It’s been a momentous month or so for Svdden Death…
He’s remixed his name. He’s had two tracks on Buygore’s latest Fresh Blood compilation. He’s gigging heavily, including key shows with the consistently on-point Savage Society crew and support for the unstoppable Dion Timmer.
And this week he’s dropping his debut EP on Never Say Die Black Label. Fittingly, what with his name tweak and all, it’s called Spelljam and goes a little something like this…
There are three more bruisers where that came from. We caught up with the rising San Jose-born/LA-based talent to learn where he came from…
We have to acknowledge the little remix of your name…
There’s a metal band called Sudden Death and a movie called Sudden Death. A lot of things were making it hard for me to continue with the traditional spelling. So I put a v in it!
Do we detect a legal writ?
No no not at all! I asked the only people who actually had the name trademarked, this comedic trio who were a kind of internet memey 2000s-era hip hop crew. They said it was cool to use the name so I could have continued with the name but it was impossible to find me on the internet.
Perfect timing for your debut EP to drop. On Never Say Die Black Label, no less.
Yeah, it’s awesome isn’t it? I’ve also released a free EP on Bassweight run by my friend Sub Artillery. But this is my first EP on this level. And it’s amazing because Never Say Die have been my biggest inspiration since I started making dubstep.
That was a few years ago, right?
Yeah I started Svdden Death in March 2015.
Do we detect previous aliases?
Yeah. I actually made big room house but it was a very short phase of my life. I’m not hating on it as a genre, but it didn’t have enough to interest me or keep me stimulated and inspired. Before that I made electrohouse, then hip-hop, then big room house then developed from there but these were all just little projects, working out my sound and working out what I wanted to do. But that’s always been the way with me ever since I got into music at school.
Give us a potted version of your musical development…
It’s been an obsession all my life. Before production I was in some horribly unsuccessful metal bands, I’ve played in professional jazz bands, too. In school I would go through strange phases like ‘I want to be a singer!’ or ‘I want to play the mandolin!’ so I’d find access to these instruments and teach myself and mess around. That was my whole focus through school. Then when I got a little older I became obsessed with Ableton, almost compulsively. And that’s when I started on the journey through the genres until I found somewhere where I was truly happy.
It’s good to have that musical journey don’t you think?
Definitely. I don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t for the other things I made. I’ve learnt a lot about musicality and production. That’s what Svdden Death is for me – a desire to do more advanced things with production. Dubstep is much more technical than other genres I’ve made and gives me so much more freedom as an artist.
It’s a genre that’s ideal for those elements of suspense and drama that you’ve made your signature in recent releases. Contrasts are key for you aren’t they?
Yeah totally. I love those contrasts of old ravey synths and epic sounds and then dropping into something really sick and heavy. I was really inspired by old drum & bass synths and old techno elements and old games too.
Yeah especially on the intros. My buddy Al Ross is to thank for this. He was showing me these old Mortal Kombat songs on an album he had as a kid. We were listening to them and trying to remake them with a dubstep twist. It was fun and inspired me to approach my intros in a similar way.
Are you even old enough to remember Mortal Kombat?
I have a faint memory of it but I still love listening to old game music. I’m actually terrible on every version of the game I’ve ever played.
Same. So how did the Never Say Die link happen?
Late last year Tommy SKisM hit me up and ask me for some music. Sub Artillery had told him about some of my music so I was on his radar. I sent him Deceiver which is on my Black Label EP. He said it had a great crowd reaction and asked for a bunch more tunes. I sent him 10 and he selected the ones I liked and I put a tone of work into them. That’s the EP right there.
There’s definitely a development on this EP. Not so instantly heavy and smoother or slightly deeper in places. Certainly on the Spelljam bassline, that’s some future stuff right there.
Thanks. I’ve been making a transition from heavier synths and tear-out style that’s a lot more aggressive and I’ve also tried to incorporate more elements of four to the floor riddim stuff I’ve been experimenting with for the last year. Another key thing is moving from Serum and Massive and using different DAWs like Reason. You can use maelstrom in Reason which is a good synth.
Reason is what some of the old guys made their best original tunes on…
Yeah I love it. It’s such a unique DAW. I wanted to move away from synths everyone was using. Trying to create the same sounds but using Reason makes it sound completely different.
So what’s next?
I’m just writing and writing and trying to follow up what I have no with something just as good. I’m also getting a lot more bookings.
Yeah according to life on Facebook you seem to be playing a lot!
I’d love to play more but I have had some great shows lately. We’ve recently done a Buygore release party, an anniversary party for Savage Society then I played with Dion Timmer. All within a week. It’s unusual for me to play three times in a week but I want to do that more. I’d say right now I’m playing one a week or once a fortnight.
Are you mainly playing in LA or all over the US?
Mainly LA and the Bay Area. Funnily enough, I’ve played in France and Australia and Montreal before I played most interstate shows!
International profile before national! What were your impressions of Europe?
Oh I loved it. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Being able to see the reactions to dubstep at this level was an eye-opener. At the same time as some of those bookings there weren’t half as many parties happening over here. The show in France was one of my biggest at the time – I’d never seen that many people on the dancefloor in front of me before. It was very validating, I realised people do like this stuff. But over the past years the scene has developed in LA a lot. It’s a really exciting time for all of us!