Rob Booth Chats Electronic Explorations Comp
, July 23rd, 2012 08:36
"The UK produces the finest in electronic music, we have a conveyor belt of talent coming through every day": Rob Booth discusses his recent compilation, plus we select a few of our favourites from its 61 tracks
As we reported a few weeks ago, the esteemed podcast series Electronic Explorations recently released a rather remarkable compilation, which gathers together exclusive tracks from 61 electronic music producers from the UK and further afield. Priced at a base level of only a fiver - a steal given the pedigree of the names on offer - it was put together as a means of helping to fund the hosting and new website for the EE Podcast. The end result was an impressive enough achievement that it landed in our top compilations of the year so far.
The podcast itself has been an essential component of especially the UK's electronic music landscape over the past few years. Initially starting before the current glut of free online mixes, EE mastermind Rob Booth's show offered a high quality, downloadable podcast featuring brand new and unreleased tracks from upcoming producers (and some more established names), alongside mixes, offering a regular snapshot of various genres in a constant state of evolution. It was especially useful, alongside Mary Anne Hobbs' Radio 1 show, as a means of tracking the development of dubstep, with the EE podcast showcasing early music from the likes of Hessle Audio, Tectonic, Apple Pips and Punch Drunk, all of which have gone on to be considered seminal labels in the scene. The podcast continues to run on strong, with great recent additions from the likes of Lucy, Forward Strategy Group, Ancient Methods and Sendai - you can check out more at the website here, or subscribe via iTunes here.
The actual compilation offers something of a snapshot of the current state of underground electronic music, covering everything from experimental electronica to many of the UK's most interesting house mutations, a whole range of variants of dubstep and techno, and more still. There's way too many excellent additions to cover in any depth, but we've selected five favourites worthy of particular attention.
The Hizatron - 'Dejlig'
A criminally underappreciated talent, Nottingham's Hizatron - perhaps down to the fact that he's only released a single solo 12" to date. His take on techno is filtered through grime and UK urban music, resulting in a sound as brusque, brutal and British as they come, but with swagger and sense of humour to match.
Kahn - 'Polar'
Kahn's dubstep is rooted in the sound's deeper recesses, but flirts with woozy melody and the delirious swing of UK garage.
Kowton - 'False Dawn'
A new track from one of Bristol's finest new producers, that conjures up images of early DMZ slowed to a soporific crawl. With its detached female vocal promising "morphine", this is smack house at its finest.
Milanese - 'Hershey's Back'
The first thing we've heard from Milanese in ages - since his 2009 album Lockout, in fact. Brittle, electronic dubstep at its best, its circuits shorting out above booming sub-bass.
TVO - 'Lakeview'
Ruaridh Law is one of the UK's more hidden and idiosyncratic producers, working on everything from swampy ambient and sludgy techno (as evidenced on his brilliant recent Red Night album) to driving dancefloor numbers. This is more the latter, a beautiful and delicate thing that still packs a hefty physical punch.
At the time the Electronic Explorations compilation was released we shot Booth a few questions to find out a bit more about the podcast's history, the UK scene, and the genesis of this compilation.
You first started EE long before the internet became completely saturated with free mixes, podcasts and so forth. What was the initial impetus to start it? Did you feel there was a definite space that needed filling?
Rob Booth: Well, there was nothing I downloaded - no podcasts, no mix shows. Even looking back through my old hard drives, all I grabbed were the weekly Mary Anne Hobbs Breezeblock, Essential Mixes and the odd Rob Da Bank show, all on Radio 1.
Was there much in terms of competing with another podcaster ? Not that I was aware of, perfect timing I guess, I was desperate to hear mixes from artists like Milanese, Boxcutter, Surgeon, Vex'd... but these weren't available, Radio 1 only allowed 'listen again' for 7 days, [and there was] no Mixcloud/Soundcloud back then. The impetus to start it was simple - someone needed to make this so I could download it, but no one did - so I bought a decent microphone and worked out the rest with a little help from a few friends.
How did you actually get EE kickstarted, and did you see attention grow quite significantly over the early period of you doing it?
RB: Immediately. Luckily MySpace was huge in 2007, so I would spam all the big artists' own comments pages with links to my weekly show, just leaving the EE banner icon and what tunes I had been playing that week. People started talking about the music I was playing - all the unreleased tunes I was able to pick up plus the exclusive mixes. I would really push the audio quality on the forums I was visiting, as a lot of podcasts back then only offered their shows in 64 kbps! How can you listen to a bass heavy show in 64!? I was picking up 5000 listeners within six weeks of starting, so just had to make sure I stayed consistent, I didn't want to rock the boat.
How have you found the podcast has developed over the time you've been doing it? Has it been accompanied by a shift in your own tastes/interests?
RB: Yeah, definitely, techno has always been my true love, but in late 2007 when I started the show I was really into the tech side of dubstep, pretty much everything from Bristol, Leeds and Manchester. For me dubstep's greatest moments were from 2005 to mid-2008, and I was lucky to be right in there and making a lot of friends who are now household names in that scene. Like John Peel once said, I'm always looking for the next sound to come through, that's always been me, so yeah, the show has varied considerably over the years, from dubstep, acid, electro, juke/footwork and techno to minimalistic abstract electronica. I have a love of all forms of electronic music, hence the explorations in electronica: I will never play just one or two genres, as I listen to such a broad spectrum of music.
I've always associated you with being very supportive particularly of UK electronic music. How do you feel about the current state of electronic sounds in the UK, are you finding it an inspiring place to be at the moment?
RB: The UK produces the finest in electronic music, we have a conveyor belt of talent coming through every day, and I'm very fortunate that I'm able to be part of this movement within hours of these tracks being mastered and sent to the various DJs/artists and radio shows. I've had the pleasure of working with James Blake, Mount Kimbie, FaltyDL, Akkord, Loops Haunt, Al Tourettes, Djrum, Subeena, Broken Note, Airhead, Phaeleh, Kowton, Emika, Synkro, Indigo, Kahn and Ranking Records, way before people had even heard of them, let alone before some had even released any of their own productions. I have my eye on about 5 UK artists right now but I want to keep my cards close to my chest with them for now. Every day it seems there's a new name music blogs are scrambling to get the 'exclusive' first mix from... I used to be like that, but now I'll wait my time.
Manchester is a breeding zone for some incredible young producers right now; same with Nottingham and always Bristol, there's something in the water in the southwest.
It feels like, with the sheer size of the internet and the amount of music available on there, podcasts like yours are particularly essential for helping guide people towards the stuff that's worth paying particular attention to. Would you say that was true? It presumably takes a hell of a lot of work, time and devotion to dig through so much new music to uncover the stuff you're featuring.
RB: I was sent 630 tunes last week; I put them all into files per week so I can keep track of how long I may have had it sat on my hard-drive. It's physically impossible to consume them all by the time I make each show, sometimes I never get the chance to listen to them. I'm trying to persuade producers to just link me to their Soundcloud now as the hard drive space is at a premium!
I believe I started the podcast at the right time, if I was thinking of starting now it's going to be pretty hard to be heard, the market is utterly saturated, but then you only have to look at the Boiler Room - I can only think of 3 or 4 other websites who were doing live streams on a weekly basis. It's all about what you learnt in marketing if you specialised in that at college/uni... Find the gap in the market and be consistent, get big names on the podcast early to show your intent, and then it's all about making as much time for it as possible, like you would for your pet dog, understand brand awareness, and a lot of luck on the way.
I just play music I like on the show, and thankfully the music I play is also liked by a lot of other people, similar tastes and all that. I'm taking on the biggest job of my life soon, moving back to London after three and a half years away. Can't wait to get started, however EE won't be affected by this chance to my circumstances, it'll only benefit from it - which means I will be listening to a lot more music in the months to come.
Are there any people that you've particularly enjoyed seeing gain the much wider attention they deserve, after being featured on EE relatively early on? (For me the Hessle Audio guys spring to mind, as they've turned the attention they've got on themselves back onto making sure that they support new, experimental and underground stuff).
RB: David [Pearson Sound], Ben [UFO] and Kevin [Pangaea] are amazing people, 100% dedicated and they certainly know their history of music. Yeah I got Ramadanman and Pangaea on very early, the show had only been going a matter of months. Ben was DJing loads back then too but I didn't get him onto the show for probably another year. All of those three mixes are still in the top 10 most downloaded.
Kai and Dom of Mount Kimbie are really good friends, so seeing them now sign for Warp is just incredible. With the guidance of Warp their new album will sound amazing, same too seeing James Blake on all my favourite music blogs, I've got over 15 of his tracks sitting on my hard drive, never to see the light of day... Futureproof too, still sound fresh three years on. Akkord featured not so long ago on the back of just hearing a demo, now everyone wants a piece of them. I was well happy to get a track from them for the EE Comp. I wanna hear more from Anneka, she has worked with Vex'd, Blue Daisy, Machinedrum, Ital Tek and Phaeleh, amongst others. She deserves so much attention - exceptional dreamy voice, and an excellent producer too.
Could you tell me a bit about the reasons behind doing the compilation? Were there any particular tracks or artists you were particularly excited to be able to include in it?
RB: 61 tracks, it's a labour of love that came about basically because of the financial implications I was under funding the hosting costs and new website design. In order to get this fixed, I had to call in favours from some big guns... As soon as Milanese said he would contribute, getting him out of retirement I knew then this could be something special, but when Radioactiveman, Perc, Akkord, Kowton, Loops Haunt, Darqwan, Kahn, Machinedrum, Neil Landstrumm, Old Apparatus, and then elusive Rephlex Records producer Wisp all wanted to do something too, I wanted to shout from the rooftops. I want to mention everyone on the comp as they all made something special, a varied mixture of genres that I support on the EE podcast.
Having sites such as yourself putting the EEComp into your top 50 comps, mixes etc from the first half of the 2012 made my day, seeing it alongside other great releases, all the work I've put into it is now paying off. Philip Sherburne wrote a piece in Spin, [plus] Resident Advisor, FACT, Pulse Radio, XLR8R... They all wanted to help and push the comp, I couldn't believe all the help and promotion I was receiving - a humbling experience. It's doing quite well, donations have been coming in from all round the world, but I still need to push it into peoples' minds, as I am still to hit my goal. The entire process has been a joy from start to finish. Maybe one day I'll be able to do this again, on a smaller scale, and try and persuade some of the legends in techno to participate - artists whose work I've been collecting since 92.