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Dónal Sharpson

Q&A

Klinical: Unveiling the Depths of drum & bass and dubstep 

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Klinical: Unveiling the Depths of drum & bass and dubstep 

In the ever-evolving realm of drum & bass, where a saturated market has created an  environment of ‘screechy’ monotony, football style chants and big room energy, one  artist stands out for his groundbreaking approach to sound design and genre fusion.  Klinical AKA Dan Paget is a versatile producer based in Bristol who has been  pushing the boundaries of the genre with a sound that seamlessly navigates  between rollers, liquid, and neuro, carving a niche that is distinctly his own. 

Klinical’s journey into the world of music production began in 2015, having been  influenced by the dubstep boom of the 2010s. Since then, he has embarked on an  exploration that defies the conventional norms of drum & bass. With his original  sound rooted in jump-up, Klinical’s shift towards a deeper, dark sound over the past  few years has garnered him respect from both the average drum & bass punter, to  the critical chin waggers that are the ‘sound design’ purists.  

His upcoming EP Violent Castles drops on Overview Music drops March 15.  Inspired by his new home of Bristol, a city pulsating with musical diversity and most  importantly: bass music, ultimately shaping the trajectory of his productions. Violent Castles is an expansion of repertoire exploring 140 bpm dubstep for Klinical, that  aims to recapture the magic of the golden era of the genre’s UK roots. Featuring  collaborations with some heavy hitters the likes of Spektiv, Mythm and Killa PViolent Castles in my opinion will be remembered as a pinpoint in dubstep’s  resurfacing into the zeitgeist of UK Bass culture. 

I sat down with Klinical in anticipation of Violent Castles, where we discussed his  production style, his musical upbringing and the future of drum & bass and dubstep. 

Hey Klinical. Where are you today?  

Hey man, I’ve been living in Bristol, UK, for two years now. Originally I’m from Melksham, Wiltshire. So I’ve always lived in the west country.  

Of course, the ‘Bass Music Capital of the world’. How has the move to the  ‘Wubby’ city impacted your musical journey?  

It plays a big factor. I moved to Bristol to get involved in the music scene  here a few years ago. It’s so alive, and has definitely been a big inspiration. The  clubs here are so diverse in terms of its music. It’s definitely been a good  environment to be in working on this new EP. Even being surrounded by producers  and DJ’s, I live with YAANO and our neighbors are Cesco, Azifm and Yancey  so I couldn’t be more surrounded haha! You just bump into the right people and it’s so accessible to meet up and collaborate.  ‘Tokyo’, one of the singles released, came about after me and Spektiv had a few too  many pints of Guinness at Seamus O’Donnels. We decided to go back to Dan’s studio and work into the early hours, from there ‘Tokyo’ was born.  That’s what I love about Bristol, being in that environment things  can happen organically. It’s definitely a good city to be a Bass music producer. 

Let’s start from the beginning. When did you start producing? 

I started producing almost ten years ago now back in 2015 when I was going to UNI in Southampton. At the time I was studying film production. I do a Patreon where I make tutorials, track breakdowns, that kind of thing,  so having an editing background really helped.  

Rather than doing my UNI work, I just wanted to make music and spent most of my time working on tracks and putting on events. Back then I used to run a D&B night with Kanine, Baker, Wilf Hertz, and  T95 called RAAAW at a club called Junk, Southampton. In fact, it  was Wilf Hertz who really helped me up my production game when I was studying.  They were good times.  

Sounds like a talented bunch came out of that UNI. Good thing you didn’t go to  class or who knows where you might have ended up. So tell me, who are your  inspirations? 

So many out there but It’s funny a memory that really sticks out to me is  hearing Modestep’s ‘Sunlight’ for the first time. I think I was on my way to college  and I just remember thinking ‘Ok, I need to start making some tunes’. Back  then I was infatuated with all of the early UKF dubstep days. The likes of Flux  Pavilion, Doctor P and Nero It exposed me to the earlier UK dubstep sound that’s been an inspiration for this new EP. The likes of Skream, Coki etc. A few years  later, I finally saved up enough money to buy a MacBook and from then on I  was completely addicted to producing. It deepened my admiration for  electronic music more and more as I kept learning and the inspiration I got  while learning was like a drug. I would say the process was just as much,  maybe even more, of an inspiration to me as other artists in the scene.

So why did you start making drum & bass?

After my dubstep phase I got really into jump-up. Especially that Belgian sound, which is funny because you wouldn’t  think it from hearing my music. The older I’ve gotten the more  my taste has definitely calmed down a bit.  I’ve also always been into rolling D&B, the likes of Alix Perez, Skeptical and Hazard.  Right  now though, Ivy Lab inspires me the most. Those guys make incredibly forward  thinking music with so much depth, production wise they’re the GOATS for  me. 

That’s a nice variety there. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty. Reveal your  secrets! What softwares are you using to get your sound? 

Now I’m on Ableton. I found the workflow can be way more streamlined  compared to other softwares. Basically then it’s mostly plug-ins. In terms of basses,  like most people I know who produce drum & bass, I’m using Serum. It’s handy for  getting some complex FM synth sounds pretty easily. For pads and leads though, I  use Arturias Pigments. It’s a sick VST that you can get some nice complex textures  out of. For this EP though, I stepped out of my comfort zone with some of  the production. The whispering in ‘Answer’ is my own voice and I recorded  the guitar on the outro to ‘GXDSWORK’, I had only been learning guitar for a  week or so at this point but with reverb and delay, anything can sound  somewhat good haha!  

Your sound is on the verge of pollers and neuro, unusual for someone with a  jump-up background. How do you manage to achieve this? 

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too happy with the quality of my music until I moved  towards a more ‘minimal’ sound. When I was making jump-up I could never quite  get what I wanted out of it. I felt I didn’t have the means to express myself through it. However, It definitely  pushed me to learn about sound design. 

You’re known for your more deeper sounding drum & bass, but this EP is pure  dubstep. The first single of the new EP “Tokyo ” with Spektiv harkens back to early  UK dubstep such as Skream, Benga etc. What made you decide to move towards  this direction?  

Yeah so this EP is my debut 140 bpm release. It’s funny but I definitely had  a lot more freedom in doing it. I think it boils down to the fact that I could make music  without expectations from my audience. As it’s a new style for me, I could definitely 

experiment more and not rely on my typical tricks and traits. I’ve always wanted to release dubstep and I thought there would be a lot of pressure around it, but it actually came pretty easily. The crew at Overview Music helped a lot with  relieving the pressure and getting my foot in the door, especially Oli who co-runs the  label who is also my housemate and close friend! He’s a massive dubstep fan too so  he worked really hard on the promo for this release. It’s a debut dubstep EP for both myself and Overview Music, and I feel this EP is a testament to the freedom they  always give me. 

You have some serious collaborations on this EP. What was it like working with  the legendary MC; Killa P? 

Amazing. That was a proper bucket list moment. To me, he encapsulates  the underground UK sound. I couldn’t believe he was up for jumping on the  track, and the man absolutely smashed it!   

Of course he did! Were you nervous working with him? 

Before the track materialised, I was, definitely. I was a bit worried about  doing the vocal mix of an artist with that caliber. But once I got the vocals back from him, all nerves went away. They were perfect.  So crisp and the bars were crazy! It  was too easy really, it fit in so well and I barely had to touch up anything. The guy’s a  legend. 

This EP is so sick and it’s refreshing to see some proper dubstep when the  market is saturated with that jump-up sound. Do you think you’ll be going down the  140 route from now on? 

Basically from now on I want to be known as a multi-genre producer. I don’t  want to be bogged down by one style. It’s refreshing working on something that’s  outside of my wheelhouse. Recently I’ve been working on a drill track with two  local MC’s Limmz and Pabz. I’ve also been experimenting with garage and  techno. It’s a liberating feeling and the reception I’ve had to the music has made the jump feel worth it.  

Also, I think that drum & bass heads are looking for something different. Every time  I’ve dropped my dubstep tracks, they’ve gone down really well with a D&B crowd. It’s  a good break away for people I feel. The drum & bass boom has been good but I  think people don’t want to lean away from it too much these days. 

That leads me into my next question: How do you feel about the current state  of drum & bass?

It’s definitely a bit monopolised at the minute. It’s great because the  audience and hunger for it has grown enormously, both inside the UK and out. That  being said, I think that on the local level, drum & bass has suffered. It’s hard to get a  local night going because the competition is so tough. The music itself has definitely improved in the underground. Artists  like SMG, VISLA, YAANO, Azifm and Para are all newcomers who are bringing originality and are in it for the right reasons. Without originality the genre dies so it’s great to see people trying something new.

There’s definitely a drum & bass boom happening alright, maybe even on its  way out. Do you think dubstep will have its time in the sun again? 

Maybe, but….things rot in the sun. I think it’s having an underground boom again, which I  think is the healthiest thing. It retains the soul while appealing to an audience  which appreciates it for what it is. There’s a lot of originality and heritage in  dubstep that can be explored. Even being here in Bristol I’m starting to hear it more  regularly. It’s exciting. 

Definitely. So tell me, what’s next for Klinical in 2024? 

Release wise, my schedule for this year is looking really full so expect  lots of new music. The gigs are filling up nicely too, including Outlook Festival,  D&B Allstars Festival and lots of shows in between so follow my socials to keep up with them!

We’re looking forward to it. Thanks for taking the time to talk to UKF mate, and see you in 2024!

Likewise!

If you like the sound of Klinical’s upcoming EP Violent Castles, you can check out the first single off of the EP ‘Tokyo’ featuring Spektiv on UKF. The full EP drops on March 15 on Overview Music.

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