With his Med School debut making waves across the digital climate, ‘Signal Drop’ is currently planted at the number 1 stop of the Juno drum & bass chart, Joe Syntax is on the lips of a lot of people right now. Having impressed at Hospitality back in January he’s making a return to Farringdon on the 22nd July spearheading the wealth of new talent on the Hospital offshoot, Med School. Packing him and his labelmates Lung and Eleven8 into Room Three with Spectrasoul and Blu Mar Ten we’re anticipating an experimental tour through different styles tempos and influences and to mark this and the release of ‘Signal Drop’ (out today), Veronica Fazzolari caught up with Joe to probe him on more than a few things including the sterling mix he’s tuned in for the occasion.
You popped your fabric cherry earlier this year, what have you been up to since then?
Yes, that was again for a Med School night back in January. It was a really wicked night that I won’t forget. Since then I've been busy working on new music and DJing around and about. I've had the chance to play around Europe more which has been great, with memorable gigs in Poland, Lithuania, Austria and most recently Ireland. Being able to travel and meet people who love similar music is really special and something I won’t ever take for granted.
Studio-wise I’ve been working on an album project for Med School, which will drop sometime next year, and of course, my new single ‘Signal Drop’ b/w ‘Sightlines’ which has just come out. These are two tunes which I'm really happy with because I'm exploring new territory. ‘Signal Drop’ is the first half time tune I've released and ‘Sightlines’ is my first vocal tune, with Jono McCleery from Ninja Tune lending his soulful voice to the mix. I've also lately worked on a remix of BCee’s ‘Count The Stars’ which will drop soon on Spearhead.
Recently I've made some changes to my studio set up including new monitors, midi keyboard and studio chair. The chair is so comfortable. My mate stole it from his work - they're worth about £900 and it means I can sit for hours on end making tunes. The monitors sound great too. My set up is definitely where it should be now and I’m making lots of new music that I can’t wait to play out.
You’re back here again on the 22nd repping Med School, but this time your returning as a headline act, how does that feel?
I’m feeling good! It’s the first night I will have played at since I joined Med School where it’s not part of a wider Hospitality night, and I think it’s good to see the label hosting a room in its own right. Room 3 at fabric is a personal favorite, it has great sound, is very loud and the two tiers create an amazing atmosphere. It’s going to be good to see my mates Eleven8 and James Lung, who both featured on ‘New Blood 011,’ play there for the first time too, alongside seasoned pros Blu Mar Ten and Spectrasoul. I’m really looking forward to this one…
Being signed to Med School, a label that sits comfortably within the d&b scene but which also proudly encourages its artists to explore and experiment with other tempos and styles, will your set be strictly drum and bass or also feature choice cuts from a variety of genres?
While I've never actually released any music outside of the 170 bpm region, I have always made different tempos. Lately I've been taking this a bit more seriously, working on finishing these tunes to play out. I’m fortunate that Med School gives me the freedom and encourages me to do this. Expect to hear something other than straight up drum & bass in my set! I’ve always liked to play halftime tunes because it alters the vibe. I've been making music at 126 and 140 bpm and I've always had a thing for techno so it’s enjoyable working on some new stuff. I used to be really into breakbeat and I think some of my sound comes from the whole nu school breaks thing of the mid 2000's, so it’s cool revisiting the 135/140 tempo…. there's so much energy there that I’d like to exploit in my sets.
Can you tell us more about your musical influences?
My musical influences are pretty much all non drum & bass. As I'm playing and making drum & bass a lot I’d rather not listen to it too much in my spare time. I like a broad range of styles but have always liked electronic music a lot. Early influences were a mixture of techno and more experimental electronic stuff; Carl Cox's Intec label, Marco Bailey’s MB Electronics imprint and Bush Records featuring the likes of Dave Clark were some favourites. I also loved Mauro Picotto’s techno stuff such as his tune ‘Verdi.’ More lately I’ve been getting into Lee Jones’ new album ‘Electronic Frank’ - very interesting percussive tech house - the euphoric tune ‘MDMazing’ is just wonderful.
I remember my mate’s dad giving me a Ninja Tune tape when I was about 15 which featured some more experimental artists like Amon Tobin, Coldcut and Hextatic. They've had a great influence on me. Amon Tobins LP ‘Permutation’ was one of the first things I bought on vinyl and it blew me away; ‘Nightlife’ is a standout jungle tune on there; that was my first foray into the jungle/d&b styles. I’m also inspired and sample a lot of ambient and some world music to use in my productions, like Banco de Gaia, Ulrich Schnauss and Jonn Serrie. I find that there’s some incredible pad sounds in ambient music.
Are these sounds still as relevant and prominent in your production style today?
I’d say there's always an aspect of the tunes I've been listening to in my music. I might not realise it straight away but when you hear back you can recognise it, whether it be a hint of a vocal, or some glitchy electronic arrangement. I don't ever sit there and think ‘I want to replicate this sound,’ for example. Ideas appear and are applied naturally when I’m making music and I guess it’s the same for most people, so it’s an unconscious thing.
You've put together a tasty promo mix for us, what was your thought process behind your selection?
The mix is a journey through some of the tracks I've been playing out. It builds in the first half which is on a more experimental tip through to some more rolling tunes as the mix progresses. When I’m DJing I like to play a mixture of deep and uplifting tracks. Depending what kind of night it is, I might play a slightly deeper set in a smaller basement club or a more uplifting one in the main room of a Hospitality event. This mix is definitely a blend of the two. I like to play a variety of styles in my sets whether it be introducing a halftime tune or an amen rise-out, out of the blue; keeping the dance-floor guessing and moving is what I aim for.
Is there a particular favourite track you've included?
I wouldn't say I have a favourite track. There are many! I wanted to showcase some great unsigned music that I’ve been sent, such as BCloud’s ‘Deep Minimal’ and Munk & Falcon’s ‘Your Faith.’ Other tracks I love are Sinistarr – ‘Anti Personnel’ and Martsman’s ‘Worst Case Scenario’ - this is one of the first tunes through which I discovered Med School music. Mutated Forms’ ‘Waste Gash’ really works well on the dancefloor as the particular grimy oscillating bass is something new for a drum & bass track. I've also included my new single out now on Med School and some of my other tunes like ‘Unified’ and ‘Fire Engine’ which I still play out a lot. My new remix of BCee ‘Count the Stars’ due out on Spearhead Records rounds off the mix.
Finally, back to the topic of Med School; if you were to actually study at Med School, which field would you choose and why?
I would probably study genetics because it has a very important role in our society. If we could cure cancer, AIDs and baldness the world would be a better place. However I didn't do so well in my biology at GCSE so might have to opt for something like chiropody instead and look after peoples’ feet.
Joe Syntax – FABRICLIVE x Med School Mix
1: Eastcolors - Things Inside (Dub)
2: Munk & Falkon - Your Faith (Dub)
3: Enei - I Can Take (Dub)
4: Origin Unknown - Lunar Bass (Commix Remix) (Ram)
5: Joe Syntax - Signal Drop (Med School)
6: Jazzsteppa ft Foreign Beggars - Raising the bar (Stray Remix) (Studio Rockers)
7: Data - Formless (Horizons)
8: IllSkillz - Imaginary Numbers (IllSkillz)
9: Joe Syntax feat Jono McCleery - Sighlines (Med School)
10: B Cloud - Deep Minimal (Dub)
11: Martsman - Worst Case Scenario (Med School)
12: Sinistarr - Anti Personnel (Creative Source)
13: Joe Syntax - Modern Games (Sync:Saphir)
14: Basher & Xtrah - Hubble (Subtitles)
15: Cinematic - Structure (Icon Recordings)
16: Maztek & Grotesque - Straight to Bad (Icarus Audio)
17: Joe Syntax - Slingshot (Allsorts)
18: Mutated Forms - Wastegash (Grid)
19: Nymfo & Chris SU - In Our Mind (Commercial Suicide)
20: D*Minds - Visions (Hospital)
21: BluMarTen & Insideinfo - Still The One (BluMarTen)
22: Heavy1 - Xiphactinus (Lenzman Remix) (Demand Records)
23: Joe Syntax - Unified (Hospital)
24: Bladerunner - Back to the Jungle VIP (Critical)
25: Rene LaVice - Headlock (Machinist Music)
26: Lenzman - Lasers (Metalheadz)
27: Joe Syntax - Fire Engine (Allsorts)
28: NuTone & Logistics (Bleeper)
29: BCee & Lingby - Count The Stars (Joe Syntax Remix) (Spearhead)