SB81 Guest Mix

Originally making a name for himself as Nolige in the early 2000s with releases on imprints like Bassbin, Architecture, and Scientific Wax, the Wolverhampton native known as SB81 has resurfaced with a new moniker and sense of focus that has been causing serious waves at the Metalheadz HQ.

Having just unleashed The Blueprints EP for the seminal imprint, Kmag touches down for an exclusive mix and chat about everything from growing up near Goldie’s hood on through to the meaning behind his new name.

First off, introduce yourself to our readers and where you’re hailing from in the world…

Hello! My name is Shaun Bateman aka SB81 aka Nolige from Wolverhampton, West Midlands, UK.

From what I understand you grew up in the same city as Goldie? Were you friends back in the day?

Yeah, Goldie’s area was Heath Town in Wolverhampton, and mine was Low Hill, which was one of the next boroughs to it about a 15 minute walk away.

I was never too adventurous in my teens going around Heath Town though because it was pretty intimidating with the gangs around there, especially if you were from a different borough; it was just a quick in and out job usually, haha.

I actually now live in Heath Town so it’s an inspiring time to be involved with Metalheadz in a way because of its history and connection with Goldie here; people still carry the love for Goldie with the passion for graffiti that happens around this area.

Now of course, before your recent incarnation as SB81, you were known as Nolige. Talk a bit about your journey into drum & bass and the birth of Nolige…

I was brought up from an early age listening to old 60s, 70s and 80s music through my parents; they were always listening to music and my mom had a crateful of vinyl from her teens that I always used to play with from Motown stuff to ABBA!

When I was around eight or nine I was massively into Michael Jackson with an obsession with ‘Bad’ and ‘Thriller’, hehe. Still being at the age of nine I started going to my cousins every Sunday and I heard all kinds of underground stuff from different genres like House, Techno, Hip-Hop and Soul from my cousin’s vinyl collection. What really caught my ear though was the Hardcore stuff; I just found it mesmerising and intriguing with the fast breakbeats and random samples that were being used.

I was always into the darker and dreamier sounding stuff and Nebula II’s ‘Atheama’ on Reinforced Records was the tune that really took my head off with those Amens and Mentasms; that and all the early Acen & Dice releases on Production House too.

Going forward a few years and after consistently listening to various tape packs up until around 1998, I then decided it was time to start buying vinyl properly; I think my first vinyl purchases were Bill Riley’s ‘Closer’ on Full Cycle, and Ed Rush & Optical’s ‘Wormhole’ LP on Virus. I was buying vinyl and messing around with an old record player alongside a cassette player to try and learn beat-matching, it was a new obsession!

In 2000/1 I discovered Music 2000 on the PlayStation and I learnt how to lay out beats in that program, which had always been on my mind – I loved it. Somewhere around 2003 I started using Reason as a DAW before moving onto Cubase which led me to having my first release on Bassbin Records with ‘Innersense’ in 2005.

Where did the name Nolige come from?

My name actually came about after being given a last minute slot to play on a local radio station and believe it or not, there was a Knowledge Mag that was sitting there that I used as inspiration, changing the spelling of course so it was a bit different, haha! What can I say, I was pushed for time and it just seemed to make sense at the time.

You had a pretty solid run going and then about a year ago you decided to take a break from the scene – what happened?

It was just a change of circumstances in life that led me to change things up with my production and outlook on things in general. In 2011 I joined college on an art & design course after years of having crappy jobs that I was getting fed up with.

Since then I have moved three times and the first time I moved was when I had a year out of doing no production. I think I needed it to think about things and recalibrate myself. I was also just completely uninspired with where d&b was at the time (d&b has always had that effect on me, like I’m sure it does for many other people so I’m used to dipping in and out of inspiration with it). I eventually moved into a new place of my own and it gave me a fresh outlook on things again.

What drew you back in and is there any specific significance or meaning to your new production name?

Before I had my year out of d&b I was making the odd house and techno thing with long-time friend Skitty under the alias of Brukrode, which Skitty now uses for his own techno tracks. In my year out I started to put house and techno mixes together under SB81 with my intention being to produce house and techno under that name, but I just ended up doing around 12 mixes or so for something to listen to.

The name itself simply comes from my initials and date of birth, because this time I wanted to keep my name as true to myself as possible – haha.

You’ve just had your second outing on Metalheadz – talk a bit about linking up with the crew and how both of these EPs came about…

Under my Nolige alias I’d never actually sent Metalheadz any of my music because I just didn’t think it was fitting to what ‘Headz were putting out at the time and it was also down to me not having much confidence with passing my stuff over to them thinking it wouldn’t be good enough. I’ve always thought if I’m going to send them anything then I needed to feel completely confident with the material especially due to my links with Wolverhampton and Goldie.

Even so, I remember passing over a CD with one track on it along with my number to Goldie at a Metalheadz night in London at the Bridge & Tunnel club in 2003. The very next day I got a phone call from him, which obviously blew my mind because it was the first ever track I’d written, recorded and sent out to anyone.

I remember him saying that I had potential but I needed to sort out my ‘cueing’, which I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, so all I could say was, errm, ok cool, haha! And that was that really, I never had the confidence to send anything else on through but what it did do is spur me on and give me inspiration to keep trying, so I’m ever grateful to Goldie for that.

Going forward exactly ten years later and after making a name change and a slight change in sound, I decided to send Metalheadz an unofficial remix of an old ‘Headz track (which I won’t name, hehe). I didn’t hear anything back for a couple of weeks, so I decided to hit up Goldie himself and the response I got back was, let’s say, a reality check; he basically didn’t like it, so to try and save myself from the stairs I asked if I could send over FOUR new things and he loved them! This became the ‘Four Tun’ EP. I couldn’t believe it really, it was a turning point in my years of making music and a new lease of life in my progress of producing d&b.

From that first release I made another six or seven tracks, which weren’t quite up ‘Headz street so I released them as an EP on Bandcamp soon after. I made another eight tracks after that and have been fortunate enough to have some more signed by ‘Headz.

You’ve got some big warehouse bangers on this latest EP, ‘Blueprints’ seems to especially go for that deep and deadly sound while ‘Arq’ is a straight-up halftime thriller. There seems to be a strong experimental vibe to these tunes that reflects your overall approach to music – talk a bit about how you see your sound evolving and how it echoes a time when drum & bass was a little deeper and darker.

I’ve always been into the dark and experimental kind of music from an early age (after that Jacko phase, obviously, haha). Similar to how I started out making tracks under my Nolige alias, it felt natural to slip back into that mode again.

I like the thought of producing music and not quite knowing where a track is going to end up; it makes the process more enjoyable for me, rather than making something very formula and generic; music has to take me somewhere and keep me thinking. I also like to try and tell a story and visualise something and get a sense of progression and journey, whether that comes across in my music or not, that is normally my intention when making most of my music.

I would also add that it is producers like Photek, Krust, Optical, Source Direct and Goldie over the years that have showed me that music is more than just making something for the dancefloor.

One of the highlights of this EP is the ‘Four Tun’ refix – talk a bit about the original and what made you decide to give it a 170bpm makeover. In addition to the tempo change, the vibe of the tune shifted a bit as well – was that intentional or just a result of going back to the lab on it?

The original version of ‘Four Tun’ was the second track I’d made after ‘SiMi’, which was also slower in bpm around the 159/160bpm mark and it was made as like a sort of reversal and a contrast in the fact that it sounds darker and more contemporary in its approach.

Listening back to the original I find it has a kind of grime-meets-’97-d&b-sound in a strange kind of way. For me, I found ‘Four Tun’ was very different to anything I’d produced before and I really liked some of the snares and atmospheres I’d used in that track so that’s why I thought to use some of the elements and take a slightly different angle and change the bpm up a bit to see where it went.

I also like how the original progressed throughout into different sections so I wanted to try and take it on a similar journey with the remix but in a more chilled and dreamy approach.

The whole EP is wicked so props on that. Before we jump in the mix, let us know what other projects you’ve got lined up!

There is going to be another five track EP coming on Metalheadz/META soon which will come with full cover artwork that I have submitted for it so I’m really excited about that one! Other than that I’m just currently working on new material for ‘Headz to hopefully get more future releases so keep an eye out.

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Download SB81’s Kmag guest mix here