Friends of Dash & Verve: Barnaby J. Spigel

Everyone knows a music maker or two. Barnaby J Spigel is probably the first producer/DJ/music aficionado I had the pleasure of meeting and I’m happy as Larry he’s still doing his thing to this day. Words, links and music below.

When I first met you over 14 years ago, we were both into Drum ‘n’ Bass, were loving Roni Size Reprazent’s New Forms lp and you were busy producing. When did you first start making music and what were you using to do it?
I started when I was 13 using Cubase and a Roland SC-7 GM sound module on the family PC, trying to make drum’n’bass and hip-hop mainly. Two years later I was using Music 2000 on the Playstation, which was a basic sequencer with a bunch of different instruments, sounds, FX and an audio sampler with 2 whole seconds worth of sampling time – just enough to lift a quality break from DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, chop it up and play it back in different patterns. I managed to have some fun with it for a couple of years and make a few tracks before I got my first iMac, Logic and other bits of outboard hardware, which I used for years until I eventually went completely digital and now everything’s inside the machine! The gear is still sitting there on a rack in my studio, looking at me blankly.

Why Drum ‘n’ Bass for the teen years?
You were one of only a small handful of people I knew who had actually heard of and knew anything about drum’n’bass / jungle and we had a strong connection through our love for the genre at the time, and in particular through listening religously to Jumping Jack Frost & Hype on KissFM, Fabio & Grooverider on Radio1 and Bryan Gee & Swift on Kool FM. It felt fucking cool being into this music at such a young age when hardly anyone knew anything about it. We’d go to these epic Full Cycle & Movement nights at The End and Bar Rumba and be totally blown away by the innovation and energy of the music. We missed the Metalheadz @ Blue Note boat but we still managed to catch some great moments between 98 and 2002 when our favourite producers were putting out what was arguably their best work. It’s fair to say I was obsessed with drum’n’bass during my teens, but the magic slowly wore off for me. The music from that period still does it for me, though – good music always stands the test of time.

Which producers did you look up to when you were you were younger?
Liam Howlett from The Prodigy, Mix Master Mike, DJ Shadow, Roni Size and Goldie were probably the biggest influences on me when I first started producing. Others worth noting are Underworld, Massive Attack and Photek before went on to become obsessed by the whole of the Full Cycle records collective ie Krust, Die, Suv and Bill Riley as well as other d’n’b producers like Digital, Marcus Intalex, Klute and then J-Dilla via Slum Village, Gangstarr, Pete Rock, DJ Spinna etc…

How have your tastes and inspirations changed since then?
My taste has broadened so much over the years… I got well into jazz, soul, dub, rock, synth pop, post punk and some classical too through Reich, Herrmann, Shostakovich etc.. Right now I’m feeling Grizzly Bear, Talking Heads, Prince, Redinho, Pearson Sound, Michael Kiwanuka, Field Music, Tom Vek, Baxter Dury just to name a few as well as some of the more interesting and innovative stuff in the whole future space bass and hyper melodic dance and brain music scene. A lot of stuff that gets played on BBC 6music is great for inspiration and films by Kubrick, Scott and Lynch among others really influence me when I’m working on stuff.

Ever since getting your first pair of technics 1210s, I’ve associated you with DJing as much as producing. Has one of these disciplines become more important to you over time?
They’re probably both as important as each other. DJing at a party with your mates or at a club making strangers dance is a huge buzz and gives me an instant response to what I’m doing musically. Producing and composing is much more of a personal thing. Sometimes I have an idea in my head that I want to work on and sometimes I just like to sit down and see what comes up. If I’ve got a lot of positive energy in me I can really get into a track and just have fun seeing where I can take it. It can also be a very cathartic thing, for example if I’m anxious or have shit on my mind, I can transform any negative energy into something truly positive. To try to answer your question by picking a side… producing and composing is much more interesting to me simply due to the fact that, unlike DJing, I can create something truly unique and explore instantly fresh sound in whichever direction I choose to go, without a crowd to please. Every time I find that melody, chord change or beat that makes a track bounce in the way it was meant to, it feels fucking awesome! The next step is playing the stuff live of course, that’s the ultimate buzz.

Remember rifling through vinyl at selectadisc or buying 12″ vinyl from Ray Keith in Blackmarket? Crate digging was something of a pastime then – is it still as exciting now we’ve entered the serato/traktor era?
What was once crate digging for me is now searching through pages on Discogs.com and Whosampled.com to find those great forgotten classics. Maybe it’s not as exciting as when you stumble on a rare piece on vinyl, but the joy of discovering great music for the first time, however you manage to find it, will never get old.

How would you describe the music you’re producing now?
I’m aiming for something that’s kind of like Talking Heads meets Fleet Foxes meets J Dilla meets Talk Talk meets Boards Of Canada meets DJs Shadow meets Kraftwerk meets Vampire Weekend meets Massive Attack meets Tom Vek meets Flying Lotus. I’d like to know what other people think.

Finally, what can we expect for you as a producer and DJ in the year of the London Olympics?
Right, well I’ve just put out this studio mix featuring a bunch of unreleased beats & pieces from over the years, on an instrumental hip-hop tip (see below).
The plan right now is to put out a 4-track EP asap, then get my live set together and start gigging. I’ve been purely focused on the production so no gigs to shout about yet. Just watch out for a release soon, check www.spigelsound.com for my latest work and come follow me at wwww.soundcloud.com/barnabyspigel and www.twitter.com/spigelsound for updates.

Mickey Pearce – Don't Ask Don't Get

Over time, people change, it’s a fact. They absorb the world around them, it influences them and they progress as individuals. Some even change their name! In the case of the artist formerly known as shortstuff, he’s moved on with certainty with his new moniker; Mickey Pearce and crowned this shift with a mighty release on Loefah’s Swamp81 vinyl only label.

The new name’s no secret, the man’s been wearing both hats for some time now, and the official shift happened a while back. I’ve been waiting (much like Ed with his SBTRKT show) for a fair while to finally get my hands on what had proved to be a pretty elusive track in the digital world of music that I often trawl, and wanted to wait until I had a copy of Don’t Ask Don’t Get / I Am firmly planted on the platter before I threw my tuppence worth down.

I’ve heard the title track Don’t Ask, Don’t Get snapping along on a few radio shows for the past 3/4 months now and was sold on stories of a late October / early November release. Only in the last week, upon hearing B-side I Am in full for the first time did I twig that the tracks were finally out.

Tribal in its introduction, industrial in its body and with a pulsing wave swell of bass rippling underneath, you catch yourself latching on to subtleties in the production with each new listen of Don’t Ask, Don’t Get. It’s a song of multiple movements, a full days travel packed into one six minute offering.

For a flavour of how this track should be embedded into a mix (which it should), listen back to MP’s mix for Mary Anne Hobbs’ XFM show late last month.

On the back of the limited press vinyl only release (don’t even bother trying to hunt this down digitally online, you’re going to need to smash the piggy bank and walk to the shops to have this one) is another stripped tribal affair. I am opens as more of a dance floor ready beat before dragging you under with its aggressive, again mechanical, almost alien sounding rasps and vocal splashes.

With a release roster that’s included the likes of The Bug, Kryptic Minds, Addison Groove, Skream and Ramadanman, Mickey Pearce’s first outing on Swamp81 is a progression for both the label and artist. Get your copy from Surus.

Worldwide Awards 2012 @ Koko, London

Ever since hearing Hold On by SBTRKT last year, I was determined to see Messrs Sampha and SBTRKT perform live. The self-titled lp released on Young Turks marries garage and broken beat influences to create what Pitchfork strangely term ‘post dub-step’. The album includes huge vocal performances and flows seamlessly from start to finish. Unfortunately, 2011 was a year of fails vis-à-vis catching the live show. Glastonbury: couldn’t reach the tent in time. Brixton: SBTRKT were replaced by Big Pink as support to Friendly Fires. First headline London gig in 2012: sold out.

Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards 2012 presented the perfect opportunity to see them live. Winners of the Worldwide award for best long player with the self-titled debut, SBTRKT’s performance at London’s Koko was just one of many highlights on a memorable night.

Take the Pyramids, whose 1970s ‘jazz cabaret’ was considered too future until they recently reformed. Their set was brought to life by charismatic front man Idris Ackermoor who switched to tap shoes part way through the show and won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Hudson Mohawke, Lefto and, fast becoming my favourite Brighton via LA dj, Kutmah, served up juicy disc jockey sets before Michael Kiwanuka enchanted the sell-out crowd with a beautiful vocal performance.

Kiwanuka, the BBC’s pick for Sound of 2012, has been criticised already for lacking originality. My view is that people hanker for wholesome music, particularly when delivered by gifted vocalists. Kiwanuka delivers on both counts, epitomised by Tell me a Tale and Home Again.

The award for best label went to Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus’ all-star roster which includes the likes of Daedelus, recent joiner Lapalux and Thundercat. The latter was in London to collect the award and play live alongside fellow label mate – and ridiculously gifted pianist – Austin Peralta. This set had everything Fly Lo’s at the Roundhouse didn’t – not least live music. From the lush, California sun-infused Is it Love? to the ethereal For love (I Come Your Friend), the poncho-wearing bassist glided effortlessly through his set. If you missed The Golden Age of Apocalypse last August (or were in two minds like me), give it a go.

Jamie XX followed, playing a bashment retake of Drake’s Take Care. This track started out as Jamie XX’s remix of Gil Scott-Heron‘s I’ll Take Care of You. Heron’s death last year ended a genre-defining career in music; his far-reaching influence was celebrated at the Worldwide awards.

Then the main event: SBTRKT live. The masked duo combined drums, keys, vocals and sequencer to full effect, pounding the heavyweight Koko soundsystem. Little Dragon‘s Yukimi Nagano joined for Wildfire but it was Sampha’s soaring vocal throughout the set that did most for the soul.

And so it was that I heard SBTRKT play Hold On live. What is it the people at Guinness say?