Not only does Wreckless produce top releases like the Smoke Signals EP out now on Peer Pressure but he also shows others the skills needed to emulate his killer sound as a music technology teacher. We talked to Wreckless about the release and life in and beyond the classroom.
An element that is consistent throughout the Smoke Signals EP is the presence of an almost tribal bass drum that pounds its way through the tracks, making them proper heavy steppers. Were these tracks written with the club in mind, designed to get the dance floor pounding, because it certainly had me doing so just listening at home?
Thank you very much, it's always a good sign when people's feet get tapping. We definitely put a lot of focus on the drum sound and "feel". ArcAudio and Necrobia have awesome monitors and killer dedication to drum tracks. When we were making the tracks I just bounced along in the chair next to them to simulate the club atmosphere.
Do you make the drum sections of the track first? Is this how you set about creating the template for the rest of the tune?
For me personally, the groove of the track is absolutely essential in that I always try to get a strong idea for the drums first. In Source Code it took us a few sessions before we were happy with the groove, making sure that each individual element of the drums rolled nicely. Once this solid groove is firmly in place it is much easier to hear how the track should progress.
There is a lot of detail in your use of percussion in general, lots of interesting clicks, sharp stabs and bongo flourishes peppering the mix and keeping it fresh. Do you record these all live yourself? What's the strangest thing you've used to make a sound for the EP?
Thanks for noticing the percussion, very happy to see the hours we spent on it haven't gone to waste. For the EP we recorded a few elements such as shakers, handclaps and finger clicks. It just adds a nice depth to tracks if you can include a few recorded “real" sounds. The rest of the percussion is using samples, Battery and Kontakt. The strangest thing I've used is definitely the recording of a sneeze I used to layer my snare drums; it has a really nice "doossh" sound.
How important do you fell interesting, differing and constantly evolving percussion is in terms of keeping music sounding fresh?
I think it completely depends on the track and the mood. Head Groove is a stepper with almost no percussion that uses the bass parts to keep the track interesting. Whereas the percussion in Smoke Signal is vital to the arrangement and it's progression. So for me it really does depend on the track.
More so on your collaborations with Arcaudio and Necrobia on Head Groove and Source Code respectively, you've gone less for smooth, consistent synth and basslines, rather stabs and surprising inflections. Are these elements that the collaborations with these artists help bring out of you?
The collaborative tracks started life with us working on elements separately so that we could get something rolling instantly on the days we met. This gave us lots of great audio to work with and it just so happened that choppy, switching bass seemed to work for everyone and allowed us to incorporate a lot of ideas. It is also something I like to do frequently, especially if you listen back to my track Jumanji on the Breaking Ground EP. [PPRDINTL015].
In terms of collaborating, you work as a music technology teacher, have you ever been tempted to collaborate with one of your students or even better, tell them their homework was rubbish then steal one of their ideas?
I couldn't dash someone's hard work for the sake of a sample or bass line, it would be far too mean. I do however constantly find myself having to improve to stay ahead of their skills. I can't have a student showing me a mix and it hitting harder than mine.
Does working in that environment give you the opportunity to get the most out of your talents as a producer? Do you make your music in your work studio? It must be great to be paid to constantly hone your production skills.
I've just finished my training as a teacher, so we could catch up in a few months time to talk about being paid if you like? As for making music, at work it happens a lot more than I thought it would. I was showing the students a DSP effects unit and it turned into a beat box and bass guitar jam that all got recorded, but learning should be fun right?
As someone who works with the latest equipment and software almost daily, what do you feel is going to make the biggest change to the way music sounds in the future?
I suppose I would only feel comfortable speaking about electronic bass orientated music. One area that has to change in the future is the loudness wars. This is where producers compete to have the loudest track, but lose all the dynamic range in their masters. The contrast between quiet and loud sections of music is the easiest way to convey emotion and create impact; think about the suspense created by having silence just before a killer drop. I hope this is something that will change in the future.
Which DJs have been playing your tracks out and how does it feel to have a club full of people dancing along to your music?
I know for sure that Bailey has been supporting Head Groove and Source Code heavily (on a side note I was devastated to hear that Bailey won't be hosting on 1Xtra anymore, I will really miss that show). I have heard through the grapevine that S.P.Y, A-Sides and D Minds like the EP, which is nice.
I have a friend, who will remain nameless, who when he hears one of his own tracks played in a club, will make sure every available woman in there knows he's the one who made it. How do you react when one of your own is played out, especially when it might be unexpected, are you up at the front stepping it away with the rest of them?
Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to hear the tracks out in the club yet as I have been busy like crazy. When it was played on the radio I did have a serious dance around my flat and managed to persuade my wife to have a boogie as well. If any DJs are supporting in the club, I'd love to hear what the tracks sound like on a Funktion One or Valve sound system. Let me know, @prof_wreckless on the Twitter.
The Smoke Signal EP is out on Peer Pressure, we have a feature on them coming up in the next month so rather than talk about them specifically, how have you found working with them so far?
To be honest, it's brilliant because it's like a family, spending most of our time talking about tea, chicken and beard grooming. We bounce ideas off each other constantly and this means that the quality control can be high from the ground upwards. Plus everyone has strengths and weaknesses, for example if I'm struggling with an arrangement I know that Philth (interview on its way) can help me out.
Facing Jinx is really good at running the label, much like a kind of mafia boss. Most of us talk all the time just to thrash out ideas and waffle senselessly. I wanted to send a massive shout-out to ArcAudio and Necrobia for all of their hard work and contributions to the EP. Listen out for them in future, as they are very talented, also to Bob Macciochi at SC Mastering.
Talking of the upcoming feature, I am ridiculously excited about the track I made for you guys at Knowledge, keep your ears peeled for Rumours.
Finally, where can we get it from?
It's out now to buy and download from all major digital stores including Juno who kindly featured it for us, as well as iTunes and BeatPort. Also check out soundcloud.com/professorwreckless for future releases.
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