The Teacher: The story behind Philth’s homage to Randall
Earlier this month we were finally treated to the second instalment of Moments In Time – Philth’s debut album project on Dispatch.
For a musical mind as brilliant as his, it was no surprise the album was split into two parts. Both instalments complement and trickle into each other, laden with all his signature hallmarks and musical influences. From beautifully delicate liquid gems, to techy, gritty numbers that’ll leave you sour-faced with an urge to bust the wild gun-finger-wielding gremlin out of your chest – the LP is not only a nod to his roots, but sees him evolving his sound and pushing it even further into the future.
Intricately produced; each note deliberate and painstakingly constructed with careful precision – this is by far his most personal project to date.
We’re not going to dissect the album track by track, but we are going to dive into one track in particular, as it caught our attention back in 2018 when he unleashed it at our album launch party. It went a little something like this…
The one tune we innocently picked out of his epic mix just so happened to be a dub from his forthcoming album that wouldn’t see the light of day for almost 2 years. It also happens to have a wicked story behind it… Dedicated to Randall for inspiring him to get into the music industry – we caught up with Philth to get the full story behind the tune and album…
By far your most personal work to date, obviously… It’s been a long time coming, how was the process for you and getting all these ideas out of your head and into reality?
The process of writing an album was deeply rewarding and fulfilling from a musical perspective, I was able to use the LP format to finally demonstrate my full range as an artist within one project. Despite how much I enjoyed writing it, it was incredibly challenging on a personal level.
When I started the project I was working full-time as a teacher along with studying for a masters, and the pressure from so many angles caught up with me at a time when I just wanted the album to be complete, so I was pushing myself harder than ever to get across the line. I became ill due to stress, was suffering badly with anxiety and depression, which led to me being signed off work and having to rethink my life-patterns. I learnt to slow down, be kinder to myself, and I learnt to enjoy my studio time again instead of only thinking of the end result.
Ironically, after this mental shift I started to get the best results in the studio as my creative pathways felt more open… I wrote ’The Teacher’, ‘Claws, ‘Damaged’ and ‘Stuck in a Loop’ and suddenly the album had finished itself!!
Did you always know it was going to be split into 2 parts? Or did it just start growing and growing and then you had to make a call on it?
It was a very organic process, I don’t think anybody would be crazy enough to set out to write a double-LP for their debut album! The first set of dubs I sent to Ant were actually intended for another EP to follow up ‘The Circle’, but he signed 7 tunes and asked me to do an album. Then he signed 5 from the next batch, but I didn’t feel like I had gone into ‘album mode’ just yet.
As a college teacher, the summer holiday was always my most productive time, so I wrote new tunes every day for 2 months and came with another album’s worth of new demos. I was expecting to have to make some tough decisions and drop many of them but Ant decided that we should use all our favourites and split the project into a double LP.
I’m very grateful for his faith in me because it’s allowed me to display my full range of music from ambient / soundtrack to soulful, to deep, to dark, without the album sounding scatty.
Really feels like you bared your soul in terms of your roots/ influences and pushed yourself to new heights as well throughout the production process – was that always the intention and concept behind the album?
Yes, you’ve got it totally – I wanted to delve deep into my influences from my 20 years buying records and immersing myself in the scene, but also wanted to dive deep into myself and write music from a very personal place. I wanted the music to be honest and whatever mood came out in the first session would stay as the core content and vibe of each track – I try not to get caught up in comparison with what everybody else in the scene is doing and try to just be myself.
The concept of the album was to explore my love of film soundtracks alongside my influences, and focus on emotion / vibes before mixdowns – expressing myself was more important than making a perfect snare in a bland tune… But of course I did want to step up my game on a technical level and I learnt a lot of new skills with my basses and mixdowns too…. I don’t want to think about how many mixes I did once the music was complete!!
Speaking of roots – We have to talk about The Teacher. You know how I feel about this tune – I managed to pick it out of your D&BTV set almost 2 years ago now… Absolute beast of a track, and was inspired by the Daddy himself, right? Tell us about the track and why Randall had such a profound impact on your career…
Yeah you really smashed it when you picked that tune for the D&BTV clip!! My DM’s were blowing up and it kicked off the hype for my LP. Good ears mate! People often say that dubplate culture is not the same as the old days but ’The Teacher’ has had that time to build… The first person playing it after me and Ant was Goldie, and we kept it locked down to a very tight circle so the anticipation was building without over-exposure – people have been asking me about it forever and it’s been a highlight of my sets.
‘The Teacher’ is inspired by the early techstep sound that cemented my love for this music, and a tribute to one of my DJ heroes and biggest influences Daddy Randall. The track was written when I was first signed off work and the anxiety and depression was really bad. I had written loads of music but my album didn’t feel complete and at that period in time I wasn’t happy being in the studio because I was trying to force it. I was trying to rediscover my love for the studio instead of seeing it as a place of stress and pressure, so I made a conscious effort to reconnect with the early days when I first got hooked on jungle / D&B.
Back in 1997 I bought a Dreamscape compilation album and CD3 was Randall and Fats… this is the time when the darker style was starting to become prominent and hearing that CD blew my mind – the jungle breaks were becoming more aggressive and metallic, and the basses and sci-fi atmospheres were pure alien technology compared to the ragga-jungle and jump-up I was hearing on the London pirates and tape-packs. The first time I met Randall I told him how much I loved that mix, really it changed my life exposing me to the futuristic sound as D&B evolved out of jungle. He told me him and Fats rolled it out in 1 take with no rehearsal – “East London ting innit”!
So during this period when I was really struggling for inspiration I found the Dreamscape CD on YouTube, listened to it at a stupid volume while I cooked lunch, and something clicked in my head. I was able to forget the pressure and negativity that had been weighing me down in the studio and I rolled out the tune in 5-6 hours. Metallic snares, dark atmosphere, old-skool rave samples and a bass that mutates and just rolls out. When I found the Alan Watts sample it expressed what I was feeling perfectly as I rediscovered my purpose and motivation to write music – to remember my inspiration from the pioneers and re-invent the sound without losing touch with the past. If I hadn’t heard that Dreamscape CD maybe I wouldn’t have spent my life obsessed with D&B and techstep in particular, so the track title is a shout-out to the teacher who showed me the way!!
What a story! Yes Randall!! He’s inspired so many to get into this game! Now back to the album – with such a massive project (25 tracks !!!!) was it a relief to complete, or was there a period of mourning to let go of such a personal project? It must be intense emerging from the studio when your head has been in album mode for so long!!
A bit of both to be honest! The day I finished the album was also the day I had to take my studio apart as our landlord wanted to decorate the flat, so there was a really intense period where I was completing the final mixdowns while the other rooms were being painted – really not ideal, haha! Then we moved out a month later, so ‘Moments’ is the last music I wrote in my old studio and it closed a chapter on that period of my life, which felt really sad at first. This also inspired the title ‘Moments In Time’, the album describes my life as a D&B obsessive and all the eras that have inspired me, but also my life during the time I wrote the LP.
At same time I was relieved to get to the finish line and kind of sick of the music after 25 mixdowns. There is a long time between completing an album and the release, so I had some time away from the LP, set up my new studio, and got cracking with new projects including my private tuition business. Now we have a healthy relationship again I can never get tired of being in the studio so the music has been flowing ever since. Then as we got closer to the release I took some time to sit down and enjoy the album as a listener and fell in love with the music again. Listening through from start to finish I feel deeply satisfied with the album – it expresses everything I love about drum & bass, and shows you what I’m all about as a musician and DJ.
Where to now? What’s next for 2020?
There are two collab projects which are confirmed for Dispatch, a single with Nymfo and an EP with Battery. Artwork and masters for the single are done so it shouldn’t be too long, and on album release day I was working on the final mixes for the Battery EP. These sessions have all been so much fun and I’ve got a lot of other collabs I’ve been stacking up, I love making music with my friends and it’s healthy to share the process instead of being isolated in the studio where you can end up overthinking everything. I’ve got a load of music ready for my next Dispatch projects, I haven’t sent the demos to Ant yet but we’ve talked about a couple or series of EP’s starting towards the end of the year. I’ve never felt so confident and inspired in the studio so I’m really excited to push on in 2020 and beyond!
And we’re excited to hear it all! Big ups!
‘Moments In Time’ Part 1 & 2 is out now – get it here.