Step into Neuropol‘s world and, as the door slides gently shut behind you, the encasing sensation can be all at once both alarming and deeply gratifying:parts familiar, parts ‘genreless’ as he’d phrase it. He simply works with and is open to a massive array of influences, from super-sterling D&B to, well, the sound of wood falling in a forest. With such an open mind it comes as no surprise that he is also brilliantly energised about the state of play on the ‘being human today’ front as well, as you’ll see…
On your Intervision ep (preview near end), there’s a certain D&B tune entitled ‘Night Sky Whispers’. Let’s start with that tune as much of your work is outside of the genre as we’ll discuss.
I’m kind of ‘genreless’ and want to keep it that way if I can. D&B has always been a passion of mine, but equally so has Electronica, Hip Hop and beats in general.
Like most of my tracks, ‘Night Sky Whispers’ started without a beat, I just set up a string section, pressed record and played what came out for a while and that became the main string section at the beginning of the track. Breaking it down is hard as it’s kind of a weird fusion of loads of elements.
What are some elements?
The orchestral feel comes from the music I’ve listened to by the likes of Vaughan Williams, Górecki and Satie. The rolling D&B feel certainly comes from my love for Calibre’s music: always great rolling drums and undeniable soulful vibes.
I didn’t want to do a straight two-step D&B beat, so chopped up about 10 different breaks and came up with this odd rolling pattern that fitted nicely with the string intro.
The gritty, wobbly type synths are layered with samples of World War 1 plane engines to add filth. There’s also some quickly chopped and edited sounds that are reminiscent of early Teebee. There’s an old Teebee 12″ I’ve got, on Subtitles (I think), and the b-side was called ‘Sunday Sessions’ and that probably has a part to play in this track.
There’s also a Hip Hop attitude in there, not just the vocal sample but a general swagger. Put it altogether and I hope it feels like an ethereal journey through the night.
Bristol has such a deep D&B culture, how would D&B have rubbed off on you?
I don’t want to be influenced too much by what other producers are doing, otherwise it starts creeping into your sound and what was hopefully unique, soon becomes homogenised. That said any tracks I make now, this one included, can owe some influence to artists like Photek, Calibre, Teebee, Om Unit, Kromestar, Klute, Break, Digital, AI, Synthetix, SKC & Bratwa, High Contrast, Q-Project, and the list goes on.
The nights that really informed my D&B tastes over the years growing up in Bristol were Driveby at Thekla, Rubiks Cube at Bar Latino – that was a killer Monday night! Also Run at Native and Silent Running when I lived in Cardiff.
You released the Warning ep via SGN, has the Intervision ep evolved since then?
I never stop writing music, so while my ep for SGN was being wrapped up I was right back to working on the 20+ ideas I always have on the go, that eventually become the Intervision ep.
A lot of my time was largely spent sketching out ideas in the studio, collecting sounds in nature and out and about in the city, and just constantly looking forward to the next idea, the next inspiration and so on.
I’ve also been developing ideas for a film series to accompany my music. We’ve started shooting the first video which will have ‘Eye Don’t Know’ as the background or foreground music which ever way you look at it. We’re hoping to develop it in to a full series of short films.
What’s your favourite bit about being in the studio?
It’s what Ken Robinson describes as “being in your element”. He describes it infinitely better than I ever could, so I’d say check him out on that subject.
I am always struck by the sort of slow burning sense of drama in the music, and I don’t mean that in a sort of ‘melodrama’ way: it’s really engrossing. So what sort of things influence you?
I might be wrong, but I guessing that when you say “slow burning sense of drama” you mean a feeling of suspense? The ‘slow burn suspense’ probably comes from a lifetime watching Hitchcock films. Bernard Herrmann was the king of suspense and scored a lot of Hitchcock films, slowing building a feeling, and without you even being conscious of it, he’s taken you to the edge and dropped you off it, and then at the last minute there’s a resolution.
I hope I write music that has a similar effect.
One other specific influence is John Carpenter, the Halloween score is permanently etched on my mind. I guess there are loads of other specific examples but we’d be here all day, they are never ending and stretch from art and documentary to love, life and death.
I can sit and watch a film and be completely taken over by it, in the same way I can run or walk for miles in the countryside and its surroundings and nature give me a new perspective. Then all of a sudden you’re stood in the middle of a wood recording the sound of decaying wood hitting a tree.
With such a philosophical outlook… do you think about space then? Is the universe infinite or is there a big perspex barrier at some stage?
Although the look and feel of the night sky obviously inspired me, I don’t think too much about what is beyond it to be honest. I think my thoughts are more consumed with what’s going on down here.
The recent Philae comet lander was dope though.
Was perturbed by the ‘Co-Extinct’ title! Are we doomed, as a species? How do we avoid it?
Yeah, really happy go lucky vibes! I wrote it after hearing a documentary about how a lot of our actions, are ironically causing our own demise as a species. It’s not a new concept, but at the time it articulated something I’d been thinking about.
Are we doomed? Well I’m not sure, but I do seem to spend an increasing amount of time saying: “hang on, how is that even acceptable?”.
How is it acceptable that people can earn millions for essentially moving virtual money around, whilst around the corner nurses work 12 hour shifts saving lives for peanuts. Moreover, why aren’t more people outraged by that? And then there’s the obvious human self destruction of war over religion and oil etc, the constant disregard for nature and the planet that feeds us and despite our vast wealth people are still sleeping rough.
When you write it down like that, it does sound a little bit crazy.
How do we avoid it? I guess don’t put up with the inequality, maybe start by helping people that are vulnerable or take some time off and read something that expands your brain? I don’t feel doomed, there’s a lot to be positive about, maybe we’re just in a transitional phase.
The tune itself tells that story, to me it starts with a dark negative feeling and then on to the second drop, it sounds like the fight back.
What music do you yourself check? Maybe name five things?
Waaaay too many to mention, everything from Classical and Dubstep to Soundtracks and Rocksteady. But some key players have been Massive Attack, Portishead, DJ Shadow, RJD2, Joker, Bjork, Om Unit, Danny Scrilla, Kromestar, S.P.Y. Here’s 5 pieces of music that are currently in my car to give you an idea of the randomness:
The Psychonauts ‘Time Machine’
Burial ‘Shell of Light’
Aint Them Bodies Saints soundtrack
I Break Horses ‘Winter Beats’
David Crosby ‘Orleans’
Back to Intervision, can you take us through ‘Eye Don’t Know’? Storming!
This started with an old vocal session I recorded and hadn’t used. I found the line “I don’t know” which I liked and a few other bits and played around with it, messing with the pitch until an interesting pattern emerged. Then I put it on loop and just jammed some chords over the top and it developed from there.
The drum pattern is very footwork-inspired and the synths and general grit seem to sound a bit John Carpenter to me now I’m listening to it again. There’s a lot of contrast in there, I always like contrasting a heavy sound with something beautiful, it’s almost like there’s a sweet point where beauty meets grit.
Once the basic elements were down, it just flowed and was just a matter of building the layers. There’s all sorts in there, there’s atmosphere from recordings I made in a cafe, the snare is me hitting an umbrella against wood. I honestly don’t spend all my time going out just hitting wood.
There’s also the cracking sound of me walking on ice.
Listening back now I can hear a lot of dub influenced sounds in there, which probably comes from nights spent at Cosies or the Criterion pub in Bristol. I think there might even be some Kate Bush influence in there somewhere.
I enjoy the sense of place: you are very ‘visual’ in your work too. Can you name some favourite views you have?
Glad you picked up on me being a visual artist, as that’s definitely how I want my music to come across and visuals are a big inspiration.
I’ll pick two views: the view at Daymer Bay in Cornwall, definitely wouldn’t do it justice by describing it though. Also the view over Bristol at night from the top of Trenchard Street car park.
Lastly what’s the title mean?
An ‘inner vision’ is defined as “seeing one’s inner self”, but that sounded to me like it’s just under the surface, it’s something that you feel or see in your conscious mind. So I thought ‘Intervision’ sounded even deeper, into the unconscious mind, like a meditation, it’s coming more from the soul.
I hope that comes across in the music.
The Intervision ep will be released in digital formats on Inflect Audio on December 1st.