D&B evolution: 20 years and counting.
Driving the scene is an army of pioneers who push the sound and support each other in their endeavours; relentlessly experimenting with new sounds and ideas that ultimately helped shape the genre into what it is today. One of the most influential formative pioneers is Mr Roni Size.
An original player: He, along with his band Reprazent, was among the first to bring drum & bass to a stage show in live form. Their 1997 album New Forms won the Mercury Prize, making the possibilities for drum & bass seem limitless.
Fast forward: Roni Size is due to return with a new album and a new label, Mansion Sounds, plus he and Reprazent have a new album currently in the works along with a very special live appearance in front of an intimate audience at Metropolis Studios on June 13. Along with the live show, Roni will be holding an exclusive production masterclass on June 14 for only 55 attendees, where he’ll be going through original multi-track masters of some of his classic tunes and an in-depth interview.
We caught up with Roni to chat about the motivation behind the live show and masterclass at Metropolis, and about his thoughts on the state of drum & bass today…
Thanks for catching up with us Roni! Where are you joining us from today?
Fortunately I’m at home in Bristol for once, which hasn’t happened in a long time! I have my studio here, and I have two albums coming out later this year so just putting the finishing touches on those. Also working on a couple of remixes- there’s a Gorgon City remix on the way and another, which you’ll hear about very soon!
Are you excited to get the Reprazent crew back together at Metropolis?
Absolutely! My first priority, as a musician and a performer, is to be on stage. And it’s no fun being on stage by yourself! Especially when the right team is together and everyone is locked in. It’s just fantastic!
Who will be joining you on stage?
We’ve got a full 8-piece band and are using two drummers this time around. Dynamite is back, as well as Onallee, with Jay Wilcox on keys and Pete Bernard on guitar just to name a few. It’s a really tight knit band.
We’ve always been attracted by the sound of realness, the raw sound of a band. Having the two drummers we’ll have one drummer who is free to explore and play around with tricky rhythms and then the other drummer is going to be locked in to the metronome, never missing a single beat. That really gives us that punch that we really look forward to.
You’ll also be giving a studio masterclass. What do you hope to gain from the masterclass yourself, and what was the idea behind putting it on in the first place?
I’m still learning every day, and the way I learn is by discussing things I’m interested in. If you put yourself in front of an audience of people who want to listen to you talk about what you love and what you’ve achieved in your life and who want to understand the journey behind it all, then you’ll no doubt share things they’ll never read in the magazines. It’s a lot more real and spontaneous.
To be honest I’m no magician in the studio… back in the day you had to use what you had. Nowadays people go to colleges and there are so many tutorials available, so now kids are growing up and are actually a lot more skilled than I am. But I remember spending two thousand pounds on a sampler and having to learn every single inch of that sampler, and understanding the value of it. So maybe I can show the difference in how easy it is now compared to how hard it was back then. Not to take anything away from todays production skills at all, but it used to be hard back in the day man, we used to spend two days on a single kick drum!
You’ve got a new album with Reprazent in the works…
Yes. I wont talk too much about just yet. It’s full of vocals and lots of dancefloor instrumentals. We want it to be a record you can just put on and listen to from beginning to the end and will contain all varied tempos… But the core of it is drum & bass.
What do you think about the state of drum & bass at the moment?
What I love about the scene is that all the original players are still fully supportive of each other. I still talk to Bryan Gee and people at V Recordings pretty much every other day, and try to keep in contact with as many of the heads as possible. So that’s the one thing I love about the scene at the moment- that all the original players are still rubbing shoulders which is a great thing. The whole scene was a really tight network of people back in the day, and everybody knew what everybody was doing and it was a massive support system. It was a fantastic time to be around the birth of this music.
What are the biggest differences are in the scene 10 years ago compared to today?
Well the biggest difference is that production has become second to none these days, sometimes tracks are maybe even a little bit over produced. This is not to say that production nowadays can’t be fantastic as well. I’ve just always been a fan of raw production. The vibe was different back in the day as it was all new, so it’s a little harder these days to get that ‘wow’ factor, but you can still be inspired.
Drum&BassArena is coming up to its 18th bday so we’re feeling nostalgic. What was your favourite year in drum & bass and why?
It would have to be 1996-97, because I saw a transformation from the scene being based in one country and evolving into a worldwide phenomenon. I actually saw it happen and being able to watch my peers alongside me was a great reward
Are your kids into production? And if so, was music something you tried to educate them about at an early age?
My children are special in that they can get into the music kind of thing, or any arts really. One of my sons paints, one makes dubstep and trap for fun, the other is very much into sport science. We all do things differently, but the musical side of things just runs in the blood. You’ve gotta have other aspirations outside of music though and we all have that.
What’s up next for you apart from the appearance at Metropolis Studios?
One of the things I’m really focusing on at the moment is forming this new label, which will be the outlet through which all the new music will be released.
We’ll also be bringing out a new compilation album, which is going to feature a brand new camp of artists, vocalists and singers.
Also, I’m looking forward to maybe being out and about in London more. Being able to catch up with old friends, collaborating with some artists and getting back in the thick of things! For anyone looking to get in touch feel free to log on to ronisize.net, or on my Facebook or Twitter.
Enter our comp for your chance to win two tickets to both the live show and masterclass as well as a VIP meet and greet.