For anyone circulating and percolating across the more ambient spectrum of drum & bass, PFM was an indicator of quality, forward-thinking music. We catch up to talk about past and present...
While standout classics like The Western, One and Only, Danny's Song, Wash Over Me, and For All Of Us firmly placed the then duo at the heart of Good Looking's dominant entourage at its peak, his remixes for JMJ & Richie and Eat Static cemented PFM's position at the vanguard of the ambient drum & bass scene.
Jamie Saker left the group, but Mike Bolton took on the name, and 2002's Producer 02 provided a sublime retrospective on the PFM project, along with a fresh version of perhaps the most iconic PFM tune - One & Only.
Following a house release in 2004, it all went quiet – for six years.
After an electrifying comeback on the Telluric imprint in 2010, and the utterly charming If You Were Mine in September 2011, Mike drops a stunning remix of Touch Feel for Justice & Metro's 839 LP remix project. Contributing a remix that takes you back to how the future seemed to be ever expanding, yet still retaining cutting edge in its own right, the track rubs shoulders with top-class talent such as Jason oS, Deep Blue, Dominic Ridgway and more.
Good time to talk to Mike? We thought so…
You were synonymous with the ambient jungle movement of the 90s. What was your musical development up to that point, and how did you get signed to GLO?
I really started spinning records back in 1982-83. A friend of mine owned one of the biggest clubs in my town – that's when I first got to play on Technics 1200s. I had been buying records for a number of years before I left school. I listened to a wide range of music at that time – mostly jazz, funk, electro, hip hop –but almost anything I like I bought. Then in 1987-88, a new sound started to come through, the early house sound, which would later become the rave scene.That's when I met Danny Bukem, in around 1990. Four years later, he persuaded us to get a studio and that's how I got involved with GLO.
What was the highest point during that part of your career?
Probably when we went live and went on tour playing Ministry, Cream etc – those were exciting times.
When on tour with GLO, what was the most peculiar thing you saw? And what other tales of touring 'misbehaviour' can you pass on?
I could tell you some stories about strippers, kamikazes, the real slim shady and broken headphones, but I’m not. It would take too long. It is safe to say that if I drink too much Polish vodka, there’s a good chance I could find myself locked out of my hotel room with no clothes on!
Why do you feel the atmospheric, ambient side of the scene became 'frozen out' of the drum & bass scene around the turn of the millennium?
I have no idea – as far as I see it, it's always been that way.
Your tunes sounded so far ahead of their time – what studio techniques were you using and what gear did you use?
No special techniques really, just quality synths mostly – Roland and Korg – and lots of hybrid textures, which I used to layer up to get one sound.
As the darker side of the sound became more prominent, did you consider making tunes in a similar vein, and why?
Depends really on your definition of darkness – there is beauty in darkness, especially when you come from the darkness into the light. Like the old lyric: "How strange the change from major to minor" – I just make music I'm feeling, that's it.
You were away from drum & bass for a long time - what made you leave, and what brought you back?
I never really left, I just took a back seat for a while and, therefore, I'm not sure if I'm really back. I have started making a few tunes again – who knows what might happen?
How would you describe the drum & bass scene, and the wider underground music spectrum, as it is today?
I think it’s really cool on a level of production and talent; forward-thinking individuals making extremely good tunes, which I love. Obviously the internet has changed things from an underground point of view. It's probably very unlikely that there's many producers making a living from mellow drum & bass anymore – if you are making that kind of music, it's just for the love of it.
How did you get involved with the 839 remix project?
I've known Scott (Metro) for years. I met him back in the day, when I first started playing out, but I'd lost contact with him for a few years. However, when we hooked upagain, he sent me some stuff over from the label that I really liked, so it was really cool when he asked if I would like to do a remix because I already had "Touch Feel" as one track I wanted to work on for the label.
Who's currently inspiring you, both within and outside the scene?
Loads of people – Phat Playaz, Pennygiles, Oliver Yorke, Savage Rehab, Jaybee, Big Bud, Komatic and Calibre, to name but a few.
When producing a tune, do you set out with a pre-ordained idea or is the process more organic than that?
For the most part, I like to start with the drums and percussion, maybe a few incidentals thrown in like effects and so on, and get a good loop going – say 16 bars or 32. It has been known to work the other way – for example, music, samples and so on, then the beats and bass. However, I think a good starting point in the tune-making process has to be the drums and the whole drum programming thing.
Do you have a particular favourite tune that you've produced, and why?
It would probably be The Western. It was a tune that started with a simple loop – nobeats – then I added some chords. I remember just listening to that loop over and over again, it was just beautiful to listen to that go round and round. There’s something going on when you can create something that you can listen to in loop over so many bars, and it’s like there is no beginning or end. It’s quite an emotional journey that one for me – for many different reasons.
How do you get inspiration? Do you hear a sample and go - oh yes, or is it anaccumulation of ideas?
I get inspired from lots of things, but mostly by listening to music all kinds. I like a lot of different styles, and there’s a whole bunch of it out there .
Do you feel drum and bass can become mainstream but retain artistic merit, as it did in the 90s?
Probably not. The kids today want to go out and jump about to something that’s more in your face, kind of rock and roll rebellion, all that kind of stuff – that’s why dubstep is crossing over. It’s what the youngsters want to hear. Of course, there isstill a big drum & bass following out there, but as a scene it’s quite small. I’ve always made tunes to listen to as well as dance to. My aim in 2012 is to make more music to listen to rather than dance to, and that’s what I’m going to concentrate on in the future.
Have you ever considered expanding your repertoire into other areas?
I am working on some new stuff as well as drum & bass. I've got some more remixes in the pipeline, and I have some interesting collaborations coming up in the new year.
Do youhave a message for today's young producers?
My message to anyone young or old who might be thinking about getting into producing music, whatever the genre, is enjoy it, keep it simple, make sure you use goodingredients to start with and steer clear of extreme EQs and over processing techniques. But most of all, have fun!
What doesthe future hold for PFM?
I'm going to make more music, that's for sure.
Listen to clips ofthe 839 remix album here:
Out on January 9, 2012.
A sampler12" vinyl package, featuring PFM's remix of Touch Feel and Jason oS rework of Solomon, is out now - listen here: