One of UK club music's best producers gets loose.
It was maybe inevitable that lots of the music produced in what became known as the UK bass scene hasn't stood the test of time. When the dubstep scene collapsed at the end of the 2000s, producers in the UK navigated the wreckage by trying out an unprecedented number of ideas, resulting in genre hybrids that were novel but without too much longevity beyond the shock of the new. There are, however, some notable exceptions. Ed Russell released his first music as Tessela around this time, and along with his peers like Pearson Sound, Untold, Objekt and Peverelist, his tracks have proven to be extremely durable. Whether it's due to smart structuring, the classically-rooted sounds he used, or simply the skill of his execution, Russell's early-to-mid period music would still stand out in an adventurous techno set or among contemporary UK sounds. His releases on Punch Drunk and 2nd Drop Records were great, but he really got going when he signed to R&S, releasing an impeccable run of three EPs—Nancy's Pantry, Rough 2 and Bottom Out—that took old-school hardcore and rave sounds and blasted them into the future.
His biggest triumph, though, was "Hackney Parrot." The track wound up at #2 in our 2013 poll, and to this day its opening exchange between a shaker and drum break still sounds like it could incite a riot. Hackney Parrot was the first release on Poly Kicks, a label Russell now runs with his brother, Truss. After a period of inactivity, the label recently returned with a couple of Tessela 12-inches and two records of 50 locked grooves from Haroon Mirza and Truss. As Russell explains below, his music has been drifting gradually towards techno, and on tracks like "With Patsy," although more linear, he maintains the same distinctive spirit that originally set him apart.
RA.523 shows this in effect. It's a 73-minute session that looks at techno through the lens of Russell's UK influences, with everything feeling, to paraphrase the man himself, raw, percussive and loose.
What have you been up to recently?
Trying to move house, writing a lot of music, travelling and trying to take some time off. I've also just finished a remix for Jackmaster's DJ-Kicks mix and a new record for Poly Kicks called Sorbet / Diving, which should be coming out next month.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was actually started by writing some tracks. I'm not really too sure why, but it felt like the right thing to do. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the mix to sound like, and over a few long train journeys and flights I started sketching out track ideas that I felt embodied what the mix would sound like—one or two of them might've made it in but most of them were just used to help solidify the mix in my mind. I then bought a bunch of records that I've been meaning to buy and put them together in a way that worked for me. The finished mix was recorded using 1210s, a mixer and a laptop running Ableton.
Could you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
It's roughly a snapshot of my buying habits over the past few years, and a pretty good idea of how I like to play out. Lots of rhythms, percussion and breakbeats, and hopefully just on the right side of raw and loose. Looking at the tracklist now, a lot of it is from a pretty UK-centric group of producers, but I don't think that was a conscious decision. The mix was recorded just before the finished copies of Truss's locked groove record arrived, so I would've probably included those had they been available.
What got you guys interested in locked grooves?
Originally it was probably old Hawtin 12-inches or Mills records maybe, but the idea for the first 50 locked grooves double pack we did came about after spending some time at Haroon Mirza's art studio. I had been working with him on a few projects and noticed he had a huge collection of homemade locked groove records that he had made over the years. It seemed too good not to try and record them and press them to vinyl, and we decided we'd make a series of them. We didn't really know how they'd turn out, to be honest, or who would even play them, but the feedback has been amazing. And even better is that they've become really integral to mine and Tom's DJ sets recently, which I think has altered how both of us play quite a lot. For anyone that owns the first one we released or who buys the ones we have lined up I'd urge you to play them and make the most of them. It took a little while to integrate them into my sets, but they're really rewarding when you get them right.
Considering your recent release on Poly Kicks, this podcast and your upcoming track on the Blueprint compilation, it seems like you're feeling techno right now—would that be a fair assessment?
I think I've always been feeling techno, really. My music is definitely leaning further and further into techno's territory, but that's been a long process of trial, error and development. Techno has always been there in my music, but it was always forced through the influences of my teenage years and it's just been a case of distilling those influences over time.
What are you up to next?
Tom and I have been working on something that's a bit different for us and writing a lot together, and I really wish I could talk more about it but unfortunately I can't just yet. There will be lots more 12-inches and locked groove double packs coming on Poly Kicks and maybe even a party or two down the line if all goes well.