Words: Tom Lea
Part two of this feature can be found here.
For the past couple of years, each January we’ve rounded-up those emerging producers we think you should keep your eye on during the year ahead.
Last year SRC, Julio Bashmore, Mosca, Numan, Doc Daneeka, Deep Teknologi, R1 Ryders, Hackman, Illum Sphere and 8Bitch were featured, and all contributed 10-15 minute mini-mixes for the feature. For the class of 2011, it’s the same deal.
As with 2010, there are a couple of people we didn’t include here for reasons not related to their worth – e.g. once Blawan’s EP for R&S comes out, everyone will be going mad for him, but he’s already working on a regular FACT mix, so we’ll save our side of the hype for then. The feature will be spread over two weeks, so you get five mini-mixes (and accompanying interviews) today, and another five next Tuesday. All mixes are downloadable by hitting the downwards arrow on the right of the Soundcloud player.
Melé’s just one of those people who makes you sore that you’re already in your twenties.
He’s 18, he’s been producing since he was 14, and he makes music that shines from every angle, glossy and peak-time but full of rhythmic inventiveness, and little virtuoso touches before drops that really set him apart. It’s also impossible to sample 3LW’s ‘No More’ and not be a badman; check his mini-mix and see what I mean.
Melé, introduce yourself.
“Hey I’m Krissy, I live near Liverpool and I make music and DJ.”
You’re still pretty young – when did you start producing, and what sort of stuff were you making?
“Yeah I’m still only 18, I started producing about four years ago making hip-hop and a bit of house. All I listened to back then was Dr. Dre, Dave Clarke and So Solid.”
What software/hardware do you build on?
“I just use Logic on my Mac, I’ve always had bits of old hardware but never used it to be honest! One of my things for 2011 is to use my hardware more.”
What releases do you have scheduled for this year?
“I have an EP coming very soon on Sinden’s Grizzly label, I’m also working on stuff for Ikonika and Optimum’s Hum and Buzz and also Dre Skull’s Mixpak.”
You had a remix on All Around the World last year which was a bit out the blue – how did that happen?
“Basically the agency I’m on, Your Army, got contacted by the label about possible remixers, I had a go at it and they liked it, which was wicked.”
How would you describe the stuff you make?
“I like to think it’s somewhere between house and grime, that’s what I try to do anyway, dont know if I’m successful or not! I just make music I like and I hope people like it I suppose.”
Tell us something we won’t know about you?
“I was once player of the year for a football team I played in for years, I ain’t kicked a ball in ages!”
Melé – Trappin
Melé – Digits
Melé – And Of The Son
Greenmoney Ft Mz Bratt – Who’s Greenmoney (Melé Remix)
Project Bassline – The Twelfth Step (Melé Remix 2)
Melé – Voulezvouz
Mumdance – Smasher (Melé Remix)
Melé – Pyrex Vision
Gucci Mane – Missing (Melé Remix Instrumental)
Melé – Kanopa Riddim
Samo Sound Boy – Taking It All (Melé Remix)
Melé – Dancer
Melé – Wheelie Riddim
Melé – I Swear Down
Skepta – Rescue Me (Melé Remix)
Melé – Squalie
Melé – Dopamine Riddim
Melé – Popping Tags
Brenmar’s music fits perfectly in that middle ground between hip-hop, R’n’B, contemporary UK club fare and faster strains of Chicago house music that the likes of Ikonika and Girl Unit pursue. A former member of the group These Are Powers, he’s built a reputation beyond the States in the last couple of years on the strength of his remixes of Aaliyah, Teengirl Fantasy and more, and is poised to kick down the door with his original productions in 2011.
Hey Brenmar, introduce yourself.
“What up, I produce and DJ under the name Brenmar. My young brother gave me the name when he was 2 years old due to a speech impediment. I make clubs shake.”
What’s your story to date? You’re originally from Chicago, right?
“Born and raised in Chicago, lived there till I was 21 then I moved to NYC. Been here now for about three years.”
Were you making music back then? And if so, what kind of stuff was it?
“I’ve been playing with samplers since I was 15. I hustled hard to buy an MPC 2000XL. From 15 to 17 I made weird hip-hop beats sampling off of shitty dollar store records and found sounds. I started getting into ‘live’ music around 18. Sampling really opened me up to other types of music besides hip-hop and ghetto house which is pretty much all I heard in my neighborhood. I got into IDM, rock, noise, ambient, and jazz. The music I made from 18-21 was all over the place… I didn’t really have any direction, I did whatever I wanted. Pop one moment, straight up free jazz noise the next. It was wonderful creatively but it was very hard to define myself and to establish a solid fanbase.”
When did you relocate to New York? Was that when you started taking music more seriously?
“I’ve been taking music seriously since I started, this is all I do every day. No joke, I’m still chasing the same dreams I had when I was a kid in high school.
“I originally moved to NYC because I joined the band These Are Powers. I was in the band for about 3 years.”
There seems to be kind of a parallel scene growing in the US to what we have in the UK right now – artists like you, Nzugunguzu, Dubbel Dutch. Obviously Kingdom’s been a link between NY and the UK for a while now. Is that fair?
“Yeah, they’re all friends and I love the music they’re making. It’s an exciting time right now because both the US and the UK are borrowing from each other a lot. We all know the UK has a very progressive dance scene but for the first time in a while the US is holding it down too.”
What’s in the pipeline for you this year?
“My next official release will be a two track 12″ for Ikonika and Optimum’s label Hum & Buzz. A music video for my last single ‘Taking It Down’ is in the works, that’ll be out in Feb. Working on a collab EP with Nguzunguzu that’ll be out sooner rather than later, and I’m also working on a single for Sinden’s Grizzly label, it’ll be released late Spring/early Summer. Also planning an NYC edition of So Bones, finding the right space at the moment, got a couple friends helping out, sure we’ll find something soon. Then a lot of touring here in the US and abroad – fingers crossed. I’m also in talks with producing for some other artists, more within the hip-hop and RnB vein.”
1. Rihanna – What’s My Name (Brenmar Club Mix)
2. Brenmar – Tasting
3. Brenmar – Be The One
4. Brenmar – Ball The Fuck Out
5. Brenmar – Done (Don’t Luv Me No More)
Superisk made the track that maybe grew on me more than any other last year, the Final Fantasy-sampling, Guido-recalling ‘Find Your Way’ on Punch Drunk. I’d never heard of him until then, but it turned out he was producer for Bristol crew Central Spillz, also home of Shadz (of ‘Forever You’, with L-Vis 1990 fame), so I was eager to know more.
Superisk, introduce yourself.
“Easy, I’m Lewis and I’m a DJ/producer based in Bristol.”
Obviously the first thing a lot of people heard from you was ‘Find Your Way’ – what’s your musical background?
“I started out listening to hip-hop and watching DMC turntablist videos. Then I found jungle and d’n’b, and I started getting DJ bookings in Bristol so it was quite a natural step to move here. Then I found dubstep through a DJ Thinking mix in 2005.”
And how’s it reached the point where you’re making Final Fantasy-referencing grime/dubstep? Any particular events or influences along the way? And what are you producing on right now?
“I got an MPC at 16 and started writing hip-hop sampling computer games through the TV headphone socket. They sounded absolutely terrible, but that FF8 sample [from ‘Find my Way’] stuck in my head ever since. I’ve always liked the sweet and sour contrast between twinkly melodies and gully basslines and I think it shows in my music. I’m still using a PC with Cubase SX3, alongside a Roland SH01 GAIA and Microkorg, but I’ve got a Mac and Logic 9 waiting in the wings for when I’m ready to make the switch!”
You’re part of Central Spillz – tell us about them, and your role in the group.
“Central Spillz consists of myself and five vocalists. Koast, CstrikeZ and Mackie Skillz come from a hip-hop and garage background, Shadz is very soulful and Redskin comes from reggae and r’n’b. I DJ for our live show which we’ve been blessed to perform at Glastonbury, Shit The Bed and Shoestring to name a few, and I wrote the album Space Travel, which is due for release on January 10, both on CD and digitally via iTunes etc. Also keep an eye out for a Central Spillz, Mensah & Eddie K remix 12″ due out on the same day on Durkle Disco.”
What do you have in the pipeline for 2011?
“I’ve been working on some weird and wonky grime that I haven’t played to anyone yet, just waiting for the right time. There will be a new Spillz album and I’ll be focusing on working with different vocalists, some kind of ’80s influenced space grime madness! I’ll also be venturing out to Europe a lot so if you would like me at your rave I’m still taking my own bookings.”
1. Superisk – Intro
2. Superisk – Untitled 1
3. Superisk – Untitled 2
4. Superisk – Portland Square
5. Superisk – Donuts
6. Superisk – Never Again Instrumental
7. Central Spillz – Find Your Way VIP
8. Superisk & Redskin – Roll With The Punches Remix
9. Superisk & Shadz – Girl
2010 was less critically kind to UK Funky than previous years, but Funkystepz made waves with a hard-edged sound that paid zero attention to the genre hybridization going on elsewhere, focusing on club-ready Funky cuts – the highlight of which was ‘For U’, one of the best vocal Funky cuts to date. They’ll be following it with their first outing for Hyperdub in February, the unstoppable ‘Fuller’.
There’s a few of you in Funkystepz – who does what in the group exactly?
“There three of us in Funkystepz which is Stimpy, Renay and Maxsin.”
How did you guys form?
“Renay and Stimpy were in a grime production team together in the past so knew each other through there. Maxsin used to DJ for artists such as Black The Ripper, Wretch 32 and Nasty Crew and used to pick up grime tracks off Stimpy. Then Renay and Stimpy decided to join forces again and get back together to make another production team. Stimpy showed Maxsin the tracks and ideas and he wanted to get involved in the movement as he was already playing house and Funky music. There were two other members in Funkystepz but they went on to focus on their careers as music artists, not so much producers, so shout out to Scrufizzer and Twitch. We are still all family and you will still see work with them here and there. Make sure you check out their music.”
‘For U’ was probably the first thing a lot of people heard from you – what had you guys been doing musically until then?
“Before ‘For U’ come about we had other instrumental tracks being played on radio and mix CDs. We also featured on the Ministry Of Sound CD mixed by Pioneer, Supa D and Footloose called Sounds Of UK Funky; we had two tracks on there called ‘Sounds In Moruga’ and ‘Trinity Hill’. Also had a track called ‘Touch On Me’ on a Supa Dupa CD, and the insrtumental for ‘For U’ is called ‘Bounce’ – that got a lot of love from the Funky scene and was also featured on the Marcus Nasty Rinse CD. So we were working hard even before ‘For U’.“
And how did the track come about, particularly the collaboration with Lily McKenzie?
“This is why we miss the good days of Myspace because you could find very talented musicians such as Lily. We heard her acoustic music she had on there and contacted her to ask if she wanted to work on a track with us. We sent her five instrumentals, she picked out ‘Bounce’, and we rearranged it for her. We’ve worked on some other tracks with her that you’ll hear in the near future called ‘Circles’ and ‘Switching Roles’ featuring Scrufizzer. Bring back Myspace people.”
Funky doesn’t seem to be as hyped as it was in the ‘Do You Mind’ days, so I love how you guys are pretty defiantly UK Funky, right down to the name. Do you ever worry that it’ll restrict you as artists at all?
“The hype of Funky has died down a bit but it’s still played all over England in lots of clubs. But there is always a big hype when something fresh and new comes about. Katy B just went to number 3 in the national UK charts with a track we would consider as Funky. All that needs to happen is record labels need to pick up Funky tracks earlier and push them properly and they can do well. Certain tracks were picked up too late by labels for release when they were rinsed out by the general public and people had mp3s of the track already.
“Do you know what, Funkystepz does not stand for UK Funky or Funky House Music. We love UK Funky/Funky music and its what we are known for, but we do many other types of music that in the near future you’ll hear. We are Funkystepz because the word Funky means something different – it’s not the norm, and we’re taking different stepz compared to everyone else and making our own sound and style. So when you hear certain tracks you will know its us – basically we are saying we are taking different stepz compared to everyone else but those stepz are forward.
“If people don’t listen to our other styles of music because of just our name you must be very narrow-minded. If music is good it’s good. No matter who made it, the name of the track or the name of the people or person that made it.”
What do you have in the pipeline for this year?
“2011 should be a big year for us. We got more releases, more music and more work. We got a release coming out with Hyperdub [‘Fuller’/’Hurricane Riddim’], our next song with Lily McKenzie coming called ‘Circles’, a song with Rhian Moore called ‘No More’ and another track with a singer called Louise Williams called ‘Lovers’. So make sure you watch out for us because we got many other instrumentals and songs with other artists.”
Gyptian – Hold Yeh (Funkystepz House Mix) – Ministry Of Sound
Funkystepz – Hurricane Riddim – Hyperdub
Funkystepz – Cut Above – F.L.Y
Funkystepz – Fuller – Hyperdub
Funkystepz – Warrior – CDR
Funkystepz Feat Lily Mckenzie – For U – Safe & Sound
Funkystepz – Leave With You – F.L.Y
Funkystepz – Malibu – F.L.Y
Funkystepz – Kingtowns Vip – F.L.Y
Funkystepz feat Louise Williams – Whispers (Trinity Hill Vocal) – F.L.Y
Funkystepz feat Rhian Moore – No More – F.L.Y
Dro Carey lives in Sydney, and has a Tumblr page absolutely packed with material ranging from warped house, to twisted takes on R’n’B, to lo-fi juke – the latter sometimes under the name Fad TMB. Recently tapped up for a vinyl release on Trilogy Tapes that’s flown out of most stores, he’ll be putting out more singles throughout the year, including a collaboration with ex-Roll Deeper Trim. You’ll be obsessed with him by Summer.
Dro Carey, introduce yourself.
“I made a pact with the devil at midnight in a mental hospital to produce ecstatic crack. That was April 2010 I think.”
You’re based in Sydney, right? What’s it like there?
“Yes I was born in Perth like Jessica Gomes and Ross Bolleter but moved to Sydney when I was two. I wouldn’t really know what it’s like outside my room though.”
You describe your music as ‘electronic angst’. Well, that’s what I read anyway. Where does what you make come from, and could you tell us about how you got started making music?
“Yes, I used that semi-embarrassing term to describe the general vibe of my mix for Dave Quam’s blog. Which by the way was basically the first set I ever mixed. I don’t mean like Xiu Xiu or ‘glitch’ remixes of Antony but like electronic music that’s on the surface danceable – that above all bangs, you know – but when you listen closer it’s pornographic, sultry, saturated. The dancefloor as an evil arena. Bass throbbing as impotence. The majority of the world is losers right? Well, then there’s no reason for producers and DJ’s not to let their guard down like other musicians and – in their case, virtually – vent. Even my most sugary productions are based around subliminal experiences of awkwardness, aggression and guilt.
“I started scratch DJing when I was 13, I was really attracted to distorting the pitch of tracks, of vocals in particular. Then I did a lot of what would be classified as more ‘experimental’ stuff – minimal ambient, noise, cut-ups/collages, playing in an improv group. Until I was 17 or so I hadn’t really listened to much dance music. It was through hearing, I suppose, more experimental dance producers (Shackleton being one of the first I heard) that I realised I could balance all these things and channel it into something interesting but hopefully accessible too.”
Maybe this is me being slow, but you’re one of the first artists I’m aware of whose Tumblr is really the first port of call for your music – you and Odd Future, I guess. What was it about tumblr that made you embrace it?
“I’m not sure exactly. I just wanted to be able to embed a lot of different media – videos, audio, images – in one place, but have it resemble an ‘official site’ more than a blog. A lot of lo-fi indie stuff is delivered through Tumblr, I’m sure it’s where I first heard of Salem for example. And increasingly there’s been a lot of rap from teenagers on it too, not just Odd Future. I think more and more people will use it for their music as it’s more personal than something like Twitter in my opinion.”
Who/what’s really shaped you along the way? Obviously the juke and r’n’b influence is quite pronounced.
“Yeah, I mean I really like RnB and Juke, ghetto house and older Chicago jacking tracks et cetera – particularly really spare late ’80s stuff that’s just drum machine and vocals. Yeah Chicago and… Detroit producers as well. Anthony Shakir, Jeff Mills, Drexciya, Moodymann, Omar-S.”
What have you got in the pipeline for 2011?
“There’s more limited vinyl pressings on The Trilogy Tapes coming, including perhaps some secret new goon cuts. Plus there’s the Hum + Buzz 12″ of the tracks ‘Candy Red’/’Hungry Horse’. Then I’ve got an EP slated for digital release with a new Sydney label called Templar Sound. There are things with other labels too but they’re in earlier stages… I’ll have a lot of material dropping this year. Officially as well as on the Brain So Soft Tumblr of course.”
Dro Carey – Supersedure1
Dro Carey – Talk Smak
Dro Carey – Dior Floating
Dro Carey – Motorvibe
Dro Carey – Brite Lotion
Tuff Sherm – Interface
Fad TMB – Shufflekush