A brief conversation with Trex

A brief conversation with Trex

Forget about your handy black mirrors. Bin your supersized OLED tellies. Bun your local IMAX. The only screen Trex needs this summer is sun screen as he continues to dent festivals and parties around Europe with his signature rolling style.

He could probably do with some shades because the future’s looking pretty bright, too…

That’s no big news, though; Trex – AKA Joe Kehoe – has been on this trajectory for quite some time now. After years of chipping away at the sound he’s been in love with since the early 2000s, largely under the wing of Randall on his Mac II imprint, Joe’s debut album High Times landed last summer.

A deeply personal piece of work that stretched his sonic canvas wider than he’d ever done before from dub to soul via proper stinky grit, High Times featured an illustration of his son on the cover and the vocals of his wife Ella Jones. It confirmed what those who’d been following him for years already knew; Trex means business and can seriously roll out.

It also triggered a whole slew of releases on the likes of Dreamers, Dispatch, Sofa Sound and now Shimon’s Audioporn. His label debut landed last month; Screen Time. Four tracks repping Trex’s broadest brushstrokes from rolling dubby jungle to deep dark metallic steppers like the title track.

It’s set to be followed by another big release on Dispatch later this month and loads more is set to follow; his label Trust Audio has just dropped a massive jungle V/A album with the likes of Digital, Dave Owen and Jaybee (and stacks more) and he’s also working on his second album. Time for a catch up…

Audioporn representing!

Yeah man, it’s been on the cards for a while. I get on well with Shimon. He does the mastering for my label Trust Audio so we’ve worked together a lot and he’s always given loads of great advice and feedback on mixdowns. It’s been very natural to get something out with him. I wanted to get the album done and out there and I could release on other labels I’d been talking to.

The flow of releases after album hasn’t stopped; Dreamers, Dispatch, Sofa Sounds…

Yeah I’ve just been really inspired and writing loads and just pushing myself to get things out there. The album was a great way of showing people I was capable of that and the type of stuff I had to offer. Plus this is my full time job, along with writing library music, so I have to make this work. That gives me the push.

I speak to two very distinct type of artists on the regular; some need the freedom of a job so they don’t feel the pressure, others react to the pressure to get the best out of themselves. You’re clearly the latter…

Absolutely yeah, I can’t stop. Not pushing myself isn’t an option.

It’s hard isn’t it. Any line of freelance work is. You don’t feel you can take a break…

Totally. I’ve learnt how to manage my time and find things to do; on a day I’m not feeling creative then find something else to be done. Something productive. And my wife won’t let me slack off. My studio is in the house – so if I’m procrastinating I’ll get caught.

Haha. Have you done any more tunes together?

Yeah we’ve done some bits. I’m already working on another album, just collecting things and playing with ideas at the moment, but there’ll be bits on there with her. She’s been working with other producers lately which is wicked for her. She’s got something on V which she’s singing on. I’ve heard an early version of it and it’s sick. She’s on more of other people’s tracks than mine lately but we’ve done a few bits.

Everyone’s eager to find new vocalists… Have you given away a secret weapon here?

Ha. No way, she needs a creative outlet, I want to see her do well. That would be bang out of order of me to stop her singing on other people’s tracks! But whenever she’s approached with a collab offer she’ll ask me what I think of the artist or the production. But I’m not the controlling type!

Unless you’re controlling your family’s screen time?

Ha. I needed a title for the track and screen time was a big topic in the house at the time. We’d chatted about things we’d read and our son’s exposure to screens. And our own. It’s a pretty scary thing, we’re glued to our phones and laptops and screens all the time. But that was just a buzz word in the house that weekend and it became the title. Titles happen like that really.

The EP sounds like Shimon gave you a blank canvas…

Yeah man. I came out to his studio in Essex which was a big day for me – to sit in the studio with a legend like him. So we smashed out Screen Time from an early version I had and the rest of them were there already. So it came together really quick.

Days Are Numbered is a persy for me!

Ah the jungle one, thanks man. That was originally going to come on my label. I’m doing a jungle V/A album on Trust which is coming soon but Shim liked it so it went on the EP.

I swear I heard it on an old mix of yours. The one with the cool halftimey stuff.

Nah it’s too new for that mix but I do love dropping that halftime stuff when I can. Not just on a mixtape but in the club if it’s not peaktime and I can feel the people in there are into taking things a bit and a bit of a journey. I don’t make much of it, but I love it. There’s that Dreamers album which is all halftime and that’s amazing mate.

The opening tune on High Time is a halftime tune.  The title track, I think?

Yeah it was man!

There’s a strong dub thread in a lot of your work. On your forthcoming Dispatch release the tracks Calm and Strain are both very dubby

Yeah I love the dub vibe, I’ve actually started some bits with Digital. He’s the original dubster isn’t he?

He is! When’s that coming?

We’re working on something. We want to get another session locked in – it takes a while to find the time. Hopefully soon though.

You mentioned Trust and a jungle album?

Yes. I’m really happy with it! There’s tunes from guys like Digital, Jaybee, Dave Owen, Neve, Dawn Raid and loads more on there. It’s out soon so look out for that.

What’s coming up from yourself?

I’ve got the Dispatch EP coming out in June, the Sprain EP. It’s got Rolling Dub on it, which is a big one for me. I made that for Sun And Bass, Randall’s been playing that a lot of which is wicked. I’ve got a Mac II EP a while later with Fats on. I’ve got some remixes from High Times, there’s a Traumatize remix of Hellfire which Andy C played in one of his XOYO videos. Traumatize is blowing up so that’s wiclked. Also a Jaybee remix of What I Say.

The Fox tune! Sick.

Yeah you know it. I’ve got a lot of collabs happening and the album I’m working on. It’s all wicked, there’s a lot going on, I’m happy.

Trex – Screen Time is out now on Audioporn

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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.