Stakka & Skynet

Issue 37: Stakka & Skynet

When they were younger it was a steady diet of twisted sci-fi movies and Patrick Moore television (host of the BBC’s ‘The Sky at Night’ programme) that the hard-hitting duo of Stakka and Skynet credit with influencing their current sound. “2001, Flash Gordon, The Black Hole, Star Wars, Aliens, anything which was set in space or in the future was what I loved to watch,” says Skynet.

“I remember Flash Gordon freaked me out a little bit when I first saw it,’ Stakka recalls. ‘It was a glimpse into a very strange and weird future world.’  Prophetic words that would soon define their otherworldly take on drum & bass which Stakka would later define as, ‘making the music to a movie without having the visuals.”

But these things come later. When they weren’t off at the cinema, the astral-travelling Shaun Morris (Stakka) and Nathan Vinall (Skynet) were bobbing their heads to hip hop, acid house and hardcore techno like the rest of us.

“I was into the rave scene from the acid house days,” Skynet says with a smile. “I was completely hooked on the Joey Beltram-techno side of things until DJ Crystl came along and changed my life forever.”

And it’s no wonder. 1993-era DJ Crystl of Lucky Spin and Dee Jay fame, took the dark and menacing sound gaining popular at the time and laced it with a touch of the subtle and delicate. Acidic creepers like ‘Warpdrive’ and ‘Dark Crystl’ planted the seeds for the Audio Blueprint paranoia that would blossom later in the decade.

Of course, if you’re old enough to remember Crystl than you’re likely to remember Stakka from his Liftin’ Spirit days. Alongside his then partner K. Tee, 1994 saw Stakka bent on delivering crowd-pleasing ‘floor-fillers like ‘Ruffneck Ragga’ on the Just Dance imprint or ‘Brockin’ Out’ on Liftin’ Spirit while you were out blasting your air horn and bawling for a rewind. It went on like that until 1997 rolled along and Stakka teamed up with Skynet to create the dark chest-pounding beast they called ‘Black Dawn’.

“I knew we’d stumbled onto a different sound and it really got me moving,” Stakka remembers. “But I also knew it didn’t really fit into the whole Liftin’ Spirit vibe I was connected to. We needed a new outlet for the deeper, twisted drum & bass we were about to create.” The Audio Blueprint imprint was born.

The label obviously struck a chord with the public and with the scene. Almost immediately heads like Dom & Roland, Hidden Agenda, Lo Life and Psion stepped up and offered their own unique visions to the cause with mind-blowing results.

The label’s first full-length compilation ‘Voyager’ released in 1998 remains a classic testament to the level of the label’s breadth and scope. By taking the essential essence of ‘dark’ drum & bass and twisting it into something much more frightening and surreal, the ethereal Audio Blueprint has since become the label to turn to for those who like it a touch off the deep end.

Even with the success of the Audio Blueprint label, the pair refused to neglect the dancefloor: “Audio Blueprint was the place where we felt free doing some deep experimental techno-edged tracks,” says Skynet. “But we still both really enjoyed the smash up dancefloor end of things as well.”

Where Audio Blueprint serviced the mental aspect of the sound, the duo created the Underfire imprint to showcase the physical. Releasing a number of singles before dropping the ‘Blazin” LP in 1999, the Underfire philosophy was (and still is) all about building hard and fast beats drenched in infectiously, wobbly basslines. In Underfire mode, Stakka and Skynet are able to decimate dancefloors effortlessly with no signs of easing up anytime soon.

Fresh off the success of ‘Pathogen’ on Audio Blueprint, the eagerly awaited ‘Clockwork’ LP will finally see the light of day. Travelling to the darkest corners of the universe and transmitting their discoveries back to the world via vinyl, the ‘Clockwork’ LP is expected to take the scene by storm and set the tone for the rest of the year’s sound.

Stakka stresses the fact that the LP is unique in that it’s not a label compilation but a ‘proper’ album that will feature the duo collaborating with top-notch talent. “Collaborating has worked so well for us in the past that we both agreed that instead of just rounding up a bunch of tracks and putting a compilation together, we would do a proper Stakka & Skynet album and collaborate with the artists that have inspired us over the years.”

The results are astounding. Coming on like the nightmare visions of a prisoner trapped in some future tech-war, Stakka, Skynet, and a select chosen few deliver another soon-to-be-classic soundtrack for the cinema of the mind.

If you turn down the lights and drop the CD into the CD-changer, a wild and epic journey awaits you. Images are sure to spring to life beneath your eyelids and some haunting story is sure to unfold. Borne from the collective action-thriller and horror flick subconscious we all seem to share, the ‘Clockwork’ crew brave the elements on a forbidden planet and take the listener along for the ride.

Starship troopers like Keaton (Usual Suspects), Shimon (Ram Trilogy), DJ Red (Stealth/TOV) and Underfire’s own DJ Friction and DJ Skinny assist in unleashing the beats and basslines from the fathomless caverns of these strange environs. With Stakka and Skynet securely at the helm, the ‘Clockwork’ LP promises to chart the depths for those of us who wish to follow.

With the creation of a new label (Zero Gravity) and the rumour of a concept LP in the works for Audio Blueprint, Brighton’s finest continue to keep an eye on the future. “Basically our vision for the future is the same as it always was,” says Stakka. “We’re going to keep on releasing high quality tracks while pushing things forward and smashing up the dancefloor.”

With that in mind, be on the lookout for a “very limited edition” double-pack sampler from the forthcoming LP (although only one of the four tracks will actually show up on the album).

The sampler includes two remixes of Kraken’s infamous ‘Side Effects’ lick – the remixes from none other than Kemal + Rob Data and Teebee – as well as a bit from Stakka & Skynet in solo-mode and one in collaboration with DJ Red. Consider yourself warned.

Stakka & Skynet take us through their Kmag cover CD mix…

Skynet & Stakka – Night Lore  (Underfire)
This is the A-side of ‘Global Report’, it’s been out for a few months. It’s one of our favourites to have been released on the label – a nice little phat roller.

Skynet & Stakka – Decoy (Underfire)
‘Decoy’ is a track that has been going down really well on the dancefloors. It’s a bit like a tranced out version of ‘Side Effects’ and will be available on the ‘Clockwork’ LP sampler released 26 March; it’s also the only track from the sampler that will be on the LP.

Kemal & Rob Data – Star Trails (Audio Blueprint)
These guys have been making some bad tunes for long time, they were formerly known as Konflict. Kemal & Rob Data have really excelled themselves here: perfect production, clean, hard beats and a haunting vocal sung by one of Kemal’s family.

Skynet & Stakka – Pathogen (Audio Blueprint)
This is a deeper roller and to us it’s very typical of what we do on the label, a deep locked groove and ambience but still with dancefloor appeal. This is the current offering from the label, it’s only just come out.

Skynet & Stakka – Clockwork (Underfire)
This is the title track from the LP which will be released sometime close to 17 April. Definitely a bouncy one, it’s got the Underfire high energy feel to it and a nice middle breakdown bass manipulation type thing going on.

Kraken – Side Effects (Teebee remix) (Underfire)
The original of ‘Side Effects’ was one of our biggest tunes, hence having two guest remixers, Teebee and Kemal & Rob Data. Teebee definitely ripped this one up, we were really impressed how he recreated the vibe of the original but with that Teebee sound to it. This smashes clubs every time.

Kraken – Dominion (Zero Gravity)
‘Dominion’ is the first release on Zero Gravity, our new sister label. Kraken is a Stakka & Skynet pseudonym and this is one of our more angry tracks. It was originally written for ‘Clockwork’ but then we decided it would be a Stakka & Skynet artist release. Kraken no longer fitted in with the plans on ‘Clockwork’ and so Zero Gravity was born. Zero Gravity was launched in late January with Arkane’s ‘Neuro’ on the flip.

Kemal & Paul Reset – Kontempt (Underfire)

This is the latest offering from Underfire and came out in January. It’s a double artist piece with Kemal working this time with Paul Reset, ‘Kontempt’ on one side and Stakka & K.Tee’s ‘Rubber Bullet’ on the other. ‘Kontempt’ is one of those real militant rollers, when we first heard it we really liked what they have done with the acid-line. When it dropped it had the dancefloor impact that we wanted on the label.

Underfire vs Negative – Bios-Fear (Underfire)
This is another piece off our new LP. ‘Bios-Fear’ is a collaboration between Stakka & Skynet and Kemal & Rob Data and has been going off, probably one of the biggest tunes on the album and one that was a lot of fun to make. Kemal and Rob came down from Glasgow to Brighton for a few days and we all went in the studio and out of it came ‘Bios-Fear’. Named because at the time because our PC had a complete meltdown and Kemal and Rob spent hours trying to revive it.

Skynet & Stakka – Logistics (Audio Blueprint)
‘Logistics’ was a track we made to kick start Audio Blueprint after we had neglected it spending so much time on the ‘Blazin” LP. It was released late 2000 and will be coming around again soon, alongside some of our label’s other highlights on a new Audio Blueprint compilation.

Stakka & K.Tee – Auto Ignition (Audio Blueprint)
Released in late 2000, this came out as a heavyweight for a deep tune. The thing that we really liked about this was the James Bond type music intro.