Greg Sanders (better known as Distance) is one of the true original pioneers of the dubstep scene: a key figure in any discussions around both the genre and the wider UK underground music scene, it would be almost impossible to talk about truly original electronic music without mentioning his brooding, cinematic and sometimes unforgiving constructions.
From humble ambitions which kicked the door in to a regular slot on the then fledgling Rinse FM, Distance has become inscrutably regarded for his unique skills and distinct position and sound within the bass-sphere.
With the recent release of his third studio album Dynamis, which is without doubt his most ambitious and well executed album to date (via Pinch’s flagship Bristol label Tectonic) we thought it high time we caught up with Distance for the lowdown on the new album, his current outlook on the scene and everything that lead to this point.
Distance was making dubstep before it even had a name…
“I started off going to Fwd>> (legendary club night at Plastic People in London) at the very beginning, when there were maybe 10-15 people in the venue. It was nowhere near being a scene and the word dubstep hadn’t even been spoken at that point. Sets featured a lot of garage and 2-step and at that time 8bar/grime was just evolving.”
“I really didn’t know what I was doing in regard to beat making but just went for it and did my best. All I hoped for at that time was for DJ EZ to drop one of my tunes on his KissFM show, and he did! First tune I ever made actually. It wasn’t long after that I got offered my own show on Rinse along with the likes of Paul Rose (Scuba), Search & Destroy and maybe Plastician (Plasticman back then). This was early 2003 I think. I linked up with Mala very early on too, I remember him coming to meet me at O’Neils in Bromley and we traded beats….”
“It was a crazy mixing pot of styles but all were very much a UK orientated sound. I actually feel we are in a similar space right now there; are lots of styles which are surfacing which don’t really belong anywhere…. so I doubt it will be long before a whole new scene is born.”
His new album is inspired by everything from the hip-hop of Schoolboy Q to the sound design of Arca and Hanz Zimmer. But that doesn’t mean he’s quitting on dubstep…
“The production and mixes in hip-hop are just crazy! In the last four years or so I’ve really taken notice of what’s been going on in that world. I worked on a project for Riz MC a few years back and he introduced me to a lot of cool artists that would probably have passed me by otherwise.”
“Film scores have always been a big influence on me too: I spent quite a long period really studying them for this album. Their dynamics and mixes and so on and hip-hop was a massive influence on the vocal tracks. The vocal tracks are there because I really love working with vocalists. Mixing music you have produced around someone else’s vocal can be eye opening. I learn something new every time. It’s about finding that new thing. Finding new flavours.”
“I’m constantly hungry for new music but I’m quite fussy and have a very specific taste. I think the shift in styles was part of that. I think I was just getting too bored so had to move outside of 140 and dubstep. To me it’s all still UK underground music. People do need to realise that this isn’t me quitting 140: it’s more a case of feeling confident enough to make what I want. It’s still my sound.”
But none of it would exist if it wasn’t for heavy metal
“It’s basically how my love of music and composing started, I got bought a guitar when I was 11 and naturally got into rock which then progressed to metal with bands like Pantera, Fear Factory, Sepultura, Metallica and Megadeth.”
“Korn really started my obsession with sub bass though, because the drummer used to use a midi PD which triggered a pure sine wave during their tracks. I was obsessed from then: looking into how they did it and the overall execution. So I bought a drum machine and a few other little bits and started experimenting myself.”
“Korn also were just so different when they came around. They changed the face of metal: The sound, the way people dressed, everything really. I’ve always tried to carry that over to my music. I always strive to be original”
“My early tunes were basically metal riffs, I based my drum patterns very much on live drums and tracks like My Demons, No Sunshine and Political Warfare with Skream all feature elements of me playing guitar. I mean Headstrung is basically a metal track.”
He’s Also A Badman Barista When He’s Not Making Beats
“I have a special machine which I use for roasting the coffee beans. Then I use a grinder to grind ‘em ready for putting through my Espresso machine. In the summer I tend to do it a lot more, I normally get the beans from random people on Ebay or online shops”
“Maybe I should take merchandising to a whole new level. A Chestplate Chestmas Pudding Blend would smash it”