The ever-elusive tune: We’ve all got one. That tune you hear for the first time that takes hold of you and leaves you scrambling around the dance floor shouting “WHAT IS THIS??”, only to be met with blank stares and shrugs. The white whale, haunting your dreams and teasing you with its nameless, infectious rhythm. My white whale was Imperial, produced by the tremendously talented Skeptical.
This track eluded me for close to a year, and I now realise I wasn’t the only one. Its hypnotic drums and tribal rhythm have been slaying dance floors across the world, and until a couple of months ago, it seemed that no one on this planet could ID the tune. It wasn’t until Skeptical himself posted a video with a clip of the track that we could finally confirm that it was in fact, his tune. Funnily enough, when describing it to people I always mentioned ‘I’m pretty sure it’s Skeptical’… How I knew that, I have no idea. I can only put it down to the fact that this man has been perfecting his craft for years and has created a sound instantly recognisable as his own.
The Imperial EP dropped on Exit Records this week and it is absolutely diabolical. From the almost Amazonian vibe in Imperial, to the punchy, gritty, screw-face inducing Delusions of Grandeur, to the beast that is Playground Chat Back, Skeptical has truly taken his sound to another level. We took the opportunity to catch up with the man himself to get the backstory on the EP….
Big up Ashley, cheers for joining us! What have we caught you doing at this very moment?
Well, I’ve just dropped my fiancee and her Mum to the airport while i’m back at home waiting for our new fridge freezer to be delivered and do this interview!
Happy New Year and all that jazz, what was the first tune you dropped/heard in 2015?
Happy New Year to you too. It was a collaboration tune I wrote with Consequence called ‘After Hours’ @ NYE Subdub in Leeds.
The Imperial EP finally dropped on Exit Records this week. Mate… I’m not even sure where to begin with this beast of an EP! How long did it take to come together?
Well, 3 of the tunes were written a while ago so not that long really. I had a folder of tunes to select from but it was only when I wrote Imperial that I felt I had a carrier tune for the EP. After that it was only a matter of selecting the right tunes for it.
The title track – absolute war riddim. This is a tune that I, like many others, have been chasing for about a year now. Tell me the story behind Imperial… was there a particular inspiration behind it?
No real inspiration behind it but I do remember the tune piecing together easily. Some tunes can be an ass ache to get going but this one was painless which is always a good start. After the foundations of the track were down it was just a matter of layering and arranging it how I wanted it.
Where is the vocal sample at the start taken from?
A man never gives away his samples like a kid never gives away its sweets.
Good answer 😉 It’s funny that when hunting the tune down I assumed it was yours… I find it fascinating that you’ve carved a sound for yourself, but that sound crosses over multiple tempos and genres, and yet your work is still instantly recognisable. Is there a framework that you prefer to work within?
None. I just sit there and do my thing regardless of how my ‘sound’ is going to sound. This is common producer practice isn’t it.
Is it tough to keep tunes like this under wraps? As I mentioned I’ve been chasing it for quite some time, and know I’m not the only one, and I couldn’t so much as confirm it was you (although I just knew!) let alone track down a tune ID…
In this day and age music has become throwaway, everyone wants it yesterday so yeah at times it can be a struggle but theres only so much you can do. Once its online its out there. The best thing is to keep the tune to yourself so its up to you to decide if it gets radio play etc.
What’s a track that evaded you for a long time that you couldn’t wait to get your hands on?
Rachid – Charade (Grooverider Remix)
How did DBridge and the rest of the Exit Records crew react when you first introduced them to Imperial?
I cant actually remember but I’d say they put on their dancing shoes, turned it up full blast and danced the tango.
Naturally… Back to the EP – Playground Chat Back again hit me with its familiarity. Another tune I’ve heard dropped countless times but couldn’t identify. What a menacing, filthy little growler. Is there a story behind the tune and its title?
Yeah, I made this tune for 10 years of Exit @ Fire in London in 2012. I was playing b2b with George (Dub Phizix) and needed some ammo to drop so I made this. It was also at a time when I got my Maschine so a lot of it was written on that. If I remember correctly I processed the bass on the maschine too. Its one of those tunes that has a purpose but wont appeal to everyone. Kinda like Marmite.
It’s better than marmite! What do you think it is about these unnatural sounds and samples that cause such a favourable reaction within us?
You tell me! The wonders of the world eh?
Indeed. Delusions of Grandeur is yet another ominous creeper, which packs a ridiculous punch. I heard DJ Krust drop it (as well as Imperial) with infectious enthusiasm at System, on NYE in London. Is it humbling when d&b legends you may have looked up to as an up and coming producer show love for your work?
Definitely! I didn’t expect Krust to be playing my tunes when I first started out so yeah it’s a pleasure. It’s certainly something to inspire to.
I write tunes for myself that I like so for anyone else to be into them is great. And I’m assuming you mean Vivek’s System night? His sound system is a bit of a beast isn’t it!
That’s the one! Absolute monster! System sound for system people! Back to the EP: Do you have a personal favourite?
Imperial. I love the way it came together plus I haven’t written anything like it before which is why it stands out for me.
Was there a tune on the EP that was particularly frustrating to complete?
Yes! Delusions of Grandeur. I wrote it a while back so when it came to finding the project it took quite some time. Once I’d found it there were samples missing which I had to relocate. Also because it was written a while ago it had an old mixdown so re-mixing and tweaking was a little frustrating. All good though, it’s all part of it.
You went b2b with Jubei at the Exit vs. Metalheadz event in December. What struck me most about that night was the friendly air of competition surrounding it all, but also a real sense of camaraderie. Do you feel that you and your fellow peers inspire each other and encourage each other to further develop your sound?
Yeah I do actually, We’re all in the same boat doing the same thing so its good have a laugh, push and inspire each other. Theres nothing like a bit of friendly competition too. There was a point a couple of years ago when me and Dub Phizix were sending each other tunes and we’d both be thinking “I wanna better that”. It was good drive for us because we were getting loads done and writing tunes for fun. It’s good to keep the buzz otherwise you’ll become stagnant which makes its harder to get back in the zone.
You’ve got a collaborative project with 4 others called Module Eight. Tell us more about the project and who is involved…
We haven’t discussed what we want to do with the project yet so I don’t wanna say too much other than just hold out.
You’ve got an Australian/ NZ tour coming up in February. What do you look forward to the most when you go on tour?
The different cultures, meeting new people, seeing places you’ve never seen before, playing to a new audience, shopping for trainers, trying out new food.
And what is the least glamorous part of touring for you?
The lack of sleep.
The dates for Sun & Bass this year have just been announced: You’re a favourite at the festival, and you executed a flawless next-level set when I caught you there in 2013. What is it about Sun & Bass that keeps you going back?
Thanks. Theres loads to love about the place. The sun, the bass, the people, the vibe, the beaches. Last year me and my fiancée took a car and drove to some beaches around the island, it’s paradise. They have the most refreshing sea and its the best healer for a hangover. Actually…. Not forgetting the food, pretty much every restaurant serves amazing food!
It really is an incredible place! Other events you’re looking forward to this year?
Australia and New Zealand, Outlook festival is always a good one as well.
What’s next on the agenda for you as an artist?
My debut solo release Imperial (053) is out on Exit as you know, out along with a Talk The Talk/Something In The Sound (054) which is a limited 10″ vinyl only release. I have a tune on the new Ingredients LP which will be out at somepoint this year. I’ve also been in the studio with Perez, dBridge and Jubei so those tunes should surface at some point. I also have a tune on DRS’s 2nd LP ‘Mid Mic Crisis’. I’m happy musically at the moment so I just want to keep writing music and enjoy it.
Brilliant! Final words/ shout outs?
Love you more.
Talk The Talk/ Something In The Sound is available here.