Detroiter in Den Haag Submorphics will release his debut album Kodak Dreams on The North Quarter on March 20.
Written over the course of 18 months and across two continents, as he relocated from the US to The Netherlands, Kodak Dreams is inspired by long-lost family photos, a deep love of hip-hop and a life spent on the move.
It features the voices of long-time collaborators Christina Tamayo, T.R.A.C and SelfSays plus the powerful neo-soul dulcets of Frankie Knuckles collaborator Big Brooklyn Red. Frequently spotted in the house realm and new to drum & bass, Big Brooklyn Red takes the lead on this deliciously dope and synth-laced soulful single Daydreaming.
Plenty more will follow throughout March. If you’re already familiar with Submorphics’ timeless soulful vibe from the last 15 years of releases on the likes of Good Looking, SGN, Liquid V and, most recently, Lenzman’s evergreen stable, you’ll know this is going to be a strong one. If not, you’re in for a treat.
It’s about time!
Yeah, I couldn’t rush it. For me, an album needs to be a story you listen to from beginning to end and takes you on a journey and have different interludes and tempos and Lenzman just let me do my thing. I’m happy to have had that freedom. We’ve been talking about it since 2018 and exploring 90s hip-hop influences in my own voice, also modernising my drums a little and focusing on the details a lot more. I put an extra year into it because I was moving over to The Netherlands and moving my studio halfway across the world but that’s to be expected with an album. I’m happy with the results.
So the concept and theme… Is this you getting all nostalgic in your days?
Very much so. When I was moving back and forth, I found a box of photos from the early 90s which I hadn’t seen in years. I’m in these crazy baggy pants and stuff. It’s clear that a lot of the things I’m into now started then. Even before I knew what I was doing, I was leaning towards funky breakbeats and leftfield soul samples. I spread these photos around my apartment, and they inspired the sessions. They also started permeating my dreams and I’d be dreaming 90s memories and that really helped the mindset.
Photos do strange things with your memories don’t they? Like you have a hazy memory around something or someone but it’s based around a photo. You’re not sure if it’s real or not…
Yeah right. It’s like a movie in your mind that’s not quite real but as close as your memory will get to it. I’ve moved so may times since then. I’ve lived in Detroit, then Chicago, the San Francisco and now Europe for 18 months. It’s so fragmented in my mind so it’s nice to work out where it all came from but do it in a modern, contemporary way. I wanted to update everything. It all had to be tip-top shape. It had to be. I’ve been releasing for 14/15 years so now if something isn’t as good as I can get it then I don’t want to release it. So I took 2019 off from releases to keep going on with this album. I actually wrote 30 sketches for the project, but we’ve only used 14 of them. I wrote way more material than what was needed but that was to make sure what we used was the very best possible.
Who’s on the spoken word vibes on the interludes and intro?
That’s a very good friend of mine Christina Tamayo. She’s also the featured artist on Find A Reason. We’ve been working together for 10 years now and done things on various labels like Shogun, Liquid V and Good Looking. She’s got this voice man. It’s so soothing. We did a commercial before for Spotify and her voice worked perfectly, I knew she’d get where I was coming from with my script. The whole idea was inspired by A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders but with a different twist. It started as a homage but took its own direction over time.
Like all the best things do. Good to see T.R.A.C on board, too…
Oh yeah he had to be on the album. He sits so well on my music. He gets all the references inside out. He knows the Tribe Called Quest vibe, the J Dilla vibe. There are many great MCs I want to work with in the future but I’ll always keep coming back to T.R.A.C. He’s so good so that was important to have him on there.
There’s a track called 12 & Woodward has that 90s hip-hop vibe for me the most…
Thanks man. That’s my ode to Los Angeles shit. Like something I’d hear on the radio as a kid. It was a sketch I had on my hard drive for years. I pulled it up and thought it fit the album concept perfectly.
What do you think Yung Submorphics would think of Submorphics today?
I’ve thought about this. I think I’d be proud of what I’ve done so far. Some of it I probably wouldn’t have understood because I didn’t know the music or the culture at that age. I only really understood what I wanted from music a lot later in life. My parents brought me up on a classical diet and made me learn Beethoven and Mozart and things like that. I’m grateful for that, though. They kept my brain diverse and made sure I understood the fundamentals.
Big up your parents. Got a special persy from the album?
The first single, Daydreaming. It’s different to what I’ve done personally and different to what I’ve heard on the label before. It’s back to that synthy vibe from 12 and Woodward and Big Brooklyn Red delivered this incredible neo soul vocal. I didn’t have to do anything with his vocal audio, so massive shouts to that guy. As far as I know he doesn’t know too much about drum & bass culture which I found refreshing to work with. He understood it perfectly and delivered something really special.
It’s great to have a different perspective from outside the genre…
Totally. He comes from house music and it’s nice to get that outside take on things. He did a track with Frankie Knuckles called He Moves which I love. Chrissie introduced me to him and I knew he’d have something to offer drum & bass. Kinda similar to how Ivy Lab introduced Frank Carter. Don’t get me wrong, there are already a lot of great vocalists I want to work with within drum & bass but I wanted to bring a fresh voice into the mix.
So that’s the first single. How does it roll out from there?
Daydreaming is out now then the second single hits March 6, then the album follows on March 20. It’s exciting. I don’t know what to expect from it all but so far feedback has been heart-warming. Even from people who I’ve never talked to before. I love the idea of connecting with different corners of the drum & bass scene. The Prototypes were going off about one of my tunes on Twitter recently which is great. I didn’t know guys like them would even be listening to the liquid airy fairy stuff I make. So yeah, shouts to everyone who supports it!