Originally Posted 10.2.2015 [Archive]
It was around 9 o’clock when I parked my car in the Mission District of downtown San Francisco. I was there to meet Tristan of the eminent Dubstep duo Truth. He was playing a show that night at Monarch SF and had agreed to sit down with me for an interview beforehand. As a long time fan but relatively new journalist, this had made me both nervous and extremely excited. I took a breath, repeated my questions to myself, then checked my phone to make sure I was in the right place.
“Hey Mate. Tristan here. Just eating on Van Ness and 21st atm. Then possibly might hit mini golf with Stylust Beats right across the Rd… Could be dope to do an interview over golf if there is time!"
Mini golf. It was so casual. I hadn’t even met him yet, but in our conversation leading up to our meeting, Tristan had already treated me like a friend. I locked my car and began walking towards Limon Rotisserie where we were set to meet. I peered through the glass and saw a familiar face at the bar. It was Tristan. At first, I almost didn’t recognize him without his trademark black and white “Truth” cap on. He was wearing a grey shirt and jeans, and had a backpack strapped to him, which presumably contained a library of some of the most sought after dubs in the entire scene (and maybe a jacket or two).
“Oh hey! You must be the guy!” He introduced me to my golf companions for the night, Geoff, aka producer Stylust Beats, and Geoff’s girlfriend Court.
I was immediately greeted by them with enthusiastic handshakes and welcoming smiles, which made me feel as if I had just gone out to meet with close friends rather than an interview subject. As they all paid their tab, I noticed the artist wristband from Outlook Festival in Croatia was still around Tristan’s arm and immediately I began gushing about my disappointment in not being able to attend. He began describing the festival to me and my retroactive fomo became too real. The boat parties, the fortress stage, the beach, it all sounded like a bass head’s fairytale. We chatted a bit more about the festival and his last tour date in New Orleans, then grabbed our things and walked across the street to San Francisco’s drunkest mini golf experience, Urban Putt.
The 14-hole course was crammed inside a quaint Victorian Era house with a restaurant above and a bar serving gourmet cocktails below. We started the game with each of us taking a mulligan, and stood back to watch an extremely drunk man flail his putter, failing to understand the concept of the hole in front of him. Each hole had some sort of interesting “Mouse Trap”- esque contraption attached, which made for some extremely funny drunk people-watching moments.
There was a lot of laughs, a lot of cheating, a lot of croquet-type ball smashing, and of course, a windmill. It was Mini Golf. With showtime looming closer, we negotiated the course in just under an hour. Tristan emerged decidedly as the winner with a commanding 4 stroke lead. (I finished last, of course, for anyone interested.)
After getting thoroughly beaten by Tristan, we all walked back to my car to talk business and head to the venue. Geoff (Stylust Beats) and Court very graciously agreed to allow me to film and interview Tristan while we traversed the city with them in my backseat. It was unorthodox and laid-back and once again felt like a conversation amongst friends rather than an interview. I turned on my mic and we were off.
So you guys are probably one of the most prolific groups in the scene. You just never seem to run out of new material. It makes me curious; Do you guys ever get writer’s block? If so how do you deal with it?
We don’t really ever get writer’s block. If you can’t think of anything that’s really good, or if you’re not inspired by what your making, then you should just go back to an old track. Sample a movie, some beats, record some shit. Play the piano. Break the mold and your ordinary routine. Writer’s block seems to come from the routine. If you find something that inspires you, like a dope sample, like you gotta make a track from it, or if you see something cool that you like– that sort of breaks it up a bit.
Speaking of samples, what’s your sampling routine? Do you wait for the perfect sound to find you, or do you spend days sifting through old movies and whatnot to find new sounds?
When I sit down to look for samples, my intention is that I’ll be there all day, as long as it takes. I almost catalogue the thing I’m sampling to get everything out of it that I can. But I mean, that’s the intention to start with. As you know, sometimes you’ll just hear something that is so good that you just have to start making a tune with it. It’s really useful to just have solid a library of samples to take into stuff, because sometimes when you’ve been working on a tune for a while, that can be the finishing touch. When you just find that sample which fits with it so well, you can just like mold it in there, or create a sort of texture or timbre that you couldn’t create yourself.
Before tonight I didn’t realize how much time you and Dre spend apart on these tours. How often are you two together?
We try to get together around 3 times per year for gigs. We try to do six weeks in January together in New Zealand– Dre comes back over there, you know visits his grandma, has his christmas, and we do a tour. [During that period] we spend a lot of time in my studio there. For the past few years, I’ve been coming over for all of March. Last year we did SXSW, this year we did a tour with Datsik. We also spent two weeks in the studio together in LA. And so[because of this frequent travel] we found that the tunes we made in New Zealand are actually quite different from the tracks we made in LA. Something about the environment or whatever, it is just kind of changes the way you approach things. And then usually we’d meet up around now for a Europe tour as well. This year we both went to Outlook Festival. That was last week. And just the way things worked out, it just made more sense for me to come to the states and do this tour that I’m doing right now, and for Dre to be in Europe doing things over there. We’re both doing a similar amount of gigs, but I’m doing it in two weeks, and he’s doing it in five.
So since you travel so much, how do you guys divvy up workloads on tunes? Do you send your project files back and forth, or are you each just taking a tune apiece and going from there?
Well it’s different for every track. We have a Dropbox set up where the idea is whenever we start a track, at the end of the session, whoever is working on it puts it in the Dropbox folder and bounces the wav and also the project file. So first of all, we can both see where everything’s at, and then secondly, we can both work on the track if we feel inspired enough to do it. I mean, sometimes you might start a track and just not stop working on it until it’s done. You know, a day or two of solid work, like it just doesn’t end. So sometimes by the time either I get a track from Dre, or by the time he’ll get one from me, it’s just about done. We’ll try and bounce stuff back and forth [between us] a few times, and we’ll also talk about the tracks. So there might be like 30 tracks in the WIPs folder, and then we’ll both discuss which ones are our favorites, which ones we want to work on, which ones we ought to finish, and also what we’re going to do with them as well. At the same time, whoever’s working on the track, it’s up to them, they can do what they want you know?
Right, I mean you obviously trust each other.
Yeah, I mean it’s quite a fair process in the respect that if there’s a sound on the track that you don’t like, whether you’re together or you’re apart, it’s not gonna be in the track in the end you know? That’s just how it works. It’s a veto basically. Then at the same time, like say if I send a track to Dre or vice versa and we take out a sound [from the track], and the other one actually really loves it as part of the track, well, you know, they can always put it back in when it’s their turn to work on it again [laughs]. And, I mean, sometimes you mute tracks, you take sounds out without even meaning it to be a permanent change. Or even like, you don’t think it’s better or worse either way, sometimes it’s like I hate that sound, it’s gotta leave, so I mean there’s a lot of give and take in anything we do.
I often see videos of you two in the studio together and you seem to be doing a lot of audio recording. I’ve seen you guys recording your own shakers and percussion, wind chimes, etc. Do you find that traveling limits your creativity with your production, seeing as you don’t have access to all the same equipment and live instruments that you often record with at home?
Well it’s different. I mean, when you’re traveling and doing lots of gigs in a row, obviously you don’t have time to rest, and sleep comes premium, but at the same time making music is rewarding in itself. So since I’ve had the portable Subpac, been able to hear bass, feel bass when I’m on a plane or whatever, it just makes it more enticing, like I want to make beats because, I mean, it’s fun.
Speaking of the creative process, project files and whatnot. The Deep, Dark, and Dangerous sample packs, how did those come about?
Well, yeah, I mean, basically there were a few things. I met this guy in Miami a few years ago who was doing a sort of similar project. I’m not exactly sure of the details, but what I took out of it was that they were putting up some samples on a weekly basis and it was a different person each time doing it. Then, after a week, people would submit these beats. We started chatting about it, and I was like, that’s pretty dope. And then, yeah, they just get someone to make like a short mix, like a 5-10 minute mix of all the various submissions they got. He said they were getting some pretty massive artists submitting stuff, or people who were underground at the time, then blew up later. So I was like, that would be amazing, imagine doing that. At the same time, I was like, it could be quite time consuming. So I thought about it for like at least a year, or maybe nearly two years. I mean, at first it was just like, “oh that would be really cool to do,” but then thinking about it more deeply it’s actually really– well, first of all, it’s a great way to discover other people you’ve never heard of before, because you’re seeing how they’ve interpreted these samples that you’ve created. It’s kind of a way of seeing people’s creativity. The other thing was every month there’s a different producer putting out these packs of samples, so after a few months, it’s gonna be quite a nice little library of sounds [that] people can just grab. I mean, you can use those kicks, those snares… We were trying to create a little bit of a base for up-and-coming producers to start building on as well. [To give] people that are just starting to have an idea of how things should sit in the mix.
That’s the thing a lot of the time when you start a track–and that’s the difference between starting a track from scratch and then the whole collaboration thing—the whole sample pack thing, there is a starting point to work from. It kind of kickstarts your ideas, and that was part of the point of it. That’s why there’s a relatively short turn around, because you should theoretically be able to muck around, not like use too much of your time up, but just kind of get the creative juices flowing, have some fun as well. And also, the other thing was to make it more accessible. The idea that the finished product isn’t the tracks themselves. I mean, yeah, we posted some of the tracks up in their entirety, but the real emphasis for us really is on the mix at the end of it. It’s taking little segments of each submission and working them into a mix. We didn’t treat that as a traditional mix, like you get some CDJ’s and mix the tracks together. I treated it like I was producing a track. Taking all of the parts, maybe taking just the breakdown here of a track and juxtaposing that with the drop of another track, and maybe making something to join them together, and then bringing that bit of the track back in later on. And like, especially with using those samples– everyone used the female vocal – so to make the mix the least repetitive as possible, I edited out a lot of bits with the vocal, the hook that people have just kind of done the same, because the rest of their tracks were like super interesting and original, but if I was to just keep using that same drop again and again and again, it would have gotten insanely repetitive. So that was the whole point of it, to try and bring in the different bass line ideas and different ways of using the drums and everything like that. So what that means is each track really should just be like a really dope idea of like– it could be a 30 bar loop, and that’s like all it would have to be. We didn’t want to make the entry level too high, you know? Anyway, I was blown away. There were like 180-200 submissions, and most of them were really good, so it was really hard to go through them and pick. What it ended up coming down to was, there was this many of a certain standard that could easily be put in that mix, and after a while, it became more of which one is the most unique or interesting use of the samples, because there were quite a lot of tracks that sounded quite similar. Some of the ones that sound similar, I still used them in the mix, but we just sort of had them quite quickly transition into each other so it sounded like parts of the same track just dropping into each other. I think it worked quite well. And also, the other thing is, at the end of the day, we don’t want to retain ownership of those samples. Like, if someone uses those samples and makes a track, that’s their track. They can do whatever they want with it. You know we try to encourage people to post it up on Soundcloud as well, under their own name and get it out there. Even if it’s not in the mix, you can get it out there, give it away for free, or whatever. It’s totally that person’s property to do what they want with.
I have to ask even though I know you probably can’t tell me, but any word on who the next sample pack might be from?
*heavy sigh* I can’t tell you that *laughs*.
Anybody we should be on the look out for right now? Any up-and-comers you are really into at the moment?
Ah that’s a tricky one as well–
Well, no, it’s not secret at all, there’s just so many… I mean this tour for example, the tunes I’ve really been feeling are from people like Thelem, Goth Trad (some new stuff), this guy called Fill Spectre, Arkwright’s been making some pretty epic music, Argo, some of the tunes by Argo I’ve been hearing are pretty dope, Kaiju, and many more.
Who would you say– and I know it’s always a tough one to answer– but any genre, who are some of your favorite artists in general?
I think my favorite production-wise, I’d probably have to say Noisia. I mean just their production levels are so high. Um, and just overall in the history of music, David Bowie, someone like that.
We touched upon it earlier when we were playing mini golf, but the dichotomy of Dubstep, as it were. Mid-range heavy– “brostep” as I hear it called often – a lot of music that doesn’t really focus on sub bass as much, has seemingly taken over the mainstream of Dubstep. Love it or hate it, people respond to it. As an artist who’s had releases on Firepower, a label that releases a lot of music in that category, but coming from a background of more sub heavy, minimal music, what’s your take on that? Does it have a place in the scene? Would you listen to it yourself?
First of all, I think I don't necessarily agree with the question. When we first met Datsik for example, he had just put out ‘“Swagger” with Excision, and he was the one guy who was like every sound in your mix has to have sub underneath it. I mean, those guys are very oriented around sub...
My perspective on it is that when we first started doing music, like Dubstep at least, there was that kind of like mid-rangey, wobbley sound that was going on, but it was one part of an overall spectrum. There's like dubby stuff over here. There’s like darker kind of moodier stuff over here. There's stuff like Distance is making, which is kind of more like rock influenced. There’s like stuff like what Skream and Benga was doing. Then there's people in Canada like Excision and Datsik, you know not many people [like them] making this like heavy, mid-range music. It’s all part of this spectrum that works really well together when you consider it as a whole. The only thing that's wrong with it– to me that was wrong with this “Brostep” thing, and it was inevitable– is that when it blew up, that particular part of the sound– it’s like well look, when you're in the mix, and you're playing stuff that's really deep and dark and minimal, and then you're playing some jump-uppy wobbley stuff, and then you're playing some like really heavy, mid-range, brosteppy kind of stuff, well the biggest reactions are to those tracks. So everyone who's out there, partying, is like, “I wanna make those kinds of tracks,” and that's what happened. Everyone out there just started making— especially new producers that were coming up— started making that particular sound. The problem is that when there's no diversity, then I mean, what's the point? When every single track is just heavy and as much of a big drop as the next one, well then there is no impact. It's just like this relentless wall of sound. I mean, yeah, you can go nuts to it, but like, it's just too much. So the thing is, I feel that sound has a very strong place and it should be in the music that's called Dubstep as a whole— I don't think it should be like cut out and got rid of— I dunno, it's cool to have sub-genres and different names and stuff, but I feel like it's all part of an overall musical sphere, which can include anything you want. It doesn't really matter. That's just my opinion.
Do you think that people are starting to respond more to the deeper stuff, especially here in America, as a reaction to that lack of diversity?
Yeah, I think that when we first came here, the deeper stuff was like where it was at, and then quickly it was overtaken by that more popular kind of sound [that we were just talking about]. But yeah, as a natural consequence of that becoming so massive…we were hoping, you know, that if you expose people to music that's different, then there's gonna be more of them who really enjoy it, who then will take that opportunity to then go, "What else is similar to that? What else can we find around here?" And I think that's what's happened. You know a lot of kids that got introduced through like mid-rangey, dubsteppy— what do you call it? — Brostep, a lot of those kids then went on to Trap, and are like, “Wow, this is even more bass-y” It's all 808s. They've gone down that path. And then a smaller percentage have gone like, “Well, let's look at the roots of the sound.” And they've dug deeper and found the UK-influenced kind of sound. I feel like that was a natural sort of consequence. The interesting thing is that when that bubble sort of burst, the Dubstep scene in Europe and the UK started to rise back up again. It kind of got a little— kind of suppressed, I guess. Just cause, I guess people were like— maybe some people were like, "This is our sound and you guys stole it" sort of thing. But now it's definitely coming back. It's really good to see. Gigs are getting busier, and more of them [as well].
At this point we both notice the time, and I decided to end things there.
We entered Monarch to the expert mixing of up-and-coming bass-weight champion Eelko. After fielding a few hearty welcomes and well wishers, it was time for Tristan to take to the decks. It was certainly a set to remember. The masterful transitions and savvy track selection that Truth has become so well known for, captivated and entranced his audience. Not a single track went by without eliciting sizable howls of approval from the crowd. Monarch's system did not disappoint either, at times even shaking my camera with some of the weightier tunes. I often found myself neglecting my journalistic intention, instead skanking to the heavy vibes with the crowd. By the end of Tristan's set, “wow” was the only word that could be heard as people filed out of Monarch's basement level. After a show of that caliber, it was only fitting that we found ourselves at one of San Francisco's many late night breakfast spots, Pinecrest Diner, with enigmatic SF local, the very talented Dubsworth, and hard-working show promoter Adriana (of Soundpieces SF). The night ended as both Tristan and Daniel (Dubsworth) left to get some rest before making the trek to Symbiosis Festival for their respective performances. I thanked Tristan for his time, and Daniel for the chicken wings he’d generously shared with me, then headed home. It was an evening of vibes, bass, and grease, all shared with a class act. Check Truth's website for updates to see if you can catch either Tristan or Andre (or both) in a city near you. This is not an act that you want to miss.