Jump-up, jungle, liquid, flamenco, grade-8 guitar, a live dubstep band… these are all things that came up in a chat with complete music junkie, Simon Exile.
Starting at an early age, Simon has already had a long career in music – going through all sorts of musical phases through his teens, until discovering a home in drum & bass production as Exile (formerly known as Simon Splice).
As Goldie once said “drum & bass is like modern day jazz” – basically referring to the diversity of styles housed within one genre. So perhaps the reason Exile landed on drum & bass was to continue flexing his creativity across a breadth of sub-genres that range from soulful, to dark, to energetic, to feel-good and beyond.
With plenty of releases behind him on labels like Dispatch, CruCast, Viper, Rebel Music and more – Exile now reveals he’s got a weighty album on the way, loaded with collabs and showcasing his ability to write in different styles. As a full time tutor and musician though – the work doesn’t stop there for him. Expect the string of releases to continue as he’s getting amongst more projects with a wide range of labels and artists.
UKF wanted to learn more about this upcoming LP, as well as hear about his passion for all music, and get a gauge on the scene up in Birmingham.
How’s things going for you music wise at the moment?
Music wise, things are going really well. Things are starting to pick up more and more as time goes on. I’m doing various collabs with quite big people – I’ve just had Bladerunner round a week ago actually.
I’ve also got loads of other releases coming out soon. Some on Dance Concept, Nicky Blackmarket’s label (Cartoons), hopefully another CruCast release at some point. So yeah, things are ticking on!
Nice one, sounds like you’re working on a lot. So how did this all start for you? How’d you get into producing drum & bass?
Before I was into drum & bass, I was into live music. I started off playing the guitar when I was 13, and I got my grade-8 when I was 16. I love listening to stuff like Dream Theatre, Pink Floyd – all the different genres that are considered ‘live music’. I didn’t really know anything about the digital scene for a while.
When I was in school I started listening to the old Andy C mixes, Pendulum’s Hold Your Colour, and Noisia with Block Control VIP and Monster and stuff like that. I then kind of developed listening to drum & bass more, but still wasn’t crazy into digital music until around college time when I started trying to mix. I met Mark XTC there as well, he wasn’t one of my main tutors, but he was there when I was learning the DJ skills module.
And then when I went to university, I made the switch. I got really into electronic music with some of the people that were in my course. I started making D&B and I got in touch with Levela – I had my first release as Splice with him on Multi-Function, which was a liquid tune. This was a long long time ago before Levela was making the stuff he makes today.
After that, I got into ‘live dubstep’, back when dubstep was really popping off. I got a synth, and I played synth and guitar in a band called Modern Medicine, with Pete Cannon and Robbie Greer and a few other people. When I left that, I joined the collective North Base. Then, finally, after that I started Exile! It’s been a long journey.
So you’re effectively just going by Exile now, and Simon Splice is a former alias?
Yeah, I suppose Splice was my very first alias. Then it ventured off into all these directions, and then Exile became a thing and that’s where I am now.
Does your style or approach differ between Exile and Simon Splice?
So originally I tried to keep them apart, but I’m probably going to do everything as Exile now. The concept was originally that dancefloor, liquid, and maybe some deeper, darker stuff was going to go under Simon Splice – and the jump-up, rollers, and everything else would’ve been the Exile alias. But it seems to be merging into one. Which is.. interesting.
Now it’s the right time to merge them I think. Beforehand, when Exile was a smaller alias, it wasn’t really ideal. Now I think it kind of makes no difference really – I think it’s just going to be all Exile.
And you’ll be pushing your wide variety of styles under that one alias I presume?
Yeah of course. I love all genres of music, and all genres of drum & bass. I love jump up, rollers, liquid, deep, dark, minimal, neuro – I love it all! And to me, D&B is D&B, defined by the 174 tempo.
I like everything else too – film music, classical, blues, flamenco, jazz, metal. I’m into everything, literally.
Sounds like there’s a slight interest in music there, haha. Have you always got it on in the house and when you’re out and about?
Because now I make it full time, I don’t tend to listen as much as I used to. I used to just listen to it every day and night. But because I’m in the studio every day now, if not most days, sometimes it’s actually nice to have a bit of silence, which is a bit weird to say.
So when an album you really like or something comes out – how do you carve out time to listen?
The times I tend to listen are when I go for a walk, or to the gym. Unless it’s releases sent over, then I’ll sit down and listen through to put them into a playlist. And when people send me things for feedback on mixdowns and stuff, but that’s more work-related anyway.
Tell me a little more about your day job?
Well I’m a music tutor at Lisa Lashes School of Music, as well as doing private production lessons – it’s a fantastic, fulfilling job. Getting to meet great people and share the journey of becoming a producer or musician.
Who are your idols in terms of production and style?
That’s a really tricky one, you know. It depends on the genre – some of my favourite producers are Amon Tobin and Noisia, they’re always the ones who are breaking the boundaries for me. Every time they come out with something it’s like… everyone was just trying to level that mixdown. It’s mental.
I like the stuff the young generation are doing as well, for example Bennie and Crossy are both smashing it.
Has there been anyone that’s helped you or encouraged you to get to where you are now?
There’s been loads throughout the journey. But firstly my girlfriend, she has massively helped me – through the good, the bad, and the ugly. She appreciates what I do, and she loves drum & bass which is wicked as well.
Throughout my career I’ve learned various things from various people, where we’ve exchanged knowledge – people across the scene and all it’s sub-genres.
So you’ve learned a lot through meeting people and working together?
It’s been a mix of networking and getting out there, and also a lot of just hard work and trial and error with production.
But yeah man, all these little interactions and connections are what it’s all about. Trafic MC for example. At the very beginning, through lockdown, he moved to Birmingham and I asked him if he wanted to go for a coffee – never met the guy before – and he said yeah let’s do it. And we got on like a house on fire. He’s such a lovely guy. I’ve just had loads of little experiences with great people like that.
Can you tell a bit about the Birmingham scene? What sort of music is popular up there?
Drum & bass here is popular. I tend to go to raves as a spectator, and then also play out a lot. So I get to see both perspectives.
Some of the nights I’ve been to recently have been insane – that shows to me that D&B is popping in Birmingham. There’s a few different ones going on too, it’s not totally saturated, but there are a lot of promoters here. Birmingham’s a great place, a great city for drum & bass with a lot of connections.
Is there a specific genre that pops up there?
It’s quite predominantly a jump-up city. Which is great, you play jump up and it goes off! I see a lot of techno nights and a bit of reggae too, but mainly drum & bass what I go to.
What’s coming next for you? I hear whispers of an album…
Yes! This hasn’t been announced anywhere, but I’m excited to share that I’ve got an album coming this year. It’s going to be a hefty one too, with lots of different collabs and artists involved, which I’m really proud of. These are all people who’ve supported me in the past, or whose sound I really like, and who I’d like to have on there. There’s a few others I would’ve loved too, but because of timing I couldn’t fit everyone.
But yeah, there’s lots coming on that album – collabs with MC Makism, Nicky Blackmarket, Spyda, Mark XTC…
That sounds great – and diverse. Do you think as an album it represents you and your wide breadth of styles?
I think it does, you know. At the beginning, with the Exile alias, I wanted to incorporate cinematic intros using orchestral elements or foley sounds, and really abstract experimentalist, ‘big-film’ atmospheres – added with drum & bass.
So yeah, there’s a lot of diversity there – a lot of different sounds, from jungle to jump-up to liquid. There’s some darker stuff as well, there’s a bit of everything for everyone. And the reason is; that’s where I come from. I like everything, and I want to incorporate everything in this album.
How long have you been working on that?
It’s about a year’s work, which was pretty much all freshly started since it was commissioned. It’s been a bit of a mental one, with lots of lessons, but we’re super close to the finish-line now.
What’s gone into it influence-wise?
Expect summer-time vibes, with a decent bit of jungle influence in there.
And it’s out on Onyx, right? How did you get hooked up with them?
I’ve known Chris since he first started Onyx. I said I’d love to get on something, and we got chatting. Then eventually he found something that he liked, and he was like “ do you want to do an album?” and I was like “go on then, why not”.
Taking it on, it was a bit like… “let’s do an album, this sounds like fun”… but then obviously finding out how much work is involved, it’s very tricky, but I love it. It’s working!
You’re almost on the other side, I’m sure you’ll be super proud at the end.
I’d like to think I will be, once it’s all mastered and out there. I won’t take a break though because there’s no rest for the wicked. I’ll be straight back on to making more stuff. I’ve got a tonne of remixes to do, one for Hybrid, one for Benny V – who’s also going to be on the album actually.
Post-album – what are your career goals?
That is a good question, you know. Coming soon I’ve got a release on Jump Up Cave with Nicky Blackmarket and Konetix. I’ve also got an EP with Nicky Blackmarket coming on Dance Concept. A few tunes with Benny V. I’ve got loads of other EPs coming and things I need to finish up and crack on with. I’m actually feeling a bit overwhelmed, but it’s a feeling I actually really enjoy.
In terms of career goals or dreams… collabs with the likes of Dillinja, Mefjus, Camo & Krooked, or Noisia (although I don’t think that Noisia would be possible anymore). I’ve also just done a tune with a person that I’ve always wanted to collab with, and that’s Bladerunner – so I’m really happy and excited about that. It’s gonna turn a few heads hopefully. And I’d love to play Boomtown, Tomorrowland, Creamfields, Glastonbury – it would be nice to get on the festival circuit and see the world as well.
So what’s coming up gig-wise?
Next thing up is Booze ‘N’ Bass at Unit Nine in Milton Keynes. Then Bass Kicks in Leicester. Then I’m playing in MK again with the Born on Road crew, back-to-back with Frenetic, who’s an amazing DJ. And of course, the Onyx gig with Total Science, Rockwell, Jappa, Kara, and loads more at Fire & Lightbox, September 24th. I’ll be playing plenty of tunes off the album!
Any final shouts?
I also just wanna say a massive shout out to Giraffe Audio, Compound Audio, Benny V, Serial Killaz, the Rumble in the Jungle lot, and all the Bristol family, man. They’ve massively supported me throughout. Also Jamie and Jack, Crops, Reg, Eksman, Mark XTC, Nicky Blackmarket – they’ve really supported the Exile name and helped it grow. Finally, a big shout out to my parents – for having to deal with all the bass going through the walls!