Artificial Intelligence: Perfect Timing

Artificial Intelligence: Perfect Timing
Photo Credit: Chelone Wolf

Photo Credit: Chelone Wolf

Artificial Intelligence return with their second album on Metalheadz – Timeline. Spoiler alert: It’s a bit brilliant.

16 tracks deep, the album is a sonic journey through the duo’s past, present and future. Managing to be forward-thinking and nostalgic at the same time is no easy feat, and the duo have done just that.

We caught up with Glenn, one half of the duo, to chat about the album and more…

Yes fellas. Great to chat again, thanks for joining us. You’ve just delivered your second album on Metalheadz – Timeline. What a journey from start to finish. Congrats on a brilliant piece of music! How did the idea for a second album manifest itself?

Thanks! The second album came along when I caught Goldie’s first show with the heritage orchestra here in London at the Royal Festival Hall last year which was something really special. Zula didn’t make it and decided to experinement with a palette of sounds inspired by the Timeless era which became the basis of the opening track ‘Time Out’. At this point we got together and decided it was finally the right time and place to plot out a return with this second album.

What’s the biggest difference in approach to this album compared to your first?

Our previous album was made fully with outboard gear. Various samplers synths, FX Units, 32 track mixing desk, compressors etc. Our new set up and studio is very different these days, and of course we integrate the various software-based tools around us. We also had a concept in place from the start, and a free reign in creative which Metalheadz as a label allowed us to do.

Did you guys manage to get in the studio together to complete the album?

Even though the majority of the ideas came together separately between us, we finalised tracks and the full album together.

What significance does the ‘Timeline’ concept have? Apologies if I’m just stating the obvious here but I really got a sense of past, present and future in the production style, is that what you were looking to achieve?

Yes that’s a big part of it – and our personal journey with the music/scene through the years. Using all these different inspirations and developing those to our productions today.

Time Out is such a brilliant intro track.. Absolutely love the progression… That’s Alfred Hitchcock’s definition of happiness in there isn’t it? Are those words that inspired you on this album/ track?

The Alfred Hitchcock sample came at the very end and seemed to fall in place with our own thinking. Funny enough it was the first idea for the album which was just a palette of sounds and near enough the last track we developed and finished close to a year later with the album mastering deadline looming.

Haha just in the nick of time eh 😉 Hitchcock makes an interesting point that letting go of all negative emotions and focusing on a future where you have the freedom to create is as happy as he’d ever want to be – do you agree with that? I know a lot of artists who use negative emotions to their advantage and are inspired by sadness… Was this album made in a happy headspace then? 😉

Timeline was definitely made with a positive outlook between us which made things a lot easier! However, we have all had our harder/sadder more difficult times which have also been the basis to many previous works of ours 😉 I think emotions play a strong part of a creating a vibe.

Definitely! I love the balance between the lighter and darker tracks throughout the album – It seems like the song order was strategically arranged to allow for that perfect flow of energy between light and dark. Was it important for you to achieve that balance?

We put a lot of thought into the running order. In fact we had close to 10 drafts before we both finally both agreed and decided on the confirmed final track-listing. There are a variety of styles and moods on the album to cover all sides of our productions and journey.

Do you find it easier to produce liquid when you’re in a positive headspace, and the grittier, darker tracks when you’re a little moodier perhaps, or does it not matter?

I think it’s whatever comes naturally at the time which normally surprises us as well. We never start a session specifically trying to come up with a dancefloor banger, something geared to radio, or deeper vibe. Purposely forcing a style of track will usually lead to a dead end or something we are not fully happy with. Saying that, the style of tracks usually come in waves. 3 soulful tracks in a row then 2 club bangers the month after ☺ Some of our favourite soulful tracks have come in more emotional times so it’s hard to know which direction a mood will take us…

The vocals on Aroma are very Calibre-esque. Who is that on vocals? Top track!

Vocals on Aroma are from Mutemath – A band I’ve been really into! Tried to capture a emo vibe with Aroma.

You linked with the mysterious Dawn Wall on Fallen – Beautiful production on this one. A real blend of your individual styles. You worked together on Between the Sheets previously – is that when you decided you wanted to work together again?

We have been working closely with the Dawn Wall guys since the start of Timeline so we already have quite a few tracks in the locker set a side for forthcoming projects. We chose Fallen, Scrolls and Between the Sheets from our archive for these specific releases.

So… who are they… ? 😉

The main writer is someone new to the scene that lives abroad however there are two other producers heavily involved in every production.

I had a feeling you wouldn’t reveal much… Back to the music then: Nothing But is another example of what I love about your production. Smooth, elegant… This one gets me right in the feels. What’s the story behind it?

This one just came together quickly. It’s influenced by the scene around mid 2000’s when we were working with Soul:r and Marcus Intalex.

You linked with Steo on Take Me There – you’ve worked together quite a lot in the past. What do you think allows you guys to gel so much creatively?

We have a lot of love and time for Steo. We are all on the same wave-length and he seems to blow us away every time we hear his vocal demo for the first time. He has a very infectious unique style and voice. We have him in mind for a lot of early ideas which come together.

Rizon has a lovely vibe to it. The sample at the start is on an inspirational flex like Time Out – what inspired this one?

Rizon is one of our personal favourites. It has a real 90’s hip-hop feel and vibe to the main hook which we played in.

Is This Real has to be one of my favourite tracks on the album. I absolutely love the groove…

Is This Real was actually the one track made after we finished the album and handed it in. It came together really quickly and we managed to squeeze it in on the last minute. By the time we sent it over, Metalheadz came straight back saying that we have to schedule in a 2nd album sampler based around this. Sampler 1 was obviously on the darker dancefloor side, Sampler 2 the deeper soulful side.

Privilege is a bit of a beast… Love how brutally crunchy it is, and Sense adds a whole other element too. Did you have to work on the liquid tracks in one go and then get into the zone for the darker tracks like this, or is it easy for you to switch between the two styles?

The darker and soulful vibes came in small sets of 3’s and 2’s throughout the whole journey of putting the album together.. The growing collection of album tracks we had were varied from the off.

When releasing on Metalheadz vs. Integral, is there a certain element of pressure when you’re delivering something on another label, and does this affect the production at all – ie. Do you perhaps cater the sound to fit the label?

We’ve never actually released a solo AI track on Integral. We chose the collaboration with Dawn Wall as it was the right kind of fitting vibe for the label. We also remixed Lenzman’s Ever So Slightly to align with the label.

Your personal favourites off the album then?

Heaven Sent, Rizon, Fallen, Time Out..

Any tracks that were particularly frustrating to complete?

Luckily everything fell in place naturally and were a joy to complete.

You had the album launch at The Qube Project with the likes of Fabio, Zero T, Terri Walker, Sense and more supporting – what was the highlight of the night?

That was a night we will always remember. So many highlights from all the support for the album. Everyone played amazing sets – from Goldie through to Fabio taking us back to the classic Swerve era where it all began for us as AI. Terri Walker was something special as well.

Let’s chat Integral – what’s coming up next on the label?

Intregral has been a big focus for us over the last year since the Integral Select album. We have plenty of exciting projects lined up through out 2016. Including EP’s from Phil Tangent, Zero T, HLZ, AI & Dawn Wall collab, plus an Integral Select 2 after the success of the last and a very special debut album from Dawn Wall as well as a number of other surprises.

Can’t wait!! And what about you guys? Where to from here?

2016 is also going to be a testing time for us. We really want to make the most and ride the wave from Timeline. We have just handed in a follow up EP to Metalheadz which we are really excited about. It’s just getting mastered and due to drop early spring. We have also just signed a second album to Headz which we have already started. They were super keen for us to follow up off the back of the reaction from the first. As well as this we have a number of collaboration projects with Dawn Wall including tracks on their forthcoming album.

Wicked! Any new year’s resolutions?

Hope to keep doing what we are doing and take to the next stage for 2016.

Final shout outs/ words of wisdom?

Big shouts to everyone involved in bringing the album together. The gang at Metalheadz, all the featured artists and the everyone buying and supporting the music and scene.

Timeline is out now. Get it here

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You can follow Maja C on Twitter, @_Maja_C
Head of content and curator of Drum&BassArena's YouTube and SoundCloud channels, Maja also works across UKF's editorial pages.