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In Conversation With Drone

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In Conversation With Drone

@rebeccavillis

Bristol based producer Drone has a reputation for crossing the boundaries of genres, but whether it’s trap, grime, dubstep or garage, you can be sure that the beats will exemplify the most premium filth. Dark and deadly subs underline all of his productions with a gutter-scrapingly gully signature. His eclectic sonics caught the attention of  Alix Perez who welcomed him to the ranks of 1985 Music, where this April he’ll be releasing his debut album ‘Dance With The Devil’.

We caught up with Drone to catch about his wide ranging influences, how his works process differs as he switches though genres and his list of dream album collaborations.

Hi, How are you?

It’s a rainy day here in Bristol today. But, I’m all good. I just, well about a month ago, got back from the States. It was my first time over there, which was really good. It was a nice little introductory run. It wasn’t too long, and really fun. And I’ve done a couple of album launch parties in Bristol and London. 

I’ve actually got the record right in front of me. I saw it for the first time the other day. I went down to the warehouse with Amy [the 1985 label manager], which was really cool. So yeah, just been some good, some cool things going on and just been kind of trying to keep it moving.

That sounds exciting, before we talk about the album I wanted to ask you what kind of music you were listening to when you were younger. 

I remember I had my little mp3 player listening to old Rinse shows like Skream’s Stella sessions, Oneman, Loefah, people like that. It’s weird because at that age kids can’t comprehend people being into multiple things. I was always the skate kid with long hair but I was also listening to grime and drum and bass and loads of hip hop. But I was always into heavier stuff like metal and hardcore and a lot of guitar music. I came from quite a musical family, my dad used to be in a band, and my parents have a big records collection at home. As I  grew up they were playing a lot of old punk and reggae. 

I played bass in a hardcore band from the age of 17 or 18, around the time when I was getting into making beats and DJing. I’d go play a gig, rock out, jump around, and get sweaty. And then I’d go home and try, and make like, some grime beats on my laptop. I have quite a diverse musical taste: I think it is really important to kind of listen to a variety of stuff. You don’t even have to like it but just be open to different things. It definitely shows in people’s music, their productions are not formulaic.

I was surrounded by all sorts really growing up and I try to be a bit more now as well. I recently started to get back into playing the guitar.

Did you grow up in Bristol?

I actually grew up in Hastings which is a small seaside town. I lived there until I was 21 and now I’ve been in Bristol for the last eight years. Being from the South Coast I used to go out in Brighton and London a lot. Then I thought,  I’ve been to these places loads of times let me try to go somewhere different. I’d never even been to Bristol before I moved there and I was like “Right? f*** it, that looks good, that there’s lots of cool stuff happening there. Loads of great artists that I’m into. Let’s go there and see what happens”. And it turned out really well. I consider Bristol my home nowadays, I’m pretty settled here. I’ve got a great group of friends and like, people around me. I really enjoy it.

Bristol is so eclectic as well. So with the way you’ve described your musical upbringing, I imagine it suits you….

Definitely. I don’t feel too trapped, there’s a lot of green space which is important to me. Whenever I go down to London for the weekend, to visit my friends or my sister or to play shows I start to feel a little bit trapped and think “I’m ready to go back to the countryside now”.

Going back to your influences, you mentioned when you were younger you listened to a lot of rock and hardcore. How did grime and bass music come into your life?

It was probably back in the day when everyone used to have Limewire, downloading a lot of Dizzee Rascal, JME, Skepta, and people like that. I was getting into them from an early age, and from there I found artists like Skream, Loefah, and Oneman who were playing a lot of grime and a lot of dubstep and this really sick crossover sort of stuff, I just saw it all as this great UK music.  There are certain people who say they’re a grime person or they’re a dubstep person, or they’re whatever. But then there were a few moments when I was younger that were very influential to me, in terms of crossing things over. I actually remember seeing Elijah saying something on Twitter a couple of years ago about how it is that all these genres got categorised. It can all live under the same umbrella harmoniously.

I’d listen to Rinse shows religiously. The internet wasn’t as big then, so I would download some shows and put them on my little mp3 player and listen to them on the school bus. I hated going to school but I remember the bus journeys to and from school were my time to explore music a bit more. I’d come across new Plastician tunes, and being like I don’t really know what’s going on here but I wanna know more. Tapping into whatever I could get my hands on it that period.

When did you start getting into production? 

When I was in year 11. I didn’t really like school, I wasn’t the most academic person but the school that I was at had amazing music facilities for that time.  They had rehearsal rooms, and computer suits with Fruity Loops and Cubase, at lunch times I used to go in there. I opened Cubase and thought “This looks horrible, I don’t know what I’m doing”, and then I opened Fruity Loops and thought “That’s quite fun”. I would Tinker around and try and teach myself, I was about 16. After doing that for a couple of years, like everyone else, I got a cracked copy of FL on my laptop. I would mess around with that a little bit, and after another few years doing that and also playing in the band I decided that, actually, production was more the lane I want to go down. I was probably about 18, 19 when I thought,  “Okay this is something I’m like would like to pursue.” 

Let’s talk about the new album, how did it come about?

I first started chatting with Alix in 2019 or 2020, I was sending him some tunes and he picked up one thing that he wanted to put on VA album and we carried on working from there. It was in 2021 that Alix floated the idea of a longer project.  The album started out as a bit of a mini-LP- an 8-track sort of thing. As I kept building, I was feeling more and more inspired and asked if there was a way we could turn it into a full album.  He said yes and told me to keep writing, so I think I was writing the tunes for just under a year.

I probably wrote around 20 tracks, some were a bit rougher than others, but for near enough a year straight I was focusing on trying to stack things up. Around this time last year, we narrowed it down we had a meeting where we went through what we thought should go on there and how we wanted to present it. My list and Alix’s list were pretty much the same which was a nice touch, it’s amazing working with him because he gives me a lot of creative freedom. He’s always asking if there’s anyone specific I want to do artwork or any like ideas for the tracklist, or vocals, or how I’d to like present it, which has been amazing. I’ve never kind of had that working relationship with a label and it feels really good to have 1985 as a home base now to develop as a producer and artist. 

How did you meet up with Alix in the first place?

I reached out to him on insta, just randomly. I just sent him some tunes thinking I’d probably not hear anything back from this, he hit me back and said “Yeah, these are really cool like keep sending me stuff”. That was like the little confidence boost that I needed. I thought “Right, he’s interested. I need to get back to the drawing board and work some magic.

And what a name to be interested in your work! Everyone loves Alix Perez, he’s such a renowned producer, it must have felt really, really good… 

Definitely and he’s somebody who’s touched upon so many different kinds of styles and genres and worked with so many different people over the years.  I think that is so important in this day and age and that’s what inspires me as well- to want to touch different areas that I might not have found before or  meet people who might be within a completely different style to me. He was a big inspiration in that sense and something that I want to kind of keep in my, music going forward. 

There’s real  versatility in this album. Did you have this in mind when choosing the tracks?

Yeah, a lot of the stuff I’ve released previously has always been around the 140 region, but I don’t want to get pigeonholed into that. There’s more to life than dubstep or 140 or whatever. It’s important for human beings and artists to continue evolving, if you do the same thing for x amount of years it kind of gets a bit stale after a while you’ll want to do something different. 

For me, this project is a good representation of where I am right now as an artist and the kind of stuff that I want to push going forward. Out of the 13 tracks on there, only a few of them are 140,  the rest are slower, sludgier stuff. I’ve got a garage tune with Notion and a 160 breaks tune with Hyroglifics. I wanted to put all the things that excite me and interest me but obviously include my sound palette as well, that was the idea behind it. 

I also wanted to have all my friends and artists who I look up to and who inspire me, as part of the project. I wrote a list down before I started writing the album, of everybody I wanted on there and I think I got everybody bar one or two people. So that was a nice personal touch for me. My good friend, Yasseen, designed the sleeve of the record, I really wanted him to be a part of it because he’s a great friend but also an amazing designer. It’s all of me, all of my interests and all the homies. It’s a nice final result.

Really personal feeling, do you think that makes it more special if you’ve got your mates involved? 

A hundred percent. I can look back on that when I’m old and think about that period in my life when I had  these amazing people around me and I managed to put this amazing thing together. 

We’ve talked about multi-genres and your versatility. Do you find it difficult to get placed on certain lineups because you’re not strictly garage or strictly grime or d&b?

 I think recently it’s been quite the opposite. I’ve been on a lot of drum and bass lineups and a lot of multi-genre line-ups which is way more interesting for me and really, I’ve been really enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing dubstep nights. I just think it’s a bit more exciting, having different genres there. Before I was getting put on a lot of similar lineups, but recently I’ve been fully embracing, being on the drum & bass and multi-genre of things. Variety is the spice of life

Do you have a different workflow or different process for your different styles?

I get inspired by such random things sometimes. I like watching a lot of films, I like going on walks, I like exercising, that kind of thing. Those things inspire me a lot more when it comes to creating rather than sitting at my laptop and listening to promos, listening to music or to whatever’s popping at the minute. So I think my workflow is always kind of similar, but I never know what’s going to come out.

I’ve refined it and found out what I like, and how I like to work. I’ve been collecting a lot of hardware, effects units and guitar pedals over the last few years, I’ve found that’s what really gets me going and what really keeps me interested. We’re producers, we sit at our computers for x amount of hours every day and if you’re just looking at a screen for too long and you start seeing stars your head goes a bit funny. I try to play around with stuff like guitar pedals. 

But I’d say my process is always pretty the same. It’s just the end result which differs, and I’m here for it. It keeps it fresh and it keeps me interested. That’s the most important thing. I need to be having fun and need to be enjoying it and immersed in it. Otherwise I’m just gonna get bored and start something new. 

You seem really happy and nice, but your music is so dark, I always find the smelliest people make the dirtiest tracks, and it’s always so unexpected. 

I’m quite a positive person.  I’m very optimistic and very open to things but I’ve never really thought that yeah, because some of the music is very dark and horrible and…Maybe that’s what comes out when I’m happy.

You talked a bit about the Collabs already, you got everyone that you wanted to be there- who can people expect to see?

Vocal wise, there’s a track with Snowy, a track with Emz and a track  with Nah Eeto. Collaborations wise I’ve got a tune with Alix, a tune with Hyroglifics, one with Deft, and one Notion as well. I wanted to have a nice mix of vocals and collaborations. I think that and the Snowy tune was one of the first ones I wrote, he’s been a good friend of mine for years and he was one of the first people that I thought of when I started this project. I sent it to Alex and he loved it straight away. We’ve  both been playing out in sets the last year or so and it’s been popping off all over the place so that was definitely one of my favourites. 

Then the track with Nah Eeto, she was one of the people that I’ve wanted on the project most and we hit her up, but we didn’t really hear anything back for months. And then probably a month or two before I ended up submitting the project she randomly came through with this vocal and it, made my day. It was the sickest vocal as well, she’s got such a great tone of voice and nice wispy flows- that tune is really sick. She raps in English and Swahili and flips between both of them, which is such a unique thing. I haven’t really heard any stuff like that, especially in drum and bass and electronic music. So that one is really special to me.

You can grab Drone’s ‘Dance With The Devil’ here.

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