Before March this year very few people knew who, what or where a Buunshin was. Then he dropped his debut EP.
Few debuts in recent years have made as much noise and attracted as much attention as the Presence EP. Supported on dub by the likes of Noisia, Mefjus, Camo & Krooked, Phace, Misanthrop and Ed Rush and released on Abis and IMANU’s DIVIDID imprint, it was the culmination of three years studio toil during which he refused to release anything until he felt he was at the right level.
A timely reminder that creative pursuits are a marathon, not a sprint, and that not everything you create needs to be spammed out to all and sundry, we spoke about it to him at the time and learnt he’d already collaborated with Phace and IMANU in the build-up to this debut.
Nine months later he returns with his follow-up. This time on Phace & Misanthrop’s Neosignal. In some ways it takes off where Presence left us; once again it’s four tracks, once again it hits with heavy, chiselled production and is characterised by unconventional ideas and the art of surprise. But there’s much more of an edge to this release. Way more forthright than his debut, acutely inspired by techno, wholly unconventional; it’s an entirely different side to the artist who’s only 23 and not even been in the game for a year yet…
Speaking to him you get the feeling he’s come into production in a completely unconventional way. A mathematically-minded, detail-obsessed soul, it’s the technical challenges and puzzles drum & bass production provides that lured him into this world in the first place. You could say it was a calling. He certainly does. We caught up with him to find out more…
What a year it’s been for you…
Bruh I had the most amazing year any newcomer could ever ask for! It’s been incredible. I’m only just releasing my second EP and the reception has been great. I’ve had opportunities to work with super cool people, I’m doing lots of shows, I’ve signed with a great agency. It’s all escalated insanely quick if you keep in mind that my first EP was released just a while ago in March.
It’s all been so rapid but also feels – and sounds – like you’ve been around longer than just March!
It feels like that to me in a way. I’ve been producing for the last three / three and a half years so for me it’s not quite so sudden either.
That’s the moral of the last interview wasn’t it? Learn your craft, don’t fling out any old shit…
That’s right. Since I’ve been releasing music, I’ve had people come to me for feedback and eventually I started teaching a few people music production. The first thing I always say to them is ‘it’s cool you want to put a track on Soundcloud the minute you’ve made it. But the next day I guarantee you’ll be like ‘my tune sounds like shit now, what the fuck!?’ If you listen to it a week or month later it puts things in perspective. Nothing needs to be rushed.
You have a different understanding of your craft when you have to teach it don’t you?
Exactly. You have to understand at least 80% of what you’re talking about.
You’d be surprised how many teachers out there don’t understand what they’re doing. But that’s cool because no one is perfect and we are always learning. For me, I think the most important thing is to encourage a student to think for themselves and be creative. That’s where the power is. After that it’s all about putting the hours in.
You’ve put some hours in on this new EP. Mad sounds. You’re not holding back!
You’re right, I’m not. On my first EP I felt like I was trying to perceive cleanliness too much. I wanted everything to be so clean and well-tailored and controlled. But if you do that to too much of a degree you lose a lot of character. Your track sounds more like a formula that’s being executed and I wanted to get away from that with something that’s noisy and dirty and rumbly. I wanted to pursue making music that’s made of sounds that don’t make a lot of sense by themselves, but do make sense in context. It took an awful long time to progress to this part, but I felt like it was necessary.
On this release I’d say they make sense in a techno context!
Yeah. I’ve drawn lots of inspiration from techno. There are so many interesting aspects of other genres out there, I don’t know why anyone would stay in one lane. It’s so interesting to take elements from genres and see what problems you run into, what challenges you can overcome.
That’s what this is all formed on. Do you come from techno in the first place? I know Rotterdam has mad techno history.
It does, but I was never part of the scene. I don’t actually have a musical background at all! I started producing at the age of 20. My friend – Ronald Dijks, who produces under the name – shared some drum & bass music with me and I was fascinated with it on a technical level. I was trying to picture how things should be made. It kept making me think about it more and more. Theorising and experimenting constantly made me want to learn new shit.
Okay wow, so you came mostly from a technically inspired point of view instead of raving or DJing? That’s quite mad!
Definitely. There are guys making drum & bass with classic education, guys who’ve been DJing for many many years but I’ve just been out here in my little room getting into tiny, tiny details of production. I do have to add that it recently changed a lot though. I’m learning to compose and I know how important it is to create the musical side. This new EP has been a great lesson for me. The last few things I’ve released have come from my inspiration from the technical side, but that won’t be the case in the future. I’d prefer to make a connection with people musically, which is much stronger.
I guess the musicality is the soul or human aspect that resonates with people…
That’s something someone with my former mindset could easily overlook. With the background I have, it’s very easy to get lost in the details and forget about the vibe. I’m sure a lot of fellow producers feel me on this one.
What is your background? I’m guessing you’ve come from a similarly technical discipline before production? Maybe coding or programming of some sort?
You could say I’ve always been interested in data-based subjects. I used to teach mathematics, physics and science as a private teacher. After getting my high school diploma I was trying out other creative disciplines that involved technology, like 3D modelling. I also wanted to do fashion design, cooking school and I tried a whole bunch of things. None of those felt like they really worked out for me though. When I started experimenting with electronic music I instantly felt like ‘okay this is what I want to do!’ I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and I had no idea how I’d even try and gain any type of access to the world, but I knew music was what I wanted to do. I set my goal on that alone.
Sick. Like a proper calling!
It felt like a great boost of motivation coming out of nowhere. Imagine working on software for the first time in your life and immediately seeing the possibilities of what you can do. I realised the only thing that was stopping me from working out how to do it was the amount of time I would put in. I set out to make music every single day. I still write a lot about experiments, creative processes, making sounds, and learning sound design techniques.
I hear there’s a Mau5trap release en route imminently, too…
Yes, Overwerk. It’s a tune I made with Jonathan IMANU. It’ll be out on the 13th of December. It’s a great feeling to have a tune out there with my brother. It’s funny because people think we’ve known each other forever, but we only met two and a half years ago after a gig. We met up a couple times, shared some great food, and we talked a lot about music. Because of this we eventually wanted to make a tune together. This track was one of the first tracks I had done that felt finished to me. We went to Machtig in Groningen two years ago and I still remember very well how he played it out for the first time. It was the first time I felt like I’d made something that resonated with people and I was super motivated by that.
We actually sat on the tune for a while, but at some point we lost interest in the original version because it quickly felt outdated. It sounded too much like a hard neurowank track so we had to re-invent it. Kind of like a VIP of a tune that isn’t even out yet. We’re very happy with it now. It’s on the V/A album We Are Friends. One of our friends is on there too – Frank Posij – it’s really cool.
IMANU’s pretty cool too. He helped introducing you to the world, big him up…
Honestly, I can’t think of anything positive to say. He’s just an annoying prick most of the time. Nah I’m kidding bruh. He’s the nicest guy I’ve met in a long time. We’re going to find a place to live together and make techno.
I knew it!
Just joking. But we do have long time plans of having a house for a couple of guys. We want to have a place with other producers or people in the music scene so we can influence each other and give each other an inspiring environment to live in.
It’s why I love living in the Netherlands. For this exact reason I have never really been envious of other people around the world. This area is the epicentre of nice gigs and talented people. Many great artists pass through here all the time. All these guys inspire me so much. They come to play at parties pretty close to where I live so I can meet up with the biggest titans of the scene and talk to them about music and life.
Can you tell us about any future projects and collaborations coming up? Not sure how you could top this year!
I’ve worked with so many artists who inspire me so much. I recently visited the Noisia studios to collaborate on a couple tracks. I’ve also done things with The Upbeats, Phace, Black Sun Empire, Icicle, The Caracal Project and lots more cool things. I’m not gonna spill all the tea, because there are some names in there that I’m sure nobody would suspect. Meanwhile I have been doing some solo things too, which I want to release on Critical. The label and its people create a really nice atmosphere, so I’m looking forward to that. For now just enjoy my latest EP on Neosignal and my new track on Mau5trap later this month. I can’t wait to get it out there!
Buunshin – All About This EP is out there on Neosignal
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