Metalheadz have kickstarted the new year with a stark statement of sonic intent: Grey Code’s label debut, the Reprieve EP.
Landing after a stealthy slew of documents on the likes of Dispatch, Skankandbass, BNKR, Demand and Music Squad (a collective he’s very much at the heart of), Grey Code’s Reprieve EP is a six track trip that leaves few D&B stones unturned. At points majestic, at others so dank and direct you need a wash after mixing it, the EP is the current peak of the Brighton-born/Bristol-based artist’s skills so far… And you get the impression he’s still warming up.
Just one blast on the epic orchestral manoeuvres of King’s Rock will confirm as much. The fact Goldie’s asked him for an album at such an early stage of his career is even more evidence.
Part of a highly musical family, still studying in university and very much approaching production as a way to relax and unwind (as opposed to approaching it strategically as a career) Grey Code is at the start of an exciting, authentic and inspiring musical journey. We’d be wise to join him. Here’s where he’s at…
You’re studying computer science… Do you find that comes hand in hand with production or are they two very separate entities for you?
I like to keep them quite separate. Music is my time off from studying. It helps me relax as I don’t need to be as systematic or analytical. It’s about letting something flow and seeing where it goes.
Nice. Because you could approach music very systematically and analytically couldn’t you?
Yeah you definitely could. But coming at it this way helps me keep it flowing and not getting caught up in that type of mindset.
That’s putting it lightly. My brother inspired me to produce. He got into it six months before me. I remember watching him and thinking ‘wow I want to do this’. He got me into electronic full stop.
How about your parents?
He was in a lot of bands for a while. He’s a designer by trade and does music for fun now. My mum has played a few instruments and picked up the cello while I was playing it.
How far did you take cello practice?
Grade five. So not so seriously. I gave it up to play the guitar and I gave that up to start producing. You can’t do everything can you?
Ha, no. All that musicality helps with production doesn’t it?
Absolutely, it helps in all kinds of ways and that’s why there’s a lot of string elements in the music I’m making. I wouldn’t have been exposed to that style or musicality had I not played the cello.
You can hear that on Kings Rock. Serious tune. Feels like you’ve been building up to music like this…
Yeah, to begin with I was focused on making a lot of minimal music but I found I was spending a lot of the time dealing with technical challenges or getting things to sound they way they wanted. Then I thought ‘why aren’t I making musical productions? That’s my background so I should incorporate more of that into what I’m doing.’ This EP is the best reflection of that so far.
Was there any concept to the EP or your approach to it?
The way I produce EPs is by time, I never make them around ideas. I think Ethics was made January last year and all the other tracks I made subsequently were put into the EP file. Once I have five or six tracks I look at them with the label manager to see if it works as an EP.
I imagine Goldie played a role in this. Where can we hear him the most in the EP?
Oh for sure. Especially in terms of developing my musicality actually. I think King’s Rock is where you can hear him the most. He called me up while I was on a coach and talked to me a lot about his song Mother. The strings on that track are just mind-blowing and that gave me confidence to experiment with the strings more which is manifested on that intro of Kings Rock.
Oh nice. Goldie’s phone calls are famous!
Yeah that was my first call of many over the course of the EP. It’s been great to have such a personal contact. It creates a connection between the artist and the label, besides email conversations. It’s nice to have that connection. I can’t ask for much more than that, it’s very inspiring and fulfilling.
You love a collaboration, don’t you?
Yeah. Even if it’s not a collaboration, I can’t think of a tune of mine that’s been finished without the ears of some of the Music Squad. Or friends like Bram, Phase. Everything has been a collaborative process.
Yeah tell us about Music Squad.
We all came through the Neurohop forum and, later, a Facebook group. It’s not as active now, but a lot of us from it have become friends and stay in contact and have created Music Squad. It’s a group of people, about 40 strong now, all being really supportive and helping each other get our music out there.
I think the new generation of artists are more collaborative and supportive of each other than previous generations of artists.
I think it’s also an age thing. Think about how the barrier to entry for production has dropped massively. There’s a lot of cheap resources and people start younger so they’re making music for the sake of music, not any career or anything. They’re not thinking about what it is or the surrounding things that come with it. They’re just kids having fun and bouncing off each other, creating.
Miles away from the clubs…
Exactly. Back in the Neurophop days I don’t think any of us had stepped foot in a club. We were just having fun and experimenting.
How does that change when you’re on labels like Dispatch and Metalheadz then?
I don’t think about the impact too much, or try not to worry about it at least. Saturn was different because I wanted it to hit hard in the club. But even on that track I didn’t spend too much time on those details.
You’ve not got caught up in overthinking your mixdowns?
No not really. I’m not massively technical. I’ll deal with all those bits at the end. I try and completely finish a track in two weeks and try not to fiddle and tweak because I lose the spirit and soul of the track. I learnt a lot about this when I did the more minimal tracks; every single element had to be a statement and I think that’s when you can get lost in the details too. But also, it goes back to getting help from people. You could be chasing something on your own but not even know what you’re looking for. So asking for advice or feedback from a peer can flip perspective and improve your knowledge.
So what’s next?
I’m working on a second Headz EP and I’ve been compiling some not particularly club-focused but more weird and musical tracks to comprise an album.
Yeah. It’ll take some time to do but Goldie asked me about one and told me to start getting things ready for it. I’ve also got my first remix for Goldie coming out in spring.
Nice. A remix of him or a remix for Headz?
Of him! I remember getting another phone call from him while on holiday in Valencia, which was quite mad. I had an option of four tracks to pick so went for Mirrored River, I felt instantly inspired, it came together really well and got a lot of playtime at Outlook.
The Metalheadz album benchmark is very high. Is that daunting or exciting?
Exciting really. I don’t feel I’ve reached my limit yet and I’m still pushing thins and developing ideas. I want to work with more live musicians, perhaps a few vocalist and just continue having fun with it and seeing what comes from it….