Our latest artist interview features Neil Browne who has new music out this week on Kyubu Records.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and/or Djing?
I’m 30 years old from Dublin and live just outside London in Berkshire, I started DJing around 15 years ago but was a late starter on the production front which only got going around 5 years ago.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
My musical roots probably lay somewhere with my father, as a child he inspired & pushed me to learn to play the guitar, I never totally mastered it in truth but it did certainly put the musical spark there and gave me a good base to learn chord progression & key changes.
I think my first brush with electronic music, or at least the earliest i can remember came from an old “Hit the Decks” tape that my sister had (wasn’t until years later i found out Carl Cox had been part of that series in the old hardcore days), it was for a time all i used to listen to and turned my eye to the electronic sound, then “Music for a Jilted Generation” appeared and i was sold completely.
As for pursuing it as something i would like to do, that came some years later and i owe that to Sasha, John Digweed & Darren Emerson. At one of the earliest gigs i attended. I vividly remember after what had been an amazing few hours of music & atmosphere, Sasha mixing from an unheard of “Layo & Bushwacka – “Love Story” into a track that took me years to find afterwards – “Banco De Gaia – Obsidian (The Light vs PFN Mix)” The resulting few minutes left my jaw on the floor, the place erupted and it was right there and then on that dance floor i knew i wanted to be part of this atmosphere forever.
3. I think the first production of yours I heard was your remix of Donatello’s ‘Magic Secrets’, a huge peak time interpretation released on Mirabilis in 2011. How have you changed since then as a producer, sound wise and also your studio?
I think myself i have probably become more diverse with the kind of music i write and i certainly these days pay much more attention to the quality of the sounds i use as well as trying to be more inventive with them, with every production i try and do something i haven’t tried before or something that pushes me to learn a new technique. The biggest change since then in my studio set up is that I jumped from Ableton to Logic to do most of my work, i think that change alone pushed me a little deeper into it, it kind of clicked more with me.
4. You have a new release out this week on Kyubu Records, it’s contains two originals alongside remixes from Deepfunk and Stephen J. Kroos, tell us a bit about them and how did the release end up on Kyubu?
Yeah, Clear & Bright. I suppose I approached both tracks with different mind sets, with ‘Clear’ it was on my mind to do something a little slower, something with a little more of a chuggy groove to it. I wanted something that I could be playing early on in my sets but also fitted in nicely at peak time as well, versatility was key for it. The main melodic entity in the record stemmed from a simple riff I made in Monark but it really came to life when coupled with the riff through a Korg Volca with some delay’s and reverbs, it just seemed to give it some depth which was nice as it was the first time id used the Volca in a track before. I had spent time on a few different bass idea’s with it but seemed to settle on the simple stab of the sub, it kind of impacts and doesn’t take over leaving a little more room to manoeuvre some of the lower end drums and gives it that ability to hit the effects and drops on that off beat which I thought to be a little different.
With Bright it was definitely a different set up, the idea was a more open track and something that could be a little more melodic and i tried to do that with the more sustained bass which comes from a Microbrute, a lovely little synth that really packs a punch and the wobble in it I felt really helped this track come alive and is probably the main focus of the record for me. The drums were certainly put together with a much more housey feel, they are a little choppier & tighter and there’s a really nice little vocal whisper which ping pongs around them. The arp is a nice accompany and provides a focal point for the natural build of the track in the way it opens accentuates the drops.
As for how it went to Kyubu, it was a few months ago and Jack contacted me from the label asking me to do a remix for him of Andre Sobota which I was delighted to do, the guys did a great job on the release and I had just finished up on the 2 tracks. I sent them over to the guys and they loved them. Soon after they told me about the remixers they were thinking of and I squealed with glee, Deepfunk is one of the best with that style and Stephen always does solid work so it was an easy decision for me.
5. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
For me it’s still really difficult and the learning process never stops and that’s the thing that drives me the most, much more so than success or appreciation, my journey is a personal one and one I don’t feel I have come anywhere close to completing. I started out when I moved here from Dublin working & learning from Stu Hirst and he guided me through my early days, I was such a late starter with production and that’s my biggest regret, I really should have started way before I did and do some courses and things but it I have been lucky enough to over the last few years been taken under the wing of Jim Rivers, he has done an amazing job in helping me to craft my sound and teach me a huge amount, he understands my creative process and has spent a lot of his time helping me get to where I want to be musically
6. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
There is a couple of things I find difficult and always will, when i was young I had a serious operation which removed certain parts of the inner ear leaving me around 70- 80% deaf in my right ear, the consequence of this tends to be that I find it difficult with balance of sounds in the Mix-down and with hearing those really low frequencies. As for what’s the easiest, I’m not really sure. I tend to find that can vary depending on the track I’m writing, I don’t think I ever get to a stage and think “now for the easy part”
Writers block is always a dread and something I’ve gone through quite recently, different things tend to help for me. I always kind of feel my best workflow time tends to be early mornings so if I am trying to get through a block I will try and get up earlier and fit in extra hours before my day starts but I don’t think there is a definitive answer for it, any simple thing in life can give you that creative spark but I’m a firm believer in what Picasso said “Inspiration exists, it just has to find you working”
7. I’ve also recently heard your remix for David Young’s ‘War of the Buttons’ due out soon on Mirabilis Records, an amazing original and a great remix from yourself, how did you approach that one?
Wow, what a tough one that was. Alex asked me would i like to do a remix for David and I’ve long been a fan of his work so i certainly didn’t take long to answer, then the original came over and like always I was so impressed with it. I love David’s sound so I felt I had to take it in a different direction to his, I tried to take it a little more into my terrain, making it a little more understated and groovier whilst trying to just hold onto elements of Davids melodic touch. I thought his chords were just perfect to make the main arp of the track and allowed me to give it the kind of hypnotic feel while the bass I felt just added that little bit of grit to the sound when it opened up a little.
8. You’re playing at the Loco showcase coming up and have already had a few gigs this year. Do you feel like things are starting to come together for you? and how difficult is it getting regular gigs in London?
I’ve been really really lucky with gigs in London since I moved here and managed to play most of the clubs i used to dream about playing and alongside some really amazing artists. It can be a hard city to crack as its one of the most vibrant in the world for parties but doing the residency with LoCo is great, it’s a really great crew of people and the work ethic in the group is astounding which really helps, it gives me a license to be more creative with my sets and the crowd that comes in are very receptive to hearing different styles which is great, keeps me on my toes.
9. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
Yeah I work in the Motor Trade in what i would like to call a 9-5 but its unfortunately a lot more than that, it’s a lot of hours and hard work so it makes it difficult to squeeze as much time as I would like into the music so any hours I have spare are donated to that.
10. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effort on your own productions?
I’m a total music junkie and I’m massively into my Indie & Rock as well as a lot of orchestral but even at that its whatever mood I’m in. I suppose from an early age i was brought up on the likes of Bob Dylan, Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Thin Lizzy & Fleetwood Mac in my household from the parents side but it wasn’t enough, I always remember being so fascinated with music, I used to sneak into my sisters room as kid just to get out her Tori Amos or Bjork CD’s and those sounds are still prevalent in my playlists today but over the years I’ve added so much more, amazing bands like The Frames, Arcade Fire & Fun Lovin Criminals are always an inspiration both on CD and live and who can’t admire the wonderful tranquility of composers like Ludovico Einaudi, Clint Mansell or Hans Zimmer or the jaw dropping voices of Ann Peebles or Sam Cooke? I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface but you get the picture.
11. What are you currently working on? and what can we expect to see from you over the remainder of 2015?
I have just finished up on a couple of new EP’s which I’m looking for a home for as we speak as well as a remix for 238 West Inc. I’m currently working on a remix for Norman over at Stripped which is due out later in the year of a great track by Damion Pell & Alex Preda. After that I’ll be trying to get some more original stuff written and at this moment in time its take each track as it comes so there’s no crazy long release schedule with me. We also have the first LoCo Showcase of the year on April 25th at Plan-B then a couple of weeks later on May 8th we are in Fire with Darren Emerson, Dave Angel, Jamie Anderson & more. It’ll also be the first time Jon Gurd joins us as a resident on that night so will be a lot of fun.
12. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
The first album i bought myself was definitely what we spoke of earlier “Music for a Jilted Generation” i remember saving up some of my pocket money for weeks as a 10 year old and getting it the day it came out at the local record shop, I don’t think I’ll ever forget opening that cassette to reveal the image inside of the man about to cut the rope bridge, such an iconic image and part of the creativity of the industry i really miss, it wasn’t just fantastic music but the whole package, from the artwork to the whole endeavour of getting the album, being so excited on that journey home. It made you value the whole experience so much and cherish the music more extensively. The last physical copy of something i bought was the latest Paulo Nutini album. Fantastic work from a stand out artist for me.
13. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
I have a pretty much encyclopaedic knowledge of Marvel comic book characters.
14. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
A staggering amount of them, far too many to mention. I think because of the way it’s gone a huge amount of amazing producers are “overlooked” not because the scene doesn’t appreciate or love what they do but more that it cannot sustain their career financially to allow them to spend more time developing and improving and I don’t think its isolated to dance music, I think its music across the board. We live in an age where somebody is more likely to spend money texting their vote for an artist on the latest fad TV show than they are likely to even purchase a record of that very artist. Strange set up it seems to me.
15. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
There are some artists that in my mind try to push & test the scene and the music, people like Robert Babicz, King Unique, Henry Saiz, KiNK, Maceo Plex, Deetron are all really consistent on that front for me in recent times but again it’s such a long list. I can’t leave out people like Copy Paste Soul, Ejeca, Alex Niggemann, Saytek or Ripperton and I haven’t even started on all the legends we all know about. I suppose the point is that inspiration can come from anywhere for any one of us, of course we can go back and listen to Laurent Garnier’s back catalogue or stick on an Underworld or Orbital dvd and be blown away, it’s hard not to be inspired by all that but sometimes life itself is the inspiration, a smile from or the thought of a loved one, a feeling at a particular moment, good or bad can inspire us, sometimes it hides in the most simple of forms I think.
16. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
Follow your gut, there will always be times when you’ll wonder if something is working. Don’t be afraid of that, embrace it. Challenge yourself to think about things from different perspectives. each person will be so different on their ethos because every persons musical journey is as unique to them as their fingerprint is so try and channel that uniqueness into your own sound and don’t be afraid to take a risk or 2, they won’t always pay off but it will satisfy you creatively more than anything else.
17. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
This is definitely the hardest question here and my answer would probably be different if you asked me the question twice so I’m gonna go with The Chemical Brothers – The Sunshine Underground. kind of has everything, beauty, crazy and variation all in one.
‘Clear / Bright’ is out now on Kyubu Records you can purchase the release: here