London trio Dark Sky have had a remarkable ascension to the A-list of UK bass music in the last few years, and with a new EP set to drop in December, we grabbed the opportunity for a chat in advance of their set at In:Motion presents Dirtybird at Bristol's Motion on Friday 9th November.
Hi guys. You have an EP forthcoming on 50 Weapons. Can you tell us a bit about the gestation process, and the progression from the Black Rainbows EP to Myriam?
Not much has changed in terms of the ethos behind the creative process. We've always been interested in exploring new areas of rhythm and sound and not trying to repeat ourselves. In terms of tempo the Myriam EP is a bit slower meaning there was a lot more space to experiment with placement of things in the sound spectrum.
Each of your EPs has its own specific sound and identity. Is it a painstaking process deciding which tunes to include on an extended release? How do you work out the concept for an EP, title, sequence of tracks etc?
Definitely, the whole process behind deciding which tunes to release is very painstaking. We normally have about 15 tracks on the table and we then have to try and whittle them down to four tunes. They then need to have their own identity in terms of concept and tempo but at the same time still possess some kind of correlation between each other. The variation of tracks that end up on the EP is reflected in our DJ sets where we try to play quite a broad range of music across different intensities and tempos.
Any plans for an album?
Yes we are working on an album at the moment, hopefully to be released at some point next year. We are just busy trying to get as much of the initial creative writing process done now, so that once we have narrowed the track selection down it's easier to see how each track will play off each other as part of a larger body of work.
You've built up a fairly varied discography already, drawing together many different strands of bass music from two-step to house to more hip-hop inspired tempos. Is it important for you to undercut expectations, and not to get bogged down in genre concerns?
Yes in a way, because all three of us have such wide musical tastes the sounds that we create almost subconsciously becomes varied without us even realising it. But we are not overly concerned with getting bogged down in genres and expectations as we just try to make music that we are feeling and if listeners are into it then that's an added bonus.
How did the three of you come to be making music together (and where does the name Dark Sky came from)?
We met at an audio engineering college where we all shared similar ideas behind what we wanted the project to be about. The name doesn't really have much meaning, its open to interpretation which is why we liked it.
Your tunes tend to share a fairly tough aesthetic, while managing to maintain an agility that keeps them dancefloor-ready. What factors do you think have particularly informed your sound? Any particular influences, musical or otherwise?
Musically we are interested in a very broad array of sounds, which are always changing. The ethos behind the Giles Peterson shows have been a massive influence on us, the way he draws influences from different parts of the world and sound eras and then plays those tunes alongside something very current is very inspiring for us.
Subconsciously, the energy of living in London and being surrounded by so many talented musicians and DJs does have a big influence on us to keep pushing things forward and exploring new territories. We feel it's important to have a strong collective of producers working alongside each other to keep the sound developing otherwise it risks becoming stagnant.
It may sound quite cliched but physically going to a dance and experiencing all the frequencies and then trying to translate that experience when working in the studio is often an influence for us. Psycologically, we find that the writing process can also be heavily influenced by the type of mood or frame of mind you are in on any given day.
What's the procedure when you DJ together, is it quite regimented - two tunes each for example – or fairly fluid? What kit do you use?
It kind of depends on the set time, if we are playing for one hour we will normally drop one tune each, but when we play for 90 minutes or more then we will play two tunes each and bounce ideas off each other meaning the set can become quite unpredictable, but in a good way as it keeps us and the listeners on their toes. Also having our own radio show on NTS helps a lot with getting to know each others' mixing styles and sound palettes. Equipment wise we are currently using regular vinyl, Serato and CDs.
Likewise, when you're producing, do you sit down as a trio or work solo and send bits and pieces back and forth?
When producing we normally work solo and then send bits back and forth, then once we have a batch of tunes that we are all digging we will try and finish them off together.
What are your plans for the remainder of the year and 2013? Any collaborations in the pipeline?
We have a 12" coming out on Breach's Naked Naked label, then another 12" release and a three-track EP for early next year, each on different labels. In terms of collaborations, we have been working with Breach quite a bit and we're also working with a vocalist.
Which other artists are killing it for you at the moment?
Rocketnumbernine, Daphni, Four Tet, The Invisible, Madlib, Andy Stott, Christopher Rau, Rhye, Stubborn Heart, GoldFFinch, Jus-Ed, Anthony Naples, Illum Sphere, Taylor McFerrin, Actress, Aartekt, Mark Pritchard, letherette, Trim.
Words: Stefan Mohamed
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