Continuing our completely unofficial run of people who’ve helped make 2011 interesting musically, we thought we’d ask Artifact, aka Ryan Bonfield, to wrap up a turbulent 12 months by providing what could well be the last SR mix of the year.
If I’m completely honest, he’s one of those guys that we simply just started talking to. There wasn’t an epiphany, any hype or a detailed hustling chase. Then living in Bristol, he just started sending tunes through, initially as Portrait, a production duo he founded alongside Ziro, and that in turn led to our introduction to Hodge, the producer who made SR Mix #107; but I digress… We started playing Bonfield’s tracks on the radio, utilizing their steadfast rhythm and melodies to blend between moods and since then we simply kept in touch.
A few digital releases followed but it’s now, since he’s confirmed his debut physical release, the second 12” on the freshly minted Deadplate label, that he really seems to have found his voice. Without trying to blow smoke up his arse, ‘Archaic Line’ builds on the promise of his early dubs, fusing that ear for sensual melodies with a drum line that just pounds and pounds on top of them. It’s that prominence of the kick drum and the force of the grime bass pulse on the early part of the B side ‘Deserted’ that proves he’s become canny enough to let his rhythm parts shout the loudest. He’s grown sonically, confining the colour to short stab like bursts on ‘Archaic Line’ and those short squeals and sprawling chords on ‘Deserted’ and pushing the emphasis; totally finding his grounding in the interplay of organic hats and percussion.
We’re stoked to be hosting this mix; it’s a session that really seems to elevate Bonfield out of the little ‘must check’ spot we had reserved for him in our inbox. To frame it properly we caught up with and quizzed the producer who’s currently in Germany on a work placement…
Sonic Router: So how’s Cologne treating you? Explain to us what you’re doing over there…
Artifact: I am currently over here on a work placement working for a high-end audio plugin development studio. It’s a pretty cool job, but I think the real positive to moving here has been meeting people and starting to get involved with a scene in a completely different place. Saying that, I am really missing the UK, my friends and the healthy scene that is developing there at the moment.
Does it feel a million miles away from Bristol? Musically as well as culturally…
I think there are moments when it does and moments when you think it’s just the same. Culturally there are a lot of similarities, especially in Cologne, which I see as almost the Bristol of Germany. There is a lot of street art dotted around, the cities around the same size and it’s all real close together. They have a hell of a lot more (and bigger) clubs here though. The main real difference you notice is how polite like 90% of the people are here, especially in the music scene… everyone’s been really warm and welcoming across the board.
Musically it’s kind of opposite to Bristol, with house and techno being the main players, and dubstep and the whole ‘UK bass’ vibe just starting to gain popularity. In Bristol it feels like those two have held it down, and house and techno is starting to make a resurgence. Hearing these different sounds has definitely made an impact on my music however, and it is nice to see kids here getting really excited about the music that’s starting to come across from the UK.
Obviously we’ve been in touch for a while and you kind of came through at the same time as Hodge did for me (in that you both started sending tunes at the same time). How do you think the Bristol scene influenced you and your music?
Well when I moved to Bristol I was making dubstep, and kind of figured it would be the place to be to further that sound. Instead I discovered an entire new wave of music, and got in touch with lots of producers, big and small. This is when I became Artifact and started developing my sound. Me and Hodge kind of hooked up around a year and a half ago just as he started to gain some attention from a few folks, and me and him have been swapping tunes and giving each other feedback ever since. I also met my buddy Ziro there who I formed Portrait with, and me and him have been producing together since we met. I think the advantage that Bristol has over a city like London is that it’s very diverse; with a lot of people playing different sounds and music, but it’s small enough that everyone can hook up easily, and hit each other’s nights. I think this causes the kind of hybrid sound’s that seem to be flooding out of Bristol at the moment.
Portrait – Because / Because (Hodge’s 130 Refix) [forthcoming Pollen]
You work as Artifact on a solo tip and Portrait is a duo right? Can you make the distinction for the people proper…? Like how is it split?
Well Artifact is without a doubt the dancefloor material. Portrait came about around 12 months ago when me and Ziro felt like we wanted to create some music that was a lot more, well, musical. We started off making quite 2 step inspired music, which you will be hearing on the Pollen label soon, but have since moved onto 110bpm downwards house music, which again you will be hearing very soon on another label! It’s a chance for us to create an output we would never be able to do under our solo monikers, and also a good laugh between mates.
What made you want to start making music? What were you listening to?
Time for the embarrassing past to surface… When I was 15 I got into pop-punk, and made a pop-punk band. This quickly became more of a metal band with which I toured round the UK for few years and released an album with. I quickly realised that this venture was costing me money and there was little reward, and very soon I realised the music in itself wasn’t developing at all. I got bored pretty quick, and a friend had recently introduced me to drum & bass. I remember going to one of the first parties at Motion (before it became the big venue today, it was just the front room and the main room was just in the vert ramp) and hearing these two guys playing dubstep in the front room – and I mean that real raw sound from back then. I was pretty much sold right there and then and I focused all my attention on that sound…
Are you more advanced than just a DAW on a laptop? What’s your studio like?
Well here in Germany it consists of my MacBook and my Adam ANF10’s. In the UK it wasn’t much more, featuring just a Midi keyboard on top of that. Portrait was a bit more complicated as Ziro has a lot more hardware than me, but I’m yet to be in a position I can afford any nice gear. Once I’m done at uni I’m sure I will invest and will begin incorporating that into my sound, it is definitely something I’ve dreamed about for a while now.
How would you describe the music you make? I mean to me, it’s in definitely in vogue but there’s a heavy emphasis on percussion in a tune like ‘Archaic Line’…would you say your drums are more important than the melody to you?
Drums are really important to me, it’s the drive behind a track; however I do like to try and bring a little melody in from time to time. I guess it’s just something I’ve always been interested in and it probably stems back to my metal days. I also think you can create some really interesting grooves through percussion, and something that’s really important to me is trying to keep it interesting. I mean yeah it’s in vogue but thats bound to happen when your inspired by everything around you, but then I like to add my own touch to try and make it different… hence the mix of chopped up breaks and percussion hits in ‘Archaic Line’, and the contrasts in melody, vocals and bass throughout ‘Deserted’. I think it’s really important to at least try and make a sound your own, rather than straight up copying the guy next to you. As long as your taking a sound and giving it your own foot print, then I think that that’s moving forward.
Does what other producers do influence you directly do you think?
Directly I’d definitely have to say a lot of my friends do, through checking out each other’s tracks and the feedback we get. As I’ve mentioned before I produce with Ziro a fair bit, and me and him hang out a lot when I’m in the UK, so it’s inevitable I’ll take some influence from him… but really I take influence from everyone who I’m listening too in some small way, from guys like DJ Spinn through too Lex Luger, to the music I might hear in a club on any given night. I can’t really just say a few guys because the reality is I listen to a lot of music and it all influences me in some way. Even post-rock bands you know?
Artifact – Archaic Line [forthcoming Deadplate]
Your Deadplate release is your first official 12” right? How does that feel to have someone investing in your music properly?
I can’t thank Alex (Synamatix) enough for the opportunity he’s given me by taking me into the physical domain. Having someone financially back my music and really push it too has been amazing, and I think that Deadplate are going to have a really good 2012. Their roster is a brilliant mix of new and established artists and I think they are going to be a force to be reckoned with over the next 12 months.
You’ve been tipped by a few sites/tastemakers as one of the hottest prospects for 2011. How does that feel? What have you got in store for the first quarter of 2012?
Well it’s nice to have people finally supporting my stuff, but you know I don’t see it that way, but I guess that’s how it is with everyone! It’s really nice to be backed by some people who know what they’re talking about though, kind of rewarding after years of trying to get heard.
Obviously my 12″ on Deadplate and then I’ve got a few tracks I’m still in the early stages of sending to artists etc. I’m keeping my stuff a lot more locked down this year. I’ve also got a guest mix coming up on Mary Anne Hobbs show on XFM on the 21st of January, so you can expect to hear a fair few of my new bits there! I’m really excited about that though, m/a is defiantly one of those people you look up to.
Tell us a bit about the mix you’ve made for us?
This mix is showcasing my latest bits, with tracks of my Deadplate release, my last (ever) digital release, and then a lot of music that I’m really feeling at the moment, from the likes of Ziro, Graphics, Mosca, South London Ordnance, Thefft etc. Pretty much every artist in this mix is someone who I really feel is going to take it to another level next year! I also included a track from these guys I’ve met here, JTRP. They had a stunning debut on Deep Teknologi, and the sound they’re creating is really something different, I’m looking forward to where they go over the next year.
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
Keep working, keep busy and don’t give up!
DOWNLOAD: Artifact – Sonic Router Mix #113
Artifact – Archaic Line (Graphics Remix) [Forthcoming Deadplate]
Artifact – D.A.R.E (HxdB Remix) [Freshmore]
JTRP – Get Down On [Unrelesed]
Artifact – Brittle Bones [Unreleased]
Arctic – Sky Chase [Unreleased]
Lung & Maxx Roach – Booty Call (Randomer Remix) [Deadplate]
Ziro – Coded [Unreleased]
Graphics – D Transition [Granholme]
Thefft – Pull It Out [Unreleased]
Ziro – Strays [Unreleased]
Dubbel Dutch – Darq [Mixpak]
Arctic – Stop Motion [Unreleased]
Ziro – Oni [Unreleased]
Mosca – Wray ‘n Neph 
South London Ordnance – Slow Dance [Unreleased]
Hodge – The Baddest [Unreleased]
Wachs Lyrical – Parrot Chat [Wicked Bass]
Artifact – Deserted [Forthcoming Deadplate]
Graphics – Colour Her Hair [Made To Play]
Throwing Snow – Pyre [Local Action]
Artifact’s Deadplate release, ‘Archaic Line’ b/w ‘Deserted’ & Graphic’s Remix of ‘Archaic Line’ is out on the 16th January 2012.