Meet Andy Slater. Or Epicentre as he’s best known in the world of pungent junglised stinkers.
Located in a leafy town not far from Manchester, he’s an industrial machine operator by day and studio machine scientist by night. He’s been releasing beats for the best part of 10 years and his secret bass bunker is squeezed with so much hardware he’s genuinely run out of space for any more kit. Oh, and he’s not shy of taking apart and modifying these machines either.
Most importantly: he makes remarkably filthy jungle bangers. His breaks are raw, rolling and relentless. His obese basses are prone to wobbles so flabby they smother you. He’s also got samples and hooks for days. His penchant for hardware gives his tunes real anchored weigh and warmth. He loves a good collabo with the one like Kumarachi. His music can – and will – melt your face.
It’s why he’s been a consistently prominent member of two key labels in the new jungle movement that began bubbling years before everyone started calling themselves junglists: DJ Hybrid’s Deep In The Jungle and Euphonique’s Subwoofah. In fact Subwoofah was launched on the strength of Epicentre’s tracks. So it’s fitting Euphonique’s label enjoys a reboot with him, too.
After a year’s hiatus, Subwoofah returns with a refreshed look but still the same badman sound. And it’s an Epicentre EP that leads the charge by way of some absurd remixes of his past releases on the label from key friends of both him and Subwoofah. Warhead, Motiv, Diligent Fingers and Bill & Ed all get their paws gritty on Epi’s parts, they’re out this month. We rang his secret bass bunker to find out more…
Euphonique once told me Subwoofah was set up because of your music!
[Laughs] I heard that too. I actually DJ’d for Nikki at one of her Subwoofah nights around 2012/2013. It was only a night and not a label then, but it all stemmed from that. I kept in touch with her and sent her tunes. I never knew if she was playing them or not but then, out of the blue, she hit me up and said ‘we’re starting a label and you’re going to be the first release.’ That was my first commercial release.
What came before that then?
Before that it was just me in my bedroom! I was just making tunes for no reason, just having fun. I never thought of doing anything with the music besides playing it in my DJ sets until I met Nikki and started sending tunes to her. The only other thing I’d done was a free download on Diligent Fingers label Spynal Records called Soundclash.
You were DJing as well, right?
Oh yeah, long before I was producing. I was involved in a night called Pandemic, a drum & bass night with a guy called Antagonist. We held nights in Manchester and that’s how I got to know people in the Manchester scene.
Ah, the DIY way. The best way to get gigs; by holding your own events.
Yeah exactly. We did some local ones and they went pretty well. But month after month you’re fighting for the attention of the same people. So, we thought we’d give Manchester a try.
Bit of a risk! Kids from the countryside going into a big city against the established promoters. Fair play. Did it go well?
It was alright. It wasn’t rammed. We were young and didn’t know about other nights going on that night. We didn’t know what we were doing, we just booked Bladerunner and Ray Keith and went ‘fuck it, go on then.’
Classic jungle line-up though!
I’ve been listening to jungle since school in the 90s. I grew up on jungle and hip-hop
Were you that cool kid who had decks before everyone else?
Yeah but it wasn’t cool back then. It was just weird. People were like ‘what? You mix records?’ It was seen as quite nerdy. But yeah that was me.
Many can relate! So jumping back to the launch of Subwoofah, was that a clear moment when you started taking it serious or feel things starting to happen?
It was quite slow to get going. I had a few releases come out quickly because I had quite a bit of stuff backed up like any new producer does. But then I stepped back a bit. I started to think ‘ah people are spending their money on my music, I need to make sure it’s worth it’ I became a lot more conscious about the sound of things. I got really into the technical side of things, too. So the releases slowed down a bit there…
You’re a hardware head aren’t you?
I’ve been collecting hardware for about four years now. It’s an obsession.
What triggered that? To avoid the same sounds and VSTs everyone else was using?
A bit of that for sure. I just noticed that you spend a lot of time making software sound like hardware. Everyone wants that warmth and fatness. So why not just use hardware? It’s already there.
Getting to know your instrument instead of buying endless VSTs searching for that mythical sound basically…
I was massively guilty of that one. I’d sit there with a folder full of plug-ins, go through all the pre-sets and go ‘nah’ and not even try and use it. I had so many options. But everyone knows that limitation breeds creativity so focusing on instruments definitely helped. You’ve got that instrument so either you have to learn how to make it make the sounds you want or you don’t. That’s your options.
I know you modify some machines, too. How did you get into that?
Yeah I wanted to give it a try. I modified compressor and it worked first time so I did some more. I did electronics in college and in my apprenticeship, so I knew a bit and gave it a try. I googled some circuits that worked but weren’t in production and worked out what I needed to do. I started with tube pre-amps, cos everyone likes tubes, and it started from there.
Ha! What’s your proudest modification so far?
Probably the first one. It made a £300 compressor sound like one you’d pay thousands for.
Yeah man. I wouldn’t advise undertaking it yourself unless you know what you’re doing but all the information is out there, you’ve just got to research and pick the right parts that make the right sounds.
That adds a whole other depth to the production artform though doesn’t it? Not many artists mention this in interviews. So guessing it’s a bit niche. Do you know of other artists doing this?
I know Dub Phizix is using some mad stuff. We’ve chatted about gear from time to time. Either suggesting old thing that sound cool or a new thing just to get a vibe on. I don’t know many people who modify kit in drum & bass though, no.
Let’s talk about the Deep In The Jungle connection. I first became aware of you, Kumarachi, DJ Hybrid, RMS around early 2016. It felt like this whole new wave coming through. Seemed like a tight crew.
That’s pretty much it. I first met Alex [DJ Hybrid] when we booked him for a Subwoofah night as the headliner. He was playing my tunes and asked if I’d be up for doing anything for him. The rest is history. There’s the core of us; Alex, me, Kumarcahi, RMS, DJ Cautious all releasing on the label regularly then a wider collective of producers on the big compilations Alex puts out. It did feel like a little crew.
Quite a few years before everyone started calling themselves junglists again…
I think it’s because we all grew up on jungle and all started making it about 10 years ago but no one was making it back then. Things is, you’d go out and play it and people would be like ‘Wicked. I haven’t heard jungle in years’ and get really into it. We thought we’d stick at it. It was never a trend thing, we were just doing what we wanted to do. I’ve never been one to give a shit about trends. I’ve made any kind of genre just to see if I can make it or get on a vibe with it.
Speaking of vibes. This latest release, the Subwoofah relaunch. Those remixes stink to high heaven! How did it come about?
I brought all the artists together for the release. I didn’t tell Nikki we were doing it until I got everyone I wanted on board.
That’s the freedom I’ve always had with Subwoofah. Everyone’s their own worst critic so if I’m happy for her to release something I’ve done, it’s at a certain standard. I wanted to get some of the new guys who were coming through on the label together. The project’s been bubbling for a while; we sat on them for a bit, then Nikki said she wanted to relaunch the label so it made sense to get them out as the relaunch release.
Do you like hearing your tunes remixed?
Yeah man. I always think they sound better than mine!
Ha! Do they give you ideas for future tracks?
Definitely. The two rolling ones – Warhead’s one and Motiv’s one – they’re very different and take my original tracks to different places and it really works. I’ve definitely taken inspiration from them. All of the remixes have given me ideas to be fair.
I heard you’ve given up DJing?
Yeah I’ve taken a break for a bit. I’ve always said if I’m not enjoying DJing – whether I’m getting paid for it or not – I won’t do it. I’m not doing it for the sake of it. So I took time off, learnt some music theory, polished up the production, things like that. It’s cool; when you’re not DJing all the time, you’re writing tunes that are much more musical, not dancefloor focused. I wasn’t sad about stopping either, that meant it was time to take a break. I was getting booked every weekend but not enough to stop working in the week. Living the DJ life Friday to Sunday then getting up at 6.30 on a Monday wasn’t working for me. Living both of those lives is hard. I’m thankful for it and got to play some great gigs and meet really sound people but it takes its toll. I need to find that passion for it again.
But you sound well happy in the studio…
Totally. I’ve been experimenting with some other tempos and genres. Some grime bits, weird hip-hop things, some two-step, anything really. It’s just about catching a vibe and seeing what works. I’m not concentrating on the next banger, I’m just making music.
But what music will we hear next?
There’s an EP on Deep In The Jungle January next year. Then a few tunes on the next Deep In The Jungle compilation and a Kumarachi remix of one of my tunes forthcoming on Nuusic . I’m just enjoying it at the moment. Not forcing it, just getting on with it. I like it that way.