Nostalgic, forward-thinking, soulful, deep, eclectic, emotive and dreamy all in one – FD’s Better Days LP is a lot of things, but first and foremost it’s a proper journey. A journey into his wide-ranging roots and influences from drum & bass, house, garage, techno and more, it once again showcases his ability to balance these various flavours and flows with style and flair.
16 tracks deep, it landed last month via The North Quarter and has kept us enthralled ever since… As far as debut LPs go, this one’s spectacular.
FD isn’t one to do things in halves, always favouring quality over quantity in his approach to releases, so his debut LP was always bound to be layered with depth and complexities, and he’s certainly delivered just that.
Albums like this need to have their stories told, so we asked FD to break it down track by track. Headphones/ speakers at the ready – press play and immerse yourself in Better Days…
1. 99 Flake (Intro)
It doesn’t happen to me much, but I still really like the track ‘Ice Cream’ taken from my first North Quarter EP and it’s also not much of a secret that I do have a soft spot for a bit of Gelato too. I always remember going to the same ice cream van in the park near my house as a kid – 99 Flake or Lemon Sorbet – tough choice! This was always a good day! So I decided I wanted to open the album with something related to this and so recorded ice cream vans wherever I was when I heard them. Luckily I got to hear them in a few different spots and so all these recordings are from then.
This was in the pot for quite a while, as although it had a good backbone to start with, it just wasn’t quite coming together. After leaving it for a few months, I came back to it with the aim of putting a new bassline on it, and it seems to have worked out pretty well! I wanted to try and make it into more of an ‘FD tune’, and as the pads and music were slightly reminiscent of it, I went for a kind of ‘Serious’ bassline, and this was the how it ended up.
3. Top2Bottom (Roller)
This was one of the first tracks made that made the album pot and I knew exactly what vibe I wanted to go for before I even sat down to make music that day. I don’t often work like that, and often when I do, it doesn’t end up going the way I want, but I was very clear in my mind that this was a vibe of Drum & Bass that I love and has been a bit missing of late and so I wanted to try and correct that as much as I could; at least for myself in my own way. I’m really happy with how it came out though, and the reaction that I got to it – I love this kind of tune and I’d love to hear more of this kind of vibe.
I had an early sketch of this for sometime with a much more minimal beat on it, and I was really happy with the music in it and so pushed quite a lot to get this on the album. When I played it to my girlfriend and my mate Phil they both loved it too and said I had to do something with it, which gave me the confidence to keep pushing it forward. Lenz wasn’t so sure so after some discussions we decided to try and find a compromise and I tried a new beat and added some new musical elements to hopefully keep it developing, and I’m actually really happy with how it’s come out.
5. Sycamore (feat. Cecily)
Music was always important in my house when I was growing up, with my Mum listening to a lot of Soul and Motown and my Dad listening to a lot of Jazz. Because of this I suppose, these are sounds that I’ve always been interested in and I love music that borrows from this sound and aesthetic. With Sycamore, I wanted to make a track that had a more dusty and jazz vibe and feel to it. Once I’d built the track a bit, it was clear it would work well for a vocal and I was really lucky to find Cecily. She’s an amazing soul singer over in Washington DC and although she obviously has her own thing going on, she sometimes has a little bit of Minnie Riperton in there! I was checking through her latest album and soon as I heard her cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘Song For Bobby Smith’ (one of my personal favourites) I knew she was just the person for the job! Super chuffed she was up for getting involved, I hope I’ll have the pleasure of working with her again.
6. Not That Bad
I really enjoy playing this one out – again I was going for a bit more of a dancefloor roller vibe – but I think I managed to get an ok balance between that and also giving the track a bit of character. With the album I really wanted to try and find a balance between having tracks that you want to listen to at home and have enough substance to be enjoyed in that way, but still have enough weight to them that you can play them easily in the club. I think this one sits right in the middle of those two aims.
7. Left You Once Before (Prelude)
This is actually a collage of a bunch of sounds from different tracks from the album, as well as some field recordings from Berlin and New York. I wanted to build into the melancholic and slightly disorientating feel of the main track, and pulling all the sounds from different places helps to do this for me. The spoken word vocals really set a scene for me, for instance I remember exactly where the Berlin vocal was recorded – a very important place to me, with both very happy and sad memories.
8. Left You Once Before
I don’t really know what this is, but I know I like it. It pretty much came together in one session and I really recall the way it made me feel very sad when I wrote it. It’s got a certain melancholy to it that I often want to capture in my tracks, but often end up going somewhere else, whether I want to or not, but I guess my feelings that day really came out here. It’s just a bit of an odd 120bpm workout, but I really like the vibe of it and the fact that it really took me to a certain place in my head straight away.
9. Deadly Styles
This one took a lot of work to get right, but I’m definitely happy with the end result. It started life as much more of a jazzy one, but then when the second drop bassline just wrote itself, I was really feeling it and decided the tune needed to be a bit harder overall. A lot of work went into nailing all the different bass parts and working the groove, but it was definitely worth it after seeing how it’s been working in the club. This one was also inspired by a certain time in Drum & Bass, but I’m glad how the working and detailing of the idea made it end up being very much it’s own piece.
10. Better Man (feat. Fox)
Another one that’s a bit inspired by some of the Drum & Bass of yesteryear, but also that I’ve been digging a lot more dub and reggae stuff in the last years. I love that vibe in Drum & Bass and although there are a few people still pushing it, I often find myself wishing there was more. So I wanted to write something on this vibe to play and enjoy and I’m super happy with how it came out. I was playing an instrumental version for a bit and it was working really well; but I knew if I could get Fox on board to do his thing, it would just lift the track to a whole other level. I love working with Fox, he just totally brings his own vibe and energy, does his own thing with no regard for anyone else and is an all round lovely guy – perfect.
11. Got A Feeling
This one somehow wrote itself and I had a great time doing it. Occasionally you just have those sessions where everything you try works and I always remember that and look back on those tracks fondly. I was just bouncing around, feeling that summery vibe (even though it was March!) and thinking ‘this is one for Marky’! Somehow, the elements and the way they build to that stabby hook just makes me think of him and the energy he always exudes behind the decks.
12. Ribs (Interlude)
It was never a question to put other genre stuff on the album, for a few reasons. I listen to a really wide range of music and I also can’t really imagine a dance music album that is just made up of one genre, it seems and sounds like a wasted opportunity to me. At the same time, I’m really aware of the other genre tracks not just being a gratuitous throwaway gesture and people not being as interested in them as the Drum & Bass. I also really like ambient pieces as I’ve mentioned before, either just as a piece of music, or also as something that can be used to join the dots between genres. I often find myself reaching for these bits to bridge sets, and I wanted this one to bridge the gap and set the scene for Ribs.
13. Ribs (feat. Issac Rosie & Maverick Soul)
I’ve been writing quite a bit of house and techno for a while now but just sitting on it all. I was always interested in it, maybe because of my UKG background, but my time living on the European mainland really cemented that love and also helped to develop my taste and knowledge of it all a little bit. I wanted me to do another one for this project after the one on the first EP. My friend and house guru Issac Rosie was visiting and this was the first jam we put down whilst he was over and we were both really feeling it. We thought it still needed something though so we gave Maverick Soul a shout as we’d been talking about doing something together before anyway. He was really busy at the time and said he’d send something when he could – which he then ended up doing the same day – and absolutely slayed it. We asked him if we could use it as a sample in the end though and chop it up to suit the existing track a bit more so we got to give it our own twist a bit, but it also still has that original vibe he played too.
14. 2s & 5s
This one is a bit different to most of the Drum & Bass tracks on the album as it’s a lot less produced in a way. Lenz really liked the way it was a bit more raw and so I tried to keep it that way; it can often give a certain feel if you leave things a bit less worked. That kind of gave it a bit more of an old sound, so I also went for a more old fashioned arrangement too, one where it’s all about the second drop, building it up to a real crescendo. People don’t seem to do it that much these days as tunes often don’t get played anywhere near to even the second breakdown. It’s a shame if you ask me, I remember thinking and saying that a second drop was the real peak of lots of tunes back in the day!
15. Bottles (Prelude)
It’s been said that all good films end at the beginning, so we came up with the idea of closing the album with Bottles, and it seemed like quite a fitting idea. But to build into that we thought it made sense to maybe have a little intro to it and I decided I wanted to try and build some tension with it and set up a bit more of a scene. I like how this is basically all of the elements of the actual track, but then with this totally screwy synth line over the top that totally sets it apart from the track.
I knew I had a good one with this one, and the feedback on it has also been great, so it’s nice to know that sometimes your gut feelings about a tune can be correct! I’ll often start with a very rough drum framework and then write the music around that; and as soon as I had the keys in this, I knew which direction it had to go – little soulful deep one. I managed to get the drums having that kind of RnB feel which suited the direction I wanted to go and then arranged from there. I often work like this as I can then hear where I need things to keep a track building. The little double bass licks and alternative piano bits really added a bit of poshness to it all that I liked a lot.
Better Days is out now via The North Quarter – get it here.