Championed by the likes of Coleco, Om Unit, and Technimatic, the mysterious figure known as Neuropol peels back the layers on his eclectic creative process before hitting us with a hypnotic and awe-inspiring guest mix that plumbs the depths of his Bristol-influenced sound.
Introduce yourself to our readers, where you’re hailing from in the world, and how you describe your music to those who don’t know…
I was born in Bristol, lived in and around the city most of my life, currently residing on the outskirts, away from the increasing hipster infestation we’re having. No idea how to describe my music, it’s just an ever evolving sound that represents everything I’ve experienced to this point in time, and in that respect it evolves every day. There’s no formula or specific intention, I’m certainly not trying to make straight up bangers or be fashionable, just trying to be true to myself first and foremost and if people like it that’s a bonus.
When you talk about making music with no specific formula or intention, what are you thinking of specifically? In other words, what artists, tunes, or styles have influenced you the most so that we can get a sense of your trajectory and what kind of sonic soup you’re drawing from.
There’s not enough time here to go through everything that has influenced me, as everything I’ve heard, seen or felt is informing what I’m writing. A lot of that influence isn’t music, its film, art or just life in general.
But my musical trajectory in a REALLY short and edited version would run from being a kid listening to rave mixtapes by DJs like Slipmatt to discovering Massive Attack and Portishead; to finding turntablism through seeing Sir Beans OBE; to UK hip hop with the likes of Task Force, Jehst and Aspects; to beats and breaks from people like Kenny Dope, Danny Breaks, DJ Shadow, RJD2; to dnb by peoples like Photek, Calibre, Teebee, Break, Digital, AI; to dubstep by the likes of Joker, Burial, Benga, Biome; to the sounds of Kromestar, Om Unit, Danny Scrilla, Graphs, etc.
Honestly I’ve missed out loads, like classic rock, classical, folk, soul, funk the list goes on. In fact the classical influence has really come into play lately. As for my previous work I guess it represents each of those musical points I described above, I’ve always kept moving and evolving. The most important thing to me is that I focus on the now and moving forward.
How do those influences surface when developing a tune or set of tunes – it seems like you are very free-form and I imagine that this attitude carries over into the studio as well.
I just sit down and write. Subconsciously that could be informed by music I’ve heard in the past or it could be just how I’m feeling at that moment or it could be from a film score I’d heard years ago. It’s all in there, but I don’t think about it, I just let it come out the way it wants to. I don’t straight sample other peoples music so it’s not like I listen to old tunes and take the influence and stick it in a tune. I sample and chop breaks and I sample atmosphere and sounds from nature and the city. All the tracks off the EP I would say came from me just jamming to begin with, playing chords with piano or strings and then hearing something I like, loop it up and slowly building it from there.
I’ll always add atmosphere early on, so “Eye Don’t Know” has recordings from the noise of being in a cafe for example and the weird monster sounding noise at the start of “Intervision” is the sound of two joints on a train rubbing together from a journey I did from Bratislava to Vienna, which I then messed with by automating the pitch and distorting it. Then I’ll start playing with drums, sometimes chopping up old breaks, sometimes using 808 samples, sometimes using my MPC (the end of “Night Sky Whispers” is an MPC beat), sometimes sampling stuff I’ve recorded out and about, like I hit the end of an umbrella against some wood and that’s the snare on “Eye Don’t Know.”
Then I’ll start work on the bass and the mid range gritty sounds, I might then fatten them up with other sounds like a cobra barking or in “Night Sky Whispers” there’s a World War 1 plane engine sat underneath a synth and both are put through an LFO. At that point it’s beginning to take shape and then over weeks, months, maybe a year, I’ll dip in and out of it, piecing things together and adding other elements, like other synth lines or crackle or a choir, etc. I could have over ten of these sketches on the go and then gradually some start to form quicker than others and then I go in deeper on those to finish them off. And then one day it’s just done.
Your approach to breaks is interesting – talk a bit about chopping beats and how that evolves alongside the more orchestral or atmospheric elements of your tunes.
I like the music to dictate the beats as much as possible rather than the other way around. So with “Night Sky Whispers” the orchestral parts were in before the beats, and as a result I think the beat rolls and sweeps in the same way as the strings, or at least I hope so.
You sample sources are fascinating – what does your sample library look like and how is it organised? Any other samples off the top of your head that may seem strange or out of the ordinary?
My sample library could do with some organisation to be honest! But there’s tons of beats and breaks a lot of which are sampled off vinyl that I’ve built up over the years. Then there’s a load of field recordings I’ve made which includes everything from hitting things against decaying wood and people talking in public spaces to car washes and snow crunching. Most of the music in my tracks isn’t sampled, it’s played, so really I only dip into the beats and the field recordings folders and maybe the acapella folders. Its basically a mess, I just get in there grab something and get out quick so I don’t worry about how unorganised it is!
“Co-Extinct” has the sound of a industrial metal lift door slamming shut and fireworks. “Intervision” has tribal chanting and EVP. “Night Sky Whispers” has a load of the sound of me being in a car wash. “Eye Don’t Know” has the cracking sound of me walking on ice. All those samples are messed with a lot, like distortion, reverb, pitch, etc.
What kind of software/hardware are you using to transform these samples into something new?
Software: My DAW is Nuendo 5. I use loads of different plug-ins but key ones are Camel Phat, Waves Renaissance, Massive, Omnisphere, and Albino 3. I also like a lot of the reverbs, filters, etc. that come with Nuendo to be honest. I also like the shit-ness of stuff like Sonik Synth 2 and the A1 synth that comes with Nuendo; they have a raw, crappy sound that I like. I do a lot of re-sampling and gradually distort things over and over, so they eventually sound like they’re off vinyl.
Hardware: Just my MPC 2000XL which I don’t use much at all now, but sometimes its just nice to have a play with it. I was pissing about with it and did the beat for the end of “Night Sky Whispers.” It’s nothing crazy but has a swing and dirt to it that I could probably only do on the MPC.
Bristol has a long tradition of producing some great dnb talent over the years. Especially for those of us outside the UK, what kind of place is Bristol and does that have anything to do with the kind of moody and often dark dnb that emerges from there?
Bristol has a long tradition of innovative music generally I think, its not just a dnb thing. Primarily I think it’s a bass thing; everything from the city has a strong focus on the low end. Maybe that’s to do with the big influence of the dub and reggae culture that has been part of the city since the ’60s. Bristol generally seems to be a very laid-back and friendly place,it has its dark sides like any city, but not on such a level that it could explain the dark dnb and other music that comes from here.
I wonder if it’s more that Bristol has always been a counter-culture type place, a city that doesn’t want to conform and is passionate about its identity. What could be more counter culture than a moody and dark sound? It’s the opposite to what is popular, it’s challenging, it’s saying: “This is for those that know, and those that don’t fuck ’em.” Or that could be bollocks! All I know is something must be special down here because anyone and everyone seems to be moving here from all over the country to make music.
Talk a bit about how the Intervision EP came together and how it found a home on Inflect.
As I said above I’m always working on 10-20 tracks at any one time so the Intervision EP came together over a six month period, playing with different ideas. The “Intervision” track came first and then I built the others around it. I’ve been talking with Coleco for a while and have been to a few Inflect nights, as it’s the only night repping this ‘uptempo/half time/dnb-inspired/whatever you want to call it music.’ I sent him the ideas for some feedback really and he liked them and it just rolled from there. I’m my own worst critic, so wasn’t sure if anything was any good, but I have to thank both Coleco and Lorna at Inflect for really encouraging me and giving me a lot of confidence in what I’m doing.
What’s the meaning behind the title and how does it frame the EP as a whole?
Meaning: As I’ve said above how I make music is very organic and natural, it’s coming from a non-forced and subconscious way. An ‘intervision,’ as opposed to an ‘inner vision’ to me sounded like a great way to describe this process. It’s more than an inner vision its going in deeper, into the soul.
“Eye Don’t Know” is one of the standout tunes that has been given the video treatment. Talk a bit about the tune and then how that was translated into a visual element by Valv.
This started with an old vocal session I recorded and hadn’t used. I found the line “I Don’t Know” which I liked and a few other bits and played around with it, messing with the pitch until an interesting pattern emerged. Then I put it on loop and just jammed some chords over the top and it developed from there.
The drum pattern is very footwork inspired and the synths and general grit seem to sound a bit John Carpenter to me now that I’m listening to it again. There’s a lot of contrast in there, I always like contrasting a heavy sound with something beautiful, its almost like there’s a sweet point where beauty meets grit. Once the basic elements were down, it just flowed and was just a matter of building the layers.
There’s atmosphere from recordings I made in a cafe, the snare is me hitting an umbrella against wood (I honestly don’t spend all my time going out just hitting wood). There’s the cracking sound of me walking on ice. Listening back now I can here a lot of dub influenced sounds in there, which probably came from nights spent at Cosies or the Criterion pub in Bristol. I think there might even be some Kate Bush influence in there somewhere. I honestly don’t over think it, its just a natural thing, which makes describing it difficult.
Me and Valv have been talking about making films together for a year now and our discussions have built up a massive bank of ideas, so when I finished the track I sent it straight over to him and we both agreed it fit with what we wanted to do visually. As for the vibe of the video he just texted me to say: “This is one of the weirdest edits I have ever worked on. I don’t think I need to take acid.” So that probably sums it up well.
Your tune “Stand Alone” was also recently featured in the GoPro: Afterglow – Night Skiing promo video on Youtube that has netted over 600k views. Was this a project you were involved in or was it a case of them just licensing your tune? Either way, how did it feel to have your tune matched with such powerful visuals – did they ‘interpret’ the vibe right?
Yeah I had no involvement in that, they just approached the publishers and licensed the track. It was great to see it matched with some mad footage and they cut it really well. That said I didn’t sit down and think of skiers skiing at night covered in LED lights when I wrote it! Someone told me on my travels that “true rebels walk alone” and that’s always stuck with me. That is what the track is about really, going against the tide, even when everyone else seems to be going the other way. In that respect them doing crazy shit at night up a mountain fits that mould.
What other projects are you working on right now? Do you have a sense of a larger aesthetic you’re working towards with all of your music or do you allow yourself creative freedom on each project and see where it goes?
I’ve got 10+ sketches on the go, but four have started to really take shape. One is finished and is a full vocal track with Malene Abuah, the others are almost there, but I don’t want to give too much away, they are all in the region of dnb bpm wise, and all are full of emotion and edgy film score vibes, and of course plenty of odd field recordings in there as well.
As for a ‘larger aesthetic’, I don’t want that to creep in, it muddies your thoughts and you make shit creative decisions. I’m keeping on my ‘being true to myself’ path and seeing where that leads me. Its far better for me personally to just write music when I can and see where it takes me than have a grand plan.
Talk a bit about your “Post Native” mixes. Am particularly interested in hearing the meaning/intention behind the title and how that translates into a philosophical or creative frame as a DJ.
When I started the Neuropol project it was about stripping all the shit back and going back to my roots and what I really wanted to be doing and saying. It’s about doing the music I love regardless of gigs, money and all the bullshit that goes with it. And I thought what epitomised that pure joy of music and the innocence I felt at the beginning was going to [the club] Native in Bristol, it was a really special place for me. Sadly it is no more, so I named the mixes ‘Post Native.’ It’s gone but its approach to music and the feeling I got from it is what I try and put in the mixes.
My approach to sets both live and for a mix is pretty much the same, only I go a bit deeper/weirder on mixes. They are the same as my tunes, I like to have a beginning, middle and end, like good story. I like them to have a good measure of new and old (I’m not obsessed with dubs) and more important that it sounds good. It has to have an ebb and flow rather than slam you in the face for 60 minutes straight. I like it to be clever, fusing things that you wouldn’t think would go together, or using 3 or 4 tracks together at a time. I like it to sound human, so I like a good measure of scratching in there. I also want it to be a bit challenging with selection.
When I was going to clubs like Native, the thing I loved was that I didn’t know any of the tunes, it wasn’t about playing guaranteed bangers, it was exciting because you were like “bloody hell what is this?!” Old or new it didn’t matter. I’m playing for the inquisitive minds, all are welcome for sure, but I think the non-inquisitive would hate what I do.
I understand you’ve got a mix for us as well – give us a sense of what kind of journey you’re taking us on. Is this something we should be lighting the incense and candles for?
This mix focuses on my passion for contrast, so there’s a lot of interplay between half time beats and dnb. Like my production the mix fuses deep melodies with heavy beats and bass, with a healthy measure of cuts for seasoning. It includes a couple of tunes from my Intervision EP, as well as tracks from Task Force, Danny Scrilla, Photek, Calibre and Kromestar to name a few.
Like I said above my mixes do ebb and flow, so you could definitely light the candles and incense, but be careful of those naked flames when the energy rises.