Here at Organic there are people who consistently write music we love, one such person is Soul Intent... Somehow we've never cornered him long enough to find out about the man behind the music... Until now! Let's get busy...
As an artist you've taken the traditional hard route to get to your current position over the last 12 years. From your first main room gigs at Nottingham's Detonate, through to cutting your teeth in production and from 2008 releasing on what would be considered top end labels. In many ways it's the classic story of hard graft, and it's rewards. What have been the pivotal moments in your journey?
Well I still feel like the journey has only just begun if I’m honest but there's a few moments that stand out. My first 12" ("Jus Vibe" on Blindside) was a massive deal for me. Very shortly after Dan (Blindside) signed the B side, Mary Ann Hobbs played "Jus Vibe" on Radio 1 and DJ Die rang me from Finland to say how much he loved "Slow Jam" (the B side). These were moments that made me feel I was starting to turn heads.
"Success is addictive and keeps me hungry for continued progression as a artist"
From not hearing anything and thinking “You’re just wasting your time here Alex!” to hearing my tracks on one of Radio 1 really helped motivate me to push on. These events signalled the start of things really, and luckily there’s been many special moments since.
Success is addictive and keeps me hungry for continued progression as a artist, which is what I try to remember when I go through a dry patch and things are tough. I’ve done ok I guess, but I still have loads to learn and only when Gridlok says “that tune sounds perfectly produced, dude!” will I think I’m Billy Big Spuds.
With other artists you helped form the foundation of Geoff Presha's Samurai imprint. With these singles and "Vapour Trailz" and "AI" on Doc Scott's 31 Records acting as your calling cards you have maintained a steady output. But you also had a release planned for Rico's legendary Darkestral label that never reached fruition as such. The track "The Dark Robotic Orchestra", championed by Loxy would have been immortalized alongside what is arguably Instra:mental's best work, it must have been a big disappointment to not see it reach release?
Yeah its pretty disappointing when things like that happen, and unfortunately I've had quite a few tunes "signed" to big labels only for them to never come out. Some times there’s nothing anyone can do, vinyl sales are low and labels get scared about making big losses and I understand that. But other times I’ve been let down by the label, plain and simple… And I’m far from the only one. After it's happened a couple of times though you realise that keeping your feet on the ground is very important.
"I’m from a generation where it wasn’t uncommon in the early 90's for artists to have about 6 aliases."
Take what people say with a pinch of salt and don’t believe it until you see it. Some labels (usually run by DJs from my experience) have a tendency to tell you what you want to hear so they can lock a tune down, then they disappear and leave you hanging. Working with people you trust and respect is key in this business. Unfortunately part of the drum & bass journey seems to be getting burnt along the way.
You've mentioned in the past that you feel you are possibly too drum & bass-centric. With the lines between genres and tempos becoming ever more blurred can you see yourself stepping out of drum & bass into other style much like Breakage, Kryptic Minds or Mikal?
I’m a lot better these days but it was definitely true a few years ago, and sometimes I do think “come on, step back and look around”. I've got a couple of serious music addict mates who play me their new discoveries. It's a nice social way of checking out new music with other people, rather than just sitting by myself in front of Boomkat for hours. That's why I miss going record shopping, I used to chat to guys behind the counter about what was new, or I'd just pick out random tunes from the shelves and see what they were like. There was obviously some shockers but some gems too. Random stuff I just picked up because I liked the cover. I think kids miss out by not having the social interaction that record stores provided.
"I still buy vinyl, but its usually old stuff I missed first time round. I like wondering who's owned it, where its been played..."
Anyway, break on the subject, I've always made random electronic and trip hop stuff but in the last couple of years I've been putting a bit more time into finishing 140bpm(ish) tracks. I chose to use the alis Odyssia ( http://www.soundcloud.com/odyssia ) as I wanted to keep it separate to the drum & bass stuff, and I’m from a generation where it wasn’t uncommon in the early 90's for artists to have about 6 aliases.
Alley Cat has signed two Odyssia tracks to her Kokeshi label and they're featured on her first Kokeshi Kompilation which is out this week. I've also have DJ support for Youngsta and Geiom which has been encouraging too. There’s just not enough hours in a day!
With the recent news of distributor Nu Urban's recent demise, drum & bass current affairs has once again turned it's head towards the question of vinyl's sustainability as a medium. While Roni Size was once famously quoted saying "I play music, not a medium", a big part of DJing's foundation lays in vinyl... What is your opinion?
I've got about 3500 records and will always love vinyl but I also realise times change and MP3s are a very cheap and accessible format. From a performance perspective, as long as you're not letting the technology do all the work I think people should use what they want, but for me the most engaging sets are still from people using as little technology as possible. The Ableton Live sets I've seen have always been pretty lame, the artist is hidden behind a laptop screen and there’s a massive lack of engagement.
In it's current incarnation, who has had the biggest influence on your sound, be it musically or ideologically?
There's quite a few labels and artists that have influenced me over the years but the biggest sources of inspiration are probably LTJ Bukem and Goldie. Not so much for their individual musical efforts, though both have made some amazing music, but it's their labels output in the mid 90s. I still don't think there's been a better era for drum & bass than the mid 90's when Good Looking and Metalheadz were killing it with every release, real proper classics! Photek, PFM, Source Direct, Digital, these guys and others were at the top of their game around this time and it really felt like something special was happening.
Moving forward as a DJ and producer in contemporary drum & bass, what is next for Soul Intent?
I write all sorts of drum & bass from the almost ambient to evil, dark stuff. Generally what gets finished are the more dancefloor style tunes, probably so I have some new rollers for DJ sets. That’s changing now though after falling in love with Burial, that guy killed me with his album "Untrue"! It’s really given me the hunger to really explore more deeper, soundtrack-esque compositions without worrying about tracks needing to sound ultra clean… Which really isn’t my style.
I'm also seriously thinking about finally starting my own label. It's something I've wanted to do for years, to be the one in control of the whole product from start to finish. There's some of those unreleased tracks I refuse to just giveaway, people always ask me about them so they’re clearly popular still. I’m not fussed about making money, I just want to look back in years to come and have these physical objects rather than a folder of MP3s. I'd be happy putting out one 12" a quarter, just the cream of the crop for the collectors, people who still want something physical. I still buy vinyl, but its usually old stuff I missed first time round. I like wondering who's owned it, where its been played... Corny I know, I guess I'm a bit of a vinyl romantic.