Percussionist, Producer, Remixer and Engineer – ChrisB’s rich and varied musical past has resulted in him becoming extraordinarily aware across every division of music creation. From the second that one of his tracks starts, you instantly identify that whoever created it, is obviously a musical connoisseur.
Captivated by his engaging sounds, the likes Toolroom and King Street Sounds have been delighted to be bases for his masterful multi-track releases. His sound shines brightest when electronic and acoustic sounds are fused, something notoriously tricky to execute with success in Electronic music. Many try to implement pianos and other instruments into Dance productions, but very few manage to unify them with the precision of Chris’s works.
Deep and Tech House have always been styles that rely wholly on percussion to add interest to the sometimes monotonous underlying structure of loop based Electronic music. Chris’s background as a Percussionist makes total sense and he makes you wonder why more artists from that background aren’t using their talent and experiences with rhythm, to create music that is essentially all about just that.
Chris, you seemingly have such a wide-ranging set of musical skills. How did this all happen? When did you first dip your toes into creating music?
I’ve been in bands from a very young age and then things progressed from messing around chopping up loops, to going to university to study sound engineering. It all spiraled from there, but I’ve been involved in music of some kind from a very, very early age. I’ve always been surrounded by music of all genres at home and when I was at school and university I was touring and playing around with other musicians. I was around eighteen when I really started to get stuck in.
At what point did you step back and realise that this was something that you could make a sustainable career from?
It was probably around my second year of university. I was out on the road gigging every weekend and was starting to get a lot of international bookings. My tracks were beginning to get picked up by smaller labels, even though many of them were probably dreadful! I had an incredibly early start to dealing with labels, agents and more.
How do you approach a new track with such a diverse set of skills to call on?
Often it’s building a groove or starting with the drums. More recently I’ve been really concentrating on the actual songwriting of the tracks, especially for the new album, so a lot of the ideas tend to start with me sat at my piano or playing around with a synth till I find a colour or tone that I want to work with. It becomes a slower process, but I’d like to feel that the stuff that becomes a finished product really sounds like it has had care and attention put into it.
Your use of pianos, saxophones and other instruments seems so fitting. So many people ruin their tracks trying to achieve similar results. Where do you feel people get it wrong?
I think it’s very easy to make a very gimmicky sounding record, whereas anyone who’s played with a band in the past has a better understanding of ensemble and therefore can produce with multiple instruments that are all working together as one. Way too many people drop a sax sample onto a track or a disco loop with no regard as to how it will affect the overall movement or dynamic of the record. I try to drive my records with melody and harmony. Whether it’s a deep tune or a chunkier House record, I tend to try and find a balance between chords, melody and of course – beats.
What is the most memorable day of your musical career and what happened?
The day my first album came out on Toolroom Records was amazing. I’d been working on the music for so long and been sending music back and forth to the label for around 18 months, so to finally have the record all signed off, mixed, mastered and out was a huge relief and a very proud moment. There’s also a long list of gigs that have been out of this world, but the album stands out the most, as so few Dance music acts get to make a proper artist album!
You’re production style seems to be robust when creating an album. A lot of artists in Electronic music seemingly just place ten of their tracks together and call it an album. Yours seem more fluid, is this something you focus on?
Absolutely… I want my albums to be a real journey and a reflection musically of where I’m at, at that moment. I try to balance the tracks to sound on point and relevant, but also to hopefully stand the test of time. Having good “songs” I feel is the only way to do this, as people are always drawn to melodies and not beats. Very rarely to you remember a drum loop from ten years ago.
I just want to make an album that goes down well in the fabric of the bigger music industry and not just the cool kids of Dance music, who can be very pretentious. I want to basically make a classic album that can hopefully one day stand up alongside other classic records, be it Rock or Pop, Soul, Classic or Electronic…it’s a hard challenge, but one I relish!
Why don’t more people make albums in Dance music?
Because DJs want impact records for clubs I guess. A lot of producers are going for the holy grail of “that big tune” whereas I’ve always preferred to slowly build a body of work so that when each trendy fad sub genre goes in and out of fashion, I’m always somewhat detached from the cool and become more timeless. Making an album is a skill in itself and I would say it requires patience and a huge amount of discipline. With the throw away nature of music at the moment, so many producers just want to make a hit and then tour it – which to me is just lazy!
You stated that you’ve kept a lot of your material for the new album under wraps for a while. How has the initial response been?
The amount of music that I’ve made that will possibly never see the light of day is staggering. I tend to demo a lot of material to get to a point that I’m happy enough for people to hear it. There is a lot of music in the bag now and it’s coming together really nicely. Thus far the reaction has been fantastic and people have got the point that I was hoping to develop, it’s a much more mature sound, aimed at the dance floor. I’ve also been lucky to become friendly with a lot of people I’d consider my idols, so I’ve been able to bounce music off of them and the reaction again has been fantastic. People I think can hear I’m even hungrier on this record and I guess it shows. When it’s ready, the world will hear it, but only when I’m happy!
To someone who’s never heard your music before, how do you describe what you do and what’s different about ChrisB?
I make melodic, electronic music. What’s different? Well go and buy a trendy record and go and buy one of mine and see which one you’re still listening to a few years down the line. Simply put, there’s no smoke and mirrors about the music I make. It’s a geek sat in a studio making the music that he wants to hear.
Talk us through the studio setup that you are most comfortable to write tracks in?
I’m back using Cubase again after a brief flirt with Logic. I love the functionality of it and find it quick to use. I’ve also started taking a laptop on the road with me, so I can demo a lot of ideas while I’m away touring which has helped. I tend to arrive back home to work on music with a sketchpad of ideas, ready to roll. Coming home straight from a gig is very inspiring, especially for club music.
Any stand out plugins or synths that got put to good use for the release?
Minimoog. Everyone needs some Moog in their life surely! I’m a big fan of Massive and the Prophet. I use a lot of NI stuff. This record more than the first album, I’ve really tried to go to town sonically and make everything sound a lot bigger and in your face. The first record was very mellow and understated; this one will hopefully smack people in the face a bit more!
People often say that the first album is the easiest. How have you found coming back to album creation and do you think you’ve bettered your last one?
Yes in a way it was, because I was just making music for the sake of it to begin with. I love the process of building an album, as I know I can experiment a lot more and musically think about more than just making “big tune” after big tune. I love how a good album can have lots of colour and texture to it, changes in mood and often tempo (often overlooked in dance albums). I think this record also shows off my influences a lot more; luckily these guys who influence me and I really idolise have reacted well to the samples and teasers that I’ve sent them, so if that’s anything to go by, it’s on the right tracks.
It’s just a learning curve and I’m still learning and hopefully will continue to. Striving to be as good as the people you look up to is always inspiring and motivating; especially the guys that I look up to!
When can we expect the release and with what label will it be released?
As yet the final details of the record haven’t been finalized. No deal is in place for it yet (liberating to not have a deadline). I’m aiming to have it all locked and loaded by the end of the year though, with view to push it for Miami. No doubt there will be a couple of singles before then.
What’s next for ChrisB?
Well make the transition from drummer to a full live show, which is exciting, daunting and a huge challenge; but one I feel I’m ready to make, plus the time is definitely right to move towards being an artist, as opposed to just the guy who drums for artists and hides in the shadows!