WORDS

We need to talk about Molecular

There’s no denying 2020 is the bombshell of a year we all want to forget, but for Molecular, there are some positive memories he can salvage from the debris. One of those being Dub Wars, a competition he has just gone and won.

Now into its second instalment, Dub Wars is the heavyweight competition pitting drum and bass producers against each other in a month-long dub creation tournament. Considering producers only had five days at a time to build a slapping tune from scratch, it’s fair to say winning the competition is a pretty big deal. Especially when the grips of Covid place you in an anxiety-fuelled headlock just one day into the competition… This is the challenge Molecular faced.

But he battled on, produced the goods, and now he is reflecting on an opportunity that has seen his name gain serious acclaim from people including Ant TC1, Creatures, Scar and previous winners Ill Truth.

Still only 23-years-old and studying at university, Molecular was planning on 2020 being his biggest breakthrough year yet – following on from the momentum releases with Counterpoint, Skank & Bass and EKOU created. Despite not being the year he had planned, it’s fair to say a Dub Wars triumph will at least provide him with something positive to cherish. UKF caught up with Molecular to learn more about a producer we need to be talking about right now.

Big ups on winning Dub Wars!

Thanks man, I’m buzzing about it! I’m very happy. I still can’t believe it because all of the people I went up against are such strong producers. It’s a crazy feeling.

I imagine you had a nervy wait to find out who the winner was…

Yeah, haha! Especially because they announced it live on Instagram. I was watching it live in the Zoom chat, but the sound was glitching out when they were about to announce the winner, so it made me even more anxious because I couldn’t perceive who was winning!

Your final dub got loads of good reaction from people including Ant TC1, Scar and Ill Truth. That must feel good.

It felt great! Especially Scar and Ant TC1. I’m a big fan of Scar’s work, and I’m a huge fan of Dispatch, plus Ant himself, so it felt amazing for them to pick my track and go over it. Especially Ant, because he really wanted to know who the person was producing the dub.

Haha yes! So tell us more about your overall Dub Wars experience?

It was incredible. A few months before it started Harvey from Creatures messaged me telling me about the competition and who was involved in it. He then asked me to be a part of it. There were some big names… Waeys, Black Barrel, Glyph – lots of producers who I admire. So even before it started I was like – shit!, it’s going to be really tight…

Pressure…

Yeah, lots of pressure even before it began. So it kicked off and in the first draw I went up against Lavance, which was funny because he was the first producer in the drum and bass scene I worked with.

Oh really?

Yeah, we have a track called Replicants that came out on Counterpoint. We also did a remix competition for it on my Patreon page. It was very strange to go up against a close friend in the first round. Lavance actually texted me the day before the draw saying “Imagine if we go up against each other in the first round? It won’t be fun”, and then that exact thing happened…

Rebel Music HQ · Molecular – Dub Wars – Round 1 Dub

He jinxed it!

Literally. The day after that I started feeling a bit ill with a cough, so I went to get tested and ended up testing positive for Covid… That was the first week of the competition.

That’s the last thing you needed… What was going through your head at the time?

I was panicking, but I didn’t feel that bad. I had a minor headache and a bit of a fever, but I took some painkillers and felt okay. So for the first week it wasn’t so bad. But then more symptoms started showing up… Alongside having a bad time with my health, I was also hit by anxiety from being stuck in my room with new symptoms showing up constantly. I didn’t even have the will to go to the computer. I just wanted to lie in bed. But I managed to find a bit of time during the weeks to get things done.

When you’re feeling ill you don’t have the drive to be creative, let alone to produce a whole tune…

It was tough. During the second round against Waeys I was feeling the worst, and I did consider sending a message to Ben (Rebel Music) to let him know that I wasn’t feeling well and maybe I should drop out of the competition. But I managed to carry on, get over the illness, and focus. Part of me wanted to rest and not go to the computer, but every time I tried to rest I would get anxious about Covid and end up going to the computer to make music. It all worked out in the end!

It’s interesting you weren’t feeling well during the Waeys round because the dub you produced was one of your most energetic, unlike the way your body felt…

Literally! It was an angry track, which is unlike me. Being ill definitely motivated me to push on with everything. With Dub Wars, you get sent the stems on Sunday night and you have to deliver by Friday. You don’t have long to make a tune. Because of Covid, I normally only started on the Wednesday. I would check the samples on Monday, but I’d only have a real session on Wednesday as I wasn’t feeling creative. Something Dub Wars has taught me is that I can work very fast – especially if I quickly scrap ideas that don’t work. My workflow is much quicker now.

A lot of producers do have the tendency to start an idea, hit a wall, then spend ages tinkering with it. Sometimes it’s best to just move on.

Exactly. On the third round with MC Fat’s vocals, there’s a dub section on the track that wasn’t supposed to be in my final tune. I literally spent a whole afternoon messing around with dub vibes, recording stuff and having fun, which I didn’t really have time to do. But the vocals were too cool, so I ended up adding them to the track.

That was a really interesting round as you produced such a different style dub to Thematic. Yours was a murky roller and his was delicate liquid.

And we used the vocals in two completely different ways. The tunes could have been so different to the ones we made. Both Thematic and I have music signed to Sofa Sound, so I guess people were expecting a really funky clash, but it ended up being a reggae and liquid thing.

That’s the beauty of the competition though. The dubs could be whatever you wanted them to be.

Definitely. In the final round, the voice recording sample was asking for a minimal vibe. I couldn’t make something as energetic as the second or third round. It needed to be funky. The samples really set up the direction for the dubs. I think Glyph used the vocal in a better way than me though. It was all a bit of a rush getting the final tune done.

So in general, were you pretty comfortable working with the samples?

Well I’ve never worked with samples that quick, but they helped a lot. To start something completely from scratch and finish it in the same timeframe would have been too difficult. Just listening to the samples before starting each tune gave you an idea of what direction to take. Especially the vocals in Ill Truth’s and Fats’ sample packs. I usually only use samples in my own productions when I want to spark some creativity, but apart from that I don’t use them much.

That’s cool. I particularly like the way all of your dubs carried a very cohesive sound. They were all dark and murky.

I’m really trying to focus around that sound. I saw Dub Wars as a good opportunity to make sure of that. It was a chance to get more comfortable with the sound and experiment with it. This year, releasing music and not being able to play it in clubs where it connects with people has felt so weird. It’s not right. But Dub Wars has allowed me to gauge reaction to this sound I am developing. Clearly it’s working pretty well…

Hopefully we can return soon… So for the people who aren’t as connected with your music, what background can you provide?

I actually started making music when I was about 13-years-old. My brother listened to a lot of house music, and I used to mess around with house without even having headphones or speakers. I was making weird beats that sounded so bad on my little laptop speakers, haha. I had fun though. I was learning things every day and got really invested in music. I even learnt how to play piano. At 16-years-old, I decided my thing was D&B and I haven’t looked back since. I’m from Porto, so my first release came on Counterpoint.

You’ve been building a decent name for yourself, especially in the past year.

Yeah! Away from the Covid situation, this year was supposed to be a really good year for me. In 2019 I ended up with a Skank & Bass release, Bouncer, and it had some really good reaction. It’s funny because just before the drop there is this phone ringing sample, and that sample is one I tried to use in so many projects before, but it never worked. I have two more releases to go this year – a single on Delta9 and an EP on Sofa Sound.

They’re both wicked labels! Releasing on Sofa Sound is no easy feat.

I feel very lucky to be releasing music with them. They’ve been so welcoming to me, which has also been inspiring. I think that being supportive to each other in the scene, connecting with people and showing love, helps you to get creative during these hard times. I have to thank Dub Wars because I have got to know some very special, like-minded people. I’m so grateful for my involvement, and especially for the win…

Listen to all Dub Wars tracks on Metapop

Follow Molecular: Facebook / Soundcloud / Instagram