Cyantific has been on a journey. It’s a story that moves from his well-received 2018 album Bloodlines to a dissatisfaction with his creative output, to lots of motorbike rides, a course in music production and, finally, the release of his new album – Discovery Vol. 1. That piece of work has just dropped and it’s the sound of a new, although still recognisable Cyantific, a now-Cornwall based producer who has been on the drum & bass circuit for almost two decades yet has never slipped far from view.
He spoke to UKF from his new hideaway on an island off the English South-West coast and told us that our collectively experienced separation has enabled him to find a positive sense of space. It’s a commodity in abundance in the middle of the sea, and that feeling of freshness is apparent in Discovery’s more considered, pensive nature. His furious dancefloor touches are less prominent but still present, a spice amongst a concoction with heightened richness and depth, one with several flavours competing for your attention.
It’s a new look for Cyantific and, based on our conversation, you get the sense it means a lot to him on a personal level. It’s sometimes hard to find honesty in an age so obsessed with appearances, but Cyantific has it in spades and it’s hard to miss a feeling of authenticity that’s mirrored by his album’s stylistic direction. We discussed that direction, his dog Winston and more…
Tell me about your lockdown living, how has it been?
Someone asked me this in an interview recently, and it’s weird because I’ve kind of enjoyed it in a way. It’s just been an opportunity to work on music and I think not having the constant cycle of going and DJing at the weekends has actually been really helpful.
That’s something I’ve heard from several artists, that getting away from a regular touring schedule really gives you a bit more space to think about what you’re making.
Yeah completely. It does feel like some of the music I’ve been making is more experimental, there’s just been no distraction, really. There’s not really been that thought of like, how is this going to work on a dance floor? You’re not concerned with that so much. The thought of trying to make something that’s gonna smash it just doesn’t interest me at the moment at all.
What sort of experiments have you been trying out?
I guess I’ve just been getting back in touch with what really what attracted me to drum and bass in the first place. I feel like 97-98 were probably the most experimental years across the board in drum and bass. It’s not necessarily like I’m trying to sound like the music of that era, but just the kind of spirit of experimentation, I’m trying to bring that into my music a bit more. To other people, they might listen to what I’ve been doing this year and be like, ‘oh it just sounds like this’ or whatever, but it’s about how I relate to what I’m making.
Do you feel the pressure of other people’s expectations of your sound?
Previously, definitely. But that’s another effect of lockdown, that it’s really kind of freeing in a way. It’s like, yeah, okay, I don’t have to live up to people’s expectations. I can just make some weird shit and see what happens.
So, you’ve been rediscovering that more organic process of production?
Yeah, definitely. If I pull it back to around the end of last summer, I was seriously close to quitting writing music altogether.
Yeah. I’d spent like the whole summer basically just riding my motorbike around and I had no interest in making music at all.
Why do you think that was?
I don’t know, I think I wasn’t happy with what I was making and I wasn’t happy with what I was hearing. I’d thought about perhaps sort of moving sideways and making some house and stuff and I made a few tracks, but even that just wasn’t really exciting me, you know. And then, towards the end of the year, I kind of had a complete reset after taking some time off, and completely changed the way that I was writing music and everything. Then I went on tour in Australia, New Zealand and America and had an amazing time. And I was like, actually, yeah, this is really what I want to do still. Overhauling my complete sort of process of writing has changed everything really.
This is the first full length release with multiple original tracks that you’ve done in a couple of years. Is that the reason behind that little gap?
Yeah, I guess it was. The album before, Bloodline, some of the tracks on it ended up taking about three years. After it came out, it was just like, fuck, I don’t want to do that again, you know? I ended up taking a couple of months off that summer. I guess I had greater expectations for that album. It was really well received by DJs and fans and everything online, and it streamed really well, and I was like, okay, this will really take off. I guess I felt that it hadn’t afterwards, for whatever reason and that really hurt. And I think last summer, that was the reason why I spent a lot of time thinking about whether I wanted to carry on doing this because I’d worked so hard on that project and it felt like I hadn’t really achieved what I wanted to off the back of it.
What did you want to achieve?
I guess touring a lot more, that would have been the goal, and I felt like it just didn’t pan out that way, you know?
Tell me how you moved from that feeling of disappointment to making this project.
In November last year, I actually took a last ditch kind of Hail Mary, where I tried out this music coaching course. It was all about the process of writing music, not about theory and all that in-depth sort of stuff. It was totally based around the psychology of writing music. Within a month of doing it I was just completely transformed. I’d gone from avoiding the studio and maybe making about six tracks a year that I was happy with, to what I’ll have done by the end of this year, which is 16, something I’ve never done before.
What was it on the course that changed your mindset?
It’s a lot of things. It’s just how to sort of know when to let go of stuff, how to finish things a lot quicker. And, yeah, it really seems to work.
What was the process and thinking behind this album?
I don’t know man, it’s not really a concept album, you know. I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve got this vision’. I just started writing stuff, and I had always sort of thought it would be cool to do a load of singles and then put them out as an album with a couple of extra bits. But then I had the idea of splitting it into two, so this is part one and then next year, I’ll do part two.
I basically just started making stuff and thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s going in this direction’. I didn’t consciously decide that I wanted to make something completely different to the last album, it just went that way. I did want it to be more organic, though, sound wise, and not as 80s influenced as the last album. Using more real instruments and shit like that. I was listening to Tyco and stuff like that and I think it seeped into the album.
There was no master plan, you just sat down and it came out?
Yeah. I sort of struggle with the idea that because I’ve been making this kind of shit for so long, that if I’m going to move to something a little bit different, are people going to get it? But particularly at the moment, there’s nothing to be afraid of, because you’re not risking bookings, there’s no feeling of ‘Oh shit, I need to play it safe’. You know, you’re unshackled from your normal constraints. I guess that’s one big positive for musicians, if you want to see it that way.
The track that really stood out to from the album was Falling. Tell me about that one.
I wrote that pretty much exactly a year ago, just before I went on tour, so I tested it out when I was in Australia and New Zealand. That was kind of like the beginning of this whole journey of working in this new way and just trying push myself musically. Thinking like, what, can I do? Where are the edges of my capabilities as far as musicality goes, you know? It came together super quick that one, it was done in a few days.
Which track means the most to you?
Farewell Shadow, definitely. I’d been living in London in the same house for about four and a half years, I think, and I had a studio in the spare room. It was my favourite studio that I’ve worked in, I loved it there, it had a little window out over the garden and it was just a nice place to work. Anyway, the house got sold and I was gonna go and live with some friends, just me and my dog but it fell through last minute. I had somewhere else to move, but I was going to have to give up my dog and I’ve had him since he was a puppy. It really affected me way more than I thought it would, it really did. I was really cut up about it and I literally woke up that next day and I wrote that song, so it was a song about my dog. But it turned out all right, because luckily my family have a house in Cornwall, like a summer vacation property. So, I’ve moved down to Cornwall, to the middle of fucking nowhere. It’s actually on an island like 30 miles off the coast. It’s super remote.
Is your dog called shadow?
No, he’s called Winston, but he is my shadow because he’s literally always within a couple of feet of me. So yeah, that’s why that tune is called Farewell Shadow.
Well I’m glad he’s still there. I was wondering which of the tracks on the album you think is most different from what you might have made before?
Definitely Suspended Animation, because that’s just experimenting. I never would have put that out. I might have put it on an album, but I never would have put it out as a single, previously. I don’t expect everyone to like a tune like that, because it’s just really odd. But I liked it, I believe in it. So yeah, I’ll put it out and see what happens.
I guess finding that confidence has been part of the process as well?
Yeah, exactly. I think the second half of the album, if all the ideas that I’ve got so far go in that direction, I’d say it’s going to be quite a bit deeper. I’ve found that I’ve got no interest in the harder stuff at all at the moment. It’s just not really doing it for me anymore. I don’t know whether that will change when I’m DJing again, but right now, I’ve really been enjoying deeper stuff like. Alix Perez’s LP was amazing and Halogenix’s EP was one of the best releases of the year. That’s what I’m loving at the moment.
So we can expect more of the deeper side on the second half? When’s that coming out, are you allowed to tell us?
Well, I’m not trying to keep it in a secret bunker or anything, I’ve just got to make it [laughs]. I’ve got a few songs. I’ve just finished a song that I really like that might fit a little bit better on Viper. So yeah, I’ve got see what they think, they haven’t heard it yet. I’ve still got a collaboration with Mackey Gee to come out next year. It certainly wouldn’t fit in with this whole thing, but I still really like it.
What do you want listeners to take away from the album?
Enjoyment, I guess, that’s the best compliment. There’s quite a lot of divides in drum and bass, where people say they only like a certain kind or go ‘yeah, that person, he goes in that box; that’s him or that’s her’. So I would like for people to keep their ears open. There are so many talented people in this scene and you can write off artists, but they can shock you and come through with some amazing tunes. I’d like people to at least listen to what I’m doing and if they think it’s shit, fair enough, you know. Because the all the tunes on this album are quite different, so maybe there is something you’d like on it. So yeah, I’d just like for people to go out and listen to it.