We Need To Talk About Conrad Subs

Armed with a raw, bubbly old school jungle sound, Conrad Subs appeared to hurtle out of nowhere with his first releases in 2017/2018.

Turns out he actually hails from Ipswich. But, looking at his discography over the last two years, it does seem like he’s from another planet. An unstoppable breakbeat machine belching out gully smoke as he skids round corners way over the standard release speed limit. Program, Soulvent, Deep In The Jungle, Calypso, Nice Up, Delta9, Liondub International and Manchester’s Nuusic who’ve just dropped Conrad’s debut artist album Tides.

Crashing into your collection after releases on Dread, Program and Soul Deep in recent weeks, Tides is a powerful blend of breakbeat bumpers that captures many of the new artist’s sounds and the essence of his party-friendly energy. Befitting these non-ravey times, it’s also held together with a consistency and home-listening vibe that all artist albums should strive for. Especially debut albums. From the glacial contemplation of the opener Mercury Rising to the ravey chaos of On A 90s Tip via the butt-wriggling funk of Little Vibey Thing, it’s an honest and heartfelt collection that reflects where he’s at and where he’s been.

He might have appeared to hurtle out of nowhere but this is how he actually got here. And what happens next…

Something tells me you’ve been into this longer than the Conrad Subs discography suggests…

Yeah I used to produce years ago, under loads of names. As Nifty, Sulako and all sorts of names, but I never really had any releases. I had one release on a Brazilian label around 2004/2005 but I wasn’t really getting anywhere. To be honest, I wasn’t really putting in the effort. I wasn’t taking it that seriously. Then as things went on, I had kids and packed it in for a bit. I still loved it. I still love the music just as much as the first time I heard it, but I didn’t have the hunger. But once you start producing you can’t switch it off.

You never stop thinking like a producer when you hear music…

Yeah you’re constantly dissecting tracks, wondering how they did things or thinking about how you’d do things differently. When you first find drum and bass, or for me anyway, you’re just listening to it as a whole. It blows you away. But the more you get into it, the more you understand different elements of it. It’s still magic but in a different way.

I think it makes you harder to impress…

Totally. Especially nowadays with video tutorials and so much information out there. I really loved the mystery of it all when I was younger.

The sense of groove is still a mystery. Technicalities can be taught, vibe comes naturally…

Yeah. And personally, for me, that’s probably where I put myself. I mean, I’m okay on the technical side, but there are plenty of guys and girls who are much more technical than me. Vibes are everything. They have to be the focus for me.

Definitely. You’re a vibes man. So take me to Ipswich…

Are you sure you want me to do that?

Ha. Norwich gets all the headlines when it comes to the South East with the likes of Upgrade, Limited, T>I, Saxxon all in the same city. But Ipswich has some mad dnb history. Digital, Spirit, Klute, Photek, Certificate 18…. I’m wondering if you were inspired by your city’s D&B history?

Yeah absolutely. I was at school when all those guys came through and were active in the city but once you know that these people are from your area, even though I hadn’t met them, it was like ‘wow, this is this is close to home, this is possible.’ And a lot of that it had a certain style. Just like Bristol had a sound, Ipswich did too. It had the breaks and that dark, rolling noisy weight. It was really inspiring to be growing up in the same city as those guys.

Massively. Is Ipswich coastal? Is Tides a reference to that?

It’s a bit further inland so no, the title is a reference to musical styles and the trends of jungle and drum and bass. How they come and go like the tides. The whole album is meant to be like a love letter to drum and bass. There are a lot of cheeky samples people might recognise or references to different styles like hardcore or the Good Looking sound. All these sounds that are always there and have made me who I am musically but come and go like tides.

I think that is reflected in there. So how did it come about? Because you’ve been so prolific in the last few years…

Yeah, it got a bit crazy for a while. Around the start of 2019 I made a really concerted effort to push myself and my releases and things really started to pick up. I got the Jungle Awards nomination for breakthrough producer around that time and the releases were getting bigger. And the album started around that time, too. I already had a couple of releases with Dylan at Nuusic and he said ‘just send me everything you make.’ He probably regretted that because I was sending him stuff every day. Then I sent him the opening track of the album, Mercury Rising. I didn’t know if he’d like it because it was a bit deeper than my usual stuff but he liked it and we got talking more about that style and how it would lend itself to something like an album so it went from there…

So when you’re busy catching these creative moments in between your day job and your life as a father and everything else that you’ve got to juggle in life did you have a tangible album vibe in your mind? Did you have a special folder to keep things in that felt like an album?

Yeah, a little. There are tracks on the album where I specifically sat down and thought ‘right, I’m going to make this type of track’ to make sure the album had the message and vibe I wanted it to. At first we talked about the album being all deep but then it steered towards a mix of dancefloor and deeper but it was a constant dialogue between myself and Dylan, working on everything. I’d say he put in nearly as much work as me.

This is the first artist album Nuusic have released, right?

They’ve done a couple of compilations but yeah this is the first artist album and that’s an honour. It’s great when people want to release your music full stop, you know? But to take on a big project like this and back me and support me. What more can you ask as an artist?

Absolutely! I didn’t think it’d be physically possible for you to put out more music then you already have in the last year. So with the album as well, your personal dub vault must be pretty empty.

Not at all! I lost my job in March so even with the virus and the kids off, I’ve had more time than ever to make music. The vault isn’t empty at all. I’ve got so much stuff that hasn’t been released or even stuff I’ve never even played to anyone. I’m constantly just making music and seeing what works and learning something on every tune.

You seem like somebody who’s able to draw the line and go ‘right, that’s done. I’m putting it out there.’ You don’t overthink too much. 

I try to. We’ve all done it before. You sit there and tinker and tinker and tinker and then you end up just stuck in a rut and eventually get bored of it. So yeah, I like to try and get the main idea down, build on it, check it on a variety of speakers, go back and make the last few changes and it’s done. Obviously if the label makes requests then it’s different. Someone else’s input is always good. It’s hard to be objective when you’re sitting in the dark chopping up breakbeats all day. But you’ve got to trust your own judgement haven’t you?

Yeah, absolutely. And that was the original kind of jungle spirit in a way. A bit raw, DIY, gritty kinda vibes in a way.

Yeah, that’s what I love. The DIY. I mean, I’d rather hear a tune that is rough around the edges, but it’s got a raw real vibe and it’s got that energy to it. I’d much rather that than something polished or soulless.

Amen! How have you managed to maintained your own personal energy during lockdown, especially with you losing your job.

I’m inspired by the creative process and where I’m at, I think. Before I was just making tunes and sending them out to every label. Now, I’m in the lucky position where it’s the other way around and people are asking me for music. That keeps me motivated. And there’s always something to do. Right now I’ve got an EP to finish, a few labels have asked for remixes, I’ve got some VIPs to finish. That’s what spurs me on. Plus I love it. I really love it. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t enjoy it.

Absolutely! You know, I wondered if Tides was reference to the amount of stuff you release or the sheer amount of music out there….

Haha. I agree about the amount of music out there. Just tons and tons. I used to pride myself in being such a trainspotter when I was younger. I knew every tune, every label, even the catalog numbers. I’m useless now. It is like a tidal wave. I’ll listen to some mixes or even when you could go raving and everyone’s going nuts over this track and I’m thinking ‘well this is clearly a big tune, why haven’t I heard this before?’

There is too much to keep up with. But that means people have dig wisely and search a bit deeper…

Yeah.  I think Ray Keith said he gets like 2000 or 1000 tunes of week sent to him. Or something like that.

And I bet he listens to every single one as well!

Yeah the man is dedicated. That’s the responsibility of a DJ. When you’re top of that game, that’s how you’ve got to play it. Total respect to all DJs who remain as on top of the tidal wave as that.

So what’s happening for you now the next in the game? You mentioned some bits just now…

Well the album has just dropped. The feedback has been great, Nuusic have been great, I couldn’t be happier. Then after that, I’ve got a few EPs lined up. I’m doing some stuff with Liondub again, something with Deep In The Jungle and something with Co-Lab. There’s a few bits floating around! Let’s see what I can come up with in the studio….

Conrad Subs – Tides is out now on Nuusic 

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