Today, Magnetic Magazine brings you an exclusive behind the scenes look of the brand new album from prolific DnB producer Prolix. After countless releases on the likes of Ram, Metalheadz, Vision, an many more, he decided it was time to finally write an album. And thus, 'Murder Mile' was born. In our exclusive feature, he walks us through the process of its creation, the tools used, and a few other tips and tricks he picked up along the way. Stream the full album after the interview.
There's an argument to be made that albums aren't worth releasing any more. That being said, tell us, what motivated you to start writing an album?
To be honest it was about time! I've been writing drum and bass for many years now and in general, I have always written singles and EP's. I co-wrote the crowd-funded 'Project Trendkill' album with Gridlok which was a great and successful experience but that was my only foray in the world of Long Players. Its been in the making and I've been thinking about doing a solo album for years now but I'm a bit of a procrastinator and I found myself constantly measuring up whether all the conditions were right to go ahead with the album! It helped that I felt like I had finally found the best place to do it – on Black Sun Empires label Blackout Music.
Writing an album is quite the endeavor, and can be extremely daunting. When the decision to write an album was made, how or where did you start?
I had a few things I wanted my album to reflect. Firstly I wanted to do more work with vocalists which I haven't done a great deal of in my career. In particular, I wanted to work with some newer artists to the scene and also to work with people who were maybe unexpected. I also wanted to have some tracks which gave a nod to my love for rock/grunge/metal and wanted to make a conscious decision to try and make the album fairly reflective of my sets in terms of sonics and dynamics. That is pretty much full throttle without coming up for air too often!
During your writing process, did you used any new, previously undiscovered techniques during the writing?
One thing the album process has taught me is how difficult it is to try and keep a similar sound for all songs that are written over a long period of time. I'm constantly learning and evolving and trying new mixing and composing techniques and over the course of a year or so this can really change your sound. Some of these songs were started over a year ago and it was a challenge to keep them sounding current and in line with current standards in D&B, but also in line with where I got to as a producer. In general, it meant rewriting a lot of the older material and remixing down the songs. I think I also went through several sets of monitors throughout this process, which in hindsight probably wasn't the greatest idea (even though I love the monitors I've ended up with) as it slowed down the album process a lot as I got used to each pair of speakers before making a decision on them.
As artists, we have a habit of getting in our own ways creatively, which can often lead to frustration. Did you run into any mental roadblocks? If so, how did you finally get past them?
I generally had several projects open at once and If I got stuck on one I opened another and worked on that. That also helped keep the sound similar in the tracks as I mentioned before. Otherwise just taking a break. Have a day off and do something totally unrelated!
We are big gear heads around here. Were there any new tools that you used in the creation of the album?
I guess by the time the finish line was in sight I had bought a new pair of ADAM S3V and they're hands down the best monitors I've ever used. I started out with my trusty ADAM P22A which I have had for years but felt I needed to upgrade and went through 2 other pairs before settling for the S3V. There is nothing more important than accurate monitoring in your studio. Good speakers and the correct room treatment can go a long way!
If you were to rewrite Murder Mile again, what would you do differently?
Get the right monitors at the start!
Can you walk me through the process of writing (Savages / Who Knows / Feel alive ... ) from start to finish?
'Savages' started out as a weird beat that I wrote for the Virus Syndicate guys to spit some sickness over. Then It kind of evolved into this big beast of a collab involving Black Sun Empire and it just picked up a life of its own and turned out into a real floor smasher! As a collab, it was all done online. I and BSE both use Cubase so one of us would work on it, zip up the project then send it across to the other to work on some more before I did the final mix at my studio.
'Who Knows' is a collab track that I and Malux did get in the studio at least once to work on! See we are sociable people! It features vocals from a singer I found online (She Koro) who I was just blown away by when I first heard her. It's very hard to find singers for drum and bass who are good and who haven't already done a lot in the scene. I really wanted to work with some different artists and artists who people wouldn't have expected me to collab with and I'm so pleased with how it turned out. I think the writing process again involved a bit of bouncing stems and sending them back and forth. I had an idea for the track initially but Alex got hold of it and put his own brand of twisted neurofunk on it. Then we had a big session to get it finished off. For this part, it's pretty handy if everyone can be in the same room to get the track finished otherwise it can drag on and on until everyone is happy.
'Feel Alive' with The Qemists was the most obviously rock inspired track on the album. They're friends of mine from Brighton and I have wanted to work with them for ages and the album felt like the perfect time. We both had some ideas for 2 different tracks which we ended up molding together to form one track. I went down to their studio in Brighton to work on the initial idea before they came up to mine once I had moved the project on to a fully formed track. I co-wrote some lyrics with Olly (the singer) and he recorded them in Brighton and sent them over. These guys have been doing this for a long time and they are professional in their recordings and I really didn't have to do anything to the vocals. They just sounded great as they were.
There's only a couple of collabs on the album. Do you prefer working with other people over working alone? Elaborate, pro's / cons of working alone vs collaborating?
They both have their pros and cons. When you work with another artist you both have to make compromises. But the idea is that when you collaborate whats comes from working together will be greater than the sum of its parts. That's the goal anyway! So I love collaborating whenever I can, especially with others who bring a different style to the table, or with people that I feel we can both bounce off each other and come up with something fresh and exciting.
However working alone does have its benefits – often you just spend time working on a sound that goes nowhere or an idea that can be quite boring for someone else sitting there to watch, so it can be good to just have your own time to experiment to explore all possibilities of where the track is going.
Has what happened in your personal life whilst writing the album influenced your music? How?
Well towards the end of the project I got burgled. Fortunately, no one was hurt or anything but I did have some of my music gear stolen. CDJS, a 1210 deck, Keyboard and my Flying V electric guitar with which I had used to record some guitar parts for 'Set Me Free'. I'm gutted because Id had it since I was 16 and it was my one true love! On the upside, he didn't take my monitors or my computer which had my album on it which I hadn't backed up for months! That would have been a devastating loss. I backed it all up that night!!!
Prolix's debut album Murder Mile is available now via Blackout.