Tweaking the sound with Egoless
Egoless live at Fabric
Many say, and on good reason, that dubstep is not yet a genre. It is too young and it has yet to prove it will stand the test of time. Nevertheless, this music is evolving, it brings new elements and is starting to influence other genres too. And this is something I would surely consider a solid mile stone in the evolution of dubstep. The new wave of artists such as Commodo, Gantz, Las and Mikael, Kaiju, Compa, Eva808 or Egoless, to name just a few, are bringing a fresh approach and strongly contribute to the evolution of this sound.
Following the evolution of dubstep and the new wave of artists we invited the Croatian producer Egoless for an interview to discuss about his vision of music, the way he embraced this sound and introduced his musical punk background into the 140BPM productions.
| Since I have discovered your music, one thing strikes me before the sound. It is your alias. How come you stopped on this?! I am intrigued about the process of how you reached at it.
I don’t remember the moment when I decided to name the project “Egoless”. I do remember the state I was in at the time tho, around 2009. My financial status wasn’t (to say the least) good and I also slowly started being dissatisfied with everything I did, feeling a need to completely change things in music I make and life in general. The music I started doing at that time kind of reflected that state, it started being very introspective and emotional. So from that period up until now, I am discovering and trying to understand the meaning behind the word. No one is egoless, but the main premise is “try not being an asshole”.
| Before producing dubstep you were playing in punk and hardcore bands. What made you tick on dubstep? What defined the moment when you felt that this is what your focus will be from that moment onwards?
I played punk & hardcore from age of 15 to around 19/20 after which I moved to the capital (Zagreb, Croatia) and got involved into creating electronic music. I did a lot of jungle & drum and bass but also dub & reggae as well, which I discovered through punk and then through dub music, discovering dubstep. Following the previous answer about the personal state I was in around 2009. I discovered Burial’s music which completely complemented that state I was in so the first works as Egoless were heavily influenced by him and that very introspective 2-step/garage style. I still played and toured with bands, some being quite successful in the Balkans, but the decline of the main band I was playing in came around the time I had a first UK vinyl release on J:Kenzo’s "Lion Charge", following first performances in UK and outside of the Balkans. So, shortly after that I quit the band and decided to completely dedicate myself to this project.
| Some parts of dubstep are often labeled as "dark". Do you find this term appropriate?
I never liked the “dark” description in music in general because it sounds quite negative. The sound for me is mystic, unknown, sometimes experimental, weird, different, introspective, emotional and yet intense and definitely don’t have any negative connotations to it. But I guess it’s all about perspective, if someone, as a listener, feel a dark and negative vibe in certain music, those emotions already exist in them and the music is just a trigger, just like certain drugs can trigger various psychotic states in people that already existed in them.
| On the track Empire of dirt there is a nice discussion between the instruments, the question and answers are amazing, and the bridge offers such a nice moment of reconciliation. What inspired you in writing that dialogue?
At the time I still had the studio set up in my living room and I remember doing the beat and the bass line, thinking it would be a bit harder tune. Was working a couple of hours on that and then, when my girlfriend went to sleep, I moved to the sofa, took a little midi keyboard and headphones and was just jamming various melodies on top of that beat. When I started playing those strings, the sound coming from the headphones was so loud that she heard it from the bedroom and asked me “What is this song? Wow!”. I realised then I had something good so I stayed awake most of the night and the melodies just flowed out of me so, by morning, I had most of the tune finished. So yeah, interestingly enough if she hadn’t heard it than was a good chance I would just abandon the idea.
| When you start working on a track you have a certain pattern? You start with the drums, or maybe try different melody lines on your guitar?
I always start a tune form scratch, with completely blank project. Most of the time I never use the same samples, the same drums, bass lines and so on, and that’s probably the reason why every tune I make sounds a bit different from previous one. In the first period I was fighting this, thinking that by working that way I will never develop “my style” until I realised that doing things the way I’m doing is actually my style, and I stopped fighting it.
So, the work process is every time different, sometimes starting with drums, sometimes with keys & melodies, I don’t think about it at all.
| For the most songs I like I try to think what is the story behind that tune from the artist perspective, and the first anchor I follow in this journey is the song title. Do you believe that a title should guide the listener on a certain path, or is it more a marketing tool? Or maybe it should be both?
Sometimes there is absolutely no meaning behind the tune, but a lot of the times there are certain things I’m contemplating about when writing and that usually resonates with the name of the tune.
With Empire of Dirt for example I was thinking about what kind of chaotic, negative world we live in, but still the whole vibe of the tune resonates with hope and positive atmosphere.
| Nowadays I am happy to see dubstep went in all sorts of directions, from a more grime approach to a dub one, and it even have influenced some parts of techno. How do you see the evolution of dubstep?
The 140 bpm tempo really allows taking the direction of tunes in various ways. It’s kind of in the middle ground between, for example, techno/house and dnb/jungle, therefore allowing to take all sorts of influences and blending it all together. There is a lot of experimenting going on at the moment, and it went so far that even Beatport is no longer putting the music under dubstep genre but something they call it “Leftfield Bass”. I can’t say I agree with this move but it is a sign that some new things are emerging, which is good!
| You have released music on a variety of labels such as as LoDubs, Scub A Dub, System Music, Scotch Bonnet, ZamZam Sounds, Inamind Recordings and Deep Medi. What are your considerations when you choose the destination of one of your future release?
Every label mentioned has a certain vibe going on so that’s always a main thought when I send tunes. Does it, in my opinion, fit in or not, and vice versa it’s the same for most of the labels. I remember Vivek turning down Like a Nuclear Bomb / Super Echo for System before it ended on Scrub a Dub and, at the time, becoming my most successful release. When we talked about that afterwards he told me that he actually plays those tunes out but that he didn’t feel that it would fit the label vibe. And that’s exactly what I like with a lot of the labels, they don’t just think about names and sales but also about the vibe they want to push. Love that!
| Coming from a punk environment how do you see the relationship between electronic music and politics? Do you believe there is room for a social message on the dancefloor?
You can’t force it to the people, a lot of them come to parties to unwind from a hard working week and are tired, underpaid and a lot not happy with their lives and just want to briefly relax and escape from that reality. You can’t really just bomb them with messages like “the world is a mess, we need to change everything, everything sucks!” because they will mostly be like “I know mate, now shut the f* up and play some tunes I can dance to and not think about it because I struggle with that every day! U don’t need to remind me of that…”
On the other hand there is a moral issue with people making lucrative careers based on socially charged music. I mean, only Tom Morello from RATM is sitting on like 30m$. I’m not dissing it, but it just feels plain wrong preaching about poor people and injustice with millions in the bank. So yeah, I feel there is a lot of room for good and positive social messages everywhere, but it’s a very slippery slope and needs to be done properly and obviously the harder part, the person behind the message needs to serve as an example of what he/she is preaching.
| You are experimenting with a lot of sounds and influences, will we see future releases outside the 140 BPM spectrum?
Absolutely, since I moved to a new dedicated studio I am finding new inspirations on a daily basis, it’s a bit overwhelming at the moment but I’m slowly settling down. After US/CANADA tour I have a plan of equipping the studio with proper mic’ed acoustic Gretch drum kit with triggers, new guitar and bass, some percussions etc. After so many years producing electronic music I am kind of bored programming beats nowadays and definitely want to introduce more organic way of creating music in my workflow.
Images from Egoless studio
| I saw you started introducing modular synthesis into your production. How will these affect your future productions? Will you still keep that warm sound or will you dive into something new?
Warm sound is mostly due the fact that I have been mixing with analog mixers and/or tape. I am not using tape anymore (for now) but I have a big 36 channel console in the studio which sounds very warm and fuzzy so that kind of sound will stay no matter what I do because it sounds right to my ears and I’ve been into pursuit for that kind of sound for over a decade.
Modular synthesis is a whole different world, it obviously lends itself towards more
experimenting (when u don’t use the rig in a classic synth setup way). I am still learning, but it’s a very enjoyable process, I just like the way my brain is working when thinking in a
“modular” way. On the other hand I still find it very hard to integrate the rig in my workflow for now, it just doesn’t feel satisfying recording something form modular and then just resampling it in DAW, I always feel the urge to make a complete tune on the setup without the computer. It’s all natural, I had the setup for almost a year and I am still heavily learning. Also I am starting to bring the modular on my shows and starting using it live, step by step so we’ll see where it will take me.
| You are about to go on your first tour in the United States. How are people reacting to the dates you announced?
The interest for shows is tremendously huge, people are responding really nice and it looks like I’ll be on tour for almost 2 months so I can only conclude that the deep (another word I don’t like) scene there is growing. Also, I see more and more sound systems emerging in the US and I’m very much looking forward coming there and checking it out! Obviously, the heavy dubstep scene there is very strong, so it’s nice to see the other side of the dubstep spectrum also growing. The reason why I don’t like the word “deep” is that it kind of sounds like we’re doing ambient music which is far from true because on a properly tuned sound system it sounds extremely heavy.
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