“I want people to go mental in the dance”
A catchup with Uprise Audio boss Seven
The sun was rising over America when I wrapped up a lengthy overseas Skype interview with Seven. The Uprise Audio don is a staple in the 140 scene, and his prophetic influence on the sound as an artist and label head is well documented on FKOF.
Still, the very first dubstep tunes to ever catch my ear were produced and/or released by Seven, so I’ve been itching to personally pick the artist’s brain for quite awhile. The release of Rebellium Part 1 — UA20 — presented the perfect opportunity.
Seven needed little prompting. The artist had plenty to say: about his own music, the international community, the state of the sound, and so much more. As a member of dubstep’s youngest generation of enthusiasts, our conversation struck me as a sort of ‘sacred story’ time. Seven spoke with both the sophistication of a veteran of the sound, and the unbridled excitement familiar to fresh inductees. In fact, his words rang of the same infectious, inspired energy that plays out in Rebellium Part 1.
Purchase the EP now exclusively via Juno Download, and read on for our latest interview with Seven.
Tell us a little bit about Rebellium Part 1. Were there any specific inspirations for the EP?
I wanted to do some dancefloor stuff. Over the past few years, I’ve been very cinematic, if you know what I mean… Whereas before, throughout my whole career, I’ve really only made tunes for DJs to play out (on the dancefloor). That was always the focus for me. I then got to a point where I wanted to experiment a bit more. That’s what my last album was about — and I feel like I nailed that aim. This EP — part one, anyway (there’s two parts to the project) — Part One is all about DJs and dancefloors. With this EP, I wanted to do something like… like Sirens! I wanted that energy, breakbeat percussive layers, loads of energy and euphoria. I want people to go mental in the dance.
I don’t really sit down with plans for tunes, either. I’m not one of those producers that has an idea in their head and thinks, “ah, I’m gonna make that tune today.” I just kind of sit down and jam out with a few sounds, start doing some sound design, and see where the thing flows to. But I contradict myself. One of the tunes on there I did have all planned out in my head. That was Sound Check Your Self. It’s called Sound Check Your Self because I’m like, okay, I need to sound check myself, you know what I mean. Make something a little more current, ballsy, in-your-face different. It was fun to translate that idea into music. It came out just like I had it in my head as well, which is unusual. I’m not that competent normally. Like I said, stuff comes out and I roll with it.
It sounds like you already have a vision for Part Two.
Absolutely. Part Two is projects that I’m doing with other people: collaborations with vocalists, collaborations with friends. Again, no set format. There’s a couple of tunes on there that will seem a bit wild card, but I just really want them to come out. There’s no better time than the present, as they say, so I’m gonna go for it. It’s not an album, it’s a collection of tunes — just what I’m about and what I’ve been up to. I’m not going to limit myself and be like “nah, that can’t go in there because it doesn’t fit.” It fits on there because I love it. That’s my attitude toward the project. I think people miss out because of me. I’m so strict with what I let people hear. Sometimes there are tunes in my collection that I really, really want to release, but I feel I don’t have an outlet for them. Sometimes there are moments where they over spill, and I need to put them out, no matter what, whatever — there’s definitely gonna be a couple of tunes on Part Two like that. But I can’t wait to put them out, and I can’t wait for people to hear them. They need to hear them. It’s pointless to make all this wonderful music and let it sit on a hard drive, or you play it to your pals every now and then. That’s not good! It needs to be out there. People need the opportunity to hear it.
One of the most unique aspects of your music is your work with vocalists. There’s something truly special about those vocal tracks — what’s that creative process like?
I’m very fussy with vocalists. You could have a brilliant vocalist come in the studio and sing but there’s a certain sound that I look for in a voice, and if she hasn’t got it, I tend to be put off. Which is bad, really, that’s like saying I only want to play music with one instrument, but it is what it is, you like what you like. Especially with a vocalist, you’ve got to be really into the sound of her voice to vibe and want to make music with her — or him. But I think that’s what comes across in the tracks I’ve made with vocalists.
There’s a new vocalist that I’m working with at the moment called Polly. Funnily enough, you’re going to hear some of her music featured on Part Two. I think she’s hit the nail on the head for me. She’s got that voice I’ve been looking for. It’s hard to get her in the studio, but when it happens, it’s a magical thing. I can’t wait to put the music out and show people what we’ve been doing.
After 20 releases, the Uprise Audio catalogue is pretty robust. How do you describe the overall sound or character of the label?
That’s hard, now. Everybody’s got such a unique individual style, that special something that I signed them for, that strength. I just say we put out really good quality music with character and personality. No fillers, all killers! That’s one of the key attributes to our success. When you hear our tunes you can sing them. They’ve got leads, they’ve got melodies, they’ve got vocals — you know, they’re proper songs. I’d like to say that we’re cutting edge and futuristic. We don’t lean back on historic influences and such. We’re… Live from the future, yeah?
How do you decide what tunes or artists to sign for releases?
Again, it’s like when I listen out for vocalists: I hear something in the tune and I’m like, yup, that’s it, and I’m into it straight away. I’ve actually just signed someone new, and I’ve got my eye on someone else. These are brand new artists who I’m excited work with. With the label, I look at us like a family — with me being the father, and they’re like the kids, because I care about them like that. We’ve all got different strengths in the studio and we’re all giving each other production advice. It builds up confidence. We all become pretty solid and competent on the production side of things. All the artists I’ve taken on, this second wave of artists that I’ve brought through — like Indiji, LSN, the like — they’re all ready now. They’re teaching me stuff. I’m inspired by them. I’m learning from them now. There’s now space for me to bring new people in. The future’s looking bright. I’m excited. I’m glad that we’ve got some fresh… I hate the expression, fresh blood… Fresh talent into the team.
You tour in North America quite a bit more than most UK artists. Is it different playing shows in the states versus — well, America is overseas for you, huh?
The scene is so strong in America, and in Canada now as well. I see the enthusiasm like I used to see at FWD>> years ago. The kids are so into it, man, the passion is so there, you know? In England we’re a little bit spoilt. We’ve had everyone. Everyone that was ever anything and still is anything now is here in abundance. We get these lineups that other countries dream about, and it’s just another lineup here. The parties are still great, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything bad about ’em: you go to System, you go to DMZ, Subdub… All these parties are sick and the vibe is on point, but man… I don’t know. Like I said, we’ve had it for a long while so it’s a different kind of enthusiasm now. It’s a love, and a passion, but you can see how it’s all new and it’s generating in America.
I’ve been there for those first moments, those first nights, the first time people put their sound system out, the first time they brought an international artist to their town. And to be that person, to experience that and be part of it? I’ll take that shit to the grave. Those are special moments. America’s been a big thing for me. That’s where my biggest fan base is. I put so much time and dedication into the scene out there. It’s worked out for me, because everyone really likes me there. I get to come out and play my music, and I get great support from you guys. I love America. I was made in America, man.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
First tip: always finish tunes. Even if it sounds shit and you don’t like it, finish it. There’s a whole process to making a track. It’s not just getting a loop, deciding whether you like it and then chucking it all away. Because then you’ll be good at is making a loop, alright. By sitting there and actually finishing the tune, whether you like it or not, you’re putting yourself through a training process where you’re making your production process off the cuff, like, second nature. Stuff that you will do towards the end of a track is just as important as the stuff you do when you start a track, if not more important! Those little finishing touches are what make it sound unique and polished and professional, compared to a work in progress. Don’t ever neglect any part of the production chain, because each step is as important as the last. From start to finish.
Make a sound palette. This is a good one. Create a folder with stuff that you would use, sounds you can use for bass lines, mid work, drum parts you can use. Then everything is organised for easy, quick work flow access.
When you go to make a tune, it really comes down to transitioning the idea in your mind into your DAW. If you’ve got the right resources and you apply them, you’ll find that you make tracks a lot more fluidly and a lot more in the moment — as opposed to feeling stuck at certain points ‘cause you just haven’t got the right piece of the puzzle. If you take time to gather all those sounds and stuff first — a sound palette, yeah — you’re just like an artist when he’s got a swatch with all the paints on it. You can paint whatever you want, but it’s all about doing the preparation first to make sure you’ve got the right colours to paint the picture. The more colours you have, the more detail you can put into it.
Buy software. I know it’s hard when you start, you ain’t got a lot of dough –I didn’t, anyway — and sometimes it’s easy to go onto wherever and grab some bits and stuff. But when you buy something, you really get to know it. You research it before you buy it, you anticipate it, you’re waiting for it to come out and when it does you’re like, yes. You appreciate it more. It’s easy to keep on downloading all the updates and the latest, “best” plugins, but it ain’t the best if you don’t know how to use it. When you buy something, and you take the time to actually learn to use it, you become a master at it. You know it inside out. And again, it becomes apparent in your production chain.