Drum & Bass: Behind the Music

Here’s an excellent little behind-the-scenes documentary (23 min.) on three great UK drum and bass artists: Squarepusher, Photek, and Source Direct. It’s especially exciting for me (and I imagine other computer musicians like me) to see how producers back in the 90s were making music at home. Hardware samplers, sequencers, and mixers were an essential part of it, whereas now a single laptop can do everything.

Tom Jenkinson, aka Squarepusher, is the most impressive of the bunch here – very humble, and even this early on he’s clearly making the most complex, intricate music of the bunch. If you’ve heard his records before, this comes as no surprise. He talks about how he’s obsessed with listening to all kinds of rhythm-based music from every period past and present – jazz, funk, drum and bass, etc. He wants to be exposed to it all. This philosophy is also unsurprising given the maximalist complexity of his compositions, which are clearly his restless experiments to synthesize and expand upon all the rhythms he’s encountered. Seeing how bare bones his studio is is also quite inspiring. He’s able to do so much with so little because of the unique processing abilities of his most complex computer – his brain!

The guys in Source Direct also get points for being so honest and raw. I like how matter-of-factly they state that living in the middle of nowhere means their lives basically consist of making beats, driving fast cars, doing drugs, drinking, and girls. Since they only put out two albums, most recently in 1999, it’s clear this philosophy didn’t exactly have longevity built into it, but again, it’s honest. It’s completely understandable that guys growing up in such an isolated location, one so antithetical to the music they create, would have such a straightforward, reductionist outlook, especially when they felt alienated from school and the mainstream youth culture of most of their peers.