?: Hana Makovcova
At a time when our attention spans are the shortest they have ever been, and tunes blow up and die down within what seems like weeks, two years is a certified eternity in drum & bass. To the point you wonder if the artist is still even active and dabbling in the dark sonic arts.
Then they come back with a track like this, you lose several layers of skin and have that yearning urge to go out and kick shit out of a dancefloor ASAP.
Yes. Ed:It is back after two years album writing deep in the studio wilderness. It’s called Silhouettes and, like many albums this year, it’s coming our way over the course of the next few months via a series of three EPs.
The first EP dropped last month. Setting the tone for the whole album, it captures his wide-armed signature and ranges from evocative soul (Brink) to deep space percussive rollers (So True) via the above-embedded banger Generally Speaking. It also leaves us hanging for more. Here’s what we can expect…
It’s been a while man….
It really has. I’ve had some remixes out but actual Ed:It on-his-own solo tunes haven’t been released for a few years. Time has just flown by, the album process has been pretty deep progressive creative, life has thrown different things at me but it’s been a progressive and creative process.
Some albums kinda creep up on you while you’re busy writing and suddenly you find yourself in album mode. Did that happen to you?
No I knew that was what I was doing from the beginning, but I foolishly thought it would be easier. I thought ‘I’m going to smash a load of tunes and see what happens’ with no real concept. Then suddenly ideas started flowing and I had all these thoughts about how things could go and what I could do with it. I had some meetings with Ed (Friction) and the Shogun team and started to realise the bigger picture of an album. Suddenly it got scarier and scarier because I had so many things but knew I needed to write more.
You didn’t have the right balance?
Pretty much. I’d basically found myself writing heavier and heavier stuff but we knew that for the album I also needed to write deeper musical songs too. That’s when it got serious.
Sounds like you had too much material!
Yeah kind of. I had some tunes that didn’t work and made me wonder what I was even thinking. But it’s a big different between writing for singles and EPs where I’d concentrate on four or six tracks and get the best out of them. But in the case of an album it was more like 25 – 30 tunes and picking the ones that work. Obvious each of those tunes would change and develop drastically over time.
Was that when the Silhouettes concept began to take shape?
Yeah. There wasn’t a concept to begin with at all but as the album developed Ed and his A&R Pete kept asking me about a title and I kept coming back to the idea of Silhouette because of the darker and lighter sides to what I do. I liked the idea of a dark outline in a bright background, it kinda summed things up for how I see my music and my relationship with drum & bass.
That makes sense. You’ve always been varied in your style.
Definitely. I love all kinds of music and I think that comes across in what I write. I love heavy tunes but I’m also a sucker for a Calibre tune.
Who isn’t? Why tie yourself to one sound?
Definitely and it keeps you on your toes. If you’re writing the same old roller you’ll get bored of it. The problem was that I started writing the album when I was writing heavier tunes because I was getting later sets and making tracks specifically for those types of slots.
I hear that so much. You can’t help but be influenced when you’re on the DJ merry go round…
Definitely. I had to keep telling myself ‘calm down mate, not everything needs to be so heavy!’
What was the most important thing for Silhouettes to say?
It’s Shogun man, that’s the sound I’ve grown up on as an artist and they’ve released some massively significant and influential albums. Especially 1984 and Delay No More. That’s a big legacy to step up to. I asked myself what can I personally add to that type of vein of form? How can I express myself and put my sound on the imprint? People have said to me about an Ed:It sound but I can’t hear that personally. I do what I do.
You’re too close to your sound to hear that aren’t you?
I think so. But the best I can do is showcase my sound and make sure it’s on the level Shogun is known for.
I guess the biggest change since those massive albums you mentioned is how LPs are often delivered over three EPs now.
Yeah you’re right and that eases some of the pressure from the writing and mixing down stages. You don’t have to look at the full album picture all of the time. You can focus on each EP. I also struggled with writer’s block a little at points and this refocused things a bit for me. It’s nice to have that space to add the extra 10% over time and not all at once. Plus it means people are more likely to hear all the tunes – some big albums are released and within a week they’re gone again and it’s like they’re forgotten.
Did you come from albums or were they dying out already when you came into this?
I massively came from albums! And vinyl too. You’d save up for these releases and you’d treasure them. You’d listen to an album over and over again for weeks on end. Now people bash tunes out in a club for a matter of weeks and it’s forgotten again. That’s a shame when an artist has put so much into the track.
Hugely. Did you spend a lot of time thinking about the tracks on the first EP, then? That’s the big opening statement for the album isn’t it?
Definitely. We wanted to establish the full musical spectrum if you like. It was funny; Ed and Pete picked the four tracks they wanted for the first EP and they were the ones I had in mind too. You’ve got Dayz which is a musical roller. You’ve got So True which is break heavy. You’ve got a bit of everything; all my styles but with impact. I wanted it to be like ‘bam – it’s been a few years, here we go…’
Nice. I think we need to big up Lady Soul on Brink too…
We do. I met up with Becky in Liverpool at a night called Spectrum. She’s a really good host and singer and we instantly started chatted about doing a tune. She sent me some vocals straight after that and we did was Wander Away which was on The Junction EP two years ago. This new one, Brink, came together really quickly too. The original idea I sent her was completely different to the tune I sent her. She came back with that killer vocal and I ended up re-writing the track to her style.
That’s quite interesting. It’s usually the reverse isn’t it?
It is but I quite like doing it this way. I’ll send a basic idea in the right key but the vocal comes back and it gives me a whole load of other ideas that are better and more complementary to the vocal so I rewrite it. That’s cool because the vocal is one of the main elements of the track so it makes sense for it to work that way.
Talk to me about Generally Speaking. I love this tune but I hate the term.
Haha. I have no idea where the tune name came from. I never say it myself!
It’s one of those heavy ones you were on about earlier, right?
Absolutely. I wrote it down at the Shogun HQ and the minute I played it to Ed and Pete they were like ‘yeah that’s going on the album. 100%’ I was really happy with that. It was one of those tunes that wrote itself – it just rolled out, I have no idea where it came from.
It sums up the sound of where things are at too. But you couldn’t have forecast that at the time…
Things do move so quickly it’s mad. I was worried at points that things would move on too much while I was in studio hibernation for sure. I kept thinking are people going to get it? Will it work? But people have been very supportive. Plus there’s always a place for rollers isn’t there?
Damn right. I guess when you do your own thing there’s no danger of the track dating…
Definitely. I wanted the music to do the talking. No fireworks or bandwagon jumping. But I think right now there’s a very healthy interest from fans and artists in all kinds of styles. Look at Vanta Black being at number one! That’s a fucking deep tune! It’s not commercial in any way and people are right behind it. That’s very encouraging. The music’s in a very healthy place and that’s a great time to be releasing my album. I think one thing I truly love about drum & bass is the amount of heads involved. Like people who are deeply into it and really know their shit and respect it and listen to everything. People who love a tune for the tune’s sake. As long as you have that passion from fans then the genre will be in a good place.
Couldn’t agree more! So what have you learnt about yourself during this whole two year trip?
Hmmm, interesting one. I guess I’ve learnt a lot about keeping myself motivated and getting up and cracking on. And also trying my hardest not to overthink things about the smallest little detail. Being able to let go and think ‘if it works it works’ and not labour it has been a big thing for me. It doesn’t matter if the mixdown is 100% on point – if it’s got a vibe then that’s the most important thing. That’s what drum & bass is about for me.