Producer, musician and DJ Rob Sparx began releasing electronic music way back in 2004, originally finding homes for his music with Formation, Grid, Propaganda and more. Movements into dubstep saw releases on Z-Audio and its sub labels. Fast forwarding a few years, he has added his own label Migration Recordings. The imprint is now hooking up with the NexGen crew, and Rob's new EP is forthcoming. We spoke to him recently to find out more.
Hi Rob, let us know more about your musical background – I understand you play a few different instruments.
I play double bass, guitar and piano/synth. I learnt classical music on the double bass from an early age studying at the Royal College of Music, also did a few grades of jazz piano and taught myself guitar in my early teens when I was well into rock/metal/indie music. I got more into dance music and synths a few years after that and it’s been mainly studio rather than live since then but the technique is still there and it wouldn't take much to get the speed and repertoire back if I ever got a live show going in the future.
Your production career to date has certainly been wide ranging. How has your path developed?
Basically it’s follow the links I’ve had for various labels rather than me having any great creative vision but that’s not been a problem for me as I've always had eclectic tastes and wrote lots of different styles. Late 90's and early 00's I was taking a lot of drugs and well into trippy ambient & dubby stuff (Orb/Orbital/Massive Attack/Leftfield/Dubhead/Biosphere/LSG etc), deep d&b like Metalheadz/Good Looking and deep epic progressive house like Bedrock as well as the early Cafe del Mar type 'epic house' and a bit of psy-trance as well. By 2001 I was getting more into d&b and breakbeat and hanging around the Formation studios with producers like Twisted Individual, Zen, Gdub and Dubchild so getting some help with my production and swapping samples/presets etc which helped a lot - once I got my sounds sorted out I quickly started focussing almost exclusively on d&b and releasing on mainly on Grid but also on Formation, Propaganda and Z-Audio.
By ‘04 I’d changed the style of much of what I was writing completely so some of the better releases I wrote then ended up getting shelved for years until I had the links to get them released. I messed about with plenty of epic film music style progressive ideas but tbh its only now seven years later that I finally think I have the means to do those ideas justice! About 2006 Z-Audio got briefly involved in house/electro music and then moved over to dubstep in a big way so I once again could start releasing tunes as quick as I could write them and still do the odd random release in other genres. The last few years has been a bit turbulent as Z-Audio stopped distributing in 2010 so getting releases out quickly has been more of a problem, but now I’m with NexGen and focussing mainly on digital you will start seeing more frequent and much larger releases. At the moment I'm still releasing dubstep/bass music but I’ve been recently messing about with house/electro again (with a strong bass influence), also back on the d&b and music of slower tempos in a wide variety of styles.
How did you come to move over to more of a dubstep sound?
I'd known about dubstep since 2003, after some of the shit I’d experienced with the dnb scene I was a bit wary of getting involved in something that might have been even more underground/under- appreciated but once people started noticing dubstep a few years later there was a pretty positive optimistic inclusive vibe to the scene which was great (while it lasted!) so I started writing and really got into the sounds and the minimal production style though I think it’s only now after writing for 7 years that I'm finally happy with the tone and 'skippyness' of my drums and the quality of my bass sounds.
How did the hook up with NexGen come about?
I was over in NYC in 2010 for a few gigs and ended up meeting DA through this shady geezer I was staying with in Harlem called Grimelord Czar (bigup Czartan!) - I was in Puerto Rico for a few days with DFRNT doing a gig or two and when I got back I was supposed to be going to Miami to play with Nero & Excision at a Formation gig for the music festival but I had fuck all money and hadn't realised how expensive last minute plane tickets were. I ended up writing some music with DA at his Brooklyn studio instead - we started this sick tune called Good vs Evil which is still a work in progress (needs a vocal) but trust me when it’s finished it will be sick! I kept in touch and more recently got talking to DA about his NexGen website so we decided to join forces for our mutual benefit.
The new EP is approaching fast, so fill us in on some of the tracks on the release.
It’s an 8 track EP in a "space-grime" style with a pretty filthy reecy sound and a big trap influence on some of the hat patterns, artists on the release include John Maveric, PLS DNT STP, Trigon, Kel-c and Shadow Conspiracy. The two tunes with PLS DNT STP are huge - Deva State is a monster bass workout and Lost in Bass is cyber hip hop unlike anything you've heard before with huge swaggering leads and some gut wrenching reeces. Psycho with Maveric is pretty dark Halloween bizness, Haarp with Shadow starts off on a 140 Ram influenced tip before switching to 182bpm swaggery drumstep and New Life has such a beautiful rich harmonic old skool intro that I’m battling hard with the drop as with an intro like that it needs to be perfect!!
You’ve merged your label Migration with NexGen, and the new EP is a co-release – how does that work?
I'm a dad now with less time on my hands so I basically want to focus on what I’m good at i.e. writing the music and playing it - NexGen gives me a big help with pushing/promoting/funding my releases and my digi stuff etc. and both labels have a strong focus on melody so I think it’s a great pairing. Everything sells exclusive from the Nexgen site before being released to other outlets and we will still do the odd vinyl release for the bigger tunes but it’s mainly digital now as I’ve had enough of tunes being held back by vinyl production delays and problems etc
What other projects are you currently working on?
I'm doing a collab with Kissy Sellout for release on his label San City High which is coming out soon, its a 132bpm tune called 'Live Wire' we've done one mix each you can't really pigeon whole its genre but it has some huge bass sounds, some very catchy vocals and excellent live drumming on there plus some crazy production work. Also I'm working on more material for Profound Audio & I have a number of eps lined up for Migration as well, 009 will be like the opposite of 008 - really soulful deep subby vibes. There's also a future garage/UK Funkyish release and a slower tempo EP in the works atm. Also I’m hoping to do another release for Sub Slayers at some point and some soulful house for Pushca.
Are there some live dates for you that people can check out?
I have a residency with Open Plan & Rave Monsta in Manchester - playing @ Gullivers on 26th Oct with Sleeper & District + 7th Dec with Riskotheque & Dubtek. Also I have just joined Sub Culture Agency so keep an eye on my Facebook page for info on their gigs.
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