With his new EP landing on Future Shock Musik, we were lucky enough to catch up with one of bass music's true renegades... Nubian Mindz.
Colin Lindo first made his name on seminal drum & bass label Reinforced Records as Alpha Omega and Nubian Mindz before transcending the genre into other tempos. After a five year Hiatus he returns stronger than ever with the "TV Watches You" EP.
Your influences are wide, as is your output. From house and techno, to broken beat, hip hop and drum & bass. This being the case, there remains a consistent dynamic throughout all of your work. How do you define the Nubian Mindz sound?
Well, I recently sat down and ran through a bunch of my old tunes right up to present day and I could hear a certain roughness to my productions, not quite lo-fi but things are pushed slightly into the red and there is this saturation to most of my music. Sometimes the whole tune is on the verge of disintegrating into full blown distortion, other times it is a bit more relaxed with only a few sounds getting the over-driven treatment. I seem to gravitate towards that grittier side of the sound spectrum.
The other aspect to the music I make is the arrangements and sound selection stray from the norm. I have never been a uniform, preset ready, typical sample CD sounding producer. My sounds were always taken from a wide variety of sources and the weirder the better as far as I’m concerned plus the idea of following a common arrangement just to get DJ play didn’t appeal to me, so it made things that little more interesting for me to go against the grain whenever I could. The upside to that is the music ages at a much slower rate; the downside is little to no DJ play.
You made your name in the 90's with prolific output on the legendary Reinforced Records as originally Alpha Omega and then Nubian Mindz leading onto a whole host of projects. When you look at other artists who were operating out of the Reinforced camp at that time like Domu (as Sonar Circle), Seiji, Marc Mac and Dego (as 4Hero) and Mark Force, you must feel privileged to be continuing in that legacy?
I’m very honoured to have been a part of that camp and to have been in the presence of some incredibly talented artists. When you’re on a label like Reinforced and have those guys coming up with mind blowing music on a daily basis you have no choice but to step your game up and that is where I earned my stripes so to speak.
The other aspect to the label was the ‘open minded’ music policy which existed. I’m not sure Nubian Mindz would have existed if Dego and Marc didn’t give me the opportunity to make whatever I felt like making. For any producer, especially a young cat like me back then, it was an incredible incentive to put in the work and make as much music as you possibly could and to try to explore as many ideas as possible knowing it would find a home if it was good enough.
"I’m not sure Nubian Mindz would have existed if Dego and Marc didn’t give me the opportunity to make whatever I felt like making."
Like I said, I’m honoured to have been a part of Reinforced and it's offshoots and I hope that I can take what I learnt over the years and pay it forward to other music artists and producers somehow to continue the legacy even further.
The 3 tracks on the "TV Watches You" EP each seem to draw on a certain root influence from across your own musical spectrum. "Dutty Beach" seems particularly geared towards broken beat (sorry we know you hate the term) and even has a leaning towards afrobeat. In turn drawing on your own past, being part of that original movement when it was first conceived. How much of "Dutty Beach" and your music in general is reinterpretation of your roots?
The ‘broken beat’ term hey!?!?
You know, I actually don’t mind it now. You see back then in the late 90s there wasn’t a term for that sound and what music was being made didn’t follow any rules whatsoever. If it was good then it got played, signed and released, simple as that. Once the term ‘broken beat’ got banded about I could see the music crystallize very, very quickly and just became a sort of recycling of a very limited sound and style which didn’t appeal to me. That was probably why I initially disliked the term so much as I knew what was going to happen once it became accepted as the title for this new genre.
Regarding the influences on the ‘TV Watches You’ EP, I think it’s true to say I’ve taken a look in my past and brought things up to date with today’s technology and a fresh pair of ears. I have a lot of ideas left to explore within that ‘West London’ sound and I think that sound can co-exist with this hybrid bass/ post dub step (whatever silly name you want to call it) paradigm that’s developing at the moment.
People are very open minded right now so I’m happy to keep exploring and maybe presenting some older ideas in a new context and seeing what develops. When I listen to guys like Falty DL, Altered Natives, Funkineven and Ossie I can hear this influence that goes right back to what was happening in West London back in the late 90’s. That being said, I have no intention of just rinsing and repeating any formulas from the past and still want to keep things moving forward and seeing what new avenues and galaxies can open up within sound.
"Many Poly" has elements of jungle with some sneaky breaks conjuring nostalgic memories of jungle past while firmly rephrasing them in a modern context well outside of anything that could be associating it with the genre stylistically. It is however a bass heavy cabinet shaker. How much of the studio techniques you learned back in the day has crossed over into what you do now?
I still have a heavy reliance on much of what I learnt during my time as a drum & bass producer and the great thing about drum & bass is the engineering level was so high that it can really set you up for life, in terms of studio knowledge, especially if you make a point of pushing your equipment to its limits. I still have a huge amount to learn as an engineer and producer but drum & bass gave me a great foundation that I can build on for years to come. I will always be indebted to jungle for giving me that foundation with music production.
Another thing is I think the ‘breakbeat’ will come back into music in a big way soon…
"TV Watches You" seems to draw heavily on techno influences with a pronounced Underground Resistance vibe to it. The name suggests a counter surveillance or state monitoring kind of vibe, which would ring true with the classically held themes of techno and futurism. What's the story?
The story is I’ve always been one of the conspiracy theorist types never taking anything at face value and looking deep under the surface whenever I can.
Underground Resistance are immensely inspirational and certainly triggered something in me when I first discovered them back in the 90’s, especially tunes like ‘Hi-Tek Jazz’ so I have a huge amount of love for what they have done and continue to do.
We know that you are a great advocate of hardware studio gear having previously spoken about the Clavia Nord series, Akai S300XL and the Nord 3. There is certainly a sound that carries from your earlier works through to your latest output. What is a typical studio set up for Nubian Mindz?
My studio consists of the following:
Akai samplers, Nord keyboards, Lexicon effects, Roland XV5080, Korg Triton Rack Module, Waldorf Pulse, Sherman Filterbank, TLA Valve EQ, Joemeek Compressor, Novation A-Station and Drumstation, Studio Electronics ATC1 all ran through the Mackie 32-8 desk and a PC running a Scope DSP card, Cubase SX3, Reaktor and a whole host of plug-ins.
Hardware is great fun, especially when accidents happen and you get these sound shots that couldn’t happen within software. That being said, I’m in no means anti-software or anything like that. You have to use whatever tools you have to hand and find a way to make them inspire you to make music and quickly translate your ideas into something solid and tangible. I just happen to have this hardware studio from being a producer in a time that hardware was the only option available to you. It meant lots of odd jobs, long hours and eating packet noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner but it was worth it. I’m still excited when I sit in front of my Nord keyboards and start playing some keys and twisting the knobs and messing with the sound in new and interesting ways. However, when I take that sound and record it into the digital realm and start processing it with plug-ins and automation then you basically have a whole other world of sound open up to you and I’m really looking to explore the best of both worlds with analogue and digital in my quest for that perfect beat.
In past interviews you have talked about the loss of cultural identity in music, in particular the disconnection with black music influences. How much should cultural or even racial identity inform an artist’s music? Certainly coming from a jungle/ drum & bass perspective, the mixing of cultural elements was crucial, but can it also be restrictive?
It makes music interesting to me when artists bring their influences, background and culture into what they are doing and give the listener a perspective to life and music that is new to them. Without that insight into the world of what made the artist the music would be incredibly bland and monotone. That said, cultural identities are becoming ever more intertwined as barriers come down or shift and I think this will bring about some very interesting and exciting music in the future from all over the globe.
"It makes music interesting to me when artists bring their influences, background and culture into what they are doing and give the listener a perspective to life and music that is new to them."
What I’m very wary of is operating exclusively within the expected confines of your ‘culture’ and not looking to go beyond what everyone expects of you, including yourself. I constantly question the status quo of people’s expectations, stereotypes and misperceptions.
Anything else that you think we could do with knowing? What's coming next?
As well as the ‘TV Watches You’ EP which drops in April, I have an album and a follow up EP forthcoming on Phuture Shock Musik plus a couple more EPs to fit in the release schedule there. I also have the ‘Take Me Back’ EP dropping soon on Teng Records which is more on a house tip and the ‘New Me’ EP on Ed Davenport’s new label Counterchange Recordings backed with an Aardvark Remix.
Also look out for releases on Naked Lunch, Bagpak Music, Arision Records and Disko404.
After my 5 year break from music I’m really happy to back in the creative world and plan on making a lot of music, meeting like minded people, putting in some good work for labels that are passionate about music and breaking the rules as much as possible.
Nubian Mindz 'TV Watches You' is released 22nd April 2013 on Phuture Shock Musik