Talking with one of Hospital's elites.
Nu:Tone and drum & bass are synonymous. The Cambridge based producer is long term member of the South London label, Hospital and has churned out a total of 5 albums, 4 of them solo projects. As a DJ, he's one of the most in demard names slotting himself in line ups at the best festivals and clubs across the globe including the upcoming Rise Festival this December.
We caught up with him just after his tour in North America to chat with him about his summer, working with Hospital and his time with John B.
Hey, how are you - what have you been up to recently?
I’m good – a bit cross-eyed having just returned from circumnavigating the globe over the past week or so, but good!
You've just been on a tour in North America - how's was that?
It was brief but great. Three shows in three cities that I’ve been going to for quite a while now, and they always deliver. San Francisco is one of my favourite spots in N.America, great people and a great vibe. Los Angeles has been an essential stop on any tour for years, they have such a strong scene with events like Respect packing out week-in, week-out. Toronto is another really strong scene – we played in a venue called Nest which I haven’t been to before, but was a great club, ram-jammed with dedicated D&B heads.
Do you enjoying playing over that part of the world?
I love it, it’s always been it’s own thing in North America. As with a lot of things, they put their own spin on D&B. For a while the more soulful sound didn’t get the attention it probably deserved, but the scene is much more balanced these days.
You also played back to back with your brother Logistics at Hospitality in the Park, how was it?
Such a buzz – Matt and I have been playing at Hospitality events since Herbal days, and it’s mind blowing to see how far we have all come in that time. The vibe was so positive and it was such a lovely crowd. One of our favourite sets of the year without a doubt.
What's different about playing back to back?
It’s harder really, as with a solo set you’re completely in control. A lot of DJs rock up with a 1hr set all planned out, and often just run through the playlist, occasionally deviating from the plan, but mostly just regurgitating what they prepared at home or in the studio. With B2B sets (at least the way that Matt & I play them) you have to respond to what the other DJ plays, often mixing into tunes that you may have never heard before. Software like Mixed In Key really help – at least your next tune won’t be a harmonic clash, but you still have to think on your feet. The flip side to that is that when it’s good, it’s a lot more fun. I never tire of the buzz I get when I manage to fluke a nice mix on the fly!
How did Hospitality in the Park go down?
We didn’t get in until around 5:30, so we missed a lot of the goodness that was going on earlier unfortunately. We did manage to hear the London Elektricity Big Band though, which was incredible. I didn’t think it would be possible to top the London Elektricity Live experience, but Tony managed it somehow! I think the fact that it was a different approach to live performance meant that it wasn’t a direct comparison – unlike previously, all the tracks were reinterpretations of the original tracks. That meant that they could make the most of all the musical resources on stage. The addition of a huge brass section gave the whole thing so much sonic weight and power. I’m a total sucker for a killer brass section. I think if I ever did something similar I’d have to bring in an entire string section.
You've been with Hospital Records since 2003! That's a long time, what's kept you with them so long?
They care about their artists! I’m so fortunate to have signed with Chris and Tony when I did, so early in my career. It’s meant that for the past 13 years I’ve been able to focus on making the music, safe in the knowledge that there’s an amazing team behind me. They manage to get the best out of their artists – always encouraging us to aim high with our musical ambitions. They also work incredibly hard at getting the most out of the music once it’s actually written and eventually released. Having a label that plays the long-term game is hugely valuable in today’s ADHD culture.
Hospital is a label that has a strong legacy, why do you think the label is so well regarded internationally?
I think a lot of it is down to the fact that they do almost everything in-house. From A&R, to marketing, promotions, events. Everything is handled by the team in the office. That means that everything is carried out to the same high standards, and with the same ethos and values behind it.
How did you & Hospital first start working together?
I sent a CD to High Contrast and the office at around the same time. At around the same time, Fabio had started playing a lot of my music. Lincoln mentioned me to the guys in the office, just as my demo arrived. That same week, Fabio played 10 of my tunes on Radio 1. It was an incredibly fortunate synchronisation of circumstances.
When did you first get involved in the d&b scene?
I started buying D&B in 1995, it was Full Cycle and Metalheadz that first got my attention. Around the same time I managed to blag myself a show on the University radio station, and shortly after started playing in clubs. It took me a few years before I started to make D&B to any kind of reasonable standard. Grooverider was the first person to play my music – the first thing I knew about it was a phone call from my brother to tell me that my tune was on Radio 1. Such a surreal moment, but one that I’ll never forget!
You also met John B whilst at uni?
We were students in the same year at Durham – we met through the University Radio Station. I was playing soul+funk and he walked by the studio when I was playing a track called The Worm by Jimmy McGriff. It has a classic breakbeat in the introduction, one that John had been looking for. We got talking and it turned out that my collection was full of tunes that were perfect for sampling. I’d never really thought about my collection in that way, but through many late sessions in the University studios, I learnt a lot about sampling and processing technique from him. He eventually started up a night called Substance at one of the clubs in town. We had all sorts of big names pass through – Grooverider, SS, Jumping Jack Frost, Ed Rush. We were all just nerdy students really, trying our best to act cool in our Helly Hansen and Tommy Hilfiger. I have a lot of happy memories from that time though. Hearing Ed Rush rewind Alien Girl 3 times in a row certainly sticks!
Last year you mixed all three Hospital Records' Fast Music compilations, did you enjoy putting the mixes together?
Those were so much fun to do. The Hospital back catalogue is huge these days – so many tunes across the last 21 years. The hardest thing was trying to maintain a broad selection of producers, whilst not missing anything out. I think the first – Fast Soul Music – was the most enjoyable to put together and to mix. That compilation really draws on the strongest aspect of the Hospital catalogue in my opinion.
It's been two years since your last solo album, Future History, and three since your project with Logistics, Nu:Logic - have you any more work in the pipe lines?
We’re currently working on a new Nu:Logic album at the moment. We’re hoping to have it ready for a mid-2017 release, but it’s still early days.
Talking about Nu:Logic - do you enjoy working with your brother?
We love working together – we have very different strengths and weaknesses, so we really complement each other in the studio. Between the two of us, we make a whole producer.
If you could play a gig anywhere in the world - where would you like to play?
I’d love to visit South Africa, I hear such amazing things about the country. One day!
What is your proudest moment?
From a career perspective, I think it’s probably releasing the Nu:Logic LP. Matt and I put a huge amount of work into that album over a very short space of time. The end result was a perfect snapshot of where we were at right then, and really reflected everything that we wanted to say musically as well. It’s hard to do that – to write a (hopefully) coherent album that completely reflects you, but I think sometimes two minds are really better than one!
Catch Nu:Tone at Rise Festival this December, full details here.
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