Dropping his first release Cocktail on Eastside Records back in 2003, it’s fair to say 10 years of Break releases have hugely influenced numerous producers and the all round sound of drum and bass. Break is one of the leading producers in the game, his technical brilliance and ear for all things large ensures that not only does he output tunes of unfalteringly high-quality time and time again on his own imprint Symmetry Recordings, but he is as consistently as ever dropping fresh beats in that signature Break style; sub heavy with crisp breaks and strikingly intricate percussion. Break’s sound is entirely unique; his focus on musicality and the melodic nature of his work not only ensures that each tune colossally goes off, but it gives his music a rare timelessness.
Here at In-Reach Break is hands down one of our favourite drum and bass producers, and we were lucky enough to catch up with him…
Hello Break, how are you today?
Good thanks guys.
You’ve been very busy of late… on top of running a label you’ve had a number of releases, Music is Better has just been released and is receiving plenty of hype, have you had anytime to enjoy the summer and get the BBQ out?
I haven’t cooked one myself yet this year, which is a bit shameful, but have managed to eat at a few, which were tasty. I do generally have a battle for time getting out in the sun when I should, been working on more summery tunes. I’m the least pasty I’ve been for a few summers though having a garden now, my studio last year had no windows at all.
Music is Better really is an outstanding tune, what are the inspirations behind the music you’ve been outputting recently? And would you say that other drum and bass is a big influence on your sound?
I have always made other stuff everyday around Dnb, that track did start as a hip hop loop, but I got bored having no Mc handy, and thought it would work wicked double speed as a Dnb tune. It’s kinda more my older stlye tune, so it was fun to roll out with that Jungle vibe rather than getting too tech and minimal. Jungle music was always a mish mash of sounds from peoples inspirations, that always made it interesting, so I always try to bring in elements from other music I love. Some days its Dnb or others its just music at 174 bpm.
Which drum and bass tunes/sounds/styles have particularly stood out to you recently?
I love what DLR and the Utopia crew are doing, it has jungle roots but modern freshness, that’s what I’m into really. Mikal has some wicked tunes also, the Metalheadz and Dispatch crew are all looking strong right now. I always enjoy Blue Mar Ten and Naibu tracks also for a more musical flavour. I can never think on the spot, sure there are loads of other great new tunes, I’m still getting hurt by Dillinja Cybertron.
We’ve heard that you’re incredibly musical– something, that comes across in your music, we’re intrigued by which instruments you actually play as we’ve heard there were 9-10 during your school years?
I did have a crack at quite a few, but wasn’t that good at keeping up practice, I tried all the Brass instruments except Tuba, they’re all really hard so I have massive respect to horn player that can hit a clean note. Piano and Drums were the two that I stuck to with a bit of guitar and bass along the way. The piano and having a great Jazz teacher for a few years really helped me to understand chords structures and how to improvise musically. I try and bring more of a song element to the track than just noise, which a lot of Dnb has turned into, I think people do like to hear music; and a bit of noise too.
At In-Reach we’re very into the dub influenced music you put out and we’ve heard your in a reggae band called Degrees of Freedom, there seems to be a huge scene for this in Bristol, was this part of your reason for relocating to the West country?
To some extent; the band you mentioned Degrees of Freedom, myself and Kyo started years back in London, with a similar vibe to Massive Attack and Portishead, Bristol did feel like the place to go. When I met Fierce and Die up there, it made it a lot easier to migrate, the Dnb scene is so good here too, past and present that was also a big draw to come out West.
Would you say living in Bristol has had an impact on your musical style/ outlook?
It’s more easy going than London, I feel there is more time to be creative with less of an intense Babylon pressure on your back. When you’re in London you think its the centre of the Universe, and when you leave I personally realised its a bit of a facade. I’ll always love London as its my home, and does play more of a part of my sound than Bristol really due to growing up there, but I feel that it’s easier to fit in, develop and be yourself in Bristol.
Some drum and bass labels seem to be moving in a particularly commercial direction, what are your feelings on the industry at the moment?
I just watched a great Dispatches TV program last night about the companies that provide you with thousands of fake likes and views etc. I’d always thought this from the start, which is why I’m not a fan of social media, so much of it is hype with little substance. If you can pull off both well, I don’t see the harm in hyping a good product to people, but that’s a 1/10 occurrence for me. From what I can see, its not just that the industry is going more commercial, but that consumers want more commercially, they want likes and view counts to tell them what they like. It’s also down to the artists choices; do they want to make the music they think people want, or the music that they enjoy? Which might not be in fashion right now. That option has a lower short-term success rate, so they go for the quick fix and copy some one else…. I could go on all day… it’s a can of worms. I would blame some labels but more I’d blame the way culture’s been directed into valuing computer graded popularity rather than the real thing, we’re all guilty and victims, but I hope it wears thin soon.
How do you see Symmetry fitting into this?
We’re putting out tunes that myself and label manager Clive are into genuinely and trying to do the best job we can really. The whole music industry is in turmoil; we’re just another bit of wreckage in the sea with everyone else trying to bob above water. The real fans and supporters keep it alive and they’re the only people I’m that fussed about when were releasing a record, the main difference is that bigger Dnb labels can pay ten other people to hype and promote that record or artist, and we weren’t around in the 90’s before vinyl died to make any capital, so its harder to compete, there is very little growth for small independent labels at the moment, but we’ve got the killer tunes!
What are your goals for Symmetry in the future?
I hope for it to be a buy on site label that people can rely on for finding the best Dnb around. I will always be putting a lot of my Dnb and other artists out on the label, hopefully will be bringing some other genres to the label next year to expand our reach and catalogue.
Here at In-Reach we get very excited by all things Symmetry – particularly looking forward to the Symmetry boat party at Outlook Festival, any other big Symmetry or Break events we should be looking forward to this summer?
The boat party is gonna be amazing, I’ve been talking to Die about working out some tunes for the B2b set, it will be a proper sunshine vibeout, gonna draw some oldskool for sure. We’re planning another Symmetry night in Bristol for November and the next release coming up is the Xtrah EP feat DRS, Codebreaker and myself, which is a real smasher.
In-Reach have had word you’ve recently rebuilt/upgraded your studio in Bristol. Can you tell us a little about your new set-up?
I was meant to but I’ve actually downgraded for the last year while the new room is being built. It’s been really painful and hard work in a little box room, but also fun to be working at home again, when I move into the new studio it will make a world of difference. The equipment is mostly the same other than some new Eve SC208 monitor speakers that I’m using after my Mackies were nicked at the last studio, it was a blessing in disguise though as these ones are incredible for the same price and have helped my mixes a lot.
What is your starting process for a tune? Do you sample?
I do sample and record live a lot, but generally with the approach of the sound rather than the sample. I would rather use a bit of choir lets say to manipulate reverse, and layer to make a dark pad than a soft-synth. Do you want the sound of fifty humans in a real room or a digital toy in a laptop? Bit of an extreme example but that’s my general vibe when it comes to it. I’m admittedly not as patient and competent at synth programming as some people, but I rarely love a synth sound and have always enjoyed sample or live based music more, so that’s partly shaped my style. Some labels have a no sample policy, which is one reason for a lot of the trancey Dnb all made from a computer. I get that using a full Justin Beiber accapella might get you in trouble, but one second of a cello from an old classical vinyl is not the end of the world. A lot of samples are royalty free anyway; it’s just how and when you use them.
Lets talk about bass. Something I instantly recognise your tracks for. Where does it all begin for you? Can you run us through your general process for this?
To some extent its kind of just a shape of how a tune should sound, I always like bassy music to actually be weighty, I have often overcooked it, but that can be fun. If the bass is the feature then generally my approach is to get as much bass in the track as possible whilst still being able to hear the drums and vocals clearly. It’s a lot easier said than done, and basically is a mission everyday. For me getting the right bass sound, and baseline, is usually more of an issue than the bass mix. I always find it easier to get a baseline once I have got a good intro; I’ve wasted so many days just trying to make a baseline out of nowhere it very rarely happens. I usually hear the baseline coming as I play through the intro, often the 1st riff I play on the keyboard is the one, as soon as you try loads of others the day’s a right off. Having a good kick drum generally helps to have a better bass sound. My bass could be an 808 or a bass guitar or a Reece bass, but its more scooping the balance of bass and the track together to that satisfying place where you know it’s the one.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement so far?
I guess just managing to get through eight years on my terms with music paying the bills. I know a lot of other people aren’t able to do jobs they love, so being able to work at my favourite passion is always a blessing.
And finally, do you have any guilty pleasures that if you could you would drop into your sets?
Lots of things, but I’m kinda on the fence my self about genre Dj’s playing cross genre sets, I’d definitely wanna chuck a bottle at a Dnb Dj playing budget dubstep, I didn’t buy a ticket for that! I love Check One by Leftfield, I did drop that in a club once, I think me and one other person enjoyed it. I’d probably play half a dub/reggae set, its the best thing on a big system, but its often too slow and chilled for some Dnb crowds…..others totally love it though. Big ups!