Saturday 1 August 2009

For our second installment in the Lifetracks series, we've selected one of the most promising new producers to emerge from Bristol in the last few years, Wascal. With a handful of releases already under his belt on his own Wascal Dubs label and the classic Hollowpoint on Hammer Records still a favourite amongst many discerning dubsteppers, Wascal looks set to capitalise on a busy year spent producing with a slew of releases lined up to take him to the next level. We asked him to pick a range of tracks that have been important to his growth as an artist, and then we sat down to chat to him one fine summer evening.

B: Evening Wascal. How's tricks?

W: The sun is out, work has finished for the day and I'm armed with a cup of tea and a rollie. Life is sweet!

B: LOL liking the positive attitude! Summer seems to be having some difficulty getting going this year...

W: Yes, mainly at evenings and weekends too! At least it was out for St. Pauls carnival though, makes all the difference at things like that. To be honest I've been cooped up indoors finishing tunes through some of the nicer days this year, my studio tan is strong.

B: Those 60w light bulbs really do the the trick huh? What's been getting cooked up in the lab then, anything imminent for release on the horizon?

W: Quite a lot coming up in the next 6 months by the looks of things. Bit of an essay coming up:

Superisk - Eva Takada (Wascal mix) on Time's Audio Banquet label which has been doing the rounds as a 320 for some time. Headhunter played it at FWD a few months back which is good to know. That's going to be MP3 only.

Wascal - Overstep b/w SLT Mob mix on Halo (12" etc): Basically future garage trance step. It's better than it sounds on paper I swear! That hasn't gone out to anyone except SLT & Bunzero so expect to hear it soon.

Buckfunk 3000 - High Volume (Wascal mix) (12" TBA). Si emailed asking if I wanted to remix any of his old Fuel stuff and I jumped at the chance as him and Tipper are heroes of mine. Took 6 weeks and is probably the most complexly edited tune I've made. Si's sorting out the label for that so more info on the way.

Clustered b/w Nephilim rmx on Betamorph (Digi), tech-dubstep that's been doing the rounds for a bit backed with a remix from Hollywood based Nephilim.

Wascal - Don't Forget on Cymbstep (12" etc), my second release on the dubstep sister label of Cymbalism, US Based tech dnb label. Crunchy breaks and string section business.

Finally Wascal - Glisten Up and an un-named one that's gone out to a few people as Junglish. Better name on the way! These should be coming out on Cut La Roc's Rocstar label - details are scarce at the mo, only confirmed it today.

I'm also working on an album but keep getting all the best bits signed so its half done AGAIN lol. Doh!

B: Lot of Bristol producers working on albums right now, sounds like 2010 will be the year of the LP! Do you consider yourself more of an "album" or "single" artist then?

W: Singles to be honest. Doing an album would be good to get more music out to more people, but I very rarely listen to dance albums in one sitting so it's a bit hypocritical really. I'd love to do something like that, but I find myself covering a lot of bases so its tricky! Right now its a collection of 140bpmish dubstep, 2step, techno and jungle and I'm working on making it sound like a cohesive album.

My favourite dance albums are ones that takes you on that (cliched) journey, Exit Planet Dust for instance - most of the tunes on there stand up on their own but the way it progresses keeps you locked in.

B: Chemical Brothers a big influence for you then? You've featured a classic track from them in your mix...

W: They were a huge influence around Exit Planet Dust. I was playing a lot of guitar in my early teens and ended up going to Phoenix Festival in 1996 with the intention of seeing all sorts of bands - I ended up seeing Jilted-era Prodigy on the Thursday, Hardfloor & CJ Bolland, Goldie and co on Saturday then Chemical Bros last thing on the Sunday.

As a 15 year old it was a massive eye opener, people were blatantly having a whale of a time without a guitar in sight. I chose F**k Up Beats for the mix because at the time it was about as far from widdly guitar as I had heard and set me on the path of making sub-par beats on an Amiga with Octamed. That weekend was the beginning of the end for my rock guitarist career lol.

B: Interesting you say that because this mix is strictly electronic, you don't harbour any influences from your past for rock or metal?

W: Not really, as a teenager I listened to quite a bit of Blur, Radiohead, RATM, Senser, Pavement, Ben folds etc - whatever was on the evening session while I pretended to do homework, but none of that really carries through to my music.

I'm no lyricist and I found the wholly instrumental aspect of dance music appealed to me - nothing worse than a great tune being ruined by a miserable lyric imo. Take Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others by The Smiths for example - possibly the best instrumental they did then you've got Morrissey moaning about girls mothers over it, kills it for me.

I've always listened to the music more than the lyrics, even from when I was really young listening to my dads Hendrix LPs. Hendrix is one of the few influences I've taken from rock - the sound sculpting and production blew me away when I first heard the remastered versions on headphones, total pioneer. Nowadays I'd reach for motown or old r&b as something non-dancey to listen to rather than rock, that stuff is gold.

B: So you've cited that Pheonix Festival moment as a bit of an epiphany for you, but you've included some killer old skool tunes here that existed before that time, especially my personal favourite Close Your Eyes. It seems that kind of proto-jungle breakbeat hardcore definitely feeds into your own style of production...

W: Yeah definitely a big influence on me. I love the crunchiness of the breaks and the ADHD approach to arrangement on those era tunes, its like the producer went 'right! bored now! next idea' and changes up all the time. There's really not enough of that around, and I love fidget for bringing that back a bit. I get bored very easily and when it comes to DJing if the tune doesn't switch up after a few minutes I'm not going to play the whole thing.

I came across that Acen tune on an old rave compilation, Rave 2!!!! Hardcore or something like that - after seeing the light at Phoenix Festival, I used to go to this 2nd hand store, Kellys Records in Cardiff Market, and root around for hours looking to educate myself on what I had missed, I had no Internet back then and only pocket money to spend so you really had to root around. I bought that album because it had The Green Man by S.U.A.D on it, but ended up playing the Acen tune far more. That ridiculously loud sub note right at the start sold it for me, and it was the first time I had heard hoovers properly. It's funny that all that mental music came out from when I was 10-13 yrs old and grew up thinking stuff like Out Of Space by the Prodigy was perfectly normal music. Listening back its fucking mental drug music!

B: Ha ha!! Think about kids growing up now with Dubstep and Grime as their regular musical diet! Talking about Cardiff, you were involved with Holodeck, the city's finest techno night - is techno something you have a lot of love for? We have some Beltram in here, some DAVE The Drummer...

W: Yeah definitely. I first got a set of decks when I was 17 with my hard earned money from a dish washing job. I went to Catapult with £30 and must have listened to half their stock! I went in intending to pick up the D&B I had been hearing on tapes that were doing the rounds in school (and swiftly learnt my first lesson about dubplate culture), and ended up leaving with an armful of smitten and routemaster techno. I think I asked for 'something that sounds like Josh Wink but harder'. They definitely sorted me out, heh.

From there I ended up going to ID downstairs in the Hippo club and seeing most of the London techno lot at some time or the other. That club was also responsible for my hard house / trance days, as it was a full on rave upstairs back in those days. I haven't picked tunes from that era for this mix because in retrospect they re cringeworthily bad, or at least haven't aged well at all and don't influence what I do nowadays. That was definitely my clubbing honeymoon though, techno and tech trance, 303s and 909s all over the shop!

I ended up playing a set of acid techno on Glastonbury Radio Avalon 2000 by some master internet blaggage, but apart from that I only ever played it at house parties and free parties. Its a shame that hardtek and k took over that scene because it used to be a wicked laugh.

I didn't end up playing for Holodeck till about 2004, and that was D&B mainly but through the epic afterparties I've talked incessantly at DAVE, Jerome Hill, Chris Liberator, Billy Nasty. Poor guys.

I chose the Joey Beltram and that DAVE the Drummer tunes as they're the two extremes of techno i prefer - The DAVE one for the hypnotic synth that repeats ad infinitum and drum layering, and The Start It Up as there's pretty much no notes at all, which as an A-Level music student at the time impressed the hell out of me. I did my A-Level critical study on Techno and got an E. The Irony.

B: Ha ha that's amazing! So how do you feel those elements feed into your music, which is admittedly on a different end of the sonic spectrum in terms of genre?

W: Well there's not so much of it in the dubstep that I've had released so far, its probably more with my mixing. Seeing all those guys at Holodeck every month smashing their way through so many records an hour with reckless abandon definitely inspired me to get mixing faster.

I've got quite a few techno/dubstep tunes I've been sitting on for a bit, not the Berlin vs Bristol axis that people often mention, more a kind of Bristol vs tracky drumcode/beltram/pounding grooves thing. I've got no idea who to send them to though, might put them out myself at some point when the times right, if it ever is!

B: Do it, I wanna hear those bad boys asap!! Switching it up, we've got some pretty fierce D&B in this mix too, where does your experience with that genre come from? Were you getting into that around the same time as techno?

W: Yeah, around the same time as I was getting old rave LPs and things. In NME and Select I saw the name Metalheadz come up quite a bit, so went and bought Platinum Breakz when it came out. I had only really heard the stuff that made it onto the radio - Incredible/Inner City Life etc (and whatever ridiculousness John Peel was playing ) and couldn't remember much from the D&B at Phoenix so hearing that album on headphones was a revelation. Unofficial Ghost is my favourite from that album but its a hard choice to make - the hoovers and the way it switches up win it in the end. The beat from Hollowpoint was sampled from the end of it by the way, then chopped and layered.

The Tribe of Issachar tune on the mix is from back when a few schoolmates used to pass round One Nation tapes of Hype, Mickey Finn etc and that tune stood out for me. The combination of tinny ragga vocal and ridiculous sub never gets old, I still drop that when I can get away with it. Around the same time tunes like Turbulence and Quadrant 6 were also doing it for me.

From about 1999 to 2002 I didn't pay much attention to D&B really, and I missed a lot of the Techstep thing. When I started listening again and heard Medicine remix, I went straight out and bought it and eventually ended up playing D&B full time for years. The funk in the drums and the sub on that tune do it for me, its pretty sparse but any more elements would be overkill. And it has cowbells! I was playing a lot of breaks back before then, but it all got too ploddy and there was next to nowhere to drop the breakbeat garage I was stockpiling except house parties. D&B got me excited about raving again, and I still follow it now to a certain extent.

I picked the Teebee & Calyx remix of Break - Submerged because it was the last D&B tune that got me really excited before the fateful Byte with Search & Destroy and SLT Mob that got me hooked on Dubstep! I had narrowed my tastes in D&B to such a point that I was playing a small cross-section of a small niche of D&B, so to hear those DJs kill a club differently made me re-think what I was doing, it was time for a change. The Submerged remix is pretty much the pinnacle of what I was into though, top notch neuro D&B.

B: Have you began to explore new sources for production or are you still quite keen on using elements from D&B? I recall a lot of people saying you had a quasi-jungle aspect to your tunes when you started...

W: It was a natural thing using jungle/D&B elements when I first started making dubstep, I was coming from that kind of scene and that's the kind of sounds I had lying around. It was pretty liberating having all that space between beats to play with!

I definitely didn't get the whole 'bass and space' thing at first though! I'm still guilty of overcrowding the mix at times. Having S&D and SLT as my first proper dubstep club experience skewed how I heard it for a bit, they both get breaksteppy and have a jungle element at times I think. That night after Byte I went home and made Daily Grind overnight. I passed it to a few Bristol DJs, Bunzero picked it up on Sub FM and it made the top 10 digital releases of the year on the DSF poll that year (oh the dizzy heights he he!), so it worked out well.

I've been writing dance music in some shape or form since I was 15 and I've had a crack at all sorts of stuff over the years, from techno to D&B - whatever I'm feeling at the time. I've built up a studio with a 24 channel desk and 606s, sh101s, Akai samplers and then sold it all to the point where it's just me and a laptop, it's all you need nowadays. Also I've had hard drives die a few times right on the verge of getting stuff signed which has contributed to my sound a bit i guess, it's hard to pick yourself up and write the same thing again so I've generally moved on to something new and applied the tricks I've learnt to the next thing. When I first heard dubstep there wasn't a template as such, so it was the perfect melting pot for what I had learnt so far.

Saying that, I listen to some stuff I did even last year and grit my teeth at the things I'd change now - I think I'm just hitting my stride this year, especially with the Si Begg remix. I'm using a lot of elements from 2step, rave, techno, jungle and house at the moment for my dubstep at the moment. Anything but what is perceived as pure ''dubstep' sounds hopefully!

B: So would you consider your sound to be even 'dubstep' right now? It's interesting you mention Si Begg, as alongside producers like Tipper who you feature in the mix, they've always operated outside the parameters of perceived that something you hope to achieve in your own sound?

W: Its a tricky one, the stuff I'm making is definitely not straight dubstep but if it isn't what is it? Its around 140bpm and has a lot of sub-bass. When I got into dubstep the template hadn't been defined like it is now, which is a shame in a way.

As for Si Begg and Tipper, well they stood out like sore thumbs from the rest of the Nu Skool Breaks lot, their tunes were dripping with ideas and the production and details in their tunes were insanely intricate (and still are). Its rare to find that in tunes that can also slay a dancefloor. They're pretty much the only producers from that era of NSB that I still play and listen to. I think operating outside the parameters of a genre frees you up a lot, because no-ones expecting anything of you so you can do what you like, you're not expected to play 90 mins of wobbly bangers when you DJ. But that can be a right laugh too.

B: With dubstep becoming more and more fractured into sub-genres, do you find it harder to gain a lot of inspiration from the genre as it is now? There's only a handful of artists from that sound in your mix...

W: In this mix I kept the dubstep to a bare minimum, I do a mix every month on, so thats the pure dubstep covered. I managed to get in touch with quite a few people before they blew up so I've got a fairly steady supply of quality beats, and its good to get them out there, along with stuff from unheard of producers who hit me up on AIM.

I don't find the genre on the whole as inspiring as it was, but thats always been the case for me with music - find a sound, get obessively into it, tire of it because you listened to it too much. The fracturing is inevitable, the difference between the extremes of minimal vibes and full on wobble are too big to sit in one set for some. I just play what I want and get on with it, I'm liking the wave of funky influenced stuff at the moment, its an unexpected direction which is good.

As for the tunes on the mix, the Vex'd tune was the standout one from their Resonance FM mix that was doing the rounds when I first got into the sound. That entire mix blew me away - theres so much space in this tune, especially that it sounds so huge on a rig, totally stripped down and thunderous.

The Peverelist one really came onto my radar at Bloc Weekend 08. He was playing at 5am in a scummy bar in a Pontins we nicknamed Raveschwitz and totally slayed it - I'd heard him in Bristol but not really listened to a whole set, mainly warm-ups. Either way, when this tune came on and when that melody dropped, the whole bar erupted. Seeing people go off like that to a mournful synth line on a minimal techy tune opened my eyes to what can be done with very few elements. It got a rewind and it happened all over again, good times.

TRG came out with so much quality last year it was hard to pick one. The whole Missed Calls EP is fire, proper future garage yet in the same few months he did Oi Killa!, a ridiculout wobfest which smashed it at Sonar in MAH's set, and Less Music which is basicly dub techno. I've got a lot of time for producers who can master so many different styles and TRG is one of them.

As for the future garage, listening to this stuff got me into writing a fair bit of my own, which got me in touch with Whistla, I wrote a tune called The Lesson specifically for his label (with a Rakim sample 'this is how it should be done') as some kind of future garage manifesto. He picked it up and its coming out on his label L2S in August [forgot to mention that on the releases bit whoops!]. Nice one TRG.

B: Sounds good! Ok man I think we're done here! Thanks for chatting to me! What's the final word from you?

W: Well from the other tunes on that mix Timber was a post club anthem for ages when I was growing up so that had to go on there. Jammin' was the pinnacle of breakbeat garage for me, Zinc owned the genre with that tune. Jack got Jacked remix hasn't left the box since I got it and that stuff is definitely getting me excited at the mo, proper genre mashing club music with blatant rave ethos, finally that Zed Bias dub had to go on there because it keymixes with Jack Got Jacked so sweetly and its an awesome remix of a stone cold classic!

Aside from that, got a load of tunes coming soon and possibly a string of gigs in the US in the pipeline so things are shaping up nicely!!


DJ's: buy all my tunes twice & rewind them all the way through your sets
Promoters: book me, go on, you know you want to
Producers: My AIM is 'thewascal' and its on auto accept.


Lifetracks #02 - Wascal

01. Acen - Close Your Eyes (Optikonfusion) [Production House]
02. Chemical Brothers - F**k Up Beats [Freestyle Dust]
03. Doc Scott - Unoffcial Ghost [Metalheadz]
04. Joey Beltram - The Start It Up [Trax]
05. Congo Natty - His Imperial Majesty (Original Dubplate) [Congo Natty]
06. D.A.V.E The Drummer - Hydraulix 2A [Hydraulix]
07. Coldcut & Hexstatic - Timber [Ninja Tune]
08. Tipper - Tug Of War [Fuel]
09. Jammin - Hello [Bingo]
10. Ed Rush & Optical - Medicine (Matrix rmx) [Virus]
11. Break - Submerged (Calyx & Teebee mix) [Subtitles]
12. Vex'd - 3rd Choice [Planet Mu]
13. Peverelist - Roll With The Punches [Punch Drunk]
14. TRG - Missed Calls [Subway]
15. AC Slater - Jack Got Jacked (Jack Beats mix)
16. Zed Bias - Neighbourhood (Roska mix)

DOWNLOAD: Lifetracks 02 - Wascal

FFI: Wascal Website