Keysound’s Certified Connections: the producers speak

We speak to 14 of London's finest about what inspires their music
By    November 24, 2014


Son Raw’s got level 3 badman certification

By now it should be pretty obvious that I rate Keysound Recordings’ mostly dark, mostly 130 BPM flex. The label has emerged from Dubstep’s ashes as one of the most creative imprints in the UK and their full length releases by Logos, Wen, and LV, along with countless 12” singles have elevated their music to buy-on-site status. So instead of gushing about how Certified Connections, their latest compilation, is even better than their previous efforts, I decided to go straight to the source and ask the producers involved about a “connection” – an inspiration, musical or not, that linked their track on the release to the wider world. In response, I got 14 stories, 14 connections, and a great look at some of the UK’s finest’s creative processes.

Well, scratch that, we got 13 connections and 1 killer essay/history from Blackdown, which we decided was too good to cut.

Logos – Metropolis

This is me listening to Doc Scott reaching the omega point on ‘Swarm’ and wanting to re-create that in the shadow of Cold Mission – that was the aim.

Parris – Pressure

I start everything I make with an empty palette and pretty much have no concept of where a beat is going to go until I actually lay down either an initial set of drums or sounds. Even when I choose a BPM, it’s never in the same place, it’s normally different for every tune I make. Pressure pretty much started the same way and was one of the rare lucky ones which actually ever see an ending. I guess its main inspiration is soundsystem culture.

The main focus for me on this tune was the bassline, which is why it was so powerful and strong in the mix. It was what I wanted the focus on, and I managed to make the middy sound by messing with some squares. Past that, I find it hard to make short tunes which is why it’s something like 6/7 minutes long. I would probably say the people around me musically inspired me to make this but I normally just think its too weird and don’t send it out to anyone. Made it a day before the first Emerald City [club night].

Dusk + Blackdown – Wot Do You Mean?! (dub)

The sample here in “Wot Do You Mean?!” is a nod to Wiley’s “Wot Do You Call it?”, with all the wider context that goes with that track and it’s legacy, i.e. the urge to mutate a given scene’s DNA to create a sense of shock – and of how addictive that “What the…?!” feeling can be, to both a producer and a music fan.

But really the sample in “Wot” is from arguably the biggest personality to emerge from grime in recent years, Big Narstie. There’s something so inclusive, so human, so positive about Big Narstie’s laughing fits that make me unconditionally happy when I watch them. I suspect it touches many other people too.

Now admittedly our track isn’t upbeat or overtly happy, but all this made me want to sample him a lot. And the “Wot Do you Call It” urge still haunts me, so Dusk and I tried to build a groove only using nuts zaps and very sparse percussion. An un-groove, if you like. A minimal-viable-product groove. This whole 130 thing came out of UK funky’s wake, in part, and this track feels like the spacial negative of UK funky, as if you made a track out of only the spaces left between the snares of funky this is what you might get.

Read Blackdown’s full Certified Connections piece here – you really should.

Aphix – Sin King

The whole ‘UK Funky’ era was a hugely influential time for me, and ‘IRL’ by Girl Unit, a stand-out track from those years, had a particularly potent effect. It introduced me to the idea that the right mid-synth, in the right place, could be as powerful in the club as any bassline. This is an idea that was reaffirmed for me during Untold’s set in the Moat at Dimensions Festival 2012. Tracks from his ‘Change in a Dynamic Environment’ EPs filled the arena with frequencies that surrounded and engulfed you. ‘Sin King’ revolves around a swirling pad that is present throughout, with a similar desired effect.

Caski – Tunnel Music

Tunnel Music, for me personally, it’s just a salute to the dark garage heads that preceded the Dubstep era.

Etch – Champion Dancehall

Oddly enough the first thing that sprang to mind when I sat down to make this tune was “alright let’s do a Keysound tune” as at the time I had been getting quite experimental doing half time 160 and 90bpm track. This was a point where I was like “for the team”, I made garage indebted tunes for a long time before returning to the real reason I got into production (an undying love of breaks and deep inspiration gained from Jungle, Hardcore & DnB, which had surrounded me my whole life), so this was I guess a shot back to there.

Obvious musical references include the Ghost 2-step sound, Sovereign, Steve Gurley, Ray Hurley, Mike Millrain (particularly his Urban Myths alias) and then the more jungle/hardcore atmospherics of A Guy Called Gerald, Source Direct, Koda, Future Sounds Of London & so on. It’s also notable to say that the bassline was a complete accidental live jam using sliders and knobs on my MIDI controller linked to LFO and waveshaping parameters on Waldorf Largo, for the first time ever my bass came before the beats.

Wen – It’s Alot

Kode9 dropped Burial – “South London Boroughs” at DMZ in March just after my EP came out. I found the swaying bassline and 2Step swagger really infectious on a big sound system, that inspiration combined with the wave of emotion and opportunity that came in the following months of my first record led to this track. Its a snapshot of drive and elation.

Balistiq Beats ft. Riko – Rise The Machine (Yardman Riddim, Sully remix)

Riko’s vocal has some pretty heavy lyrics but in this context I think I’ve brought out the tongue in cheek side, he’s talking murder but it’s just for the dance. And that’s the spirit of the whole remix for me; it’s a bit ruff but mostly it’s a jump up tune for big 18” scoops, a celebration of getting together and playing tracks at silly levels because we can.

Murlo – Broken Arrow

I wrote this tune at the end of last year with it in mind for a more extensive release with Keysound. In the space of 2 weeks, I wrote about 8 tunes, this was my favourite out the bunch. I think it was the first time I felt confident to start making music that wasn’t anchored to a club environment. I remember listening to a lot of film scores at the time, I reckon I owe the string influences to that. I listen to alot of Isaac Hayes and I think I was re-watching Jodorowsky films over those weeks. It sounds kind of cheesy but the only thing I aimed to achieve with the tune was to make it paint a picture like OSTs do.

DLVRY – Guilt

When I was kicking off with ideas for the track that became ‘Guilt’ I’d been listening to a load of 20th century classical music, especially György Ligeti. Something about the “clouds” he created with the voices got me drenching stuff in reverb. I tried to translate the tense nature of his writing into what I was creating.

E.m.m.a. – Light Years

The broad, abstract theme of this track is looking outwards as opposed to inwards, tying in with our place in the universe which I don’t think it hurts to remember once in a while. In terms of the structure of the track, I suppose it’s representative of the kind of music I like to listen to, it has a mood which you can’t quite work out.

Facta – Quince

All I was listening to at the time of writing this was early Blue Note recordings stuff. All those Milt Jackson, Burrell and Monk records were recorded at about 4 in the morning in an attempt to replicate the feel of late night jazz clubs, and as a result have this incredible smoked out, sprawling vibe to them. I think that jazz and Dubstep have a surprising amount in common in that respect – underground, outsider club music. Moody, but full of rhythmic experimentation and swing.

Epoch – Aerospace

I was watching a bunch of stuff on Youtube about early nuclear weapons testing and the different stages of the explosion. That space after the initial flash and before the shockwave, and seeing the mushroom cloud appear in the distance. I guess it reminded me a bit of the Christchurch earthquakes in a way – being able to hear them coming before they arrived.

In more practical terms, I hate tunes that are all technical prowess and no vibes, and basically wanted to write something that sounded like shit. I was listening to a lot of old Metalheadz at the time aswell which I think informed the aesthetic, especially the intro to Photek’s tune, Consciousness.

Luke Benjamin – Asha

Inspired by my time spent travelling around India. I was with someone close to me at the time,when we arrived in Varkala and witnessed first hand the poverty there.

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