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Seba reveals more about his album – Ingaro

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Seba reveals more about his album – Ingaro

2022 has dawned and Seba has just dropped his third album Ingaro. Already the year feels optimistic with music like this around.

Self-released on his own imprint Secret Operations, featuring collaborations with Marina Samba, Collette Warren, Samuel Lancine, Blackeye, and Björn Berglund, right from the off Ingaro draws you in.

From the artwork to the music, it’s arguably Seba’s best work yet so we called the luminary – whose roots go back to the 90s Swedish rave scene hanging out with the likes of Adam Beyer – to dive deep into the album’s construction and an insight into building a drum & bass album when you’re a purveyor of some of the best in the game who has a distinguished career stretching back more than 20 years.

Ingaro then, is this your home town? 

Ingaro is an island outside of Stockholm, which is basically an archipelago. From Stockholm you have to cross four bridges to get to this island, and every time I tell people that I live on an island, they think, ‘Oh wow that must be amazing,’ And they picture this small island with cliffs in the middle of the ocean, it’s not really like that; it’s a big island with 13,000 people living here. So, it has three different schools and it’s sort of a countryside community, but it is very beautiful, and this is where we live and I’m actually in the very same house that I sort of grew up in. I bought it off my parents a couple of years ago and yeah, it’s a lovely place!

Is it a typical wooden, Scandinavian affair? 

Yeah, it’s 300 years old so it’s quite picturesque!

So there’s a lot of meaning held there for you, is this why you named the album Ingaro? 

That was actually not my idea! That was the graphic designer… Because when I started talking to him about it, he was so inspired by this idea where I lived so he thought why don’t we just call the album that? I actually really like the idea of naming an album something completely different than what the tracks are called.

Somewhat gets the curiosity of the listeners roused. 

Exactly, so people go, ‘What is Ingaro?’ That’s exactly what you’ve got on the cover.

Subtle Swedish tones with the blue and yellow schematics? 

That was actually another theme from the graphic designer, Jonas. He’s a graffiti artist and he writes pike, that’s his graffiti tag, and the way it formed into this cover is quite interesting really. He came up with the name, the idea of having this island on the cover, and I was actually wearing a grey sweater that said ‘Ukraine’ on it which had the national symbol and colours on it and he just stared at it like I love those colours! And Ukrainian colours are very similar to Sweden’s, and he just stared at it like, ‘let’s do that!’

That’s a really cool coincidence… So let’s chat about your label Secret Operations. It’s named after a night you used to run back in the 90s wasn’t it?

We ran that on Sundays, we didn’t have that many people – it was a place that would hold about 100 people. It was quite interesting, as there were not a lot of places that would play drum and bass at the time and it sort of became, or so a lot of people told me afterwards, it wasn’t just like a club you go to, to get hammered, it was more like an educational institution for new music to be heard; so I was very happy to hear that!

Was this back in 1996? 

Yes it was! In Sweden it’s always been techno as the dominant dance music.

Did you ever produce techno? 

No I didn’t, the Swedish rave scene was kind of a mixture of all different electronic styles that came from different places, you’ve got music from Detroit, from Berlin, from Rotterdam, and obviously London as well. So it had all these different styles and it all got mixed together in Sweden.

You established Secret Operations in 2002, so this means you’re celebrating your 20th anniversary at the wheel with this album. 

I didn’t think of that actually! Wow, that’s very interesting, I need to talk to Katya about that, she’s my fiancé but also acting label manager.

Haha, so it is a real secret operation out of your household then? 

It is! Haha, she’s acting as label manager as I’m not very good at that side of music. I’m very good at getting into the studio and making music but when it comes to answering emails and promoting myself and all that…Yeah I need to tell Katya it’s the 20th anniversary!

Ace! How long has Ingaro been in the works? 

Okay, so I wasn’t gonna do an album, this is again thanks to Katya, I always tell her my ideas about music and then we discuss it, as it’s great to have a second opinion and another’s thoughts and I had a few tracks that I had to finish as they were just sitting on my hard drive and I knew I needed to finish these tracks, maybe I should do a couple of 12 inches as a series and she was like, ‘Do an album!’

I thought, ‘Hm, no, I don’t want to do an album.’ There’s a good reason for that, because to do four 12 inches, I can just do that you know it’s not a problem, if I wanna do an album, I’m gonna have to make the tracks so they fit together…

With a certain structure and narrative?

Exactly! I’m thinking, I use Spotify a lot, if I put out an album, I want people to be able to listen to it on Spotify without fast-forwarding on a track. I listen to a lot of Om Unit and one of the artists I listen to most the past few years is Skee Mask, it’s just lovely and you can listen to the album from beginning to end and then you can listen to it a second time because it’s just brilliantly made, so this is what I’ve been struggling with, getting tracks to fit together and make sure the intros aren’t 32 bars of beats and stuff like that.

Is this a reflection of the modern age? Does it affect your work flow as an artist? Maybe more than it would have done 20 years ago…

It’s more that I have to think it through in a different way, I would think like, ‘Okay, I need a 30 second intro here as I want to mix it really nicely when I play out.’ And now I have to think, ‘How can I make an intro that sounds okay, and still be able to mix it in a club?’ So it’s just a change of focus, but the musical content stays the same.

Everyone who’s familiar with your music knows your ability to conjure the most dreamy and emotive of atmospheres, just how do you do it?

Hahaha, I don’t know really, it’s a case of knowing my gear definitely, also I think I build up my tracks a bit different from what a lot of people do, I would say sometimes the last thing I put on the track is the bassline.

So I build up the track with beats and an atmosphere and then I actually struggle, when I put a bassline as I’m trying to put something that drives the track and fits the melody, but doesn’t sound too nice, or cheesy you know… Sometimes I put a bassline and it’s like, ‘Nah, this is a bit Mickey Mouse.’ Because that’s often what you get when you make music that is emotional and beautiful and then you put a bassline and it becomes like, ‘Arghh, not really…’

Does that reflect the music you consume as a listener?

Yeah, I do take a lot of inspiration also from electronic music which isn’t drum & bass, I don’t listen to a lot of drum & bass. Well, the music I consume as a listener, I’d say affects my production totally, I would say that.

Any tips for our readers for 2022?

Totally, I would say Skee Mask. Barker, Om Unit, and DeepChord.

DeepChord is totally techno, but it sounds like your neighbour is having a party, it’s so cool and distant; like you’re walking in the forest, you can hear the rave, but you don’t know where it is…

Do your surroundings sneak into your music? The contrast between dark winters and forever summers?

No, the reason why my music is light and dark is I like different types of drum and bass, and I play anything in my sets, and I try to make that music as well.

I can play a track by Calibre, tracks by Serum, by Digital, Benny L, it goes in all directions. This is what I’m trying to put in my production as well. Sometimes I do some darker stuff, sometimes I do something which is just completely light and beautiful and has no aggression in it at all so, It also depends on the mood as well.

If I’ve done like five tracks that are quite beautiful then I get sick of it then I’m like, ‘Oh god, I don’t want to do a track like that ever again.’ Haha.

You’ve always linked up with truly stunning vocalists from the likes of Robert Manos, to Kirsty Hawkshaw.  Ingaro is no exception, featuring dynamic vocal talent fresh and familiar, opening with How It Goes with Marina Samba guiding the tune with her sick flow.

Yeah, Marina used to run a night in Madrid and she booked me for that night and she asked me if it was OK if she could MC so I said sure go ahead, and it struck me that she had a really nice flow. And I’d been thinking about maybe I should do something with her because she really has a nice flow.

She made the sort of MCing rap bit first and then I sent it back to her and she said let me try something else and she added the song part I was like this is great, let’s go with that. I sort of want to introduce her to the whole scene as a vocalist as I think she’s good.

So Horsepower comes in with a little more hypnotic synth vibe…

Okay, Horsepower is a bit of a stolen title though this has nothing to do with the track identity itself, for me what drives this track is this sort of lead sound that sounds a bit like Joey Beltram’s Mentasm, an old techno track, which used to be the typical sound of R&S Records back in the 90s. Hence the name you know, R&S Records has this black horse in the logo so that’s why it’s called Horsepower; an artist called CJ Bolland actually made a tune called Horsepower – I was thinking that’s a good track that fits the title and gives enough credit to the label that had a big influence on me when I grew up with dance music. 

A great homage to pioneers of dance music. Hold your horses though, as Diamonds slows down to a breakbeat vibe with the gorgeous vocals of Samuel Lancine.

This was not supposed to be on the album, I was working on a techno track as I wanted to have something non-D&B on there, as I did two tracks like that on Identity. But the techno track just didn’t match the standard, there’s so much good techno out there and what I came up with, argh, I’m a perfectionist and if I can’t do what I like, I don’t wanna put it out. So I went through some old tracks and found this track with Bjorn we’d started in 2009, a long time ago. It did sound completely different but it never got to where we wanted it. So I redid the drums, and everything was just done, I just had to make another version of this track we never put out.

You’d never guess, it sounds completely fresh in its production as all quality music does, timeless energy. 

Yeah, that’s good haha as it’s actually made 13 years ago or something like that. Everyone was really happy with the track, Samuel and Bjorn, so everyone was pleased Diamonds made it onto the album!

This is actually the track we pitched to Spotify, as it’s probably the easiest track to listen to. Drum & bass wasn’t really made to listen to in a car or at home, or at dinner with friends, even though I like it, not everyone does…

Your music embodies that balance of being listenable on or off the dancefloor. Moving on, Sequence 5 sounds reflective of its own process. Modulation and sequencing is abundant in your music. And don’t forget the sneaky cowbell. 

Exactly, I’ve actually heard a lot of people say it sounds like a track by Spirit called Life Goes On…The thing is, it does. I was working on this track and I was trying a new piece of gear that I’d bought a RolandSH101, a replica of classic hardware, so I was twisting the knobs and doing modulation and editing and came up with something really cool! The pattern turned out to sound like this track by Spirit so I just tried to build around that and make something that would suit the album too…Steve Digital got back to me and was actually really emotional about the track, totally understand why, he really liked that one. 

Thoughts Run Free features the wicked vocals of Blackeye. Sort of Metalheadz vibes at work here, anymore collaborations with Paradox soon? I believe you like working together. 

It’s in the pipeline, I mean we’ve had two years of pandemic and we only work together, we don’t work over the net or send each other files. Always in the studio. It used to be I would come over to his place when he lived in the UK, now it’s more like he’s coming over to Sweden, I’ve got a bigger house!

You know what, it’s a tiny house but during the pandemic we’ve built a massive extension to the house which I’ve built myself; probably the best time management of lockdown.

Built a house extension and made an album! Back to the album then, Progression brims with lush liquid notes to wrap up Ingaro. This last tune gives a subtle nod to Good Lookin’…

Yep, totally! I sent that track to Bukem and he was like, ‘Can you send me a WAV please.’ Back in the days, that would have been called a Bukem tune even though that was not his…

I would say there are Seba tunes, too. There’s very little static about your music. The tracks always morph and evolve, which makes it so fantastic to listen to. It can get tedious when both sides of the drop are the same.

Totally, this is something I work at a lot with music, because I like my music to tell a story, as opposed to just you know impact, and drops. It’s actually after my sets, people have told me what you do is take the crowd on a journey, it’s one big track that never ends and progresses from one thing to another. That’s what I try to do in my music as well, I want to make the tune so you can listen from the beginning to the end.

Some tunes that I do, if you listen to the track usually I’ll have a breakdown in the middle of the track but if you listen to the tune after the breakdown you’ll notice elements there that weren’t in the first part, in Horsepower for instance after the breakdown, it becomes like a completely different track as I change up the bassline.

It becomes a bit more emotive in the second part. 

It does! And this is something that’s really cool, one of the things I like with that track –  it has one personality in the beginning of the track and changes completely, but it’s still really interesting. I love doing that.

Please keep on doing just that. So wrapping up, because the album takes its name after the island which you call home, if you were marooned on a desert island, name an album you’d have to have with you… 

Wow, that’s a tricky question! If you’re unable to hear any music other than one album ever again, what would that be?! Okay, I’m gonna give a straight answer, it’s something that I don’t listen to very often but it’s something I’d like to have if I ever get stuck on a desert island, the album’s called Neroli by Brian Eno. It’s just 54 minutes of ambient music, one track, because you can’t grow tired of that; it’s as interesting to listen to as it is interesting to not listen to, so you know, that’s probably what I would take!

Seba – Ingaro is out now on Secret Operations

Follow Seba: Facebook / Soundcloud / Instagram

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