Mr Joseph is classically trained.
Not in a 100th grade piano, seven-hours-practice-per-day-from-age-three academic type of way. But in the best possible old school jungle type of way…
Growing up around soundsystems as a youth certainly informed his eclectic tastes, but it was years later when he truly dug the firmest foundations: fed up with the endless un-listened demos and emails from promoters, he took matters into his own hands, teamed up with like-minded ambitious souls and started his own night.
It’s the classic DIY story that led to some of London’s most legendary drum & bass institutions: Running for almost 10 years, Fizzy Wednesday bubbled with the same school night spirit as Swerve and Movement. It’s where Mr Joseph cut his teeth and established himself and his sample-crafted, rolling liquid sound by way of releases on labels such as Liquid V, Fokuz, Influenza and his own Fizzy Beats.
Following this classic D&B path, an album was always on the cards. In fact Liquid bossman and all-round legend Bryan Gee has been pushing Mr Joseph for one for several years. And after a series of singles and EPs, it finally landed late last month in the form of Inner Haze. The wait’s been worth it, too… Rather than just delivering a collection of the jazzy, dreamy rollers he’s known for, he’s gone a whole mile deeper. Exploring the full spectrum, there are moments of fully gully grit, smoky hip-hop and all-out vocal soul. It’s the weight and scope a debut album should be… A tight balance of experimentation and familiarity with a heap of surprises along the way.
The second only album to be released on Liquid V (the last was Utah Jazz in 2008), Inner Haze is the sound of man who’s worked his way up the classical way, taken time to reflect over everything he’s done so far and, most importantly, where he wants to go in the future. Get to know…
I hear you have a strong musical background?
Yeah definitely. I had family members with soundsystems. I’d help them set up and play some tunes before the party. I’d bring my own set of tunes and warm things up. I wasn’t a DJ at that stage, though… I was playing music and had access to some really good vinyl!
When did you start to take it serious?
I didn’t buy my own decks until I’d graduated from uni. I wanted to DJ but it’s difficult to get into the scene if no one knows who you are. So I started my own night. I posted on the Drum&BassArena forum saying ‘I’m fed up with getting rejections from promoters, I’m doing my own night, who’s in?’ Loads of people got back saying they’d like to help, some could MC, others could DJ… It was really supportive.
Old school forum power!
Yes! It was August 2005 and four of us got involved eventually. Myself, Deefa, Caspar and Izzy. I found a bar in Great Portland St. No crowd, no nights on or anything. I went in and ask them about a weekly drum & bass night and they said ‘yeah go for it’. Fizzy Wednesday was born. The first night was Sept but no one came of course! But slowly over the weeks we started developing it. More and more people came and wanted to play and MC and it grew. By the time the bar changed management and shut down our night was heaving. Two for one drinks, drum & bass all night until 2am. We moved to Kings Cross and continued to have a good crowd. During this time I put aside enough money to get studio equipment and started to meet guys who were getting into production so we were sharing tips and that’s when all my influences growing up and all the things I played on soundsystems came rushing back and I ploughed them into dnb.
A classical drum & bass story! I guess that’s the connection with Bryan and Movement at Bar Rumba?
Movement was what we dreamt of. The atmosphere. The family vibe! You had everyone down there… Calibre, Marky, all those guys, It was like D&B was alive in London! You were guaranteed the best nights at Movement. I met Izzy who I ran Fizzy with there. Bryan was one of the first people to put out my music and I met him through booking him for a party. That’s one thing I hadn’t banked on – running the night and working with people I wanted to work with opened doors.
Which eventually to the album…
Bryan has asked me about an album for years! But when my night ended I decided to take a backseat from D&B for a while. My day job as a web developer means I have to keep on top of tech so much – the technology that powers the internet moves so quickly whatever you learn now won’t be useful in a year. So I was learning so much to keep up and that put the brakes on my music a bit. But Bryan kept on hassling me! So I pulled out some tunes I hadn’t released and worked out a plan. This eventually led to me working on tunes that were a lot more experimental. Tunes I would never have released where I’m trying out particular synths and sounds and techniques. Then of course I added some rollers people might expect from me. It built from there.
From a place of pure creativity…
Yeah. Tape Bang, for instance. I wanted to make something a bit trappy and change the breakdown of a track but didn’t know much about how trap was made, so this is my take on it. I experimenting with time signatures and manipulated T.R.A.C’s voice a lot. It’s a different way of thinking. I’m so used to finding samples, EQing them, chopping them and rolling them up so I wanted to refresh that. I used a lot of synths to see if I could get new sounds out of them and reconsider how I approach how I do things.
You’re still a demon with samples though.
That’s where I come from. For me my music is about taking music that already exists and finding something magical. A sweet spot, if you like. Then working out ways to completely recontextualise it from the original.
I know you’re not going to say but…. Where do you dig your samples from?
I need to emphasise the importance of listening to everything. Not just drum & bass. I listen to anything. If I have a thought to check out a sound I will. French Punk, communist Russian TV theme tunes, anything – it’s all windows into worlds and inspirations. All the samples I dig are from real places that have real emotions.
Give me an emotional point of the album…
There were many. On track I always recall is working with Kate White on Last Train Home. She’s a good mate and we’ve been working together since my first EP. She came up to do some writing for the day and we recorded one track and had a little bit of time left before she caught her last train. So I threw some beats together and she wrote these lyrics on the fly, sang it and had to dash. I got back from dropping her at the station and listened to it and realised how beautiful it was. That was a real moment for me.
Nice. So does the term Inner Haze reflect the feeling you had when you put music on a backburner?
No the opposite of that… Eventually. I made that track ages ago and I wasn’t happy with it. It didn’t sound right or capture what I wanted to say in my music. It wasn’t smooth or jazzy. It was too upbeat. So I deleted it and started it with the same sample – I gave the music more space. It doesn’t have continuous bass. It has a lot of room and space to go deep inside your mind where there’s nothing there but you and the music. That inner peace, if you like.