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140 – 170: Why Icicle is in such a good place right now…

We’re just over three months into 2019 and Icicle has already released the same amount of music he released throughout the whole of 2018: Two four track EPs that span the glacial signature he’s been best and loved for known for since he emerged in the mid 2000s.

On a drum & bass flex there’s been the necksnap naughtiness of the largely techstep inspired Turn EP on his own Entropy label. His Raising The Dead EP on Youngsta’s Sentry imprint, meanwhile, takes us back to his dubstep tendencies. Icy’s first full 140 EP since his BNC release on Shogun Audio seven years ago, it marks the start of a freshly revived interest in 140 experimentation… And he promises plenty more excursions in the future, too.

Don’t worry, he’s packing just as much D&B persy, too. Including collaborations with his cousin Proxima plus Signal and Ulterior Motive. Whichever direction you look in, Icicle’s armed to the teeth. And that’s before we even consider his techno alias.

We’re just over three months into 2019 and something tells us Icicle’s having a vintage. Here’s why…

Busy busy… Entropy and Sentry releases within the last month!

Thanks man, it’s been great. Both releases couldn’t be more different. The first two Entropy releases were released on vinyl, but with the Turn EP I decided to just go digital. It’s actually been such a liberating feeling. Not having to deal with any waiting time to get it pressed or anything. The time between making the tune and releasing it felt a lot more responsive. Then the Sentry release was a proper double vinyl release which feels and looks great so it’s kinda the best of both worlds.

No more vinyl releases on Entropy?

Oh no, there’ll be more vinyl on Entropy in the future, I just wanted this one to come out quicker and I wanted to try a digital release on the label out. The vinyl fight is a good fight, but you have to pick your battles.

I’d have thought because of the classic tech steppy sound of the release it would be better suited to vinyl in a way?

Ha! You know I love the paradoxes. The next release will be digital too, actually, and that’s actually with my cousin Proxima. It’s called the Hex EP. We want to keep this format going; last year I released two and a half releases but I’ve already done that within three months this year. Gijs makes a lot of music and I just want to get it out there. I’ve got a lot of half-finished projects bubbling with guys like Signal and Ulterior Motive and loads of other stuff in the pipeline, it’s all quite inspiring actually… I just have this feeling to get it out more spontaneously and maybe think about a vinyl release in the second half of the year.

Nice! I’m still stuck on the Proxima revelation. That man can go anywhere stylistically… What’s this sounding like?

The lead track is really dark and funky with T-Man on vocals which is sounding fucking sick. The other tracks are kinda rolling, there’s a really stripped back stepper with lots of sound design and there’s and a futuristic, streamlined-but-light and funky track that goes into something you would not expect. That’s a big thing for me at the moment, I guess it always has been, but I’m tired of drum & bass clichés and things following set formulas to achieve energy on the dancefloor.

It’s so easy to create that rush that way, it’s much more interesting to find different and unusual ways to do that. But anyway, it’s sounding great, it’s classic Proxima in a way; he’s thrown 100 amazing ideas into it and they’re all amazing but now we’re streamlining it, stripping it back and finding out what the funk is. Sometimes he needs to be told ‘stop it, this is sick already, it’s done.’

It’s hard to draw the line

Especially when you’re as technical and creative as him! Back in the day when we were teenagers, when he started his tunes were so dense in mad ideas. That was inspiring for me. He has that tendency for complexity, let’s say.

In a way, so do you. But then you have an equal tendency for stripping that back too…

I guess I like something that’s simplistic but sounds complex.

Ha! You mentioned forthcoming collabs, it’s nice to see you and Alix collaborating once again on Cycles.

Yeah we did two tunes when we were back in the studio. One for his label, which was Live With It last year. Then this one for mine.

Swapsies!

Yeah it’s a nice formula. I’m doing the same with Ulterior Motive. It’s a great set up, a lot of us are doing it. We couldn’t do this before because we’d be on different labels and it gets complicated but with a lot of us with where we’re at right now, we can just do two collabs, one for you, one for me. 50/50 on publishing, keep the sales of each release. It takes out a lot of complications and accounting issues which is the biggest killer of creativity ever.

Absolutely. Now this Sentry EP. First proper full dubstep EP in a minute man!

A couple of years ago, when dubstep was thriving the first time round I was really inspired by it. It’s no secret I love techno but it’s too disparate from drum & bass but 140 music allowed me to fuse and experiment with a lot more ideas I had about techno. Drum & bass fans seemed accepting for it for a while but then that seemed to dwindle so I didn’t pursue it as much. Not in dubstep context alias as Icicle anyway. But I’ve still loved it and have always kept in touch with Youngsta. He asked me to play some dubstep shows in Outlook, we also did a few shows in America and I decided to write it again. I missed it. I sent those tunes, as I always did back in the day, to him first and he really wanted them. It’s on a vinyl double pack, one tune a side. I’ve not seen that in a long time. I’m very, very happy with it.

 You’re not the first D&B artist to release on Sentry. The first release on the label was with dBridge.

There’s a strong connection between a lot of us from Rinse, North London, playing at FWD. That was a magical time musically. It was inspiring. I think dubstep still has so much to say but because of the commercial direction aspects of it took it became a dirty word for a while but it’s still got so much space for experimentation, there’s so much left to do at that tempo and I think we’re beginning to see that again now.

It’s the cycles….

It is man. I think there’s an interesting parallel with what happened in drum & bass in the mid 90s when drum & bass had its first commercial wave but you had guys like Goldie and the Virus crew and Doc Scott guiding it through those times unwaveringly, saying ‘no, this is how it’s done’. Then by 98 we hit an era that people still talk about now. If dubstep hadn’t developed in the social media age it may have done the same thing. But it blew up and died on internet steroids, so I think it’s taking that much longer to incubate and redevelop. But those mainstays, like Youngsta, have always pushed it through.

He was hammering your 140 mix of OpTech a lot last year…

He was. I actually made it because I had a few 140 bookings and need more stuff to play but I have a tendency to flip a drum & bass track to a 140 tune anyway. You just move the snare, roll the tempo back and you have a whole new tune. Then Youngsta played it, Sampo in your office heard it and said ‘we need to sign this.’ There’s more to come, too. There’s a batch of 140 things.

A growing batch?

I think so. I’ll always have a soft spot for 140 and the amount of experimentation I can do in that space, especially with techno influences. I’ll keep sending things to Youngsta, but I’d consider putting some out on Entropy too. There’s also an ethos to how I’m writing it; I’m trying to get the idea down quickly. If it’s not resembling a groove or something I can really feel within an hour then I bin it. Too many tunes hide a mediocre idea behind layers of production but if you strip things back to the core idea it’s pretty lame. This happens in drum & bass a lot. But go back to those old 2006/2007 dubstep tunes and they weren’t particularly well produced but they stuck with you, they’re still in your head now. It’s about hooks and ideas and grooves and not spending too much time making them perfect, but keeping that element of roughness and human error in there. That keeps it fun. If I’m not feeling it, it doesn’t matter… Next one.

How’s your techno project going?

Really well man. I’ve had a bunch of releases and done a few shows internationally. It’s a nice balance, I love doing the shows, it’s been very refreshing and inspiring to take my head out of drum & bass for a while. I’ve been doing a live set for that alias with no laptop and just hardware. That’s something I’ve never done before, just machine shows, it’s exhilarating to start a project and not know if it’s going to go well or if you’re going to be able to do it at all. It’s fun and very rewarding.

Have you made the alias known?

It’s not anonymous. I just never bring attention to it on my social media or make those connections. That’s for people to do if they’re interested. I want the project to develop without any hype or help from any profile I’ve achieved with Icicle. It can be its own thing and it’s fun. It’s freedom, I’m never stuck in the middle or compromised, both allow me to do what I want. I guess it’s vindication for me, too. Anyone can get lucky once, but if you make it in two genres than you know, or at least feel, you’re doing something right…

Do something right. Follow Icicle: Facebook / Soundcloud / Twitter

Icicle – Raising The Dead/Turn EPs are out now on Sentry/Entropy Music