Photography: Chelone Wolf
Soul Intent is an unsung hero of D&B. He’s not an artist you’ll see emblazoned all over Twitter or someone who’s constantly talking about himself on Facebook, but someone who plugs away quietly behind the scenes in ensuring that rough, ready and rambunctious music has a proper home.
The paradox is that he’s not an unknown entity. In 2006 his first release received Radio 1 airplay from May Anne Hobbs, quickly followed by DJ Flight and Grooverider, the latter of which remarked that “I’m expecting big things from this guy.” Pendulum included his track Rebel Music in their 2010 Essential Mix and his releases have been lauded by the likes of Mixmag and DJ Mag. Basically, the man makes fat tunes.
He now runs Lossless Music, including sub-labels Dope Plates and Exkursions, a welcoming home for the side of D&B that retains past influences whilst still managing to be forward looking. He recently released the first vinyl-press from Elementz of Noise in fifteen years, an EP that includes the ten-minute epic The Grand Escape, a brooding journey through moody soundscapes and white-label atmospherics. If you’re into jungle music that hits you right yet cares about the wound, Lossless is the place for you.
Given his rich history and given the fact that he’s criminally underrepresented on platforms such as this, we thought it high time to give him a ring to find out more…
How would you describe your sound to someone who perhaps hasn’t listened to your music before?
I guess sort of heavy but still fairly melodic, I quite like the rough with the smooth sort of comparisons. So yeah, something that’s got a bit of soul and got a bit of a vibe to it, but that’s also got a bit of guts and weight to it as well. I guess that probably stems from the stuff I used to listen to, the Platinum Breakz compilations, Bukem and other stuff in the mid 1990s when I was really starting to get into music.
Particularly the Platinum Breakz album on Metalheadz, that was huge. It was very much tough beats, but then there was some tracks that had some really lush pads and some atmospheric sweeps and things like that, that really stuck with me. I like to have those sorts of opposites, have some quite melodic, ethereal pads and things like that but also some quite tough beats or a bass or something that opposes it in a way.
Do you see that era as being your main influences? When I listen to stuff being put out on Lossless I certainly get that early Metalheadz/early Good Looking sort of vibe.
Yeah, yeah. I guess everyone reminisces about the era that they first got into music and there’s always that nostalgic, golden era thing about the mid 1990s. But the early Good Looking stuff, Source Direct, Peshay and then the early Metalheadz, Reinforce and Moving Shadow stuff – I can’t shake it off.
I’m pretty sure every tune I’ve made there’s always been a Metalheadz track that’s inspired what I’m making. But I don’t necessarily just want to regurgitate old styles, I try and bring contemporary styles into it as well, I don’t want everything to just be a rehash of an old jungle tune. Don’t get me wrong though, sometimes I have gone out my way to make something that sounds like it was released in 1996 [laughs].
You’ve touched on it briefly there, but as someone who obviously, when they were getting into music, was very much embedded in that late 1990s feel but is now releasing music in 2018, there’s a debate there as to whether it’s gotten better or worse. It’s a bit subjective, but where do you see yourself sitting in that debate?
Yeah, it’s difficult. Whether it’s a nostalgia thing and it’s just tunes that shaped me because I was getting into it back then, in the same way that people who are getting into it now might listen to a Blocks and Escher tune then in twenty years time they’ll be the ones saying, ‘oh it’ll never be as good as when they released their album’.
There’s always been good music and always been a lot of stuff that maybe isn’t so good. I think it’s as good as it has been over the past 10 years, I think dubstep helped kicked D&B up the arse a few years back and I think there was a bit of time when D&B producers were getting shit for making other types of music. Whereas now, it’s almost encouraged, everyone is doing 140 bits alongside their D&B and that’s absolutely the way I think it should be.
So, tell me about some of the releases you’ve put out that your most proud of. Those releases that make you think ‘that’s Soul Intent in a nutshell’.
I think, from a purely producer sort of angle, I’ll always remember my first release – a little white label on Blindside Recordings – just because it was the first time I’d gone out alone and gotten something signed and Mary Anne Hobbes played it, which was my first bit of radio play.
Doc Scott signing something and having the 12” on 31 Recordings was massive for me because he was part of Metalheadz and 31 is such an amazing label, so to have him show his love for my music to the extent of releasing something was a massive deal to me.
And then the Klute remix on Lossless, I’m a complete Klute fanboy, so having him remix one of my tracks and then putting it on my label was pretty special. There are loads of releases I could talk about to be honest.
It seems like the releases you’re most proud of are releases which involve producers you were into when you were younger or artists you really admire. It all seems very tied up in the history of the music.
Yeah and I mean I’ve been very happy with the music, but I think it’s just that seal of approval as well. It’s those people I remember seeing DJ and thinking ‘it’d be great to do that’, then x number of years later I’m releasing music on their label or they’re releasing on mine.
Maybe I care too much what these influences are to me, which is perhaps slightly insecure and it’s me being too critical of my music or not knowing how to rate it. So, when somebody like Doc Scott is playing it or Klute is playing it, or somebody like that is releasing it, it’s like ‘oh wow maybe I’m not that bad at this’ [laughs].
What would be your dream collaboration?
Uhh, I don’t want to be too obvious. Goldie would be one, Liam Howlet from The Prodigy, I was a massive Prodigy fan when I was younger so just to sit in the studio with them would be amazing. Maybe Amy Winehouse, to do a track with a vocal from her would’ve been pretty cool. Aphex Twin? That could be interesting.
I was reading some of your previous interviews and you’ve said that getting the exposure you need is difficult. What are the challenges with this? Do you think there’s a bit of a monopoly from the big players, could it be slightly more democratic?
It all depends. At the moment it’s great because I’m talking to you, but then there are times when people feel like they’re banging their heads against a wall and nobody is listening, that it’s not fair and why’s everyone else getting festivals, gigs and interviews and stuff.
But it’s just the way it is and you’ve just got to keep at it and put yourself out there as much as you can. I’m not great at blowing my own trumpet, I don’t really like doing that. In an ideal world I’d make music, give it to somebody, they’d release it and that’s it, I can just move on to the next one.
I will be honest, it can be a bit cliquey. But that’s the same with every industry, there’s the ‘who you know not what you know’ in every aspect and sometimes that’s how it is. It’s easy when things aren’t going well to blame other people and other influences, but you’ve just got to keep pushing on and as long as I’m doing what I believe in and what I’m happy with then that’s what matters.
What’s it like to run Lossless Music?
I never really wanted to run a label as such, I liked the idea of having a label to put music out, just so it wasn’t sat there and that’s great. But sometimes I do find myself doing admin and being side-tracked by organising releases rather than being in the studio and I’m still very much someone who wants to be in the studio, I don’t necessarily want to be doing A&R or organising releases and artwork and speaking to distributors and stuff – it’s kind of just happened.
On the other hand, I was talking to Scape over email earlier today and I told him that Paradox put Spirit World in his latest podcast and he personally asked for some vinyl to be sent to him. Steve (Scape) was absolutely buzzing about that, because if Paradox said to me he liked my tune that’d make me buzz, so to help someone experience that and to sort of give that good music to them knowing how much it means is really cool.
Giving people that opportunity…
Yeah, yeah and it is hard. I get why, particularly the vinyl people, are very selective because of the costs involved, but to give someone their first vinyl release and get them some exposure is nice. Selfishly, I’m putting out great music as well, so I can’t say I’m doing it all for the good of my fellow producers [laughs].
Do you think it’s a good time or a bad time to run a small label like yours? Because there’s a lot of small labels at the moment.
Yeah, there’s a lot of labels at the moment. I think the nostalgia thing is great, but I was looking on Redeye Records and there’s a lot of labels I haven’t heard of and it’s their first release. I think we’re seeing a bit of an oversaturation.
It can be a bit frustrating but at the end of the day, good music will sell, so it comes back to just plugging away. It is tough, but it’s great to have a little pool of regulars who always buy releases and share stuff on social media, so it’s just about building on that so we have enough of a following to keep the label going.
You’ve been in the scene for a while, what’s changed? How does the scene in 2018 look different to 1998?
Tracks seem to be getting shorter. Maybe more so around the commercial tracks because they’re aimed at being radio friendly, but when I look at a D&B tune and it’s 3 minutes 20 seconds, I’m a bit like ‘…what?’ Is it double speed? I’m very much a build-up, rolling stuff out sort of guy, so it’s 5 to 6 minutes at least for the sort of tune I’d typically write.
What about more sort of scene things, outside of the technicality of tunes.
A lot of label nights. You used to have more maybe variety on a night? You’d have Bukem on after someone like Hazard, it’d be really different varying style, whereas in recent times a lot of promoters seem to do label nights.
Certainly as a DJ, I’ve noticed that speaking to promoters they say they just focus on label nights now, which is maybe being driven by agents who are quite savvy and make sure they’re artists are getting all the bookings. But as a punter, I do think sometimes line-ups to me can be a bit predictable and it can seem like it’s the same faces on all the line-ups. But then again maybe that’s just being bitter that it’s not me [laughs].
Are there any final things that you wanted to talk about?
Not really, I just didn’t want to waffle too much [laughs].