After a stellar run of projects and EPs, Adrian Rybka AKA Satl’s debut album for The North Quarter has arrived.
Through the past few years we’ve seen a young liquid D&B beat-maker mature into a multi-genre, multi-style, multi-alias producer – exploring techno-inspired drum and bass with the LIN000 project, veering into lower tempos with his Nowheretobefound alias, and trying out new drum & bass styles on a variety of his releases as Satl, most notably on the Lucid Dreams EP in 2020.
With Gloom, Satl goes deeper and wider, exploring new genres and going further from his (and The North Quarter’s) comfort zone of liquid D&B. It’s themed around the Polish grey months and feelings of melancholy. But it’s not overly emotional – dance music heads will find plenty to tap their toes to.
The album contains 13 tracks ranging from minimal D&B, to breaks, to UK garage, and beyond – a real mix of sonics and styles neatly flowing from one to the next. This mixture is a testament to his reputation among producers as someone with an unreal work-rate, as described by Lenzman and Redeyes: “he’s a machine”.
If you’ve been to a North Quarter night recently you’ll have heard a few of the darker rollers – UFO, Kamikaze, and the final single Bapao all stand out. He’s still got the soulful touch though too – which can be most prominently heard on Karma with the unmistakable vocals from Frank Carter III, or on Standing By, featuring up-and-coming vocalist Saigo.
UKF wanted to learn more about Satl’s progression as a producer, and how he grew into delivering more the varied outputs showcased on Gloom.
Hey mate – how have you been going? What’s been up in Poland?
It’s been alright. It’s been an interesting period the past few months, because I didn’t get to play out that much. But I’ve had more time to make music, and to also just chill. After finishing this album, I haven’t had a break like this since… ever. I didn’t make music at all for two weeks, which isn’t even that long, but it’s so unusual to me.
A well-deserved break. What were you getting up to with your time off?
Literally not much. Chilling, playing computer games, or just watching random stuff on Netflix. I don’t really like doing much outside of home to be fair, which is kind of weird, but I’m just an introvert – I feel the best when I’m inside with no people around. Slowing down and recharging the energy.
Were you getting ideas for the studio with all the gaming and Netflix and things – was it hard to keep away?
It’s always super hard for me. I feel like it’s an addiction in a way. I love making music just for the sake of making it, and that’s pretty much what I do most of the time. If I’m not making music, I’m listening to it – it’s taking around 90% of my day. So removing that was a good exercise for me to try and slow down a little bit. Even though the ideas constantly flow to me, I should probably take breaks more often than once in five years, haha.
That checks out – when I spoke with Lenzman and Redeyes recently they told me your output is on another level. How did you filter out the right tracks to build up this album – or even just generally for a release?
For The North Quarter stuff, I have a shared folder with Lenz where I put all my finished or test arrangements. So there will be loads of tunes that he can just pick up, and see what he likes the most. We also usually have a similar style, with few exceptions, so it’s very easy to agree which ones we want to release.
I guess I never write with the purpose of putting music on an EP. I just write it for the sake of myself or my sets, and eventually, if we find five tunes that go well together, that’s where we form an EP. It was the same with the album, when I first sent him the demos for it, it was maybe forty-something tracks. It was a tough job getting it down to thirteen.
So you’re trying to find a common thread between tracks to form a full project. What is that thread for Gloom, and how did you find it?
I think the most important thing is, because it’s a debut album, I wanted it to be about myself really – I wanted to go full circle.
Since I first started to mess around with music production, more than ten years ago now, I’ve always been trying out different genres without any goal. That ‘messing around’ approach is what got me so into it. So when I say I felt like going full circle, I’m talking about making an album that represents the full spectrum of what I like, not only drum & bass. I thought that would be a cool way to do the album, and definitely a huge milestone.
So yeah, Lenz was really up for that, and he gave me the freedom to achieve it. Once we agreed on the tracks, we realised it’s a perfect size for an album – half D&B, half non-D&B. I’m really happy with how this turned out.
The title, artwork, and sonic themes are all giving me heavy winter vibes – where does all that come from?
I often feel… I don’t want to say ‘sad’, but I often feel melancholic about things. So I felt maybe I’d go in that direction instead of something happy or positive, and present it how it is, you know? Without any sugar coating.
Also, I don’t like Summer or Spring. I prefer Winter and Autumn – the grey months. So finding some meaning between all of that, led me to ‘Gloom’.
That’s funny, I’m the same – a grey months guy. And that was going to be my next question, you’re the same?
Yeah, no matter where it is, Summer and Spring just feel too hot to me.
I guess Poland is paradise then!
So I’ve seen on social media that you’re calling this your ‘debut’ album – but I would’ve thought Things We Can’t See would be considered as an album. Could you tell me the difference between this and Gloom?
Things We Can’t See is smaller, and to me it felt more like an extended EP. It was obviously a nice collection of tracks, and it was well received, but I don’t think it had the same meaning as an album to me. I also felt I wasn’t ready to do an album at this stage.
A lot of people get this confused actually, because on streaming platforms it often gets categorised as an album. You’re not the first to ask about this to be honest, I’ve had a few people DM me asking why I’m calling Gloom my debut album. But yeah, I would not call it an album, Gloom is the first one. I just like big projects, and I guess with the amount of music I make, it makes sense to make these bigger projects.
Yeah I feel you. Gloom spans multiple genres and really has that cohesive theme end-to-end, lending itself much more to an album.
I remember in our LIN000 interview we chatted about how you wanted to cement yourself as more than just a liquid producer. Is that what you’re trying to say with Gloom as well? There’s almost no liquid on there actually…
I think so, yeah. I got tired of being labelled as a liquid producer. I remember when we spoke about this a little while ago, that I wanted to push that agenda forward a little more. But with Gloom I went one step further, and branched away from D&B completely, not only just away from liquid.
I’ve got to say, it feels nice. Not everyone is going to be pleased with it, but then again, I’m not doing this to please anyone but myself. If people like it then that’s really cool, but if they don’t that’s also cool. I’m going to do what I feel is right for me, and not compromise on my vision of music.
On that note of LIN, it seems like some of that same stripped back ethos has seeped into this album – particularly on the D&B tracks. What are the differences between the two projects?
With LIN, and with Freddie (FD) – it’s all based around this a certain style we have for that project. What we’re aiming for is something resembling techno, or purely influenced by techno.
Also, while Freddie and I also want to push the multi-genre stuff, it’s slightly different from my solo stuff.
Working with someone else, you always have to compromise in one way or another. Which is really cool, because something new can happen that the other person can bring in. Whereas for me solo, I don’t have to worry about anyone else in that project – I can veer away from techno, make non-D&B, or do whatever.
That makes sense. And what about this UK garage sound? I can’t say I’ve heard you doing much of this up until now on Gloom. What has sparked this?
They were all part of that collection of tracks in the shared folder I mentioned before. I’ve always liked this kind of stuff, so I’ve made a lot of tracks in that style, and I guess we just picked out the ones that were fitting the idea of an album.
Was it intentional that you chose a few from that style?
Maybe not intentional, but more just looking for a way to balance the D&B with the non-D&B.
I also tried to pick the tracks that I’ve had the chance to play out, and have had a cool reaction. That’s what has influenced the choice of most of these album tracks – especially the non-D&B ones.
That’s also why a lot of sets I’ve played this year were multi-genre, as I’ve been trying to test out the material for Gloom. So it took a good couple of months to pick the best ones and fine-tune them.
More and more, I see you exploring different tempos and genres. Are you pushing yourself in this regard, or is that just what’s coming out of your brain in the studio?
To be fair, I’ve been doing multi-genre stuff for years. But I think I was just never brave enough to put it out. I feel like maybe I was a bit too scared, thinking what people are going to say and that they only want liquid.
But I think I had to either make the step forward – or I’d be going backwards with my music. Obviously going backwards was never a choice for me. So I’ve decided to try and see how that’s going to work.
Even just putting out the first single – which is non-D&B – is a big a risk. Not only from myself but also from Lenzman and the label’s point of view. I’m grateful he’s willing to take that risk – to really stick with my vision. And I’m really happy for that support. It’s reassuring that I don’t have to worry about what people are going to say, and we can do what we feel like doing.
Nice one. That’s a great single too – how did you meet Saigo?
Thanks. Actually, it’s a funny story. I had to do a remix one or two years ago for Maximono (a house project), and he’s a featured artist on that track. I really liked his vocals, so we stayed in touch, and actually I’ve had this Standing By track pencilled for my Nowheretobefound project, with a completely different instrumental. But my computer was lagging, and I sort of lost the project for the original track. So I had this other idea, that didn’t have vocals, and put the Saigo ones on there and they fit perfectly. If I didn’t lose that initial project, Standing By probably wouldn’t have made it on the album. So, unlucky and lucky at the same time!
He’s also super talented to work with, and just a very cool guy.
Nice! And what about Ride Or Die? As a two-parter, that seems to have some significance in the context of the album.
I had the D&B version first, just the instrumental track, and I really like that sound. So I was messing around with it and did this other version. So it was obviously very similar, but because it was based around the same sound, I felt like it could be nice to connect them in a way on the album. I was in touch with Rhi, she was happy to jump on the track, and she killed it. And I think that track – the non-D&B one – would be way more boring without her, because the vocals are a big part of the identity of the track.
As someone who makes a variety of genres, is it often the case that you would start producing in one tempo, then crank the BPM up or down to spark new ideas?
Oh yeah, definitely. Many times. Also, now that I’ve been playing multi-genre sets this year, I’ve been doing VIP versions of my tracks. I did ‘Drifted’ at 140, which sounds pretty cool in the club and gets a nice reaction, because I guess people recognise it instantly, but then they hear that something else is going on. Stuff like this is a cool way to blend the crowd – who’s into D&B – with other genres. Giving them something they know, and something they don’t know at the same time.
I’ve seen a few videos going around of Drifted VIP – it’s really sick. Any chance of a release on that?
Thank-you. I guess maybe at some point if I speak with Lenz, but for now, I’ve just made it for myself.
So what’s up next for you post-album?
I think I’ll try to do something else, to move forward. It might be a good time to bring in a soulful project, and maybe do something soulful but non-D&B as well. Because I feel like with the recent projects; Gloom is obviously a bit darker, LIN was a bit darker, and I don’t want to completely step out of liquid. But I definitely want to be a little bit more versatile. I want to keep people excited, and have them never know what’s going to happen next… maybe I’ll do a gabber project?
I’m all ears for the ‘soulful gabber’ project. And us Londoners will be able to next see you on December 10th?
Yes. We’ve got the album launch. Lenzman was kind enough to let me influence the lineup on that, so I obviously had to include him, Artificial Intelligence and Emma G, just because Integral and TNQ are the labels that are the most important to me – that basically made me who I am now. I built my career thanks to their wisdom and advice. It’s going to definitely be a family affair, celebrating with good company.
Fantastic. NQ nights are the best. Are you DJing anywhere else in the near future?
I’ve got a show here in Poland on 4th November. I’m really excited for this one, it’s a multi genre night, and I’m playing together with Forest Drive West. And also, at the end of November I think I’m playing back in the UK in Nottingham, and on 2nd December in Brighton together with Lenzman.