Welcome back to another edition of The Director's Cut, the feature where your favorite artists give you an exclusive look behind the scenes into the creative process behind their albums, providing you with cliff notes about each track. This time, we are joined by DNB heavyweight and Rampage boss Murdock, whose new album Stronger firmly cements his place as one of the genre's forward-thinking elite. Spanning 15 tracks, the album covers the full DNB spectrum, as well as even some hip hop.
How it works: Press play on the album and read the provided cliff notes as you listen.
Make Me Stronger Ft. Jenna G
Back in the late 2000's, Jenna came over to Belgium quite often en we performed together a lot. When I started working on music more, I asked her if she happened to have songs or vocals laying about that I could get to work on and this vocal was one of the things she sent me. It's super powerful, catchy, soulful and ideal for a dancefloor drum&bass track, but it still took ages to land this one. The main idea was to go for a kind of filter house/liquid funk kind of vibe and it took a few different approaches to finally get it right. It was actually a trip to Netsky's place that inspired what would become the final version of this track. We were discussing the mixdown of what was previously there and he suggested to try and play the melody differently. We took it home and just banged it out till we found it worked the way it should. Et voila.
Let It Go Ft. M'Leah
Years ago I made a track with Doctrine called 'I Owe You' which gives away my obsession with a certain jazz-funk record from the 70s which is a huge inspiration when it comes to organ sounds. This track started by playing a little melody on some Rhodes-type keys, something I could imagine Ramsey Lewis himself playing. Then, when I tried to roll it out, it always seemed like it needed something extra, and what was meant to be this intimate laidback roller turned into this big, jubilant pop tune. And then it just felt like it would be a waste to not get vocals done for it and I met with Louis Ryan, a London-based songwriter, and an upcoming singer he had found, called Ta'shan. We wrote the lyrics together and Ta'shan sung the demo. But then her career suddenly started taking off and being featured on this record didn't fit into the program anymore. So I went looking for another singer and I overheard someone singing in an adjacent studio at Trix, Antwerp, where I do a lot of my recording and studio work. I hooked up with what turned out to be a classically trained jazz singer who had never worked on a 'dance' record before and she just nailed it. Completely flawless.
Holding On Ft. James Marvel
I guess I have told this story before but here goes: Netsky asked me to remix Ice Cold but his release schedule then moved up so quickly they couldn't fit in the release of the remix anymore. I stripped it down, changed the chords and used the backbone to start something new. It turned into this saw-y liquid stomper that I loved playing out. Then backstage at Rampage, I got to talking with James Marvel, who told me he wouldn't mind trying his hand at a vocal for one of my records and I sent him the dropbox link to this one there and then. It was still called 'Hella Hot' back then hahaha. A week later James sent me the first verse and chorus and I was smitten. Since he didn't plan on being a featured singer, I started looking for someone to do the honours, but no one sounded as nice and as beautifully twisted as James' autotuned, vocodered, filtered version. And the guys at Viper thought so too! It didn't take much convincing in the end and he then also smashed the second verse. Goosebumps for days!
Double Dutch Ft. Roni Size
Roni Size has been a big part of my life. The tracks he released back in the mid to late nineties meant the world to me. I probably own everything he ever released from mid-nineties till the mid-2000s! So when I started thinking about an album, the thought of him being a part of it was very appealing to me. I saw that he had worked on a track with Rockwell and it was dope, but it didn't really sound like Roni Size to me. I got the idea of bringing that typical Roni Size sound back to life with a collab and got in touch with him. He immediately said yes and I sent over the guitar breakdown and a double-bass drop which is still the basis of what the track sounds like today. He came back saying that he had edited the track to play out and was already throwing it in his sets! Roni threw some serious Size sauce on it, adding dirty bass, horns, and drums and this really turned it into a Full Cycle dream come true.
Breathe Ft. Goldi Phone Home
So Netsky and I had the idea of doing a collab for this album and we started a few projects that he ended up not working on because of his own, very demanding, project and this is one of them. He had found this little piano loop that I just ran with. I immediately heard this dub, wobbly sub-bass to go with it and the snappy, rolling drums were a given. A local actress I was working with on another project mentioned she would love to work on some music with me. She has this whole Twin Peaks-vibe about here, sultry and mysterious, beautiful and untouchable, you know? I figured her voice, her style, would suit this song well. She sent me a demo and together we pieced together the lyrics and cadence. The day I finished it, I was performing at a festival with MC Mota hosting and he loves his deep D&B. I played this one and he came up to the decks asking about the track I was playing and I showed him it was one of mine. Love it when that happens!
Panic Attack Ft. Doctrine
Ok so Doctrine and I have about 7 trillion unfinished projects and a lot of them start out with "what if we..." and this one was: "What if we make a track that has the exact same bassline in d&b tempo as in techno tempo?". Because if you do a D&B track in triplets, you can switch the pattern and rhythm and thus the tempo, without changing a single thing about the actual bassline. So that became Panic Attack: combining my roots in techno (way back!) and Willem's passion for that genre and all its spaced-out quirkiness into one very special drum&bass tune. The first-ever drum&bass track that goes from drum&bass into techno and back into drum&bass without the bassline ever slowing down or speeding up, or even stopping for that matter!
Can't Keep Me Down Ft. Shystie & Sena
Again, a lot of this is to attribute to my love for electro and Detroit techno music. The way the synths unfold, the acid bassline develops, all that stuff, straight out of Mr. Fingers and Drexcyia! Initially, this was an instrumental track that got quite a bit of attention - I remember Roni Size putting it in a mix for The Fader, and quite a few Hospital DJ's, especially Metrik, playing it. I played at Balaton in Hungary and saw Irie Maffia, with Sena Dagadu on lead vocals. I was very impressed, and I thought her particular accent (she's part Ghanian) would contrast nicely with the electronic vibe of the instrumental. She is a very busy woman so I had to wait a while and nudge a bit, but she came back with the main vocal and it was a serious goosebumps moment when I first heard it. In fact, I still get goosebumps thinking about it. The voice of a warrior, a conqueror, a superhero! Then Viper suggested getting some UK love on it and introduced me to Shystie, who came up with the hook and her rap, of course, and that was that. My most successful track to date!
Dark Cloud Ft Dynamite MC ( Hip Hop Mix)
First, there was a d&b track called Solar System. A track I really loved a lot and played out a lot. I remember playing it at a Viper night two years ago and Brendan Futurebound stepping to me going "What is that??" and me going "That's mine" and him "I want that!" and me "And I want to give it to you!"... You get the idea. But then I heard the same track inside my head in a hip-hop form and I set about creating it. It was such a cool vibe, I felt it needed the right vocals to shine. Three people came to mind: Dynamite MC (the best MC in the d&b game), Redman (ideal for a futuristic hip-hop track with a 90s feel) and Bounty Killer (who's deep vocals would work well with the dark sound of the beat), but Dyna was the only guy whose phone number I had. He jumped on it, smashed it out of the park, out of the league really and here we are.
So the name Netsky has popped up a few times already I guess, but he is a dear friend of mine and he's been an important part of my journey through drum&bass and, last but defo not least, a huge influence on my taste in d&b music. So since I have been championing his music for 10 years and caning everything he ever released, especially in the early days, my head is filled with melodies that are somewhat along the same lines of stuff that he's done. And since he's not doing that anymore, I figured I might as well. So call it an ode, or a stylistic exercise, or just a banger, like I do, but, and even though I totally support the road he's taken now, this is definitely the kind of music I wish Boris would still be making today. Oh yeah, and Ruby is my eldest daughter and she can surprise you at any time of the day or night by pointing up and shouting "Look, it's the moon!!". And she's always right.
All Day All Night Ft. Djuna
Some nice chords, a little piano hook and a banging synth... one of those ones that just seem to happen all of a sudden. I have been playing it for years now, in different forms and mixdowns. But again, it felt like it needed vocals and I couldn't find anyone to do it, so I wrote the vocals myself. I wanted it to be about the real party experience, the whole thing, the way a party can start in the afternoon, hours before the doors actually open, just by you and your friends getting in the mindset of a rave, and then after the rave is over it takes hours and hours before you can let go of that feeling. It's like, 'the weekend is ours, don't interfere!' Since it was the first time I wrote lyrics from start to finish without anyone else involved, it was hard to let this go. But quite a few people gave me the nod and I decided to stop criticizing myself and just run with it. Once again, I tracked down a local singer with a serious set of vocal cords, who came in and one-taked the whole thing. And I do believe it's her first official feature on a track!
Lay Down Ft. Sunday Rose
Many years ago, Bredren, three guys from Belgium that are a right riot and do some amazing drum&bass, released a track called Nina Dobrev on my label Radar Records. I have always loved that track. But also, I always felt there was more to be done with what was in there. So I asked them for the parts and figured I'd do a remix. But then the remix turned into a whole new thing. And then in the same week, as this was coming together, I stumbled upon a talented singer from Antwerp, who I figured would be perfect for this track and I brought her into the studio... Absolutely magical...
This track also started as one project that then turned into another, and the aim was to fuse the rough edginess of Neurofunk with the euphoric, atmospheric vibes of the old Good Looking records. I like to think this is the kind of track that you can dream away to on your couch or in your bed, but at the same time will make you throw your hands up in the rave. especially in the morning hours! And there's a very special idea for a vocal version of this one, so I might be going back in on it sometime down the line! And ps - Juno is the name of my youngest daughter!
Alien (Bonus Track)
Ok, this one is only on Beatport (for the DJ's) and the CD (for the real d&b fans; the ones that can sit through an album of diverse drum&bass) and I love this one to death. It's so simple: straight-up groove, again Mr. Fingers, Robert Owens, Stacey Pullen... but in a heavy drum&bass setting, of course! I love little quirky things like when the triplet plucky sounds die down and then the drop comes out of nowhere. Can I just quote what Macky Gee said about this one here? "THAT SWITCH! BOOOM! BANGER"
Dark Cloud Ft. Dynamite MC
This is the original take on that track: straight up, banging drum&bass with the greatest MC to ever do, flowing on top. End of.
Murdock Ft Errol Dunkley - Different Way (Jungle Mix)
Errol Dunkley is a living legend. And I know they say that about a lot of people, but this time it's true. He made reggae music in the 60s and 70s that lives on to this day, had a nr 1 hit across Europe in the year I was born, and is still touring, looking and smoking like a G. I caught up with him when he was on tour and told him I wanted to revive his track 'Little Way Different" because of what it has meant to jungle music and he stepped in the booth to deliver impeccable takes. I did many versions of this track (a few are still forthcoming!) but this one was the one that seemed to sound right at the time. Classic vocal, classic jungle beats, real dubbed out reggae drops... the works.
Stronger by Murdock is available now on Viper Recordings. Grab it here.