To celebrate Villem’s new release on Symmetry Recordings, we linked him for chat, to talk about his connection with the label, how he gets in a mindset to be productive in the studio and the inspiration behind the tunes.
Hello, thank you for taking some time out of your schedule for a chat, how’s things?
Hi Strobe, I’m good thanks, having a few days off and we’re staying at Legoland. I’ve two young children, and they love it here.
Must be good to get out and do “normal” family related things now! Im a massive Lego fiend so can appreciate how good it must be to be there!
What’s been the highlight of the visit?
So many highlights, it’s such a good park for their age, mini rollercoasters etc, staying in the hotel is fun too, they’ve got themed rooms, we stayed at a Kingdom room this time, and we bought them swords and shields. There were other children who did the same (Lego must rake it in!) and they were doing battle in the play park outside the hotel. Was funny to watch!
You started your own label MURKT, how’s that experience been for you?
Running your own label makes you appreciate how much work is required to release music, and makes me appreciate releasing my music on other labels.
What I do enjoy about running MURKT is seeing your vision, from the music choices, artwork direction, release promotion is all down to me, and having a successful release is really satisfying.
I like seeing who’s buying the music, which when releasing on other people’s labels you don’t see, and even packing and posting vinyl has a deeply satisfying feeling as it’s the full circle, from writing, to production, to sending to customers!
I can only imagine how satisfying that must feel, to go from stage one all the way to shipping out the bits of vinyl at the post office! I guess it must be very motivating to see what you have cultivated from an early stage to the finished product?
It gives you a good appreciation on the work required to deliver a release with all the different areas covered, from artwork to promotion.
Ok let’s talk about your relationship with Symmetry and Break; you were the first artist that wasn’t Break on the label, can you remember how that came about?
Also how did it feel to sign “Do You I Wanna” to Symmetry?
I was semi-living in Bristol around the time, really I was sofa surfing at Mako’s studio. This must have been around 2009 – 2012, I was coming to stay for months at a time.
We were all trying to work out how to produce Drum & Bass, and making our way into the scene, with Mako’s Utopia Music beginning, and us finishing some tracks we were kinda of happy with.
Charlie (Break) had come round to Mako’s a few times and could see we were heading in a good direction (he was a big influence), and he was really open about his production techniques and helped us take things to the next level. There was a really good vibe at Mako’s, lots of music being written but also a lot of hanging out and different people passing through, it was a special time.
I can’t honestly remember how ‘Do You I Wanna’ got signed! But I do remember it being a big moment for me and gave me some confidence I was starting to finish tracks that people I respect liked to. I remember Marcus Intalex saying he loved the bassline and that meant the world.
Most importantly, one of my favourite producers had liked a tune enough of mine to sign to his label, put it on a flip side to his tune on vinyl!
Thats such a great little story, having one of the most solid producers in the scene give you insights to production techniques, one of the legends in Drum and Bass, Marcus Intalex (RIP) giving you words of encouragement and to top it off have the tune press up on vinyl must have been mind-blowing at the time! Was that the moment you thought,” I can do this!”
It was one of many moments that occurred around that time, but I still didn’t believe I could do it, I wasn’t able to consistently deliver tunes to my satisfaction, and writing music was a painful struggle at times.
After these successes around 2010 – 2013, I kinda expected my career to kick off, DJing every weekend, making enough to live off of music, but as I know now, even if you release on all the scene’s biggest and best labels that doesn’t guarantee a sustainable career.
This put doubts into whether I should continue this as a career if the money wasn’t there. I found I couldn’t write by myself any longer, I started to dedicate more time to online poker, which I’d been playing anyway, and decided to see if this was something that I could do for money.
I played professionally for 6 months, and found it miserable, grinding poker by yourself, taking money off of other people. I made a decent chunk (enough to partly put down a deposit on my current house), but decided that it wasn’t for me.
After that I rededicated my focus back to music, working with McLeod, writing with Riya, and eventually BCee (to form The Vanguard Project), I had met my wife by then and decided to stay in Suffolk, and my travels to Bristol became less frequent.
Great to see that your perseverance in drum & bass is paying off somewhat!
Wow you played poker professionally, I’ve come across a few tournaments on TV and I get stressed just watching, so can only imagine what its like playing with high stakes.
I played cash games, which is different to tournament poker, you can play multiple tables and at lower stakes and still make a decent amount by being consistent. As I said before, it’s a solitary grind, with the sole goal of taking money off of other people. I sat back after 6 months (this was my allotted time to try and play professionally) and realised that writing music was infinitely more positive, you’re giving rather than taking, I’ve not played online since.
One of my favourite releases on Symmetry is Celestine by Fields, Mako, Hydro and yourself, can you recall how that one came about at all?
That one was written at Mako’s studio (as most of the Bristol collabs were). It is such a great hang out spot, in a flat overlooking Clifton Village, the suspension bridge just round the corner. A lot budding producers would be around, playing computer games, and writing tunes. As to the details of the sessions I’ve got little memory tbh!
Hydro probs came with samples, he’s the gold digger sample hunter, Fields I think came with a bass groove and poss the beat groove, and then me and Mako filling in details whilst we all arranged it. I remember the beat being particularly nice on that one.
Fast forward to now, let’s talk about your forthcoming release “96/Deep Step” which is signed to Symmetry. Both tunes have got a lot of the old school nostalgic vibe about it, what inspired you to make those tunes?
’96’ was inspired by revisiting the 1996 LTJ Bukem & MC Conrad Essential Mix whilst running throughout the lockdowns of last year. The pace and elegance of both the music used and the DJing was perfect for a 7 am run, and if the sun was out, it was a beautiful way to escape the pressures this pandemic was applying to all of us.
I needed that escape, and many times music is that for me, my time to meditate in a way, to just be. I’ve been thinking about this feeling a lot recently, and as a child, and as an adult, I can be prone to overthinking. In my youth I used sport to be in the moment more. When you’re playing a game, writing or playing music, you can get into a state where no thought exists and you’re just being, reacting to whats happening – many call this flow state. I try to cultivate this state when writing music, and with ’96’ it just poured out of me, ideas flowed one into the next, with many of the sounds being influenced by that mix I mentioned above.
When I first started to write Drum & Bass I used to write atmospheric Bukem tunes like this but tbh thought it was a well worn path that should be left as it was, but with ’96’ I just wrote it for me, to capture these feelings from running and listening, and didn’t think anyone would want to release a 7 minute atmospheric roller, so I was pleasantly surprised when Isha at Symmetry asked for some tunes that her and Charlie said yes to releasing them.
‘Deep Step’ was explorations into using my Fender Strat but with lots of different FX to make it not sound like a guitar, most of the sounds were from the guitar (not drums and bass).
Also I’d spent so many years avoiding the amen break I wanted to write some tunes with the classic breaks, something I’d thought previously was a path that was rinsed, which it has, but they still sound amazing, and it was fun to process that break in many ways. I also took influence from one of my fav all time tracks ‘Digital – Ras ’78’.
I loved the combination of Amen break and James Brown – Tighten Up break, so wanted to pay homage in a small way to that tune by using those two breaks bouncing off of one another. Thanks to Mako for helping source what break it was!
I really like the story behind both tracks, also the way you have captured the vibe of that era by using the classic breaks and sounds synonymous from mid 90s Drum & Bass.
Did you alter your usual production techniques during the writing process at all?
Not necessarily with techniques but more to do with mindset and overall vibe of the mixdown, less concerned on overall loudness, for ’96’, and more to do with having the pads and musical elements really loud and wrapping the whole mix in thick synth pads, just as I would hear on that Bukem mix. I didn’t want to sacrifice warmth and weight over loudness, but still maintaining newer production techniques to enable the drums to have enough of an edge so that it would mix Ok with modern Drum & Bass.
So you mentioned the ideas were flowing when you made ’96’, are there more tracks forthcoming in that vein?
I’ve written some more 90’s inspired jungle with a similar mindset and sounds, I’ll sit on them for a while get some perspective then go finish them, I’d like them to come out of MURKT my own label with some other 160ish bpm tracks I’ve signed.
What does the immediate future hold for yourself, are there more things in the pipeline with Symmetry?
After the Symmetry release I’ve a bunch of signed tracks coming on various labels coming at the back end of this year, also the next release on MURKT is at the vinyl manufacturers, should be with us in July. There’s remixes and The Vanguard Project is in full flow at the moment, lots to come.
Going ask you some quick fire questions……
Favourite drink before a studio session?
Really liking the UAD DBX 160 Compressor at the moment
Your to go to activity to refresh your mind after spending time in the studio?
You musical guilty pleasure
Is there anything you would like to add for your fans out there?
Keep going, you’ll get there in the end.
Thank you for talking with us and giving us an insight of your journey so far in this music, it has been really enjoyable and I’m sure our readers will like the story behind the release.
Big shout to Isha, Charlie and Villem for making this happen.
You can follow Villem on the following social platforms.
Instagram Facebook Twitter Bandcamp
Fan Link to listen or purchase the release on multiple formats and platforms here
You can purchase 96 & Deep Step direct from the Symmetry Bandcamp page here