Thursday, 8 August 2013

How Hot Do You Like Your Nandos? - Switch Fusion Interview

The phrase up and coming gets bandied about rather a lot these days, but it's one that I feel perfectly captures 20 year old fellow Cardiff student Gethin Owen, also known in music circles as the Drum & Bass producer Switch Fusion. In my mind currently the third or fourth most famous DnB aficionado in Wales, after High Contrast, Lung and possibly Invaders of Nine, he's been featured on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra and has made his mark with a range of deep, liquid tracks filled with quality production.
Having written the first ever Welsh language vocalled Drum & Bass tracks, with a little help from Megan Branwen on vocals and a selection of releases, this is an artist destined for much greater things.

I'm indebted to him for providing a great selection of interview answers including a huge level of insight into the process of music creation, from an idea to a fully fledged song, any amateur producers should give this bit a particularly good read! Aside from that I got to discover that we both got into drum & bass via the same song, Pendulum's visceral Blood Sugar, who he'd love to one day work with and of course the obligatory question concerning the heat levels of a certain chicken based restaurant. Read on, or if word's are bit much, make sure to check out his Soundcloud here, it's excellent!

The Music Questions

Where does the inspiration for your tracks come from?
Several sources really! Sometimes I might have a song title in my head, so I'd try to write a tune that would suit that title. Other times I'll come across a particular sample or sound that would work well with my style, and write a track that would suit that particular sample or sound's characteristics. I almost always get an idea for a track just as I'm about to fall asleep, which is annoying as hell since I can't nail down the idea anywhere!

How do you go about writing songs, where do you start and how do ideas normally develop? Does remixing call for a different style of song writing?
I'll usually have had some sort of melody, chord progression or bassline in mind for a while, and I'll put that down within the DAW using a basic preset sound (so that I won't forget it). Then, I'd try and bring other musical elements in, to find out what works well around that basic building block. After that I'd start working on the drums, finding out first what kind of groove to go for, before selecting appropriate samples, and building the beat itself.

The tracks don't usually change a lot after completion of the first draft, since I always have a pretty clear idea of what I want at the end. Having said that, sometimes I'll sit down to try and write a harder, darker type of track but somehow a melodic synth always sneaks itself in there - it's like my tracks always have to have some sort of hook included in them that people can hum!

Remixing isn't that different to writing your own stuff really, except that it's perhaps a bit easier to come up with ideas, since the core elements of the track are already there for you to work with (vocals, instruments etc). I get more satisfaction working on my own material though since it's more organic, and more of a challenge!

What was the song that really got you into Drum & Bass
"Blood Sugar" by Pendulum was the first DnB song I paid proper attention to. When my mate first showed it to me, I didn't really think too much of it, but I went and checked out their back catalogue before eventually working my way back to discovering drum and bass itself as a genre. Honorable mentions go to Sub Focus and Chase & Status, whose stuff circa 2008/9 helped get me hooked on the genre. There are so many different styles under the DnB umbrella that I don't think it'll ever get obsolete or diluted, which unfortunately seems to be the case with genres like dubstep these days.

Do you have a favourite tempo?
Not really, tempo is just a device that makes a DJ's job easier IMO, at least in most dance music genres. But you can definitely feel the difference in energy between a dubstep / house rave and a drum and bass rave due to this. I'd say a perfect dance music night would be 80% drum and bass, and 20% something a bit slower to let the ravers catch their breath!

What was the first song you ever wrote? How did you produce it, and have you ever played it live?
I don't know if you could call it a "song", but I still have it somewhere on my PC. It was terrible. I don't think it included any type of kick drums or even a bassline, just a shitty combination of a hollow snare on top of a preset pad sound, intertwined with the most overly loud hi-hat sample you've ever heard playing a pattern that only Phil Collins on speed could play. I don't even know what genre I was trying to work in! Safe to say I've never played it out live either! But everyone starts somewhere I suppose, and I progressed fairly quickly in production after that.

You've been a little part of musical history for writing the first ever truly Welsh Drum & Bass, do you reckon that Wales, and in particular has its own DnB 'scene'? (as much as I hate that word)
Yeah I suppose! I was actually quite surprised that nobody had ever ventured into doing that before, especially considering that we have prominent producers like High Contrast, Sasha and Lung hailing from Wales.

As far as where I come from (North Wales), there isn't really a proper DnB scene, or a music scene in general here. There are a few small nights held around Bangor etc, but nothing really consistent enough to call it a "scene", and not many serious producers either. It's mostly about capitalising on the students with repetitive, boring nights in the local nightclubs, which is a massive shame because they've proven that they can host wicked electronic music nights in the past, and that there is a demand for it, having played host to the likes of Bar 9, Bare Noize and Mord Fustang.

Cardiff on the other hand is completely different. The music scene is so vibrant down there, that there's some kind of gig on every day of the week. The DnB scene in particular is really strong there, with the "Aperture" nights at Clwb Ifor Bach giving up & coming DJs such as myself a platform to develop our skills on, while at the same time giving us the opportunity to play alongside the biggest names in DnB such as Bailey, Goldie, London Elektricity and more. Whereas audiences up here would be happy enough going off to more mainstream artists like Skrillex in your sets, down in Cardiff you'd probably have to be a bit more selective, stylistically with your DJing to appeal to the "heads".

Who would you like to work with most given the choice of any producer / vocalist / band on a collaboration who would it be?
Producer wise, it would have to be either Rob Swire from Pendulum & Knife Party or Liam Howlett from the Prodigy. Both of those guys' music have been massive influences on me, and still are. Somehow they managed to create completely different sounding music, but there's something about them that's also incredibly similar too, and I think that's down to their use of strong hooks and melodies in their tracks, which has rubbed off on my productions! Swire in particular is a production genius IMO. I've never heard mixdowns as good as his, so Pendulum tracks are what I often look to A/B my own tunes with, and are the technical benchmark that I hope to reach one day.

Oasis would have also been incredible to work with, although drum and bass and britpop are obviously completely different to each other and a collaboration would have either been really amazing or really shit (probably really shit). Again, honorable mention goes to Sub Focus, since I have a very similar style to the type of stuff he released on his first album.

Have you ever thought of writing in any other genres? (Be outlandish as you like here, Surf Rock gets you bonus points!)
Yeah, I've actually been thinking of starting a happy hardcore / afrobeat side project in the near future, massive demand for it here in North Wales... Nah, I did contemplate doing a metal version of my track "Diamond Cutter" that I wrote with my mate Sam (Shamoniks), but unfortunately it didn't come to fruition! House is also something that's starting to intrigue me so we'll see where that goes...

General Questions

How hot do you like your Nandos?
Medium / lemon & herb is where it's at. I'm a bit of a pussy when it comes to really hot food!

Can you think of any ridiculous backstage / tourbus requests you’d like to make if you could get away with it?
Yeah, that my dressing room would have to be as far away as possible from James Blunt, Scouting for Girls and Robin Thicke.

If you had the chance to completely rewrite the score for any film past or present what would it be?
Shutter Island, because that soundtrack was.....shite.

Who’s the most famous person in your phonebook?
Apart from my mate Osian Tein (who holds a legendary last name, known throughout North Wales), probably Rollz, who's doing pretty well for himself in the DnB scene at the moment, releasing some wicked dancefloor stuff!

Where is your favourite place in Wales?
Llanberis, my hometown! There isn't a better place to be in during summer...but when it RAINS.

Steak or bacon?

First band you ever saw live?
Pendulum in 2008! No gig has ever topped that for me.

What's the biggest mosh pit you've ever been in?
I don't think I've ever been in a proper mosh pit, just the watered down ones that seem to spring up in DnB raves these days for some bizzare reason.

If you had to do a Desert Island discs style ‘pick 5 songs from your record collection’ sort of thing, what would you go with?
This is a tough one! "Hold Your Colour" by Pendulum would have to be in there, as would "Slide Away" by Oasis. "My Way" by Limp Bizkit would also be in there, in case there are any nu metal fans on the island...I love "Trains" by Porcupine Tree too, so that'd have to be there...oh, and Gangnam Style, obvs.

Is producing and performing music your dream job or is there a Plan B?
Yeah that's the dream for sure, but obtaining a role in creative media after leaving uni would be where my forte is if the music thing didn't work out!

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