2018/2017: Officially the most bountiful chapter Culprate fans have ever known.
Since launching his Unity Project last year – an epic endeavour comprising collaborations with artists such as Skope, The Widdler, Chee, Signal and Joe Ford – the Bristol boundary-blurring bassmith has dropped a staggering 32 tracks.
Each track taut and tightly coiled with his signature grizzled unpredictability, not to mention his predilection for contrasts and sudden splashes of delicacy in the eye of chaotic storms, his recent prolific thrust has mainly been on his own label Open Outlets. Until last month… When he returned to Inspected, the label where many first became acquainted with his unapologetic experimentalism, with the sense-slapping Others EP.
Eight tracks of stark, alluring constructions ranging from hazy moments of heart-cockle-warming electronica to brazen fractures of arrangement blazing breakcore; Others is the sound of a wizened explorer, matured and experienced by his great expeditions, returning home with great tales of low end derring-do and adventures that will have you hair standing on end.
We called him up to find out more and find out if the next few years might quite so fruitful for Culprate fans.
Spoiler: They won’t be. But for all the best reasons. Read on and find out why…
You’re back on Inspected! Was it like slipping back into a comfy old pair of trainers?
It’s been a shock to the system! I’ve been running my own label and I’ve got used to complete control over every little detail. Which is to my detriment sometimes. So yeah, there was some butting of heads along the way. I’ve come to terms with the fact Ryan (Inspector Dubplate) knows what he’s doing and I trust him completely. But it’s been an interesting experience. When I first worked with him years ago I was like ‘wow my first experience with big label’ and a little bit starry-eyed. But these days I suspect I’m a little more awkward to work with.
Once you become self employed you render yourself unemployable I reckon. You’re spoilt from being your own boss in a way. I know I am.
Totally! I wasn’t the easiest person to work with anyway but now I’m terrible but Ryan seems undamaged by these things.
Your last EP for Inspected, The Great Expedition was a totally different time in your career. Pre Deliverance, really…. A whole lifetime has happened in your musical development since then hasn’t it?
Yeah back then, before Deliverance, my income was pretty much through gigging. Since Deliverance my main thing is record sales which is an anomaly this day in age. I think Deliverance put promoters off booking me to be honest. Which was quite a blessing.
Yeah, you’re not thinking as a DJ, you’re thinking as a musician
I think so. My aim with my music is to take something that could be quite mundane and turning it inside out and taking it to some type of extreme. It’s hard to do that with club music because the details get lost on big systems. So, yeah, I’ve been able to take much more of a journey with music and make music for journeys. We go on more journeys than we do raves I guess.
Best journey you’ve had recently?
Actually the other weekend. I went to the Black Swan in Bristol and met loads of people I’ve wanted to meet for ages and saw lots of old friends. Every DJ on the line-up were mates and there were so many artists just turning up for the night. It was amazing, having everyone together because I’m usually such a massive hermit.
That was Vorso’s first gig, I believe?
Yeah it was! He was so nervous in the build-up to that so it was very satisfying seeing him accomplish it and smash it. It was great to see!
Vorso’s flipping smashing it full stop. He’s the next chapter from what you guys started…
I think so. After he’s finished uni he’s going to be so in demand, he’s going to kill it. I’ve no doubt.
Back to you… I was wondering if Others was a case of stashing persy Inspected style tracks or if you set out to write a whole EP as a body of work?
Both a little bit. The drum & bass tunes Helter and Subsonics are quite old. I think I started them in maybe 2015. But the rest of the tracks were put down in in a week. Obviously I spent months working on them, but the foundations were laid in that week. I put out the odd demo on private Soundcloud links to hear what it sounded like through the its codec and just to see what certain people thought. Ryan called me and said ‘please!’ I said if we do vinyl then we’ve got a deal.
Yeah you need vinyl for the artwork. You’ve worked with Aaron Jasinki before, right?
Yeah lots of times, since my Nightmares In Reality EP. I’ve always wanted something organic and not computer made. It’s become a tradition for my Inspected releases and I used him for one of my self releases Mask, too. I like his work; it matches the aesthetic of the music; a little bit playful, organic and quite disturbing the more you think about them.
Speaking of Disturbing, you just mentioned Helter… What a wild track. We’re chatting breakcore here aren’t we?
Haha yeah, it’s pretty much breakcore, maybe slow breakcore or fast jungle, I don’t like to classify these things but it’s definitely on the spectrum.
I can’t work out if it sounds like you’re having a whale of a time or you’re turning your head inside out. Around midway the framework is thrown around the window and it’s very hard to keep up with any type of time signature. I love that. Controlled chaos!
Yeah I think I had moments of fun and moments of turning my head a bit. Actually Phace said a similar thing and got in touch to say he loved it but he asked what time signature it’s in. That was quite surprising but maybe because I knew what it was so assumed everyone else would. That’s what art is about I guess; being able to make people question what something is. Or question what the usual format or arrangement is…
Would you ever make an extratone tune? It’s a genre that starts at 1000BPM…
I’ve not heard of extratone but I kinda think I need to know about it. I’ll check it out after we speak but yeah in principal I’d be open to any type of experimentation. I came from an IDM background and love trying different things.
If there was ever a commemorative Culprate plaque on a park bench that’s what it would say: “I love trying different things.”
Haha. I guess so. It’s a compulsive thing. I can’t help it. I used to think I just got bored really easily but it turns out I’ve got pretty bad ADHD and that’s why I can’t do just one thing.
Did you find out about your ADHD later on in life then?
Nah it was diagnosed when I was a kid but my mum wouldn’t let me take my medication. The upside of that was that if I did take it back then would I have gravitated towards what I do now? Or would I have just become a normal person? I can take the medication now and it doesn’t have that affect
Do you get episodes where you just can’t focus and need the medication to help you get through normal things?
That’s exactly it. My manager is like my mum, basically. Any admin my brain panics. It’s like I can’t even read. My eyes won’t let me read the words or let me compute it at all. Like a block.
A line of code in your brain is literally stopping you.
Nail on the head there. I used to think I was being stubborn and being awful about things but it is literally my brain. So I do take the meds for it and it has let me do things like admin or stuff I wouldn’t have normally done before. But with it comes heart palpitations and lack of appetite. It’s a double edged sword.
So is that the reason why you’ve released so many tracks this year. I count 25 I think?
I think it’s more like 32 man…
32! What a time to be a Culprate fan!
Thanks. I kinda feel like I let myself down on the Unity Project, though.
Get the fuck out of here!
Ha. Nah I think all of those tunes, in my mind, had this massive potential. If I put a year into each segment, the tunes would be unbelievable. But I think I rushed it because I didn’t want to spend four years doing collabs. What I saw in them first I didn’t quite achieve.
You just weren’t happy with your contributions?
Exactly. When each collaborator sent over their track I could hear something magical I wanted to do and work on with them. But I didn’t quite achieve what I had in my head. I think I got ground down and burnt out by the amount of work. I took a few months off and when I got back to the studio I did those five/six tunes in a week. I’d had a massive break and cleansed myself.
You pressed the reset button
Precisely man. I’m pleased with the project, but not super super happy. I felt like a husk at the end of it.
But Part 4 is my favourite one. You got Skope back, The Art Of Accord is beautiful, Poison brings out the gully side of Dexcell… I don’t think you should be so harsh on yourself!
We’re our own worst critics, aren’t we? Musically and ideologically the fourth one is my favourite too. But I could have taken those tracks way further. It is what it is.
This sounds like the end of the unity project. I always got the impression you buzzed of collaborations?
Yeah I do. I did. I might do in the future… I don’t know. I was talking to a friend the other day and said I’ll never do a collab again. He said ‘mate, you can’t rule them out’. He’s right. At the time I felt like I was sweating spinal fluid, I was a husk!
You’d blown a collab fuse?
My favourite artists don’t release anything for five years. What am I doing releasing all this in one year? It’s ridiculous
Oh man don’t do a KOAN Sound and disappear…
Haha. Kinda. I’m doing some shows again now so I might do a smaller release next year towards the end. Maybe not so technical and complex but more like normal dance tracks. I do want to work on another album, too.
I want to get it finished by 2020 but wants and reality don’t always match up. I’ll just see how it goes, I won’t rush it, I’ve got to let it grow. That’s what I did with Deliverance and it worked for me.
Will you crowdfund and involve fans again? It helped you bring it together and gave it a story. We all felt invested in it.
Possibly yeah. I know it funded the whole thing, which was amazing, but the interactions and engagement I had with fans was the best thing I’ll take away from that. It wasn’t necessarily the music. As much as I wouldn’t want to be in a position where I needed to finance it in that way, I’d still do it because nothing gets people involved and engaged in that type of way.
It gives it more of a story and longevity
Yeah exactly. I think maybe I’d do pre-order style thigs and not do the same perks. My perks were stuff I could for free and they ended up being quite a lot of hard work! I’d spend money differently too… I spent things on things I didn’t need to do last time. Now I know about sites where you can hire a musician to play on something and they’ll do it. No expensive studio time, no long train journeys. I’ll save a lot of money that way.
Can’t wait to see it develop. So it sounds like next year is full of bookings for you?
Way more than usual. I’ve been booked for a boxing day party in 2019! I’ve got an Aussie tour and other things in the pipework. That’s a new thing for me… Tours instead of endless gigs.
Yeah they give you a break in between. It’s interesting how you’ve almost come full circle in way? It takes you out of the studio a bit and it all feeds each other, right?
Definitely. It’s a nice place to be. I got exhausted by DJ life. It’s not sustainable. Not for a long time. I did it for a bit then took five years off. Now I can do it again for a few years and will probably need another five years off. You need these cycles, don’t you? Life is about rhythms, you can’t live life in a linear fashion, these things go in waves that influence each other and we’re always happiest when we’re going with them not against them…