Stomping half-step rhythms and pink giraffes, Different Music are certainly a label that wear their heart on their sleeve. Their latest release comes courtesy of one of drum & bass' brightest young sparks, Arkaik.
Arkaik's modern approach to 170 BPM epitomises a lot of what's good about the "new school" sound. The "Cutting Edge" EP drops on February 4th, but ahead of that we wanted to get the skinny from the man himself.
This is your second EP for Diffrent Music, after 2011's "Trauma" EP. How has your approach to putting the EP together differed this time around? How do you feel your sound has progressed between the two releases?
It's been a constant learning curve since I started producing and there is still so much more to learn! I think my approach has changed due to the amount of information I've absorbed over the last year. I feel my sound has progressed in the sense that I now know what I want to produce and the sort of direction I'm going, whereas when I was working on the Trauma EP i was still unsure of what I wanted to make and was more just creating what I could with the experience I had.
One track in particular grabs me from this release, the vocal roller "Lost," because it's clearly quite a departure from the usual Arkaik sound. Where did the inspiration for "Lost" come from and how did it come together?
My beats are pretty stripped back so I wanted to challenge myself to make something a bit more full and something quite deep. I love Sabre, SpectraSoul and Survival in the way they combine the light with the dark, lovely mid range grime with hints of melody in their tracks. Listening to this stuff has probably inspired me to make something with that sort of sound.
I've heard you describe it as a return to your "liquid roots." Could you tell us a bit more about your introductions into drum & bass? What's your personal take on how the music has developed in the time you've been involved in it?
I've been mixing for about 10 years, since I got my first pair of decks. I used to mostly play liquid for about 5 or 6 years, and listen to a lot of old Hospital, Soul:R, Signature stuff so I think this still has a big impact on what I like. Whilst at uni I went out raving a lot more and this had a big influence on me, inspiring me to play darker stuff. I was a resident at Bassment in Reading, playing on line ups before people like Break, Noisia, Icicle so through this time I was mixing harder stuff. Then I was playing a lot on pirate radio and other internet stations so I started heading towards rollers and more stripped back drum & bass.
I think drum & bass as a whole has evolved immensely in the time I've been listening to it, I think the music has developed and even more sub genres have popped up through it being more accessible to produce and easier to listen to through social media sites and internet radio stations.
There's quite a technical element to your production style- the intricate bass and percussion work stands out. What's your typical approach to producing these elements in a tune, are they something you get down early on in the process or do they only fully come together once the rest of the elements are in place? Any top tips for young producers looking to improve in these areas?
I normally start with the random percussion, and then try and build a "normal" drum & bass beat with it, but usually fail and make something weird. Recently I've started making tracks by making a beat laying down kicks, then snare, then hats, then bass. After that I layer in other elements and usually redo the bass. I then add mid range bass and FX and play about with the percussion searching for similar sounding hits, then might play about with arrangement and strip the beat right back.
My advice to new producers would be to just put in time and you'll learn more about what you want to produce and how to make that sound. Find good quality samples and don't be afraid to make something outside the box.
I understand you're also a graphic designer by profession. Diffrent's releases tend to have some pretty bold and interesting artwork designs to go along with them. Any chance of you looking to get involved with your own designs for releases in future?
Yeah the artwork for some of the releases is pretty interesting. I actually designed the artwork for "Trauma" EP and for the "Cutting Edge" EP myself. Fybe:one's did the artwork for Fathom Audio's "Promises' & 'Ridges" which is wicked and Hunchbak has done the rest of the Diffrent artwork, so it's nice that Diffrent have kept everything in house. I will defiantly carry on designing for Diffrent as long as they keep liking the designs.
"Cutting Edge" and "Game Changer" I imagine would sound pretty nasty on a club system and with their steppy rhythms get a suitable level of bopping going ina di rave. What's your approach to your DJ sets? Are there any events we can catch you at coming up?
My approach to DJ sets is to have some progression and to show people tunes that they might not have heard before. I don't just play all my style of tracks, I love my tech, neurofunk and dark rollers, so I try to get people more hyped throughout my sets and get some good waves going! I'm playing on March 22nd @ Cafe 1001, Brick Lane, Shoreditch for Diffrent's 3rd birthday, and have got a few more bits later in the year.
The "Cutting Edge" EP is out on February 4th on Diffrent Music.
Join Arkaik and the DIffrent zoo at their 3rd Birthday Party this March in East London, tickets on-sale directly from the label HQ shop @ http://diffrentmusic.com