Joe Syntax interview
Joe Syntax has recently dropped the excellent Modus Bass Fun ep.
DB: What was your approach when you were building up to the ep? How would you describe what you do to someone new to it?
JS: It wasn’t the smoothest process; a couple of the tunes came out quickly and some of them took more time to produce.
I wanted to put out a very much dancefloor geared EP, that’s the direction I’m in at the moment. With regards to my tunes I always think they sound quite disparate but I’ve been told I have quite a distinct sound, I guess there’s definitely a techno, electro vibe going on within them.
I made the switch from Reason to Ableton this year, so in part this EP represents my first batch tunes made in that daw. I’m still getting to grips with it to be honest, it’s difficult finding a creative flow in a new program until you know it inside out but I’m getting there.
DB: What primarily swept you into the raging current of D&B?
JS: I think I was quite inspired by going out clubbing when I first moved to London, going to places like Heaven, Fabric and Herbal – I actually got more into D&B when I moved to london, it makes more sense in a big city I guess.
DB: And how was Fabric recently? I heard glowing reports of your set.
JS: Yeah Fabric was wicked. I havent seen Fabric that busy in a while, the whole place was buzzing. The Med School room had a really varied line up with Rachel K Collier doing a live PA with Lung then a tempo switch with Phaeleh playing. I think the variety contributed to the vibe, it really went off.
DB: I am really curious about this process: how does it all translate to production? I mean is it a case of being out at nights and imagining certain tunes in the set, then going back and making them? Both as a participant AND DJ?
JS: No, I just sit down and move blocks of color around the screen until they begin to sound like something vaguely interesting.
I often have a vibe in my head, or a tempo that I’m going in at but it’s all about the here and now when I’m making tunes. I often write it with a place in mind, like where I’d like to play it out but I don’t really think about it before I’m sitting there writing.
DB: When do you produce? Are you a nightowl?
JS: Mainly during the day… I’d like to work at night more but it would annoy my housemates and neighbours and I prefer working from speakers and not headphones.
Sometimes I do work on the arrangement in headphones in to the wee hours but it’s never the same for me as on my monitors. I am however a nightowl and tend to stay up late until ungodly hours.
DB: What is around – any style or genre – that you love right now?
JS: I couldn’t pinpoint a style, I listen to all sorts. I’m really feeling Digitalism’s last album, it’s not really new but I’ve just discovered it. It’s got some beefy production and is full of catchy house riffs. Gessafelistein is making some nice brooding dark techy stuff, it’s very serious with a stripped back Parisian vibe … if you get me. I’m feeling that.
DB: Speaking of genres, do you think genres are mattering less and less? I mean if you do dubstep/downtempo, whatever it just doesn’t matter, as long as you’re on fire as a DJ with a great rep. Or are genres really good as they build expectation leading up to a night, like lots of variety on the menu when you go to eat out.
JS: I’m not sure if genres have ever been a big deal, you get artists who sound the same when making a tune at 140 as they do when working at 170. Style seems to be more important for electronic musicians. It’s sometimes good to set yourself limitations as a producer and see what can be done within a boundary like a tempo for example and I’d say D&B is more of a tempo than a genre. I have mates who aren’t into D&B that recognise some of it as happy hardcore, with the huge trance riffs and offbeat bass at 175 bpm, and they’re not wrong, it’s near identical. Then you have completely leftfield sparse music which has its roots in ambience and experimentalism. The difference is so vast that ‘genre’ becomes a little obsolete, I think.
DB: Interesting view. OK, the fly on the wall question: any studio session in history, which one do you wish you were at?
JS: Hard question. I think it would have to be a session with Leftfield. Their album ‘Leftism’ is one of my all time favorites. I’d be intrigued to see the process behind producing such a masterpiece.
“Modus Bass Fun” EP out now on Med School Music