Audio’s fifth album is about to land on Ram Records. Entitled [Unsocial], it’s his first album in five years since 2016’s Beastmode and reveals a whole new artistic approach.
If you’re expecting a full catalogue of heavy-hitting weapons then you’re only half right; the LP draws from a deeper pot than Gareth Greenall is known for. Exploring all of Audio’s musical influences, amid his signature dancefloor destroyers [Unsocial] shows shades of something deeper. For the first time, Gareth is giving us a window into his soul.
Make no mistake, the LP features all of the full-throttle badassery that we’ve come to expect from the Ram artist, but there are real moments of pensive honesty and emotion here. As tracks like Yellow Was The Light and the heart-breaking Lost prove; this is Audio’s most intimate and personal work.
With the first samplers – Kimura and Spider Tank – out now, UKF caught up with Gareth to get under the hood of [Unsocial], explore his deeper side and learn what to expect from him in future…
How’s it been, adjusting back to reality?
It’s been pretty mad actually. My first gig back was a Killbox gig with Ed Rush. I was quite nervous if I’m honest. It’s been 18 months so it was like, ‘am I gonna remember what I’m doing?!’ As soon as I started mixing it was like someone pressed the un-pause button. What was I worried about man! This is what I do! Yeah, it’s been great.
And the new album, [Unsocial]…there’s a lot going on in there! What would you say is the overarching theme if you were to tie it all together?
There’s no concept. I dunno, it was no pressure. This is me fully being me, exploring all my influences over the years since I was 15. Lost is my little nod to the 2-step garage scene that I have a lot of love for. Ooze This has got the pirate radio sample, cos I grew up listening to pirate radio stations putting fucking coat hangers out of the window to pick up a signal. It’s a very personal album. It’s probably the most personal thing I’ve written.
Did you know you were going to sit down and write an album?
No, not at all. My last gig before lockdown was March, and then Boris locked us down and that was it. Two or three months after that I realised that it wasn’t going to come back very soon, so I went back to what I’d done years ago which is building work. I have a family and a mortgage and bills keep coming in, so I had to move on. This album was written by me just coming in after being out all day at work, shower, food, and then spend a couple of hours in the studio with absolutely no pressure. I was just writing music I wanted to hear. There was no agenda. I got probably three or four tunes in and then it started to feel like there was something there. Once I had that it felt like, oh okay, I might have something. I didn’t force anything, I just came into the studio and wrote what I felt. This album is basically 18 months of me doing that.
You said this is your most personal album. There really are some deeper moments, it sounds like you’re exploring the potential of your sound. What inspired these deeper, introspective looks into yourself as an artist?
Feeling no pressure. I have a reputation to make quite hard music that’s focused on a very specific reaction in a club, for everyone to go crazy. So when you don’t have clubs, you strip that element away. Over the years there’s a pressure, like, that’s who you are, that’s what you do. The more music you release like that, the more you cement that in people’s minds. ‘Oh, Audio, that’s what Audio does, he does this.’ But I also like lots of other music, I just haven’t necessarily made it a focus in my own productions until now. I dunno man, it just came very naturally, it’s not forced.
Yeah, I guess there’s an expectation that you might feel like you’ve got to live up to all the time.
Yeah, and that’s cool, you know. There’s still smashers on the album. Sulphur is a smasher. I’m starting all my sets with it and it’s going crazy. That track is very typical me. Maybe it was just me in my own head, that I didn’t feel like I could do it, I didn’t want to rock the boat, I didn’t want to not be busy. It comes down to the financial responsibility, you know. Once you move from music being a hobby and into something that you actually rely on to pay bills, it turns into a bit of a hustle. You feel that pressure, so once the financial responsibility went from music, I went back to building. The club environment was gone, everything was stripped away, it was just me with my speakers, my samples and synths. This album is the result. It’s pure. There’s no other influence.
I can see how that must be liberating when that pressure isn’t there…
The whole process was amazing. I listen back to the album now with nothing but love. I listen back to it thinking I can’t believe I wrote it. This whole album really pushed my production, my creativity. I pushed everything because I had the opportunity to, there was nothing else influencing me. You know, 20 years on…I’m also a 42-year-old man. I’m not that 25-year-old kid in drum & bass, so my tastes changed as well. As an artist I want to be able to move with that and reflect it in my music. I understand I might not cater for everyone’s tastes anymore, and I accept that, but as an artist I feel like I have to express myself fully now.
Yeah for sure. There are a real variety of flavours on [Unsocial], but there’s still quite a healthy amount of what people would expect from you, the heavy stuff. Did you find it difficult to write ‘club music’ when there weren’t any clubs?
Nah, it just developed into that. What I probably found the hardest was the mix part of it, because I always test things and get my reassurance when I DJ a track in a club and hear it loud. Not having that, I felt a bit vulnerable making the heavy stuff, but you just have to have faith.
Yeah, I’ve heard some artists say that clubs disappearing was difficult because they find a lot of their inspiration comes from the club. What do you think to that?
When we were all locked down, I felt like I wasn’t locked down any more, if that makes sense! My wife works a job, I worked a job, we have kids, she works during the week, I worked weekends. I didn’t see my kids at weekends, I saw them after school for a few hours and then they’re in bed. I go to the airport, I’m gone, I come back…we’d lead separate lives. Most of the time during the day I’d be on my own in the studio. It can be quite a lonely existence. I didn’t quite realise that until we got locked down and I joined the world again. I started building and felt part of society, sleeping 8 hours every night, seeing my family every day, being at home at weekends doing family stuff. Yeah, it felt like the lockdown unlocked me, basically. That sounds a bit cliché, but you know what I mean! I didn’t realise I was in quite that bad a spot mentally until lockdown.
Yeah, absolutely. Some of the track names, and the title of the album itself…Unsocial, Fool’s Paradise, Lost. A lot of that has quite bleak connotations, but then there’s Sanctuary and Yellow Was The Light. There are some hopeful things in there too. Do these tracks reflect certain realisations you had while writing?
Yeah, it probably reflects my moods as I was going through, because at the beginning it did feel very bleak. I’d had my livelihood taken away overnight. So there’s that thought of…what do I do now? Is this forever? There’s quite a feeling of bleakness there, but then there’s that realisation of, okay, we’re in a lockdown, we’re going along, I’ve started other work, there’s no pressure financially now so that part of my life is okay. Things are getting better. I lost 2 stone in lockdown, because before I’d just sit in the studio and eat. I got myself mentally in shape, physically in shape. So on the album, you get to Yellow Was The Light and that’s me going okay, you know, this is actually pretty good. Life is alright. I’m working, seeing my family a lot. I’m feeling better. The moods of the album were me going through different mental phases through lockdown. Bleakness, realisation that it’s okay, and then actually being happy, comfortable and okay with the situation.
Let’s talk about Lost. It’s a real stand out track, really stylistically unique with the 2-step swing and melancholy pianos…
The garage influence, the vocals, the feeling that it evokes…it’s really weird, that tune came together very quickly. Before I’d realised it, I was pressing play and that was the loop. Usually my thing is to keep loading things in. More, busy, manic, crazy! But that, I knew I had to just leave it alone. I did a rough arrangement and it stayed like that. It just seemed to work.
It really does. And imagining you, or imagining everyone going through the start of lockdown, and listening to that…it really is quite an emotional tune.
Yeah man, I’m glad you picked up on that because it’s exactly how I felt doing it. It’s what I hope people pick up on when they listen to it, that feeling. But as they go through the album, the feeling shifts and gets better.
So, I know you said earlier that there wasn’t a concept to the album, but it’s kind of written it’s own narrative…
Yeah, I suppose it has. It’s a document of my mental state through lockdown [laughs].
Are there any tracks in particular that have a story or memory attached to them?
Lost is special, like I say. Tundra as well, it always gives me goosebumps when I listen to the intro, the horns that come in. I think every track has pinnacle moments, they’re either a breakthrough in production, or trying something for the first time and it actually working and sounding good. There are tunes that a lot of people won’t expect from me. There’ll definitely be people that are like, ‘nah, Audio doesn’t really do my sort of thing’, but I really want people to give it a chance.
You said your first gig back was the Killbox show. You must have road tested all these tunes by now then, right? How has the reaction been?
I’ve done festivals too, so I’ve had to be quite selective in what I’ve been dropping. I’m playing peak time Killbox sets so it has to be typical Audio, really. I’m waiting to do a full tour with the album, try and do more of a showcase set where I can go a little bit deeper and showcase the full album instead of having to go out guns blazing. But yeah, I’ve tested all the heavier tunes and they all sound great. For me, this album needs a club. A dark, moody little club, not many people, good sound system. That’s my preferred environment. I like festivals, they’re cool, but I grew up in clubs in London.
That’s it. It’s where it lives!
Yeah man, that’s where I grew up and learned drum & bass. So that’s ideally where I want this album to be heard. It’ll be coming soon, we’re doing tours next year so it’s all good.
And even though clubs are back open do you still feel like you’ll continue to experiment with the deeper side of your sound?
Absolutely. Before I started Snake Pit, I did a run of 6 or 7 singles ready to go and I want to do the same sort of thing. I like the idea of doing seasons. I come in and do 6 months of doing a release every month, and then I go away for 6 months and don’t release. My label isn’t to churn out as much music as possible, it’s there to put out what I really want to put out. So yeah, me exploring the deeper sound will definitely feature on Snake Pit. Now that I’ve pushed that door open I don’t want to close it.
That’s great. So what’s next? Are there any future projects you can let us in on?
Quite a few remixes coming out, one for Gydra on their Snake Monastery LP remix project. A remix on Blackout soon, and then probably Snake Pit and various other places. I like to spread myself about a bit and work with different labels, so there’ll be stuff coming from me all over the place in future.
Any final thoughts you want to leave us with?
I’ve said enough, I think I’ve waffled your ear off! [Laughs] I just hope everyone enjoys the album. Give it an opportunity. Put it on and listen from start to finish.