Although raised in a small north side pocket of Dublin city, Steo’s dulcet tones are recognised and adored globally, and rightly so. A distinct voice, renowned within liquid drum & bass, his vocals are heard delicately peppered across tracks from the likes of Satl, Artificial Intelligence, Tokyo Prose and Zero T. There’s no dispute here, Steo has firmly made his mark on the D&B scene as a singer and MC. Today, however, we get to know Steo not as a vocalist, but as a producer.
After years of producing hip hop in his band, The Infomatics, Steo takes his production skills and plunges into new – yet extremely familiar – territory: the wild world of drum & bass.
Considering his combination of skills, Steo producing drum & bass is a no brainer. It was always on the cards, and having already nested nicely into Lenzman’s label The North Quarter, it makes complete sense that his debut release as a drum & bass producer ‘Omni God’ came out on the imprint.
Oozing with effortless ‘chill’ from the very moment he joined the Zoom, Steo talks about his music almost exactly how his music sounds. Happy. Relaxed. Free flowing. Here’s what he has to say about his new venture.
Hey Steo! How are you? Talk me through your day.
Yeah good, thank you! Got up, got the kids ready for school, got myself out the door, on the train, into work, pretended I worked for a bit and then did pretty much exactly the same but in reverse on my way home.
Sounds good to me. Let’s start with your backstory, Steo. You’re obviously a well loved voice on the liquid/deeper side of d&b, but you were also in an Irish hip hop band in the early 2000’s… Talk to me about this time.
The reason you guys know me is because of that band. I was a producer and an MC in a hip hop group over here called The Infomatics. We were a live band with a similar vibe to The Roots. They were a huge influence to us. We were lucky because I suppose at the time, there weren’t too many bands doing what we were doing so we had loads of good support slots and would open for legendary artists, some of which aren’t here anymore.
Really, we were five kids from the Northside of Dublin who met through college. Everything grew very organically. The band became our lives. We were committed and completely dedicated. We released an album which did quite well over here but we just didn’t really know what we were doing, so we didn’t know how to push it onto the next thing. We didn’t know how to monetise it, and we made pennies out of it, so it wasn’t sustainable. But, I learnt a lot and I gained a lot from that time. It was a big part of my life.
Nice! How did you transition from the band, into the d&b scene?
So the legendary label Bassbin was based here in Dublin. They ran our local d&b nights over here too. I knew a couple of the guys involved such as Zero T. One night, an MC didn’t turn up and I was there. They asked me if I could jump on the mic. I said yes but I’d never MC’d at a drum & bass night before. I was learning on the fly. It went surprisingly well. They then asked me back and I got a regular gig out of it. Every week we had a show. It was funny because I was up there as an MC but in the background, I’d been doing production on the hip hop stuff we were working on.
Things progressed from there basically because my best mate, Moe, was heavily involved in Bassbin and he was always promoting and gassing me up. He was always going ‘oh man you’ve got some really good stuff here’ and was trying to promote me everywhere we’d go, trying to get me into different circles. So, there was this one time when I MC’d for Zero T and we ended up back at his place. My mate basically forced him to listen to my CD. He kindly obliged and we sort of listened through it. He was quite surprised about how good the tracks were as I was quite a quiet person, not very involved in the d&b scene. There was this one track that I played, his mood sort of changed a bit. He was like ‘where did you get that sample from?’ I was like ‘oh that’s me’. He got quite excited and almost edgy. He said that we needed to get into the studio, and the rest was history. The first time we ever recorded together we made the tune ‘Refusal’.
Small but integral moments. Big up your mate too! Steo – you’ve just released ‘Omni God’ on The North Quarter. This is your debut release as a D&B producer, rather than a vocalist, correct?
That’s right, yeah. I have a track that’s just been released on The North Quarter and I’m also working on an EP for them too. About a year ago, I hit a purple patch and just started knocking tunes out. I thought I’d hand them over to Lenzman to see what he thinks about them. I just said ‘Hey, I think I have something you might be interested in’ within half an hour he was like ‘What the hell! Let’s do something with these.’ They were still fairly raw and they needed a lot of work but from that batch, there are currently about six earmarked for the EP. It’s me finally taking a stab at drum & bass, but this time, as a producer. I’ve dabbled before, but they were always lacking a little something. This is the first time that I actually thought these tracks are good enough for an EP.
How does it feel putting a d&b track that you’ve produced out there, after being predominantly known as a vocalist within the scene?
I’m not worried about it in that sense. I’ve been doing music for a long time so I’m ok with not knowing how it’ll be received. I’ve had plenty of knock backs in the past and I feel confident about my work. I’m happy with what I’m putting out so I’m happy for people to hear it. It’s nice that this is a side of me that people have never seen before. I’m excited more than anything.
Love that. I’m guessing its lovely liquid vibes – right?
Yeah it is! That’s the world that I come from and the music that I love. Don’t get me wrong, I love heavy rollers too, but melodic stuff is more my thing. When I’m not listening to D&B, I listen to a lot of soul music: jazz, house, the more melodic side of hip hop. There’s some throwback to those kinds of genres in the EP. It’s basically a combination of everything that I’m into.
Sounds fruity – can’t wait to hear the whole project. What’s it been like working with Lenzman and The North Quarter?
Ah they’re amazing. Everything feels really nice and supportive. The whole crew are just rooting for everybody else. No egos. Everything is dropped at the door and we’re all able to be ourselves. It’s lovely.
That’s so nice to hear. It definitely gives community vibes from the outside too. What do you think the key to such wholesomeness is?
The label flourishes because it allows space for people to do anything they wish to creatively. You can throw your tracks out into the NQ WhatsApp group when they’re not even finished and people will give you some honest feedback. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s fine, because it’s all for the betterment of what you’re working on. It’s all about growth.
There’s a lot of love floating around in that camp, that’s for sure. Any special shout outs for people that have helped you on your latest production venture?
Definitely. There’s a lot of people that have gotten me to this point and I’m very blessed to have them in my life. A load of us got together recently to record the Balboa Square album. Whilst I was there, Satl gave me a USB full of breaks. He was like ‘Do what you want with them.’ after I said I was struggling with my drums a little bit. That really helped me to write the tracks for the EP. Salute to Satl for that. Lenzman has also been a huge help to me. He has been my big brother with his arm around me, showing me how to get the best out of these tunes. Zero T helped with the arrangement and the mixdown, so salute to him too. Lastly, my friends and family. All the people in my life are a blessing and have all helped me get to this point so I have to give thanks to them too.