DRUM and Bass and Jungle music is riding high on the tides of its most recent renaissance.
Giant festival stages around the world, underground club nights, sold out crowds, legendary DJs and up and coming producers and so much more, from all angles – the scene is firing right now, and it really is an exciting time for the genre.
One of the artists that is always pushing the creative boundaries, whilst never straying too far from his dub driven roots is the man they call Philth.
Ahead of his first appearance for Resonate: Drum & Bass’s first birthday this Saturday 21st October, it seemed like a good time to get his views on the music and the movement. Plus he has recorded a fantastic mix for The Night Bazaar Sessions which you can listen to right here.
Hi Philth, straight off the back of a crazy weekend of gigs, road time and pizza – tell us about where you have been and what it was like?
Definitely crazy!! I’m pretty knackered today but it was a great weekend! Starting off on Thursday, downloading promos and working my way through Rekordbox sorting new tunes out as I like to keep it fresh for every gig, I was up till about 3am doing that. Then up early Friday morning to start my ‘normal’ job of teaching until 3pm when I left to head to Heathrow in time for my flight to Sweden.
I spent the entire flight setting cue points on my tracks, which was not exactly relaxing (my laptop battery running down while the USB updated!) but totally worth it as I played a two-hour set in Stockholm, which featured new tunes of my own, brand new promos I have been sent and plenty of solid classics for good measure too – it was spot on.
The following day I went out for lunch with the promoter where I got stuck into plenty of traditional Swedish meatballs before my flight back to London. As soon as I landed, I headed to my friend’s house who was driving me straight to Bristol for a gig at The Black Swan and I managed to get home around nine pm Sunday night.
Hectic! But I am so grateful to be in this position – travelling all over the place to share my love of music with others who love it too. Thing is, I was worn out by the end of last week – wiped out from work and then heading into the weekend it was really catching up with me, but when you get to the venue and behind the decks, that all disappears instantly. You’re there, and you just get such a buzz – there’s nothing like it, it’s the best job in the world.
Saying that, there are times that you are so immersed in the grind that it can be easy to can lose track of why we do it in the first place….
I was at a wedding this summer, and you know when you meet people you don’t know and you get talking about what you do for a living and life in general, and I was explaining to someone about my involvement in music and she said “just remember to enjoy the journey, making the music and everything that goes in to it is supposed to be the fun bit.” She was bang on, so since that conversation I’ve been actively trying to remember to enjoy it, to be grateful, rather than letting the tiredness, stress or overthinking build up and distract me from the enjoyment factor.
I’m also focusing on enjoying being in the studio again too. There’s this niggling pressure you feel to make tunes all of the time, so you are releasing fresh material to make sure you stay relevant. But it shouldn’t be a stressful thing – the studio should be a happy place.
So this year, I’ve decided my mantra is to focus purely on the music itself. Making it and playing it and remembering the fact that I absolutely love it. Enjoy the process as much as the result – enjoy the moment, enjoy the journey.
I of course, knew of your movements via your social media presence – how important are your platforms in enabling you to engage your audience and market your music?
You have to embrace it and make the most of all these platforms. There are only a few people who don’t do it such as Calibre and Break and they pretty much are in anybody’s top ten producers so they can get away with it. Otherwise, I would say doing so is vital in getting your message and your music out to people.
I try and make it fun as it does feel a bit weird having to talk about yourself all the time. Selling yourself and telling people you are great can be a bit weird, so I tend to avoid taking it all too seriously and keep it light hearted as much as possible.
You have to be visible of course but don’t be too corporate about all this stuff, it’s not the one. I try to be as real as I can, whether that is by me posting a photo of my dinner or a nice beer, as I do love cooking and eating or whatever. I want to give an insight into my personality behind the music rather than just posting e.p artwork or flyers. I’m not in to the whole ‘meme’ vibe though!
I made a decision a long time ago with social media that I will only use it in a positive way. It is such a powerful tool – well, the internet generally is, but the way we now use it – you are interpersonally connected with so many people and you can instantly catch a vibe from somebody just from something they have posted online.
I try to avoid moaning too much as someone might read it and then you’ve passed on a bad vibe. Likewise if you spread positivity then the same applies which is ultimately much more beneficial to all. Have fun, laugh at yourself and with your mates, spread something cool from the weekend but negativity and complaining about things doesn’t do you or anyone else any good. If I’m in a bad mood, I keep it to myself rather than going on some mad rant on social media basically.
What are the do’s, don’ts and absolute musts when giving an account of yourself to your audience online?
Well, firstly you must not be afraid to sell your product because from a musician’s point of view and just artistic endeavours generally – you have an opportunity to make a one to one connection. Some people say they don’t like getting themselves out there and struggle with it and that’s fair enough but I think artists should be proud of what they create and be proud to share it.
Personally, I don’t feel any awkwardness, shame or embarrassment when I’m releasing new music and trying to get people to check it out. That doesn’t mean that every three hours you are posting the same message telling people to buy your music, that’s just not cool. But, being excited about something you have worked hard on and encouraging others to give it a listen or whatever is fine – you should be proud of your art.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed or shy – and do put it out there! If you’re not telling people about your product, then who is?
Sharing is the word rather than pushing it. When you can tell someone has got a genuine love for they do, it makes me intrigued and then I want to check it out rather than when someone tries to force feed you their latest release. There’s a line between being egotistical and confident and people will work it out for themselves – just be yourself and it’s all good.
Your sound, style and delivery oozes a non-nonsense approach to the music and it’s culture whilst remaining true to the roots and being fun too – would you say that is a fair representation of what you are all about?
There’s plenty of silly stuff that goes on, and I do have a lot of fun at the same time – but I definitely do have a no nonsense approach to the music, yeah. This music is vital to me, I’ve been listening to it for more than half my life so it is intrinsically part of me but at the same time it is important to enjoy it too.
I’ve spent the last few years really focusing on becoming more professional and treating it like a job rather than a hobby, whilst maintaining the fun factor too.
It’s a really exciting time to be involved with or even just a fan of Drum & Bass. Although times have changed and unlike events like One Nation in the past when you might have Andy C and Skibadee on set together, then maybe Brockie and Det straight afterwards with Fabio on later, the scene is more divided. However, no matter what style of the music you are into, it has matured to the point there are so many incredibly talented artists pushing their sound and it goes off in so many different directions.
People often say that there aren’t as many anthems as there used to be, but that’s because not everyone is playing the same tunes anymore – there is so much different and diverse music. For myself as an artist, its really exciting because I like lots of different styles and don’t want be bogged down or pigeon holed in a particular sound, you can go in any direction – it’s great.
What would you say are the fundamental principles of Drum and Bass / Jungle music? When stripped back to the very basics, what are they?
Breakbeats, and far too much sub bass. There are the two things that have always really got me about this music. Breakbeats especially, like that little ‘meh’ noise you hear running through the drums in old Jungle tunes, that sped up voice – well I had always wondered what it was and when I found out it was the ‘Think’ break from a record James Brown produced and its him doing a little “huh” in the background – that was a major revelation.
Drums from a seventies track revisited and sped up to feature in a dance floor track – that’s what Jungle was all about and what made it so special. I think some of that is lost in recent music, when people are so obsessed with clean sounds that can be forgotten, when for me breakbeats are the essence of this music.
It wasn’t about having the loudest kick or snare, it was all about capturing the funk in the drums which is something that I will always push in what I do.
Which artists and labels have made the biggest impact on your ears / tastes throughout your journey so far?
The biggest impact on my ears – well that would be the massive sound system down at The End because I developed tinnitus in my early 20’s!
But in terms of labels specifically, well Renegade Hardware, Virus, Bad Company – that early stuff really shaped my sound. That’s the era that I started buying records, although I had always listened to Jungle, I was a little bit too young to start collecting the tunes on vinyl.
So the late nineties when I bought some decks, the Wormhole era and especially the Ram Trilogy releases of the time – that is without doubt my favourite period of Drum and Bass. I said to a friend recently that if I haven’t played at least two classic Virus tunes then it wasn’t a Philth set – there must have been something wrong with me! Back in those days, Ed Rush and Optical were the kings of chopping up funk breaks, they always had the most rolling, beautiful groove to their drums, which is something I’m always keen to focus on in my music.
A little later on, I started to expand my palate and Soul:R became a massive influence as well. I started hearing Artificial Intelligence, Marcus Intalex and Calibre tunes and they really caught my attention. Nowadays I would say I’m dedicating equal amounts of effort to both the soulful and the tech aspects of the sound.
I would say they are the biggest influences on where I have ended up today. I’m not one of those people who moans that “they don’t make ‘em like they used to!” Instead, I always try to make them like they used to – by keeping that older rolling sound in my music.
What is the ‘backstage’ Drum and Bass scene like in 2017? Is there solidarity or segregation?
In terms of DJs and producers, ninety-five percent of everybody I meet – if not all of them – are just really happy to be doing their thing, which is why the scene has probably spread so much. I think that applies across the board too, the diversity of the music now means you can go and play whatever you like rather than sticking to one sound or purely playing all the big tunes of the moment. The gigs I play mean I don’t often cross paths with all of the giants but I still think the same applies in all areas of the scene.
I have met so many new faces in recent years, whether that’s promoters I’ve worked with or fellow artists. There are just so many genuinely lovely people out there and for me that’s probably the best part of it all and I really, really love that.
I’ve made so many friends in so many different countries and that includes plenty of ravers and fans of the music too, not just behind the scenes. I’ve met so many good people who live and breathe it like I do – backstage, at the bar, onstage, at the bar, on the dance floor, at the bar, wherever – there’s a real sense of solidarity. I think it was Hazard who said that Drum and Bass is Marmite music in that you either love it or hate it, and we enjoy being part of this underground culture that many people just don’t get.
We are not all hanging around in record shops any more or going to get new dubs cut, so instead you get that vibe when you see your friends on a line up and get to mingle with everyone then instead, it’s really nice. I’m looking forward to catching up with my old mate Handy at Resonate actually, and hearing what new tunes the Guvnor’s playing.
Among my close peers there’s a special bond, so when I’ve got gigs lined up I look forward to catching up with friends and hearing them play new music and it’s as enjoyable as performing myself. There’s serious amounts of love and the social element is one of the best aspects of it all.
Next weekend I’m on the road with Artificial Intelligence and Visionobi, and we plan to head out really early to meet Phil Tangent and Zero T for dinner, and it’s nice just to take the opportunity to hang out and catch up before we go to work and roll out our sets.
Something I think is really important is recognising and paying respects to the iconic DJs and artists that have laid the groundwork for us all in pioneering this music. Rather than replacing them, it’s about working together and being passed the torch (or headphones) when the time is right.
I’ve looked up to these guys for over twenty years, so when someone who has been around forever is getting excited about my music and plays it out, it blows me away. I’m still a massive fan at heart.
I guess the challenge for those who have been active for so long is how they remain fresh and continue to evolve over such a long time span, staying relevant. That’s the ultimate benchmark of how someone keeps progressing, look at Fabio – every time I see him, he draws the sickest, freshest tunes and he’s been doing that since before I could even go out raving.
Seeing how the scene continues to grow and the different directions it goes in really excites me. It’s grown as a genre enormously and is probably more credible than it has ever been. Having different generations of artists playing on the same line-ups and supporting each other is really special.
Getting Phil:osophical – what would say the general theme of your music is and how would you describe your vibe to someone who was unable to hear your music?
Oooh, that’s a difficult one. I’d say the way to sum up my vibe would be science and nature. That’s what my music is about, that’s my ethos and what I’m always working towards.
It’s combining the two – for so long I was so obsessed with my mix downs and being technical on sound design, which you have to if you want to make the techy harder stuff that I do, but ever since hearing the first Soul:R tunes, I’ve been so intrigued by the soulful possibilities within the music that I could never just make hard tunes. I love making deeper soulful tunes and my thing is trying to marry the two vibes in a way that it works – although not necessarily in the same tune, as trying to pull in two different directions at the same time doesn’t always work.
Whether it’s a DJ set or a music project, I like to incorporate the different dimensions of what I love, the technical scientific side with the more natural human organic sound as well and get them working together.
Cool… moving forward – your upcoming performance at Resonate alongside Randall and Unknown Error is highly anticipated, what you saying?
I can’t wait to see Randall – he’s the original isn’t he, I’m excited to be playing alongside him again. I’ve played a few gigs with him over the years, he is one of my all-time favourite DJs and I love watching him play. To be sharing a gig with him is always a special thing for me. There’s the classic line about Randall, he’s your favourite DJ’s favourite DJ – well if you like what I do, he is my favourite DJ.
He’s someone I’ve always really looked up to, the way he rolls it out is something else and as we discussed earlier, getting to see him and hang out before and after the sets is going to be really cool too.
As for Resonate itself, I’ve only heard great things so I’m really, really looking forward to it. Every time I’ve seen photos or videos from past events they look rammed and really vibey, so I’m excited to get down there and see what the crowd is all about and represent all the different flavours as well. I don’t ever pre-plan a set, instead I think about each gig and try to bring a suitable selection of music, but whatever happens I’ll always play a variety.
So, I’m really looking forward to being there and doing my thing, I’m going to play some brand new music people won’t have heard before, some of the old Virus tunes, some Calibre, some of the Integral stuff I’m doing with Phil Tangent – a wide range, I’m well up for it.
Jim Unknown Error is playing too and you know he’s going to have some naughty tunes up his sleeve as well. Hearing next year’s music – it will be a real range across the board and I have no doubt it will be big fun!
You as a DJ…
Simple, just give me loads of decks and loads of rum and I can happily do my thing. One of my favourite DJs is Ant TC1, seeing his sets on four decks made me want to get involved with Dispatch – I love the music they release, the music that he plays and the way he mixes because he gets really technical.
I talk to him about it a lot and we really geek out about this stuff. He always plays on four, and sometimes he will load a tune on the fourth deck but not actually play it for a few tunes. It’s like he just leaves it there and keeps it in mind until he wants to play it, I really like having multiple decks for that reason – you can set yourself up a few tunes ahead and think about what you are going to play further down the line and be ready for it.
In the old days you would put the records under the decks and have a little stack you planned to work through so that is the digital equivalent. Like you know that’s the direction you want to take your set in but then you have to work out how you are going to get there.
It’s handy too because you might want to switch your styles quickly and the crowd might actually need you to. It’s not about projecting your ego, it’s about building and maintaining a vibe and getting into their heads and creating a level between you. Like if I’ve played lots of dark stuff but want to change the pace a bit, because too much of it and the dark stuff loses its darkness eventually. So I know I need to brighten up the mood for a while before going in hard again. Having multiple decks really allows you the freedom to go in whatever direction you like, and very quickly too.
Even the sickest producer DJs, if they only play one sound – it’s like being punched in the face for an hour, eventually it stops hurting. You need to change it up and keep it moving. My view is that by playing a wider variety, it gives the hard tunes more impact.
Visionobi & Blackeye on mic duties – over to you…
I read a lot of people complaining about MC’s… well these are two guys that know when to shut up, but that know when to hype it too! I’m not one of those guys that think MCs should be quiet, I’m the opposite – I love an MC that knows how to work with a crowd, has a range of lyrics and a lot of energy in their performance and yeah, does know when to take a breather and when to host but also knows when to go in – I think that’s equally important.
Both of them really fit that mould, and they both host for such a wide range of artists – from really soulful liquid stuff right through to militant jungle then to the harder techy stuff. I recently saw Visionobi at Fabric hosting for Prolix who was playing ridiculously hard stuff, then I was playing tough music too, but then a week later we are working together at an Integral night and Blackeye is capable of exactly the same.
So they are two hosts, that I would say are masters of the craft and can do it all, so whoever I am with on the night I know it’s guaranteed to be vibes.
It’s worth mentioning that I played a set recently where I didn’t have an MC and I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much. I need that connection with the crowd, I feel that it’s important to have an MC that can stand at the front, look the crowd in the eye and communicate with them whilst I’m behind the decks staring at the CDJ’s trying to work out what tune I’m going to play next. Last weekend I worked with a Swedish MC and I have literally no idea what he was saying but his energy and connection with the crowd really took the set up a level – thanks Melva! It’s all about making that connection with the crowd and having a quality MC with you is crucial in doing so.
[Sweden set video here]
With great sadness, the D&B scene has said farewell to Rob Apex who passed recently. Once, one half of the Unknown Error production duo, what did his music mean to you and what influence did he have on you whilst we were graced with his creativity?
It is really sad, and this year has been especially hard with the people we have lost. It’s tragic that he passed so young.
I remember the first track of theirs that I heard which was on a Renegade Hardware e.p with Spor on it as well and I remember thinking the music was completely mental and rinsed it on all the pirate radio stations I used to play on back in the day. Then as the years progressed, the sound of Unknown Error developed and had such variety to it.
Some of his best work as Apex was released on Hospital, so to have had a career that goes from Hardware to Hospital says it all, as they are almost the two polar opposites of the Drum and Bass scene. I really think that is something that Apex and Unknown Error did incredibly well, managing to avoid being stuck in one place – to be able to write music that has a really strong emotional resonance with people from all walks of life.
Whether it was harder or more in the style of liquid, more emotional or whatever it may be – there was always that range and breadth of music and that is really important. They have written a lot of music that has inspired me and many others too, and showing other people that you can go from one side to another is especially important. Demonstrating that being experimental with your sound isn’t going to alienate your fanbase but instead, could really help to diversify it and he was a great example of someone being able to do that.
The outpouring of sadness really demonstrates his greatness. All we can do now is play his music and celebrate his life at the same time.
With all that is going on in the world right now, music still remains a pure magnetic force that joins us all together and in times of loss – reflection is so important. We must use the passing of Marcus Intalex, Dominator and now Apex among others before them as a reminder of how short and precious our time here together is and how right now more than ever we need to unify as many like minds as possible and emphasise the importance of music and its culture as a force for good…
I completely and wholeheartedly agree man, music can be the glue that binds people together. That has always been the power it possesses, youth culture arises through different kinds of music – whether that’s connecting with new people, making new friends or falling in love – meeting a future husband or wife through it, it is such a powerful and positive force.
We should use it to connect people and share love between us. To say something too, sometimes it’s important to have a message and to express yourself through it. I have included some songs at the end of my mix that will make people think – music should unite people, bring us together.
When I heard that Marcus Intalex passed, and he was a huge influence on me – as I said his music and label completely redefined my concept of Drum & Bass – I sat and listened to about forty or fifty of his tunes one after the other and felt like I wanted to release a mix of them but I decided against doing so as I wanted to absorb and enjoy them for myself to remember all the incredible music he had given us. It really made me rethink how I was writing and remember to put a lot of myself into my music.
He was always true to himself no matter what.
It was also a stark reminder that life is so short and that we must truly make the most of all the time that we have. It inspired me to really focus on writing more music, rather than putting it off for tomorrow and getting side-tracked – it reminded me how important it is to write music that can bind people together and give people some positivity.
As I’ve said already, it’s really important to me that my music has an emotional impact as well as a physical one. The Drum and Bass artists we have sadly lost, and other legends of music who have passed in recent years, their music resonated with so many people and it affirmed that the artist lives on in their music, it will always be there. It is important to put your heart and soul into your music for that reason, express your inner thoughts and emotions and say something with it.
Not everyone gets the chance to express themselves like that so you really have to make the most of it and use music as a force for good. It’s really hit home to me this year how important it is to try to connect people and bring them together.
Straight truth right there man… that’s me done, anything you would like to add?
Yeah actually… when we mentioned Randall earlier, you know I could have spoken about him for an hour but I thought I’d hold it down… but I remember when I first met him properly and got to chat with him and he just confirmed all the reasons I have so much respect for him.
In the nineties, Dreamscape released a triple CD album featuring mixes from DJ Sy, Slipmatt and Randall featuring MC Fats, and his mix was pure dark Drum and Bass, proper Jungle flavours on the ninety-seven kinda vibe. It had Quadrant Six by Dom and Optical as the first tune and I was like “What is this!?”.
I was thirteen years old and it just hit me so hard, and it was such a sick CD – it really made me get into the darker techstep sound.
So the first time I met Randall, I was at a gig in Brixton where he was playing and I just had to go and say hello to him. I didn’t realise that Smithy from Total Science had sent him my tunes with Collette Warren on CIA, so I introduced myself which can be a bit awkward sometimes when you don’t know someone, but I just had to make the most of the opportunity and I’m glad I did.
He was like “Arrrh Philth yeah? You did those bits for Smithy on CIA didn’t you? I love them tunes man” and it blew me away. We started having a proper chat and I mentioned the Dreamscape CD and said how much of an influence it had had on me and he was like “The purple one yeah? Tell you what bruv, me and Fats just rolled that out, one take – east London ting”.
It just made me laugh man, the way he’s so nonchalant but the CD still meant a lot to him almost twenty years later and he remembered it instantly. I probably wasn’t the first person to tell him that either, but it just felt important to let him know the effect it had on me. It’s mad now because I often send him tunes, and he sends me stuff too, incredible – he’s a true legend. I feel very very grateful to be able to work with people who inspired me to become a musician.
The way he was too, just genuinely cool and pleased to talk music – it’s something I’m really conscious of when I meet people who are into my sounds. They just want to meet you and chat so I always try to spend time with them and you get to know so many enthusiastic people that way.
It’s difficult sometimes because you can be chilling at the bar with your girlfriend and someone recognises you and wants to talk, but it’s just one of those things, so I’ll be as polite as possible and talk for as long as I can. Although if I’m about to play a set it’s different – I’m like “mate, its time for me to focus can we talk later on please?” and they are usually cool – that’s when I need to concentrate and get myself in the right frame of mind.
Recently, someone came up to me to talk before a set and I asked them to take some photos for me whilst I did some DJ stretches to warm up – the look on their face was priceless, they couldn’t work out whether I was serious or not but just went along with it regardless. It was really funny! Actually that’s starting to happen a lot if I think about. Jungle yoga with Philth at 3am…
But yeah man to sum it up, I’m well looking forward to Resonate, supporting Randall and working with the others too, it’s going to be serious! And just a big thanks to everyone that supports me and my music – I really appreciate it and I’m truly so grateful.
And watch out for the stretches!!!
Catch Philth alongside Randall and Unknown Error at Resonate D&B on Saturday 21st October at The Source Bar, Maidstone. For more information head here.