In the fast moving world of electronic music, artistry often takes a back seat to the needs of the dancefloor... This however is not the case with Mode. With a flair for artistry, effortlessly rolling off releases for Ingredients, Exit Records and Cylon, Mode has caused something of a storm within avante garde drum & bass in the last 12 months...
Your style and production aesthetic lends to the current trend of drum & bass producers concentrating a lot more on the song writing elements of the music, sidestepping what can be a rigid genre. What have been the defining moments for your music stylistically and moving forward?
Like a lot of artists in the last couple of years I would say the whole Autonomic movement was a defining moment for the music I make as Mode. I’m not going to lie and say I have some great heritage in jungle or rave culture I don’t, and in this sense I don’t feel particularly indebted to any ‘scene’ or group of producers. When I sit down and set a track to 170bpm its very much the case that I just write whatever comes naturally, for the first 6 months of me taking production seriously I was very sample based, tracks like ‘Stats’, ‘Riley’ and ‘Stepping Stones’ were all based around some pretty key samples. After that I moved in completely the opposite direction for a while and made a whole bunch of music that was almost entirely original composition and synthesis, things like ‘Poem Electronique’, ‘Shadows’ and ‘Around the edges’. For me this was an important opposition really, going from spending days and weeks searching through obscure music for potentially amazing samples to spending a similar amount of time with synthesisers and processors. At the time I felt as if I needed to take more ownership over my music. As much as I love sample based music I worried that at times not enough of my own ideas were filtering through, and whilst even in those early pieces there was still definitely a ‘Mode’ sound I wanted to really to allow my music to mirror back to me in a more definite way. As cheesy as it sounds I think I’ve come to some kind of synthesis between the two oppositions, I love the power that a sample can bring to a piece of electronic music if used originally and put in a new interpretive context and by no means shy away from using samples for things like Vocals, Speech and Ambience. On the other side I do still prefer to write my own Beats and Synth lines because I often feel as if these are the very building blocks of my music and if I can’t claim at least partial ownership over them then I lose a certain connection with the music I make. Often though it’s a track by track thing, different moods and vibes suggest different treatments, and maybe in end I moved forward by realising that choosing one particular method over another exclusively and dogmatically is limiting, and that true experimentation involves being prepared to chop and change the very way you make music each time you come to make it!
Drum & bass over the last few years has been heavily influenced by other tempo music, certainly staying true to the great drum & bass tradition of reinterpretation. How and where do you draw your influences from? What is the musical palette that results in a Mode production?
As I eluded to above the ‘musical palette’ I use can be fairly broad, but I do find myself returning to certain vibes and moods more often than others and using similar types of sounds to create these moods. Some kind of ambient setting is key for me, whether it be the sound of crackling record, the whistle of some birds or some disconcertingly misplaced speech. Without a doubt this is something I’ve inherited from my three main influences; Boards of Canada, Autechre and Brian Eno. These guys are all masters at setting a certain mood through ambient style devices and then writing music ontop of or around these backdrops. I think the relationship you have with your influences is always a bit of a love hate one really, or at least it is for me. I listen to a lot of Boards of Canada and almost find myself being insanely jealous of their music and the wealth of emotion and nostalgia they create by such seemingly simple melodies and samples. I think part of maturing as an artist though is achieving a degree of distance from your influences such that you try to take as much ownership over your music as you reasonably can. For me the best and only way to respect the originality and authenticity of my influences is to try and achieve something like a similar degree of originality myself. At the end of the day no one makes ‘Boards of Canada’ or ‘Autechre’ as well as they do and as much as you can and should be able to place yourself around your influences you should not end up just being completely in their pockets.
You recently featured on the excellent Mosaic Volume One various artists album on Exit, with your track "Stepping Stones" sharing vinyl release as the album sampler with Instra:mental. You must of felt amazing when you were confirmed for the project? How does it feel sharing the release with such prominent cutting edge artists?
It was a real honour to have my track on that compilation, as you say sharing the sampler with Instra:mental was really the icing on the cake! I think it’s a testament to Darren’s (dBridge) commitment to good music whatever its origin that saw a project where unknowns could share a platform with the likes of Skream, Distance and Scuba (and many more!). There were no prejudices with the Mosaic release and I think that refreshing attitude has definitely contributed to its success. All too often it seemed like to get anywhere you had to be a ‘big name’ and that its all about ‘big tunes’ or grinding away for decades. I can’t thank Darren and Clive at Ingredients enough for giving me that first boost as an artist and taking that risk of putting out music by someone who no one has really heard of.
What's coming up for Mode? What can we look forward to in the near future?
Its quite an exciting time for me at the moment! I’ve got the 2x12 ‘Silhouette EP’ on Loxy’s Cylon label which he assures me should be coming soon (Masters have gone off for that one!). I’ve also just signed a track of mine called ‘Around the edges’ to a neat little project of Limited edition 10’inches that Andy at Nu directions is doing with a b-side I’m going to write especially for the release. I’ve just completed a 120bpm remix for a indie-electro band called ‘Get people’ and there is another project with a certain group of people called ‘Organic’, not sure if you’ve heard of them?! But that’s all a bit hush hush! Aside from that I’m talking to quite a few people about 12’s and such like, I think the nature of the ‘Mode’ stuff is such that it suits these more thoughtful projects rather than your standard by numbers unit shifters.
On a different slant I should probably mention that I’ve also been writing a lot of 120/ 130bpm music under a new alias called ‘Until Silence’. I toyed for a while with whether to just use the Mode moniker for everything I did but in the end decided I wanted to keep on exploring 170 stuff with Mode and have the freedom to write different tempo’s without any expectations of myself or others about what the output would be. There will be a 12’ and EP of this music forthcoming in the late Summer, what label I don’t want to mention quite just yet but information about this will start trickling out more and more over the coming months.
To sign off I want to say thank you to Organic for giving me this opportunity to talk a little bit about my music and hope people continue to enjoy it.
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