After featuring the sexy old school-meets-new school vibes of his latest EP, ‘Haze’, in our T5TotW series, we caught up with Scottish UKG producer Blackboxx for a little chat.
First of all, we want to say your ‘Haze’ EP is hands down one of our favourite releases of the year so far! Tell us a bit about how it came together and what the main inspiration was behind it?
Thankyou. I wanted to recreate a sound that was kinda reminiscent of the late 90s garage movement, which for me relied more on melody; the kinda stuff I used to hear on the radio growing up. I wanted to make music that you could dance to in a club but also that was soulful and could be held in its own right. A new take on UKG I guess.
What’s your typical process for making a track?
So first I would usually start by playing in a chord sequence or finding a sample and chopping it up to a point it no longer really resembles anything like the original song. From here that idea seems to spark melodoies in my head and I’ll record them. At that point I’ll focus on writing a beat that seems to tie everything together. The last and most fun part for me is usually the vocals. I’ll spend a lot of time getting vocals from different sources, time stretching, chopping and pitching them in a way it creates a new melody that tries to compliment the song.
Do you tend to focus on writing an EP as a whole or is it more a case of making individual tracks and figuring out which one’s work best together?
I think an EP should kinda have a theme or motif that ties everything together. For me that can range from anything such as the mood the songs conjure or even the production style. Thats why I think things like artwork are so important; I like to see the EP as a snapshot of a particular mood or time in an artists life. Things like artwork and song order really help to reinforce this and are very important to me.
‘I remember hearing Burials debut album for the first time when it came out. I hadn’t heard anything like it.
What are 3 things you can’t go without when making music?
The quickest way for me to get ideas down and the way I programme all my drums is using the Maschine DAW. I’ve used this since i started making electronic music and the way it integrates with Logic is so seamless so I’d have to say both these programmes are vital to me. As well as those, I’d say for bass sounds I’ve not used something as versatile and intuitive as Massive. Ive tried other synths VSTs but always end up coming back to this one.
What do you find is the best way to break through creative block?
I used to have the mindset of ‘I have to sit down and write music everyday.’ Kinda trying to force ideas out even if nothing is coming. Now, I’ll be more likely to become immersed in a book or a certain album, something that reignites that spark that made me want to make music in the first place, then start making music. I think now its more important to get myself in a place where I feel like I need to express something particular through music, rather than view it as an almost 9-5 like process. Even if this means you are coming out with less songs, I think the songs you do come out with will be from a purer place and have more significance.
You’ve released the bulk of your material on Slime Recordings – how did that relationship come about?
About three years ago I just sent them a couple of demos. I thought it would be a good place to get my music out there as I was influenced heavily by acts like Submerse and this really drew me to Slime. Andy [owner of Slime Recordings] has never tried to make me fit in a box of strictly garage with my productions and I’ve genuinely appreciated the freedom that comes with this because sometimes I like to experiment.
Being from Scotland, do you think you have a different perspective on UK Garage than someone from London?
I guess now thinking about it I never really heard garage music in clubs before I started making it. I was always more into artists such as Burial where it’d be a more atmospheric journey I would get lost in on my headphones. This is the approach I took when making music, I never really thought about playing it in clubs. But, since getting gigs and DJing a lot more this is something that has changed. I guess it didn’t make much of a difference though where I was from as I think we as a generation are so lucky to have everything available, like DJ sets on YouTube, to draw influence from.
What was it that made you want to produce UKG?
I remember hearing Burials debut album for the first time when it came out. I hadn’t heard anything like it. I guess when people describe something as life changing, this was as close as it got for me. From there, I found out what the type of beat he was using was, and people would say 2 step so I started looking into that. This led me to old school garage. When I listened to artists such as Nu-Birth, Scott Garcia and The B15 Project I felt nostalgic as these were songs on the radio when I was growing up. It kinda took me back to some really happy times and had this vibe that I didn’t, and still can’t get, with any other music. I thought if I could make people feel that way when listening to my music it would be pretty amazing.
If you could work with 3 producers in the scene right now, who would it be and why?
For me the best producers in the new UKG scene are Mind of A Dragon, Doctor Nick and Conducta. Any one of these I would love to work with. If we were to look a bit further afield into more atmospheric kinda future garagey stuff, I would say Nemea. I’ve chatted to him before and he’s given me advice on some mixdowns etc and helped me out quite a lot. He’s a genuinely nice guy and when I listen to a song like ‘Daphne’ it’s still one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. I think our styles would work well together.
Finally, what’s coming next for Blackboxx?
Right now Im working on a new EP. This one’s gonna be quite different; a lot more atmospheric at a slightly lower tempo. I’m loving just taking influence from further afield artists and not worrying about it fitting in the garage pigeon hole. I’ve got a lot of ideas and I’m excited about it. I’m also working a lot on my DJing, playing out a lot more has been fun. Im just looking forward to creating some music thats a bit different but still ties into what I’ve been doing.
Blackboxx – ‘Haze’ EP is out now on Slime Recordings. Stream it below.