Drum and bass is having a moment in the USA right now. Los Angeles-based AIRGLO is one of the many promising artists to emerge at the forefront of this stateside explosion. Originally trained in classical piano, the multi-talented musician has since focussed on applying his skills in the realm of drum and bass.
His distinctive sound characterised by tight, saturated drums and crisp, fuzzy basslines has been well received across the drum and bass community. In 2022 alone, AIRGLO has released on a multitude of labels including Program, Onyx, Jungle Cakes, Gorilla Warfare, and Skankandbass and received support from drum and bass icons Andy C and Sub Focus.
We spoke to him about receiving support from the rest of the drum and bass community, growing as an artist, and bridging scenes across the Atlantic.
You’ve had a pretty big year so far. Why do you think this year has gone so well?
It’s interesting the way that it works! Two weeks ago, I was invited to a meeting with Martijn from Noisia. We chatted for a bit, and I thanked him for kickstarting my career. He didn’t know what I meant! I used to cold email DJs and labels and sending my rinse folder (a collection of tunes from the past quarter). Then about a year and a half ago, I see Babylon appear on Noisia Radio out of nowhere! After that, Onyx hit me up asking if they could cop it. I couldn’t give it to them because it was already signed to PROGRAM, so they asked if I had any more. That resulted in an Onyx EP, which subsequently brought the attention of Ed Solo and Deekline. I ended up collabing with Deekline, more people were playing my tunes, and then Skankandbass released a couple bits. I think it was a snowball effect!
One tune came after the other. I’m very impatient, so watching this happen made me realise it takes a long time for things to start rolling. At the end of the day, it’s a consistency thing. Constantly releasing better and better tunes. For me, the most important thing is to progress as an artist. Every release, I’m trying to up myself. If you look at my releases from last year to this year, it feels like a different artist. It’s a constant work in progress; trying to get different rhythms, new sounds…
Getting support from other people is so important! Any scene is sustained by a community which helps each other out…
It’s very much a relationship thing. You build a relationship by working on something, delivering the goods, seeing the result, and continuing on your journey. It’s very professional.
On the topic of the drum and bass community supporting each other, it’s great to see DJs like Lens and Andy C dropping some of your tunes!
Dude, watching all of this unfold in the way that it has is absolutely mental! I’ll be scrolling and then all of a sudden, I will hear something familiar and I’ll run to my manager! The first one was Sub Focus dropping Desert Heart together with the Pola and Bryson bootleg of Circles. After that, it was Andy C, Lens, and Natty Lou. Seb from Skankandbass came for HARD festival a couple weeks ago, and he introduced me to Dimension! That was beyond me. I grew as a drum and bass artist listening to people like Dimension, so it was really hard to be cool about it. It was insane!
Quite a few clips I have seen are of unreleased tracks! Will we be able to get our hands on any new productions at some point soon?
The tune which Andy has been rinsing should be part of the forthcoming Riot III EP on RAM. I also just dropped a remix I completed for REAPER! There are a few other conversations I’m having on some other projects, too…
I’m already in the studio preparing the fall rinse folder. Twelve to fourteen new tunes, all dubs. I’m also working on a plethora of new bootlegs. The bottom line is, I’m a producer so I have to produce! You have to be constantly producing.
Sounds like you have been busy in the studio! How do you manage to crank out such a high volume of music?
It’s super basic! I will sit down all day and finish tunes as much as possible. The pandemic helped me to be where I’m at right now. I had all the time in the world to sit at home and get better. Everyone was online, so I fed people livestreams and managed to get some traction like that. I didn’t have COVID at the start, but then I had COVID twice in quick succession. When you have COVID, you’re stuck at home for weeks and can’t move. Last July, I switched my workflow from doing one tune every three months and polishing it and sitting on it to doing five in one day. I started calling them dailies. I streamlined my thoughts and got it out of the way. By the end of the month, you end up with about thirty tunes and three of those might be really good! At the end of the month, you clean it and polish it.
That’s how Babylon came about; it was daily number four. I was watching a horror movie called green inferno and I wanted to write something terrifying! What I noticed is that tunes which came out the easiest are the ones the labels picked up fastest. Tunes which appeared out of nowhere once you’re in the flow. The hard part is getting yourself in the flow! Now, I want to just keep on making the dailies and not think too much.
I noticed that I have a few tunes in my folder which I’ve been working on for nineteen months! What I used to do would have been to call it a day, say it’s done, and release it. Now I finish a tune and see if it hits the same way in two months. If it does, cool. If it doesn’t, try again!
Making something which stands the test of time results in higher quality tunes! If it hits just as good now as it does in not just two months but five or even ten years into the future, that’s when you know you’re on to an absolute gem…
That’s the trick! I have a playlist of all my old tunes which I listen to when I have a long drive. It’s great because you’re consciously driving, so your judgemental brain is resting and your subconscious detects what the tune needs, if it needs anything! All of a sudden, I’ll have a giant vault of stuff I can always go back to. I can just be sitting there and think that a vocal from one tune is really interesting and then splice it together with a beat I made seven months ago. Then it works, and a tune is done!
That approach has definitely led to some bangers! A lot of the tunes you have put out recently have been on the heavier side of the drum and bass spectrum… what attracts you to this sound?
I want to be able to bring the melodic part, but I’m also a metal head. If it goes hard, I want it to go hard. The beauty and the beast! Pretty and dirty at the same time. I’m also classically trained, so I love how epic and grandiose orchestras are. What I noticed when performing my tunes is that I get more of a reaction from the crowd when I drop a Babylon-type tune rather than an Eva Cassidy bootleg. Those tunes are cool, and they have their own place, but right now I am trying to find a middle ground where I can still be heavy but keep it melodic. However, at the same time I like dropping heavy tunes and seeing people go ‘waaahhh!’. Over time, when I have satisfied my thirst for that, I will put out some more melodic and chill tracks.
We all love a good face-melter every now and then! What drew you to drum and bass in the first place?
I’ve always been into rock and metal music. I remember listening to Björk’s remixes around 2002; specifically, Dillinja’s remix of Cover Me. That was my first drum and bass tune!
Everyone has their memories of their first drum and bass tune! They’re always so vivid because they are always powerful moments…
I used to work in this Israeli shop called Marom, which is like a Guitar Center. I sold sheet music, and they allowed me to play anything. I remember playing drum and bass all the time, and people thought it was a vibey spot! When I graduated university in USC, I knew I. wanted to do electronic music. So, I jumped into it! I went to one of the RESPECT parties here in Los Angeles. I forgot how good drum and bass was! At that point, I was doing general electronic music, mostly house because it was popular. I just knew I had to do drum and bass. Almost ten years later, here we are!
Drum and bass is a musical melting pot with lots of different influences… Does living in LA and being surrounded by a thriving bass house scene and Disciple-style dubstep affect your own productions?
Absolutely! I’m hanging out with all the Disciple guys. Pat from Modestep is my manager! I always hang out with them and consider them to be really good friends. Hanging out with Barely Alive and Virtual Riot and seeing their workflow has definitely inspired me! About a year ago, Pat took me to Virtual Riot’s studio. I looked at his folder and he was just scrolling through tunes, tunes, tunes… then he turned around and said, ‘this was just this week!’. And every single one is an absolute banger. I looked at Pat, I said I had to switch some things, and that’s when I started the whole dailies approach. I remember going there and wanting to be that efficient and have that many tunes resting on my hard drive. I used to be focussed on working on a specific release; now it’s just a stream. I’m definitely affected by being around the most advanced producers in bass. Working with 12th Planet taught me a lot about the history of drum and bass. It was a masterclass listening to lots of stories, like why the reese bass is called the reese bass.
It’s all bass music at the end of the day, so there’s bound to be lots of crossover! Especially with the shared roots between dubstep (via UKG) and drum and bass in jungle. I think that there is a lot of potential for musical conversations to be had between genres which leads to different genres are being reinvented over time…
And all the time! At the end of the day, it has nothing to do with a specific genre. Musical development is about whatever the artist wants. You have to be really in love with a genre. I’m not gonna lie, I love drum and bass. It’s weird because it’s a bug which bit me, all I do is produce drum and bass! Even though I can produce anything I want, I have the most fun with drum and bass.
It’s also great to see the drum and bass scene thriving in the rest of the USA! Why do you think this is?
Drum and bass is a genre which is structured around producers. The people who are the best at what they do and the most cutting edge… if you are making good drum and bass, you need to know your shit! The reason why people in the USA are starting to catch up to it is because there is so much good output in the drum and bass community. Also, some techniques you hear in drum and bass will probably be used in genres like pop or drill next year. It’s always the most up front, loudest, heaviest, yet cleanest genre. Bass music producers are masters of their craft! You are always left wondering how producers do it. People always want new; they always want exciting, and bass producers offer that to the people. At the right time, it gives you a great bass face!
There’s also a great selection of labels which are pushing drum and bass in the USA like Bassrush, Deadbeats, and Sable Valley… how come you have ended up releasing on UK-based labels instead?
If you want to write country music, you go to Nashville. If you wanted to do rock in the 80s, you would come to LA. You have to go where things are happening! For drum and bass, this is the UK. You want to hit where it will get the most impact. As an unknown artist, I could also hit Europe; but from the perspective of making an impact, it is best to go to the source.
So, do you plan on crossing the pond any time soon?
As of right now, I am working on getting my passport together so I can go to Europe. I can’t wait to come and play as soon as that is resolved! I have so much FOMO watching everything happen. Having people hit me up telling me to come is painful! When I come, I want it to be done properly and give people the best bang for their buck. I want to do the rounds a meet a load of people.
Do you think UK audiences will appreciate the USA sound when they’re exposed to it more, and vice-versa?
Americans always adore anything which comes out of the UK! It’s so raw and to the point. It’s true to itself. America is already on board with the UK sound. When it comes to if the UK will accept the American sound, it’s a tough one! Before, the USA would have its own stateside kind of sound. Now with people like myself, Replicant, REAPER, Justin Hawkes, and Sub Killaz, we are pushing a different sound than what normally comes from the USA. More of a UK-based sound. Slowly but surely, this is starting to open up. As long as the quality is there, it doesn’t matter!
Anything else you would like to mention?
I can play a melody if you want! [He proceeds to play a melody using a synthesised harpsichord].
Babylon / Big Bad Wolfgang is Out Now on Program
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