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Matthew Halsall Ears Exclusive mix & the rest of the Talks!
Our Tim sat down with the Manchester trumpeter for an in depth chat.
Celebrating New Year’s is always a bit of a tough nut to crack. With so much variety on offer, coupled with the arbitrary hike in door prices, it’s a bit difficult to make a decision, but if you’re planning on spending your time in the capital you could do a lot worse than going to Hydra’s New Year’s Day bash. Featuring top DJs such as Henrik Schwarz, Levon Vincent, Mosca and Shed for under £20, if you’ve got anything left in the tank after the night before it’s well worth a punt.
With only a few weeks to go before the event, I caught up with Velvit, who’ll be appearing in Room 3 alongside Jay Shepheard and a cryptic ‘Very Special Guest’. Probably better know for his other alias, dBridge, Velvit is Darren White, a veteran of the drum and bass scene who’s decided to apply his production talents to a completely different genre. Encompassing a wide range of different styles of house and techno, I spoke to Darren about what it’s like to be a newcomer to the scene and how his roots in drum and bass have affected his entrance…
Hey Darren! Velvit’s a bit of a move away from the drum and bass your known from under your dBridge alias and this seems quite a popular move at the moment, with Instra:Mental instantly springing to mind. Do you reckon people are consciously moving away from drum and bass?
I don’t necessarily think it’s that, I think the main thing is age really, we’re all getting on a bit.
For me, drum and bass has been around for so long that, as a raver, once you get to a certain age you sort of leave it and you move onto where adults hang out, which tends to be house and techno. So as a major producer and DJ in that scene, I’ve been left behind a bit really. I can obviously only speak from my point of view, but I don’t really profess to know much about it, but I know what I like and I like the vibe of it. I know I’m probably making massive faux pas with what I do (laughs). As I say, some of it is to do with age, but some of it is also because I do like to see myself as a musician, I can adapt and do different things and it’s just my take on it. Hopefully people like it…
You say you know relatively little about it, when I’ve listened to your releases I’ve noticed that there hasn’t really been like a singular ‘sound’ to them, with the only thing really linking them being a similar bpms. Is this a symptom of your relative naivety with the genre?
Yeah, I think that definitely is the case. For me I only really have a tempo in mind when I approach music and it just builds itself around that. What tends to happen is I send it over to Damon (Jon Convex), and ask him, “What’s this then?” and he can give me some sort of idea. It’s a weird one, I don’t want to piss anyone off by committing a musical crime (laughs). I don’t really know what I’m trying to do and I’d rather not pigeon-hole myself and I think it’s the same thing I do with my drum and bass and it’s just constantly evolving and I try not to stay in one group for too long. All I can hope for is that who I am as a producer translates across and you can still hear my own voice, rather than just trying to make something that sounds like something else or fits a certain mould.
I think it’s fair to say that the drum and bass crowd is perhaps not the most progressive as a whole and are sometimes accused of being a bit set in their ways. Have you had any negative reactions from people who want you to stick purely to drum and bass?
I think I’ve been alright you know because people are almost expectant of me to do whatever the fuck I want anyway, I’ve built that reputation up from the early days of Future Forces to my solo stuff to Autonomic. I probably will alienate half my audience, but I don’t make music for the people around me or for the general public, I make music for myself and I can only hope that people like it. In terms of general feedback, it’s been good, especially from the house and techno side of things who do know a lot more about it than me, which is great. I’m doing this compilation called Mosaix Volume 2, which is people from outside of the drum and bass scene to give me their interpretation of drum and bass and I’m really open to that. I think it’s great to here how people adapt to something that they’re not particular knowledgeable about. I think there’s a lot of likeminded people around at the moment, which is a change from the early days of drum and bass, which I do think was really “if it’s not this then I don’t want to know”. But, especially from my part of the scene, a lot of us are older now and we’ve just chilled out a bit. Like you say, you’ve got Marcus Intalex doing the whole Trevino thing, Martyn started out in DnB and I think we’re a lot less stuck up in that sense.
At the moment there does seem to be a really push for the blurring of the lines between genres, is this part of some sort of natural progression for dance music?
Musicians have always been trying to battle that since the beginning, attempting to escape classification. It’s the same with a lot of things, there’s always going to be the purists, but then there are those who just don’t give a fuck. I think the crowd will always let you know if they’re not into it. As long as those guys are happy with what you’re doing and they’re enjoying it that’s all you can really hope for.
I’ve noticed you’ve started to up your game in terms of lending your voice to tracks, whether it be in your own or with other artists, is this something you’re pursuing more actively now?
Yeah, definitely. It’s still new and it’s still really nerve-racking. I keep putting things off and it’s always a last minute thing for me because I’ve got to do it. I haven’t got a great deal of confidence with my voice, but I have these moments where I’m kind of like, “Okay let’s do this and see what happens”. It’ll probably take me many takes to get it right, but I do like it. I look up to my brother (Steve Spacek) and the way he sings. His voice is really unconventional and I think mine is as well in many ways, especially when I sing really high. People don’t really expect that to come out of me. But, yeah, I enjoy it and I’ve been trying to write my LP, which is all over the place in terms of tempo and is just writing music that I can sing to really. I’ll be interested to see how people react to it.
?Do you think we’re a fair distance away from live singing in your sets then?
I think you can probably find a few drunken singalongs on Youtube… The last time I sung in front of anyone was in a school band at 16, so it’s been a while. Think I’ll have to take some singing lessons before I can do that (laughs).
You say you’re new to the world of house and techno, who got you into it? Was it more the classic figures of the past or contemporary influences that have formed your tastes?
My problem is that there’s tunes that I like but I have no idea who they’re by…
That’s always a problem with dance music I guess.
Yeah, exactly. There’s a track that took me literally 20 years to ID, I’m trying now to remember what it is… I think it’s managed to escape me again. I llike what Jon Convex and Boddika are doing, but I think it’s always people who send stuff over to me, people who were involved in my scene. I know that they can make music regardless and I know it’s going to be good, so in that sense I’m a bit biased. I do go out and buy quite a lot of stuff and when I buy it I don’t really care who it’s by. I’ll go over to Eastern Bloc, or Phonica or whatever, and they’ll pull out a load of things for me and I’ve got no idea who they’re by but I really like them.
That’s always been part of the beauty of going to a record shop for me, you never really leave with what you expected to leave with.
Yeah, what I like about record shopping is it’s got that extra filtration process where you trust the guy behind the counter. They’ll recommend you things and a lot of the time they get it right. Phonica and all those guys are good at that kind of stuff, I like that side of things. Maybe my problem is that I should pay more attention to what it is that I’m buying.
Thinking forward to New Year’s Day at Hydra, what sort of things can we expect from your set?
I think I’m going to go in there and just commit massive, awful faux pas really (laughs). I remember I did a gig with Marcus Intalex once and I looked around at him and said, “I’m really pissing you off here aren’t I?”. I’m just going to stick to things that I’ve been listening to and stuff that I really like, as well as some new stuff that I’ve been working on. I’m really looking forward to it, it’s going to be nerveracking. I recently went out to Japan to play a gig as dBridge and I asked them whether I could play a Velvit gig in the other room and I’ve never been so nervous in my life. I’ve been DJing for so long it’s almost easy because I’m so used to it, so it’s nice having that sensation of absolutely bricking it. In some ways I’m looking forward to shitting myself again (laughs).
I think it might be quite healthy to not have those preconceptions of what you can do, I wouldn’t worry too much…
I’ve been talking to some people about the general fears I’ve got and, yeah, people have been saying it’s good that I’m coming in ‘blind’, so to speak. I see it in drum and bass that there’s certain rules that can be quite subtle, like how things come in and the arrangement and all things like that, and I’m sure they’re there on this side of the scene. It’s healthy for me to not have those in my head, I’d rather just try it and if people like it then that’s cool and if they don’t…
You won’t do it again?
(laughs) And hopefully they’ll like the next one.
With regards to your own label, Exit, you’ve released one Velvit 12” on it, are you going to increase this kind of output on it? Or stick to mainly drum and bass?
It’s always been pretty open as a label; I’ve just put out music that I like. There’s a 12” off Trevino coming up, same with Jon Convex, so the label’s open-minded really. Towards the end of this year things got a bit slow, but I’m picking it up again next year, starting off with a compilation celebrating it’s tenth anniversary and then going at it full pelt. I want to try and put out some of my own music, it’s been a while. With the Velvit stuff, Convex is putting out something, as is Boddika on Non-Plus. I rate their opinions; Boddika is one tough bastard, that was a big step for me (laughs).
Thanks very much for your time and see you on New Year’s Day!