After a long day at work putting together year 5 science displays and using copius amounts of blu-tac, I made the arduous trip from Mitcham Eastfields to Hackney Downs to meet Brackles, one of London's most innovative bass-selectors and driving force behind the 'Blunted Robots' label. Despite missing my stop and ending up in Clapton, I finally made it to the Pembury Tavern to discuss everything from DJ EZ to making hip hop loops on the piano over a few real ales:
"I put out the 'Songs from the City' mix-CD last year which got some decent feedback and I saw quite a few bookings off the back of that - I was particularly busy touring after that throughout September, October and November, pretty much playing out atleast twice a week! It's honestly quite nice to have a break from that at the moment just to focus on music and be at home. i didn't actually release much music last year because I've been working hard on putting the album together, probably for the last 18 months or so now - it's been a case of building up to that. We're also looking at 'Blunted Robots' too - I run that alongside Shortstuff and we've decided to put a lot into that this year. Besides that, It's literally a case of holding all my best stuff back to put on the forthcoming album."
With a number of independently-run labels on the rise at present, most notably 'Night Slugs' who were recently voted Resident Advisor's 'Label of the Year', 'Blunted Robots' face stiff competition but retain considerable promise:
"We're trying to get a few people outside of our circle involved this year. We've managed to get Dark Sky's 'High Rise' confirmed as a release and DJ Dom's new tune 'Sunshowers' has literally just come out today on the label. We've just launched the new website too which we're centering around the concept of downloadable Bootleg releases from different producers - check it for fresh stuff from Mickey Pearce. To be honest though, there's been no great plan behind the label. We decided to start it after Mickey and my brother Martin Kemp made some big tunes that we thought were good enough to release - it literally started off the back of those tracks. Like I said though, we've got no comprehensive business plan or anything, we take things one to two releases at a time so it's just a case of seeing how things unfold."
DARK SKY - 'HIGH RISE'
Despite the competition, Brackles' acknowledges that various labels are all pushing in a similar direction, a fact typified by his recent inclusion on Hessle Audio's one-year 'Birthday set' on Rinse:
"Ah, we all swap tunes and remain in regular contact - I think each of us has our own vision about how to go about deejaying to a live audience but we all rate what we're doing individually and collectively - we're all definitely pushing in the same direction. The 1st Birthday thing with Hessle Audio came about after I rang Ben UFO, who in turn invited me down to the show and told me to bring some records and get involved - I jumped on and we all went in, it was a really enjoyable set."
As a deejay and producer, Brackles has captured the collective UK bass imagination with his unique take on production, utilising everything from old school hip-hop loops to 4 x 4 house. Inspired by the likes of DJ EZ, Brackles first came to everybody's attention after winning a nationwide DJ competition whilst at Nottingham University:
"I'd actually been deejaying for about five years before that but I never really thought much of entering the competition - it started off with University heats and after entering, I finished runner-up which set me on the road to the Nationwide finals. After seeing what was on offer when you got to that stage, i made sure I went for it and took things proper seriously - you could win like a £1000 and decks and loads of other stuff. It's safe to say I went in!
Influence wise as a deejay, I guess it's hard to look any further than EZ. I started deejaying when I was 15 and back then it was all pure garage. I only ever listened to EZ really - every Saturday me and my mates would lock in to Kiss FM and just sit back and listen to the 8-bar stuff he used to play; all I focused on was trying to mix like him. Through locking into Kiss, i became aware of other guys like Todd Edwards and Matt 'Jam' Lamont and I started to go out and see them do their live stuff which brought me into contact with the house side of things but it was always EZ that got me going.
Production wise, I can't look much further than Todd Edwards and Horsepower - the Horsepower 'In Fine Style' album was a massive influence on me. I like to incorporate lots of old-school Hip Hop vibes in what I produce too - the obscure, jazzy sounds are a proper inspiration; I tend to try and build emotive loops and new sounds around some of that stuff. Ah and how could I forget dubstep? I didn't even know about sub-bass pre-dubstep! Seeing guys like Mala at DMZ and Kode9 doing his thing had a massive, massive influence on me."
When it comes to remixing a track, Brackles has that on lock too - the last two years have seen him remix a number of iconic releases, most notably Tempa T's 'Next Hype':
"I actually got asked to remix 'Next Hype' and also Crystal Fighers' 'I Love London'. When I'm remixing, I always look to the past to see what sorta sounds are gonna fit in with the track. If the original music doesn't fit with what I want to do then I tend to just use the vocals or other small elements of the track, and then build what is essentially my own tune around that!"
TEMPA T - NEXT HYPE (BRACKLES REMIX)
As a deejay, Brackles has played all over the UK and Europe and even made it as far as New York:
"The ideal night to deejay at for me is 'Plastic People' - 200 people, a large sound-system and the pitch black, it can't get any better. Having said that, I love playing to responsive crowds irrespective of the venue. I'm always looking to play upfront stuff so most people aren't always gonna know what it is I'm dropping but if the crowd are ready to rave regardless then I'm happy - they're definitely the best nights to play at. For me, playing in New York at 'Dub War' was pretty special - the crowd were incredible and the fact that I get to say I deejayed in New York is mind-blowing really. Can't forget FWD either - some of those nights have been incredible too!"
Embracing a purist sound, Brackles is also keen on the continued use of vinyl in his sets despite the convenience of MP3:
"As a label, we still release on vinyl and I'll always try to buy records if i want to play them when I'm deejaying. Having said that, I don't bother when I'm on radio at Rinse because everything's done via MP3 but I'll make sure that I take a collection of vinyl to bookings. Cutting dubplates is stupidly expensive though so I do tend to stick mostly to Serato and since I want to always be playing upfront music, digital tends to get the upper hand."
With Rinse FM celebrating the acquisition of a much-deserved license after sixteen years, it's comforting to know that radio remains an integral part of Brackles' week:
"I've been on Rinse since October 2009 now. It basically came about after being down at FWD one night - I spoke to management about doing a podcast for the station but they said I'd be better off doing some cover shows instead. A few shows later, I managed to sort out a weekly slot for myself and the rest is history. I love Rinse though, it's the highlight of my week - I don't mix at home anymore so it's the perfect chance to just mix for two hours to a fully-supportive audience, I love it!"
As for 2011, Brackles' main focus is centered around the release of his highly-anticipated album:
"The main aim is to get the album out and begin the closing of a chapter on everything I've been working on for the last few years. I've been learning the piano recently and picking up new chords so It'd be nice to maybe push a slightly different, more musical sound - I want to make sure I keep my music interesting. Since I use a lot of hip-hop inspired sounds in my productions, it's important to pick up and learn about them properly! From there, hopefully I'll get some deejaying off the back of the album which I'm looking forward to. Can't forget the label either, we're looking to put a lot of work into that this year."
BLUNTED ROBOTS - http://www.bluntedrobots.com/
BRACKLES SOUNDCLOUD - http://soundcloud.com/brackles