The yearly celebration of our music and culture, BASSWEEK 2013 hosts the largest line-up of events in its history, surely to pack the finest venues in the city and cater to every style of bass music fan.
[TJ]Lets get the formals out of the way, for those who may not have heard of you yet, please introduce yourself!
[Artifice] My name's Bogart, a.k.a. Artiﬁce, a.k.a Champion Handsome. I'm the bald dude scratching his chin at the back of the jam, talking VSTs and signal chains while the cool kids pick up girls.
You came to Drum & Bass through a different musical background than the average DnB fan. Tell us about your previous experiences and incarnations as an artist.
I was introduced to D&B probably 1998-ish, someone gave me a Kenny Ken/Stevie Hyper D tape that got plenty of listens, and my ﬁrst experience with mixing and turntables was with jump-up D&B of that era, just messing around on a friend's decks.
It didn't jump right in and change my life or anything though, I didn't really relate to it.
Most of the 90s I was into Industrial/EBM; NIN, Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Front 242, etc.
That was what I was into when I started messing around with production, and by 2000 I had signed a 3-album deal on the strength of some very amateur demos, made with a mod tracker and one synth, and no real clue what I was doing, in a genre I was already losing interest in.
The ﬁrst album sold better than anything I've done since, but I wasn't into what I was
making, so I ditched my singer and spent the rest of the contract progressively alienating everybody by experimenting awkwardly with all the genres I was busy discovering; techno, trance, IDM, ambient, etc.
I was discovering all the electronic music that still inﬂuences me now, all the great Warp records, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Autechre, as well as the pioneers, stuff like Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream. What I had really been looking for in Industrial/EBM, though, was that sci-ﬁ tone, music that sounded like a dark future.
So, when I eventually discovered that Drum & Bass had gone there in the late 2000s with the darker tech step stuff, it clicked and ﬁlled that hole, and I started to pay more attention to D&B. Once I discovered the deeper, more atmospheric stuff that was coming out of Critical, Shogun, Exit, etc, I was totally on board. That sound brings together all the elements I loved from different genres into something that I connected with entirely, and thought I could actually contribute to, so that's where I've been focused since.
What inspires you to make the style of DNB you do. Not many in this city can match your style, it has a level of stripped down restraint and maturity to it that reminds us of techno.
I have a pretty techno inﬂuenced approach, I think. I know a lot of D&B guys deal mostly in samples and loops, but I'm really about sculpting everything up from scratch, piece by piece, and getting the most I can out of limited elements.
I'm very inspired by ﬁlm, and I get most of my sampled elements from ﬁlms, but at a micro scale. I'll sample footsteps, door creaks, breaths, just the little bits and pieces of foley in quiet moments, and then get as much as I can out of them through sequencing and effects.
They end up in the drum hits, in the ambience, in the ﬁlls, everywhere, and I try to limit
myself to one ﬁlm's samples per track, so that it's less about cherry-picking bold sounds, and more about using the limits of a ﬁxed pool of elements to direct the process.
As far as synths and basslines, I have always had a taste for pretty straight-forward analog synth sounds, so that's my approach, I don't do the Neuro thing of ﬁltering and effecting and resampling things to death.
I try to keep everything pretty stripped down, partly because that's the aesthetic I love, but also because I start to get fed up as a project gets more convoluted. Mixdowns can get extremely frustrating if you're dealing with a million bells and whistles. I get a better end result when I keep things relatively skeletal.
How did the connection with the Inner City Dance crew come about? Is Marcus Visionary in fact the single nicest guy on earth and exactly how much of an asshole is Lush?
I don't really remember, I guess Lush must have been on my dub spam list, but I hadn't actually met him yet. He was immediately into Blacklight, and he pushed it to Marcus, then we all met up and talked about working together.
Since then, they've been big supporters. I'm ﬁnishing tunes and they're testing out the dubs the next night, and it's been a huge boost for me, because prior to that I wasn't getting a chance to hear my tunes played out. Working on D&B without ever hearing it work in a mix on a big sound system, with the subwoofers beating you up, it's like working in a vacuum.
You just don't really know what you've got in a home studio, you have to hear it out before you can judge it. So, when Lush played Blacklight at Guvernment one night, and it sounded great, and the crowd dug it, it was like, to quote Raekwon, "THAT'S when you know it's ON!" They're both super nice guys. If I had to put money on which one of them might get ignorant and slap a bitch unprovoked, though, obviously, it's Lush.
We ask this almost every interview, and guys like you continue to prove its right. Toronto is a hotbed of music, with some incredible producers hailing from here. What do you think it is about this city
that harvests so much talent?
I think we're growing it, but I don't know that we're harvesting it all that well. It's a big city with a big scene, and I think that's probably the biggest factor.
If you live somewhere without a big scene, I would expect it would be hard to get too inspired about making tunes. It's when I walk out of a big jam that I'm most inspired to get back in the lab and work on something. I think the problem is that there's very little room for new guys to get exposure.
Toronto's saturated, there's more DJs than than there are slots, so nobody's jumping to book new producers until they've managed to become a draw, and it's hard to become a draw without getting booked. Rene LaVice blew up from relative obscurity, but I think he represents the exception to the rule. I understand why things are they way they are, promoters have to ﬁll rooms, and it's a risk using a slot to expose someone new when your priority is a successful party.
Obviously, I'm a local producer, and I want exposure, so I have a selﬁsh stake in it, but I honestly think more exposure for new blood is important, and with more support for new producers, things would be healthier in the long run.
For the studio heads, what does your set up / workﬂow look like? How does your creative process work in the studio? DnB is widely considered to be the most technically demanding music to
produce, engineer and mix, can you offer any tips to aspiring producers to help them on their journey?
It's very technically demanding, no question, and it gets harder all the time, there's always somebody out there raising the bar. I covered the sampling end already, but my work ﬂow starts with the drums.
I lock down the guts of the drums, then I ﬂesh it out with enough atmosphere that I'm not just listening to a dry drum loop running for hours. From there I'll work on bass patches until something clicks.
Then I'll decide I hate the bass melody, throw it out, and pick at it over a couple of days, doing variations until I don't hate it anymore. On Sunday morning, I'll chug a pot of coffee and ﬁnalize the structure, details, ﬁlls, edits and automation in a caffeinated blur. After that it's just weeks of angry mixdown revisions, until I can't stand the tune anymore and I send dubs out to the crew. (Then I revise it three more times to piss them off.)
The best tip I can give is this: don't cheap out on monitors. It is by far the most important money you will spend. I used the same bad monitors I started on for over a decade, struggling constantly with mixdowns, until it ﬁnally occurred to me to upgrade. Immediately, the walls came down, my mixdowns improved, everything got easier.
Bass and sub bass are the hardest things to manage in a mix, so you have to have monitors that are reproducing it accurately. Learn everything you can about where elements belong in the frequency spectrum. Put a spectrum analyzer on everything. There's a very split opinion on that, some producers will tell you "fuck that, trust your ears", but personally, I think you can only beneﬁt from using your eyes AND ears to see the whole picture.
Control your low frequencies, if you aren't careful about highpassing unnecessary bass and low-mids from sounds that don't need it, they pile up and cause problems later. If you're careful about keeping sounds relatively isolated from each other, trimming the fat and emphasizing the important frequencies, you won't hit a wall when it comes to getting power out of the ﬁnal mixdown.
And stay away from loop packs and shit, it's cheating, man up and make your own sounds!
What's in the pipeline for Artiﬁce in the months to come?
More new tunes, more new mixes. I've got a bunch of fresh tunes in rotation, and I'm doing my best to keep them coming. I'm working on getting some more collaborations with Statistic happening.
Statistic and I bounce works in progress off each other constantly, but we're only just beginning to ﬁgure out how to actually collaborate effectively. We did a tune called Derelict recently that came out really well, and I think with a little work we're going to ﬁnd a way to generate some good new things.
Of course, I'm hoping for more opportunities to play out in 2013, so I can put these tunes to work!
What's your standard Tim Hortons order?
I don't fuck with Tim Hortons! Strictly about the espresso, no fuckin' around.
Any last words, shouts etc?
Shouts to the studio nerd squad, Statistic, Schematic, Rene, NC-17, may all our studio tans stay sickly and grey. Thanks to everybody who's shown support over the last year, I appreciate every bit of it. Keep a brick handy, because I'm gonna do my best to get these tunes breaking some windows in 2013.
Artifice - Toronto Jungle Mix Tracklist
Artifice - Dead Channel (DUB)
M-Soul - Pointers
Mtwn - Architecture
Artifice - Centrifuge (DUB)
Artifice - Shadows (DUB)
Hemoglobin - Ketones Under Control
Artifice - Airlock (DUB)
Artifice - Blacklight VIP (DUB)
Enei - Cracker VIP (Feat. Eastcolours & Noel)
Fearful - Gorilla
Audio, Meth - Alone
Schematic - One By One (DUB)
Dramatic and DB Audio - Stakeholder
Racktacktek - Kill A Soundboy
Statistic - Depth Charge
Audio - Headroom
Artifice & Statistic - Derelict (DUB)
Optiv, BTK - Understand (Feat. Sam Wills)
Statistic - Uncertainty Principle (DUB)
Mindscape - Stardust
Gridlok - Smuggler
Artifice - Crime Rate (DUB)
Maztek - Limber
Mob Tactics - Relapse
Cause4Concern - Control Freak (Task Horizon Remix)
Wickaman, R.V - These Things
Cruk - Punisher
In early 1993, there was a legendary tape sold at X-Static and subsequently bootlegged and dubbed hundreds of times. It quickly became the blueprint, and any DJ or punter around during that time will tell you how influential it was.
It was so different from what we were accustomed to hearing at raves here in Toronto, it instantly captivated the Toronto scene. That tape was Fabio live at AWOL with GQ on the mic.
Volume 4 and 5, as the tapes were named and sold as, changed things up. And Fabio has continued to do that ever since.
Now, 20 years later, we join groundspace in welcoming a legend to our shores once again, surely to deliver a set filled with the most upfront selection, expect Fabio to play what the rest of the DJ's will want to play the rest of this year. He has specifically requested a 3 hour set in order to deliver a night of epic proportions.
We don't always get over excited for events.. but when we do, its Fabio.
Anyone who has been into Drum n Bass for a few years will recognize the AWOL brand. Initially the blueprint for Jungle in England, it branched into Canada with the help of Chris McKee. We sat down with him about the rebirth of AWOL, and it's tour in Canada.
[Chris McKee] The original owners of AWOL Toronto were myself (Chris McKee), Zach LeDoux & Simon Mahoney.
AWOL Toronto came about after myself & Simon Mahoney had invested in the Syrous 4 Year Anniversary party with Mickey Finn & GQ in Sept 1997.
At the time, I was running Jedi Records & wanted to get involved in throwing raves & Syrous was on its last legs. They had run out of resources to fund their events so we partnered with them & gave them some money to do the show. The party itself cost about $8000 total, but we ended up doing about 4500 paid at the door. So we all came out of that party in a good place.
After that show, Rob Lisi (who owned Syrous) really didn't need us anymore & didn't want us to partner on future events with him & moved on without us. But we had learned how to run a large scale rave from that experience. So I took the money I made from Syrous & took a trip to England in 1997.
While in London, I met up with the guys who owned AWOL London & World Dance (Chris, Jay & Laurence), and developed a really good repoire with them & we made the deal to start doing AWOL events in Canada.
The 1st party we did was April 11, 1998 with D&B headliners Ellis Dee & Fearless. Also on the bill for the time ever in North America were Shy FX & Skibadee. I had seen Skibadee perform at Bar Rumba on my trip to the UK & was blown away. He was an unknown kid really, the guys from AWOL London didn't even know who Skibadee or Shy FX were at the time. So when I told them what DJs I wanted for AWOL Toronto they were like "Who is Skibadee? And Im not sure Shy FX can even DJ....I think he just makes tunes mate."
At the time, Syrous has exclusivity on just about every big name D&B DJ for their events in Canada. So other companies in Toronto were having a hard time booking any DJ that could draw. But it wasn't "Chris from AWOL Toronto" calling the UK to book the DJs in the beginning. It was Jay from AWOL London calling them saying "listen your going to Canada to play for us in Toronto." Keep in mind in the late 90's, AWOL & World Dance were some of the biggest rave promoters on the planet, so DJs listened when the call came from AWOL London and we were able to get any DJ we wanted for our events in Toronto.
AWOL Toronto ended in 2002. One of our partners, Simon had moved to Vancouver & I had just been hired as an agent at the biggest music agency in Canada in SL Feldman & Associates. So I wanted to focus solely on my career as an agent booking hip-hop and R&B acts & gave up promoting. When we started out doing AWOL, we had a list of DJs we always wanted to bring & had done shows with every single one of them.....except Fabio.
So when we did the Grooverider & Fabio show in November of 2002, I felt Id accomplished every goal I ever set out for myself with AWOL and decided it was time to focus on my Hip-Hop & R&B tours I was booking. Plus, I had my 1st child the year before so my interests were changing.
Why is AWOL coming back?
Its coming back because we still love Drum & Bass. Its that simple. Ive been doing hip hop & R&B shows across Canada for the past decade, but I don't "love" hip-hop. I like it. D&B for me is like that ex-girlfriend you keep going back to because you love her. You know shes bad for you.....but when you're with her, something just feels different than those other girls. Its just not as good ......unless its her. That's what AWOL is for me.
Ive produced shows with Rihanna, Wu Tang Clan, The Roots, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas, Akon etc etc.....but i didn't get the same "high" I got as when we did our AWOL One Year Anniversary party with Kenny Ken in 99. In a way, its like I'm still chasing that high I got from that show.
Another reason for my renewed interest came about from my signing of Hydee to my booking agency. I started going to Bassmentality every Wed 2 summers ago. I became a fan of Hydee & asked him to be apart of my roster, which he now is. I started going to most of his shows with him & was really impressed with the energy of the new wave of dubstep and Drum & Bass fans out there. After going to his shows for the past 18 months I started to get that itch again & just wanted to scratch it & do another AWOL.
Its still the same 3 original partners involved (me, Zach & Simon), but we've brought some young blood into the mix this time & have Pete Stickbubbly as a partner and Hydee is helping out as well. Also, AWOL London is now owned by Darren Jay & Mickey Finn & not the original guys we worked with. So there are some different parts involved, but all parties are committed to delivering the same experience you got at AWOL London in 1992 & AWOL Toronto in 1998.
Its funny cuz I was dating a girl in her early 20s last summer who was into D&B/Dubstep & she said to me "Do you know who is Skibadee is? I'm going to a party this weekend cuz he is playing." It shook me because I had to explain to her "listen sweet heart, the reason you even know who MC Skibadee is.......is because of me!" She knew I had "something to do with raves" years ago, but I had never really explained to her what I actually did & what AWOL's impact on D&B in Canada really was. (and yes....Ive invited her to AWOL on Feb 22).
My vision for AWOL moving forward is to take AWOL nationally. That's why this 1st tour I'm doing isn't just AWOL Toronto. We're also doing Ottawa Feb 21 & Montreal Feb 23. The AWOL name/brand still holds weight in alot of circles in D&B. I already have partners secured for some Western Canada dates this summer. So my vision will be that every AWOL will be a national tour. Not just a Toronto show.
At some point, we want it to be that we don't even announce on our flyers or social media sites what DJs will be playing at AWOL. The flyer will just say AWOL & the date & venue.....and people will come for the sole reason.............that's its AWOL.
I don't really have the time to be the guy doing several shows a week or month. Im still booking major hip hop tours (including recent dates with Ghostface, Method Man, D-Block & more) and Im also managing Charron (KOTD) and Trinity Chris (who is featured on Rene Lavice's new LP on Ram Records) and running my label Richmond Street Records.
I'm looking more like shows every few months.....but coast to coast across Canada. We also dont want to just be a D&B company, we want to include dubstep and trap at our events. These new forms of Bass music have inspired me so I definitely want to include these genres in our events moving forward. AWOL always had a 2nd or 3rd room at our parties that played house, trance, techno and even reggae. So we've never in our history felt that we were "just a D&B" company.
I understand there is a whole new generation of Bass Music fans that have no idea what AWOL is and that its going to be a challenge for us to make them aware. But that will take time & I think D&B fans are more passionate than the average music fan & will take quicker to understanding our history & vision for the future.......and soon enough a new generation of fans will believe in our.... WAY OF LIFE.
[TJ] Our city is rich in its electronic music and rave culture history, when did you first discover the music, and who influenced you to progress into production?
[Code Red] When I was 11 my dad played me 'Incredible' by General Levy. That memory always stuck out in my mind for some reason. I really got into jungle when I was around 17 though. I was at my friendís birthday party and she put on one of her tapes she had just got. Congo Natty - Under Mi Sensi came on and I loved it. I went asking around and a friend who listened to jungle gave me a Mickey Finn and Skiba @ Lifeforce 98 set. From then on I was hooked. The natural progression took place. I have DJíed in the city for years. Held a few jams as well. Then I got the drive to devote my time to production. I went full force and thatís what Iíve been doing since. As for my influence, I love the sounds of Drum and bass in general so they very so much.
Toronto continues to harvest countless talent, above and beyond many other cities. What do you think it is about us that generates so many artists?
Toronto is a very multicultural place with deep roots in music of all kinds and I think we draw from that. Weíre exposed to so much here it's like a melting pot. It just comes natural that talent will develop from that. I think we need to keep pushing our own as much as possible but take from what is around us and things will continue to grow.
How did you connect with Original Sin, what are the forthcoming plans?
I was introduced to Original Sin at a club in TO. We saw each other a few times after and said what's up but that was about it. Then an old friend was booked to play with him. She mentioned I really appreciated his production and had been a fan of his music for a while. After that he came up and talked to me for a bit and I got his contact to send him some beats. We started hanging out and Iíd bring over tunes until he said he would play them. At that point I went out and bought a PC w/ Cubase and he started helping me out a bit with certain things. About a year after that I made Cruel Intentions and he signed me exclusively to Image Muzik. As for forthcoming plans the 'We are your friends' LP will be out Jan 21st. Iíve just confirmed another track for the next EP. After that a single or an EP from myself will come out at some point and just loads more music from the rest of the crew. Weíre also starting to do Image Muzik Tour nights around UK and US.
What is your studio set up at the moment? Thoughts on the art of DJ'ing changing from vinyl to CD to synch button technology of traktor?
I use a PC with Cubase. I make all of my sounds using a synth called z3ta+ along with a few other soft synths. I have a pair of Yamaha MSP 7 monitors, an Mbox 2 interface and an oxygen controller as well as a Yamaha DX 27 synth thatís been at Original Sins studio for about a year now... I use Sonnox oxford plugins (I put that shit on everything) as well as a load of others. As for the change from vinyl to digital, Itís just a progression really. Everything changes over time. Itís just the way it is. I just roll with it. If you have passion for the music and you're real people will see it. I try and keep an open mind about everything. Except olives... I HATE olives. Anyways, I've always had a pair of Techs and have been a vinyl buyer/enthusiast for a long time. I bought cdjs because I was making beats and wanted to play/test them as soon as Id finished one. It's just a lot easier and itís quite important now because my tune output is far greater and I get sent a lot of music online so Iím all for digital. I think Programs like Serato and Traktor are excellent because they allow you to keep that vinyl vibe. May not have the vinyl bass but itís the next best thing! As for as the sync button goes, itís a joke, and it takes the art of out it. I don't really pay any attention to that stuff.
Late night in Toronto after a show, where do you head to get some grub?
Man, I love food but Iím so indecisive when it comes to places to eat. Iíd grab some Canton Chilli's or Swatow on Spadina. Or maybe some Markham Station or Real McCoy's in Scarborough. But the reality is Iíd probably argue with my friends about where to eat and end up at a 24 hour McDonalds... uugghh.
Highlights of 2012 ?
So many come to mind. Being the only international guy signed exclusively to Image Muzik was a real honor. Other than that, going over to the UK to do Friction's BBC Radio1 show has got to be the main highlight of 2012. Having guys who I've looked up to for awhile like Hype, Original Sin & Image Crew, Sigma,Crissy Criss etc. playing my music has also been really humbling. It's been a good year!