Introduce Yourself: SBTRKT

Posted in Downloads Interviews Music on Monday 12th October, 2009 by Zainab Jama


SBTRKT is an anonymous producer based in London. Graciously allowing the music to speak for itself - even going to the length of performing behind a mask (pictured) every time he plays out - what we’ve heard so far is pretty damn good. Having just wrapped up remixes for Basement Jaxx (‘Scars’) and Franz Ferdinand (‘Send Him Away’), he’s got the airwaves in a stir with Benji B, Mary Anne Hobbs and Gilles Peterson singing his praises. With releases forthcoming on the equally anonymous Brainmath label, Ramp Recordings and the ever fun Young Turks, we caught up with him to try and get a glimpse of the man behind the mask...

Name:
SBTRKT

Hometown:
London

What have you been up to recently?
My Internet connections have been down for a week or more. Rather than being on emails, I’ve been writing a huge amount of new tracks. Been delving into creating more of my own synth sounds from scratch rather than tweaking preset patches, its kinda satisfying hearing something you make from start to finish. Been collaborating with vocalist/producer Sampha on some new material and also sent some beats for Foreign Beggars & Example.

Finished off Basement Jaxx and Portico Quartet remixes which Gilles Peterson, Benji B, Sinden, Annie Mac, Blackdown and Mistajam have been airing over the last week or so... pretty amazing to see tracks grow from my living room to national radio!

Admittedly, we don’t know much about you - the anonymity thing is working! Can you tell us 5 things about SBTRKT...
1) SBTRKT its short for subtract.
2) The name came about to create a musical identity separate from any single person.
3) Much of the music being played is electronic based but some future material will be live.
4) First gig was at fabric in Room 1 at Get Familiar (amazing sound/vibe!)
5) It’s not an alias of Switch

Name 3 things that make up the SBTRKT sound.
The main thing is the synths, arrangement and syncopation. I tend to play around with chords or pads first, and then start applying some drums to it. Even though I guess I write 'bass music' I tend to add bass in last; rhythm and arrangement are most important for me. A lot of people seem to mention '2 step' alongside my name guess it’s just because of the syncopation that genre entailed.

I love the masks you’ve recently been wearing at gigs. Who makes your them?
A designer called Hidden Place. We are working on/researching a series of masks for performances, which are a modern version of ceremonial masks from native societies.

‘2020,’ ‘Breakout’ & ‘Kaoss’ are all great tracks, what do you use to make your beats?
I work on logic 8 and use it internal effects/instruments, I prefer to play a keyboard than a drum machine, unfortunately at this point don’t have a release plan for any of these tracks. Things are moving quickly so guess this might change soon.

When you’re not making beats, what do you do?
Sleeping...

What can we expect to hear from you as a DJ?
At this point I don’t really DJ out mainly because I’d rather not play the same songs every other DJ in the scene already has. You end up in the promo/unreleased music cycle. Too many producers just DJ, if I do DJ, I’d rather spin an all genre set of old and new material.

I’ve been performing Ableton live sets out and about, not just playing my tracks DJ wise, but editing up my own productions on the go via loops and building in a way I couldn’t just with other peoples songs or straight up tracks.


What were you listening to growing up?
Anything which had personality... Masters At Work, Tricky, MJ Cole, Radiohead, A Tribe Called Quest, Stevie Wonder, LTJ Bukem, DJ Zinc to people like The Police and Led Zeppelin.

I grew up far away from other musical peers and scenes so my musical world was made up from magazines and radio... I still prefer the distance.

Name 5 artists we should look out for and why.
1) Sampha - also releasing on Young Turks. He’s from Morden in South London and writes crazy 8bit soul tracks.

2) Joy Orbison - well everyone knows him now! But his attention to detail on his productions is amazing. Love the atmospherics he creates. He’s no one hit wonder.

3) Blue Daisy - heard him through Mary Anne Hobbs show, this guy’s got buckets of talent, tracks coming next year called ‘Raindrops’ I think. Plus his next EP on Black Acre is killer!

4) James Blake - beats and melodies like no one else. His tracks have deep crescendos and key changes that far surpass his age in the music industry.

5) Untold – I can’t say I was sold on Untold when I first heard him. Lots of love from Modeselektor and FACTMagazine made me listen harder! Cliché wise, best things take a while to grow; his new Hemlock EP is super tight.

What were the last 5 tracks played on your iTunes or iPod?
1) Joy Orbison - The Shrew Would Have Cushioned The Blow.
2) Sampha/SBTRKT - Untitled
3) Thomas Bangalter - Club Soda
4) The Police - Voices Inside My Head
5) T.P Orchestre Poly Rhythmo - Aihe Ni Kpe We

...oh and Enzyme Black - Oh My Dayz!

What are you working on at the moment?
I've no more remixes on at the moment, I get quite a lot of offers but theres only a few I really bite on. Basement Jaxx/Portico Quartet/Fantastic Mr Fox were the last three. I’ve yet to have a single release or remix released but my first singles are coming sometime soon on Young Turks and also on Brainmath Records.

I’m writing a lot and working on some secret collabs with other vocalists/producers whilst working on a live band for performance unlike any other.

SBTRKT has also given us the exclusive opportunity to unleash a FREE download of his track 'Kaoss.'

Download it over at our Soundcloud.

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