E-Sassin Interview

LA drum & bass producer E-Sassin was one of the winners of our recent remix competition with Dom & Roland. His Get Up remix has just come out on Dom’s DRP label so we took the opportunity to find out more about him.

Please introduce yourself, looking at your Facebook bio you’re no beginner…
Yeah, I’ve been involved with music since the late 70s. I started out playing drums in progressive rock and metal bands and eventually found my way into electronic music in the late 80s. In ’92 I produced a techno album which got me a deal to work and tour with the groups The Movement and L.A. Rave.

During that time I was exposed to a lot of different music cultures and it was then that I first heard jungle. I knew right then, that was the kind of music I wanted to make. A few years later I founded Sound Sphere Recordings, one of the pioneering domestic drum & bass labels.

Since then, I’ve continued to build a strong following in the drum and bass scene with my productions, remixes and DJing now for over 20 years. I’ve worked with, or done work for, Gridlok, Hive, the Phunckateck Crew, R.A.W., AK1200, 60 Channels, The Angel, Raiden, DJ SS and Dieselboy, among others.

When did you first try your hand at DJing and producing?
I actually got thrown into DJing. It was around 1989. I was working sound at a night club here in Los Angeles and the regular DJ didn’t show up one night. The owner asked me if I could spin some records in between the live band’s sets and I said sure. I mean, I had watched what the DJ did and it looked like no big deal. It was definitely different than I thought.

But having got a taste of what DJing was like, I bought myself some turntables to practice on and I just went on from there to start mixing other styles of music until I discovered jungle in 1993. I just loved the way the beats were structured and syncopated. I never thought “dance music” could have breaks and rhythms like that. It was generally just four on the floor or straight breakbeat before that.

As for producing, it’s really been a progression over time. I had already been writing music for years with the bands I was playing drums with. A friend had turned me on to electronic music, techno and hardcore in particular, and since I was working as recording engineer at that time, he asked if I could help with some sounds and mixing some of the music he was working on. I eventually got so involved that I started producing some of my own techno tracks and released an album.

Later, when I came across jungle, I felt like I finally found a style of dance music I could really relate to, being a drummer and all. I really loved the drum programming and knew it wasn’t something everyone could do. It was right up my alley and I’ve been doing it ever since.

How would you describe your approach to making music?
I don’t know if I can describe it. It’s really just a feeling or vibe for me when I create. I lean towards a heavier, darker sound in general, drawing a lot from cinema, sci-fi, horror, stuff like that. Sometimes I start with beats and bass lines, other times I go with atmospheres or voice samples, whatever creates the inspiration or mood and build from there. It’s always different for me. I don’t follow a set pattern of how to make a track, there’s no formula, at least for me.

Tell us more about your winning remix and how you approached it…
I started by laying out all of Dom’s tracks and really just analyzed what he did with the sounds, how he constructed the whole piece. Then I focused in on what I felt were the key elements because I wanted to try to maintain the essence of what Dom had put together but add my flavour to make it different and take it to another level. It’s important to me that my remixes have the identity of the original version so you know what song it is that has been remixed.

I decided to keep the original beat pattern but used all new drums that I felt had a similar sound but hit a little harder and layered in some of his percussion and hi-hat tracks to bring in the original feel a bit. Then I was just playing around with sounds that I felt worked well on top of the track, just trying to nasty it up a bit, and eventually pulled the original layers down or out of the mix. I’ve always loved Dom’s atmospheres and just added a few other elements to enhance what was already there. Easy, right?


What labels have you previously released on?
I’ve had my music out on quite a few labels starting with my own label Sound Sphere Recordings. Others include Phunckateck Communications, Pneuma, Thermal, Titanium and Moving Shadow. I’ve also had the privilege of releasing some of my remix work with Palm Pictures, Human Imprint, Compound, World Domination, Priority, TerraFormat, SupaCrucial, Black Hoe, Renegade Hardware and Formation. I actually was given the opportunity to do a remix of one of my favourite tunes, Dom & Optical’s “Quadrant Six” a few years back for a compilation that Dieselboy was putting together. Check that one off my bucket list! It was ultimately released on Moving Shadow.

What are you currently working on?
Mainly just writing, putting tracks together, making music. I’m always working on new beats, messing with new sounds and as I get stuff finished up I’ll be looking to release it through one label or another. I also have a remix project I just started for Psyborg, a producer out of Texas.

Do you have any releases or remixes coming out soon?
The remix I did for Peter Kurten & Savage’s It’s Coming on Black Hoe Recordings recently did really well. I’ve also just finished up a remix that will be out soon on Terrorform Records. As for original stuff, my single Bacterium / Microbes came out in early November and I am talking with several other labels about releasing some material so be on the look-out.


Tell us about your Sound Sphere Recordings label…
I started Sound Sphere back in 1996. I had finally got my productions to the point where I thought I could get them released but there weren’t really any labels devoted to releasing drum & bass in the States and the UK scene was a tough nut to crack. I decided to start up the label to get my music out there and was hoping to get noticed and maybe get picked up by another label. Quality was paramount and I worked closely with the cutting house to get the loudest possible pressings, really pushing the engineer to up the levels. It worked!

The response was actually really good and feedback from the distributors and record reviewers was very positive so I ended up running the label for several years before putting it on a hiatus to focus more on writing music and DJing. Sound Sphere really paved the way for a lot of other domestic D&B labels. This year I launched Sound Sphere Music, which houses the entire back catalogue, as I mentioned earlier, and I am going to be setting up some new releases there so keep an eye out for those.

What’s the next challenge for you?
I’m always up for more remix work. I enjoy doing remixes a lot. It’s a challenging yet fun and satisfying process for me. I’d also like to do some collaborating, maybe work with some of the bigger names in the business, learn some new tricks. It’s always nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of and get a new perspective you know. Another major challenge for me would be putting together an album. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now but just haven’t started with it.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
Well, we really covered a lot. I’ll just end by saying I’m honoured to have my remix chosen as one of the winning remixes in the contest. Dom & Roland has been a huge inspiration for me since the beginning. I would like to thank Dom for selecting my track and also Kmag and Dom & Roland for putting this contest together. A lot of great work was submitted and I can imagine how difficult it must have been to determine a winner. Kudos to Mr. Frenkie as well for his work and the runners-up.

Read our interview with the other competition winner, Mr Frenkie