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DOWNLOAD: The Keysound Associated Etch’s Rising Sun
Posted by Oli Grant on October 31, 2013

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Still just in the fledgling stages of his musical adventure as a producer, the 21 year old, Zak Brashill has already bagged himself a full release on Dusk & Blackdown’s esteemed Keysound imprint, adding to his involvement with the very promising new label/ crew, Soundman Chronicles. Making beats as Etch, Brashill is fuelling plenty of positive hype for all the right reasons, with his tracks finding their way onto BBC Radio and Rinse as well as regular features in a whole heap of mixes from anyone pushing the broken 130-140bpm sound that is thriving at the minute. Having grown up as an avid follower of drum & bass and latterly dubstep, his music incorporates elements from various UK-birthed genres, piecing together a healthy patchwork of rough British sounds reimagined in a style that he can definitely call his own. Zak is a nostalgic kind of guy and in moving things forward with his own music, there’s a definite homage to the hardcore continuum, as he draws from and intersects the sleek soulful elements of garage, the moody sub-driven core of dubstep and the splintered rhythms of jungle and grime.

As well as the obvious string to his bow that is his Keysound release and the label showcases, invitations to Rinse etc. that come with it, the most invaluable thing he’s achieved might well be the creativity he has surrounded himself with – particularly some of the less established lot. There seems to be a genuine hunger generated by shared goals that is spurring them on. They talk of ‘family vibes’ and a real sense of pride when they discuss the talent within their crew (think Parris, Lex, Facta, E.m.m.a, Wen, Facta, Rabit, Epoch, Sepia, J-One and so on). They know they are onto something undoubtedly special, fertile and exciting. And I’d wholeheartedly agree with that notion, and whilst I have an undesirable tendency to write gloriously hyperbolic statements about music I like, I’d say they are about ready to start making their own indelible mark on the history of the sound.

Setting the scene waffle aside, Etch and Soundman Chronicles have kindly linked us with one of his dubs, ‘Rising Sun’, for free download, and to accompany that we spoke to Zak via email on breakbeats, labels, next steps and influences.

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DOWNLOAD: Etch – Rising Sun

Dropbox Mirror link (right click/save as).

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Sonic Router: You mentioned last year that jungle/ hardcore era music was one of your biggest creative influences despite your music at the time leaning loosely towards a garage vibe. Some of your most recent beats have increasingly built off that break-driven sound – what’s caused the shift?

Etch: I try to work with all styles from the UK hardcore continuum within my music, I think the stride towards using breaks primarily stemmed from how much enjoyment I realised I actually get out sniffing out obscure breaks and then cutting them up and rearranging them. Since day one I’ve always been drawn towards the intricacies of rhythm and creating something that is human but at the same time inhuman. I think the beats of garage, particularly the darker strains of 2-step hold so much slinky coldness to them, I’m really into that and I try to translate that across to using breaks, the way I build my rhythm sections hasn’t differed that far from when I was making a more straightforward garage sound other than that I’ve gotten deeper into the intricacies of this digital/human idea behind them. I like to think that my music is this hybrid where you can trace sections of it back to something that once was. Whether it’s how I cut my breaks, process my bass or the samples I use. But I think overall the reason I moved from making a more straightforward sound to this is simply evolution and natural progression.

There seems to be breaks everywhere at the moment with everyone from Paul Woolford to Bøne Squad building them into current 130-140bpm beats…

I have been noticing breaks and people referencing jungle and hardcore a lot more lately, but I always think maybe it’s because I’m looking for it? I think there will undoubtedly be some sort of wave of revivalism, especially after Tessela’s Hackney Parrot. Paul Woolford is awesome too, looking forward to his Special Request album a lot. I think it’s never really died out so to speak, I mean you had Andy Stott under his Millie alias in like ’08 and ’09 doing tunes a direct homage to hardcore and jungle. And of course in the real early days of dubstep you had Toasty and Elemental etc. And the sort of little niche of breakstep which was shunned almost instantly, that was some of the first dubstep I got into; I think this sound has always existed on the fringe of whatever is new.

There are few better imprints than Keysound in exposing new artists and fresh mutations of continuum sounds – the label seems like a perfect fit for your music?

Yeah I can’t disagree there, I feel really at home on Keysound, not to say I’d be keen to explore further reaches of this scene and maybe not even this particular scene at all, I write a tremendous amount of music that just doesn’t fit in anywhere and no one hears, I think it’s the same story for most producers really. What I love about Keysound is the fact it doesn’t really have a guideline, it’s really open to fresh mutations of the UK underground and I’ve followed Keysound since roughly 2006, so ending up being part of the label 7 years later is crazy. I think in terms of exposing upcoming talented producers from the underground, Keysound is virtually unmatchable, a lot of labels seem to be locked off doing their own thing these days, Keysound is always after the cutting edge.

Just before LDN040 was announced, you dropped a very heavy release with a much less established but equally exciting label in Soundman Chronicles. Can you talk a little about the label, how you hooked up with them and the EP?

Yeah the Soundman thing came about via Dwayne Parris aka DJ Parris, he was sort of my first real link up when I moved to London. I moved to London in September 2011 with that standard big starry eyed idea of “YEAH YEAH GO LDN, MAKE LINKS, GET INVOLVED IN THE SCENE”, sadly, didn’t really pan out like that, London was kind of going in a very different direction when I moved there and I found myself actually thinking I probably should have stayed in Brighton. But even so I kept my head down for the next year, whacking out tunes as fast and as hard as I could and in this period I had linked up with who I consider my peers now such as Wen, J-One, Lex, Baitface etc.

The month I began my 2nd year Parris hit me up via e-mail singing my praises saying he was rating the breaks/ jungle direction, he hit up Wen the same day too and it all just built up from there, I finished all the tunes on the EP in the space of about a week. When someone offers you a vinyl release it can go two ways, you cease up and can’t produce (a problem I had with the Keysound release) or you just get this almost blind, senseless creativity which was very much the case here. Parris came round to run over the tunes with me, work on structure to make ‘em a bit more DJ friendly etc… and that was that. As for the label, Parris has got myself and Wen to be loosely affiliated, as in we’ll have a shout on releases, finding new people and just general involvement. I can’t really say what’s going on at this point but I can say Gantz, Facta and Epoch will be putting stuff out in the near future, it’s all very exciting.

Speaking of Parris, I saw that you two are collaborating on a new night, Emerald City, along with E.M.M.A., Sully and DLVRY. It looks sick. How has that come about and what’s the vibe?

Yeah that’s E.m.m.a’s baby really, but it’s definitely an avenue we’re all keen to explore, it’s basically (in my eyes) us trying to put on a night that’s pushing something that’s not the dull thud of 44 music and something exploring perhaps music that’s a bit more technicolor so to speak. Something that’s shining a light on all of our individual styles and influences and pushing interesting mutations of UK dance music. I’ll be coming through from a predominantly breaks/jungle angle. Then there’s Parris with his extensive use of the freshest dubplates, E.m.m.a with god knows what judging by her recent guest mix on my sub.fm show, but definitely something to be excited about! Then of course the other guys got their own angles and twists of modern underground electronic music. But yeah we’re hoping it’ll be a regular thing!

You’ve also previously mentioned quite a diverse range of dream labels to release on in Astrophonica, Hessle Audio and Hyperdub; what direction do you see your production going in next?

Ha yeah, perhaps too diverse. I have so much respect for so many labels. Warp and Planet Mu too. As for direction I’m really not sure, I seem to go in a two year cycle where I switch up my style a bit, but at the moment I’m really comfortable with what I’m doing. A lot of what I’ve been doing recently involves a lot more time and care. I’ve been getting really intricate with my percussion and I’ve been getting back onto sampling off vinyl, really digging deep and taking my time finding records that are really interesting. Some stuff is more indebted to hiphop and early Mo’ Wax and Ninja Tune sort of stuff, but with the constant vibe and template of hardcore and jungle, it’s not really dance music. I guess next on my agenda is making a selection of tracks that work in an album format.

Aside from musical influences, are there any other surrounding factors or stimuli that affect your productions?

That’s quite a difficult one because no doubt things subconsciously affect me and what mood I produce in and such. My education has primarily been in film and photography (prior to university) and I’ve always been surrounded by visual art (my housemates are involved with film and fine art etc..) so I take influence from a lot of visuals and in a sense build tracks as if they are small films in my imagination. I love busted up old VHS’s like video nasties and stuff that’s 20p from car boot sales. As well as leaving me bucketloads of records when he moved to America, my uncle also left me about 4 cardboard boxes full of these haggard old 80’s-70’s VHS’s, proper crude shit. I love them, half are stuffed in an attic somewhere but I’d watch ‘em when I was about 8yrs old, I’d love it when there’s like strings in the soundtrack and the pitch and tracking goes out. I try to get that sound so much. I’ve recently been sampling a lot of those films. Nostalgia is another large influence in my music, I also love videogames, all the PS1 classics too and they for sure influence my production in their moods and settings.

Thanks for hooking us up with ‘Rising Sun’, very nice rolling vibes and that orchestral sample reminds me of an old Hive release on True Playaz. Where’s the sample from and can you tell us about the track?

No worries! Ah, that’s a big compliment, I’m a huge fan of Hive, especially the stuff he released on Violence Recordings in the mid-00’s. Yeah that tune came about because I wanted in my head to create something that’s like Horsepower Productions and really early Ganja Kru stuff, like DJ Hype’s ‘Computerised Cops’ creating a mutant love child. It came together relatively quickly; it’s kind of a left over from the mind-set I was in writing tunes for the Keysound EP. That sample is actually from an old Zero-G sample pack, can’t quite remember which, but I went on a bit of a binge about a year ago trying to collect those real old sample packs that all the oldskool hardcore heads and early jungle people rinsed out. But yeah I’m a firm believer in making something your own, I can’t just take a straight sample without mangling it and chopping it and effecting it quite a lot, obviously unless I’m purposefully referencing that sample (e.g. ‘Scattah’, see below), kind of like an audio dissertation of the history of dance music if you know what I mean? But yeah with this one I just ran it through a sampler stretched it, pitched it, added some other effects and played in my own pattern.

Etch’s Old School Methods EP is out now on Keysound.

Catch Keysound taking over fabric’s Room Three tomorrow night.