Joe Nebula Interview
Having been on the rave scene since even before the dawn of d&b, releasing critically acclaimed techno and breakbeat as a duo under the alias Nebula 2, there’s little doubting Joe Nebula’s musical pedigree. From releasing music and DJing through promoting and running a remix website (Back2You) he’s a true soldier of this music in every aspect, helping to push the scene forward and doing his thing since I was in diapers. Having had a short break from releasing music, he’s now well and truly back in the game with a string of releases jam packed with soul and melody. We felt it was time we had a little catch up.
Hi Joe, good to see you back releasing music! Where are you in life now outside of it though? Where are you based and what else keeps you occupied?
Firstly, thanks! It’s good to be back making music again, well releasing music again I should say. I never gave up just took a very long sabbatical. Im based in the heart of the country our great city of Nottingham (Drum & Bass City). Most of my day is spent designing websites but my mind is on when I can get back to music.
You’ve been on the scene since the late eighties with a variety of projects. Can you give us an idea of your path through music to date?
Wow this is a question. All started back in about 88 when me and some friends decided it would good to try and make some music. Of course the first attempts were a bit hummmmm. But one friend Richard Nebula came up with a track called the Séance and we set up the group Nebula2. After the rave had closed and the dance music scene split up we started a record label called the Volt and released mostly techno and house music. We ran about 6 labels and put out over 100 releases over a six year period. We also ran music events at the legendary Marcus Garvey centre and other venues in the city.
I then worked with other groups like Magik Star which won the Diesel U Music 2001 ‘Best Break Beat Act’. I enjoyed this as I got to meet Jazzy B from Soul II Soul. One of my best days that. I then set up the back2you remix projects as I felt the music scene needed new talent to shine through and giving up and coming producers tunes to remix and become an official remixer of said artist would help them along the way.
Give us three tracks that have had a big influence on you and explain why…
Again good question here. Well lets say
Jonzun Crew – Pac Jam Wiki
This track was the first time I ever heard anything so different. It was my friend Tom who played it to me on cassette. It was electric! This changed my music tastes forever and HIP HOP landed.
Congress – 40 Miles (Original white label – no vocals mix)
This track came out while I was still raving hard and just summed up the right vibe of the whole scene. I remember whenever this track came on everyone just jumped around like little kids and the best thing was everyone was smiling.
Musical Youth – Pass the Dutchie
I remember watching this on Top of The Pops and really connecting with it. As it was one of the first UK black groups to reach No1 that I remember. In fact the first and they were my age. This was refreshing as it not only showed back then that black kids could do something good. But also broken down some serious barriers. Back then in the early 80’s things even in this country were not so good being black
You had a little break from releasing over the last few years before returning recently but you mentioned you were still making music. Was this a conscious decision to step back and explore music for yourself or just something that happened?
I just felt a bit disillusioned by the whole music scene. Music really got me in the rave scene and back then everything was so new. There weren’t any egos or not many and people made music for pleasure. But as we all get older things change. No problem there I just felt the time was right to take a step back and try something new. Which I have to say was the right thing to do.
What brought you out of that spell and what was the first release that was agreed upon after it?
After starting back2you and seeing the fun everyone was having remixing all the tracks I just felt it would be time to start again. Plus I had taken over the local radio stations (97.5 Kemet FM) Drum & Bass show. This meant I was listening to more and more music every week and I just couldn’t help saying my head you can do this. In some case you can do it better J.
And man I’m so glad I did. The music out there now is so good and you have to push yourself to make the best you can. I’m from the school of quality over quantity, but if you can do both that’s all good. Today you need to just to stay in people’s minds.
How would you say you changed as a person during that time, and what effect has it had on your musical output?
One thing I don’t do now is make music trying to be someone else. That I think you learn over time. I have found what I like to do and am sticking with it. Of course I would like to make other styles but that will come. I’m just trying to do my own thing and hoping people like it.
Your collaboration twelve with Patricia Edwards was really nice. What made you want to work with a vocalist for those tunes and how did you hook up with her?
I have always wanted to work with vocals as they just seem to reach a bigger audience which of course is what some of it’s about. I still want to keep the tracks underground or cool sounding but vocals just add different harmonies and help with the progressions of my tracks while I’m building them.
I hooked up with Patricia on Sound Cloud. I was on the hunt for vocalists for the new track I was making around December 2011. I heard her voice and sent a message to her about what I wanted to do. She replied saying she had not heard of Drum & Bass before but was cool to send some vocals over. I got loads of accapella’s of which I’m only half way through. I have been working on some new tracks with Patricia which will be dropping soon.
Im also working with some other vocalists to extend the range of music. Some great releases here to from the likes of Fine (Soul Bros), Rebecca Timson (LDNB), Rachael Harris, Shaun Ward, Martia Robinson, Rachel Wallace and Breeze.
Did you work on them together in the studio or send stems back and forth? Would you say your creative process changes much when working with a vocalist?
I don’t really work in my own studio with vocalists it is more back and forth. Patricia lives in Buffalo New York, so we haven’t meet face to face yet. With the other vocalists I get ideas down and send them over. They then send rough edits back I play with them and get into a vocal recording studio for a good quality recording. I’m still learning loads working with vocals and my next step is to work out how to get the best sound out of them. I need to ask a few questions there.
Before d&b’s beginnings you were releasing techno under the Nebula II alias, a duo alongside Richard McCormack. What’s your earliest recollection of d&b and how did you first become immersed in it?
My first memory of Drum & Bass was LTJ Bukem who started the Intelligent D&B scene off. This was the first big break away from Jungle and for me such a good thing as for me jungle was stuck in a loop and not a good one either.
I didn’t get into making the music straight away but I held events here in Nottingham with MRB and we brought most of the big names up to Nottingham for our night Breezin. This was a good time for music as again the sound was fresh and new styles were accepted with ease. I really feel in deep (production wise) around 2008 after starting my weekly radio show.
Do you know what Richard’s up to now days, is he still in the music game?
Richard is still around but not making much music at the moment. I still am in touch as I’m God Father to his kids. Isobel and Tom. I still pass music his way for feedback as his ear is still working fine and it’s an honest ear!
Of all those years right in the midst of the music scene, which period of musical evolution do you look back most fondly upon?
It has to be the rave scene. The vibe was right, the music was right, the dj’s were right. In fact, it was just spot on. No badness had got in at that stage and no one really knew what was to come next. Which is always good for a scene as it then can be just created without any stigmas on style or content.
The drugs were also right back then and the time was right. Happy vibe drugs, not what we have today where I just see people becoming most insular rather than being extraverted. Something which is not mentioned a lot the drugs but without them back in the early days of rave there would have been no D&B, no dance music full stop. If people are going take them, which I’m sure they will, at least bring back good happy ones please. The kids are missing out and taking some very dubious concoctions.
You ran a remix website called Back2You which you attribute with getting you back into the game, can you explain a bit about the beginnings and concept behind that for us?
Well this started from being asked to remix my own music but at that point I didn’t feel right about it. It was now 15 years since we first released it. So I came up with the idea to run a remix competition. In effect I was saying if you want a remix that bad, do it!
I went to see Gus at Reinforced to get permission to do this and he was so impressed with the idea he opened up the back catalogue for me to exploit which I have to say blew me away. I then spent far too much money running the site, but what came back was worth every penny. Such a good vibe and community started. We got some very big remixes coming in and I started to see producers getting better and better. This just got me thinking about trying one out for myself. So I did the Joe Syntax (Hustle Audio) remix project. Of course I couldn’t win but this just got me back on track as I played the track out the next night and got a great reaction. This I had not seen for a long time as I just never finished any tracks.
What do you think of the d&b scene at the minute? Any up and comers you’ve noticed that we should know about?
Well its all business at the top but the underground is still getting better and better. The scene is extremely healthy right now. With the internet and music being sent everywhere there is now a massive community of D&B heads world-wide and we know where they are. Back in the day we had the local record shop which sadly is no more. But to see the amount of people hooked on the music and of all ages, I feel this music will continue for a very long time.
What differences do you notice between the d&b and trance scenes and what do you think they could learn from each other?
I don’t think there is much difference in the two scenes apart from the music played. Same Dj’s playing at the front of the club, same price on the door etc…. But the trance scene has become much bigger in Europe and Drum & Bass has already taken set designs from these events.
What else is in the works for Joe Nebula?
Well first is get all the next batch of music done and sent out. Then make some more………. God I love this shizzle! Here’s some forthcoming stuff….
Emotions This Feeling/Im Willing to Do feat Patricia Edwards & Rebecca Timson – LDNB
Recent Access/Heightened By Amplification – Soul Bros
Essence Used To Be / Happens Forever 1989 – Luv Disaster
Thanks for the time mate! Any final words for us?
A massive shout to my Nottingham Crew breaking boundaries , Rhyan Paul, dRamatic & dbAudio, Bomma, Spyda, XTC, Impact, Soul Intent, Edit, Fawace & Fine, Hustle Audio, Sasha Kahn, Terraform & Pricece, Silent Code, Shookz, Dapz, Socom & Miss Fortune, Trasit Mafia, Chromatic.
And thanks to Bailey, Jumping Jack Frost, Digital, Mutated Forms & Nookie for the support!
Love life & peace!