Take that ‘difficult second album’ cliché and burn it with fire… Exactly two years after his agenda-setting debut Universal Language, Hospital headliner Metrik has returned with an overwhelming follow-up ‘LIFE/THRILLS’.
From the moment the animated lasers and cheeky salutation of the opener Hi! hit your ears you know he’s delivered something far more than just a collection of tracks. Ranging from delicate ballads to dangerous bangers, it’s Metrik’s most diverse work but carried with consistency and energy. Steeped in ambition, vision and just the right amount of conceptualisation, it came together in a unique way… And with one or two influences that you might not expect from a drum & bass artist including J-pop.
Find out more…
Did you enjoy Hospitality In The Park?
It was an amazing weekend. To see it all come together – the scale of it and the atmosphere was next level because it was the first time that it had happened. The vibe in the crowd and the vibe of the performers, it was wicked. It was also cool because I took my whole family with me.
Is that your parent’s first Metrik experience?
They saw me play at a show in Brighton last year but this was the biggest thing they’ve seen me play. They loved it. They were pretty influential in my musical make up anyway – growing up with a lot of 70s and 80s music, a lot of synth pop and acts like Depeche Mode. It had a big influence on what I do now. They always said to me that if they hadn’t started a family they’d probably would have been raving instead! So when I first played D&B to them it made sense to them and they were really into it.
Nice. So the album… Two years since Universal Language. Almost to the dot. Was that planned?
Yeah I did have a timeline in my head of how I wanted things to go. There’s always the temptation to labour things for a long time. I wanted to put a timeline on it so it would represent where I’m at right at this moment in time musically. I wanted it to feel fresh and current. After finishing Universal Language there was a long period of touring then I spent six months working out what I wanted to do with the album – I’d established myself with the first one, where do I go with the second? I wanted to continue the diverse, quite broad approach to the sound on the new one so I thought about what I wanted to do, spent time doing sketches, trying tracks on the road. I also spent a lot of time in Japan and America and they’ve been a big influence on my ideas and direction. There’s quite a lot of J-pop influence in the new one for example.
Tell me about this…
I’ve wanted to visit it for a long time. I spent time in Tokyo and Osaka and it’s a very exciting, vibrant and technologically advanced place. When I was out there I met a few pop producers. Pop is a very different vibe compared to pop over here. There’s a lot more soul chords but done on synthesisers. Also a lot of jazz funk influences. That combination grabbed me and resonated with a lot of my own personal musical influences. That sound was something I wanted to do on the album and make it a signature.
How about other influences?
Soul and synthwave were also important for me, along with J-pop, these were the three main areas I wanted to explore and characterise the album. Once I established that everything came together quickly. I wrote the majority of it in about six to eight months – the rest was tweaking and working with vocalists. It came together quite quickly and efficiently – it was a fun process.
I was going to say the F word…. The whole album sounds like you’re having fun
Definitely! That was my intention with the album – I’ve always had in the back of my head this idea of trying to bring back a bit of that element of fun. The drum & bass I grew up with – stuff around 2008 with DJ Fresh, Pendulum and Breakbeat Kaos, all the tracks had strong thematic concepts like Tombraider and Another Planet etc. Big tracks! And they felt like a movie with distinctive themes. So that sense of concepts in tracks was something I wanted to bring back. Every track on the album has a theme and a concept. Western Jam, for example, is a very obvious one with a wild west vibe. I wrote a rough screenplay of that with a storyboard and a narrative in my head on how I wanted the track to evolve. Once I wrote the storyboard I then translated it musically.
What a mad way to put a tune together!
Yeah it was interesting. I thought about what creates the mood and atmos of westerns and considered how I could do that musically. It was a lot of fun. Elsewhere on the album you’ve got Electric Echo which is my homage to synthwave which is very nostalgic, vintage synth music that resonates with my love for the 80s. I got in touch with Gunship who are the kings of that scene. They were up for the idea of working together and added vocals and extra synth work. The end result sounded like it could have been out of Stranger Things with that real 80s retro feel.
Gunship are synthwave legends! Were they aware of you?
I thought I would have to sell myself but they were up for it. I have no idea if I was on their radar or not but they were really receptive. It was really about adding something different to their sound – they were interested in the contemporary production of D&B and seeing how it worked with their production. They were excited about the idea.
How have you developed as a writer? We Got It is effectively a ballad!
That was another thing I wanted to really take on and try out – exploring a full song structure within a D&B context. I’ve been lucky to cross paths with a lot of talented vocalists during the process. Rothwell really blew me away with her performance. I’ve always wanted to have some type of emotional impact with my music with melodies and soul and depth. I felt I’d achieved that with We Got It.
You worked on the artwork didn’t you?
Yes the photos were taken by Ilja Mašík but I did the design and brought the presentation together along with Ricky Trickartt. The title ‘LIFE/THRILLS’ is very cinematic, so the visual selection and typography were very important to me. Visuals are intrinsic to the music. You want the visuals to represent the music. I’ve always been passionate about that.
You’ve discussed concepts… Does the title ‘LIFE/THRILLS’ have a concept within itself?
The title came from one of the tracks themselves, which is about having an experience that breaks out of the mundane. If I was to get philosophical – and if I could attach a meaning to the album title – I wanted to bring through more fun elements in the major landscape of drum & bass. The genre can be a bit serious sometimes and I wanted to bring that fun vibe back into it. If I was to attach a meaning to the album that’s what it would be, in a round-about way.
Amen. Give me three essential life thrills in your life…
This is a toughy! I love being in the mountains and skiing and stuff. So that’s a life thrill. Being in the studio making music – that’s definitely a life thrill! And so is seeing people’s reactions when I play my music at a show. I could get really cheesy and say loads of family stuff. When my nephew was born that was definitely a thrill!