Taxman: how would some define his world? ‘Jump Up’? ‘Hard’ D&B? Whatever: genre discrimination tends to disintegrate when the big ‘play’ button is pressed for Taxman’s new album Synthetic Visions: sucked in like birds into plane engines.
Synthetic Visions will simply smack you in the face and is geared for a powerhouse and multifaceted ride. There’s a preview at end. If this album is a simple case of ‘hard/jump up’ D&B then so’s Jonny L’s incredible longplayer output. We know that’s not simply the case: it’s much more.
And speaking of getting smacked in the face? You better get back in line for the Mother of all Road Stories.
In FIVE words, why the title of the album?
Music to me is Synthetic.
Let’s be straight: this album is a filthy beast and isn’t a simple collection of Club Bangers..
I didn’t set out to make an LP full of “club bangers”, that’s for sure.
To me an album to me is meant to be artistic and to showcase the artists capabilities, not only of production skills, but more importantly how to express a mood and sound. All of my favourite albums that I grew up listening to show all sides of the producer. Leftism by Leftfield and Sawtooth by Jonny L to name a few were and are very inspirational to me.
About the range you’ve covered here: some albums can sound like they contain a token ‘downtempo’ tune or two, to offset the faster tempos…
When I wrote the deeper side of the album it just happened. I didn’t really think “now I have to make something deep”. That’s how I was feeling at the time, so I put into them just as much conviction and effort as the rest of the album. ‘All For Nothing’, ‘Forgiven’, ‘Dayz Without You’ etc are all from the heart. Hopefully the listener will appreciate them as much as the harder side.
With the BEATS on Synthetic Visions, it’s lashing. Sounds like a lot of fun was had putting these down. Was that the case?
Yes, that’s always been the case with drums. In any track the drums are the main element to me.
There’s so many things that can be done with drums: they can set a mood and add pressure to a track just as much as a melody or bassline. I always make new drum tracks for everything I write. I don’t see how some producers can use the same drums for every track they make to be honest. That just instantly takes the fun out of making something new. Drums inspire me, there’s so many different ways you can process them etc. Even though I’m never totally happy with the final mix on mine!
So when did you put your head down and start to work on this album?
I think I started writing tracks for it around 2011. There’s so many things that didn’t get finished or just didn’t make it onto the album for one reason or another. “All For Nothing” was written in 2011, and then it sat on the computer until Diane Charlemagne put vocals onto it towards the end or 2013. ‘No More Anthems’ was made as I was finishing everything else off in late 2013 also. So yes: it spans about two and a half years I think.
What about a tune you’d take apart… ‘Black Rain’ for example.
I heavily sampled the 1989 film Black Rain for this. Most of the album is played on synths etc but for ‘Black Rain’ I kind of reverted back to the way I used to make tracks before I had any synths or musical knowledge. The Taiko drums running all the way through the track are even sampled from the movie.
Hype moaned a bit about the one note bassline, but I think it lets the rest of the track breathe and lets the listener be absorbed into the track: have a listen to it on some headphones!
You mention Diane too, tell me about the work with this profound talent on Rebirth: to work with people like Goldie, Calibre, Caspa and Taxman is some span!
Diane is very spontaneous, she doesn’t really like to write stuff down: she just likes to go into the studio and jam, and once she hit something that she likes, she worked on it. I chose to hire a studio not far away from my own as I don’t own a good enough mic, so I had an engineer in there with me recording all of the takes, and he was blown away by her singing.
He said he’d never heard anything like Diane before and he got pretty excited about it all. It was definitely a memorable moment in my career so far.
How do you feel about vocals in D&B? It’s a bit of an ‘obvious’ one but interesting as it’s only worked properly for just over a decade…
Yes, it’s very popular at the moment, and it makes D&B very accessible to new listeners. Some people in the scene don’t like it though, they see it as selling out.
But I think if the artist is capable of making quality D&B that’s viable for the radio, why not? I don’t really care if the D&B that gets played on the radio is deemded as a bit cheesey, as long as real effort and devotion has gone into it. It’s great for D&B, it’s a great opportunity for the good producers of the scene and it’s something to be proud of.
Who are your allies in the field, speaking of people new to D&B?
Decimal Bass is really talented and you can hear his vision in most of his work. ‘Near Me’ has such a sick groove to it. He puts a few producers to shame that have been in the scene for a lot longer than he has.
And my brother Original Sin always inspires me with his endless hunt for new studio techniqes and his love for the sound of vintage synths.
I think a lot about the way D&B was 10 years back as 2004 was awesome. How do you feel about it?
It’s definitely changed a lot, that’s for sure. There’s good and bad things about D&B today but to be honest I just prefer to keep my head in the sand and just get on with my own music.
Speaking of keeping your head down… I believe you have a tale about life on the road?
There was this time when my brother and myself played in Perth, Australia. Must have been about five years ago, and Randall, John B, Shabba and a few others where all playing at this outdoor event in the evening. My brother and myself were playing b2b, and whilst Adam was in the mix, I just noticed this huge rugby-built type looking guy barge his way to the front of the crowd, then he jumped up onto the stage and he just ran towards the decks and then actually jumped over the decks and started swinging for my brother.
The guy was huge, and he seriously looked like he was in a state of primal rage or something.
My brother managed to get away from this guy, and then the guy just ran to the back of the stage and took a swing at Randall, which Randall just ducked out of the way of.
Unfortunately the lunatic just swung at the next available face which happened to be one of the local’s girlfriend and he broke her jaw. The whole place just erupted at that point, everyone just jumped on this guy, started beating him up, one guy was hitting him with a mic stand, but he just didn’t even flinch and he was just throwing people off him.
It must have taken about 10 people to control him. He was just screaming like he was running into battle or something. One of the most surreal things I’ve ever witnessed.
Some paramedics had to sedate the guy and strap him to a stretcher and put him in the back of an ambulance. I just remember talking to Randall about it in total disbelief…
…and then all I see whilst looking over Randall’s shoulder at the ambulance is that the guy managed to break free from the stretcher, get out of the ambulance again and tried to go on another rampage.
As Ron Burgandy said: ‘That escalated quickly.’
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