Welcome to The Director's Cut, a brand new feature for us here on Magnetic Mag. In this new series, our favorite artists walk us through the creative process of their latest album, not so much technically, but conceptually. Think of this as our 'How It Was Made' series for a greater audience. This is an extremely personal look through a producer's eyes on how and why they made each track, as well as the meanings behind them. Our first guest is one of Drum & Bass's finest talents, the ultra-emotional and smooth Lenzman, whose new album is out now on Metalheadz.
How to listen: There are a couple of ways to proceed. First, you can listen to the whole album, which you will find below, and then read the notes. Or, read the notes as you listen to each track. This will completely change your perspective on the whole release itself and bring you closer to the artist and their work.
Arctic Berry (Introduction)
There are a few interludes on the album and while writing I tried capturing a specific feeling on each one. Something with personal meaning. To me, sounds, music and smells can be strongly linked to certain memories. While I was writing the album I made some field recordings near my mother’s place in Dorset. I spent a lot of time there in my youth and it was there that friends first introduced me to Drum & Bass music - which has become such a big part of my life. It felt appropriate to start off the journey there. As for the title: “Arctic Berry” - This is a bit crazy, but I recently smelled some shampoo, the flavour was “Arctic Berry”, and the fragrance strongly reminded me of this bubble bath my mother used to have. I hadn’t smelled it since I was 10 but instantly took me back there to those early days.
This track started off as a remix for a Goldie piece actually. The issue was that the vocals in the original track were at a tempo so far removed from Drum & Bass, that it made stretching them a problem. I tried a lot of different things, faster or slower, chopping them, but the chopping didn't work and the stretching algorithm made them sound terrible. So, in the end, I remixed something else for him. I was really happy with the drums and bass on this though, and with Goldie’s blessing ended up removing the music from the original and I wrote new material around what was left over. It felt a bit like reverse engineering and I’d never usually work like this, but I think it came out nice.
Rain feat. Children Of Zeus
The music on this track went through a few changes in its creation. I wanted to make something a bit more moody, brooding somehow. And it didn’t fall into place until the final months of the writing. In the end, I went with a less is more approach and it caused a breakthrough. I had been speaking to Children or Zeus about doing an original track together ever since the Still Standing Remix, but we’d all been doing our own things. They were obviously busy writing a future classic album and I was doing label stuff. Anyway, Food with Konny had been in the works for some time, on Flatbush actually, but we ended up switching beats. And I had played him what would become Rain as well. He really liked it, and I can’t remember who suggested it, but a few weeks later I got these fire Children Of Zeus vocals back that totally fit the mood and the rest is history.
On Misty, I started by laying down some chords that felt quite moody so I went for something a bit more dubby and played around with the bass automation a little bit. Typically in my back catalogue, I’ve tended to go with busier drums, that give tracks more energy perhaps, and it’s not always by choice. I tend to struggle to get more minimal sounding drums “right”. So that was another angle I wanted to take on this. Something that sounded compact but vibey. Something for the smokers.
Hollis (Over & Over)
This is probably my personal favourite track off the album. It’s pure Jazz to me and although it is stripped back and kind of understated, hopefully, keeps the listener interested with how it progresses. Incidentally it also vaguely reminds me of one of my favourite tracks on Metalheadz: Peshay's “On The Nile”, in the way the bassline dances around. Not that I was consciously setting out to do that, but while I’m writing it I think I always carry my early musical influences with me. They shaped who I am in many ways.
Easy Now (Generations Interlude)
The album title “Bobby”, refers to my daughter’s stuffed toy dog, which she named herself. Becoming a father had made me revisit my own childhood with new insights and this had been on my mind a lot. I used those memories and the soundtrack from my younger years as inspiration for the LP. “Bobby” symbolizes the journey for me. This is really the core of the album concept. Family. I took some recordings at my 96-year-old grandmother's place. She can be heard sharing family stories with four generations in the room. I think subconsciously it was a moment that I needed to share with my future self.
This one almost didn't make the cut. The track has grown on me and I like it now, but initially, I wasn’t convinced and thought about not including this on the album. But, LSB was really into it though, he put it in one or two mixes and since others have said the same, which eventually convinced me to add it. I'm mostly happy with the drums on this. They have a nice groove to them that's tight but loose at the same time. I named this Roseland after the Roseland Ballroom, a legendary Jazz club as it has that vintage 50’s Jazz feel.
Pictures Of You feat. DRS
I wrote the music to this fairly early on and had it lying around for a while. I had the title too as the mood made me feel melancholic and it reminded me of looking at old pictures, thinking about better days somehow. I always knew it was one of the best ideas too, I liked how the bass sparred with the piano riff, but it was perhaps a bit sparse. Enter DRS - someone who I’ve worked with quite a bit over the years. The way he bares his soul, it makes his music so very special. And that side of him felt like a perfect match for the music.
Blu Life feat. Artificial Intelligence
About 18 months ago Artificial Intelligence asked me if I wanted to write a track with them for a compilation album they were putting out and we wrote a track called Drowning. And in the middle of me writing my own LP they hit me up again and sent me a couple of new sketches to start something else. Blu Life was the result of that. I’ve been into their music since their very first release on Commercial Suicide. They also released some of my early work on Integral, back in 2008, 2009 - Ever So Slightly for instance, which was quite an important release for me early on. The flip – Little Brother – was the first track I remember Goldie actually commenting on. So it was nice to connect with them on the album, as they had been supporters of mine from early on.
Noodles feat. LSB
LSB has been such a force in Drum & Bass recently. I like virtually everything he writes and that rarely happens for me. As we operate in the same segment in the scene and we have a lot of mutual respect it was great to have him on the album. We have been meaning to collaborate for a while; and I have to be honest, considering we speak regularly and have such similar tastes, it's been odd that somehow it hasn’t quite happened to the extent we have talked about. We'll change that soon though! Noodles was developed from a loop he had sent me and was stuck on from how I remember it. I instantly loved it. We both worked on it a bit until we were both happy and luckily he allowed me to have it for the album.
What Remains (Meursault’s Theme)
Meursault is the protagonist of probably my favourite novel: Albert Camus’ The Outsider (also translated as The Stranger). He chooses not to conform to society’s rules; and - I’m paraphrasing here - he pays for it. The book has always resonated with me because I don’t feel comfortable living by society’s rules most of the time, I've always felt like I had to walk my own path. A career in underground music, being independent it has brought me great beauty and happiness, but it can also be lonely and filled with uncertainty. This interlude captured that feeling perfectly for me. And it’s an important part of the life I lead. I made some field recordings while at an airport gate, it symbolises something desolate almost, but I'm at peace with the choices I’ve made.
I wanted to write a track that paid some tribute to the early days, of the time I had just started buying records and was mixing (badly) Drum & Bass music for the first time. We're talking 1996. People like Dillinja, Optical, and DJ Die for example. I still wanted the track to retain a strong element of Jazz. To me, Old Song draws on ideas borrowed from the 90s but hopefully still feels at home on the album. It’s a bit heavier and I had a lot of fun writing it. I do like getting out of my comfort zone sometimes.
This beat was the first thing I wrote for the album. As I wrote above, initially this was for Konny; but we ended up picking Food for the vocal instead. The track somehow reminds me of New York Hip Hop from the early 90s, specifically Black Moon, Boot Camp Clik, Beatminerz, that lo-fi bass-heavy sound; which is why I named it after a section of Brooklyn. Though Black Moon isn’t from there, I like just the sound of the word and it does always remind me of 90's Hip Hop when I hear it.
While I was writing this sketch I was laying down some chords which reminded me of the feeling I had during carefree summers of my childhood and thought of the title early. I had the main hook, drums, and bassline early and added some ad-lib keys and atmospherics over time and it really just wrote itself. I wanted to add some field recordings my daughter running around a playground in summer, something to connect the present with the past.
This is another album favourite of mine. I tried to mix a few different flavours on this one. I was going for a hybrid or a few different eras of Drum & Bass that have inspired me over the years. From the mid-90s Good Looking sound to the mid-00s Soulful Drum & Bass by people such as Marcus Intalex, dBridge, and Ill Logic & Raf. I love mixing with this tune and I added quite a long section after the middle breakdown to make it suitable for long blends.
Food feat. Konny Kon
This beat was one of the later additions, and Konny and I decided to lift his verses of Flatbush and put it on this instead. The chords just added to the vibe of the lyrics I think. The collaborations came about when I had asked him if he was interested in doing a project with me not long after I had remixed Still Standing, which he was. It had just taken a while to come together. But he definitely came with it on this. And it blends my love for Soulful Drum & Bass music with Hip Hop perfectly. I felt it would be a good track to finish with as I had written some piano ad libs that I liked a lot to wind the whole thing down. There’s a Kanye West track called Devil In A Blue Dress featuring Rick Ross, and I love how that track goes from a loop to a full orchestral breakdown, it just feels ultra widescreen. It's my favourite thing he's ever done and it's definitely continued to inspire me over the years.