WORDS

Who The Hell Is WhyTwo?

There appears to be a subtle tradition of breaking artists with full albums on Blu Mar Ten Music.

In 2013, BMTM introduced Frederic Robinson with two singles before hitting us with his evergreen album Mixed Signals.

In 2014 a very similar situation happened with Kimyan Law who was only 18 at the time and made his remarkable debut album Coeur Calme on a pair of £10 earbuds.

Now in 2022 we have WhyTwo. A young Scottish talent who’s only ever released one track prior to this month – Armour on the last ever Med School album. Now he’s dropped a full album.

Entitled Ghost, it’s a beguiling, immersive trip that follows a similar suit to Kimyan and Frederic’s LPs (and other BMTM albums such as Wardown’s self-titled LP and Akuratyde’s Home Movies) in that it lives in a world of its own and is built through a unique creative process and includes sound design and sourcing that’s not typical of drum & bass.

Written while he was learning how to play the piano, the album flexes from dancefloor to headphones at the flick of jazz time signature. Trembling with echoes of his grandfather’s old four-track recorder and the sounds of a five-year-old smashing things with a wooden block, there’s a delicate tension and strong themes of plaintive emotion running throughout, giving it that timeless air that’s in keeping with this subtle but growing tradition that Blu Mar Ten Music seems to be developing.

Intrigued, we needed to find out more…

You’ve had one track out on Medschool, now a whole album! I’m guessing lockdown led to this album?

No actually. I’d made the album before that single! I’d entered a remix competition that Blu Mar Ten ran and Chris Blu Mar Ten called me asking for more music. I finished the album a year before lockdown and was a mixing it down when he told me about Med School compilation. So that track is newer, compositionally, than the album.

Wow so you must be sitting on loads of stuff now?

It’s interesting. I’ve written an EP that will come out after the album, but I’ve been doing a lot of non-D&B music. I’ve got a plan for my drum & bass stuff, but I wanted to see how the album will go first.

Tell us about your non-D&B…

I do sound at a jazz venue and play guitar in some other bands. I do some sound design things as well. Sometimes I do some corporate sound design as well. Lots of different things as a freelancer, basically…

I know the freelance life. It all feeds into each other doesn’t it? Something you do or learn in one role can inspire an idea in another…

Yeah. The big thing for me with this album was learning how to write chords. Each track took months and months of working out how to play piano while making every track. The big thing during lockdown was me speeding things up, practicing and getting better at playing music better.

Wow. But the album sounds very musical. I had you down as a multi instrumentalist when I heard it?

I am now but I wasn’t to begin with. But that’s important for me – I want to push what I can do and push what I want the genre to be able to do. I’m hacking how to be expressive with non-lyrical music. If you’re pushing yourself to do things you can’t do then you’re automatically self-reflecting.

That makes it more personal…

That’s right. I didn’t realise what I was writing about to begin with, but I use a lot of recorded sounds. I was recording my friend’s kid for example. He was five at the time and I was hanging around with him – loads of it was him messing around with things, hitting stuff.

I was also trying to learn jazz harmony which my grandad had been teaching me. So having all this stuff from the kid and the stuff from my grandad. It was only when I finished it that I realised it was actually about something. I didn’t realise this at the time.

Brilliant. So you’re leaping through these generations from your grandad to your friend’s son…

Exactly! I feel like that was something that would inspire me; the idea of time and generational knowledge.

Definitely. How big was the influence of your grandad?

Huge! I didn’t realise how much until I was writing the album. He died when I was 17, so we were getting into the meat and potatoes of the subject and what it really meant but then he went and died. I didn’t play much after that for a while. It’s only when I started doing this type of project.

You didn’t play any music at all?

I was doing sound engineering at uni, playing bass in a covers band for money but playing instruments wasn’t my focus. I was making really shit liquid for years.

Haha. Would your grandad be proud of what you’re doing now?

Yeah. He was actually a massive computer nerd. He had a DAW, this old DAW called Magix. He showed me that and was making big band music on it. I still have his old four track tape recorder, which I used on the album. But yeah, he taught me what a DAW was while making a style of music that wasn’t meant to be made on a DAW at all!

Is he the Ghost you refer to in the title, then?

I considered this, but maybe I am the ghost as well? The observer of this thing that isn’t constrained by time. The way electronic music is made; you layer things, it’s a strange way to assemble and make music isn’t it? Especially when you’re making it over a year. At the end of it you’re like, ‘Is this still the same person I’m playing with?’

Yeah! You’re having a conversation with your past self aren’t you?

That’s it. Before lockdown I was a very anxious person and always beating myself up about things I’d said and situations I’d been in. These feelings I would haunt myself with; terrible decisions, I beat myself up over things. Luckily I can say I no longer feel like that since lockdown, I’ve come out of it much more confidently.

Through self-reflection?

Yeah. I mixed a lot of the album during lockdown. I had a message a few weeks before lockdown about the release, so I got to work on it. But then when lockdown happened there was a delay. But it was therapeutic to go through this thing, it helped me put a bow on it.

A sense of closure. So would you say your music is driven by the complexities of the human condition? Overthinking, emotions…

Definitely. I found it difficult to articulate myself as a kid. Nostalgia and melancholy in my music maybe is me dealing with not being able to express myself… I’m not sure. I also feel very tense if I’m making something that I don’t feel I’m pushing myself with. I could put out two more WhyTwo albums right now. They would sound very similar and that would be stressful to me. I’d rather put out something that has none of the same ideas.

Are you the same with sounds?

Yeah, I don’t like the same samples hitting over and over again. If I’ve got chords on a tune that’s four minutes of me playing chords. Or if I’m making Foley claps, than it’ll be a different clap every time.

Saying that out loud makes me realise how crazy that is. No one will notice, but for me I’m never thinking of anyone listening to the music, I’m making it for myself. It also makes it more interesting to listen to when I’m going over and over and over it

Yeah I get that. You DJ as well. What’s the overlap between Whytwo music and WhyTwo the DJ?

I DJ with my girlfriend imo-Lu quite a lot. What I get out of DJing is the idea of drawing for the more unusual D&B leftfield influences. It’s like, ‘Here are the things that interest me and influence what I do. If you’re into that, here’s what I like that you might not even consider what drum & bass is. I don’t find DJing expressive like I do producing. I think to be expressive with my music I’d have to do a live show with a drummer.

Would you do that? Your sounds lends itself to that…

Yeah Chris doesn’t know this yet but I am exploring it. I play jazz, RnB and soul, so I know some really good musicians. It would be cool to see if I can make it live. It might not work but I feel it would be interesting. I want to make all the live stuff even more live and all the electronic stuff even more electronic sounding. So getting instruments in like drummers and stuff would be cool.

Amazing. So you have this album that was pretty much ready two years ago. Now you have an EP and more beyond that. Carving a timeless sound is important isn’t it?  

I think so. Or at least music that is irrelevant to what’s happening elsewhere. My goal isn’t to convert D&B fans who just want to listen to DJ Hazard to listen to 5/4 time signature D&B. I think I’d have more luck convincing people who don’t like D&B listening to it. But I have to say I love DJ Hazard. He’s as good as ACDC in terms of getting things to the point and being exceptionally good at it.

Amen! What’s the story behind your name WhyTwo?

It’s a made-up word. It’s what I used to call fire engines when I was two years old. I love the aesthetic of it, you can imagine it like a two and four D&B beat and it fits into the idea of reimagining your past the time and generational influence, too.

Interesting. Maybe the sound of the siren inspired that word?

Yeah it could be. We randomly associate meanings with sounds and words – that’s how language is formed over the years isn’t it?

Yeah! I’m interested in the Foley on the album. Can you tell us what other sounds you recorded and used on it?

There’s a track where the my friend’s son has a massive bit of wood and he’s hitting the pavement, just raging. I recorded that and used it as percussion. There are lots of layers of recordings of people throwing things around. I’ve used a balloon for a kick drum.

Oh cool!

The physics of it popping is similar to how it works. If you process that correctly it’s a kickdrum. I’m trying to find the physics of how drums work in the stuff I interact with every day. I’m building things out of what I’m seeing rather than making it out of serum.

Making things out of your environment!

If you’re doing world building – which I definitely am – you really need to take it to its logical conclusion which is taking everything from your own sources rather than ready made samples. I still use samples; I use the original breaks a lot and I think that adds an additional layer to the music but till being very personal… Even though millions of people have already used it.

Yeah it’s your take on it, or your contribution to it…

Yeah especially if you’re chopping Amens and Think breaks into 5/4 or triplets.

Hahah definitely. You must play drums then?

No I don’t. And because I don’t play drums I find it really interesting. I don’t think about time signatures in sub-divisions or theory, I’m doing it purely on instinct. I’m drawn to it because I’m not over-thinking it or over-analysing it.

Yeah you’re feeling the vibe. To sign out, what other vibes are you feeling?

Well I have a bit of an obsessive personality. I get so into things. Too into things. I love watching the football because I have no investment or stakes in it. I’ve become obsessed with Newcastle United. It’s nice to turn your brain off and not absorb but just enjoy.

Because my job is all involved in music, the lines blur. I mean I get paid to work in a jazz venue and hang with my friends. How cool is that? Being involved in music in an engineering way and a performing way has changed my perspective on how I write and the kind of thing I write. You check things out which you wouldn’t choose to listen to and it’s a very useful thing to be exposed to music you wouldn’t seek out and get it across to the audience, even if it isn’t your thing. That’s definitely a vibe I’m feeling…

WhyTwo – Ghost is out now on Blu Mar Ten Music

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