We take a look at techstep with a bit of help from Prolix ahead of his latest single "Saw Head" backed with "Funkhole"... What's it all about then?
Techstep is something of an ambiguous term for me. Despite the reasonably straight forward connotations of it's namesake it means many things to many different people and what it is today certainly is a distant vision from where it started out. It's origins are somewhat vague as a sound and I think it would be a disservice not to attribute it's characteristics in part to early 90's techno, notably Joey Beltram and Kevin Saunderson if for nothing else the widely used Mentasm and Reece samples that originated in their music.
The term techstep is widely attributed to the 1996 album "Techsteppin'" on the Emotif label featuring the likes of Doc Scott, Ed Rush and T Power. The sound itself originally the culmination of the prevalent hardstep sound combined with industrial and techno based samples and sound manipulation. The nature of the beast also fits the description.
If you look at some of techstep's favorite sons; Ed Rush & Optical, Dom & Roland, Photek, Calyx, Teebee, Kemal, you start to see a clear trend. At the height of their careers and in many cases today these guys were and are pushing the boundaries of what can be done with technology and how far equipment can be pushed. It is this characteristic that in some ways defines the sound. With the sub genre's modern context in mind Prolix tells us more...
"Writing this kind music can be a difficult one to tackle because not only is the music part itself important but unfortunately the production side of it can actually be of more importance in some respects.
A well produced average tune sometimes seems to have more chance of getting released. Where as today more ‘vibey’ and less well produced tunes suffer because their mixes don’t stand up to other contemporary production levels. Lots of the old heads/ DJs/ producers have a had a noticeable problem trying to get their production levels up to todays high standard – when back in the day they were making the best tunes of the time and perhaps less importance was placed on the mixdown."
"For the record – im not a fan of the term ‘neuro’ at all!"
When asked about the techstep sound (or neuro/ tech/ rolling as other ways it is often described) Prolix continues regarding his own work;
"In terms of writing approach – I think its kind of essential to make sure the sounds you are using are good from the start. Its very hard to rescue a mix if all the parts aren’t of a good quality to begin with. So i generally have one mind on the final mix of the tune all the way through the writing process.
Sometimes that can be a hinderance on your creativity so you have to make sure you don’t get too side tracked trying to make your tune as wide/ bright/ loud as another tune too early in the writing process, but it is a necessary part of production.
And for the record – im not a fan of the term ‘neuro’ at all!"
Prolix tells us a little more about his own music and his forthcoming single "Sawhead" / "Funkhole" on Klute's Commercial Suicide label.
"I'm mainly into rock music, and although i have some influences from there I don’t use rock samples or anything really. I do use a lot of funk breaks and as many organic samples as i can get hold of – be it from films, soundtracks or sample cds. Youtube is especially helpfull in this respect...
"Saw Head" was actually written on a fairly severe hangover (the name is an adaption of the ‘sore head’ i had that day) – not for the first time that a tune has been written in those circumstances either! I wanted to write a nice roller that could appeal to a few different people in the scene and not just to people into the tech style. It seems to have worked too because its getting quite a bit of play from many different DJs which is good.
"Funkhole" came about from messing about with filters in a new sampler I was using at the time. Again for this tune I wanted to try and have a bit more space in the tune and a ‘less is more’ approach. This is another one which is getting a fair bit of attention from people I wouldn’t expect."
"Saw Head was actually written on a fairly severe hangover"
And his own introduction into maybe what is drum & bass' most technical sub genre?
"I don’t know what it is. Im not sure thats why I got into it in the first place, but thats certainly where its got to now. I started just because i wanted to make music and have control over all the elements, not because i wanted to make the loudest tune in drum & bass!
The production levels have been raised so high by producers in the last few years that you have to keep up or risk being passed by. I think it's that level of competition that has increased the quality and innovative technical skills of many producers around. Drum and bass production can become quite a nerdy topic but i truely feel that it is of such a generally high standard that it is influencing how other genres are produced – just see how many current or ex drum & bass producers are now dominating other scenes."
Prolix - Saw Head / Funkhole is out on Commercial Suicide 30/04/12