During the early to mid nineties Blame released an impressive collection of genre defining singles on Moving Shadow that ranged from big room anthems to groundbreaking experimental excursions into techno influenced drum and bass. In 1991 he launched onto the scene with “Music Takes You”, an instant classic with its euphoric chords, in your face beats and Seal vocal samples. In the years that followed he adopted a more pioneering approach to production, still learning his craft yet fuelled with a creative desire to push boundaries he went on to record groundbreaking titles like “Essence” with long time friend Justice and “Transitions” with fellow Moving Shadow artist and graphic designer Deep Blue. It’s no small feat that Goldie heralds “Essence” as the greatest Moving Shadow release of all time.
We caught up with Blame to discuss this period and the years that followed at GLR and beyond.
It seems to be a common theme that people from a design or art background end up producing music, how did you make that transition?
I’ve always seen a lot of similarities between design and making music. Placing sounds in the right place, leaving space where it’s needed, having taste for style. Having contrast between colours or sounds. It was a really natural transition for me having that design background. It just felt right.
Tell us about that first time in the studio with Justice….
That day blew my mind. I realised you could go into a studio and come out with a record a few hours later! That was a dream for me. I started saving my money up and booking the studio whenever I could after that first day. We loaded up our favourite drum samples like apache, our favourite hip hop vocal snippets and it all just came together. We made a track called Death Row that day which was released on Chill Records.
Tony (Justice) told me about those Tuesday night studio sessions, what was that like for you?
They were amazing times, but quite frustrating in certain ways for me. I used to have ideas in my head that I couldn’t get out because I wasn’t skilled enough musically. It took me years of practice and persistence to be able to get what was in my head out onto tape.
How do you feel about those early productions? Any you still like??
I like them all for what they represent, they are all steps in the musical journey! Sometimes when I listen back I can’t even remember making certain songs, it’s like I’m listening to music someone else made, and then I realise it’s one of my tracks. That’s quite a mad experience!
In another interview Windmill told me about the first time he heard Music Takes You played at the Camden Palais. Were you there? How did that make you feel..?
I don’t know if I was there that night, but that is where I heard it first too! It blew my mind seeing all the hands in the air when my track came on. It was probably the most incredible experience I have ever had hearing one of my tracks out live. The other amazing experience you get is when you hear your songs coming out of the radio!
Were you surprised by its success?
Yeah definitely. But I knew it had the magic because I was the lucky guy to hear it first in the studio! That’s the real magic about making music for me, when you’re lucky enough to stumble upon an incredible idea, you’re the first person to get those goosebumps!
How did you hook up with Moving Shadow?
Well I’d been seeing this weird black and white logo of a man dancing whenever I watched DJ’s play in the local clubs. I went to the record shop… found the record… wrote down the number on the label… called up for the address… sent the tape… and the rest is history!
What did your studio consist of during your time with Moving Shadow?
I didn’t have a studio. I used to hire one that had an Atari ST computer, Cubase software, a Soundcraft mixing desk, a Juno 106 synth and a Casio sampler… that’s it!
How old were you around that time? One thing that strikes me is everyone was so young but coming out with these amazing experiments of sound. How did it feel?
I was 17 at the time, at college and loving the new music that was growing in the UK. It was exciting. They were groundbreaking times.
The scene around that time was wild and anarchic in terms of parties and music production, what freedoms did you have creatively?
Well there was an ‘anything goes’ approach to making music. If you liked pianos then throw them in there, if you liked reggae then get that in there. If you liked pianos and reggae then throw them both in there! You brought whatever influences you loved to this new emerging sound and it all worked.
I always felt your sound had an intergalactic sound, especially with the launch of 720 much later, what message were you trying to deliver and what influenced you?
I don’t think I was trying to deliver a message as such, I’ve always made what feels right to me at the time. I think I really became inspired with futuristic sounds and it just seemed to click musically in the studio. It also connected on the dance floors which was great to see.
Personally 1994 was a momentous year for me in drum and bass and your work with Justice on the Moving Shadow releases still remain some of my favourites today. Tell us the story behind those EP’s….
For me I seem to remember It was a really simple process back then; call up Justice. Book a studio. Listen to whatever samples we both had and make some music! We were always trying to be new and exciting but we didn’t overthink it too much. Maybe that’s why they had that freeness about them.
Those EP’s with Justice had such a distinctive sound that no-one else was really doing at the time. Techno was at the forefront of your style and it seemed the BPM was often slower. The way you made such full songs with so few elements was always an inspiration for me, they had character with each part having its own place and sitting perfectly with the next and perfect arrangements. You followed this up with Neptune which featured two complete contrasts in sound. Tell us about that… where was your head at then?
Same thing really, it was all about just making what felt right. I remember I wanted Neptune to be great for Fabio to play at the Speed nights and planet Neptune to be great for the Metalheadz nights. I’ve always liked listening to and making contrasting styles of music, and this 12″ was all about that.
There was another landmark release on Moving Shadow, your collaboration with Deep Blue. Your styles merged perfectly, how did that track happen?
We all used to go to the Speed club together on a Thursday night to hear Fabio, and Deep Blue and I decided to make Fridays a time to make some music we wanted to hear the next week. It was good fun and a great combination of styles. Deep Blue was a monster with the drum programming.
Tell us what it was like at Speed…
It was probably the most important drum and bass club night for me. On the first couple of nights there were only a handful of people propping up the bar, and they were all artists! You would have Photek, Goldie, Wax Doctor, Deep Blue, Doc Scott and everyone else from that era just hanging about checking out the freshest new tracks. It was a magical time in music history for me.
After your time with Moving Shadow you released one of the most iconic pieces of sci-fi and techno inspired drum and bass, Visions of Mars/Centuries on Good Looking Records. Can you tell us about this early time with Good Looking Records?
My musicality was all starting to click at that point. Meaning that I could create exactly what was in my head. This was exciting for me and that’s when I made Visions of Mars, it really cemented that sci-fi influence.
Your time with GLR was very prolific with multiple mix CD’s, your own nights, releases, the launch of 720 Records and Into The Void but ultimately it all turned sour. Looking back several years later how do you see that time and how do you feel about it now?
I don’t feel great about it to be honest. There was a lot of stress and bullshit that had nothing to do with the music. I’ve closed that chapter in my life.
The years following Good Looking your drum and bass production style changed quite a bit and set your career off on a new path. Was this a rejection of the years before or a natural progression of your sound taking in fresh inspiration?
Good question. It wasn’t a deliberate rejection, but that sound had a lot of bad memories tied up into it for me, so I think I was naturally guided into new sounds. Also all of my favourite music growing up was vocal based, and I came to a point where I wanted to write songs and emulate my heroes. Once I started working with singers I realised that being a ‘record producer’ in the traditional sense was my true calling. Discovering new singers, creating music to fit their voice, working with them to get the best delivery in the vocal booth. All this just feels like what I have been put on this planet to do!
Completely understand that, it’s a shame though that other stuff got in the way of the music. It seemed as it got more popular the mechanics behind the scene got more complex and took away the vibrancy and excitement. To me, the music represented hope for the future which like a lot of things ultimately got ruined by politics. What about the much sought after Visions of Alpha 7, will it ever be released?
No, I don’t own the rights so it’s not up to me.
Same with Neptune VIP?
Same thing with the rights I think. Anyway, I believe it’s nice to keep some tracks remembered in that mystical never came out way!
I do find it unfortunate though that great pieces of music and fragments of the history of drum and bass’s development will never be available for the people that are and still are so passionate about the scene twenty plus years later. Do you think you will ever return to that style of production? I think if anything the world is more in need of hope than it ever was before!
I will always draw on influences from the old days, but I like to look at making music a bit like turning a page in a book so I always keep moving forward on to the next sound.
What does the future hold for Blame?
I’m currently producing hip hop in the USA which is a great experience. I’m developing some new artists for labels so nothing finalised yet mate. Watch this space…