Nu:Tone – Future Sounds
Tackling a fourth studio album is surely no easy feat, and yet Nu:Tone has executed it with a certain finesse that only a true luminary could. Let’s not forget he’s been at it for well over 10 years, and the years of experience are impossible to ignore. Future History, released on Hospital Records last week, is a 14-track masterpiece. Simple as that.
The throwbacks to Jungle are easily recognisable, from the emotive and nostalgia-inducing ‘Til Dawn, to the perfectly arranged VIP of Special, Nu:Tone has yet again proved he is a force to be reckoned with. We caught up with the man himself to chat about how the album came together, what his kids think of his music, and he hints at another Nu:Logic album in the future…
Ez Dan – cheers for taking the time to chat to us! So ‘Future History’ is a little bit special… I’ve had it on repeat, so thanks for providing the soundtrack to my life the past few days! 😉 How long did the album take to come together?
It was pretty quick for me – about 6 months start to finish.
This is your fourth studio album – how does the process of putting this one together differ to the others? Does it get easier or do you become more of a perfectionist?
I think I have higher standards for myself now, but at the same time, I’ve learnt to not get too caught up during the writing process. When I was working on the Nu:Logic album with Matt, we got into a really efficient work flow of just starting things and concentrating on getting a vibe going. It’s so easy to get stuck on engineering details that 99% of people won’t notice. I’ve found that if I focus on getting the music right from the start, everything else will come together.
Did it take some time getting used to working on your own after working with your brother on the Nu:Logic album last year?
I have to admit that I was a bit paranoid that I’d find it impossible. I was so proud of what we produced with that album, and was deeply aware of the the input that we both individually had into the project. I almost felt that anything I wrote by myself could never match up. Thankfully, that worry didn’t last too long, and I realised that you have to treat each project individually. This is different – it’s more personal, and so in that respect it’s something I’m proud of in a totally different way.
What vision did you have in mind for this album? It seems like a very deliberate vibe was set throughout it – is it something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time?
Maybe subconsciously, I guess! It wasn’t until I was about two-thirds of the way through that I realised where it was heading to be honest. I had originally just set out to have fun in the studio, and see what came out. It turns out that it’s a lot of fun to make music at 155bpm!
Well it’s certainly a pleasure to listen to! Do you ever have a specific idea for a project, then start it and get completely lost in the creative process and end up with a product that had nothing to do with the original concept?
Not really, because it’s pretty rare for me to sit down with a pre-formed concept. I usually just see what comes out. I’ll usually start with an individual element that I’m really into, maybe a break, or a synth patch, and then see what it suggests to me.
The throwbacks to Jungle are quite apparent and the album title starts to make more sense as you make the journey through it. What strikes me is the sheer nostalgia woven throughout the album, and yet it retains a refreshing new vibe… is this what you were going for with the title “Future History”?
That was the idea, I certainly didn’t want to write an album full of pastiches. It was more about taking influence from all the stages of D&B’s development – pulling different elements out, and trying to weave them into something new.
What nostalgia did you want to express through the album?
Nostalgia is a tricky word – it always makes me think of old bastards sitting around moaning that music today isn’t like was ‘back in the day’. That was then, and this is now. There’s no doubt in my mind that things are different now, D&B doesn’t have the mind-blowing newness that it had at the turn of the century. It was so completely unlike anything else around at the time back then – the production, the sonics, the whole aesthetic was unlike anything that had come before. Now you hear production and engineering tricks from D&B all over the dance music. Added to which, a lot of the people who are coming to parties now have grown up with D&B around them – I frequently drop tunes that are older than 90% of the crowd. But in spite of that, we have over 20 years of music to pull from – as a DJ, that’s amazing. I love drawing on that heritage when I DJ, and wanted to find a way to express that in my own productions as well.
‘Til Dawn’ is a bonafide Jungle classic in the making (as are most of the tunes on this album!) – how did the tune come together and where is the sample from?
It was the first track I wrote for the album actually, the vocal is taken from a classic Chicago House record from 1989. It’s been sampled a bunch of times over the years, and I’ve always wanted to try doing something with it. When I wrote the track, the vocal just sat in perfectly, but I figured I’d have to re-write and re-record at some point down the line, as it’s such a big sample. Thanks to the amazing office staff at Hospital, we managed to clear it, so it stayed!
On ‘Bay Of Islands’ you collab with Logistics – is it easier to work together because you’re brothers and can be brutally honest with each other when something isn’t working?
That’s one of the big benefits, the main thing is that it’s fun. We’ve always been really close, and had such a blast writing the Nu:Logic album.
How do your different skills complement each other? Did you work on the tune together in the studio or separately?
We both have really different skill sets actually, which ends up working hugely in our favour I think. For the Nu:Logic album we worked on everything together, this one ended up happening differently for one reason or another.
Speaking of Loggy – any plans for another Nu:Logic album any time soon?
Definitely – as soon as things settle down for both of us, we’re going to get straight back in and start on the next one!
Yes! Can’t wait! Back to Future History – Tell us about Lea Lea… How did ‘Tides’ come together?
I wrote it as an instrumental, but it became pretty obvious early on that it was a perfect candidate for a vocal. I wrote it on a really grim Monday morning, the working title was ‘Mondays’ for ages. Lea Lea is part of the WahWah 45’s crew, who I’ve known for years. She also worked on a bunch of tracks with my brother Nick (Other Echoes), and I thought she sounded amazing. Nick also said that she was wonderful to work with. She came up to Cambridge and we spent a surprisingly short afternoon in the studio writing and recording.
Is there a tune on the album that drove you particularly crazy as you were working on it?
I spent a lot of time working on the mix of ‘Say That You’ll’ – for some reason it didn’t want to come together. It was one of the few tunes where I ended up obsessing over the mix-down. I think it was because I was so happy with what was in there musically, I was desperate for the mix to live up to the music.
Well it turned out wicked! What was the concept behind the album art and who was behind it?
The cover was designed by my brother Tim (aka Mr Penfold), the idea was for something that reflected the album concept, but in a not-completely-literal way. I think it’s my favourite album cover so far!
Let’s chat about Metaphor 6000 – how did the connection with Kool Keith come about, and what the hell is Metaphor 6000, and why do I now want to answer all questions with “Metaphor 6000”?
I just hit him up and asked if he was up for working on something with me. To my amazement he said yes! I don’t think I slept properly from the point where all the business side of things had been sorted out, until the point where I got the email with his vocal recording. I was like a little kid before Christmas. God only knows what Metaphor 6000 is, all I know is it sounds cool to me!
Have you taken the opportunity to annoy your kids and answer all of their questions with ‘Metaphor 6000’?
No, but I’m definitely going to now.
Do your kids take an interest in your music? And are they often intrigued by what you’re doing in the studio for so long?
They love it. It’s always on rotation in the car – Morning Light (or The Bird Song, as they call it) is a favourite from the Nu:Logic album. Right now, Back2U seems to be the winner from this one.
Awesome! Any other bits of trivia surrounding the album you’d care to share?
The crickets and birds at the start of Oneroa were recorded by a beach (called Oneroa) on Waiheke Island in New Zealand.
Where to next?
Who knows where this crazy career will take me! All I know is I’m very lucky to get to call something this enjoyable a job!
Future History is out now – get it here.