Everyone has a bit of a soft spot for the bedroom producer. Anyone who’s ever been passionate about dance music has considered or attempted making it themselves, so those who actually stick it out and become accomplished producers deserve a bit of admiration.
Joe Aperio is one of those people. His passion for D&B kick-started by a Shy FX-listening sister and piano-playing father, a musical upbringing that was later solidified by going to university in the D&B hotspot that is Leeds. When the alumni of Leeds include Sigma, Ant TC1, Koherent and plenty of others, you know that being exposed to its myriad of promoters and clubs would inspire anyone to pursue the D&B dream with even greater fervour.
With music released on Ram Records, Shogun Audio, Galacy, Soulvent Records and Terra Firma, Joe has rapidly built up a portfolio of music and contacts. His industry guile is apparent, his talent for building infectious beats even more so. With an EP that dropped this week on Liquicity sister-label Galacy which is almost certainly his best work to date, we thought it high time we had a catch-up.
Take us back. Where did it all start?
It all started when I was about 11 or 12 and my dad used to have really basic production software so that he could record pianos, because he’s a pianist. I just used to make hip-hop beats with samples and I even used to make little raps to go with them, just really basic stuff you do when you’re a kid, you know when you’re just rapping about stupid stuff.
It wasn’t until I was about 15 or 16 when I started making more serious music, like house and dubstep at the time was really big, that sort of brostep stuff. But yeah, just messing about with Massive really. And then when I was about 16 I discovered D&B through my sister and I was intrigued how to make that and produce it well, so that’s how it all started out.
What was it about what your sister was playing that struck a chord?
It was always the feel-good-liquid and the chilled liquid. She always used to play stuff like Chase & Status and Shy FX, people like that, just the feel-good stuff that gets you ready for going out. Then when I started researching it into myself and I found guys like Logistics and the other Hospital Records producers, that’s when I started really enjoying it for myself.
So it’s very much the feel-good side of things that got you interested. How would you categorise the type of music you release? How do you go from listening to Shy FX and Chase and Status to being Aperio?
I don’t think I had any sort of plan, I think it was just doing what worked for me and finding out what I vibed off. But guys like Logistics and Etherwood, when I started listening to music by them, I knew that that’s what I wanted to make, that sort of chilled, nice music that can still be played in the club. It was when I went to Leeds that I started going to nights with artists like Calibre and Lenzman, that really nice, deep, rolling liquid, and I love that so much. I wouldn’t say I’m similar but I take lots of inspiration, as I do from the dancefloor side of things and all other areas of the scene in order to make the Aperio sound.
You mentioned the Hospital crew and I think a lot of producers your age who make lighter D&B have been very inspired by that label.
Yeah definitely, it’s just always been the nights and everything else, it’s always been so exciting and one that I’m attracted to. But then you can dig a bit deeper and find labels like Soulvent and loads of other wicked, small liquid labels like Soul Trader, Fokuz and Terra Firma. High Tea Music as well.
If you had to pick one tune of yours to showcase your sound, which would it be?
I think it would have to my track that came out on Galacy at the start of 2018, Seasons Changing. Just because I think it has nice melodies for people who aren’t used to D&B, but also it keeps it sort of nice and underground as well, so the people who already like D&B can enjoy it as much as those who don’t.
Going back to 2017 for a second, it seemed like you went from being on nobody’s radars to being on quite a few. Talk us through what happened.
I think it started with doing collaborations with Monrroe, the first of which ended up on the 2017 Ram Annual and which was being sold in HMV and places like that. That was quite crazy because I’d never had a physical release before. I remember my parents went into the HMV in York and texted me a picture of the album, so that was quite cool. Then I did a two-track release on Program, so I guess it was Ram that really helped me out that year. I got quite a few gigs from that too, I played Let It Roll and had a release on their compilation as well. It was really just about getting onto compilations and getting my name out here and there, wherever I could.
Tell me about this year then. What have you done so far?
It started off with my Galacy release, Season’s Changing. That was really good because it was tapping into a new market with Liquicity, they have a really big fan base and do loads of great events, so getting to know those guys was cool.
Probably the highlight of the year was going to Croatia to play at Hospitality On The Beach, that was really fun. I also did a gig in Amsterdam and one in Belgium towards the end of the summer, so I guess the big thing this year was being asked to go abroad for sets, that’s been awesome.
Does that make you feel like you made it?
It’s just a bit of a novelty at the moment, it’s not so consistent that I can rely on it, when it happens it’s just like ‘oh, I’m going to Belgium this weekend – that’s a nice change’. But I still have to work 9-5, so at the moment it’s just a thing that gets you through the week. It’s not like ‘oh I’ve made it, I’m smashing it’, it’s not like that at all. I wish it was.
So, your Galacy EP is out now. This is your first truly solo EP with no features, right?
Yeah exactly that. There aren’t even any vocalists, it’s just samples mainly, and I’ve never released four tracks together before which sounds mad because I’ve been making tunes for a few years now. I think I’ve just always been eager to get my music out there in the past, but I held back with these and tried to get a few together that suit each other. It was the next step, to have an EP which is just me. I wanted this EP to be my sound.
Tell me about Seattle Sunrise, I think that’s probably my favourite from the release.
I found this amazing piano sample, chucked it in the track and started jamming over it, I put like a little Rhodes piano in there I think as well. It sounded deep and soulful, more of a morning tune than a night-time tune, maybe for like 6am when you’re back from partying. It reminded me of big city buildings with the sun coming up around them, so I named it Seattle Sunrise. But yeah, it’s a bit different to what I normally do, there are less things happening, it’s more based around the piano whereas quite often my music has lots of different elements. I just wanted the main focus to be the piano and the bass.
You can hear that, it’s simple elegance. So, do you feel excited about everything at the moment?
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to seeing what 2019 has in store. At the moment it’s a bit of a blank canvas, I haven’t really got anything pencilled in gigs or releases wise, but there’s so much that could happen, so it’s quite exciting.
What do you want to happen? What’s your dream 2019?
To do more gigs and to release music, I wouldn’t mind writing some more songs, like actual live songs, having a vocalist and doing a bit of that. I am a drummer, so I’ve always played in live bands.
What about a live collaboration with some other D&B artists? You could form a collective or something.
Well the thing is, one of my best mates in D&B is Joe Revaux but he’s also a drummer, so we can’t exactly make a band out of that [laughs].
Are you feeling a bit of a buzz about the D&B scene at the moment? I think a lot of us are, it seems to be a golden period.
Yeah, I feel like there’s a massive buzz about at the minute, there are so many events on, especially in Leeds. Everyone tries to work together as well, no one gets arsey about it and everyone helps each other, tries to push each other to do well. There are 8 or so promoters in Leeds at the moment, and I’m part of Vision State with Revaux and some others, and there’s never any animosity towards other promoters – everyone loves each other.
What about nationally? Do you feel like you’re part of a community of producers?
Definitely yeah. People like Monrroe, I’ve known him since I was about 15 so we’ve known each other for years and I feel like we’ve progressed together a bit. He’s smashing it in different ways, and I think we’ve helped each other to get where we are. Koherent, I’ve known them since university, Revaux obviously and Deadline, Peter has helped us all out really by getting us involved with Shogun. There were six Leeds artists on that Point of Origin compilation recently. It’s crazy really.
For sure yeah. That album was about showcasing the next generation of producers, so if your Leeds crew are all on it then clearly what you’re saying about a community spirit is true.
Exactly, we all know each other and we’re all mates. It’s perfect really. A final shoutout to Vision State, they deserve a bit of exposure and they’re forthcoming event is Rizzle in leeds on the 30th. Big ups to MC Subliminal who’ll be playing there and who has is forthcoming gig at Fabric. Then all the Leeds guys: Revaux, Deadline, Koherent and the others.