Ross Tones, AKA Throwing Snow, is a man whose star is most definitely in the ascendance. The rapid stream of consistently exciting music that emanates from Tones' studio (including a more than generous amount of free music on his SoundCloud), has caused people to sit up and really start to take notice of the prolific producer of late, and with an impressive amount of projects on the go at the moment, including a whole host of remixes and collaborations, you will undoubtedly be hearing a whole lot more from him in 2011.
A musician in the truest sense, Tones' productions are a manifestation of a life-long obsession with music of all varieties. Drawing together a vast array of disparate influences into his inimitable bass mutations, his tracks glow with the embers of elements as diverse as folk and post-rock, as well as the contemporary bass music touchstones of 2-step, dubstep, house and all the glorious grey areas in between.
His songs are imbued with the kind of musicality and depth that evades so many electronic producers, amalgamating dense arrangements, organic timbres and emotive melodic progressions with tough percussion and sound system testing bass weight, channeling the immediacy needed to move a dancefloor, while retaining the affecting qualities that give music its longevity.
The Throwing Snow project first came to our attention with the impressive inaugural release on Alexander Nut's newly established Ho Tep imprint. The wistful melodies and insistent percussive surge of Un Vingt were immediately compelling, the filtered break rattling through the track's core like a memory of the night before resonating in your subconscious. On the flip, Cronos took that melodic sensibility and filtered it threw a skewed rhythmic lens, letting the densely layered melodic textures diffuse into one another in a transformative haze. Needless to say, Tones' music has rarely left our headphones since.
HOTEP001 by Throwing Snow
Since then, his stock has risen exponentially, with a number of remixes starting to surface, including his stunning re-interpretations of Gold Panda's Snow and Taxis and Greymatter's Mind Over Matter, and a whole host of releases in the works.
With plenty more on the way from Tones, we caught up with him to find out more about his musical background, some of the many projects he currently has on the go and what we can look forward to hearing from him in the coming months. He has also been kind enough to give us an exclusive download, which you can grab after the interview!
Hi! Can you please introduce yourself?
Hello, I'm Ross Tones (honest I haven't changed it by deedpoll, apparently it comes from a misspelling of Jones!)
What drew you into electronic music? How did your musical tastes develop to the point that they are at now?
That's a difficult one. My first love was a mix of punk, UK metal, weird, wonderful 60s stuff from my parents and folk stuff. I remember listening to John Peel regularly and getting exposed to everything he played when I was a teenager. From there I went to Bristol Uni and ended up heavily in to DnB, but also Ninja and Warp stuff. Now I'm interested in literally everything and love the way disparate influences can be meshed together in to a coherent cacophony.
How did you first get into production and what impelled you to do so? Has music always been something that has fascinated you or was there a decisive moment?
I played in bands and ended up messing around in a community-funded studio called TCR in Barnard Castle. My Grandma had saved pennies every week since I was born, so at 21 I was given £1000 out of the blue which I spent on software and various other musical bits and bobs, so basically I owe everything to her and my family. I always wanted to do music since I was a kid but decided to have a back up plan by doing a degree in Astrophysics...which I spent mainly doing music anyway!
You make a quite a wide spectrum of music. What do you see as the fundamental elements to your tracks? Do you think that there is anything inherent to everything that you make?
I don't know really, I guess I've always loved folk music from around the world whether it's instruments or the dark, minor feeling from the vocals. Concerning the elements, I guess that percussion and drum programming is a great love of mine, probably because I spent hours and hours playing bass while my brother drummed (Ali Tones, he now plays in Kabuki Mono), so the back line for me is the most important bit. In many languages the word for 'music' and 'dance' are one and the same, so I like the fact that people can interact and dance to my music, especially when there is a genuine physical impact from the sub bass.
How does the creative process usually work for you? Is it the rhythmic, melodic or bass elements that lay the foundations for your tracks?
It definitely starts with a melodic line to which I then add a progressive bass line and groove. The original top line often gets dropped or changed after that. I love a repeating melody that is perceptually changed by varying the bass notes underneath.
Your tracks – your drums in particular – retain a very organic timbre to them. Do you see the human element as important in electronic music?
Yeah, I used to dislike sounds that were too electronic for some reason, especially the drums. This probably came from playing with my bro and from drumfunk artists like Fanu (Leave the Natural World Behind gives me tingles every time I hear it). This has massively changed now though and I find that there is so much fun to be had playing with 808s, 707s and the like. I love strange instruments from around the world and found sounds, probably because they are sounds that you can imagine hearing in normal day-to-day life but then have just been taken and twisted to be classed as music.
What is your studio setup like? Do you use any hardware or play any musical instruments?
I've built my studio mainly around portability, so that most of it, including the condenser mic, runs off USB (the sE2200a USB is just amazing). I've got some hardware synths and loads of weird instruments I've slowly collected to sample over time. I often also work with vocalists, instrumentalists and mentalists such as Hannah Cartwright (of Augustus Ghost), Jessie Moncrieff and Amenta because they add so much talent to my basic bare bones tracks.
You give quite a large amount of music away for free, what is your take on the current state of flux within the music industry?
Haha, that's a bad question to ask me because I could write pages and pages on the subject! I guest lecture on music and new media and also run A Future Without with Will Plowman, which is based on a new model of the way the industry could work. I think 'free' is an inevitability due to the way the internet has brought distribution costs near to zero. Instead of complaining, we need to find new ways of making money from our art.
Some forms of music need to be paid for, some can be free and promotional - it's an intelligent combination of the two that is the key. The recent times have shifted the emphasis to other revenue streams such as sync (that's my day job, working for www.hearnoevil.tv) and playing live, this isn't necessarily a good or bad thing, just different. You have to remember that recorded music has only been around for a century and the rise of radio was hailed as the death of music within living memory; it wasn't and neither is piracy, etc.
Do you have a strong position on either side of the physical vs digital music argument?
I have a love affair with everything about vinyl, from record shops, to the smell and feel of it, to the artwork and even to the way it changes your listening experience. I'm also obsessed with digital and I don't think they are mutually exclusive, they just have different benefits. I do however hate CDs, the quicker they disappear the better in my opinion. The future lies in the link between physical and digital, I can't talk about it now but hopefully you'll see what I mean when, and if, I get this project off the ground with the lovely Orsii.
You recently released the debut 12" for Alexander Nut's Ho Tep label, how did that come about?
Again this shows the mix between physical and digital. I wrote Un Vingt and Cronos on the same day in February, put it on SoundCloud and shared them. Graham Greymatter heard them and passed them to Alex who picked them and put them out on his new label Ho Tep. I basically owe a lot to friends who have helped me out.
Have you got any other releases or projects on the horizon?
Yeah, there is a hell of a lot bubbling at the moment. I've just had a Gold Panda remix out on clear vinyl through No Town and Ghostly and a free one of Greymatter's Mind Over Matter. There are remixes coming out of Hyetal, Kid Kanevil, Cloud, Photomachine, Rudi Zygadlo, Eskmo (possibly), something on Throw Some Shapes and a remix of the track on the new GHD advert.
I'm working on a project with Hannah Cartwright under the name Snow Ghosts, one has been picked up by Black Acre, but I need to write a dancefloor A-side. I've also been asked to write releases for Pictures, Super and a few others, I'm also putting a few old tunes out with my friends at the Get Some blog. I've got a couple done with Amenta that could be out on First Word, a collab with Greymatter and another Carlo from Dark Sky... watch this space! I'm also working on tracks under the name Splinters with a mate that's proper weird funky influenced stuff.
Oh yeah! I almost forgot Un Vingt and Cronos have been remixed by Dark Sky, Ital Tek, Arrow, Greymatter, Mr Beatnick, George Fitzgerald, Isola Dusk and D'Eon.
Can you explain a bit about your label A Future Without and what your intentions with it are?
A Future Without is run by myself and Will Plowman. It's meant to give artists the freedom to do whatever they want, not be tied down by exclusive deals and we also give them most of the money. It's very wide ranging genre wise because we both love so many different types of music and want to support artists from different scenes. We don't want to fit anywhere really just support the massively talented artists that otherwise may not get a first release. Please check out the latest releases ranging from Baba Jaga, Zhou and Qman1 to The Lasting Days, Toyface and Memtone... you will definitely find something in there that will blow you away.
What can we expect from the label in the coming months?
Well we have the Kahn EP coming out soon... he's truly one of the most talented producers out there. In addition to that check out Memotone's live wizardry on youtube and the one of the best live bands out there, The Lasting Days.
Words: Sam Collenette
CM Sounds Competition
CM Sounds have some amazing music technology courses on offer. They are now teaming up with Kmag for a competition. We give you all you need to know right here.
Aural Imbalance Comes Out Of Plato's Cave
Aural Imbalance is one half of Out Of Plato's Cave, who have recently dropped an album on the Greta Cottage Workshop label. We speak to him about it here.
Snoop releases new photo app Snoopify
West coast rapper cum reggae star Snoop Lion, has launched his own photo editing app for iOS and Android.
London-based collective Innersoul are absolutely taking over London town. With a number of events taking place soon, their star is in the ascendancy. Grab the info right here.
Black Sun Empire Announce Blackout Music
Something very special is happening over in the Black Sun Empire camp right now. A new label, a new release, sample packs and more. Check it all out here.
Hospital Readies Hospitality Summer 2013
The all-conquering Hospital Records are ready to launch with the latest in their compilation series, Hospitality Summer 2013. Read on for more.
Good News Poppers Expand To Liquid Boppers
The Good News Poppers label is expanding into new territory, with the announcement of new sister label, Liquid Boppers. Kmag brings you all that you need to know right here.
Dispatch Recordings Reaches Round The World
Undoubtedly one of the hottest labels around at the moment, Dispatch are recruiting all comers. Their latest release is out now, and we get the skinny from DBRUK.
Beastie Respond Interview
With his debut album 'Fictitious Nostalgia' imminent, Danish DJ, producer and all round music man Beastie Respond chats to Kmag ahead of the forthcoming release.
Emissions Festival 2013 Preview
Emissions Festival has been a staple of the Bay Area's festival scene for the past five years, we have a look at what's in store for the 2013 edition.
In The Studio: Villem
Drum & bass producer Villem is about to release a sample pack so we spoke to him to discover how we works in the studio...
Paper Tiger featuring Homeboy Sandman video
Paper Tiger have teamed up with Stonesthrow's Homeboy Sandman for a transatlantic collaboration.
Perpetual Recordings Go Onwards
Perpetual Recordings have been going in the right direction for a year now and are ready to warm up your summer with some hot new releases. We get the full rundown on the label right here.
Arc Festival Review
Arc is a new festival from the Applepips and Hypercolour labels, in partnership with Luma and the RRFID crew, we went along to check out the inaugural event...
Top 10 Videos April 2013
This month's round-up of our favourite videos is a really varied selection – from skin clawing creatures to a fierce battle against music listeners, here's a look at what April had to offer.