THE TRACK: DLR
Trick – The drum & bass maestro shows us how he went about his latest collaboration with Hydro
DnB producer DLR (AKA James Rowbotham) has a glittering resumé that includes remixing Q Project’s seminal Champion Sound, releases on Metalheadz, Dispatch and Warm Communications, and most recently creating his own label, Sofa Sound Bristol. We caught up with James in his Bohemian abode to discuss the AA side of the label’s third release, a sub-troubling collaboration with fellow bassmeister Hydro, Trick.
Having compared it with some other tracks in a DAW, Trick is incredibly loud. That was a little surprising as you didn’t seem that focused on loudness in the video?
“For me, it’s an obsession. It can be frustrating and make moving forward with ideas difficult because I want things to be sonically right, but the main aim with Trick wasn’t, ‘Let’s make the loudest tune ever!’. When I work on collaborative projects, time is more limited and the pressure is on a bit more, which means I can get results faster. I can put that obsession to the side a bit because I have to. It’s become a slight embarrassment really, people just give up with me and say, ‘I don’t want to sit around watching you make that snare sound good for the next hour’. But that hour is only the bit they’re seeing, it’s more like a whole day!
“There are a lot of tricks and things I’ve learnt along the way, for example when I did the attack on the break’s snare. That’s not something that always works, but you navigate through various techniques to make layers sit together. Generally in DnB you probably need more transient layers, you need to be quite solid in drum & bass, or it kind of sounds a bit wafty in comparison to everything else. With Trick in particular, I think it’s worked out nicely. Like the sound selection: it all seemed to push in the direction of being a particularly loud mix. So it was a loud one, and it was pretty easy to get it to that point.”
Presumably this desire for loudness plays an important part in determining the musical content of your tunes?
“When you’re scientific about things, you go down that same road, it
can all sound very samey. You can analyse everything and work out which key each drum is in and everything sits in its place, but sound has overtones. For example, a kick can have a lot of other information in there as well, they don’t necessarily have to sit on the root note. If you do scientifically put everything in its place, it can lead to things being a little bit stagnant.
“I try to experiment with a lot of different methods, I’ve tried different ways of working with the more scientific, neurofunk way of working, EDM stuff. There are all these fucking tutorials, people saying, ‘Look at my layered EDM snare’, and it’s horrendous. I suppose you always think you know best, but like… 40Hz is good, but it’s not good in all clubs. Sometimes I can play a tune in a bit of a weird room, and F is dead. Then you drop a tune in E that you think would sound worse because the sound system doesn’t go low enough, and it actually sounds amazing because the room resonates or whatever. You just want to write good music, that’s mixed down well and you enjoy writing… and you feel, inevitably, that as you’re so fucking trained in what you do, it’s gonna end up being good.”
Like many DnB producers you seem to have a strong bond with your spectral analyser...
“It can be a bit frustrating for me because sometimes I look at
“When I work on collaborative projects, time is a bit more limited and the pressure is on a bit more, which means I can get results faster. I can put that obsession to the side a little bit because I have to.”
spikes and troughs in the signal – and at times that shit can be the problem with the sound as your snare has a really weird hole, like 800Hz or whatever, and if you work to fill that in, it will sound fuller – and that is my obsession which can be frustrating. That’s my mixdown style now, and people are used to that.
“I master a lot of music, and some people would have really high snares and they cut off a lot of bottom, just so they’re really snappy and top-endy, and then they have this thuddy low kick… but my stuff is a more full-range drum kit sound in general.
“I guess you’re just looking at it for whatever you want to achieve. I’ve become more used to seeing it in a specific way. If you want your tune loud it’s generally quite full in frequency isn’t it? Sometimes I just want to ban myself from using it, but I can’t help myself, I’m an addict!”