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Who The Hell Is ELK?

Scott Claridge is a young man neck-deep in beats. Every aspect of his waking day seems to be dedicated to the craft in one way or another; his day job is for an audio gear manufacturer, his side hustles include A&R for SINE Audio and writing for this very site.

But most importantly of all he operates as ELK, a name that can be spotted foraging in the undergrowth on labels such as Incurzion, Four Corners and now Monk Audio who recently dropped his latest EP – Closure.

A little darker and heavier than the previous dispatches he’s dropped since he started producing just two years ago, the EP comprises some of his best productions to date and reflects where he was at emotionally at the time of writing. A pivotal release that captures him developing from a producer to an expressive artist, we called him up to mark the moment. Regularly spotted on the questioning side of the UKF interview interchange, it’s now time for some answers…

Where does the name ELK come from?

I wish I had a better answer, but it was literally a drunk conversation at a friend’s house in Brighton. At the time my DJ name was Impetus, which was awful.

Yeah that’s pretty bad!

It was picked very quickly. I had the opportunity to do my first ever DJ set when I was in uni. I was in the library and my mate said, ‘You need to get a DJ name quick so they can put you on the poster.’ I was reading and saw the word Impetus and thought, ‘Yeah that’s a very D&B name, I could see that on a Volks flyer’. But thanks to a few humiliating club conversations I realised quickly that Impetus sounded like impotent, so I wanted a better one which eventually led to ELK and yeah… That’s where I am. People seem to like it and it’s quite open for interpretation.

I like it. Reindeer and moose steal the headlines in deer news and Elks are actually one of the largest. I wondered if you were veggie because they’re herbivores. They play an important role in keeping the balance of flora and fauna

That’s amazing. I am actually vegan so if I ever get asked this again, I’ll be more prepared.

Haha. So your first DJ gig was uni… That wasn’t too long ago in the scheme of things?

Not really. I was really lucky. My first gig was thanks to my friend getting me involved with the Free Rave at Motion, so my first ever gig was in the tunnel room. It was popping off even though my mixing wasn’t brilliant. It was a sick opportunity and I got the bug straight away.

Nice. I wondered if you’d come from a house and techno or breaks background as your bootlegs suggest a wider realm of inspirations…

I do listen to a lot of house in my everyday life. D&B was always the thing I wanted to pursue as a DJ and producer, but in my spare time I do listen to a much broader range of electronic and down-tempo music. Like a lot of producers, I don’t spend a huge amount of time listening to D&B outside of what I do as ELK or what I do for SINE Audio, or even listening and researching for doing interviews for UKF. When I have my downtime it’s nice to switch it up.

Definitely. Listening to D&B turns on your analytical side because it’s your work. Listening to other music turns on different pleasure receptors…

Absolutely. My favourite band is Radiohead and I keep coming back to them because you can totally escape into their music. That then influences my music, too.

Yeah I’d imagine it would. You mentioned SINE Audio earlier. What’s your role with them? They started as event promoters, right?

I joined them in 2018. Andy who heads up SINE responded to a random email I’d sent offering to do some social media work when they were just a events brand. It was really eye-opening working with them and learning more about the industry, and from there the idea of launching a label became really appealing. It kinda coincided that when we decided to fully launch a label the pandemic happened, which was lucky. Our first release was Invadhertz – Never Let You Down, which has recently hit over 400,000 listens on Spotify, something we’re really proud of. I also had the pleasure of releasing my debut EP on there called Copper Soul which was a big milestone for me. It’s developed from there really and my main role currently is A&R; looking for new artists, working with new talent and developing those relationships while also carrying on with social media. Newly joined Sam and Elle are really helping take the label to new heights at the moment so got to big them up!

Awesome. So you’re soaking up these inspirations as an artist, too. I saw the Separation upload on Mixmag and it said you were in your first year as a producer… So productions have come along very quickly for you!

Yeah I’ve been producing for just over two years. I started when the pandemic started. The start of 2020. Feb / March.

I assumed you’d been dabbling for much longer!

No that was the start of it. I had a lot of spare time. I wasn’t working a full-time job, so I’d spend hours and hours every day watching tutorials, experimenting, and working on music.

What was the biggest treasure trove you found for information?

That’s a tough one. YouTube in general was a great resource. I remember checking a lot of random production tutorials that weren’t specifically about D&B. I would look things up specifically; so if I wanted to make a particular type of break, or learn how to process something, then I’d look up that specific thing and watch related videos. What was important for me was not to take everything as gospel. So I’d watch a few tutorials on something and I wouldn’t follow them while watching. I’d just go into Logic and do it from memory. This would lead to a lot of happy accidents and pushed me as a producer while making me learn quicker.

That’s great. A stand-out moment for me so far is your track on Repertoire. That came about after feature you did for us on jungle didn’t it?

Writing that article actually influenced the song. Chatting to Tim Reaper and Coco Bryce was very inspiring as they’re two of my favourite artists. I remember asking them about their favourite breaks. Coco Bryce’s favourite was a combination of breaks. The Think break and Soul Pride break.

I know what one! dBridge has smashed that one with his dB vs 45 King tune…

That’s the one. I asked Coco if he minded if I played with that idea and he said go ahead. So I played with those breaks, then I tried a 160 track which I’d never done before. I first sent it to Coco himself and he gave me some positive feedback which made my brain implode. From there, I sent it to Repertoire along with another track called Too Late, and they took the track Déchoir for their album. Too Late then came out on Incruzion’s Optics series.

That brings us to this year and your biggest releases so far. The Incurzion Optics EP and this month’s EP on Monk. Tell us about the Incurzion one first…

That came about from Zak the label boss posting on Facebook and asking if anyone had any weird jungle tunes. I wasn’t that confident about my ability at that point, but he sent a nice message of him and Obsidian reacting to my tune Floating Point. From there we got an EP together, and I’m still proud of how experimental I went with it.

Incurzion and SINE seem like kindred spirits as new gen labels…

I agree man. I’m really inspired by Incurzion and their artistic direction and aesthetic. I’ve spoken about Zak about releasing more in the future, so who knows.

There are some interesting jazzy elements on the Phase II track on that EP and there’s a strong jazz vibe on Copper Soul on your SINE EP so I wondered if you’d had any jazz training or if your family played it a lot growing up or anything in the past?

Interestingly in terms of upbringing, I don’t have much of a musical family, so I wasn’t exposed to it in that way. But I do love modern jazz like Alfa Mist, Badbadnotgood and even Jordan Rakei who leans in that direction.

I used to play drums, which I know is a common theme among D&B producers. I’d saved up money and bought an electric kit. I think it came from a love of playing Guitar Hero 3 a lot! I ended up interested in polyrhythms and weird time signatures in my drumming journey which I think is why I love jungle so much.

Were you ever in any bands?

Nah, I always had this dream of starting a YouTube channel of drum covers. That was my goal at the time, but I’m now much happier with the musical direction I went in.

Yeah! Would you play your drums now? Maybe record some samples?

I don’t have it set up unfortunately or have enough room for it. I love the idea of getting it set up and recording some breaks at old funk tempos then speeding them up and processing them in the same way classic breaks are. But I also love just being able to turn on my laptop and cracking on with an idea. I will do it one day though, mostly to get the creative juices flowing.

Sick. Let’s chat about your release Closure EP on Monk…

I’m really happy with this release! Some of the tunes are quite old for me now, Fool Of Me being about a year old. Jack Erritate did a post asking for tunes to play out and I sent over Fool Of Me and another tune. He ended up liking them and asking me if I wanted to do a release. I worked on a few more bits but made sure they weren’t with the release or the label in mind, because that’s an instant recipe for me to never finish a tune!

Yeah man, biggest advice from labels too: Don’t write something you think the label will want, writing something you want to write!

That’s right! I always wanted to be a liquid producer and that’s the vibe I’ve always loved, but with this EP I found myself writing darker things. Without going into too much detail, I was in a pretty shitty situation at the time and felt a bit trapped. I guessed naturally the songs I made were angrier than the stuff I’d usually make. Even the lyrics of Tongue Tied were reflective of my situation at the time. I didn’t realise that as I was making it.

That’s really interesting. You think you’re finding your sound but your sound is finding you through your experiences outside of music..

Yeah there’s definitely a bit of that. Closure was the last tune I wrote for the EP and it ended up being quite a personal one. I named it that in the hopes that by the time it was released, I would have some kind of ‘closure’ on the difficult situation I was in. Part of this was because of the melancholic feel to it. It was sort of what I imagined myself hearing in that scenario. I did get out of that situation in the end, but not in the way I thought. I’m aware it’s ambiguous, but I want to leave some level of interpretation there.

No it’s important to be vague and it’s great you have an outlet for your emotions

It’s not something I expected with making drum & bass. For me a lot of music is about energy and vibe and not lyrical content. I didn’t think I’d put meaning behind something that’s effectively made for the dancefloor, but you attach the music you’re making to times in your life don’t you?

Yes! This is you becoming an artist and you’re unravelling the mystery of creativity. So for Closure now what’s coming up next?

My production slowed down a bit because my laptop has reached the end of its tether so there’s nothing set in stone, but I almost have another EP’s worth of tunes which I’m preparing to send to labels. One of these tunes is actually a house tune that’s possibly my favourite tune to date. I’m also working on some music with an incredibly talented producer from Austria called Ferice who has released on Transparent Audio. I’d say the jump in production on these tunes is arguably quite big, so fingers crossed I can jump on the next rung of the ladder one day soon!

No doubt you will! Finally… Any gigs coming up?

Not right now. Before I started producing I was DJing quite a lot. Most of the bookings were me actively trying to get sets and networking. Now I’m very much of the opinion that I need to wait and focus on my production. I want to get booked because the promoter likes my music, you know? It might take years but that’s the long game I’m happy to play and work hard for…

ELK – Closure is out now on Monk Audio

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