Last time we spoke to Culprate was just after he dropped the exceptional Deliverance album; an album took all our preconceptions about the creative Bristol-based artist, turned them inside out, ripped them apart and built them back together on a whole new level.
At the time he said he said has to “work very hard to find inspiration to make club tracks” and questioned whether he was going to do many more in the future.
For most of this year that shocking quote looked like it may well be a reality. Besides appearing on Modestep’s album and collaborating with Maksim and Retrospect on Time To Waste, he was unnervingly quiet.
Then along comes his Mask EP. Due out this Friday on Open Outlets, it features four devilishly diverse bass tracks including collaborations with The McMash Clan and Habstrakt.
It appears he’s found his gully mojo again. We called him up to find out where he found it, and what he’s doing with it next…
Last time we spoke you said you found it hard to get inspired to make club tracks but Mask would suggest otherwise…
Yeah I’m pretty transient with my inspirational flow. At that time I wasn’t really in the right mind-set to make any dance music. I’m quite a fickle creature to be honest, you’ve got to be inspired to write, you know?
What did inspire you then?
Collaborations. One of the McMash Clan and one from Habstrak. Opportunities came about to work with them and my creative juices started flowing. Chris from McMash Clan started it. He’s an old mate of mine and he put me in the club mind set.
Salute to Chris! Can you pinpoint any moment when that inspiration occurred?
I was dabbling with club stuff during and just after Deliverance but wasn’t happy with any of the ideas at all so shelved them. So Chris and I were having a bit of a listening session and he heard something he could work with. The build up elements and laser noises are pure McMash! Before then it was just a kick and a groove which I thought was pretty shit to be quite frank. We managed to turn things around together though.
Has your harsh inner critic settled a little since you fulfilled your creative urges with Deliverance?
It’s a double-edged sword. Creatively I’m more open to more styles and ideas, but sonically I’m even more picky than before. I tend to reference Deliverance to everything I do and if it doesn’t stand up then I scrap it. You can’t polish a turd. No matter how hard you try, it’s always going to be a shit!
One man’s shit is another man’s gold. If you carry on being that ruthless then you’ll never release anything! Where do you draw the line?
I do have to draw the line when I’m satisfied it’s as good as it’s going to be. But then you make another tune and realise your last one is terrible in comparison. But I know I have to move forward or, as you say, I’d never actually release anything at all. Having friends to listen and give feedback is critical.
Who are the most honest or productive friends who help you in this way?
KOAN Sound are invaluable. Especially during Deliverance, they gave me loads of great input during a listening session. Even when they say nothing needs changing it’s a fresh perspective that validates it because I’ve listened to it hundreds of thousands of times so I’m not objective at all. I guess the best people who help me in this way are my old mates who I used to make tunes with years eight or nine years ago. They’re brutally honest. They don’t pull any punches at all, they don’t sugar coat it at all. They’re listeners; they don’t know the ins and outs and break things down technically. They give me feedback from a listener’s perspective, which is the most important perspective at the end of the day.
Amen! Tell me about Intertia with Habstrakt. How did that link-up happen?
We met at a show in France a year or so ago. He moved to London for a while and came to Bristol for a bit so we hung out a bit and got talking and realised we could do something together. He started Inertia with a violin sample and we built up from there. We work in a similar way; technically and sonically so the flow got going straight away. It was pretty much 50/50 on the design front and the track went so smoothly I’ve forgotten which sounds we designed individually!
Speaking of sound design… How about that Phace collaboration on his recent EP? Bonkers tune!
It’s quite mad actually. I started making that tune about 10 years ago when I was making drum & bass and I’ve just never been able to finish it. So I sent it to Phace, he stripped it right back to its fundamentals and create the intro and breakdowns. It was a really interesting project; he finally gave life to a project I thought I’d never finish. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.
Were you holding on it for nostalgic purposes? Or did you always have faith you’d find some type of closure on it eventually?
I’ve kept hold of a lot of my earlier stuff. I think the first few years in a producer’s life garner some of the maddest or wildest creative ideas. I certainly feel that was the case for me anyway; I hadn’t lost those childish innocent ideas. Sonically they’re shit! But the ideas still resonate with me.
Kinda sad to hear; rules and self-awareness and self-criticism stifle creativity in a way…
It is a bit sad. I don’t think I’m past my creative prime but it was definitely easier to come up with ideas back then. I have to put myself in a certain place to write music now. I don’t know why.
You know where that place is, though… Be You is proof. Sounds like Culprate and Daft Punk co-lab!
Thanks. McMash Clan inspired this one too. I wanted to try and put their build-up approach into a track myself without being cheeky and ripping them off. I started off with the deep intro and twisted up the drop to make something unexpected.
Speaking of deep, that Movember collaboration with KOAN, Asa and Opiuo is fantastic. Shed some light into its creation please…
KOAN and I have our own sections while Asa takes care of the atmospheres and consistency. I pretty much always do the final section of the track. For this one Opiuo (who is a fucking legend by the way) took care of the first part and I think you can really hear him in that. We always leave it too late every year. We didn’t start this one until October! We were pulling 18 hour sessions towards the end. But I don’t think any of us would have it any other way, it’s a great annual catch-up for a good cause and we always keep it fresh by inviting a new friend to write with us.
Collabos seems to be the theme of the conversation so we’ll wrap up now with your own dream collabo list…
Too many people to mention for too many different reasons! The big obvious ones would be Noisia and Amon Tobin but realistically? It would be great to do a tune with KOAN Sound! We’ve grown up in the industry together, we’re mates and we’ve done loads of stuff with other people – like the Inspected Movember stuff – but we’ve never just sat down and made a Culprate and KOAN Sound track. They’re always touring or I’m busy or it just doesn’t happen.
Madness! It needs to happen! Final question: Are you conceptualising a follow up to Deliverance or far too soon to say?
I am conceptualising, yes! I’m not 100 per cent on it all yet. I’m not even looking to do it for at least another year or two because I want my skill level to be double or triple what it is right now. I’ll keep on making the dance stuff and experimenting with other genres. There should hopefully be another EP coming by spring next year… Hopefully with some drum & bass and halftime on it. Then after a few dance EPs I’ll decide I can’t make dance stuff anymore and go deep again. We’ll see….