If there’s two things I love in tunes it’s big bass and catchy riffs – Radioactive Man has these in equal measures. Having been on the scene for 20 years, he’s brought out tonnes of great music, from creating genre defining tracks with Andrew Weatherall as Two Lone Swordsmen to collaborating with Billy Nasty as part of RadioNasty, as well as his own productions. Growl is an album that I know inside out and I was lucky enough to catch him play twice last year and both times he was epic – I thought my brain was going to explode at his set at Bloc he was so good.
With a new EP out this month and an album in February for Wang Trax, 2012 looks set to be another busy year for the veteran producer. I was delighted to get the chance to pick his brain and find out more about his upcoming releases.
I suppose firstly, what was it that got you interested in electronic music and making your own tunes?
Well, turning 20 in 1992 and being in the midst of the most exciting change in music was the main thing. The free parties were kicking right off – every single weekend there was a massive rave somewhere. I had a big blue van and every weekend I would fill it with mates and off we went – culminating in the beast of a rave that was Castlemorton, estimated 50,000 people by word of mouth that went on for 10 days.
It was a truly amazing time, the birth of Jungle/Drum and Bass as we know it, all fuelled by a new drug called ecstasy – it was a recipe for adventures and going completely mental for days on end.
But before all that I was going to clubs like the Drum Club ( Thursday), Sabresonic (Friday) and Full Circle on a Sunday where it was mainly Techno/House vibes.
I was playing guitar in a band, so I wanted to experiment with electronic music too, and it was great because you could do it all on your own, which after playing in a band is very refreshing.
My 1st release was a 12″ on Full Circle Records as part of 7Hz with a mate of mine.
The new EP Engine has been a while coming. Was this a conscious decision? Did you purposely take your time with them?
No, some of these new tracks have been done for 3-4 years. It was going to come out on my own label Control Tower, which was being funded and run by Fabric Records, but to cut a long story short, they had to wind things up on the record side of things. As a lot of small labels did I suppose because people just weren’t buying enough to justify the cost. It’s not that much better now really, but things have got slightly better and hopefully still are.
After that happened I was very disillusioned with it all and decided to just sit back for a bit and see how things panned out. Good music will still be good music in the future, and that can also be a good test – the test of time. I was just about to release it all on digital ( begrudgingly because it sounds so much better on vinyl ) when my good friends at Wang told me they were starting a label with vinyl and would I like to put my music out with them. So now I have a big backlog of tracks to release which is good.
Growl has a different feel to your other releases in the sense that it feels more experimental for you. Was this intentional?
I don’t think it was experimental when u compare it to things like Autechre for example, but for me – I don’t really want to repeat myself too much – you got to keep things fresh for yourself otherwise you’re just going over the same shit. That’s why it always amazes me when people just make 4/4 music or Drum and Bass or one kind of any music – it would drive me nuts.
Do you think electronic music is progressing through incorporating different genre styles or do you think sticking with the old-school methods are enough?
Yes its definitely progressing, I think that’s what we do best on these isles – we are generally the ones who push things forward and some of the stuff coming out now is well warped. But sometimes simplicity is the key too, I don’t like tracks that sound like a technology competition when sometimes a good groove is all you need.
Having said that, there are people that do that kinda stuff exceptionally well – Aphex being one of the untouchables.
What do you find more satisfying – a DJ set or playing out live?
Both are really enjoyable, but playing live definitely has the edge – there’s more room to jam and ad lib etc…
The new EP is being released through new London label WANG Trax. How did this deal come about and what’s the story behind the label?
Wang is Lou and Nathan Hernando, really good friends of mine whom I’ve know for years. I grew up in the same area as Nathan. They’ve been doing parties indoors and out for over 12 years and are really musically enthusiastic people, so when they said they were doing the label I jumped at the chance because I know their hearts are in it 100% . I always like to put my music out with people I know cos its a really personal thing too, and you can always trust your mates to give you an honest opinion.
Do you listen to non-electronic music and if so, who?
Yep, loads. I’ve got a staple diet of roots reggae (Lee Scratch Perry being one of the most inventive producers ever in my opinion). I learned to play guitar when I was young by learning blues so I still love all things bluesy like Jon Spencer, R.L Burnside, Howling wolf, The Kills, PJ Harvey, Hendrix, etc to loads of 70’s Funk and Soul – The Meters being a fave to dirty rock n roll like The Cramps and Nirvana. Most new music is shite and over cooked, and don’t get me started on the karaoke competition which is X Factor etc. Shocking stuff. They should at least be encouraging people to write their own music FFS. But the public seem to lap it up, so who am I to argue?
How do you approach writing a tune? Any gear and routines that are always a must?
I normally start with the drums, inevitably the 808, as I just love that sound so much. I cant believe no-one’s invented a drum machine that is so immediately brilliant sounding. The kick drum alone has , still is, in all genres from Drum and Bass to House to Hip Hop – unbeatable. And I love using arpeggios because you always end up with unexpected stuff happening.
What are the benefits of using hardware over software?
Hardware sounds much fatter, especially the analogue kind, and generally the clock is much tighter.
Eg..an Akai MPC sounds totally different to a computer clock, and computers are generally much thinner sounding than machines which are built to do music specifically.
What kind of reaction do you want your music to evoke from the listener?
Crying, Laughing, Raving, Shagging.
What producers are you into at the moment?
Boddika is doing some great stuff. Neil Landstrumm, Jerome Hill, Cisco Ferreira, Ed Rush and Optical, Carl Finlow, Dexorcist, AFX, Luke Vibert , and Paul Blackford and all things Detroit like Model 500, Carl Craig and Mad Mike to name a few..
What is your favourite piece of music?
Brian Eno ‘An Ending Ascent’ is one of them… I could listen to that on loop for hours.
What does 2012 hold for you?
Hopefully lots of gigs and good times, as i’m not cut out to get a ‘proper’ job.
Big up to Radioactive Man for the interview. His new EP drops at the end of this month with an album to follow in February so make sure and get your hands on ’em.