TiD&B Interview: Submorphics

Posted by on Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Chicago’s (by way of Detroit) D&B finest, Submorphics released the awesome ‘Post Modern Soul’ EP last week on WestbayTiD&B caught up with him to find out more about the eclectically sounding and soulful record, his thought process and inspiration behind the samples used, as well as what beats he’s feeling at the moment…

TiD&B: For a listener new to your sound, how would you introduce your music?

Submorphics: I guess my music is a personalized mixture of: 60s-70s soul/RnB, rustic 60s jazz, Dub, 70s funk/rare groove, 70s chilled out rock, early 80s pop, 90’s indie, epic film soundtracks; and in terms of modern electronic music: soulful hip hop, Detroit neosoul and techno/tech-house music, and deep/jazzy Chicago house. Not all those things at once though…

TiD&B: You are known for producing Drum & Bass which has real depth and soul – is this an intentional trademark of your work or does it happen accidently?

Submorphics: Yep its intentional, I love to sample the genres I mentioned above. Making music for me is about vibes and feeling rather than production wizardry. Nostalgic-sounding music from the past re-interpreted in modern ways gets me going!

When making D&B tunes, I often start tracks with a sample that I want to use, usually something obscure that I chop up/re-arrange to make it my own. I end up adding a lot of my own synths and live instrumentation to the tracks as well, but usually some sort of sample is the launching point for the track. For some reason I usually fail when I try to start a DnB tune with synths; but I’ve had much more luck starting tunes this way in the 135-bpm-range music I’ve been messing around with.

TiD&B: When planning to produce an EP, do you have a direction or plan in mind, or does creating and choosing the tracks come naturally?

Submorphics: To be honest I haven’t yet started to make tracks with any larger project in mind; I make music 1 track at a time, and focus on that individual track. We (myself and Atlantic Connection) wanted this EP to be a snapshot of where I’m at musically this year; we handpicked the tunes from a selection of things I had made over the last year that we were both happy with.

TiD&B: Samples are a key feature of your production and you draw upon a variety of past sounds such as soul and funk – where and how do you source them?

Submorphics: I’m old school I guess – I still go to my local vinyl shops and dig through old 60s and 70s soul and jazz. I more recently have sampled digital mediums too, but mostly I still sample old rare vinyl. For crate digging, I like boutique high-end record shops as well as grungy, hole-in-the wall stores that look like they haven’t been organized since 1978. Usually I just pick up a record that I have never heard of, look at the instrumentation on the back of the sleeve, check out the song-titles, and get a sense of what the music might sound like. Then I buy the record blindly if there’s no listening station at the record store. Since I usually sample music bought from Dusty Groove (on Ashland Ave in Chicago), listening before purchasing is not an option because they don’t have any listening stations in there. Shoutouts to K-Starke Records on Western Ave as well! I am spoiled living in Chicago where independent and used record store culture has never died, and there’s endless soul/jazz/funk/house history to be dug up!

TiD&B: What were your influences behind the Post Modern Soul Ep?

Submorphics: Good question! I really have to wrack my brain sometimes to figure out where the ideas and influences come from. Distant 60s and 70s jazz and RnB samples were lifted in the first 3 cuts of the Post Modern Soul EP, and re-interpreted in my own variety of modern dnb/dubstep for the dancefloor. ‘Revelation’ in particular was my attempt at using all rustic 60s and early 70s sounds to create a vintage aesthetic.

The final cut, ‘Don’t Remind Me’ contains no samples, and is influenced by: empty beaches in the dead of winter, film noir, Chicago subways, Ninja Tune, Bossa Nova, and other stuff…

TiD&B: What is your favourite track on the EP and why?

Submorphics: I think my favorite tune is ‘Don’t Remind Me’ which debuts the vocals of Southside Chicago’s own Christina Tamayo aka Small Wonder. This song was sort of written by accident, tinkering on my Rhodes with Christina on a cold Winter night in February, earlier this year. It’s a full vocal tune, and required me to produce it from a different angle than usual. There was another version of this track floating around 6 months ago, but I went back to it recently and turned it into stripped-down 2010 microbeats music. I think subconsciously I was going for Portishead meets Burial sorta vibes. Headphone music, not for clubs; but for me it’s refreshing working on something purely for home listening.

I have another song featuring Christina Tamayo coming out early 2011 on Westbay called ‘When you Said’ (which has also been lovingly remixed by label curator Atlantic Connection.) This track is another venture into the 135 bpm garage/2step sound that I am fond of.

TiD&B: You venture into the realm of 140bpm in ‘Can’t Understand’, was it a natural move to explore other sounds other than D&B?

Submorphics: I’ve been working on dubstep-tempo stuff for 2-3 years, but after a long break from it, I recently re-approached the tempo with an aim at more shuffly/bouncy drums, rather than stiff halfstep dubstep beats which dominate a lot of American clubland. I am a fan of the new school future-garage stuff going around, and all the musical/soulful/deep offshoots of dubstep (post-dubstep?) sound hot to me. This tempo feels like new sonic and rhythmic territory; there is a lot you can do which has not been done before, I think. So as for ‘Can’t Understand’, I was trying to fuse modern garage/dubstep styles with soulful hip-hop type samples, and Detroit tech-house synth sounds, and sort of conjure an old 60s-70s soul vibe with the vocals/string stabs, rather than using house acapellas.

TiD&B: As a DJ, do you play strictly D&B?  How would you describe a typical Submorphics set?

Submorphics: I tend to stick to one genre, though I recently have dabbled with garage/2step/dubstep/whatever sets that go into D&B (if I’m given 2 hours).  I have played a couple purely garage/2step/dubstep/whatever sets, but 98% of my DJ’ing in the last several years have been D&B sets. As a DnB selector, I tend to enjoy taking the dancefloor on a journey- from funky party/soulful vibes, to tougher slightly harder-edged things, to deep/experimental/heavy bass music, to epic stormers. I like to mix it up basically – but do it coherently and naturally…not randomly! I enjoy DJ’ing Drum’n'Bass a lot to be honest- it’s one of my favorite aspects of the genre – the live gigs and DJ sets. I just recently played at fabric in London after LTJ Bukem, which was an honour, and followed it up with several gigs in Eastern Europe. My Drum’n'bass DJ’ing schedule has provided me with endless travelling and experiences over the last 2-3 years…it’s been a great way to see North America and Europe!!

TiD&B: What are you top 3 tunes right now?

Submorphics:   Calibre ‘Even If’, Commix ‘How you gonna feel’ (Pedestrian Remix), The Whatnauts ‘Tweedle Dum Dum’.

TiD&B: Is there a tune you wish you has produced?

Submorphics: I’m gonna go with the aforementioned Calibre ‘Even If’. Brilliant tune.

TiD&B: What’s the future for Submorphics, is there an LP in the pipeline?

Submorphics: Ahhh…the future…I should plan for that more. I’ve been fairly productive in the studio this year, but as for an album, as of today there is nothing confirmed…so watch this space, I guess!

TiD&B:  Where can we find out more about you?

Submorphics: You can book me at your local club, buy me a shot of Jameson and that will probably get me talking!

Posted on: 22/11/10 Categories: Interviews TiD&B Features


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