It’s a pretty natural thing to do to start looking forwards when the year changes. For many there’s constantly something so appealing about the idea of a fresh start, a new phase or a personal development when the calendar changes but for a lot of dudes, January’s a chance to try new things, experiment with resolutions or just do something different. So throughout the first month of 2014 we’ll undoubtedly be asking a lot of our favourite artists what their plans are for the upcoming year as a direct result of that shift in social consciousness. First up is Stray, a dynamic producer whose drum & bass tempoed work as part of Ivy Lab and on his own has helped inject new forms into his craft.
How was 2013 for you?
2013 was a really good year for me. I released music on labels and collaborated with artists that I'd previously had filed under 'pipe dreams'. The year’s activity has really given me a boost of confidence in terms of what I feel I can achieve with music going forward. Honestly, I've never felt quite the same feeling of freedom to just make and DJ music I truly love and throw caution to the wind with regards to genre defining boundaries and the sort. It's a great feeling. I really have to thank people like dBridge, Alix Perez, Fracture, Mark Pritchard, Om Unit etc for that (certainly amongst many others!!) - I mean the year saw the release of the sublime Machinedrum LP on Ninja Tune, one of the most influential labels in electronic music period AND dBridge & Skeptical released a record on R&S. If releases like those aren't reason enough to give a producer such as myself a heightened belief for the scope this music can have then I don't know what would be!
Where were you for NYE?
I was playing at the Critical Music NYE event in London with my fellow Ivy Lab compadres. It was awesome. And hot. And we played ‘Trust Me’ as the last tune of 2013…
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Moving house, getting to grips with my brand new Maschine Studio (thanks NI!) playing at more summer festivals around the world, and just making a whole lot more music again really! We've got some really exciting plans as Ivy Lab that I'm also really looking forward to getting into motion. Watch this space!
Looking at the tracklist the mix seems to traverse a whole slew of different tempos, is that an insight into the type of music you’ve been influenced by/making?
Well like my DJ sets, this mix stays between around 80 - 90bpm (or 160 - 180bpm if you like). So really it's an insight into just how broad a range of grooves and moods you can actually cover at these speeds. I've always made and been influenced by hip hop, only recently I've enjoyed a greater degree of freedom to release and DJ music in a d&b context/setting that shares as much similarity to hip hop as it does to what most would classically define as d&b. I'd put this down to the audience's continuing openness to outside influence - it's truly a hallmark of the genre.
I suppose I've always had a certain envy for the freedom that any DJ operating at some of the slower BPM ranges has to seamlessly incorporate such a wide range of other styles of music into their sets, and it's now happily beginning to feel more and more as though d&b DJs are able do just the same.
What have you got coming up release wise?
The start of this new year sees our Ivy Lab EP finally dropping in February on Critical Music, followed by another solo EP of mine on Exit Recs around March.
Tell us a bit about the mix you’ve made for us…
As I mentioned above, this mix sets out to showcase the true flexibility of the BPM range one can operate at as d&b producer and DJ. It features a couple new tracks of my own that are due for release soon on Exit, some beats off the forthcoming Metalheadz Platinum Breakz 4 compilation, some sick new 160 material from the likes of Fracture and Sinistarr, a few recent heavy bits and pieces from well known beatmakers like Mr. Carmack and Snakehips and plenty of other awesome music I've been feeling recently.
Of course there is a huge difference in mood between the beginning and the end of the mix, so I set out to make as gradual a progression as possible of tunes that makes sense and is enjoyable to listen to from start to finish.