Thursday, April 01, 2004

nimbus

Interview by Brent Crampton ~ Photographs by Pete, Remi Abayomi ~ Nimbus is home to Oli Beale, Pete Bannister and Jon Shanks- three ambitious producers/djs who have a taste for all things deep, dark and techy. From the hypnotizing bassline of “Entron” or the headturning synths of “Purple Dawn,” this trio is producing quality deep tech house that is getting noticed. With their masterpiece “Vector,” recently signed to the Swiss label BitBoutique, the Nimbus crew is making a name for themselves. When the crew isn’t traveling around, they reside in Brighton, England. Read on to see what the crew thinks about life, love and everything inbetween the beat.

How long have you been doing your thing and how did you get into it? And what's your affiliation to house music?

Pete: I've been producing for almost 7 years now, but its only in the last few years things started to all fall into place. I started out learning to play keyboards when I was about 11, but wasn't particularly into buying music at the time - all there seems to be when you're that age is 'pop'. I didn't like it anyway, but then one day discovered the delights of House music. The first stuff I heard was a Renaissance CD, and was then hooked. Quite a bit more proggy than what I'm into at the moment.

I got some (very shady) decks when I was about 15 and started to learn to mix. Started getting into production at about 17, with a really dodgy Wavetable sound card, an MC303 and cakewalk. I went through a Drum and Bass stage for a few years, but I'm firmly back to House at the moment.

Oli: I started out as a junglist for a few years and was slowly seduced by house music about four years ago now. I have to admit my affiliation towards house
music is fading and I'm not really feeling the whole US 'Boompty sound' (or whatever its known as) at the moment. I'm far more interested in the Techy side of things. There's so much good stuff coming out of Germany that gets widely overlooked.

Jon: I first started listening to electronic music when my brothers were first getting it, a good few years ago. I then discovered drum and bass, specially the more mellow sounds from LTJ Bukem and Blame and finally started listening to techno and tech house when I started going out clubbing. I was lucky enough to land a job at our local record shop, The Vinyl Frontier and worked there for a year and half. This really helped to broaden my musical tastes and of course trebled my collection. I’ve always been interested in the production of music and started playing around on software programs like Acid and Fruityloops about 3 years ago.

Who and what influences your music, where does your inspiration come from?

Pete: I think I'm still influenced quite a bit by drum and bass, and try to bring a little bit of it into my house production. Some of the artists who's work I'm into include: Hipp-E, Halo, Fred Everything, although I've been listening to a few Maetrik bits too. They all influence me to a degree, but I try to come up with new ways to make unusual noises.

Oli: Labels like Treibstoff, Pokerflat, 20-20 Vision and Ironbox Music influence my music. My inspiration comes more from complex pieces of electronic music that keep you listening at home rather than short-life dance floor fillers that go in and out the box in a couple of weeks.

If someone was to hear you at an event, what could they expect?

Oli: They could expect to leave naked and to be a slightly better person than when they entered.

Jon: Hopefully something they hadn’t heard before – not your average ‘house’ or ‘tech house’ selection. I’ve always been into the deeper more thoughtful sounds and like to play out stuff that people might not be familiar with. Seeing a good reaction to something you are totally digging yourself is priceless.

Are there any notable parties that you have performed at or any popular djs that you have played along side? Do you have any residencies?

Oli: The best gig for me was playing sunrise on the Paradise Sound system at the Full Moon Party on Thailand, although the Black Moon party was pretty amazing too, especially when a fleet of battleships cruised into the bay I was playing at. I've never played to crowds that massive before or since. We used to put on nights at Space in Leeds where I played with DJs like Layo and Steve Lawler and I also ran Polination at The Cross in London. My favorite nights to play in London are the infamous Shuffle parties. Wicked crowd, mental atmosphere.

What gives you motivation to keep doing what you do?

Pete: I just love it. Its a really good feeling to finish a track, and then kick back and listen to it. Add to that finding out what other people think about it. It's really an experience to watch people really going for it to stuff you've written.

Who are your favorite producers?

Oli: Maetrik, John Tejada, Asad Rizvi, Swag, Hippe & Halo, Fred Everything

Jon: Maetrik, John Tejada, 2 $ Egg, Mark & Matt Thibideau (Repair), Gabriel Ananda, Oliver Hacke, Luciano, Decomposed Subsonic, Brian Aneurysm, Swag, Swayzak, Autechre to name just a few.

What are your plans for the future?

Pete: I'll definitely keep the production going - it would be nice to make a bit of cash. We've already got a bit from the Bar Grooves compilation, and have got a few possible deals in the pipeline. I'd love to invent a completely new style of music that really caught on!

As a producer, how do you feel about the concept of the unlicensed mix cd that djs so often put out? Do you feel cheated by the wide spread use of unlicensed mixes by djs, or do you see that as a basic component that producers must accept?

Pete: I think that it is a good from the point of view of promotion. The difficulty is that CD's are very easily copied - there is a big possibility that it will be impossible to make any money in the dance music industry in the future. I'd obviously like to make money out of my tracks, but I also want them to get heard & enjoyed. Getting your stuff played out will spread your sound, so that when people actually do go and buy some records they will click with your style of music more quickly. A lot of label A&R people also DJ, so will test CD's in clubs before signing tracks.

What equipment do you use for production and djing?

Pete: I'm using a reasonably fast PC running FL Studio with a number of third party plug-ins. I think my favorite sounding VSTi is Atmosphere, although the user interface is a bit poorly designed. I've got a Fatar SL880 master keyboard and a UC-16 controller. I don't really use any hardware apart from the controllers, although I would love to get a few vintage synths at some point. I have got an MC303 and a GEM piano module that are just gathering dust - it is much easier for me to do everything using the computer.

Jon: Before I started producing with Oli and Pete, I was making my first tracks in early versions of Fruityloops and Acid, using Fruity to start patterns and then rendering them out to Acid. These days we use FL Studio and a large number of VST plugins, the main one being Atmosphere. When djing, just 2 decks and usually a Pioneer DJM-500. I’m definitely interested in the idea of playing out with Traktor though.

Oli: I've been traveling for the last year so I sold everything and moved over to a laptop with an Edirol UA-20 and an Oxygen 8 controller. I use too much software to list but I run it all through Fruity Loops.

Why did you choose that particular production equipment, over something else?

Pete: I've found FL Studio the best sequencer for dance music - I think Cubase and Logic have a far too convoluted workflow for this type of music - it takes something like 20 mouse clicks to lay in a kick drum using Cubase, as opposed to about 4 in FL. Logic and Cubase are very good applications and a lot of people swear by them - especially for more instrumental pieces and setups that use a lot of MIDI. Life's just too short to be using them for sampling and VSTi's though!

The other big reason I like FL is that the offline rendering quality of FL sounds much better than a mix down in Cubase or Logic because of the windowed synch sampler interpolation. It takes a long time to process, but it is worth it. FL also over-samples automatically if you raise the sample rate, so you can render offline an ultra high quality for subsequent mastering. Synths, filters & eq sound much better at a high sample rate (if they've been designed properly).

Jon: We all love Fruityloops basically because of the fact that ideas can start to flow so quickly when using it. We can get any effects/sounds we want within a matter of seconds as opposed to if we were working in Cubase or Logic. We’ve all used it for years and are so used to how it works.

Have you ever made a track, and felt completely okay with it to the point where you felt no need to go back and change anything?

Jon: Yep! Entron. We will all agree on the fact that nothing else needs to be done to it. My favorite track so far.

When making a track, what's the process that you take? And how do you decide what direction you are going with your music?

Pete: We try to do it slightly differently every time - you get different results depending upon the order you do things in. We'll often start with a few loops to get warmed up though. More recently I've been trying to get the main 'hook'/'lead' for tracks down as early on in the process as possible. It's more difficult to come up with a hook after having done everything else, than to write it first and get everything to fit with it. We've written tracks in both ways and were are usually more successful if we get the main sounds done first. Entron is a good example - the entire track started off as the two main chords played with the strings - everything stemmed from their mood and developed surprisingly easily the bass and percussion only really all came together about 2/3rd's of the way through writing it.

There seems to be a major trend in the electronic industry of the dj-producer combo. Why do you think that is and what brought the industry to that pattern?

Pete: The main reason is because the DJ's who produce get more publicity, so more people go to their sets. It is becoming more fashionable to produce too now - just like DJing did around five years ago.

What's the most common mistake when producing house music?

Oli: You can sometimes get too caught up in detail when you are writing a tune. You have to sit back and listen to it with an open mind and think; "Do I actually like this tune?" If the answer is no, scrap it and move onto something new.

Which producers would you like to work with?

Oli: Asad Rizvi, I love his production style. Bass heavy and gritty. Of course I
wouldn't mind getting in the studio with The Neptunes and seeing exactly how the magic is worked.

Jon: I’d love to spend an afternoon in the studio with Maetrik or John Tejada to see how they work and how their ideas come together. Also, 2$ egg from Germany, those guys constantly amaze me with every new release.

For more information, visit Wobble.it, IronBox Music, or Bit Boutique

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