Whether your pulse thumps at 130 or bumps at 170, there’s a strong chance Fearful’s debut album Interference will strike a chord with you.
A spacious foreboding body of work, weaved together by cold atmospherics, Interference is the sound of Fearful digging deep into his influences and fine tuning what he wants to say as an artist. An alluring balance of equal measures of drum & bass, techno and breakbeat, it’s held together by mood much more than genre, temper much more than tempo.
It’s been a long time coming, too. Interference follows a slow and steady string of dispatches that dates back to 2012. They’ve come via labels such as Flexout, Automate and Diffrent, the label where he seems to have made his spiritual home. Encouraging and championing Fearful’s genre cross pollination, Interference is the labels’ second album and takes off where Sense MC’s debut left us last year… Inventive, refreshing, one of a kind and unapologetically future focused. The same can be said for Fearful himself. By day he’s is a sound designer for VR games, by night he conjures up stark scenes like this…
Fresh from debuting his live show at the album launch in London, we caught up with the young producer to find out more…
I understand this album started in a pub….
Yeah that’s right. It was a long time ago now, well over two years ago. I met up with Dexta in the pub because I had four tracks I wanted to release as an EP on Diffrent. It turned out he was keen for me to do something much longer form. I liked the idea of an album but wasn’t sure it would be right on a drum & bass label. I’m not necessarily someone who is good at writing rollers. Luckily Chris (Dexta) is really open to the idea of me experimenting and doing things a little bit different, pardon the pun.
Ha! Big up Dexta.
Yeah he gave me total creative control, which was cool because I didn’t show him things until they were complete ideas. I don’t like running things by people too much, I prefer to run things until their completion. If it’s not right for the label or the project, then I’ll use it for something else. But pretty much everything I sent to him ended up on the album. There was a little tweak, I guess. I had too many 170 tracks and we wanted it to have more of an even split with the drum & bass and the 130 / techno inspired stuff.
The way the album is arranged you don’t notice those tempo changes. It’s more of an atmosphere carried throughout. A mood that runs through the album and makes it much more than just a collection of tracks.
That’s nice to hear. I wanted to create a mood and display my influences all in one place. I’ve seen a lot of albums in dance music suffer because there feels like this need to make to everything DJ friendly. But for me this is a debut album so I wanted it to be like ‘this is an honest reflection of me. Take it or leave it’ kinda thing. There are bits you can DJ in every genre. But it’s a bit of a risk because I generally reside in D&B circles so the reality is that a lot of non D&B tracks won’t get played.
Interesting point regarding the DJ influence on all albums. That must be frustrating for a lot of the more experimental artists who don’t want to format things so simplistically?
Yeah I think it might be. That said, there’s a lot of innovation in drum & bass in general and on a club level too. I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating, just something to be aware of when writing an album. But this is the first release I’ve been able to really show what else I’m made of. I’ve tested the water a little with a few non drum & bass tracks. But never on this scale. It was a bit of a worry that people might not get it but I’m happy with the reception and support it’s had so far. It shows the mood of the project comes through.
The album title track is one of the strongest examples. The breaks hit harder because they’re slower…
Thanks. It’s quite an interesting phenomenon; there’s more space to express modulations so you can really process those drums to do that. It’s very challenging to do that at a drum & bass tempo. The flow comes a bit more naturally and it’s more of a cinematic approach at that tempo. I can tell more of a story. Whereas with drum & bass I focus much less on the story and work towards making things that are hypnotic and fun to dance to.
Was there a pivotal or penny dropping moment in that process?
Yeah I guess the title track Interference had that feeling. I wrote it when I was around half way through the process and I realised it was the sound of the album I wanted to express. Having that big thundering intro with the second drop going into that stripped back techno sound. It came very naturally. There wasn’t much thought going into it, I was going off gut instinct.
Those moments where the tune is in control of you…
That’s the gem every producer is looking for. I think you can really feel it when you force it. These moments take you by surprise. You have to be ready for them.
Am I right in thinking you love a good collaboration or two? There’s a fair few on the album and you’ve historically done a fair few, too…
I do actually. Everyone who is on the album is a personal friend of mine and it’s been special to have them on there. They would usually come on board at points where I’ve got to on particular tracks where I felt it could do with their input. Or the track Recall with Lakeway when we were jamming in Dexta’s studio but I realised it would fit in with the context and sound of the album. The Arkiak collabo was done in Shanghai where he lives. I went out here to visit him. We started it and left it in storage for a long time then I opened it up last year and realised it would fit the album as a roller so I pleaded with Codebreaker to be involved and thankfully he liked the track.
It’s the second key album he’s played a lead role on this year. He was also on Amoss’s album too. He doesn’t throw bars around willy nilly either, does he?
He is super selective about what he works on and I’m blessed to share that honour with Amoss as they’re good mates of mine, too. They were just finishing their album as I was starting mine and were really cool for a reality check and advice.
There’s a really nice personal story here. Was an album always on the cards when you got into production?
I think for any artist to have something that says ‘this is me, this is my sound at this moment in time, these are my influences’ is an ambition or hope. Maybe it’s something I’ve thought of ever since I got into music but never had the backing or courage? It’s nice to be at a point where I know I can prove myself to myself. If anything, it’s given me far more inspiration to crack on with new music. After finishing it I’ve gone on a roll and made loads more music.
That’s nice to hear. Sometimes it’s the other way and artists cannot stand the idea of a studio for a while!
Oh I did get fatigued for a while, when I was looking at the micro details, trying to make everything perfect. But once I was through that I felt really inspired. I think the collaborations have been inspiring too, I have some mad talented friends who are doing incredible things and very hardworking. They have different approaches and it’s nice to refresh from a different outlook
Traditionally there’s been pretty substantial gaps between your releases but this sounds like you’ve got lots more to drop pretty soon?
Definitely. But also those gaps are down to where I was in my life. I was studying, and production took a back foot for a while. I’m a slow writer, too. But recently I’ve found I’ve upped the pace a little and I’ll be starting next year with a whole new batch of things….