Emotive pads, atmospheric builds, silky drops, and techy stabs: Rizzle’s signature underground drum & bass sound has become more defined with every release. Now, with his debut album dropping on Dispatch, he’s revealed the philosophy behind achieving that sound.
He calls it Twilight Tones – taking inspiration from that rare, fleeting moment in the day when there’s a balance between the dark of the night creeping in, and the sun’s last hurrah of light.
This balance can be heard throughout the album’s 15 tracks – all of which are club-ready, engineered for the place where he draws a lot of inspiration from. No intro track, no skits – just Rizzle using dark and light tones to paint his 15 interpretations of twilight.
With the writing starting off in 2018, it’s been a long time in the making. Sitting down with UKF, John Rizzle takes us through his journey writing Twilight Tones – from points of struggle and doubt, to encounters with some of the scene’s most prolific names, and ultimately smashing his goals.
For extra Rizzle kicks, he’s even served up a free download to wet our collective twilight whistles. Entitled Daisy Chain, check it here while you read up and get to know:
Mr Rizzle. How are you doing fresh off the album release?
Really good thanks. I started writing it in around March 2018, so it’s been a while since the inception, and it’s been basically finished and ready to go for about a year. I’ve listened to it to death now! So it’s good to see it out there, and to see the reaction finally.
So was it more or less finished pre-pandemic?
Yeah the writing was all finished and sent off to master about that time. Then TeeBee – who did the masters – was honest about it, saying “this could sound better”. So I spent about three or four months mixing down all the tunes again. I’ve got to big him up too, he gave me some really helpful advice that made the album sound about 10 times better.
I was furloughed from work for about three months through the pandemic. That allowed me to work on those masters, and then I also wrote most of that recent release I did for Overview during that period.
With a big catalogue of releases going back to 2015, what made you think it was time to do an album?
At the time, I’d just released my third EP for Dispatch and I wanted to challenge myself. I thought that doing an album would be a bigger challenge than an EP, and it certainly was! I felt like I’d bitten off more than I could chew at some points, to be honest.
It’s been a real learning curve writing such a long project, especially 15 tracks – basically four EPs at once. With a standard four-track EP you’d write it, mix it down, and release it. But with an album you’re constantly going back and forth after learning new things, fixing up tunes, and getting everything to sound similar. I felt like I was chasing my tail a little at some points.
Yeah it’s a stacked album. There’s no interludes, intros, or outros – just 15 solid tracks.
That was intentional as well – I know a lot of people do skits and intro tracks and things. But I wanted to include those bits within the tunes themselves. So when it felt like there needed to be a break, there’d be a more melodic tune that just rolls out a bit nicer – like in Subliminal, or Pathways with Wingz. So you could play all the tunes in a club, but there’s still that cohesive experience when listening through the album.
So tell me about the title Twilight Tones and how that fits with the tracks on the album?
It started after I’d written about three or four tunes. I sent them over to Ant and we agreed on doing the album. Then I wanted to get a concept together for the rest of the tunes, and adapt those existing tunes, so that I had something to work towards.
The concept I settled on is this idea of ‘twilight’ when the sun’s down and it’s not quite dark, not quite light either. I wanted to sonically explore this dark vs. light idea. So each tune is a ‘tone’, some resembling the darker side, and some the lighter side – and as a whole it conveys this mood of twilight.
I can totally hear that throughout. When I think of other releases, it seems like ‘twilight tones’ is kind of how your production sounds in general.
Haha, you know what? After putting this together I’ve found this is basically the vibe I’m always generally going for. I just love that sound.
In my last interview with you guys, I touched on this as well – how that was a big part of my production. So I guess that was a good concept to go for with the album.
So ‘twilight tones’ is a bit of a philosophy?
Yeah, it is a bit!
Were you discussing this concept with the collaborators on the album? How did those ones come together?
Well for Pathways Marcus Wingz put a clip up on his Instagram, and I sent him a message saying that sounds really good. Then he responded asking if I wanted to go in on it. So he sent over the stems and I just smashed the rest of it out in one session.
We’d had it floating about for a while and then I suggested it for the album, because it definitely suits the concept and vibe, and he was keen on it. And that’s one of my favourite tracks on the album.
In regards to the one with Ground, it was very similar actually. I put up a clip up of some little sketch on Instagram and he responded. That tune was in sketch form for quite a long time, and it was one of the final ones that went on the album. But it was really great to collaborate with Ground, I’ve loved his tunes for quite a long time.
As for the Black Barrel collab, Ant actually suggested it when most of the album tracklist was put together. So we got into it – I had a sketch on my harddrive that fit the concept and I sent it over to him. He beefed up the drums and added some little vocal bits, and just other stuff I didn’t really hear that it needed initially, but it ended up sounding great.
How does Ant get involved in the process?
He tends to keep his nose out really. I’ll send him a batch and occasionally he’ll have a comment on mixdown, or one tune needs work, or it’s not for him. But luckily, pretty much all the ones for this album he’s said yes to.
It’s great to work with him. Some label managers can get really into what you’re doing, and sometimes that can limit you. But I’ve never really had that with Ant. There’s plenty of freedom on Dispatch.
So outside of the concept, where do you draw inspiration from?
I realised recently that a big part of where I get inspiration from is gigging and playing sets. I never really thought this was a main point of inspiration until last year. At one stage I wasn’t in the studio for about two or three months, because I’d done all this work on the album, an EP for Overview, and a collab EP with Operate – I think I just got burnt out. So it was a multitude of hitting the studio too hard, combined with not having any gigs and feedback from playing tunes out.
In terms of other music – since I started writing the album I’ve been listening to a lot of more down-tempo stuff and synth-led stuff. Artists like Chaos In the CBD, Floating Points, Djrum, Skee Mask, these sorts of people. And I think that sound is coming off in my newer tunes, some of which haven’t come out yet. But I can hear that in my sound now.
Great taste. Do you produce much in those genres?
Not so much. I’d have dabbled, but I usually get it only to the point of writing an idea, and then it just stays an idea forever. I’ve made a few techno-ish tracks and I made a garage-ey refix of that tune Still Standing from Children of Zeus when they released the acapella. I do really enjoy making it, so, never say never, but at the moment they’re just ideas on the harddrive.
Are there any good stories behind any of the album tracks you could share?
Yeah there’s a few that spring to mind. Scattered Horizons is one – it was originally going to be the intro track, hence the really long intro. I wrote that on the train up to Leeds, and I remember playing a very early version of it that night and it got a really good reception. Six hours on the train well-spent!
I also remember playing Feelings, Tetris, and Subliminal at Fabric in 2019 – and they all got really nice shouts when I played them. To be able to play them in a place like Fabric and get that reception was just fantastic.
It definitely sounds like gigging and playing your tunes out is a big influence for you. I also wanted to touch on your Fragments EP, released a couple of months ago. It must’ve felt like a big achievement to release on Metalheadz – how did that one come about?
Funnily enough that was about the same time as I’d started writing the album. I’d already written Avita and Daydreaming, and I just thought they sounded a bit different to the vibe of the album. I asked Ant if he’d send those over to Goldie – and so they agreed to sign those tunes back then (2018). Then I sidelined that project for a couple of years while writing the album and the other EPs. Because I really wanted to make it amazing if I’m going to be releasing something on Metalheadz.
I dug the project back up early this year and re-mixed down those old tracks, and we decided to make it more than a single. That was when I wrote Depths – one of those tunes that just fell together in one session. Ant then sent those three over to Goldie, and the next morning I woke up to an Instagram message from the man himself just saying “ring me”.
I spoke to him about the tunes and he said he really liked them, and he wanted one more to round out the EP. On this one, he challenged me to write just two minutes of music, as opposed to an intro with any percussion or anything. And so that’s how Forgotten came about – with a long, epic, synth-led intro.
Wow, the call up and challenge from Goldie sounds like a big moment.
Oh mate, definitely!
The deep, techy, dark and atmospheric style of D&B is really big in the underground at the moment. Who in the scene is killing it with this style?
A couple off the top of my head… Dan Kinical is a monster. Monty as well, I’ve been rating him for years and the new tune Vibin with Visages is just unreal.
From the up-and-comers, I’ve been really feeling Housty recently. He’s in the same sound as me, but got some wicked liquid bits as well. Subdue also, I’ve made a couple of tunes with him and we’ve got another in the works – he’s got a really good ear for getting a vibe down.
So an album on Dispatch, and releases on all sorts of labels that match your sound. What’s the next goal on your horizon?
My goals are pretty much all accomplished for the time being. I haven’t set any new ones yet since the album on Dispatch and the release on Metalheadz – that’s something I need to do. I would love to get some tunes out on 1985 and Critical, but that’s still a way off. I don’t think my tunes are quite there for those labels just yet in terms of standard or vibe.
But in terms of things to come – I’m working on an EP for Overview. I’m finishing up an EP for Engage Audio. There’s three or four more remixes due to come out. And I’ve got collaborations with Primitive Instinct, Subdue, Housty – and plenty more. Goldie also wants me to write more for Metalheadz so I’ll be working on that too.
If you can crack into Metalheadz, then surely 1985 and Critical are reachable?
I would love to. I just think it’s a case of not coming across the right tune at the moment. I know I can do it but, like the Metalheadz release, it has to be special. We’ll see!
I’m sure it’ll come. And where can we next see you playing?
The next one I have booked-in is the Critical x Overview night at E1 in November. I’m going back-to-back with Operate. I’ve actually got an EP coming up with him as well which I forgot to mention. But that show at E1 will be a good one!