Redeyes Is Back!
Apologies for slightly baity headline… Redeyes – real name Julien Salvi – never really went away.
While he’s not as hyper active as he was when he first emerged in the mids 2000s liquid explosion on labels such as Bingo, Innerground and Spearhead, his output on Vandal (a label he runs with fellow Toulouse talent SKS) has kept fans happy and proved he’s still got the same levels of weighty-yet-restrained soul he had when he first entered the game.
More proof lands this week in the form of his Blueprints EP. The third dispatch to drop on Lenzman’s so-far-spotless imprint The North Quarter, it builds on the label’s established themes of restraint, depth, soul, hip-hop and massive album-sized EP projects.
Weighing in at 9 original tracks and 3 bonus instrumentals, complete with collaborations with Lenzman, SKS, GLXY and Tyler Daley and loaded with sublime modern soul designs, it’s one of Julien’s largest and most remarkable release since his 2014 album Part Of Me. We called him to find out more (and yes, we asked a question about the whole staircase incident)…
You’re based in Toulouse, right? It seems to be popping right now…
It’s always been a very exciting city for music. I would say it’s the first drum & bass city in France. A lot of this is down to one man – Le Lutin, Lionel from Signs. He imported jungle here a long time to ago. Bikini is one of the best and open minded clubs in the country, if not Europe. And we have an exciting new breed of artists like Monty, Signs, Trail, Sotilas and of course SKS, creator of Vandal who I’m working with.
You’ve been repping there for as long as Le Lutin, right?
20 years strong. Maybe one or two years less, but yeah I’ve been representing drum & bass for a long time.
Can I call you a French D&B OG?
You can if you like but I haven’t got to massive levels or been consistent, I’ve had my day job if you like. So a lot of the new generation don’t know the Redeyes music or story. They’re always super respectful. There’s no gap between the generations – we’re all here for the music and all working together for the cause.
I’m not sure I know the whole Redeyes story. The main story most people know of course the classic staircase one. Do you mind if I ask you about that?
If you don’t mind that this was more than 10 years ago! It’s very old news now but I get that it’s a bigger story than me and there’s still some smart people who make jokes with it on the internet. Basically I just wanted to do a classic jungle tune bootleg, I wish I didn’t pick Inner City Life but there we go.
I sent it to a few guys like Bailey, Fabio and Zinc just for some feedback but by then it was already played on Radio 1 and in the clubs. Then there was The End incident which everyone knows. What nobody knows is that a couple of days later Goldie called me, we spoke on the phone and met up the following day at Grooverider’s party. We had some beers, cleared the air, I apologised and I’ve since released on Metalheadz. Would I do it again? I’m a peaceful man, I just want to make music, not causing troubles or whatever.
Back to the present…. Are we actually calling this a comeback? Did you ever go away? There’s been projects like Memory Lane and Part Of Me
Yeah but that’s all on my label Vandal. Not on anyone else’s. Vandal is still a small label and not a lot of people are aware of Memory Lane. Lenzman is on another level to me and while The North Quarter is very new and exciting, I feel it’s level up from what I’ve been doing for a while. So yes, I’d say it was a comeback.
You and Lenzman go back to the early 2000s right? Didn’t you meet at a party?
Yeah he booked me for a party he was running in Leiden. Me and Craggz & Parallel Forces. It was before he was known as a producer. We kept in touch because we’re on the same vibe and have the same taste. It’s been cool to work with him. It feels like I’ve found a home for my music and a family, if I may say. Teije (Lenzman), FD, Submorphics… All guys I have a lot of time for respect for.
You’ve worked with some big labels in the past… Bingo Beats, Innerground, Trouble On Vinyl, Metalheadz etc. Things went mental for you when your first releases started coming out didn’t they?
That was a different time. Liquid was blowing up everywhere at the time, every label wanted to release it and there were lots of opportunities. Then it went very minimal and techy and not a lot of labels were really supporting that soulful sound. It was hard to find a home for my music for a while.
In that time that’s past the one thing that’s changed is the idea of liquid. Liquid for older fans of Creative Source. Liquid to younger fans is more melodic and vocal. Would you agree?
Yes definitely. I think some aspects of that side of liquid are more pop than anything else. It doesn’t resonate with me but everything has its place.
When things got minimal and there weren’t so many outlets for soulful stuff was there a point when you thought ‘fuck this!’ and thought about quitting entirely?
I’ve always made beats of some kind. Even when I’m doing other jobs to pay the bills, I’ve always had projects on and I always will. I’ve had long periods when I’ve just made hip-hop beats and more abstract tracks but around this particular time I formed a little hip-hop crew – Trilogy. We had a tune on Brownswood Bubblers. We did a few tunes together and had a lot of fun. I did stop listening to current drum & bass for a while, though, yeah, and I was focused on the more hip-hop and beats aspects that got me into this music. Sometimes you just have to make music for yourself.
You touch on that on your Blueprints EP with the hip-hop elements
Yeah it’s all the same vibe, just different tempo, right? It’s the same musicality. It’s the same vibe that Lenzman and I connected on. A lot of this was written before the label was out there. Lenzman told me about the label and how he wanted me to be the first artist to do an EP. It’s quite a big EP so it took a lot of work.
It’s almost album sized!
It is. And there’s an album-style consistency to the production in the way it works like a whole body of work. A lot of EPs don’t have that level of detail.
What’s up next?
There’s an EP ready for 31 and I was thinking of doing a third part of Memory Lane for Vandal. But this may change and I may give that to Lenzman. I don’t know, I’m very happy writing at the moment so I’ll keep on doing this and see where it comes up. Ideally Memory Lane was going to be a full album but I decided to release it over separate parts.
Ah the old album-via-EP strategy. Happening a lot these days. Do you miss albums?
I do of course. Especially hip-hop or funk or soul but drum & bass is DJ music so it doesn’t lend itself to an album quite as much. A drum & bass album needs a real concept and a flow for people to keep coming back to it. Most people – myself included – end up playing their favourites and picking up things that work for their DJs sets. So EPs suit me.
What’s coming up on Vandal?
We got Modern Soul 3 that’s out now which I’m really happy with. There’s some very deep rollers on there, some halftime things and all very soulful. We’re also working with Crimes from USA who’s released on 20/20 LDN so there should be something from him, we got an EP from Monty and a lot of other things.
So yeah, going back to the earlier questions. This isn’t a comeback – you’re always working!
Oh I’ve never stopped working but it’s how I feel as an artist and where I’m at creatively in the studio. I’m happy with the sound and how it’s come together. I haven’t felt that for a while. I know what I want to do, I know what I’m good at and I know what I want to achieve when I sit down to write. I’m at peace with myself with my music.