Text: mercedes bunz sascha kösch aus De:Bug 03

Rob Playford

Interview by Mercedes Bunz, Oliver Koehler, Sascha Kösch
bunz@buzz.de, okoehler@rumms.uni-mannheim.de, bleed@buzz.de

RP: I hardly get to see anyone these days. I’m downstairs at the studio and everybody else is upstairs in the office working. We’re trying to finish off the album with Goldie.

It’s getting a bit late.

RP: Yeah we just want to finish it. Hopefully soon, cause I ‘ve got a lot of office work to catch on. Caroline is looking after all that with the rest of the gang and it ‘s very lucky for me that I have them.

Wouldn’t you like to quit officework.

RP: Nah, I quite like it. When you’re doing one thing, you miss the other thing. It’s nice to be able to do one thing for a little while and then go back. They are so different, being in the studio and being in the office sorting out deals and things, and communicate with the artist. When I’m in the studio i just don’t speak to anyone. I like to have the alternative. To change.

So, where is it going to go to the new Bowie Album? David Bowie came around to sing some tracks. And there is a huge Poster of him hanging around.

RP: Well in the studio I have now, David Bowie recorded all of his early records in. Till 74 I think. It’s a very famous studio, the Beatles recorded there as well, and Queen did Bohemian Rhapsody there. It was just empty for a while. People were moving out and it hasn’t been used as a recording studio for more than 10 years, but a postproduction video studio and it was only after I have gone in there that I found out all this history. It’s very bizzare that David Bowie is going in there again 30 years later. Crazy. Direction. It’s really going to have the same kind of diversity as the last Album but even more diverse. It’s expanding, it’s gone Panavision now rather then Technicolour. It’s gone wide.

Optical told us it’s going to be quite experimental and broad.

RP: I don’t know about experimental. Yes, in the genre that we are in it’s experimental, but it isn’t really experimental. What we are doing is mixing other styles in, in ways that people haven’t done jet. Those other styles have been around, were not really doing anything completely new, we’re touching of some very definete styles.

Whats the purpous.

RP: We just try to do something something different. Try to move the barrieres a bit, try not to do what people expect. But not different for different sake. We do something that is still us. All the tracks are with different people but it’s still us that are in it.

(Handy rings. Lots of: OK, allright, come in and see us, allright)

RP: Thats the meeting i missed. Cool. Where where we?

That it’s still you.

RP: It doesnt really change. When people will listen to it they are not going to say hell, who is that, they are going to know it.

Hard to believe cause you even got a classical track on there.

RP: Oh yeah, that one. There is etchings of that in Timeless with the strings. The track is called “Mother” and we’ve only got a quarter of it made about 25 Minutes and it will be over an hour long. We’ve got a 40 piece string section orchestra that did strings for it, and it’s mixed with the way we do it, special effects, so it’s the two in and out of each other.

But no beats in it?

RP: There will be, but later in the track, it will go through that. Different moves different styles. It was Goldies idea, totally.

An hour is quite long.

RP: Yeah, and thats what I’ve got in my mind. So that it will fit on a CD. If we hit 60 minutes that will be cool. I dont think it will be that difficult. It’s amazing the way it’s sculptured, the 25 minutes go so quickly. Timeless allways felt to us like like a 10 minute track where it was twice that, and this new track fells like ten minutes as well even if there are no beats. Timeless had three different sections, but this one hasn’t it just glides through. It’s going to be a hell of a big track to mixdown.

With this new Album everybody knows that it’s you and Goldie who do it, with the first one it seemed like noone really mentioned this, why would you say there is such a change?

RP: Really i did not want to be included in that. Goldie is the front person, he is the star, he is the one to go out and act for it. My mind is a little bit more serious and thought out, so thats where I am and where I prefer to be. Winding knobs and things. So that was how it was pushed, presswise.

But that changed.

RP: Not neccecarily. It’s changing a little, ok, just because people do know more about who I am generally. Because of the first Album, the scene, the label, there are a lot of reasons, but I’m not going to have a press push, and cameras running around me.

It’s seems to have become common practice though that people claim tracks that aren’t theirs.

RP: In this scene, that happens quite a lot. Any form of House Music, which is where we come from, was an engineers, producers music in the first place there were never acts or artists involved in it. It’s these backroom people that are doing all the tracks. Wich is not very different from the commercial scene nowadays, where they need people to front it, because otherwise they could not sit in the studio week in week out. But saying that, there has now, over the years come a fusion of these people. I don’t produce Goldie, we coproduce everything thats on there. If it would be the fact that I’d completely produce a track an would not get any recognition for it, then yeah, I dont think that thats a very crack way of going about it. There have been stupid commercial examples of complete fakes, some of them come to light as scandals and some of them you never know they happend, but in our kind of world thats the way it is anyway. The people in the studios dont want to run around on a stage wearing a slick suit. So they are quite happy for someone to that for them. It happens sometimes that they are shoved out secretly, but it’s more to the point that they dont want to be in that.

I’d rather have them at least allways mentioned, so that you do not have to thing everytime who might have produced this track.

RP: Yeah it should allways have the real prople on there. General poppeople dont care and those interested would know.

How did it come that you two started working together?

RP: We knew about each other before with Goldie doing stuff on Reinforced and he knew about us the label, and one of the tracks I did with Shaun and Simon, as The Two Bad Mice was the track that made Goldie go into the studio. It flipped him out one night at rage. Obviously he was regarding us very highly. He was doing a short documentary, a film about the people in the scene and the ones he respected in the scene, and he came to film us one day. We actually met eye to eye. We have been in the same clubs at the same time before so many times but never actually met, and i dont know how I missed him. But in fact, the only person I ever met at Rage was Grooverider. One of the first times I was in there he came down to me after he was playing. I had a Moving Shadow T-Shirt on and he saw it, and asked me weather I was from Moving Shadow and told me he is Grooverider. I said yeah, and thought oh, cool. Everybody these days had little corners to live in, but they all went to the same clubs. Strange. When we did meet we found all this out, found we had a recent history that was very similar had the same things that got us going, so we decided to try and do some work together wich we did. About three weeks after that. We started on a track called “Fury”. We started a new series on Moving Shadow and were planning of having guest artists and Moving Shadow artists on the same Vinyl. And we thought well lets have Goldie as our first guest.

The 2 0n One World Domination series.

RP: Yeah, and it was really a good way for Goldie to find out what I could do in the studio and it seemed like he was thinking right, he can do that, and it would spark his mind off, and he would come to me with questions like: can you make this do that and this do that. And I said yeah, I can do it, so we started on a track that became timeless. That was some 6 weeks after we met and it took us 13 weeks cause these times i was still working, I hat a day job. And it was a question of finding time between that.

What did you do?

RP: I was a software engineer. Completely different from making music but very hand when it comes down to work with a computer.

Are you planning to do some other series for Moving Shadow.

RP: We’re going to carry on with the regional Compilations for sure, and we’re still hoping to get one done for Heartsfordshire, wich is where we come from, with a new 2 Bad Mice Track, Nookie, Blame, Cloud 9, cause it is where we started from. I never have time but there is going to be a new Trance Central Compilation beginning of next year, and a Storm from the east midtime next year. And hopefully a new Revolutionary Generation, wich was the first we did, and it seems like a lot of the artists on there were signed up straight away and their contracts should run out very soon, so that we can come up round again 2 years later. Quite convenient. They all can’t do it now because the majors hold them.

But arent there huge masses of new producers that are waiting?

RP: Not that many, no. It depends wich areas you are looking in. There have been a lot of people wich used that many names, especially through the nice easy jazzy area of ambient stuff. There was allways two people with 5 different artist names. We probably got the healthiest amount of good Demotapes ever, and they really are good, there is a lot of people making very current tracks, very good, but thats not what we generally try to put out on Moving Shadow. We’re trying to push it everytime a little bit more and we’ve got a lot of people that are very close to that so that you can say that yes there are a lot of people coming through. I think there is going to be a whole new wave and suddenly people like myself will be Old School. There is going to be new people that are going to do what we did. Though we’re still around. Nowadays everybody has lifted the standart to really fucking not bad at all and it’s like hard now. We have been putting up our standart quite a bit cause otherwise we would be putting out too much stuff. In fact there will be an other Label, Audio Couture wich will enable us to put out other stuff that is very good. We’ll concentrate Moving Shadow more as an artist label, our big names. And Audio Couture will be one offs, people we are trying to devellop and bring through.

It really took quite a long time to get a sublabel.

RP: Yeah, well, the trouble was everybody is doing it, and i had no reason for it. Now I have, now I know what difference it might make. There is very fine lines sometimes. But it helps the shops cause they wont have the same release. We were really in danger of having one Moving Shadow release a week. WIch is good if you want it, but not for the shops. If the turnaround isnt quite what they expected, if they are left with even only two or three copies, they wont get, no matter if it is a different artist or style, they will just order less. It’s very silly. But the shops think that it is about the label. We’re going to turn it back now. And concetrate it on the artist. Obviously with people like Omni Trio, even though people know that it is on Moving Shadow, we no longer write it in small letters, and Moving Shadow very big on it but the other way round. That kind of thing.

I always found that Moving Shadow has not that much of a CI like Metalheadz has.

RP: A what?

CI, a Corporate Identity.

RP: New word for me.

Well, you have swimsuits of Moving Shadow.

RP: Well yeah. We do.

That’s kind of like working with a Corporate Identity. You have your label on T-Shirts, cups, swimmsuits and so on, but when it comes to musical terms it is not just one sound like with Metalheadz, it is more of a basis where different sounds of drum and bass we’re presented. Moving Shadow was not having this one sound that you could identify.

RP: Yeah, that was what we’ve tried to do from the start. Even Reinforced had a very them sound. Those kind of labels you’d allways know that a track is theirs. They are probably more concentrated on one thing, it is more their style, but I like to cover more a whole scene. Still today there is not label that covers that many styles as we do. What we probably should have done three years ago is split all of these styles into different labels, but that was not the point. Moving Shadow is trying to reflect the whole scene not narrow down to one style but cover all the styles in its own way.

For some time it seemed that Moving Shadow was going away from the smoother tracks though. And those tracks were only on compilations.

RP: Its strange, I know what you mean. It’s completely coincidental. It wasn’t anything we planned. Obviously we’re in the mercy of when we get given tracks from the artists. If we don’t get any we cant put anything out. Suddenly, especially when the press picked up on drum and bass two and a half years ago Moving Shadow, or the Scene was going in to that nice jazzy style and we did have some big tracks in that area. For the following year we did not have anything particularily hard coming out so everyone thought, every complete stranger to the scene thought that Moving Shadow was kind of a Bukem type Label. And when we were doing harder tracks again they were saying: why have they changed. But we havent, we just did what was going on in the scene. And at the moment there ist two or three different styles that are very strong. If we would have had some hard releases in between it would have looked better. Again now everything that we do reflects the scene. The new Transcentral Connection, wich have been very smooth up until now, is now half and half. Very steppy and getting towards the harder things. It’s the artists. It’s their style. And they mix their little percentages of their influences. It ‘s not radically different but there is definitely a change. I was surprised when i heard these tracks from these guys.

Are you the keyperson when it comes down to decide wich tracks come out?

RP: Well, no. Ultimately yes. What we do, everybody, mostly myself Shaun and Simon listen to the tracks together. Basically how we work A&R wise is how we decided what to do when we were doing 2 Bad Mice tracks. If we all liked it it was good, if one of us didn’t then there had to be something wrong with it. If we came up with a sound a sample or an idea we all had to like it, otherwise it was out. And we all came from different backgrounds. That worked then, and it still works now with what we put out on Moving Shadow. So there arent those dips of really total obscure tracks.

Why dont you produce tracks completely on your own?

RP: Well thats the way i started Moving Shadow, but since then, after the first three EP’s i have been working with other people only. I started one track, in some spare time wich i spent in the studio, but thats only one thing. Hopefully after the Goldie Album is finished there will be some time.

But you wont do yourself an album.

RP: Not necessarily an album, no. I like the technical and the dancefloor side of it. An album really needs to be sculptured and have a lot of variation in it. Allthough i like that I dont want to make that. I like the instantness of the dancefloor. Singles i can cope with. But who knows.

What do you thing about the new straightness. This one Beat.

RP: I really like it. Cause the best thing about drum and bass is, that it goes from one extreme to the other. From angle to angle. If it changes it’s allways to the complete opposite. All the very fast mad drumpatterns that have been around. Tracks now are speeding up to the 170s (BPMs) but you dont know that cause they got simpler. It all started off with Helicopter Tune. That was one of the simplest Breaks. And it did not sound fast at all. Now it’s even more easy to go faster cause it got more of a swing and a groove to it. Not so mad, frantic sounding. I like it, it’s quite hypnotizing. More like Housemusic, simple with a 4/4 kick.

Still hoping though that it is not going to turn into another Happy Hardcore like split. It’s getting a little close to the 4/4 kick.

RP: Its going to dip into that area and gets more and more to the techno way of programming than anything else, thats right, but it will take a while and it will all change again. Some new piece of equipment will come out and people will be doing things completely different. Doing it for seven years now it is probably time for us to change.

What music did you come from?

RP: HipHop and Soul really and House. And before that really Electro and electronic UK stuff. I hated musician stuff. But recently, as I have been on tour with the band I really respect musicians now. They are talented. I know now. All these people you meet look a bit wierd but basically they are normal people. If you see them onstage playing an instrument, you look at your two fingers and think wow, i want to play an instrument. So that has changed.

What do you like most when working with other people? Translating their ideas?

RP: Yeah, and getting things out of their head into some kind of arrangement that fits and works. I started out as a DJ myself, so the whole point of taking it through different styles and working the dancefloor thats what i want to make an arrangement do. I know so many people that make tracks like that: Sounds come in, Beats drop out, Bassline comes in, finished. And i just like to make it a little bit smoother.

Why is there that few releases in the last seven eight weeks? All DJ’s are complaining.

RP: Basically it is probably just a gap. All DJ’s flying around all the world has probably go a lot to do with it and everyones doing a lot more of this kind of thing. A lot more than we used to. Everyone is very busy.

I wonder what kind of impact it will have on the music. Before it was very fast.

RP: I’m quite happy with it slowing down a bit. Though sooner or later that will change. It all comes down to this idea that we all come up with new ideas every time. We all evolve, there is no goal. No trying to get to a point. But I guess sooner or later it had to slow down cause you did it all, but then again, as I said new equipment will come along, a new style of doing things will come along i guess, and here we go again. We havent stopped so far so I dont see why we should. If you look at all the history, before there was electronics, before midi, bands must have thought they have done everything. They did Rock and Roll, and then came along Technology, and we will see what comes next.

Probably the producers will come to a point thinking: I can’t hear my sound anymore. I am bored.

RP: Yeah, people change as well, dont they. They grow up, want to change, live their life, jump of the big train, I been on it a long time and I dont lead a normal life but thats quite good for me.

The strange situation is, like walking over this Popkomm and you hear everybody playing drum and bass and just ask yourself where do they all come from. Where do they get their DJs?

RP: Very strange, complete idiots. Everyones doing it. It is going to go the same way as all the other big styles have. Like HipHop and these things. The waves of popularity and stlyes that drum and bass has gone through has been very similar to the ones HipHop had to go through throughout it’s existance.

And it still needs a big basis of people listening to it.

RP: Yeah, but look how long HipHop took. That was a long time. A very big underground for a long time, just like with drum and bass.

Now is probably the time where these masses of people are going to accomodate to drum and bass. This now is probably what it feels like when a new style hits the mainstream. Dont know what will come out of it though.

RP: Well you do know that bit: that it will be used in top40 records and it allready has. I remember when i first heard on national radio a chart record with an acid line, I was like oh my god what is happening. I was quite excited at the time, I thought everybody was going to get into it. But it certainly is quite scary now, cause I’ve seen what happens. Suddenly everybody starts using it in the commercial world and this thing that is cool an undergound just isnt anymore. It just falls apart. The annoying bit is that all these commercials are made by noone who has got to do anything with drum and bass. Not many. We had one excellent advert wich used Tangos track of the last Transcentral Connection, but we seen other ads and were phoning people up to tell us who did the music for that. One it ripped our stuff off and two we wanted to knwo where they get these done. They must spend a lot of money getting all these done and we’ve got a whole stock of it lying around. Why dont they use the real thing. And they always go: Ah we’ve got these guys in italy that do this kind of stuff for us. What?

Italian drum and bass, a nightmare. Like Italohouse.

RP: These people can make any style. They just take the obvious points and make money with it.

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