Despite the pink giraffe that adorns all their releases, the beats that come out of the Diffrnt records camp are anything but cute and rep a hard, dark and punchy sound. Arkaik’s recent Cutting Edge EP, his second on the label, is no exception, taking you through four tracks of stripped back warfare where serrated basslines cut their teeth under punchy, skittering drums.
That’s not to say that melody is non existent however. Cutting Edge finds time for laid back atmospherics and hypnotizing vocal snatches before morphing into it’s true stepping self with a really original break while Lost takes a bit more liquid inspiration, gradually building through rolling drums and female vocals that later intersperse with it’s growling synths. Game Changer and Serrated on the other hand keep warfare as the number one priority. MCXL’s sharp lyrics lead the way on the former amongst clattering swords and cone ripping bass while Serrated takes a slightly more understated approach while ensuring the damage is done with pulsating kicks and a throbbing bassline.
It’s a release that isn’t scared to be original while also bringing the club bangers and the production prestige to back it up and, in a time where the fruit bowl is overflowing with 90% bad apples, says a lot for the quality of music being released on the more discerning small labels such as Diffrent. We caught up with Arkaik to find out a bit more about the process behind it.
How did your introduction to d&b come about and what pushed you to start mixing and producing?
It all started about 12 years ago when my brother played me Roni Size’s New Forms album, from that moment i was hooked and very soon after that started mixing. For me it seemed like a natural progression to go from DJing and playing other people’s music to making my own.
What three albums couldn’t you live without?
Bad Company – Shot Down on Safari
Roni Size – New Forms
The Avalanches - Since I Left You
I read you’re a big Hip Hop fan, who are you spinning at the minute?
I used to listen to a lot of hip hop back in the day but these days prefer more chilled out beats like TM Juke, Nu Jabes and RJD2. Although I still occasionally reach for a bit of Wu Tang and Gangstarr.
Do you feel hip hop roots affect your d&b output in any way?
Sure, I feel like everything I’ve listened to throughout my life has had an impact on my production, even the metal my friends listened to while we were growing up has had an effect on my beat patterns.
How would you describe your sound and what are it’s main influences?
Minimal means, maximum meaning. I like to keep my music stripped back to give it room to breathe.
What do you find is the best time, place and state of mind to be in when you sit down to start a tune?
What are essential studio comforts and what goes down when it’s just not clicking?
Firstly, a nice coffee, nothing beats a good coffee and if I’m struggling with my creativity I simply sit there for hours tweaking the same bassline and crying silently. But in all seriousness I find it helps to go on a big sample hunt or listen to some different music to remind me of what sound I want to achieve.
You’ve just dropped the Cutting Edge EP on Diffrent music. Tell us a bit about the tracks on that and how they came about….
My favourite track is probably Cutting Edge, hence being the title track for the EP. I like it because it’s a little bit different and it was a lot of fun to make, one of those tunes that just came together quickly. Lost was an unusual tune for me, at the time I was listening to a lot of Motown and liquid drum and bass which made me want to write something relaxed with a rolling beat. Game Changer and Serrated came together with the help of MCXL, on these tunes I wanted to focus on the bass and clinical beats.
How do you feel your sounds developed since your last EP on Different music, The Trauma EP?
In my opinion production is a constant learning curve and I have barely scratched the surface, however I feel I have developed my sound and now know in which direction my production is heading in.
What would be an ideal place for someone to listen to the EP, and what emotions would you like it to bring out in a listener?
The ideal place to listen would be in a club or through a set of good quality headphones and to inspire the listener to have a productive day.
You designed your own artwork for the release, what was your thought process behind it?
I wanted the graphics to represent the mood of the EP, as I said earlier i’m interested in clean, minimal drum patterns so I felt it was imperative that the artwork was simple yet original and uncluttered.
I’m really feeling the juxtaposition of melody and darkness in Lost, where do you think the influences for that track come from?
Without a doubt my biggest influences for Lost were producers such as Spectrasoul, Sabre and Survival, I’ve always admired the way they combine melodies with dark mid bass. As I mentioned earlier I was listening to a lot of Motown at the time and although it draws you in with sweet melodies when you listen to the lyrics they’re often referring to quite a dark point in time such as a heartbreak for example, all these points inspired me when I was writing lost.
Game Changer is a collaboration with MCXL, do you find you alter your production style and approach when making a track for an MC? How so?
No, I don’t think I alter my style as such as I quite often work with vocal samples, for the most part it was trial and error, I had a rough idea of the sound I wanted to make and drew a lot of inspiration from artists such as Dub Phizix and Skeptical.
What else is coming up for Arkaik in 2013?
First on the agenda is the collaboration between Axon and I on his Alchemy EP due on Proximity Recordings on the 4th March, aside from that I have a lot more collaborations on the go, including the boys from Mtwn and Coma. I’m also looking forward to a collab between myself and Hunchbak called Cliche being released on Diffrent Music later in the year
Lastly, give us a current top ten….
1. Subtension and Minor Rain – Sklep
2. Homemade Weapons – Shivers
3. Kollective – Dog Pad
4. Mtwn – I.E.M
5. Axon and Hyroglifix – Fit Girls With Ugly Name
6. Hybris – The Cleaner VIP
7. Clarity - Parallels
8. Data - Fragment
9. Fearful – Tongues
10. Survival & Silent Witness – Tracer
Cheers! Any final words?
Just a big thanks to everyone that’s supported my music and helped me along the way. With special shout outs to Amoss, Anile, Ant TC1, Axon, Bailey, Basha, Bazil, BluMarTen, BTK, Dexta, Fathom Audio, FD, Halogenix, Hunchbak, Hype, London Elektricity, Octane & DLR, Script & Subterra.