If you’ve so much as sniffed in the direction of a wobbler then you’ve definitely felt the influence of Twisted Individual.
Breaking through in the late 90s – under the wing of the mighty DJ SS and his Formation Records label and World Of Drum & Bass brand – Croydon-born Lee Greenaway was at the forefront of the turn of century jump-up sound.
Alongside the likes of Original Sin, Sub Zero, Taxman, DJ Hazard, Clipz and D Minds, Twisted Individual was a protagonist front runner in the big riffy bassline sound. Playful, energetic, raw and a rinsing, it’s a swaggering sound that’s continued to characterise the dancefloor and tear-out side of drum & bass to this day. And in the case of Twisted, it would often influence with a tongue-in-cheek smutty title such as Pull My Finger, Rusty Sheriff’s Badge and Gimp Mask.
Via his label Grid Recordings, Twisted has also played a key role in the careers of many household names. Supporting early releases from the likes of Serum, DJ Marky, Bungle, Heist, Tyke and – more recently – unavoidable grotsmiths such as Nick The Lot, Pa, Damage Report and Harley D to name a few, Twisted’s influence has rumbled through D&B since he was 18 and is stronger than it’s been in many many years right now.
Having spent a big chunk of the 2010s on a reality check away from the DJ merry-go-round (but still writing tunes just for fun) he’s now officially back and he’s sitting on a whole mountain of dubs. That’s not to mention the additional stacks of WIPs and projects, including a whole album’s worth of material with the original architect Grooverider.
In his first interview in long, long time, we caught up with Twisted Individual to find out where he’s at right now.
Bring us up to speed man… I want to say you’re back, but you’ve been back for quite some time now.
Yeah I’ve been back for a bit, off and on. Around 2012 I did actually take five years off. I decided I’d had enough of it, so I quit music for a while and had a family. Then I came back in 2017 before it all went tits up again with covid.
What did you do?
I used to work on sites back in the day so I’ve been doing that. The dog work, I love it. Working like a dog on the tools. Not the skilled stuff like finishing off plastering, but manual work. I really enjoyed it and needed a reality check to be honest.
I’ve spoken to Tyke about that. He quit to drive the buses for a while. I imagine your career started when you were really young so by that point drum & bass has been your adult life?
I signed to Formation when I was 18! I moved to Leicester when I was 21 and that’s when I packed in the building site jobs. I moved up there and spent my whole life either on tour or in the studio.
Leroy told me you spent a few years literally sleeping in his studio, on the music nonstop
That’s why I needed the break. I have dedicated every hour to this. When my mates were going out and growing up and doing what you should be doing at that age, I was being a hermit. Antisocial as fuck. Just in the studio all the time. Then, as soon as I turned 21, I was touring the world with Leroy, doing month long tours of the US and places like that.
In at the deep end…
More than you’ll ever know mate. My second ever gig was a Bagleys. Then my third one was in Sweden and my fourth was in Hawaii to 4000 people in a corn field in the middle of nowhere. I was 20 years old! Then LA Sports Arena on the bill with Carl Cox, LTJ Bukem. Mad ones. Those type of memories, money can’t buy.
What a time
It was sick to be fair, but after doing it for so long I needed to rest my ears. It got to the point where I couldn’t find enough tunes to play an hour set that I liked. I wasn’t enjoying myself, I wasn’t enjoying the music, I needed to take time away.
So this was early 2010s. A very commercial time for drum & bass…
Yeah it was. It’s not my thing. I like it underground. People have told me to make hits or different styles of drum & bass for years. I could if I wanted, but I don’t want to. I love the rawness.
And that old school sample culture?
Well I’m a bit more clued up on both copyright and music theory. So, with both of them in mind, I try and avoid samples. It’s a different form of sampling now innit. Or just people using the same old sample packs.
Talk about bandwagon blues! So many people sound the same
Mate I’ve had people send through tracks with the same loops as other people. I don’t use sample packs. I’ll play some chords on an Arp or something. Making sure I find different sounds to what the current sound is and use different scales. I like those diminished chords, that old time horror stuff, you know? That’s the vibe I’m looking for.
The sample pack thing is good for beginners. But it’s not original at all. People using full riffs for the bassline and not chopping or twisting it up? That’s not very creative. I urge anyone to make their own samples or source their own things. If you use a straight up loop like that, and then someone else does, people will think it’s remix. That’s not good from a label point of view.
Make your own loops, get your own vocalists, play your own melodies. If I notice sample pack samples when someone sends me a tune then I’ll get back to them with feedback. I’m always feeding back to people when I can hear they’re on the right track. Not everyone sounds the same, though. There are some stand out people with their own sound. There’s a guy called Variable Op is a good example.
Yeah loads of artists on Grid have unique sounds
There’s a guy called LeStR who’s from Russia and has his own sound. He’s very different. It’s quite industrial. It’s different. Sometimes different goes under the radar. That doesn’t put me off. If I like it, I’ll sign it.
A lot of artists who blow up go under the radar to begin with. But you’ve been there from the start and given the artist one of their earliest chances. You’re supporting the art, not following the hype
These new guys are hungry too man. I’ve been doing collabs with a lot of them. It helps with the profile of their EP but also puts me in front of their supporters so it works really well. At the end of the day it’s as simple as this: happy artists, happy label. I pay people on time, I respect them.
I’ve been hearing about labels telling artists they owe them money!
I hear that a lot. In a label’s defence, there are costs that labels have to pay. But we keep costs low. My missus Laura is amazing and she does the admin and all the paper work and management and finances. Without her Grid – or a lot of other labels she helps behind the scenes – wouldn’t not exist. We keep the artwork in a house bag design where we change the colours and text. You have to keep costs low. It’s not what it used to be with vinyl. You used to make thousands of pounds out of one single.
Everyone made their cut from the release, right? The label, the artist, the manufacturer, the record store, the distributor…
Yeah right and back then it was mental. You could put a little rinse out tune on vinyl and still make £5000. If it did really well then it would make tens of thousands. It was pretty lucrative.
Which of your tunes stand out as little rinse out tunes, then?
Anything I didn’t put my name to. The Optimus Prime things, the things named after months of the year. I can’t remember all my tunes these days but any of them ones. I had another label called Inflicted which had a lot of pretty throwaway tunes. They still sold well. I personally considered them throwaway but people enjoyed them and bought them.
They’ve aged well man. Tracks like Scurvy… People forget who deep and funky you went.
I was always trying different things. A lot of people tried to pigeonhole me. I became best known for the wobbly stuff, but I was always trying different styles. A lot of people don’t realise.
I was always making tunes during my time off, too. Just for my enjoyment rather than releasing them. I’ve built up a big library of my own music so when I go out and play sets, it’s all original music – all unreleased. I played a set a while back, before lockdown, and the feedback was great. People saying they’d never heard a set like that before. That’s great. But to sell the music? There just seems to be no shelf-life on anything. It goes on sale and after a few weeks it’s old news. Music is worth more to me sitting in my box for when I do gigs.
I am starting to put things out now, of course, to let people know I’m back. I’m doing collaborations with the people on my label and that’s helpful in another way – my studio time is limited these days, so if someone can finish a tune of mine then we’re all winning.
Makes sense. Everyone’s happy.
Exactly. I do encourage it a lot. It helps artists tap into different fanbases, too. Anyone who comes through Grid I’ll send them stems. Whisper’s just done one for example. There’s one with Pa, one with Damage Report, there’s quite a bit.
What’s coming up from you on a solo tip, though?
I’ve got a remix of Renegade Terrorist coming up. I’ve done a remix of Coda’s Black Magic, I got a single on Tyke’s Holographic label and there’s also some stuff for Prototype but I’ve been long on them. Groove keeps chasing me but they’re old and I much prefer writing new ones than opening up old project files. I haven’t got the enthusiasm to open up old things
You know you’re going to want to update the whole thing
Yeah and Groove is fussy. He don’t like them things. The track was raw at the time – I wanted to put an intro on it, nice chords, nice leads and that. But he didn’t like it. So I got loads of tunes I’m working on but I like sitting on them so I got exclusive tunes for my sets. That’s what I used to do. I’m not really a crowd pleasing DJ who goes out and plays the top 10 and big anthems. Not for me.
That’s the whole point of drum & bass – freshness! Having music no one else has got!
It goes either way. You either get loads of good feedback or you kill the vibe and clear the floor. So it can go both ways there. Some people go out to hear stuff they know.
Another thing about DJing for me was the change in the smoking ban. It doesn’t bother me now because I’ve quit but back in the day my vice was weed. I used to love nothing more than getting lean and getting in the zone in the set. When that ban came in it took the vibe away for me. I didn’t really drink so I’d have a spliff before I got in the club and then 10 minutes into my set I’d be feeling the need for another. Going to a club and not being able to smoke a joint when I was playing a set was a vibe killer for me. Also people going off to the smoking room – that clears a floor. You notice it a lot in smaller clubs.
Props on giving up smoking weed though!
Who knows how long for? It stinks of weed everywhere here. On the beach, on the street. So I can’t say it’ll be forever but I’m trying my best.
How’s life away from London?
It’s a different world man. In London everyone is always stressed and in a hurry. People say hello here, they tell me to enjoy my day. In London people don’t speak to their neighbours unless they’re at war. Round here, people are more than happy to help each other all the time. My neighbour is coming round to help me with my fence tomorrow. It’s a different community vibe altogether. I can leave my wallet and phone in my car and no one will nick it!
Any of them know you’re Twisted Individual?
A few people have twigged who I am yeah. I got to big up Rak The Power Flusher. I had to have my radiator pipes done and he came and power flushed them all. He’s such a positive dude. He came in the house and put me in such a good mood. He saw my studio and was like, ‘What’s that then?’ I said it was my music. He said, ‘It’s not drum & bass is it?’ I told him yeah and he was on the phone to his mates. They’re coming on the road with me next week they’ve rented an air dnb and having an after party.
Innit. I don’t really party much myself these days now, though. Things change a bit when you get older and have kids.
How are you finding being a dad?
I was in shock when they were born, now I’m just in awe of them. When they start to develop and you see their personalities forming and they’re growing. It’s beautiful. I love being a dad. It changes everything.
It’s funny. Back in the day I remember a thread I read on a forum. I’d see threads like ‘Twisted’s a cunt’ Or ‘Twisted’s alright’ I’d try to ignore them most the time but I saw one that said ‘one day Twisted will grow up, settle down, having some nice kids and start calling his tunes really nice normal names’. I think I’m at that point now! Plus I can’t be bothered to cause any offence. Seems like it’s impossible not to online, though…
Yeah especially now. What are your thoughts on cancel culture? You were always divisive and very forthright.
I have to express myself and be honest to myself. I do think people need to be a bit more resilient if I’m honest. Behave the way some people do now and you’d get a slap back in the day. But at the end of the day, if I upset someone and it leads to people deciding not to listen to me or book me or sign me then so be it. There are other ways to feed my family. But the only people who miss out there are the people who like my music. Not me.
Hopefully that’s not part of the plan?
I hope not. I’m back and I’m really enjoying the music at the moment. I think we’ve got a lot of inspiring talent in drum & bass right now. The label is doing well, drum & bass is in a good place. My inbox is full of demos, there’s so many high quality tracks and I’ve got music I want people to hear, too.
What else are we going to hear?
Every now and again I do a remix EP so that’s on its way out soon. I’ve been working on some tunes with Tyke so big up Tyke. I’ve also done 15 tunes with Grooverider.
Yeah, we did them before covid but never quite finished them. We were going to go out under the name The Unsociables but we need to finish the tunes first. I also got a few more tunes with Pa and me, him and Damage Report are forming a boyband too, so you better watch out for that. And I’ve got a dub pack coming too so keep an eye on the socials as you won’t get it anywhere else.
Will keep an eye out. Any further thoughts?
Nah just shouts to Laura for running everything and shouts to my agent Caroline at Unique Artists. If anyone ever wants to book me, hit her firstname.lastname@example.org
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