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Interview: dBridge & Instra:mental

Whilst dBridge & Instra:mental have their own salubrious solo careers (former Bad Company member, dBridge, and hot shot producers, Al Bleek and Kid Drama, Instra:mental), it is perhaps as their collaborative tripartite that they have garnered the most interest. Drawing together a wealth of influences, the trio have attracted the attention of techno, house, dubstep and drum n bass aficionados around the world with their eclectic, far-reaching forays into electronic music, with their genre-hopping ‘Autonomic’ podcast series.

The start of 2010 has seen the launch of dBridge & Instra:mental’s fabriclive 50: Autonomic CD – a testament to their ongoing success and heritage in the underground dance music scene, the mix also marks a pinnacle in their studio partnership, and embodies the Autonomic ethos: “Any music, any style and any tempo, as long as we like the music”.

Juno Plus scribe Belinda Rowse caught up with Al Bleek from Instra:mental and Darren (dBridge) to discuss their work together, the fabriclive mix and where they are headed in 2010.

So, Al what’s been happening with Instra:mental recently?

Al: Since we finished the Autonomic CD we’ve just been doing a ton of interviews, lots and lots of gigs and sorting out the tour for the fabric album. dBridge & Instra:mental are going over to New Zealand in a couple of weeks. We’re also taking Club Autonomic on tour: we’ve got a lot of European gigs coming in now, but we’re going to concentrate on the UK for the next couple of months.

What have you got planned for your label, Non Plus for 2010?

Al: The next release is a three track EP on Non Plus, which is number five, which is by Actress and after that we’ve mastered ASC’s album and that’s set to drop around April. Just after that will be Vaccine and we’ve got releases coming up by Kyle Hall, Zombie, Jimmy Edgar and Loefah and possibly more Skream material coming this way as well. Later in the year we’ve got the Instra:mental album dropping on Non Plus.

Sounds exciting – so what can we expect from the Instra:mental album then or is it still in the early stages?

Al: I guess there’ll be something on there for everyone, but it’s going to be all over the show, it’s going to be a real mix. We’ve just bought some new machines for the studio to write the album on and get a fresh perspective of everything from. It’s going to be range from 110 bpm right up to 170, so there’s going to be a real spectrum. It’s all about electronic music, that’s what we like to think we write, we don’t like to categorise it really; it’s just the tempo that categorises most genres and even when we write at say 140bpm, which is a dubstep tempo, we don’t really consider what we write to be dubstep. We just write electronic music, and that’s what our album will be, an album of electronic music.

And what’s been going on in the world of dBridge recently?

Darren: All the Autonomic stuff has pretty much taken up my life for the last year and definitely since we started the podcasts. Personally, production-wise I’ve just been singing more, getting a new string to my bow in terms of my music and enjoying it too. Instra:mental have been pushing me in that side of things. Since the first release, “Wonder Where” on their label, which had me in it, there’s been Martyn’s album – I sung on “These Words” – so it’s been going from strength to strength and people have been asking me to do more stuff. It was a confidence thing with singing, that’s why I never really did it.

Your vocal tracks, particularly ones like “Inner Disbelief”, which appear on the fabric mix CD, have been very well received – have you got more vocal work lined up for this year?

Darren: Yeah, I eventually want my next album to be a lot more vocal. I’ve written some tracks already but I’m not really playing them out; there’s some stuff me and Instra:mental have done as well which are full-on songs. I’ve been having fun writing lyrics and writing songs; it’s a whole new level, the images you can conjure up with words. I did a track on Breakage’s new album called “Justified” with a girl called Erin singing, and I wrote the lyrics for that. I like the idea of writing songs for other people. On the podcast as well, the first one, “Seems Like”, I co-wrote with Riya. I’m really enjoying this new thing that’s pushing me in what I’m doing.

“We just write electronic music, and that’s what our album will be, an album of electronic music”

What else have you got planned for your label, Exit Records, this year?

Darren: At the moment I’ve got Abstract Elements, a System 12”, then Code 3, then I’ve got a 12” coming out, Consequence is working on a new album, and I’m working on a new album. My brother has got this new project called Black Pocket, which I’ve been releasing. I’m also going to be trying some different things out this year; obviously, I’m known for D&B but I want to spread my wings in terms of the music I put out.

OK, moving on to fabriclive 50, how did the album come about – did fabric approach you about it initially or was it an idea you had, leading on from the podcast series?

Darren: They approached us actually. I was quite surprised; we’d already had a CD ready to go and were just about to master the vinyl of ‘Autonomic Volume 1’ as we’d always had the idea of bringing the music to the people, as it were. So we literally had the CD ready to go and then they approached us, so we thought in the grand scheme of things, it probably would be better to wait because of the profile of doing a CD like this would bring to us. When we found out it was their 100th CD and number fifty (for fabriclive) and all that, we were like, “are you sure want us to do that?!” But they’ve been big fans – they offered us the residency before we did the CD as well, so we were building a close relationship over the years, and it felt like quite a natural thing.

What different skills, influences or techniques do Instra:mental and dBridge bring to the table, production-wise when you collaborate?

Al: It’s hard to say without pissing anyone off! There’s Instra:mental: me, Al Bleek and Kid Drama, I like to mix the tunes down and sit on the boards and make things sound good. Darren brings his own sound, his plays his own keys, he brings his own special cuts. As a producer or musician, you know which keys and chords you’d like to work in and that’s what he brings to the table – he sprinkles his own little bit of dBridge on it. As for Instra:mental we just sit there and do our thing – we chop and change and bounce off each other.

Can you talk about some of the key tracks on the mix, how you put it together, the thoughts behind it and why you chose the arrangement and artists you did?

Al: We wanted this to be like the best podcast we’d ever done, basically. The difference was this time we asked a variety of people outside D&B – Skream, Scuba, Distance – to write some tracks at 85 or 170 bpm exclusively for the mix, so you’ve got those on there that you won’t hear them anywhere else, as well as the other stuff, and we wrote a couple of exclusive bits for it. We just wanted to try and create something that flowed, but at the same time utilized the tempo change between 170 and 85bpm, because once someone’s listened to this CD and found out that every track is at the same tempo, they find it hard to believe because it goes through a lot of different phases- it’s kinda rolling, then it goes minimal, then it goes half-time, so it really goes through the motions and when you listen to it it’s really hard to believe it’s all at one tempo. That’s the beauty of the 170bpm mark.

“It goes through a lot of different phases- it’s kinda rolling, then it goes minimal, then it goes half-time, and when you listen to it it’s really hard to believe it’s all at one tempo. That’s the beauty of the 170bpm mark”

We’ve heard rumours of more big things planned for Autonomic – what’s all this about an Instra:mental and dBridge joint venture?

Al: Yeah, we’re starting an Autonomic record label as well. The first release is mastered, we’ve just got the test pressings in and we’re just sorting out the artwork, so that should be in the shops within six to eight weeks. That first release is going to be Instra:mental & dBridge, a track called “Detroit”, and another track by Instra:mental, dBridge & Skream called “Acacia Avenue”. And then there’s loads of stuff that hasn’t come out on the podcasts that people are screaming for. We would like to hit an Autonomic release in March or April, and once the first one’s dropped we’d like to hit a release a month for at least the next twelve months so we can really flood the market with Autonomic music and get everyone else involved and playing it in their sets. We have been a little bit greedy and slow releasing it, but it’s all been building up to this point. We’d like to think that the time’s right to do this now.

Interview: Belinda Rowse

You can buy dBridge and Instra:mental’s fabriclive mix from Juno Records and Juno Download.

The guys will be playing at fabric this Friday, February 12 with James Black, Consequence and more. Find out more here.