“Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something”
Wise words there from a man who’s slowly, stealthily crept up the D&B ladder for the last 10 years, casually dropping restrained, understated soulful and deep D&B rollers and last year delivering one of the genre’s most unifying and unequivocal success stories of recent times – The View.
Operating with the same less-is-more spirit as many of Marcus Intalex’s Soul:r fraternity and associates, LSB (Luke if you want to pretend you’re all matey with him) has never put out tracks for the sake of it and only ever released his music when he feels it has something to offer. Well aware (and quite possibly happier) that he’s not rocketed up the quick hype fast track route as a result, his slow, steady and highly methodical technique has finally culminated with his debut album.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not the big banger circle jerk some albums feel they have to be in the modern age. In fact LSB is happy (and, again, well aware) that Content may not hit you straight from the first listen. For the Essex 30-something it’s about patience, anticipation and good old fashioned time. Something we have plenty of him. Here’s why….
Content: What a grim word it is in the 21st century. An instant way to devalue anything that has had time and creativity invested in it. Words, photos, music…
That’s why I picked the name. It’s partially ironic and provocative but it does feel like music is now considered something to fill up websites or be used on TV ads and things. Its use seems to be prioritised over its reason, if you like. This isn’t a dig. Just my appraisal of what’s going on. I think the main problem is that too much music is being made and released right now. It’s just this spinning wheel of people trying to grab attention and stay relevant rather than spending time on their tunes and really considering their discography. I also love the other meaning of the word – as in being contented – but the main thing was just how devalued actual tracks have become.
Less is always more isn’t it?
Definitely. It’s something I say to new producers when they ask me for advice. Sometimes they take offence, which is a shame. It takes one tune to change your life so create space around each tune… Don’t get lost in the noise. Don’t send me 12 demos – that’s over an hour of tracks you’re asking me to listen to! That’s a lot to ask anyone. Do some self-A&R, pick the best one or the ones you think are different. That’s why I’m so slow on my releases – because I don’t think it adds anything new or exciting or different. It might work in my DJ sets and I’m sure labels would release it but just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something.
A lot of producers who’ve had success lately have all followed the less is more route – Dub Phizix, Skeptical and guys like that have all just put out EPs every now and again. It shows respect for your audience. Don’t expect people who like you to buy any old shit. Build a fanbase of people who trust you. So when you do release something that you feel is exciting or different then people will give a shit and listen to it. That’s the plan anyway.
Did you have that feeling with The View?
That was actually a different case all together. As an instrumental it felt like a mellow b-side. I sent it with a bunch of tracks to Marcus and he got back saying DRS was really happy with one of them and wanted it for his album. I had it for about a year before then and it never got a big reaction – people would ask about it but it’s not a go mad anthem is it? It’s one to have a little dance and a think and quietly appreciate. There was no indication it would become the thing it has. Even when it was finally released it didn’t blow up. It was just gradual. Like the anti anthem. At a time when D&B was charting and everything was getting very hooky and big, it was an anthem for people who don’t like anthems. Me, Tyler and Del are proud of that one – we’ve had messages from people saying how much it means to them, how it’s played a role in people’s lives at certain points. Good times and bad times. It’s very special. I have a lot to thank Tyler and Del for with that track. They made it.
You all made it. Was there pressure with Missing You? Knowing you were following up something that meant a lot to people?
No not really. All three of us have a similar ethos… If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We’ve been through different times in our lives and careers so we’ve reached a point where we want to make music because we love it. We never put any pressures on ourselves at all. To be honest I thought the track was so personal to Del and Tyler that I didn’t know if it was appropriate to go on the album. For Del it’s in memory of a very close friend of theirs called Salford John. He was a Manchester legend who died 18 months ago splitting up a fight. Tyler has also gone through some very dear losses so it was a hugely touching piece of music that I worried might be devalued or not done justice by being on the album. I’m honoured to have it on the album.
I like how the first singer you hear on the album, Millie Watson, kinda fell into the album like a bit of a happy accident…
She was! I was actually recording another singer called Dain Stuart and it turned out his girlfriend, Millie, had a great voice too. We were just chatting, she mentioned she was a singer so I got another mic out, told her this idea I had for Lydian, asked her to ad lib and recorded her. She smashed it there and then.
Smashed it so well she opens the album!
She does. Conceptually the second track Pandora works betters an opener but musically I love the intro of Lydian – how it starts from silence. I love starting an album that way and it reminds me of the days of CDs in your car stereo and you’d become very attached to that first opening phrase of an album – it would become synonymous with the whole album. For me it was very important to pick the right opener and that was Lydian.
Millie’s fella Dain is a folk singer, right?
Yeah he is. He’s quite scatty; it was hard getting him to stay in time because he doesn’t have to when it’s him and his guitar.
Was Dain aware of you and D&B?
Oh yeah he’s into his music and was definitely aware of drum & bass. Maybe not me personally to begin with. I think he quite liked working on something so different.
I much prefer a vocal from a folk singer than something over the top or cheesy.
I think so too. I think drum & bass vocals can become too much about the sounds or dancefloors – it looks very into itself. So having something who’s not into the scene you get a much more original interpretation. With the exception of Tyler there aren’t many typical D&B vocalists on the album. That was important for me.
Soulful D&B seems to be having a really strong time at the moment…
I hope so! To be honest I’m a bit detached for it all. I DJ and I look at things from a DJ perspective but I don’t watch the main scene – I’m disconnected from trends and the wider picture. I’m certainly not influenced by it all. I’m still making the tracks that I wanted to make when I went through my rave days which was the early 2000s. For me that vibe has never gone away. That’s where my head is at and my music is an interpretation of that era. But yeah, sales are growing, gigs are getting bigger, there are more bookings so there’s an appetite there – which is brilliant – but the music has always been there. I’m glad that there are people who want to listen to good, timeless sample-based D&B. I think with the access to computer software things got a little too clean and digital and bright and clinical. I think people are going back to the more rawer sounds and approaches. It’s warmer to listen to outside of the club.
You’ve incorporated hardware into your own approach haven’t you?
Yeah I wanted to have that feeling of warmth and have an element of human error. When things sit too perfectly it doesn’t give your ears or brain a chance to interpret things. Our brains appreciate the imperfections, humans like being able to interpret things in their own way rather than having something clean and clinical where everything is just where it is. You get instant enjoyment from that but you get tired of that just as quickly. Whereas music that has more of a murkier, different mixdown and sound gives you different perspectives and time to work out how you listen to it and what you think of it. I think we lost that in the digital age for a while.
That’s interesting because it’s taken me a few listens to really grip your album… First time it kinda passed me by but with every listen different things pop up. Blinding has become a favourite lately.
I’m glad you say that. I didn’t want too many immediate singles or instant bangers – I know it’s a risk to do that but as a listener I like to be rewarded for patience. You can always tell if something is worth listening to again – even if nothing stands out. Then a few listens into it you start making associations and things start to stand out and that’s where you really start to appreciate it. That’s what I was trying to do with this album because I feel like a lot of modern electronic music – and drum & bass is just as guilty of this – is based around big anthems. I tried to keep everything much further in the background. It’s cool you referenced Blinding because to me that’s quite an abrasive listen – it’s over eight minutes, it gets heavy and then gets lighter. I’m very happy with the arrangement but appreciate it’s not the easiest of listens – eight minutes tunes aren’t very popular in drum & bass now.
It feels like an old Krust record
Yes! He was the king of that… It’s all about that one drop, how it mutates and essentially evolves in different directions and goes though lots of emotions. That’s exactly what I was doing on Blinding. I actually got an email from Andy C on that track! He said he was really into the light and dark. I was really encouraged by that.
Maybe we’ll see the return of longer tracks in time?
Maybe. For me the three or four minute format just didn’t happen. It’s not long enough to really build something up or tell a story do what I want to do. I’ve always been around the five or six minute mark. What’s weird is that I don’t through in tonnes of edits – I let things roll out a lot. But with the shorter tracks there’s something different or something going on every eight bars. With mine it might take a minute or two to do those subtle changes. To my mind that’s how long it takes. To others this might be boring as fuck, I get that, but I know there are other listeners who really enjoy that anticipation.
You’re quite the traditionalist really aren’t you?
Totally. Especially on this album – from an arrangement point of view I wanted it to be very pure in that way. It comes back from the vinyl days; having that solid minute and a half for the intro, a nice strong outro and all the time in the world to explore the idea in between. Not everything needs to be condensed and high impact. Not for me anyway…