SoulStructure: In Search of the Truth
SoulStructure operate with a unique dynamic…
With 10 years between the Bolton-based brothers, John and Dominic Crossland came into drum & bass at very different points of the genre on very different studio set ups. But by the late 2000s they’d reached a moment where their views and skills complemented each other and it wasn’t long before they had the likes of LTJ Bukem supporting their wares and signing them to his seminal Goodlooking label.
While the support gave them great exposure, unfortunately their music never got to see the light of release before the seminal label closed for business. Undeterred, they continued to plough into the 2010s honing their distinctive sample heavy dusty soul sound on labels such as Vampire, Influenza and Store Jam before landing on Paul SG’s Jazzsticks; a label where they seem clearly at home. So much so, Paul encouraged them to release their debut album…. A plot hatched, like all the best plots, poolside at Sun And Bass three years ago.
Released in August, it’s the broadest snapshot of where the brothers are at musically, stylistically and soulfully. Ranging from the brazen horn heavy car chase madness of Buktown to the classic old school homage Seduction by way of the slippery, slimeline disco minimalism and delicate keys of The Simple Things, it’s the sound of two brothers embracing their own personal passions from the entire jungle continuum and bringing them together with serious helpings of soul.
Quintessential Jazzsticks business, we caught up with them to find out more…
The Time & The Truth. There’s got to be a story behind this title…
John: It’s about a number of things, I suppose. From a SoulStructure perspective, we’ve always had to work at finding the time to dedicate to making music. We’re both busy with other commitments but it’s important to us to make time to have a creative outlet. Within that, it’s then about the decisions you make; what sounds and samples to use and how to use them. I wanted what we produced to be true to us. Basically make decisions that weren’t influenced by anything other than what we thought felt right and true to what we believe SoulStructure stands for.
There are then more personal reasons behind the title which I’ll not go into. All I will say is that time and truth are, in some ways, all we have in life. Time is existence and within that existence you have decisions to make. It’s then about how true to yourself those decisions are. I think we’re all in search of the truth in some ways. Too deep? I’ll bet you wish you hadn’t asked now!
Yeah I was going to ask about your roots on Goodlooking Records. You were signed but a lot of that material didn’t actually get released, right?
Dom: The first track we ever made was signed to Goodlooking. We didn’t even have an artist name at that point! Ideally we would have liked to get the signed tracks released quicker and ideally through Goodlooking. At the time it felt fine for the music to sit there and wait whilst we worked on other stuff and established what we were all about. It was great to be associated with such a legendary label and the early support was good for us. It was disappointing those tracks never came out, but overall it was a positive situation for us.
John: I’ve always been a huge fan of LTJ Bukem and Goodlooking Records. To have that seal of approval from the get-go was an amazing feeling. I’ve been producing music since the late-90s but had written off taking it seriously a long time before those Goodlooking signed tracks. So it kind of gave me the belief to get back into it again. So, in some ways, if it wasn’t for that link up it’s possible that SoulStructure would never have happened. An actual release would have been a dream come true though.
John, you’re quite a lot older than Dom. What was your route into this and when did you realise you might be able to make music together?
John: Our older brother Iain got me into rave and hardcore music in ’92. I was buying 12″s when I was 12 years old and it went from there. Dom found his own route to drum and bass to be honest. That was the best way; I never pushed it on him.
Dom: John had a massive music collection so always recommended a lot of things. I started to get into electronic music – mostly house. John gave me an Adam F single when I was 10 and the Logistics album Now More Than Ever a few years later and I got into it a bit more. I started making music on the back of that. John came back to it after a bit of a break.
Do you share a vision? Or do you have a healthy contrast of views that helps you see a wider picture?
Dom: I think we see things the same in some ways but come from different aspects in others. I’d say we enjoy what we each bring to the project. We do try and make music for clubs but also something you can listen to at home. We share that vision. John will push things in a different direction that I sometimes wouldn’t , which is often a good thing.
John: I think I started with a clear vision that Dom’s understood and bought into over time. Right from the get-go I was fully focused on what I wanted and how I wanted things to sound. I didn’t want to waiver on that so in the first couple of years we clashed with what I wanted and what Dom believed was possible or sounded best. We’d always agree to try things and if it worked; great. If it didn’t then we just took a different route.
Do you have classic brotherly fights?
Dom: Start disagreements? Maybe me. I don’t think we ever have arguments. I think we respect the fact that we don’t always agree on things. The last disagreement I remember is that I don’t like the kind of football Jurgen Klopp plays. He’s a serial loser. Haha!
John: Haha! We had more ‘artistic differences’ earlier on in working together. Dom was an established solo producer and I was an old-school head with a very fixed view of what I wanted. Sometimes Dom was of the view that these things I wanted couldn’t be done. He was often right but I wanted to try things out and push the boundaries. I think we’re now more on the same page that there’s no harm in trying something out. Oh… and I love the kind of football Klopp’s teams play! We’re both Bolton Wanderers fans and love football. We’d often end up watching random Italian and German football matches whilst working on the album.
Yeah back to the album… You never get a second chance to make a first impression. What were the most important things your debut album had to do?
Dom: It was important to get a diverse sound within the palette of textures we are used to using and known for. To get a balance of tracks good for the club and others for more just listening to. From the heavy DJ support we got from LTJ Bukem and Paul SG we were able to get a good idea of what people were thinking about the tracks.
John: The number one objective was to make something that was true to what we were all about – not try and follow trends. So regardless of how it was received, we could say ‘that’s us’. The process of writing the album was a more soul searching task than I ever thought it would. My initial idea was something more experimental. However, it became apparent to me that we were still on a steep learning curve of perfecting our kind of ‘base’ sound. So we went we with something more ‘in the box’ to present who SoulStructure are. The experimental approach can wait for another time.
There’s a real sense of drama and fun in tracks like Buktown and Diamonds. Do you think that sense of fun is sometimes missing in the deeper, more soulful side of D&B?
Dom: Definitely. I guess as producers have got cleverer and equipment is more intuitive, it’s easy to overcomplicate and over-obsess about a track. Those kind of tracks centre around really strong samples. It’s about making them work without taking too much away from the main thing – the groove of the key sample.
John: I suppose even the moodiest of tracks can be fun but I know what you mean. I think it’s been the case for years that more minimal or ‘tech-y’ styles are seen as cooler or even more advanced, but let me tell you; these tracks are not easy to make. Balancing all the musical elements with heavy layered drum patterns and pounding 808s is a huge technical challenge. Thankfully, I tend to throw it all together and Dom has to deal with tidying it up! Haha!
Ha! It’s all about balance right?
John: Funny you should say that because ‘balance’ is something we considered as a concept for the title. We’re always trying to achieve that balance of musical and technical elements. In fact, that’s largely what we each bring to the table.
The album’s been out for a few months now. Did you take a break or crack back on?
Dom: We enjoyed a bit of a break. I expect there’ll be some more stuff to work on very soon. I think you’re always looking for samples and being inspired though. I’m always building a sample library, which then gives you the hunger to start writing again.
John: It was important to have a break once the album was finished. We worked so hard on it in those final few months so it’s good to clear your head and enjoy the final product. We’ve actually been overwhelmed by the reaction we’ve had to the album. It’s very humbling to receive private messages and know that it means something to people. Beyond knowing that you’ve done something to the best of your ability, its what makes it all worthwhile.
What else do we need to know right now?
John: We’re holding a SoulStructure & Friends night at the legendary Eastern Bloc Records in Manchester on November 29 alongside Paul SG and my old friend Chris Roots from Roots Before Branches. It’ll be an eclectic mix of house, broken beat and drum & bass. It may be something we look into making a regular thing. We’ll see. Apart from that, it’s about getting back on the beats and building on the foundation we’ve built through the album. Next year is Jazzsticks’ ten year anniversary so expect something special from the label. We’ll certainly be involved in some sort of way.
Dom: Yes, winter’s often a more productive time for us musically so we’ll be busy. We get plenty of bad weather in Bolton which makes for quality studio time. If it’s particularly bad weather we might even manage another album!
Time & The Truth is out now on Jazzsticks – get it here