There have been a few big stories in drum & bass this year… There’s been the return of old legends (Bad Company, Full Cycle, Pendulum). There’s been a whole string of artists breaking away from established labels and setting up their own (Hybrid Minds, The Prototypes, Alix Perez, SpectraSoul)
Then there’s 1991. A man with no known previous who emerged in January with the power-punch shredder Witchdoctor and has proceeded to deliver a steady string of bangers supported by the likes of Chase & Status, Sub Focus and Wilkinson. He’s been heralded by Annie Mac as a hot future prospect and makes tunes as crisp and beautiful as this…
He’s also yet to give an interview, maintaining a certain air of mystery about who he is. Naturally Dawn Wall-style speculation on an alter ego has been rife. And sure, he has made music before 1991 under another name. But, as photos of him exist in the public sphere, it’s not like he was big before… He was just warming up.
Now he’s playing for keeps and this is his first official interview as 1991. Get to know…
So… Let’s sort this out once and for all. What can we say about your history?
Let’s say that I’ve been making music for about six years. I was working under another name, it wasn’t very big and I got caught up in label difficulties. As a result I didn’t release anything for several years and I ended up sitting on a huge amount of music.
That must have been pretty frustrating?
It was pretty stressful, yeah. But it helped me develop and push myself to learn more. Nine Clouds, for example, started in 2013. It’s developed so much since then, it doesn’t resemble the earliest versions of it. Had I released it back then it wouldn’t have been half the tune that it is now. So yeah, it was a pain but in a way it’s been great space and time for me to develop.
Then, when I felt ready to send stuff out to labels and start the 1991 project I sent the tracks to Seb from Skankandbass. He works for MTA and passed the music on to Chase & Status. They called me up for a meeting pretty much on the spot.
Bit daunting! Going into a meeting knowing it could change your future indefinitely?
When you describe it like that then yeah it is daunting but I was just happy to meet them as I’ve been a fan since day one – I got into drum & bass through them, so I was chuffed they liked my music full stop and was happy to see where the meeting went. I didn’t put extra pressure on myself.
Best way to do it. I wanted to ask about the contrast in your music. You can go from fluffy to gully at the flick of a switch.
Yeah I guess. When I write I naturally go towards a more musical liquid sound, but I also come from a rock and metal background so the heavy vibes come in through those influences. But my influences are all over the shop, guys like Logistics and High Contrast (and pretty much anything on early Hospital releases), to punk and metal, to Moby, to Chemical Brothers – the list goes on…
I can certainly hear Moby in Nine Clouds!
Yeah Porcelain was a big influence, with the slow attack synths. Moby’s had an influence on me musically and creating that atmospheric aspect to what I do. He’s made some incredible music.
I’m getting confused here…. I thought you were named 1991 because that was the year you were born! Are you an old croaky raver with really good skin?
Haha – no, I was born in 1991, I know 1991 was an important time that electronic music really took root and I think it’s a cool concept for a name. But to be honest I didn’t really get into electronic music and production until I was pretty deep into school seven or eight years ago. I wanted to study engineering and recording for bands and other people at school were really into High Contrast and Logistics. That got me into it and from there you just start digging, right? But before then I wasn’t really in to electronic music. It was D&B that made me realise you could have that energy in electronic music.
That era was really exciting for D&B, too. Chase & Status, Sub Focus, Fresh, Brookes Brothers, Pendulum and Annie Mac all bringing D&B to wider audiences. Annie Mac’s been very supportive of you hasn’t she?
Yeah I was stoked that she was supporting me in this way. She did a showcase with new talent and I was part of that. It’s incredible and a real boost. She’s supported a range of my tracks as well which has been good. Not just one style.
Yeah we’ve touched on your broad style… Does that reflect you as a person then? Are you a pretty balanced individual?
I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer that. But variety is the spice of life, aye? I’ve never been one of those people who does just one thing. Just in terms of listening to music I love bits of jazz, hip-hop, classical, house, rock… There’s something that resonates with me in everything and I think that’s why I cover a wide range. I’m really liking a jazz musician called Kamasi Washington at the moment.
I’m wondering if you’ve played guitar or drums as a youth maybe?
Yes I picked up guitar as a kid, which was when I fell in love with music. Hendrix and Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. Anyone who could do a killer guitar solo was a god to me.
Were you in any bands?
A few, yeah. Nothing really took off, but I’m glad it didn’t. With 1991, it is me and my computer and that’s it. No egos to deal with, just my own. Its nice to have control over everything.
How have the gigs gone since you broke through earlier this year?
Great! I’ve had shows all over the UK and Europe and a few festivals coming up during the summer. It’s great to travel around and find people who are into the music, who have the same attitude. Perhaps that buzz could wear off one day but for now I love it. I was still working in retail until January this year.
Quitting your day job must be the one!
I feel very lucky… Very exciting, very scary, but lots going on!
Looking to the future…
So there’s the new single with Nine Clouds and Bad. I’ve done a remix of Chase & Status’s new single ‘Spoken Word’ and then loads more later in the year.
Remixing Chase & Status. Again…. That has to be massive pressure!
Yeah that was a bit of pressure. But the song and the parts were all lots of fun to work with and use, plus the guys were really cool with feedback and guidance on it too. I’m a firm believer in honest feedback.
Totally… I think that’s where new artists go wrong; when they get offended by criticism. You have to be able reflect and critique yourself… I’d be mad not to listen to what people say.