How Fixate accidentally became a drum & bass boss

What goes around comes around… After 10 years of grafting and crafting away at the controls, dabbling with a variety of styles from hip-hop to dubstep via grime, London producer Fixate – AKA Declan Curran – is now respected as one of drum & bass’s most innovative, left-sided artists operating around the 170 axis.

Old news: he’s been easing himself into this position since he first officially emerged in 2014 on Diffrent and followed it up with the massive Throwback Therapy EP on dBridge’s Exit. Status galvanised by his role in last year’s evergreen gully project Richie Brains, he’s since delivered two more fizzy fusions in the form of March On and, this week, What Goes Around Comes Around.

Flexing a blend that tastes just as much of techno, house and dub as it does drum & bass, Fixate releases are rife in unusual grooves and never follow formula. What Goes Around Comes Around is no exception. In fact it could be his broadest statement to date as it ranges from the loose-limbed celebration of every roller ever made….

…. To the dense pulsating dubby technoid halftime stomper Rig Monkey with Skeptical…

And that’s just two of the six tracks on the EP. We called him up to find out more. 

I’ve just been buzzing to this mix and I got this feeling you were a DJ before you became a producer. I might be wrong…

Yes you are wrong sorry mate. I started making tunes a while before I was DJing. I started DJing around 2010 but I’d been trying to produce beats since around 2006. Just messing around with hip-hop, grime and dubstep. I kinda landed in the 170 stuff by chance. I was making a tune with Chimpo and he suggested doing it at 170 and it worked really well. I never got round to properly finishing any D&B before but it felt natural making tunes at that speed, especially halftime as that’s roughly hip-hop tempo which is what I was originally interested in making. That alongside seeing what labels and people like Binga, Phizix Alix, Exit, Diffrent etc were doing got me inspired to have a go at my own take on it, that’s when I started to give the Fixate thing a proper go.

Your first official Fixate release was on Different, right? Loads of exciting artists cut their teeth on that label.

Yeah I’d been sending Dexta stuff for a while and they were really supportive of what I was doing. I love the stuff on the label and how they do things; the whole imagery and branding and character. Shouts to Dexta!

Yeah you launched on Exit with that dope old school game video.

That was fun. I had a concept in mind and I know the 90s thing had been done to death but thought the idea would be cool. My mate’s a graphic designer so we stayed at his and played old video games for inspiration / procrastination then brainstormed. He did the designs and we took them to Darren’s friend who’s an animator and he smashed it.

That whole Throwback Therapy EP reflected a wide range of influences, especially techno…

Yeah I listen to a lot of techno, usually when I’m doing something, helps me focus. Especially dub techno mixes. I can’t say I’m extremely informative but people like 2562, Martyn, Hodge, Traumer, Mosca, Tessela are a few artists I think are amazing.

I want to talk about last year’s awesome Richie Brains project. You were the freshest artist out of the collective, were you invited to take part before or after that first EP?

Before, I think. Got asked to be a part of it not long after getting asked to do an EP for Exit. I remember getting a text from Chimpo telling me to check my emails and I was cc’d with all the other guys involved. It was very surreal. I hadn’t even released on Exit or met anyone (except Chimpo) and suddenly I was being asked to be part of a project with artists I’ve listened and looked up to for a very long time. I felt out my depth at first for sure but I personally learnt a lot from it.

A lot of it was done in real life, right?

We had two big sessions when everyone was together. I remember going to Alix’s old house with Stray and Sam. There was another part when we split up and went to each other’s studios, there’s even a photo somwhere of the two groups Facetiming each other and hearing what’s been made. Fracture and Dbridge had studios next to each other so two projects were on the go there and one at Alix’s. We met up for a drink to organise it, then we started sending stuff back and forth, getting vocals and bringing it together. It came together fairly quickly and there wasn’t too much pressure about how it should sound, we just had fun with it which I think was the best way.

It must have been fun watching people guessing who it was? No one guessed the right combination.

A few people on the forums were very close, though! It was hard to keep my mouth shut to be honest, but I managed it. It was really fun bullshitting people about it though and great to see all the hype around it. It was a privilege to be on the project for sure.

It does totally fit your melting pot style, though. You don’t seem to have many rules!

I guess so. I just try and make stuff that I want to hear, which usually involves a load of influences from different genres I like. I enjoy making people dance but perhaps without using the traditional D&B groove.

Why is that? Because it doesn’t feel natural?

I think it’s because I used to make dubstep/hiphop etc. Sometimes my approach is to make 140 stuff but speed it up. I never sit down in the studio and think ‘woah I’ve got to make something completely new that’s never ever been done before’ but it’s just what I enjoy making this style the most. It’s fun to make people dance to different rhythms and grooves. Guys like Dub Phizix do it really well. I’m like ‘how the fuck did you even think of that?’. You can’t go wrong with a good roller either though, maybe in the future.

And different sounds. Like the Latin pianos on Fire Water. They come out of nowhere.

That’s Dismantle’s doing. He smashed it. He was supporting my tunes on Rinse before I was Fixate, so we’ve been in contact for ages sending music etc so it was sick to get on a tune together. I think we’re fairly like minded with the tune making/music taste it worked out really well.

You clearly share a similar vision with Skeptical too. Rig Monkey is a banger!

Skeptical is just such a sick producer full stop. This came about because we decided to do a tune for Dimensions 2016 and play it on the Mungos rig. A proper soundsystem one. It originally started as a 140 loop, I sped it up and sent him the idea and took it from there. We kept it to ourselves to show people for the first time there.

Dubplatey vibes!

Yeah, always cool to see the first time reaction on a proper hefty sound system.

Who’s behind the artwork by the way? It’s awesome.

This amazing artist on Instagram, sØlar. He’d hit dBridge up and said he wanted to work with the label and this was perfect. I was looking for a collage type art for the release anyway so it was perfect timing. There were a few other pieces he had done but this one was the stand out. I love the colour and mood it sets, I feel it fits the music really well.

So what’s up next?

Nothing concrete I can confirm. I’m working on loads of music and I’m looking to release much more next year.

Fixate – What Goes Around is out now on Exit Records 

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