this another example of a dubstep producer packing up and moving on – or is Sleeper merely flexing his production muscles, taking his sound design expertise to other genres while staying firmly rooted in the dubstep sound?
This is FatKidOnFire Presents #8 – Sleeper…
Easy Alex, how you doing man? Yeah really good thanks, just taking it easy today after about 8 hours of cooking yesterday!
You’re fresh from the Chestplate residency at Fabric, how did that on go down? Ahh it’s always good at Fabric. We’ve been doing it there a while now so I’m beginning to remember more and more of the regular faces who turn up every time; everyone is so nice. I got to test out a lot of the new dubstep bits I finished recently and actually liked how they sounded!
I had to get off early this time but it was rammed to the back when I left.
You had a pretty decent year last year, are there any particular highlights? Any low points? Yeah I had a great year last year, mostly in the studio trying out new ideas. I think the best thing about last year for me was the amount of music I finally got round to releasing.
Getting Kryptic Minds in the studio for our collaboration release was wicked too, we had been talking about a very similar sound for a while so was great to finally get that down. Other highlights would be all the shows I played and all the people I met along the way!
Your first release of the year sees you rejoin the Osiris music imprint with a techno release. Is 140 techno your sole focus at the moment? No not really, I’ve been making a few different things recently. I try and split my time in the studio between my dubstep stuff, my new techno project (which is under a different alias) and things like this EP, which I see as being somewhere in between the two.
I might spend a week or so making sounds and then the next week turning them into techno tracks, then the next week I might re-sample the sounds for a minimal twisted bass kind of thing. I find if I keep it fresh like that in the studio I never get bored doing the same thing over and over. I think I’m going to be focusing on some new bass design over the next few weeks though.
Given your roots are in techno and house, then jungle into dubstep, can we expect any other genres from you in the future? Other than dubstep and techno I’m not really sure. I used to make drum and bass and every now and then I get a little urge to roll something out at 170 but right now I’m pretty focused on the sounds I’ve got in my head…
There seems to be quite a few producers (and labels) shifting their attention away from the genre at the moment. Why do you think that is? I think it’s a completely natural thing for people to move from one thing to another after a while – that’s how dubstep would have started in the first place, people looking for something new.
Do you think the way producers have gone from dubstep into techno, disco, house etc has had any influence on dubstep itself? Yes and no. I think from the outside looking in, it has had an influence. Like the way dubstep is portrayed sometimes in the media. An example would be when the whole ‘dubstep is dead’ thing started around about the same time as the Skream interview where he talks about what he plays now and why. Things like that can get really twisted and give the music a bad name but I think at the ground level, in the producers studios, on the dance floors at DMZ/ System/ Contact/ Fabric etc, that shit doesn’t matter to anyone. Everyone’s just enjoying the music they like too much to care.
In your Hedmuk interview a while back you said you hadn’t thought the deeper side had peaked yet. Has this opinion changed at all since then? No not at all, if anything it feels backed up even more from some of the new sounds that have emerged since then. At the moment it feels a bit like how dubstep felt when it was interesting at the start. Back then there were lots of fresh directions in the sound and I think that’s starting to happen again now.
For a little while, it seemed like there was just two basic sounds: the noisy, tear out stuff and the kind of sound people call ‘proper’ dubstep. But right now it feels like the ‘proper’ sound is getting broader again. There are new artists and labels pushing all sorts of sounds again and some of it sounds really fresh and as long as everyone keeps building it can only get stronger really.
In his FKOF interview, Chestplate founder Distance said “there are only a few producers keeping this scene alive”. Do you agree? If so, in your opinion who are these producers? I guess it depends what you mean by keeping it alive. There’s all the DJs still playing the deeper stuff on Rinse – Youngsta, VIVEK, Icicle, J:Kenzo etc – plus guys like Joe Nice and BunZer0 doing their radio shows and Distance and the Chestplate podcast etc. These are the guys who push the sound to people all over the world so you could say there is just a handful, but there are also all the producers making the beats these guys are playing – so I think there’s a lot of people doing their bit to keep things moving.
I think a lot of credit is due to other people in the scene too, like the promoters and the bloggers. I’ve met so many promoters over the last few years who work so hard to bring the music they love to their towns and cities and without them the scene would struggle. The blogs and websites also play a pretty big part in keeping things alive; they all seem to be relentlessly pushing new music, mixes, artists etc. I can’t keep up with it all!
OSMUK036EP. What can you tell us about the release? This release was a really interesting one for me personally. It started off when I got into FM Synthesis last year, after getting Ableton Live 9 and messing around with its built in FM Synth Operator. I found frequency modulation really fascinating and just wanted to crack on with building a library of sounds, samples and pre-sets.
I wanted to try something different that was going to be a bit of a challenge. I’d been reading a lot about limitations in various art forms and how creativity can come from limiting yourself to using just one or a few tools so I wanted to try something similar and limit myself to one synth for all my sounds. I had always previously sampled my drum sounds so it was great to finally get my head around programming drums and percussion grooves from nothing.
Musically, I wanted to try something different too. In the past I’ve always had an idea in my head for the type of sounds I want to use in a track, how the break is going to roll or the bass sound has to move in a certain way etc. But I think in a way that approach is quite limiting so for this EP I did the exact opposite and decided on the type of sounds I did not want to use, which I think let me be a lot more open to the sounds I would use and helped to bring out a completely different sound to what I would normally do.
Groove was another thing I wanted to focus on for this release. I’ve always loved the grooves in techno so I wanted to try and bring a bit of that to 140.
The OSMUK release is both vinyl and digital, but we’ve heard rumblings that one of the big UK vinyl distros has pulled the plug on vinyl P&D. Do you think this is going to have any impact on who and what’s released in the future? Yeah it probably will have an impact in lots of different ways. In one way, it could make label owners be a bit more selective about what they release on a physical format. In another way, it could give artists an opportunity to release more music more often. Digital releases are a lot quicker to turn around and move on to the next, which means there’s a constant flow of new music available to everyone.
Changes in how music is made and distributed are inevitable, especially with how fast technology moves now – but it’s a minor thing if you ask me. Music will continue to be made, copied, burnt, cut onto various formats, played on systems in clubs for people to dance to. Whatever format its played on isn’t important on the grand scale…
You released your own techno EP last year, is self releasing something you’re going to be doing more of? Will we ever see a record label from you? Yeah I’ve always liked the idea of putting out my own music. The techno release last year on Bandcamp was just an experiment really. I’d built up loads of stuff so I just picked ten of them and put them online to see what would happen. I’ve been thinking of doing it again but I’m not sure yet. A proper label is something I would prefer to do but at the moment all my focus is on writing music so releasing more stuff myself is something I’ll probably start thinking about later this year.
Your last Chestplate release you and District, are the two of you still producing together? Not so much these days, it’s getting harder and harder to find the time to get a session together. We both have other commitments plus I’ve also recently moved out of the area we were both in before.
What can we expect from you in the next few months? Any dubstep releases planned? I’ll probably be fairly quite for the next few months to be honest, I’ve been looking to get straight back into more sound design as soon as possible really. I’ve just finished loads of new stuff so I need some new sounds again, I’ve got lots of ideas so I’m looking forward to it!
As for dubstep releases, I’ll have to see what I’m still feeling from all the new stuff, I might hate it all next week. I’m sure something will surface on Chestplate soon though!
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together? I think it was originally going to be a little ten minute minimix with all the tracks from the release but I thought why not throw a proper mix together and give people more of an idea of the direction of the EP.
So the first half of the mix is pretty much all seven tracks with a couple of other bits, one from my techno project and one from Monic. Then the second half is more me just messing around on Ableton with my midi stuff and some of the straight up techno tracks I’ve been making. There’s quite a few different loops in there too from forthcoming Osiris releases, stuff from Monic, Oscar Mulero etc plus a couple of drum machines and effects.
Last but not least, any final words – or shoutouts? Yeah always! Have to say thanks to everyone behind the scenes who have given me the opportunity to release music, Distance & Chestplate, Si at Osiris, J:Kenzo & Mosaix at Artikal. Also Darkside, Caspa & Ant TC1 for the Get Darker/ Dubstep Sessions/ Dispatch compilation releases recently.
Also a big thanks to all the promoters who have given me the chance to bring my sound to their towns and cities, the websites and blogs who help push the scene forward and of course everyone who buys the music and comes to the shows.
Also big shout to Mr. Boat Noodles for helping me sort the artwork out for the EP!
While Sleeper’s OSMUK036 sees the producer continue his exploration of what Trusik are calling “techno by way of sound-system culture”, it’s great to hear that Alex – one of the most exciting and original dubstep producers out there – is also sticking with the sound that first brought him to our attention.
And if last weekend’s Fabric crowd is anything to go by, dubstep/ 140 bass music/ whatever you want to call it is healthier than ever. Long may that continue! Now we just need to cross fingers and toes and hope Osiris will keep releasing dubstep – and that we’ll see the release of Zombies VIP one day!
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