Arizona-based drum & bass producer Quentin Hiatus is back again with his latest release on his label Free Love Digi. The four-track EP titled The Conspirators is out now, and the sound is heavy, introspective, and raw. Quentin has earned his stripes and recognition from artists like Zeds Dead, Reid Speed, Sabre, Trace, Stunna, Loxy and more. We asked him a bit about his label, his release, and his juke/ footwork sound.
How long have you been making music? Tell us a bit about your first taste of drum & bass production.
I’ve been making music for about six years now. I was introduced to drum & bass by a really good friend of mine Dave Summers, who is known out here in Arizona as DFT and had been producing and playing dnb for a long time. I actually used to DJ UK hard house before then. So I kind of sat in the studio with him and saw how he did it. He was a pretty big mentor for me at that time.
Describe your progression as a DJ/producer. How has your style evolved over the years?
I would say I started out more “rave” style. A lot of synths, very arpeggiated, with a lot of trance and UK dance influence. In a lot of my earlier productions you can hear a lot of big, epic chords and that kind of stuff. I still make that kind of style because it’s very fun to me- it’s very nostalgic.
I’ve really gravitated towards a more cerebral, deeper, almost more guttural sound. Just a little bit more gritty and a little bit more mature, if you will. I mean, not everything is just sunshine and rainbows. I’ve been trying to reflect a more thought-driven sound into my tunes lately.
Your style is futuristic and pretty experimental. Where do you take inspiration from?
What’s funny is that I don’t really listen to a lot of other drum & bass. When I DJ of course I’ll go through tunes and things like that. But I kind of stay away from all drum & bass- especially the mainstream stuff and the bigger names- just because I don’t want to be too influenced and start making stuff that sounds like theirs.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Imogen Heap lately. Some Irish Folk, a lot of neo-soul, hip-hop, and super deep dubstep like Biome and things like that. It really lends itself to my sound. If you listen you can hear it in my work, and it’s kind of cool introducing that kind of stuff to drum & bass. I’ve been making a lot of half-time stuff like juke and footwork for a long time, but it’s really starting to get popular again.
Where do you think this “future bass” sound fits into the drum & bass spectrum?
I think what’s held drum & bass back from the “mainstream” is just that it’s so fast for people who don’t listen to it regularly. It’s just such a high tempo. The half time beats that I make kind of slow it down and make it more of a head-nodding experience rather than a trying-to-keep-up experience.
I really think that drum & bass as a whole would do a lot better, in terms of adoption by people who don’t know it as well, if people would stop segregating it so much. It becomes too hard for people who aren’t educated in drum & bass to find what they want.
If we keep saying “I only like neurofunk” or “I only listen to jump-up” it becomes more counter-productive than anything. It also becomes kind of egocentric and tribalistic- like everyone belongs to a certain tribe.
What do you like about being a stateside junglist? How is the scene in Arizona?
Being African American, I come from a very amazing culture. It’s great that we enjoy a lot of freedoms here and, if you choose to channel it, you can have a lot of breathing room to create music. Being a musician is expensive- it doesn’t matter what type of musician you are- it typically requires some kind of money.
Pop culture can sometimes get in the way of real creativity, but I think on a global scale it’s always hard for Americans to prove that they’re thought-driven. We all get jumped into the “SUV culture” where none of us are intellectuals – which is bullshit. It’s nice to show people that we can hold it down too.
Obviously the UK is the centre of drum & bass, but America has a lot of amazing talent. Mostly what it comes down to are PR skills and networking connections – which are things we have to work on here. We have to work on finding different media channels where we can uplift each other, which is ultimately why I started Free Love Digi.
Free Love Digi is your eccentric drum & bass label with an emphasis on neuro styles. How do you choose the artists you feature? What’s up next for the label?
I mostly started Free Love Digi to support local artists here in Arizona who were amazing, but weren’t getting any love. It was also to have a way to release my own music without having to deal with some other label. I got tired of hearing “no” and I got tired of having my homies, who are super talented, be ignored. I would send out so many demos when I first started producing, and I would most often get no response at all. I told myself from the very beginning that I would not run a label like that.
When I first started the label I put out all kinds of genres. I released everything from popular dubstep to deep drum & bass. It’s funny because the third artist I signed was Luminox¬, and if you know anything about trap, the dude is like Trap Jesus now. It’s amazing to be a part of it really, and I’d like to see that happen for a lot of my artists. That’s why I take the PR stuff seriously. A lot of these guys just can’t do it for themselves for one reason or another- so I like to try and help them with that.
In terms of releases, more stuff from Fade will be coming soon from the Ukraine. More stuff from Atic out of Colorado. His old partner from the Critical Waves group has a release coming up in the next couple days as well. I really am focusing on the core five to seven artists that I have on the label for the next year or so.
It becomes so much harder to manage when you start taking on a lot of people. Ultimately I would like Free Love Digi to be more of a democratic system- and some people don’t really fit into that. The journey is what matters, and not really the end goal.
The Conspirators EP is your new release and the sound is definitely introspective and heavy. Why did you go in this direction with the EP?
The first track I completed on the EP was “Nyctophilia”, featuring Kryptomedic. We had been talking about doing a track together so he sent some vocals over. I ended up taking the hook part of the vocal out and I used a pretty deep verse that was in there. I wanted to leave a lot of space for that, so I put in some minimal percussion and bass tones around it.
Everything else kind of derived from that minimalistic, but still edgy, half time feel. The only tune that still has a lot of spastic-ness to it is “Don’t Touch That”, the last tune on the EP. It’s pretty crazy in the drum area, but I played it out in Denver and it went over really, really well. I’d say the process of the EP was kind of deeper leading towards chaotic. I’m a pretty chaotic person mentally, but I’ve learned how to center myself, so I wanted to show both sides of that.
What’s your favourite track off The Conspirators?
The one that has the most meaning to me in the “Hear Me” tune, just because it’s got some really warm vocals in it and a lot of filtering. It has a lot of deep American hip-hop feel to it, which is why I put it on there. The close second would be “New Spirit”. That one I just hit right on the nose with the way it was put together. That’s the one I’ve seen most people gravitating towards. Quite a few people have been hitting me up lately about that particular tune, which is pretty cool.
Where do you plan on going from here?
I make so much damn music it’s crazy. I’ll be releasing a lot of my own stuff consistently, mostly on my label. I don’t necessarily want to be stuck in one style, but I will definitely continue to explore the deeper side of things. In November I’ll probably be out in the Seattle area.
I’m a professional by day, a father, and a husband, and that stability really comes first for me. Fade and I will be finishing up some tracks together, and I have a project with Resound right now. You’ll probably see me collaborating with a select group that’s close to me right now.
Any other things you’d like to add or shouts you’d like to give?
Just thanks to everyone who’s been along the journey. I know how hard it is to be a music producer, especially in drum & bass with so many elitists around. The one thing I do want to say is: it doesn’t matter whether your tunes are the cleanest, or if someone doesn’t respond to you when you send out a tune. At the end of the day, it’s a form of communication, and not everyone is going to understand you. If you don’t care what anyone else thinks – just make tunes for yourself. Nurturing your sound is ultimately the best thing you can do.