Having already crafted an instantly recognisable sound so early on in his musical journey, Edinburgh-based Refracta’s idiosyncratic, melodic, yet so gritty, bass-face inducing and dance floor-ready sonic creations have led to him emerging as Scotland’s fastest rising and most talented drum & bass producer.
Although relatively unknown a year ago, the past twelve months have seen him feature on BYTHEPRODUCER’s highly successful COLLECTED:1 album, an array of various artist LPs, as well as two monstrous EPs on TJ’s Pick N Mix and DJ Hybrid’s Audio Addict.
This level of progress was inconceivable for Refracta this time a year ago, with his exhausting shift patterns working as a delivery driver leaving him with very little free time to produce music. However, thanks to the furlough scheme (cheers Rishi), he finally had time to sit down and hone his 170 beats per minute craft to the soaring level it’s found itself at now. If there is one positive to take from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the ludicrous amount of new talent that has blessed our beloved drum & bass scene.
We caught up with the Scottish star to talk about his journey so far in music, the scene in Scotland and his refreshingly positive outlook on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his career in the industry so far.
The Five A Day EP on Pick N Mix last year brought you to a lot of ears. But how did you get TJ to abandon his sweet theme and incorporate some healthy eating into the label?
Funnily enough, it was actually his idea. The tracks weren’t originally named after fruits, and to be honest, I still can’t get my head around what they’re called. One track was called 5 A Day and TJ thought it would be a cool idea to call them all fruits. That’s pretty much how that happened and it was a really fun project to work on with all the promotional aspects that came with it.
That video of you bopping along to the tunes whilst holding an array of different fruits in your kitchen really cracked me up.
That was such a good crack. It was for my flatmate’s graphics uni project, so it worked out as we both ticked off boxes making it.
In all seriousness, that release must have felt like a big moment in your musical journey.
For sure man. It was the first solo EP I’d done after being on some VAs. It was dope having five tracks for myself, especially on a label like Pick N Mix. I’m pretty sure TJ has a catalogue that dates to the back end of 2022 for releases now as well. He just knows what people like and what they want to hear.
Since the ByTheProducer release, you’ve really crafted a unique sound that I haven’t heard in drum & bass before. Did you ever intend on making this sound?
Never really. I don’t understand why you’d want to make something that’s already been made though. I’ve always tried to strive away from what everyone else is doing. I’ve never noticed it myself, but people have said that my sound is instantly recognisable, so I must be doing something right haha.
Since your first releases on Brawlin Beatz, there is a huge contrast with the music you’re making now.
Yeah, I think I’m in a different mindset now as well. At that point in my life, I was working as a delivery driver so I had pretty much no spare time. When the pandemic hit, I was put on furlough so I just put loads of time into making tunes and here we are. I’ve had a bunch of tracks on some VAs and now two of my own EPs, so it feels good.
What was it that got you producing D&B to start with?
I started producing house and bassline tracks to begin with, but I’ve always loved D&B. When I first started getting booked for events like Midnight Bass I didn’t have any of my own songs, so I guess I wanted to have my own tracks to play out at events.
You’re one of a wave of artists that have blown up during the pandemic. Do you ever stop and think about what would’ve happened with your career if you could’ve been booked for sets?
The thing is, I don’t think that one could have happened without the other. I still would have been working full time and I wouldn’t have been making music like I had if it wasn’t for the pandemic. If it wasn’t for COVID, I genuinely don’t think this would’ve happened. I’m usually quite a lazy guy, but I got super motivated during the first lockdown and my work-rate went to a skitz level.
This must be what you want to pursue full-time now?
I’d love to mate. I’ve never done this for money, I just love it. But I mean, if one day I could make a living out of it, I’d have no reason to say no haha.
Talk to me about the scene up in Scotland.
Well, it’s mainly in Edinburgh as drum & bass barely even exists in Glasgow, with only a few smaller D&B nights there. It’s a pretty heavy-tech scene there. Midnight Bass was where I had my first gigs and I featured on a VA that they put out last year with a bunch of sick Scottish producers on it. The guys at Electrikal put on some great nights. They do most of the drum & bass nights in Edinburgh, including a one day festival called The Woodland Dance Project. There are brands called Liquid Function and Night Vision who put on some pretty good nights as well. The scene doesn’t really exist outside of Edinburgh, to be honest. There might be some smaller nights throughout the rest of Scotland, but nothing too big.
That niche, community feel is what drum & bass is all about anyway.
It’s still such an underground scene. There are only like three or four clubs here that do drum & bass. People are there for the music and that’s what it’s all about.
Any Scottish up-and-comers you’d like to big up?
Definitely Torso. He’s a really good mate of mine and he’s super talented. He doesn’t get the recognition he deserves because he doesn’t put himself out there enough. He has just signed some stuff with the boys at Pull Up Recordings though.
Anikonik as well. She’s a really lovely girl, a resident at Electrikal and has recently been signed to the EQ50 Drum & Bass mentorship program with Ram Records, so I’m expecting big things to come from her.
OHARE is sick as well. I’ve never actually met him in person, but he makes some cool Minimal stuff. I do hope that lockdown has given people that I don’t even know about time to start producing as well.
Sounds like the future of Scottish D&B is looking a lot brighter now. What can we expect to hear next from you?
Low Down Deep is setting up a new sister label called Underground Sounds and I’ve got a fair few tracks signed with them. I’ve got some tunes ready to go with Born on Road. I’ve reworked two tracks from the Pick N Mix EP for Harry Shotta and he’s making his own vocal version with them which is sick. There are releases with Liondub International, Young Guns and other bits here and there as well. It’s gonna be a busy year man.