This might seem like a ridiculous tip coming from a DnB DJ/producer, but I’m not telling you to give up on the genre and go and listen to techno… This tip is aimed at helping producers to avoid getting caught in the trap of listening to so much DnB and suddenly running out of original ideas.
As a producer who is learning, of course you need to be aware of what is happening in the scene, but it shouldn’t be the only influence going in to your music. If you spend your free time listening to DnB then it is impossible not to be directly influenced by it, and you’ll find that that your music inevitably just sounds like a copy of the latest banger. This used to happen to me all the time, I would check loads of new releases on my journeys back and forth around London and then when I got into the studio all I had in my head was other people’s music.
This can happen whatever sub-genre you are into; listening to a load of Dawn Wall will send you into the studio searching for euphoric samples and rolling beats, listening to DLR all day is a sure fire way to end up getting stuck in a loop trying to match his funky basslines, trying to match Break’s drums will never make you feel good, and a day listening to Noisia will just make you depressed and not want to write music! Even if the influence is just sub-concious (and it often is) you will still end up mimicking the artists you love and who inspire you to make drum & bass.
I’m not saying you should cut yourself off from the scene, and of course it is important for DJ’s to be up to date so it impossible to cut DnB out of your diet entirely – but it is possible to manage your time and let those promo emails stack up for a while. In a period of trying to write new music it isn’t healthy to spend loads of time listening to all the new releases in the search for inspiration. The great thing about jungle and early DnB is you could tell what other styles of music a producer was into through the samples they chose to use. As well as just the samples, its the influence and mood from other styles that can have a massive effect on what you write, and it is much more interesting to take influences from other styles and bring them back into a DnB context.
When I’m focused on writing new music I listen to anything other than DnB. Often a lot of funk and soul in the mornings, and tonnes of ambient music, soundscapes and film scores. I find Spotify is a great tool for doing this, it exposes me to a huge range of artists that I wouldn’t hear otherwise. Every week I find a new composer who blows me away. Sometimes the killer sample just arrives through a search for new music, but more often it is the overall vibe and palette of sounds that provides the spark of inspiration to write some original DnB. Bringing these different influences back into my music helps me to create something with more depth. Of course the drum and the bass themselves are still the essential elements, but I try not to get bogged down worrying about making them sound like somebody else. I concentrate on the overall vibe of the song and then engineer the beats and bass to suit my vision.
Here is a collection of music I have been building over the last year, there’s no real method to the curation of this playlist it’s just things that have caught my ear and I want to hear again. Listening to this playlist so many times on my travels is giving me a whole library of ideas to draw upon when it’s time to get back in the studio….