Bristol based drum & bass producer Ben Wilson releases music under the alias Fields as a solo artist and also as Mute when collaborating with his brother Villem. With his BTC / Elemental single on Utopia Music currently causing a stir we tracked him down for a chat and a guest mix.
Where are you from and to what extent would you say this influences your music?
I'm originally from a small town called Stowmarket, near Ipswich. It's a small, sleepy market town in Suffolk. In a sense it has influenced my music as kids growing up here are generally bored out of their minds and seeking ways to be creative and entertain themselves.
As a teenager I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, and this was a catalyst for heading to Nottingham and then Bristol, both of which helped me to cement my interest in D&B by getting involved in the scenes there.
When did you first try your hand at DJing and producing?
I remember having a go at mixing for the very first time at a school friends place. He had some house records and a bunch of us would take it in turns trying to work it out. The first time I got it locked I knew it was something I wanted to get into. Then a close friend of mine got a set of belt drive Citronics and I managed to borrow some old D&B records from a friend of my brother. We spent hours on those things, mixing the same records over and over.
My very first experience with producing was on music 2000 on the Playstation. I randomly met some guy who had worked out that if you don't turn your playstation off, you can keep sampling into it without having to worry about the 15MB memory card saving space. He would work on one tune at a time without turning it off, then record to minidisc. He was actually trying to write proper tunes on it haha. It was actually a good introduction to plotting beats as it was exactly the same as standard midi, and it taught me a lot about beat patterns.
How would you describe your approach to making music?
I guess I would say there is an element of simplicity in my approach when I'm writing on my own. I don't consider myself to be the greatest engineer out there so I try to get elements working well together without too much crazy processing. I like to have just the drum tracks and the bass tracks sounding good together, then you know you've got strong foundations for the tune. Most of my tracks that I actually like were written fairly quickly.
I love it when everything you throw at the tune just seems to work, as it minimises the chance of getting sick of a loop. There's a producer masterclass from garage legend El-B knocking about that explains this ethos quite well; it's hilarious and genius in equal measures!
What's your studio setup like?
Fairly modest. I have a dedicated PC running Logic 5.5, which I still love. I have some crappy Tannoy monitors that I would really like to upgrade, but I do have access to two different sets of Adams monitors and good headphones that I will use to reference on.
I also have an Emu sampler which is one of the first bits of kit I had and really got to grips with writing tunes on, a Virus C and a Mackie desk to bring it all together. I used to mixdown tunes on the desk but now its pretty much all brought into the computer.
How has 2012 been for you so far release wise?
We had Mute & Mako - Cali Sleaze / Always on Utopia Music in late February and that seemed to go down really well. That was it for the first half of the year, but there's quite a few stacked up for the latter part of 2012 which I'm excited about.
Tell us more about the BTC / Elemental single you're releasing on Utopia Music and how you approached making it.
Well, Stephen Mako is always the first person to hear my tunes other than my brother and he'll call dibs on tracks that he really likes and I'm more than happy to oblige. He's done an amazing job building the label so far and it's a great platform for my music. As far as how I approached making those specific tunes; pretty much the same as always! Get into the studio chair, see what happens and go with the flow!
BTC is a hint to the darker side of my productions which may be surprising to some after my other releases, and Elemental is a track I'm actually quite proud of, which takes a deep, housey influence and brings it into the 170 domain. The single is out on July 23rd.
How did you hook up with Utopia in the first place?
Myself and Stephen Mako [Utopia head honcho] have actually been close friends since high school. I had only been listening to D&B for a short while when I met him, and he was into house. We both introduced each other to lots of music in our genres, but D&B took over in the end!
I've been living with him in Bristol on and off for about 10 years and we've grown into D&B in that time together; raving, mixing and eventually producing and starting the label. He's been a great source of support and opportunity over the years so big up Mako.
I understand you also have forthcoming releases on Med School and Symmetry, what can you tell us about these?
We've been giving tunes to Charlie [Break] at Symmetry for a while now and he's always expressed interest and urged us to keep playing him tracks. For now, I can tell you that there will be a Fields, Hydro, Mako & Villem collaboration on the various artists Symmetry LP due later this year. The album is sounding hench, so get hyped! I know I am!
I'll also be on three tracks of a six track EP that we have recently signed to Med School which is pretty exciting. They are all collaborations with Villem, one of which also features Mako. Tony Colman of Hospital / Med School approached my bro Villem asking him for some tracks after hearing some of his music. He sent them a bunch of tracks including a good few of our collabs and we signed an EP shortly after. The EP will be dropping in autumn this year.
Got any other releases / remixes in the pipeline we should look out for?
Klute has remixed a track we had on Mars recordings; Mute & Mako - Essential Forms (Klute Remix) which will be out in the not too distant future. Then in October I'm excited to announce that there is our first collaboration with Break coming out on Utopia Music 010 - Break, Fields, Mako & Villem - Dilligence.
What else have you been working on in the studio recently?
I've been working on a number of solo productions which I'm getting ready to send out to labels, and have finished a good batch of collabs with artist including Villem, Mako and Hydro which hopefully you'll see surface next year.
Are you making any other styles of music apart from drum & bass?
Normally when I sit down to write music it's D&B that comes out, but sometimes I will dabble with whatever comes to mind at the time, whether it be dubstep, techno or crunky hip hop. It helps to keep it fresh, although having said that, there are a whole range of avenues within D&B that I haven't really experimented with, and it's that versatility that attracted me to D&B in the first place.
You've put together a guest mix for us, tell us about it and how you approached it...
When I sat down to go through some tracks I realised that I had lots of new material from myself and my collabs that I wanted to get out there, so I decided to do something a little different to what I would normally do. I've put together a showcase mix so everyone can get a feel of what we're about.
Where can people see you play in the near future?
September 28 at Basement 45, Bristol for the Utopia Music special, and just waiting for confirmation for Agro in Bristol in November. Check my Facebook for regular updates.
What do you get up to outside of music?
I've been skateboarding and snowboarding for getting on 15 years now and still like to do that as much as my body will allow. I've been out on snowboard season for every winter of the past five years and you just can't beat getting away from the UK for the winter and escaping to the mountains. Quite a few of the first Mute & Mako tunes were made out in the Alps.
I've also been getting into climbing over the past couple of years, which is great as it's far less intensive on the body than skating / snowboarding. It's something that I hope to still be doing in years to come, as I think it is important to scare yourself a little bit on a regular basis!
Any advice for any aspiring producers / DJs out there?
With the endless stream of tutorials and tips for production out there it's easy to get overloaded with technical stuff. I'd suggest trying to write music and finish tracks rather than worrying too much about your snare frequencies at first. When you try and see a track through you will quickly realise what you need to learn and what you don't.
What tracks, producers and labels are you feeling at the moment?
It might sound weird, but I've kind of been immersed in what's going on close to home as opposed to really delving into the scene as of late. I'm inspired by those around me; my bro Villem is really gaining some momentum now and he's got some great stuff coming. Break is an inspiration as he's one of the few that's really doing it out on his own.
Mikal is killing it and works super hard on and off the beats. Hydro's enthusiasm and sample hunting missions are second to none. There's a ton of stuff going on outside of D&B that's really doing it for me right now but there's too much to mention!
What's the best gig you played in the last six months?
Well, I was hibernating in the mountains for the majority of the last six months but I had a good homecoming gig at Basement 45 for a night called Foundations. We headlined as Mute & Mako, dropped loads of our newest tunes which got some good reactions from the crowd and that's always really encouraging. The most fun sets I've played are with Villem and Mako; we just seem to feed off each other and that comes through in the set.
Anything else you want to tell us about?
Just some shouts to good friends and family - brother Villem, Mako, Schmifto, Aldred, Baba, Shnooby, Frank, Joey, Caldog, Coopy, Wilford Brindley, Charleston, Dave Hydro, Clive Psylence, Mik & Rose, Stylo & Gav, Sir Vines, Lucy & Harry, Alex & Becca, Ben G & the Chatel massive, Ames, Manny, Pagey, Nicole, Sophs & Nath & Chloe, Mum, Dad. Cheers all!
Download Fields' Kmag guest mix here
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