‘Sanctuary’/'Roofy’ (2nd Drop)
South London Ordnance takes pains to dodge the spotlight, but his name is increasingly difficult to avoid.
Although interest has been ramping up for the good part of a year, South London Ordnance has only just released his debut 12”, the excellent ‘Sanctuary’/’Roofy’ on 2nd Drop. Mosca, Martyn and Dark Sky have all featured the twentysomething producer’s work in their sets, and he’s got the tap on the shoulder to contribute to LuckyMe’s killer mixtape series. Mary Anne Hobbs, never a reluctant cheerleader, has waved her spirit fingers with particular vigour.
In his work thus far, South London Ordnance has demonstrated a real gift for detecting new resonances in familiar sounds. His music is resides in one of the darker nooks of the current house/techno spectrum, but there’s an oneiric quality that sets his work apart from more dour practitioners. ‘Sanctuary’ takes hard dance signifiers (rave horns, neck-snap snares), and wreaths them in an analgesic fog. ‘Crows Nest’, meanwhile, resembles UK funky heard through some semi-porous amnion. Stifled vocal samples and industrial textures rumble in the distance; tones sing, hang and slowly degrade.
Still a relative new arrival to the production game, South London Ordnance in that fascinating developmental stage where his sound develops with each new track. The brand new, sinewy ‘Siren’ shows the producer adding new levels of bombast to his sound, and recent freebie ‘Shutter Island’ is borderline spangly. FACT collared the unshowy producer ahead of his set for FOUND at Hidden on June 29 (details here), to discuss grime, future releases and the intersection where production meets penmanship.
“It always comes back to this idea of the endgame.”
How did the South London Ordnance project first develop for you?
“Basically I wanted to start producing for quite a long time, and I never had the time or the money. Then I managed to find a really cheap copy of Logic, so I actually bought it, in comparison to lots of people who just rip it. I got this copy of Logic, started messing around, started playing with stuff and most of it was rubbish. The endgame was always to make actual finished tunes, so a few started to come together. Then I needed a name, had a think – I thought of some pretty silly ones. Then I thought of that and it just kind of stuck. I had a bit of a package then: some half-tunes, and then an alias to do it all under.”
Am I right in thinking you were DJing – privately rather than publicly perhaps – for sometime before that?
“I was, and publicly – quite a lot to be honest. It was more through affiliations with promoters and that kind of stuff. I’d done some big gigs – New Years Eve at O2 and that kind of stuff, a few random things. I’ve been messing around on turntables since I was about twelve, and I’d been pretty obsessed with that side of it for quite a long time.”
Moving into that production mindset, was that new territory for you?
“Thing is, I’d always messed around in one form or another. A lot of my mates are trying to get into production, and I’d sit in on them making tunes. And I was desperate to have a go at it. I’ve always done creative things: I’ve done a lot of illustration and graphic design and that kind of stuff in the past, for everyone from quite big record labels just to my mates. So I like creative outlets. The music thing, everyone wants to get into it. I wanted to give it a crack and see if I could do it, because it looked like a lot of fun.”
“A lot of my mates are trying to get into production, and I’d sit in on them making tunes. And I was desperate to have a go at it.”
It’s interesting that you talk about a background in illustration, because something that struck me listening to your music is that your work is unusually sensitive to the possibilities of creating different sorts of spaces. ‘Roofy’ in particular – the use of reverb, the atmospherics, are very immersive. Is there a visual or 3D quality you strive for?
“Yeah, absolutely. You’ve hit the nail on the head. No one really believes you when you say ‘I see sound’ – you start sounding like a nutter. But at the same time, I’m very interested in the way thought processes work, especially creative processes, and the different approaches people have to it. Everything is shapes and textures for me, regardless of what it is, whether it’s marks on a piece of paper or stuff in the interface on Logic. It’s all shapes and figures. The way I produce now – and I’ve only really started capitalizing on this idea – is like the way I would put together a piece of artwork. I’m making a sound in a synth, then bouncing it out and then messing around with it, putting it back into Logic. It’s just like when you have a drawing: you do it with a pencil, you’re rubbing stuff here and there, and what ultimately comes out is the finished product, but it’s got a whole history of marks and scratches. It’s the same sort of thing, really.”
I guess that interfaces like Logic must be the first instruments that offer you an instant graphic representation of what you’re doing. I can’t think of a more visual instrument that’s ever existed.
“Absolutely, and I think that’s why I took to it quite quickly. I have played instruments and recorded them in the past, but when you’re using an actual recording sampler device, it’s very difficult. With Logic, you can see it all there. I like to structure my tunes a lot. I’m very keen on ‘intro’, ‘main’, ‘drop’, ‘reprise’, that kind of stuff. It’s very important for me to be able to see it in 16 bar sections, which is at complete odds with how some other people make tunes. I remember sitting down with a friend who said ‘Well, I start at the beginning and I finish at the end’. I try and build a whole skeleton of a tune, maybe five minutes long, and it might only be a kick and a few elements. I have that, and then I bounce that all down into stems, put it into a new project – just fleshing it out. That’s seemed to work relatively well thus far.”