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Dave Jenkins

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Exploring 1991’s debut album ODYSSEY

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Exploring 1991’s debut album ODYSSEY

 

Not every album titles is as apt as 1991’s debut LP… ODYSSEY.

An adventurous, explorative trip that navigates through an epic maze of electronic music genres, making sense of the wider world of dance music through 1991’s own unique perspective, ODYSSEY lives up to its name with vibrancy, energy and massive lashings of variety.

Galvanised with strong salutes to the legacy and influence of acts like Daft Punk, Disclosure, Basement Jaxx, Justice and Chemical Brothers, it’s a reminder that all genres are intrinsically related when you tap into the roots.

A love letter to dance music, signed, sealed and delivered by an act who’s continually evolved and kept us on our toes since he emerged just over six years ago: at one moment ODYSSEY has us shuffling away to bumping filtered house music (Life), the next we’re skanking hard to junglised bubblers (Thinking About You), the next we’re falling into the delicious unclassifiable sonic abyss of breakbeat cuts like Who Hurt You and Reloaded.

These are just a handful of highlights from a genuinely exciting, intriguing and insightful debut album… A personal album that’s the current summit of an odyssey of influences and inspirations that began when a young rock and indie loving Freddie Webb happened to chance upon a Chemical Brothers set at a festival years ago and his perspective on music was changed forever. Get to know…

So ODYSSEY has been out a week or two now. How’s it all going?

First off, I’ve got to say a huge thanks to everyone that’s been showing love for the album over the whole campaign. It really means a huge amount to me and its very life affirming.

The release has gone great, I’ve literally only had positive feedback which is kinda crazy. The couple months running up to the album were quite busy and stressful, it’s hard to not get too in your own head when doing a big project like this. Now I feel super relieved and glad I managed to see the album through, it was worth the stress and now I feel re-energised for whatever I do next.

Amazing. We last spoke pretty much exactly six years ago when you first broke through. How much has changed in your life since then!?

Wow that’s gone fast haha. I feel like a different person to be honest, there’s been a lot of personal growth along the way and it feels good. My perspective on things feels a lot clearer now and I have a better idea of what I want out of life.

It seemed like you had a good idea of what you wanted at the time, too. You expressed a love for many genres and styles – far, far beyond D&B. You’ve always expressed this in your music but ODYSSEY is where you’ve been able to take this to a whole new level, right? It feels very much like a love letter to the widest world of electronic music…

You are spot on to be honest, it is a kind of love letter to electronic music and all my various influences and inspirations. I’ve always seen an album as a chance to spread the wings a bit and show people what you’re made of, this was absolutely the case with ODYSSEY. I just adore being able to try other genres and sounds and testing the listener a bit. Like with Who Hurt You I don’t even know what that track classifies as genre-wise, but it fits the theme of the album. At the same time there are plenty of more familiar D&B tracks as well.

It’s a really fine-tuned balance. I have to say I’m getting big Justice and Chemical Brothers influences throughout the journey. How much of an inspiration have the acts been for you?

Both those names are iconic and timeless for me, my mind still boggles at the sound design of Chemical Brothers tunes from 20+ years ago. I think what’s important about artists like them is they were relevant to me before I even understood electronic music. I went to a festival in Belgium when I was about 15/16 called Rock Werchter (I was really into rock and indie as a teen) and I saw Chemical Brothers play at the end of a day of watching bands. It was so jarring and in your face that it kind of stuck with me, I hadn’t experienced that kind of attitude and grit from electronic music and it satisfied the little rocker in me.

Oh wow what a big impact. Who else has helped shape your sound and your love of electronic music?

It’s such a tough question but I’ll do my best to list the most relevant ones to the 1991 project:

Sub Focus, High Contrast, and Chase & Status were all getting heavy rotation on my iPod when I got into D&B in my late teens. I think I had the first album of Sub Focus on loop for about 6 months when that came out.

Chemical Bothers, Justice, Daft Punk, Moby, Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, and Basement Jaxx all had a huge impact on me when I was younger, similar to what I was saying before about me not understanding electronic music yet these artists sat well amongst all the rock music I was listening to. It’s crazy I eventually ended up doing the official remix of Where’s Your Head At for Basement Jaxx, they’ve been playing it in their sets which is mad.

That’s amazing! So about the album… Did you sit down to write ODYSSEY and know you were in album mode from the start? Or was it a more natural situation that grew organically?

I basically had the title track mostly written and thought to myself, “This would make a great first track on an album.” Then basically pulled the trigger to start writing towards a body of work. I’ve always wanted to put an album out since the very moment I realised I could make music, so creatively it was like opening the floodgates. There was never any doubt in my mind that I’d be able to write an album so it was always about trying to put the best tracks together and get some kind of concept going.

Ah wow. So the title track started it all. How did the process go? There’s always a moment or two in a massive personal project that’s like ‘HELL YEAH THIS IS HAPPENING’ and it’s goosebumps and you’re electrified with ideas. Can you think of a moment like that?

I think it mainly came from writing the title track ODYSSEY and feeling like I could build a world around that track and continue the theme a bit. That track came about because, for the longest time, I’d wanted to get that Justice/Daft Punk influence into a D&B tune but had never managed to. Once I’d got the main idea going, that’s when I was absolutely buzzing and that kind of feeling really gives you momentum artistically.

I love to work in that way where you have a kind of brief or task to complete creatively, I think that’s maybe why I love doing remixes because you already have the building blocks and it’s just down to you what you do with them.

Yeah totally, it gives you parameters. How about the flip side? When you’re doing such a massive personal project there’s always a point when you feel you’ll never reach the finish line and you question everything. Can you think of a moment like that?

Yeah there was definitely a moment like that, around new years when I went to New Zealand for six weeks and deadlines were looming. It’s very hard to be productive when you’re having a great time touring in a beautiful country full of lovely people. At that point I had around four or five tracks to finish. An album typically has to be submitted about five months ahead of release date and you’re at that point where you have to really commit and see it through. It gets tough because it’s like a baby that you’ve nurtured and looked after for a long time but eventually it has to fly the nest and go off into the big wide world, you can become fearful of letting go of it.

Oh wow. That’s a real pivotal moment! Stylistically you’ve literally gone through every shade and style of 1991 from house to jump-up… It’s the full spectrum isn’t it?

I wanted it to almost feel like a snapshot of what fans are familiar with in regards to the 1991 alias, as well as venturing onto new ground – there are familiar sounds and feelings that I’ve touched on before, as well as some less familiar moods and tempos. House might not be every D&B heads cup of tea but, through the ‘1991 filter’, it might then become acceptable to some of those people. I’ve always loved it when other D&B artists branch out and try a different genre, it shows courage and risk taking and that’s what art is all about.

100%! Were there other musical sides to your palette that you wanted to express but couldn’t?

I think there definitely are other avenues I could have explored, but I’m also content with what the album ended up as – it feels like a cohesive body of work and I wouldn’t change a thing now.

There is one side of the 1991 sound that I didn’t touch on, the future bass/trap vibes like on The People and Mayk Yu Myne, but I’m not sure that was right for the album. Maybe I’ll come back to that sound at some point.

Look forward to hearing that. You never get a second chance to make a debut album so what was the most important thing this album had to say?

Probably that 1991 will never be the same thing over and over again, I’m obsessed with trying new and challenging things whether that’s within D&B or music as a whole. Gotta keep people guessing…

Yes! What surprised you most about the album writing process that you didn’t expect?

Maybe the biggest surprise was how much I’ve enjoyed writing with vocalists, it’s something I’ve wanted to get better and more experienced at and I’ve really tried to book loads of sessions with writers and vocalists to develop that skill and add that string to the bow. Previously I’ve been a lot more vocal sample focussed so I’ve learnt a lot about creating a vocal from scratch.

Ah I was going to say, there are a lot of really interesting features and collabs on the album so please take the time to big up the people who made ODYSSEY special and were a part of this journey for you…

Yes! everyone involved truly nailed what I asked of them and really got on board with what I envisioned for the album. Big love to Bullysongs, Henry Dell, Empara Mi, Sharlene Hector, Cherryade, Noisy, Tom Cane, Issey Cross – they are all incredible in their own ways and they’ve taught me a lot, it has been a real pleasure to work with each of them.

Amazing. What else does the world need to know about ODYSSEY?

All they need to know is that ODYSSEY is out now so go check it out – I loved making it so I hope you all love listening to it too.

I know the album has only been out for a few weeks but what comes next?

I haven’t looked too far forward yet, the possibilities are endless. I think I’m gonna live life for a bit, do some touring and recharge my inspiration batteries…

Recharge your inspiration batteries with 1991 – ODYSSEY. Out now

Follow 1991: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud

 

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