Unglued, a man so humble he lets his friends decide on track names, or his Instagram followers choose his dog’s nickname (Don Stanley, for the record). A man so humble, he got picked up by Hospital after sending a track to Nu:Tone for mastering, all the while thinking he wasn’t ready to send music to labels.
A COVID-skewed sense of time makes it hard to believe it was just over three years since Josh’s first UKF interview, back when he was still half-shrouded in mystery and his career was in its very infancy. Early tracks like Ay! and Bootstrap Bill started to catch the attention of the scene with their minimal prowess, all while his stealthy bootleg of High Contrast’s If We Ever did the rounds across raves and social media ID groups.
Even before its official release, the still-gnarly remix helped blow Unglued into the drum and bass stratosphere and led to a million nans being thrown down the stairs. However, there was far more to the Unglued story to be told. Each single, EP, collaboration and remix since has peeled back more layers of his sound, with everything from jungle, hardcore, funk and soul being at the forefront of this.
Now, almost two years on from the last catch up, we are finally ready for the big album chat – something that as we discuss, has been in the works for years. The whopping 14-track Interplanetary Radio LP lands next month and is a deep dive into Unglued’s love for music of all forms, astonishingly crammed into the framework of a (mostly) drum and bass album. Featuring the likes of Benny L, Collette Warren, Singing Fats, Javeon and Esther Durin It feels entirely confident in its own sound and storytelling, each track acting as a snapshot to a certain feeling or moment in his life, creating a sense of longing that that feels more apt than ever right now.
Check out our full chat below, where we dig deeper into the debut album and how we got to this point.
Hello! So, this is your third time we’ve caught up with you at UKF.
Yep! I think the very first time was when I was travelling, before anything had even happened and I’d just signed to Hospital. The last one was 2019 for my Born In 94′ / Malware release.
You spoke in the last interview about the potential for an album at some point in the future, and here we are – the big album piece.
Well… I was actually working on it then, but I didn’t want to tell anybody!
It’s been a crazy journey. Have you found time to reflect on your career so far?
Over the COVID period I’ve reflected quite a lot just because we’ve all not been doing much. When you’re doing loads of shows and constantly travelling around it can be difficult to take it in, but I’ve always been appreciative and humble of it. It kind of felt like everything was snowballing and each release was doing better than the last, and then COVID came along and put a stop to everything. I’m hoping that this summer we can carry on where we left off.
What have been some highlights for you over this period?
I bought a house with my girlfriend which is pretty amazing. I’ve done a few socially distanced shows, and even though they obviously aren’t the same, it’s still been an amazing feeling to be playing your music to people. It’s almost more special than before because everyone is just so happy to be there. I also got a puppy called Stanley!
Amazing. Before I get on to the album, I wanted to mention the remix you did of Cyantific’s Don’t Follow with Diane Charlemagne. How was it working on that?
That was honestly the easiest track I’ve ever done! It can be quite difficult to catch a vibe with a tune sometimes, especially with remixes. With this though, I just sat down and got it done in an hour. Her voice is just unbelievable and it’s so inspiring to work with.
I also must mention one of the moments that put you on the map for a lot of people – the If We Ever remix. What is your relationship like with the track all these years on?
I’m very happy it’s what made people know who I am, but at the same time my goal now is to make something that people know me for, something that is my own.
It feels like every release since then has added some kind of new flavour to the Unglued sound. It this intentional or just what comes out naturally?
I think it’s just natural, yeah. I’m early on in my career so I’m still developing my sound. It’s only with this album that I’ve really understood what the type of music is that I want to make. The whole time I’ve been making releases, it’s been throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. It’s natural that my influences have come through, and my productions are getting better as I’m getting older and have more experience.
Tell me more about these influences behind the album.
Well, while I’ve been making the album I wasn’t listening to any drum and bass. There was obviously a little bit but in day-to-day life I was listening to all the other stuff I like; hip-hop, trip-hop, jazz, soul, dub, reggae, all those influences. Naturally all this stuff became more of a feature on the album because that’s what I was listening to. I tried to put all the music that I like and squish it into drum and bass, rather than just try and make drum and bass.
An important question, what’s your favourite crusty roll?
Hmm, that’s a hard one. When I was in Sardinia, we used to go to this little bakery and they’d always give me like six crusty rolls. I don’t know what type of rolls they were, but they were fucking good.
Fair play, that’s a very specific answer.
Yeah haha, you can only get them from one shop.
In all seriousness though, that was a great tune to tease the album with. How was it working with Benny L?
Yeah, it was sick, he’s a really nice guy. I started the initial idea which was the hip-hop inspired intro with the chords, and then started some drums both building up to the drop and the drop itself. I got Javeon to sing on top of it and he wrote me a little vocal which was sick. From there, I was just chatting to Benny and was like ‘the world wants us to collab’, so I sent him a few tracks and he liked that one the best. I went up to his house and we wrote the bassline together and he put some of his drums in. After working on it back in my studio a bit more, I went back up to his to try finish it and we spent about four hours trying to open the project file because it was corrupted.
Mate, it was such a mission. It took forever. In that second studio session we spent hours trying to open the project to eventually add a white noise riser, and then I had to get the train home. We ended up shooting versions back and forth though so we both had a lot of input on it. I think you can definitely hear both of our sounds in it.
You put out the music video as well which was utterly ridiculous. Tell us a bit about that.
It’s quite difficult with drum and bass now because there’s no raves to promote releases, so you need good content for people to pay attention to it. If you just put up a post saying, ‘I’ve got a new track out today’, no one is going to care, and even if they do the Instagram algorithm is not going to give it to them. We live in this weird fucking world where you have to abide to the Instagram overlords. At the end of the day though, I just thought it’d be fun, and we’ve actually done a few more for the album. If you can make the music video add to the song, then it’s worth doing. If you’re just like ‘oh yeah, let’s just get someone doing some free-running on top of the song’, it’s basically pointless.
The track name Make Rollers Roll Again is pretty much a weighted political statement in this scene. You’re going to have to explain yourself.
Ah, it’s just a bit of fun haha! I’m not a serious person so I’m not throwing pars at anybody. It was just the project file name I wrote when Donald Trump was doing some stupid shit at the time. I’m not trying to fire insults at anybody at all. If people like what I’m doing that’s cool and if they don’t then I don’t mind. It’s all just opinion at the end of the day.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you with the album?
Getting it down so it’s not 200 tunes, that was probably the most difficult thing for me. Also, just understanding what I wanted to do. That’s why I left it quite a long time. It has been quite a natural thing, there was no point where I sat down and thought ‘right, I’m going to start writing my album!’ I’ve been doing it for three-ish years now. I’d be making songs and then occasionally I’d have that one which I think would sound good on an album, so I’d put it in a folder. I’d say probably half of the tracks were ideas I’d already started, and half I wrote when I decided to start making more album songs. It felt like the perfect time with COVID, I had so much time on my hands.
Was it different not being able to test those new ones in the clubs?
Yeah! I think it’s really affected the sound of the album. Looking at it retrospectively now, it’s more of a listening album rather than a selection of bangers. Not being able to test them in clubs meant I wasn’t thinking about how it sounds in that environment. Instead, I was thinking about how it sounded as an actual album that you can put on and listen to for an hour.
Do you see that as a positive then?
I think so. In my mind, an album is one piece of art that you can listen to from beginning to end. It’s made it more of a musical artistic piece rather than just gurning 3am club bangers.
You’ve even got an interlude in there, true album material.
Yeah, so all the noises on that were field recordings from train journeys. I was travelling on the train all the time when I was playing gigs regularly and I’d usually be zoned out just staring out the window. I wanted to capture that feeling in a little slowed-down interlude. The main pad is made from the beeps that you hear on the train, I just slowed them down by something like 4000%.
The jungle and hardcore influences are a big part of the Unglued sound. Do you feel like there’s more of an appreciation for these sounds now in the drum and bass scene?
It does seem to be getting more popular, but it’s always going to be ‘underground’ more than dancefloor, for example. I don’t think 150bpm hardcore tunes are going to start taking off soon, although I wish they would!
Do you think it’s easier to put tunes like this out now you’ve established a fan base?
Yeah, I kind of just make what I want now. I don’t worry too much about what people think. I did go through a phase when making music in which I’d be worried about what people wanted to listen to. It’s not productive though because you’re second guessing yourself all the time. People listen to your music because they like what you’re doing, not because they want you to sound like somebody. I just try to do what I want to do, and if it goes terribly then at least it was honest.
Is there any advice you would give to someone that was in your position before you got signed to Hospital?
Just keep having fun with it. If you’re just making tunes because you want to be famous, then 1) it’s drum and bass so you won’t, and 2) it’s a hollow pursuit. It’s going to get to a point where it is your job, and if you don’t enjoy it then it’s going to suck. Just keep making music that you want to make and listen to, and don’t worry too much about finding your sound because that happens naturally in time.
I guess a lot of that comes from unconscious decisions, especially when it comes to the music you listen to.
That’s another big thing as well. Don’t just listen to drum and bass, listen to all types of music. You’re like a sponge, and if you only soak up drum and bass, you’re only ever going to sound like a BTEC version of someone else. Your music choice is unique, so if you listen to that then the music you produce is going to be unique.
What have you been listening to currently?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Donald Byrd, King Tubby, Jon Hopkins… loads of stuff!
There’s a lot of great collaborations with artists like Singing Fats and Collete Warren, but one that stood out for me was Way Back When with Esther Durin. Tell me about that track.
Yeah, so the Esther Durin track was recorded at the Hospital studio in summer last year when things started opening up again. She’s mad talented and is really doing her own thing, she’s going to be big. The fact that I got her as a feature is amazing and I think her voice sounded really cool on a drum and bass track.
When listening through the album, the first feeling that it evoked for me was day party or festival/beach vibes.
Yeah, it’s kind of like nostalgia. All the tunes are written about a certain time or place. I wrote the first tune Springs & Things after Boomtown as I was really inspired by that. It was about trying to capture that feeling in a tune. Ichnusa I wrote after watching DLR and Ulterior Motive doing a b2b in the gazebo at Sunandbass, which I still think is the best set I’ve ever seen in my life. Sardinian Sunrise with Fats was again at Sunandbass, when everyone goes to the beach on the last day and watches the sun come up.
Is there anything else you’ve got coming up or are you taking it easy for a bit now?
I haven’t got too much else planned after the album. I’ve got an album launch party in London pencilled in, but that’s probably all I can say about that for now. I’m hoping that goes ahead! I just want to say thank you to everyone who listens to the music, comes to the shows and makes this possible. It seems a bit crazy saying that I’m releasing an album, and I really hope people enjoy listening to it. I put a lot of energy into it and a lot of pressure on myself as you only get one debut album. I wanted to make sure it’s as good as can be.
Unglued – Interplanetary Radio is out June 25 on Hospital Records
The Interplanetary Radio album launch party will be taking place at Studio 338, London, Saturday July 24. Get tickets here