As one of Dub Police’s consistently impressive producers, Alex Crawford has joined a number of musicians who are returning to their deeper, darker roots in their new material. His latest release on the imprint, a curated collection of both his own sounds and music from other producers, sees these roots explored in an lengthy and often exciting compilation.
We caught up with Alex just before he left for the Caspa 500 tour to talk MyStyle 004, new music and much more…
Easy Alex, how’s it going? I’m very well thanks.
Judging by your recent musical output, your tunes seem to have taken a bit of a darker turn. What’s caused the change/ evolution in sound? I’d like to think that my tunes have always had a pretty dark undertone throughout. But with this latest batch, I wanted to really take things that little bit darker and cinematic. It’s the style I enjoy writing the most and it works very well on the dancefloor.
The ‘deeper’ side of dubstep/ bass music/ whatever you want to call it seems to be re-gaining popularity – and vice versa with the more brash tearout stuff. Why do you think that is? I think after the dust settled from the initial explosion of dubstep, the dance music scene has had an influx of new listeners. This is the introduction to the sound for many of them, those who were not around when these sounds were first starting to come through some years ago.
It’s great to see they are digging all the different styles.
Hearing your tunes on Yunx’s show is always a pleasure. It seems like you’re sat on a lot of new stuff – what can you tell us about your dubs folder at the minute? It’s looking extremely healthy. I can’t remember the last time I was so happy with my current collection of tunes, either from myself or other producers. This is also reflected in my live sets, which I am very happy with at the moment. I’ve got some original productions from myself obviously, as well as some big collaborations with the likes of J:Kenzo, Caspa, Mydas, Proxima and Youngsta.
What’s your process for sitting down and making new music? I tend not to have a set way of working. Occasionally I’ll have an idea in mind that I will try and get out of my head and on to the sequencer, but most of the time it’s just a case of experimenting with different sounds and techniques and seeing what comes of it. It’s all about trial and error, it’s the best to learn to write music and in my experience it’s when the best ideas come about.
What’s your production set up like at the moment? I have been using Logic for over 12 years now and I’m still completely in love with it, so that is my main DAW. I had a big overhaul of all my plug-ins and got a new computer at the beginning of this year so the tracks you are hearing now are the result of my new set up. Also I’m still drawing for my trusty Access Virus TI – it’s by the far the most inspirational piece of kit in my studio. When I’m stuck for ideas I just jam on the Virus and something happens. You can’t beat a trusty piece of hardware!
What’s the best piece of production advice you’ve ever had? Any tips you can share? I don’t think there’s one specific piece of advice that I would apply to every track, more so handy techniques that come in useful now and again. One thing that is seriously underestimated is monitoring at a low level, especially when it comes to mixing down. If you are working on tunes with the volume at full blast all day long your ears are gonna get battered and you won’t be able really hear the details within your music. Alongside that, make sure you rest your ears and have a break now and again – when I take a short break then come back to the track most of the time I can immediately spot the errors and see what needs to be done straight away.
In terms of new material, Dub Police will soon be releasing your take on their mix compilation project – MyStyle 004. What news can you share on the release? It’s been a long time coming and something I’ve been working on for the majority of this year – so now that it’s finally finished and on the verge of dropping it feels great. We’ve already released the first sampler (Voyager and Amazonia VIP), then the mix itself will be dropping on the 17th of November. Finally, a second sampler in the shape of a four track EP drops just before the end of the year – it’ll have two tracks from myself and two collaborations taken from the MyStyle 004 mix.
Your MyStyle selection has a pretty broad range of artists, what can you tell us about how the selection came about? The backbone of this mix is music from me – original productions, collaborations and remixes. Alongside this, I’ve picked some of my favourite tracks this year and a bunch of exclusive tracks from artists who I’ve been supporting heavily, plus there’s also a few golden oldies thrown in for good measure. It’s basically a reflection of the sort of set I would play in a club if you came to see me today and that is what the MyStyle series is all about.
You’ve seemed to stay fairly loyal to Dub Police throughout your history of releases. Who else, label-wise, is releasing good music for you these days? There are so many amazing artists around at the moment; the bar has been dramatically raised in recent years both technically and creatively. The big dubstep heavyweights like Dub Police, Tempa and Deep Medi are labels that always have and always will continue to release good music. But there are also some great new labels around these like Artikal, Uprise Audio and Innamind. I’m especially feeling the output of Artikal at the moment and J:Kenzo is really pushing things in the right direction with his own productions and the artists he’s releasing music from.
Release or dub, your music or someone else’s, what’s been your favourite tune this year? That’s a really hard question because there have been so many big tunes this year, it’s hard to pick just one. I suppose the biggest reaction has been to Proxima’s Trapped, Under Control by Bukez Finezt or Thelem’s Haunted Harmonics.
Saying that, I’ve also got some new tracks from the likes of Caspa, Joker, Emalkay, Icicle, Breakage, Sleeper, Subscape, Biome and J:Kenzo that are absolutely destroying it at the moment. Any one of them could have a huge say on ‘track of the year’ before the end of the year is done.
It’s hard to pick just one.
Moving on to live shows. You’ve joined Caspa for the absolutely huge 500 USA tour. Excited to head across the pond and test some sound systems? Most definitely! It’s always fun heading across the pond to entertain the North American listeners and it’s even more fun when you’ve got some of your best mates around you so it’s gonna be serious vibes. Add to that the weight of PK Sound, which we are taking on the road with us, and it’s a recipe for a very exciting tour!
Of the dates currently booked, which locations/ venues are you most excited to play? On the 500 tour there’s a fair few cities I’ve never played before so I really don’t what to expect from them, and that is – in itself – very exciting. But I’m really looking forward to heading back to Denver, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Austin and Edmonton in Canada especially.
You’ve been part of the dubstep ‘scene’ for a good few years now – how has it all changed since you got involved? It’s changed dramatically since I first got involved. In the beginning, there were only really a handful of labels and every release from them was an essential purchase – mainly because there was so little music of that style around. The same can be said with the club nights, there were so few of them happening that they were all essential nights out. If you look at what happened with the explosion of dubstep across the world it’s mind boggling, all of a sudden you went from this very close-knit community in London to a worldwide audience and masses of labels and club nights in a very short space of time; it almost evolved too fast and things got super crazy very quickly.
Of course, what comes with that is the saturation of tracks, artists, labels and nights that were there to feed the masses, but in reality weren’t quite up to scratch or in-keeping with why this music was good in the first place. I’m not trying to put a dampener on how things went, in fact I’m thankful and amazed that so many people recognised what was going on in this small scene and appreciated it. But I think the influx of scene jumpers just looking for something to latch on to was a bit overwhelming for such a young genre, one still essentially in its foundation stages. But don’t get me wrong, with that also came many exciting new artists, labels, nights and listeners, which have helped strengthen the scene.
Now what’s happened is the dust has settled and the bandwagon jumpers have moved on to whatever the next hot genre is, and what’s left is a good solid scene. It’s a rebuilding phase to an extent and for producers, DJ’s and labels, that’s a great place to be because now it’s up to us to educate the people on why this music is so powerful.
Luckily where I’m so heavily involved within the scene I’ve heard new tracks, albums and plans from the labels and artists, new and old, and the future is looking very good indeed. In fact, I’m more excited about dubstep now more than ever!