Awesomeness is a subjective point of view. Some people may fail in detecting the beauty and the art behind an essential music piece which has been stripped of every unnecessary element. For some other people, quantifying the effort and the curation behind a sound that has been used is simply an impossible task. For me, it’s pleasure. Listening to the latest work of Conduct, which is the Takai EP released under Blu Mar Ten Music, I felt this way several times. The clarity, purity and quality of each sound used in the 4 songs that make up the EP is simply beyond any threshold. After some years listening to what Chris and Robin from Conduct release, I’m starting to dive into their signature sound, made of foggy atmospheres. Each of their songs evokes a precise image in my head: a winter cloudy day, with steel grey sky and low background noise. A numb day, one of those days that you spend on the sofa meditating on what is life anyway. I love that atmosphere, I feel it, and that is why I decided that it was time to interview these two guys. .
I can trace back your music until 2013, but I can’t go further. How did it all start?
C: Yes we where both very much dabbing in music before 2013. Robin has been in multiple bands and I’ve alway been a huge fan of all types of music and what music is capable of. Its fascinating to us. We actually met though the old youtube days, where Robin was making music under the alias Deep Focus. When he moved to London, which is my home, we met up and ideas just started flowing. We had a few little gigs and agreed that we are on the same wavelength and can hopefully make something interesting to listen to.
R: Yeah man, my first instrument was the flute at 8 and then I started producing at about 12. (I’ve just turned 30) dabbling with FL Studio (it was simply Fruity Loops then) and chopping up breaks etc. without any idea what I was doing. I was hugely into extreme metal at the time, was in a semi-decent hardcore band & just really enjoyed making the most manic, aggressive music I could muster. It wasn’t until I was in uni studying Music that I discovered drum and bass and realised that this was the tempo for me, and started Deep Focus. I moved down to London once I’d finished my course and that’s when we met.
Do you think that studying and working in music is also the key to success in music?
R: Nah man I wouldn’t say it’s key, it just been the path that I’ve chosen. There’s plenty of people far more successful than we are that have taken different routes. I’m hugely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had as it’s helped push me to where I am today, but it’s by no means the key. It’s really just down to spending time developing your craft and individuality, with enough drive anyone can do that.
C: Definitely not in my opinion! I have never studied music at any level; however I can see that being surrounded by like-minded people while studying can and could be hugely inspiring. As for working in music, Yes to a degree. Being able to speak and send music to people who you respect their honest opinion, and will give you brutally honest feedback really helps. As the saying roughly goes ‘surround yourself with like-minded passionate people and you will succeed’ To be honest I don’t know if that is what anyone says hahaha.
Since it seems you had previous musical experiences before Drum & Bass: who are your music idols of now, and who were they 10 years ago?
R: Ten years ago, my list would have been enormous. I seem to find as my production progresses, I look up to fewer and fewer people, but those I do look up to are total gods to me now. At the top for me at the minute, it’s Amon Tobin for technicality and synthesis, Bonobo for song-writing and instrumentation, Hans Zimmer all day long for his versatility and sheer epicness, John Williams for delicacy, movement and just sheer cinematic brilliance.
C: That’s a loaded question haha. Like Robin says Amon Tobin, Bonobo, and Hans Zimmer never cease to amaze me with their music. I am always excited to hear what Lapalux is up to, his production is very inspiring. There are tonnes of producers and bands that I would like to mention but it would take me years to say all of them. Leaf Dog and all of the High Focus lot are doing great things in the UK Hip Hop scene.
I see you’re men of culture as well. This question might seem a little bit off topic but it’s not: have you seen The Get Down? If Yes, kudos and be prepared for the next question. If No, well you have to.
R: Chris has seen it and has been pestering me to watch it for some time, I haven’t had chance yet
C: Yes I have seen the first season and it was really was fantastic and, however I have not had the chance to really get into season 2 yet.
Speaking of cinema, then, have you envied even for one second our brother High Contrast for his track featured in Trainspotting 2?
R: 100% man, what an awesome gig. Composing for an iconic film like that has been a dream of mine for my entire adult life. Really pleased for him.
C: I can’t lie I didn’t enjoy the track like I have some of High Contrasts other tracks, but I am yet to see the film so my perspective on it is slightly warped. It’s great to see him and the drum and bass scene get such an awesome opportunity. We would love to get an opportunity to do such a thing.
Your sound is built on complex drums and dark bass sounds. It usually sounds “naked” but in a good way, as if you removed all the unnecessary from the backbone. Is that how you feel towards your music?
C: Thank you! We takes influences from a vast variety of music and cultures, so we generally try to somehow incorporate that into our music. As for drums and bass, we almost exclusively steer clear from the samples. Don’t get us wrong, we adore the classic breaks and do give them a nod now and again but mostly we prefer to develop realism in our drums, it also frees us up to do exactly what we want.
R: Thanks a lot man, yeah I definitely take that as a compliment. I really enjoy developing as much rhythm and groove without unnecessary layers. We used to have projects that were up in the range of 120-150 mixer channels, but I’ve recently managed to strip that back to 10-30 and it really is true that less is more, as long as you’re striving for the utmost quality from source. A lot of our drum sound can be attributed to XLN’s phenomenal Addictive drums software, which I’ve gotten to know inside out over the last few years. I tend to layer that with a bit of live drum recording to add that inimitable real audio quality.
What is your studio set-up? Do you have any instrument, VST, DAW, ritual or whatsoever that should never lack where you make music?
C: We actually live 4 hours apart so we have two set ups. Mine is in generally in box using a vast array of plugins, processing and sounds we record.
R: So my studio, ‘Purple Door’ is up in the West Midlands. I principally run Logic Pro 9 (can’t get on board with X yet) and have a select few plug-ins and soft synths that I know inside out. I’ve got some really good microphones and access to some fantastic instruments so I like to do as much live recording as possible, which really contributes to our sound. There’s live guitar, bass, piano, vocals, m’bira, flute, and a few more obscure instruments recorded and performed by myself at Purple Door that made it onto the record.
It seems you started with Blu Mar Ten (probably my favourite label) in 2015, after releases in other labels. I think it really suits your sound. Were you aiming for it before becoming part of the actual roster?
We have always hugely respected Blu Mar Ten as artists, and adore the label. When we got the request to go have have a chat, we didn’t think it was real. Then once we meet Chris, one of the most knowledgeable, interesting and lovely guys in the industry we instantly felt at home. We couldn’t think of another label that would be willing to give us full creative control over our releases, and allow us to release such weird music.
How does Chris “invite people over for a chat”? That sounds like a dream to me! Was he astonished of Borderlands just as much as we were when it was released?
R: To be fair, I don’t think any of the original music we took to Chris’ studio actually made it onto Borderlands. It was Jani from L.A.O.S. that first introduced us, we sent some tunes over and then it was about 6 months later I think that he emailed us to come round. We took a tonne more tunes with us, he enjoyed half, slated the other, and we learned a lot during that first meeting. We went back to the studio with hours of Chris’ advice in hand and started Borderlands from there! I’d like to think he was impressed yes, but he’s definitely more so of the Oma LP, and we’re super proud of it too.
What do you do in your private lives, apart from music? Please weird out, we can understand.
C: Im interested in photography and video, i also love to draw. Basically I love to create.
R: I’m much the same, hugely into graphic design, art & cinematography. My addiction to composition doesn’t give me much time to do much outside of music, but when I do, I’m creating something weird.
What are you doing in the upcoming months? Do you have tour planned, or other things that you’d like us to know?
You can catch us at Noise Test in Bristol on the 28th of July, it’s an unreleased music showcase, so you’ll hear a tonne of tracks from the forthcoming LP, and two shows for Spearhead, at Egg on the 3rd of November & Motion on the 25th.
Blu Mar Ten Music: