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Reconnecting With Emperor

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Reconnecting With Emperor

 

Emperor is back with a two track release to add to his fearsome back catalogue of music. It’s fresh, it’s gnarly, and it’s another weapon to add to the dynasty of tunes he’s built over the past decade. 

Having already proved himself with standout releases on stellar imprints such as VISION, Critical Music, UKF, Drum&Bass Arena, Symmetry, and Neosignal (to name but a few), this time Emperor is back at the wheel driving his own imprint, EMPR:  where freedom reigns and sonics get a little bit weird…

Which isn’t all that surprising, as Emperor is a producer who’s never really played by the rules, and his new two tracker EMPR003 sees another original release as unique as it is wicked. Glimpse/Telefon couldn’t be more different from his earlier offering this year; the emotive, all-out thunder of All I Want, and the near liquid smoothness of Saved Me, yet this non-conformity is how you stay one of the most exciting, intriguing, talents in the game.

Along with some stunning sound design and know-how of how to work the dancefloor, it’s without doubt this ability to delve into all styles and crossbreed ideas, genres, and tempos that makes Emperor such an exciting artist in bass music. There’s little formulaic about his tunes, he’s always looking to push boundaries and ask a few questions via the music, so naturally, we had a few questions for the man himself…

With a collab in the works for Souped Up, and more heaters coming to Critical, we called up Emperor on the telefon to get a glimpse of where he’s been and where he’s headed lately. 

– Emperor · Emperor – Telefon

Emperor, how’s it going? Still being 2021, we’ve got to ask you the inevitable lockdown questions…how’ve you found it this year? 

Yeah so, getting back to normal has been quite liberating actually because for me lockdown was pretty atrocious for lack of a better word, or out of all of the words! I suppose everyone had such a horrible time generally …

Personally, it was really difficult, I went through a lot of mental health stuff, I really had to take a lot of time out and focus on all of that- lots of mindfulness and lots of self help books!

Ah, that really does sound like a struggle. If you know you’re getting back to where you should be in yourself and with your music journey, then that’s a great thing to hear!

Of course, I think getting back to gigs as well, and just you know playing again. It’s just weird – you go back to playing again and it’s almost like nothing’s even happened you’re just straight back into it and playing packed out shows – and it’s like OH? We’ve just been through a pandemic and everyone’s here, and everyone’s sharing and listening to this music again together and everyone’s in such a good mood as well – obviously after that whole horrific experience and getting back to hearing the music on a big sound system in a sweaty rave …that’s been amazing to be honest.

For sure – surely there’s some favourite DJ moments since clubs have reopened?

Hmm…I think probably the recent show I played for Get In Step in Paris. It was at this incredible club Nexus, with 3D visuals all the way around the room, Camo & Krooked were on the bill along with Fade Black, and it was just – an incredible venue, the soundsystem was amazing, it was really well run too and everyone was just totally in love with the vibe of the night. So that’s definitely been a big highlight recently.

Woah that does sound sick. D&B seems quite a niche scene over there compared to techno and house, but there’s a lot of good producers coming out of there…

Yeah, exactly, I think that’s Europe in general. Techno! Techno! Techno! But actually there are these really devoted groups of promoters and crews over there which have been putting on drum & bass nights for years and years so, yeah there’s definitely a scene, and sometimes, it’s even more exciting to play than the UK shows really… Not that the UK’s not good haha! 

As you said, that devotion to the music, where it’s more underground than here in the UK, must make for one sick vibe between both sides of the decks.

Indeed!

So speaking of connections, we’ve noticed you’ve been utilising social media more lately…

Yeah, so I think at the beginning of lockdown, I think it was IMANU set up a Patreon and I was kind of like “Oh that’s a really cool idea!” but at the time I didn’t feel like I had the content there to really go in that direction, or enough music really, as I’d just set up my own imprint which is where this new release is taking off.

At the time, all the music that I had was originally meant for my own imprint, so I essentially had a year’s worth of music.

– Emperor · Emperor – Boppers [Patreon Exclusive]

Ah, so you were sitting on bare dubs then?

Yeah! So I thought well actually I could pretty much release a track every month and then do that as Patreon thing and then do some tutorials and all that kind of stuff and it’s blossomed into something I’ve really enjoyed doing- I always kind of struggled with travelling for shows and touring and that side of DJ/producing so, as much as I love playing the shows, this Patreon venture has become something I really love. It’s a really good way to deliver content to people!

Build your fan base on a more personal level…

Yeah exactly, it’s been great! Also, with social media as well that’s helped a lot with just promoting my tunes and just getting it out there you know, saying I’ve got a new thing, check it out! 

Definitely, the old Linktree of life! So speaking of new things, let’s chat about your new self-release EMPR003…Do you find the self-release approach more liberating?

I think it’s a natural progression for a lot of artists to work with labels and then move away and do their own thing as well, and keep working with labels of course, you know I work with UKF and Drum&BassArena and all that.

But no exclusive label signings…

No, I’ve never really wanted any of that. Unless the deal is really good, haha! When you’re an artist you just want to be creative and you don’t really want some other person there telling you what’s what or you can’t do this or change that snare it sounds bad…

Haha, not that I’ve had that one before! Working with Critical Music for example, I’ve never had Kasra or anyone on A&R say this tune should be like this or you should try this, it was more like oh this track would fit with our label and our vibe, so yeah, there’s always going to be that form of selectivity, so it’s less controlling but more you’re always going to be writing to a brief in a musical way I guess.

It’s nice to avoid being pigeon-holed to one sound so to speak…

Definitely, so to not have that can be quite nice to think;  these two tracks fit together, maybe they’re a bit weird maybe, but they’re cool!

So will you be on any labels soon?

Yeah, I’ve actually got a release with Critical coming up. A few collabs too, me and Dutta have just written a single together which is coming out on Souped Up which is quite stylistically weird and different for both of us I think! 

– Emperor · Emperor – Glimpse

You were teasing those jump up influences in your new track Glimpse… Bit of a nan-slapper! 

I’m always trying to do something different, I think it’s quite easy or predictable when you’re creating a huge intro or giant build, it’s always really tempting to just go for the all out nan-slapper banger and go in the typical direction, which is always great for a dance floor but I feel like I’ve always tried to marry up the ideas of a dancefloor banger with something that’s just a bit interesting and different? 

As you mentioned ‘pigeon holing’ earlier, I don’t like to repeat the same things or ideas again and again, it can get a bit boring really!

From a DJ’s perspective too, when you drop those unexpected twists in a set, it’s more likely to bring a reaction with that change of energy…

Yeah of course, I think that’s such a great feeling when you play a track as well which you know is a bit out there or avant garde in the way it drops after a huge build for example.

A great way to get told to f*ck off by the crowd, nicely of course…

And if you get that reaction back you know you’re really on to something!

There’s a really subby kick in this tune with that bouncing bass, you almost can’t tell what’s what, the drums are quite subtle so there’s a lot of bounce with a bit of shuffle, almost tribal, it’s wicked. 

It’s definitely a weird one…I’ll say that!

And that sample sets a vibey neuro atmosphere…where did you get the inspiration from? If you don’t want to divulge all your sampling secrets…

Haha, I don’t want to tell you where that came from…for fear of being hunted by copyright! Haha, no it’s not like that, that one was royalty free! I think…

For those kinds of vocal samples, I usually go for super old school documentaries about something that will fit the track. One of the newer tracks I’m working on is about depth chargers, which are these underwater mines which are tethered to the seabed, and if a submarine goes near them they blow up, remember that scene in Finding Nemo? 

Explosions and shellas, very fitting of a d&b tune…

Yeah it’s a really cool atmospheric addition to tunes! Also there’s all these really cool old documentaries from the 1940s or 50s and it’ll have this cool voice over and they could be talking about something in detail and how it works. I usually go for those old school documentaries as a source of sampling and inspiration.

Drum&BassArena · Emperor – All I Ever Wanted

Definitely sets the vibe of that brooding, sci-fi kinda neuro atmosphere, ominous voice overs and futuristic sounds…

The whole atmosphere side of the music is really important for me to put into the tracks, to have a story almost, as much as you can within drum & bass. 

A narrative structure almost…

Yeah!

I can see some serious VIPs and remixes incoming with Glimpse. Let’s get onto Telefon…quite a minimal affair, but still a slap round the ears nonetheless…

For this track, I was listening to a lot of Simula and Annix, at the time I was doing the remix of Diagram for their label…

That’s quite a fresh release isn’t it?

Yeah, so I was really into a lot of what they’d been doing, this kinda  jump up/ neuro hybrid; really well produced, groovy tracks, I totally love that vibe! So a lot of this was inspired by that sort of sound, so I was like I might try a bit of that!

Influences definitely bleed through into the art…

For sure. 

So one comment on the upload of Telefon had an interesting idea, “pretty damn hard for a self-proclaimed sad boi”… can we get any comment on this statement at this time?

Hahaha, being a sad boi? Just because you’re a sad boi doesn’t mean you can’t bounce around and be a bit angry from time to time I think! Oh god, Youtube comments…

The comments on that tune were pretty rewarding actually, a lot of people commented on the atmosphere and that sort of stuff!

Telefon had quite a warp bass present fitting of a 140 tune… We know you have an alias Monuman, any word from him?

You’ll definitely be seeing some Monuman soon. A lot of that stuff has taken a bit of a back seat recently, but there’s about an album’s worth of music there. 

I just don’t know where to go with it at present; some of it’s quite ambient sounding, a bit introspective so it’s finding a way to put it out there, would it all work as an album or should I do a more soundtrack themed release and then a more dubstep oriented sound on top of that as well…

Perhaps you could get them out as different conceptual releases, with themes hinted at with the artwork and such…

There’s definitely more in the pipeline for Monuman… The artist I usually work with is called FuniLab, he always does amazing atmospheric pieces for my releases and he did my album and he just captures the vibe perfectly, another excuse to work with him is always on the cards!

It seems you’ve covered all angles as a d&b artist, what else do you want to do with the sound…

Just to explore newer sounds all the time. I don’t think there’s any particular genre or way that I want to go with stuff, it really changes day by day…One day I want to make a liquid tune and other days a big sausage-banger-kinda-track! 

Drum&BassArena · Emperor – Saved Me

Would you say your mood and outlook dictate what you make in that way…

Yeah definitely, it’s all dependent on my emotional state at that moment I guess, the tunes I make. I kind of decide later down the line months on when I’ve finished tracks if two tracks will work together as a release or which label to send the music to, it is a really long process!

I’ve always felt the Monuman stuff was more personal really, not that the Emperor music isn’t personal, it’s more a sensation that it’s easier to put yourself and your emotions into music that’s more melodic and slower generally speaking… 

It can be pretty damn cathartic…

I’m useless at expressing emotion, so I guess that’s how I do it! The emotions come through the music.

So, it’s nearly 10 years since the debut release of Monolith back in 2012, do you have any thoughts looking back over your ruling years?

Oh god, ten years? Time flies! I’m quite lucky that I don’t have many regrets really of how things have turned out, and I’m extremely lucky to still be on this amazing journey. I’m still just as in love with making this music now as I was then, so perhaps you’ll be asking me the same question in 2031!

So to wrap up, given the chance, who would the Emperor most like to speak to on the Telefon right now?

Anyone? Anyone in the world? Hm, I’d probably just call my mum and ask how she’s doing, make sure she’s had a nice day. 

Emperor – Glimpse / Telefon is out now

Follow Emperor: Instagram / Facebook / Soundcloud

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