Submorphics: SGNed, Sealed, Delivered

Submorphics: SGNed, Sealed, Delivered

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He’s a bit shaken from recent earthquakes, he’s got mad love for Calibre, he loves his UK pubs, he’ll batter you in a game of table tennis and he’s just had his debut on SGN:LTD. Say hello to San Francisco-based Submorphics!

Mr Submorphics! How’s everything going?
Not too bad!  Just waking up after an evening of celebrating my debut SGN:LTD release… Jameson was heavily involved.

How’s San Fran looking? Have you been affected by the recent earthquakes?

The recent NorCal earthquake shook the hell out of my studio!  I was sleeping at the time, but I woke up for the final three seconds of the quake. My bed was shaking violently; I had no idea what was going on as I had never been in an earthquake.  When I woke up again later that day I Googled “SF Earthquake” to make sure I hadn’t imagined the whole thing!

Wow! D&B isn’t the first thing people associate with the city, but it’s always had a strong presence in SF, right?

Having only lived here one year, I can’t properly answer this question… but I think SF has always been ahead of the curve in terms of the embracing of D&B music/culture. Currently we have our Stamina Sundays weekly with residents: Flaco, Gridlok, Method One, Bachelors of Science, Jamal and myself.  It’s as healthy a D&B scene as you can hope to find outside of England I think.  We are all making quite different styled tunes from each other, yet we support each other fully.      

To the release: Massive love for your SGN:LTD outing… Long Been Gone has been floating around in some very big name DJs playlists for a while, right? Nice to see if finally out there? 

I had given it to Calibre and Lenzman when I first made it… Both of them have been caning it, and Mr Friction snapped it up, so I knew it must not be half bad.  When I finished ‘Long Been Gone’ I thought it was maybe the best thing I’d ever written.  It sums up the sound I’ve been trying to achieve: cinematic, nostalgic, epic, ‘northern soul n bass’…  (I just made that up.)  It was my goal for 2014 to get on Shogun and I achieved the goal at the beginning of the year. It shocked me and inspired me to push myself harder this year…

There’s a warm timelessness on Long Been Gone. It could have been released any time in the last 10 years or the next 10 years… Was timelessness an intention or did it happen more organically?

I suppose I’m trying to make music that defies trends and is hopefully something that has shelf life.  Tunes like this write themselves once you get the sample, main chords and bassline going.  I didnt have the idea of ‘timelessness’ in my head when I wrote it. For me, making music is just something that happens organically, and I analyze it later!

A little play around with the title, if you will, sir… What’s long been gone in your life and how can you get it back? 

Hmm…depressing question!  I’ll turn it around and say water slides…I haven’t been on one in years! 

How’s about Rosewood? Tell me how you came across Christina Tamayo’s stunning vocals! 

While living in Chicago, and active in the D&B community, I met Tamayo.  We had a lot of mutual friends.  One day, she was over at my house and as it turns out, this random girl on the couch actually could sing!  I was working on a track with Mutt and she started singing over the tune… much to my surprise she sounded airy, melancholy and very mature. There was this vulnerability in her voice that really appealed to me as I was used to a more diva-ish style of vocals.  After that first tune in 2009/2010, we’ve done several more, and Tamayo has developed into a full-on singer/songwriter capable of delivering really well-written verses and choruses— which is rare to find in D&B.

Any stories behind Rosewood’s construction or inspiration?

It was a sketch sitting on my hard drive for the last year or two.  I had originally tried to write it as a downtempo tune…but listened to it in May of this year and decided to roll it out Calibre-style.  I facebook-messaged Tamayo in Chicago and asked if she had any ideas for it, as I wanted to roll out a piano-based tune with her on vocals.  My friends Lenzman and Riya were also an influence, as they have done the piano-n-vocal thing at such a high level, and I wanted to put my own spin on this timeless style.  Tamayo wrote most of the vocals and made the tune what it is… I sent it to Ed Friction five minutes after I finished it; I wanted to see if it was SGN:LTD-worthy and it was!

It’s been a great year for you release-wise… Burnside Park on Liquid V, now this monster. Happy with how things have gone in 2014 so far? And what can we expect upcoming? 

Yeah, this has been the most exciting time of my music career!  Feeling very grateful.  There’s more from me to come on Shogun later in the year!  I’m not sure how much I can divulge so I’ll leave it at that.  I also made a hip hop tune for T.R.A.C. which should be out on Liquid V in the near future.  And I’m currently working on several vocal tunes which no one has heard yet. Taking my time!

Looking back a little further, there was Organ Grinder…  Sweet slo-mo vibes and a fine example of great sample mastery! How did it feel to go under Calibre’s sharp knife?

As you would expect me to say, Calibre is my hero, so this was one of the highlights of the last two years for me.  It also gave attention to my original version, which is a departure from rolling D&B breaks in favor of Dilla-esque halftime dubbyness.  Dilla and Calibre are my biggest inspirations, so this tune is probably an homage to what I’ve learned from both of them.  The Organ Grinder remix also got me talking to Calibre, and he has since supported quite a few of my tunes…hearing him play my bits is a bit surreal…

Calibre has famously never been remixed (officially anyway), if you could plunder his immense vaults and remix ANY of his tracks, which ones would they be and why?

Hmm…so many to choose from…so many that I wouldn’t wanna ruin!  Mr Maverick is a longtime favorite of mine– I still cane that one. There are dozens I could mention but this is the first answer that has popped into my head so I’ll go with that one!

I see you’re heading our way in December… Is it your first time this side of the Atlantic?

I’ve been to the UK 4 or 5 times… always a great time, and I soak up the bass music vibes as much as I can.  Being in the birthplace of D&B and seeing how educated the crowds are about the tunes is refreshing.  It’s engrained in the culture, which is far from the case in the US.  I also eat well despite American stereotypes of bad food.  Pizza Express dough-balls are heaven in my mouth!  Brick Lane, Chinatown, pub food and Sunday roast all make my taste buds happy as well.  But yeah, I love hanging out in London or Bristol…need to see more of England really.

 Where else in the world would you most like to deliver your vibes? 

I’d love to go to Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile in South America for the scenery and culture alone!  Maybe just go on holiday and pick up a few gigs while I’m there. Need to go to Japan and around Asia eventually too.  Get my zen on!  I’ve really only toured in North America and Europe….hopefully that will change in the near future…

 I think this wraps things up nicely. Time for one final question… Tell us a fact about yourself that you’ve never told in an interview and might surprise a few people!

I’m a fierce table tennis player. Who out there wants to challenge me??

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Drum&BassArena Editor: Dave Jenkins has documented beats for over 15 years working with the likes of UKF, Mixmag, DJ Mag, iDJ, Bandcamp, Resident Advisor, Radio 1 Xtra and many more.


Submorphics (Greg Axelrad) has made his name with soul-drenched, deep, emotive, nostalgic yet forward-thinking music. Starting from the very ...