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Bladerunner: “The bassline always comes last”

Bladerunner: “The bassline always comes last”
27 Jul, 2017

What a beautiful month it’s been for Bladerunner fans. July has seen him give the world six new tracks over three releases…

First came the subby, low-swinging roller Jungle Jungle on The Prototypes’ stampy stable Get Hype.

Then came the wobble-bass funk slapper International on our very own EP The Breaks

Then, to top it all off, he’s just dropped his first EP on his own Hi-Resolution label in over a year and it’s loaded with four crucial examples of the heavier, techier side of his broad yet always understated and consistently rolling signature.

If that’s not quite enough, this weekend sees him, Serum and Voltage hosting their first ever Kings Of The Rollers boat party. With a whole load more to come this summer we caught up with the London vibe maestro to talk breakbeats, samples and the discipline of dub science…

Seems like you’re having a bit of busy year?

One of the busiest. It picks up every year but this year has exceeded my expectations. The Kings Of The Rollers project has been great fun and leading to a lot of opportunities like remixes and a show at Hospitality In The Park, we had a lot of fun at Glastonbury too with Break and DLR and all those guys.

Nice cross section of artists! There’s a lot of that happening right now – no silly subgenre stuff. That’s always been your sound hasn’t it?

Yeah I come from everything and want to make everything. All the dark stuff, all the rollers, all the jungle, liquid – I genuinely love and want to make it all and release on all of my favourite labels. That’s always been my intention. It’s great to be able to crossover between so many labels and work with so many people.

How about your own label Hi Resolution?

I know it’s been a while but my new EP is out on that as well. The EP’s called Full Resolution and it’s got a much techier edge than I’d usually do. I’ve not been able to push that side of my sound as much because different labels I work with sign different sounds of mine. Dread, for example, is the more jungle reggae-based stuff. But it’s been a great month because I’ve had the Jungle Jungle tune out on Get Hype, this new EP of mine and International on The Breaks EP for you guys. I’ve got a good few things lined up, buzzing really.

Yes, The Breaks! Take me through your breakbeat history man…

The amen was the first one I really wanted to understand and take apart and really learn how it worked. I’d heard it at raves for years but didn’t know how it worked when it was chopped up. I first chopped it up in an Akai sampler around 1999/2000 and was amazed at how many different sounding amens you could get from that one break. Different EQs by different guys would put such a whole new twist on it. Like take the different between Ray Keith’s and Dom & Roland’s, for instance. Ray’s was the first amen I sampled – way back on Music 2000 on the Playstation. I had The Terrorist on CD and would chop the clean amen right at the end. I suspect a lot of guys from my era had very similar experiences.

Where did you go from there?

I’d try all types of breaks I could get my hands on but I never knew their sources. I’d know which jungle tune they came from but never knew the sources until sites like Roll Da Beats came along that I really got to know what I was playing with. The Bobby Byrd break, the Hot Pants break and things like that. Before then I was sampling the records that samples the breaks. I was brought up on jungle, not the old music. Sample packs like Jungle Warfare breaks. Then when I had a few releases out I was lucky that A-sides gave me a big pack of original loops and Ray gave me a load back in the day, too.

Second generation junglist!

Completely! I really didn’t pay much attention to the older styles of music growing up. I was totally driven by jungle.

Have you found you’ve got into older styles since jungle’s become your day job?

I have actually. Funk, soul and especially dub and reggae because my dad was the first dub and reggae DJ on Radio 1 back in the 90s but I wasn’t into back then.

For real?

Yeah man. Man Ezeke. I wish I’d paid more attention to be honest, I’d have had so many more samples for a start. But I have been schooled on the art of dub and your Tubbys and Perrys and all the masters.

Dub is the art of simplicity – less is more. Something you’ve made your own signature in many ways

Yeah man, you’ve got roll it out.

A hard discipline to master. How do you go about it?

I try and just do two or three hours max on a tune and leave it. I don’t let it go stale or force it or try and pressurise myself to finish it. The bassline is usually the last thing I add too.

WHAT?

Yeah! It freaks a lot of people out when I say that. I get bored of the tune if I put the bassline in too early. So I build it like a story from the beginning and when I get to the drop point I spread out the whole arrangement without any bass in. Then I’ve got the whole tune to play along with when I’m playing the bass in live.

Ah you’re playing the bassline live and jamming it?

That’s right. I usually go through about 10 different versions until I’m happy but that’s how it comes together. But they’re good for VIPs.

Were you taught piano at an early age or anything?

No I played the drums from aged five though. I’ve never learnt any keys or anything, it’s all self-taught. But I barely use any samples, I play in pretty much everything from virtual instruments.

If you play things in live would you ever consider some type of live hybrid?

I wouldn’t rule it out. We tried a live thing with Ray’s Renegade Live project and that was a lot of fun and really interesting to see how it all worked. Ray deconstructed and rebuilt the tracks for the performance purpose which was a really cool insight. If there was a call for it then I would consider developing something like that for sure.

How about the future. What’s in store?

I got some big news coming very soon but I’m sworn to secrecy on that for now. Loads of touring in Europe and the US, too…

Bladerunner – International is out now  on Drum&BassArena – The Breaks EP 

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Drum&BassArena Editor: Dave Jenkins has documented beats for over 15 years working with the likes of UKF, Mixmag, DJ Mag, iDJ, Bandcamp, Resident Advisor, Radio 1 Xtra and many more.