Drum & bass is club music. Let’s not get this twisted.
It might drive you through a gym session, soothe your soul en route to work or soundtrack a sesh with your favourite people, but primarily drum & bass music’s purest function is to whisk you away in the dance, charge you up with feelings you can’t explain and give you total escapism.
These circumstances preside at the forefront of everything Joe Moses does. Whether it’s the rubber ball ricochets of recent slammer Tidal Wavey or the voluptuous skanks of Pagans or the venomous two-step grunt of Bicep, every Need For Mirrors has been written for a particular venue, set or party in mind.
Never has this been clearer than on his debut album Swim. Released this week on Commercial Suicide, we announced it last month with comments from both Joe and Klute. The Commercial Suicide bossman was prominent in the way the album came to life as he identified a particular thread in a certain strain of Joe’s tracks and repertoire. He explained how “Swim came through a slow process of casual consultation and the emergence of a lot of very different styles that he’d been a bit shy to show anyone.”
It’s a range of styles that really come to life on Swim. With many of the tunes paying homage to clubs Joe and Bailey have hosted Soul In Motion nights in, it focuses your attention on Joe’s more techno influenced, stripped back and atmospheric signature. As he’s put it before in a previous interview with us, it’s music for those sessions where those whisked-away, moments do indeed induce total escapism.
The album has already left a strong impression on Joe’s peers. Fabio describes it as a “Fantastic album by one of the underground’s most underrated producers. Flavours from the past, present and future. Very dope.” While Doc Scott reckons it’s “a great D&B album that contains one of my favourite tracks of the year Oval.”
Co-signs don’t come much more foundation rooted that that. Time to hit the club and locate Need For Mirrors to find out more…
When we last spoke half way through 2017, by that point of the year you’d written ‘a few dozen’ tunes. Are you as prolific this year?
I’ve definitely written less this year but only because of circumstances. If I had the time I’d be writing just as much. I did a lot of music last year and half of them were signed. This year I’ve done about the same. But the last 20 of them haven’t been sent to DJs at all as I wanted to let the album do its thing. Newer followers of my music might expect the album to have tracks like Tidal Wavey or Pagans…
Yeah, I feel Swim represents one particular layer or perspective of your sound in that type of way….
Exactly. But I couldn’t listen to an album that was all Tidal Wavey. Some tracks are singles and they’re made for that purpose. They’re club tunes. But an album needs to have something else to it. A different dynamic. My problem has been the idea of an album concept. I’ve attempted to make a few, and I still keep pottering on them now, but they’re incredibly time consuming to create a concept like that and find the right angle. So Swim came about in a different way; more of an organic collection of tracks that work together. Like a Shelflife in a way.
There’s such a fine line between creating a concept and contriving it, I guess?
Yeah. And that’s what’s been interesting about Swim. It’s a particular sound I like and all the music is coming from the Soul In Motion club night; what I want to be hearing, what I want to be playing. Tom (Klute) and I have that balance where we both appreciate certain techno influences or just a mood or feeling. There’s that common bond. So he was able to craft the album from a collection of tracks.
Were none of them ever meant for an album?
Mother Maiden Chrome was always meant for an album. But not all of them. Some of the tracks were with Soulr for a while but obviously never got released in time. Pivot was written after going to the first 31 night at Fire and Marcus snapped it up. Mother Maiden Chrome and Paradise Snare, I sent to Tom because I could hear his influence in them. Mother Maiden Chrome actually reminded me of Klute’s old track Phone Call, which came with this amazing remix by Matrix.
How about the tracks named after clubs? That’s a very strong theme throughout the album…
For sure. Some of the tracks that aren’t named after clubs but they still come from particular clubs we’ve had Soul In Motion events at. Both Nekkid and 93 Feet which came from our residency at 93 Feet East which was a daytime Sunday residency at a club that’s predominantly house and techno. They conjure the spirit of what I wanted to see at those parties; people vibing in that type of club to those type of tunes. Miranda, another club we held Soul In Motion at, has that warmer, dubby vibe. Fat Freddy’s Drop sounding trumpets, very New Zealand I guess. It’s a basement tune made for Miranda, it was also pencilled for Soulr.
How about Oval?
Oval was written for Soulr actually, speaking of Marcus. I made that and tested it in Oval space where we also had our residency. Oval space is a big warehouse space which can be a nightmare with reverb but lends itself so well to particular tracks. Spirit and Lee championed Oval. You know I didn’t actually think it was that good or would be received that well. That sound has already been perfected by Marcus and then later by Luke LSB. I felt I was going down an old trodden path. Then Scotty heard Spirit play it and gave me some empowering words about it. Klute had just signed it and I had no idea that it was getting this much support and love, this actually helped me have some self belief in the project.
Yeah man. Duncan was always on the case. We had a common thread between our styles; he gave me heaps of inspiration. Tom took that track and that was when these things really began to interconnect.
Where does Pegasus fit into the connections?
I can’t remember the direct influences behind it, but it’s got that deep house, swelling kinda feeling. Like a long mix that takes you into the zone. No instantaneous lead drop; we’re going on a journey and we’re locking in. That’s my favourite part of the set; no big switch, just like ‘okay we’re going on a trip now, and we’re all in it together’ That’s what that song feels to me. Then you have the tracks like 93 and Nekkid which switch between numerous basslines. They’re playing with the idea of everybody being locked in, I don’t have to hurry for the next track. We can shimmy off for a bit.
You mentioned this before. The troughs…
I really do prefer those spaces. I don’t think I’m good at peak time tracks. It takes a lot of skill to get those mixes right and there’s a lot of people competing for that space. I’ve also conditioned myself to what I want to hear and what I want to make; at times it can be a detriment to my music writing and I can easily sit there and write the same song I’ve written many times before because they’re the sounds I like. That can be frustrating…
Does it get harder the more tracks you write? That feeling that everything is a remix of something.
Never hard. But more frustrating. I just get complacent, I think. For example I know what’s wrong with a lot of my tracks production wise but I don’t want to sit there spending a month doing one track. I’ll leave that approach of getting the perfect break and the perfect mix to peers of mine. It has to be more about feeling because once I’m in the club and I’m playing my tunes, I play how I want to play and the music I like. If friends want to play them or labels want to sign them, that’s amazing but not the end purpose.
They’re made for the club, your party and your set…
Yes. But it’s funny; labels might ‘um’ and ‘ah’ about signing them. Then they hear it in a club and say it sounds like a different tune. My response is ‘yes because that’s what these are made for; night clubs.’ I’m not writing these for the streaming market, you know? These aren’t for Spotify. I know my place and where I sit and what this music is meant to do.
Context is interesting in terms of where you sit. You say you don’t make peak tunes but something like Pivot is dark and heavy. There was a tune Bryan G played at the start of his Sun & Bass set that tore my head off, too…
That’s Lambo, that is a peaktime track but that’s not conventional in its peak potential. That’s specific for me. I’ve got it ready for those moments if that’s the place we need to go. It’s peak but it’s not obnoxious. People have said that’s deep and I guess it is if you put it against an Audio or Break tune, for example, but for me that is definitely peak time within my spectrum.
Where does Pagans sit for you in the spectrum? Chase & Status included it on their Essential Mix the other week….
Yeah it’s been great to hear them support that. It sits within the dub and reggae influences of mine. Listen to that and something like Tribulations; similar vocals, a similar dubby approach not as upfront DJ wise but has similar DNA. Miranda has that influence too. There’s another tune called Slide & Glide which connects Pagans and Miranda. But that’s my influences and how things sit together.
What I take the most from this is the club story. Clubs are still the most vital role in what you do. You were promoter right from the start and they’ve been part of your life haven’t they?
Yeah swimming in clubs has been part of my life since I was a teen. It’s about playing music to people; the love of that and the desire to play the right music in the right, and best possible, environment and conditions. It’s also about making music for me personally; I love finishing a track before the show. Something special for that particular night. I like to play something I’ve never played before. I guess it’s a dopamine fix. I never want to play the same batch of music and just want to dig dig dig into my own stuff and bring out something fresh.
Something you all experience for the first time together…
Exactly. As a young person when I was listening to D&B in the 90s, I’d love hearing Grooverider play a Prototype dub for the first time. Or hearing Ed Rush & Optical’s Virus dubs for the first time. Or How You Make Me Feel. I’ll never forget the first time I heard that. DJ Trace played it in among all these Virus dubs and DsCi4 dubs and it came out of nowhere. Like resetting the clock. I have this beautiful memory of a Metalheadz night when someone dropped Primary Motive’s Who Has The Jazz on Creative Source. It was had that trumpet line that had such a momentum to it. Fabio was playing it, everyone was singing along to the response of the trumpet, it was a real moment.
Those are the moments that define or highlight a night, aren’t they?
For some of us, not all, though. The big peaktime tunes steal those moments for a lot of people, but for me I want to take you somewhere, fuck with your head a little bit and make you dance, escape, think about life and swim. That’s what my favourite artists have always done for me and it’s something really important for me as an artist.