Saturday, 17 March 2012
Wax Works Mix 06 - Production Unit
A bit later than I had planned, but here's the next instalment in our mix series. Something a little different this time as Glasgow's own Production Unit serves up an exclusive all vinyl hip hop mix - there's no tracklist for it, so feel free to help us out.
Check out what @ProUnit has to say below..
For those who don't know, can you give us a bit of background info on your history within the scene here in Glasgow and can you tell us how you came to be involved with the Broken20 label?
My first involvement with electronic music was when I joined The Marcia School For Girls during my first year at uni, after meeting Ruaridh TVO in my philosophy class. I'd played in an orchestra with his school friend. We met a few people through playing live with Marcia Blaine and occasionally DJing, but we didn't have much of an outlet for doing that really. Ruaridh and I started DJing at Numbers after meeting some of them through mutual friends and we played there for about five years or so, but we're no longer a part of that. I guess I'm a lot less involved with the Glasgow scene since then but it's not for lack of desire, it's just harder to find regular slots coming off the back of that.
Broken20 started when Highpoint Lowlife records folded. HPLL had released Marcia Blaine stuff and some TVO and Production Unit material, so they were our method of getting the music out there. When that opportunity lapsed Ruaridh took the leap of starting a label. Erstlaub and I contribute, he doing the design and me contributing the written words, plus we both take an active role in A&R chat and the like; we've also started a tape sub-label called Broken60 where I take the lead and the other two help me out.
You have a couple of EPs due for release very soon. Can you tell us a bit more about the releases and when we can expect to see them for sale?
I'll have a free EP for Phuturelabs.com in late March, then a Broken20 EP shortly after that. Both are all done and ready to go. The former is called 'Bridge EP' because it's a link to some of the dubstep-influenced stuff I did with Highpoint Lowlife and the more 4/4 sound I've been progressing since then, really a chance for me to document where my head's been at since 'Ghost Tracks' on HPLL. The latter is called 'ICU Tracks' and it's much more stark, the sound of hospital machines made into bleepy techno. It'll have remixes from Perc and Paul Purgas from Emptyset so I'm hoping it'll catch people's attention. It's very bare-sounding but a lot of the sounds hold a very specific emotional resonance for me so I'm hoping people connect with that side of it.
After that I'll be releasing an album on Broken60 in summer-ish entitled 'There Are No Shortcuts In A Grid System', which will be the first Production Unit album I've done (though I've previously released one solo ambient album as Dirty Hope) and I'm really focussed on the idea of it cohering as an album. Stylistically it'll mostly be quite slow, from 0 to 104 bpm, taking in queasy ambience, downtempo abstract beats and mongy house styles. It's half-written and from that half I'm incredibly excited about how it might pan out because it's the best stuff I've ever done.
After that I'm planning another split release on B60 shortly after that, with the mysterious DJ Votive on the flip, on entirely another tip. The sketch at the moment for my side is jerky 2000-era Timbaland beats with Mark Fell-style shards of melody and weird RnB vocals that are actually secret cover versions, and it'll be on more of a beat tape schtick, so short tracks but lots of them.
Genre-wise that's a total mixed bag but I've reconciled myself to the fact that I'm a person trying to enjoy and express myself through music rather than a homogeneous product to be marketed, bought and sold. I used to obsess about finding my niche in production, settling on a single sound that defined me, but that was totally misguided. I'm now ultra-happy if I'm a skittish artist, just as I'm happy to find value in a load of different styles of music. What matters is going to bed feeling like I spent my day productively, and what doesn't matter is, well, everything else.
The mix you have recorded for us is a hip hop mix, all on vinyl, so I'm assuming that it is a major influence on you musically - have you ever produced/released any hip hop records and if not is it something you would like to do?
The reason I did a hip hop mix was because I know you guys are big into your vinyl and hip hop is the one genre where I feel I have an extensive enough collection to do myself justice solely using wax. I rarely play such genre-tied sets and hopefully my previous mixes illustrate that, but a lot of my collection in other genres is digital. I'm not a vinyl purist by any means - what matters is the bread, and the skill of the baker, not the oven - but it was fun to do.
Hip hop is a massive influence on me though. I've been consistently listening to it more than any other genre and I find it has major staying power compared to more uptempo styles that seem to age overnight. Hip hop and dub really strike me as music that works well in album format, something that's become more interesting to me as my listening habits move from chucking records randomly on decks to checking stuff on the kitchen stereo while I do crazy things like washing the dishes. It's an old man ting.
I've done some records that could be called instrumental hip hop, like the track I had on Stuff Records' first EP, or 'Ruskoline Monster' from the HPLL comp 'Some Paths Lead Back Again' and the track 'Dem Sirens' from the HPLL 'Half Of A Hole' EP I did. I often put a wee vocal sample from, say, Wu Tang or Public Enemy in those type of productions to add the hip hop flavour, though sometimes I just pitch my voice about from a rhyme I've made so I can get exactly the thing I want, like on the Stuff record. I would in some ways love to work with some MCs on vocal hip hop but I think I'll just stick with that home-made tactic. It's less hassle and allows me to hide behind a raft of effects whilst covertly fluffing my ego as the star of the show.
How, when, where etc was the mix recorded? Can you give us an insight into your approach to studio mixes and do you always play on vinyl?
The mix was recorded in my converted attic which I use for my studio.
I usually fanatically plan out my mixes and it frustrates me when I hear someone say "I just get my twenty best tunes and play the hardest ones at the end". I'm much more involved normally, with a rigidly set order of tracks and set points at which things happen within tracks, plus everything would normally be mixed by key as well as bpm. I index my records by bpm and key, because I'm a total geek. It literally takes me weeks to plan a mix.
I veer away from Ableton mixes though. They're a bit like an acrobat walking the high wire two feet off the ground. The idea that it might all go wrong at any minute, and that the DJ's skill is all that is stopping that from happening, remains paramount for me, so I generally mix on decks using Torq and use three decks to include acapellas and spoken word as well. I want to provide all the sonic elements that an Ableton mix can provide, but to do so from raw materials.
On this mix I cut loose a little bit and just hit record to see what'd happen. It's a bit more like the sort of set I might play out whereas my normal mixtapes are hyper-constructed as a listening experience, for want of a better phrase, but my intention in a pub/club is always to still bring forward some of that mixtape aspect where things are blended harmonically as well as rhythmically and there's a pervading sense of an architecture about it. Hopefully I've gone part of the way to achieving that.
If there's one thing I'd like to change about the mix it's that I don't have a third deck so there are a couple of point where acapellas sit on their own. That really put the pressure on to get the next beat in quickly! I just about managed it. Ideally I'd have acapellas on a CDJ and keep it all seamless.
Finally, what can we expect from yourself and the rest of the Broken20 crew this year?
Well, as I said there's the 'Bridge EP', 'ICU Tracks', the Broken60 album and another split album, plus I plan a monster podcast to show off all my various DJing hats as well. That'll take me up to at least summer and I'll take it from there.
Broken20 leads off with 'ICU Tracks', then we'll have an album of intense dark ambience from Penalune. Erstlaub's 'Marconi's Requiem' will follow that - more immersive drone from, for me, one of the masters of the sound - and then back to the beats with Mick Finesse who's just done a record for Perc Trax.
Broken60 started the year with our first release, some murky beats from 10-20 on the album 'Magnet Marsh' that have been incredibly well received. The second release with be TVO's 'Red Night', the first in a planned trilogy of William Burrough-inspired albums, and after that there'll be B20_02.5 that will be one side of TVO dancefloor interpretations and one side of remixes from an amazing producer who I can't quite believe we've bagged. B60_03 and __04 are as mentioned above. I'm thinking about making some fake pirate radio tapes for the latter part of the year, maybe rave, jungle or 2step, featuring all original productions, but we'll see how that works out.
Hope you all enjoy the mix.