Then during the last hour of auditions, in walks a young man who introduces himself (in a soft Northern-Irish accent) simply as 'Barry'. "Hello Barry" says Beckett condscendingly, "thanks for coming along. What are you going to play for us?" Carefully jacking his laptop into the PA system, then unpacking an electric guitar and fx-pedal board, Barry mumbles from under his hoody "ummm...this is a track called Tauhid". He then sits down and begins to play...
A metallic drone rises as shards of echo-smeared sound matter flicker pensively...a sense of mounting tension...before a wave of shimmering, sustained bell-like tones radiate from the guitar amplifier, bathing the room in a radiant glow that seems to penetrate into every corner. Almost simultaneuosly the laptop starts spitting out a blurry half-step rhythm and resonant, writhing bassline. A haunting synth-pad rises from the mix, mournful yet life-affirming as further note-clusters trickle from the fretboard, spiralling through the air, reflecting back from every surface. Then the music seems to momentarily evaporate in a cloud of penetrating ring-sounds before a sudden adrenelin shot of DSP-soaked breakbeat abstraction bursts through the speakers in a flurry of ride cymbals and time-stretched snares, whilst all the while the morphed guitar textures soar majestically above, undulating towards ever-increasing levels of ecstatic intensity. Then, just as quickly as they appeared, the beats implode in a puff of reverbated delay, leaving only the chiming feedback-loop of guitar amplification.
As the final coruscating notes disolve into the electrified air, the judges remain silent for a few moments. Beckett's jaw is hanging loosely as he stares vacantly in Barry's general direction. Paradinas is grinning like an idiot, nodding his head fervently at no-one in particular. Wilson-Claridge sits back, lights a generously packed spliff, stares blanky at the ceiling, then mutters "fuck me, I haven't felt like this since seeing Squarepusher at the George Robey in '94...". Coming back to their senses, the judges glance at each other briefly. Then, without even bothering to confer with the others, Beckett says simply, "Barry...you're through to the next round".
Although I don't claim to hear a huge amount of unreleased material in my role as a blogger, I do get to hear quite a few interesting things. Most of it is very good. But nothing could quite prepare me for the first e-mail from Ulster-based Barry Lynn (above) earlier this year. Listening to the MP3 of his track "Brood", I was completely floored by the production levels and emotional insensity. I realised immediately that here was The Real Deal - a fully-formed talent who needed exposure immediately. Shortly after playlisting "Brood" on the first GutterFM transmission back in May, I learned that it was to be released by Hotflush Recordings. This month it's finally arrived, released under the alias Boxcutter, backed with "Sunshine"- a remarkable free jazz-inspired take on dubstep that reveals yet another fascinating direction for this music. With this in mind, I figured it was time to learn a bit more about Mr. Lynn, and so present here the first in-depth interview with the man himself....
Gutta: Could you explain a little about your background, how you started making music, etc.
Barry Lynn: I got my first guitar aged 15 and remained strictly a guitarist until I turned 18. I played in a lot of different bands in this period, playing all sorts of styles but mainly focused on instrumental jam-based rock music. Jimi Hendrix was and still is a massive influence on my playing and songwriting. But I found myself drawn more and more toward electronic music and was then spending most of my time playing one-handed guitar whilst tweaking every pedal I could get my hands on to make odd sounds from my guitar playing. I became fascinated with the possiblities of electronic equipment and especially sampling, which is probably a continuation of my interest in delay pedals - my playing at this time was very
Robert Fripp-influenced. So then I purchased a cheap PC in 1998 and began producing hip hop-influenced music that incorporated my guitar playing. By this stage I'd also starting practicing keyboards and bass guitar and so they got used also.
G: I get the impression you work in a variety of styles...
BL: I'm not pinned down to one particular style. I've done drum 'n' bass, jungle, uk garage, dubstep, house, techno...
G: So how does your music develop these days - do ideas start with instruments or on the computer?
BL: Sometimes tracks get built out of performances on instruments, like "Sunshine", other stuff is all electronic. I write my music on anything that comes to hand - tracks can start with a breakbeat idea that's been programmed in a sequencer, a melodic phrase on the guitar, a MIDI doodle or a sound I've processed and shaped with DSP software. It's hard to say where ideas come from though...I just try and be around my gear as much as possible so that I can get to work when I'm in the mood... I always feel guilty that I'm not being productive enough.
G: Describe you studio set-up - presumably you're PC-based now, but I guess you have some other instruments/outboard/fx you use too?
BL: I played guitar pretty obsessively for years before I made tracks so everything I know about musical theory and composition comes through that. I have a pretty guitar-centric approach, but I don't really wanna talk about gear cos I think it can take away from the end product. I'll use anything I can get my hands on though - hardware or software, samples and instruments.
G: I think you mentioned to me before that you'd had a couple of low-key releases previously. What were they and what style of music?
BL: They weren't releases proper. I've put a few EPs of stuff up on a netlabel run by local lads (electrotoxic.com). These contained the acid jungle tunes that I started giving out on demos around '02-'03, although every EP was a fairly mixed bag -there was a clickhouse tune made from insect samples, a heavy R&S-inspired dub tune and some granular electro stuff in there.
G: So how long have you been into the grime & dubstep flavas, and where did you first start hearing that sound?
BL: I've been following all sorts of breakbeat based music for ages, since my mid-teens I suppose. I kept up with lots of overlapping scenes. I'd heard a lot of commercial garage but hearing Squarepusher's "My Red Hot Car" was a big moment, plus tracks by leftfield producers like Four Tet and Manitoba that used two-step breaks... I remember hearing "Said the Spider" by Darqwan when it came out and thinking it sounded really fresh. I was heavily into a lot of electro around this time too - for it's basslines mainly - Radioactive Man, Octagon Man... then Mike Paradines' charts on the Planet-Mu site started to contain a lot of excellent proto-dubstep tracks that I tracked down, tunes like the "Pussy Track" remix by Hype that had these heavy beats with bass stabs accenting weird parts of the bar. Also, around the same time I started tuning in to J Da Flex on 1xtra - his show was really important in exposing me to all sorts of different sounds. That's where I first heard Toasty, Vex'd, Search & Destroy...loads of people. Plus I'm well into Rephlex's output so the Grime compilations were important too, although I'd heard of everyone on them prior to the Rephlex releases.
G: Name a few other specific tunes that inspired your dubstep direction...
BL: Toasty's "The Knowledge", Search & Destroy's "Food Chain", Mu-Ziq's "Grape Nut Beats pt2" and "Raindance" by Mark One.
G: To my ears, your own take on dubstep seems to be very much from the IDM/electronica spectrum, yet you've quickly gained support from underground players like J Da Flex, Hot Flush, Rinse DJs etc. How do you explain that?
BL: I think that "Brood" and the tracks I make lately aren't 'idm', but they use some production tricks I picked up from producers associated with that sound. It's just an open-minded attitude on everyone's part I suppose, which I really applaud. I'd like to think it's simply because they're tracks that have an effect on people beyond just impressing them with my production skills or giving them another disposable dj tool. It's a fairly common idea to take underground music and try to make it more 'intelligent', but I think a lot of attempts just dilute the bang of the underground stuff with too much unnecessary sound in the name of making a 'detailed' track - I know this from experience with my own stuff. I'm not sure how effectively breakcore blends with dubstep since space and emptiness are a major factor in dubstep and breakcore is about as busy as you can get, so they're opposites in a lot of ways. Plus a lot of the straight-up underground stuff is as well-made as a lot of 'idm' anyway- it has as many new ideas which is what it's all about, not how many plug-ins you can use. In trying to fuse them I suppose the aim is to make the edits and fx add to the groove of your tune to make it even more intense than it might be otherwise, getting the right balance between repetition and song structure and headfuckery fx stuff.
G: What do you think of this whole 'Grim' idea? Have you heard much of that Monkey Steak/Grim Dubs material? Do you feel any affinity with it?
BL: To be honest it's just a marketing tag for a label that I'm not involved with. I'd feel a bit silly saying I identify with it specifically since the whole idea is an old one - that of idming-up straight-ahead dance music. If that's what the concept is...maybe I've got it wrong... was the press release a sort of pisstake of Rephlex for not releasing a more 'idm'-influenced take on dubstep on the compilations?
G: To a certain extent, yeah. I think the Werk Discs press release was sending-up the Rephlex Grime one a bit, although it was probably more about having a dig at them jumping for the bandwagon, so to speak.
BL: It's a funny read but I think a lot of the tracks they did put out are excellent and fit on Rephlex nicely. I don't think they were bandwagon-jumping.
G: Okay, so maybe it's a 'No' to Grim, but could you see yourself as part of a (not too clearly defined) movement of new post-grime, possibly middle-class, electronic experimentors?
BL: I like working on breaks and adding dubbed-out detail - it's part of the guilt I have about not spending enough time on tunes - plus, like I was saying, when it's done well it adds to the intensity of the tune, but I dunno if that's post-anything. It's far from a new concept, it's just a different approach. Erm... I'm trying to pin down why I think it's unnecessary to have another sub-genre...I think it's because it's such an early stage that everyone is still experimenting and trying new patterns, whether they're making 'grime' or 'grim' - not just middle class geezers! - haha. Plus the big lights of the 'idm' scene (Rephlex/Mu) are equally backing the less edited sound so that just adds to the confusion. A lot of the 'normal' dubstep tunes sound weird as fuck anyway. I rate loads of stuff on Werk though - don't wanna give the impression I'm not into it...
G: Boxcutter. Where'd you get that name from? Sounds a little bit like Squarepusher...
BL: Shit, do you reckon? What about Boxgutter? Or maybe cocks-butter?... haha...nah, it's the name of a tune my mate Kam made - he makes wicked super-edited hiphop and grime stuff... I think it's 9/11 related which suited the dread-y airport panic attack sound of "Brood". Actually I never saw "Sunshine" as fitting with that alias but I wanted to put it out so I let it go. I needed an alias cos I felt a bit exposed using my real name. I dunno if I'm gonna use it again or if I'll pick another one...I like the idea of having loads of different names...
G: Speaking of 'Sunshine', can you remind me about the influences there? I think you mentioned Alice Coltrane before.
BL: I'm well into 'cosmic' jazz, especially all the stuff that developed out of John Coltrane's last band. It all started when a mate lent me "The Creator Has A Masterplan" by Pharoah Sanders. From the first note I knew it was a special record. A lot of people can't hack how free it gets - Leon Thomas' mad african yodelling and screaming and Pharoah's immense overblowing style - but the whole vibe is just amazing. I wanted to take some of the percussion and bells that make the backdrop to those types of records and use similar instrumentation - sax and flute, handclaps, the works - try and keep it sounding really ecstatic and organic and tie it all together with a jam I'd done that started with a delay loop of guitar, which are the first notes you hear in "Sunshine".
G: What else are you playing on that track? Is there some live woodwind? How many instruments can you play?!
BL: I'm playing guitar, bass and keys on that tune - they're the only instruments I've any proficiency on. Some of the sounds are sampled, although I don't wanna say too much about them!
G: It's quite a departure from the usual Hot Flush/dubstep style. What made you/them decide on that one as opposed to, say, "Ricta" or "Grub"?
BL: Hot Flush like to mix their styles up, pairing off heavy tracks with more chilled b-sides. To be honest I was surprised that they wanted to put it out, I almost never sent it cos I didn't think it was heavy enough. It's something I wanna push into more, but I wanna get noisier with it than "Sunshine" turned out.... it's on a fairly melodic tip. But it's nice to have two very different sounds paired off. The EP is a decent wee taster of a lot of the different types of stuff I make.
G: How did the deal with Hot Flush come about anyway? From a demo, or what?
BL: Yeah, I sent them a few mp3 links to stuff which they liked and then when I made "Brood" I sent them an early version of it which they were well into. I also sent it to J da Flex and he started playing it a lot, around which time Paul (Rose, Hot Flush co-founder) phoned me up and it went from there....
G: Tell me as much as you dare about forthcoming releases, either with Hot Flush or Planet Mu. I understand Mike Paradinas has been aware of you for quite some time, and liked your tunes, but thought you were a bit too 'Squarepusher-y'. I take it your garage influences have swung in your favour there...?
BL: Yeah, Mike phoned me around April 2003 about an old demo I'd sent him, but I pissed away my chances of a release at that time by making new stuff that was emulating other producers - mainly acid jungle stuff that was on Squarepusher and AFX's toes too much. It's hard not being influenced by stuff that has a big effect on you. I've learnt a lot from listening to their stuff but I'm making a big effort now to try new things and do things that are more personal to me. So with that in mind, right now I'm chatting with Mike about a 12" and hopefully an album. At the minute I've a shortlist of tunes from him that I'm tidying up for release plus when I come up with new stuff I'm letting him hear it too. It's not just garage by the way - there's some downtempo stuff and a jungle tune too.
G: Now then, I'm gonna be over in Belfast next week visiting relatives and, by happy coincidence, you happen to be playing a gig there on the 30th with Tim Exile. I'm coming to check you out mate!
BL: Yeah that show's gonna be amazing - Exile is a fucking class producer! Looking forward to meeting you!
G: I'm curious to see how you perform your music live...
BL: Initially I started with live sequencing but it was when I started using guitars and basses that I got really good reactions from people. There's just far more performance value watching someone improvise on an instrument as opposed to staring at a laptop screen. I'm well into guitarists like Robert Fripp and Nick McCabe and tend to build up delay loops that I mix in and out over the top of tunes. I've some custom live patches that let me loop and run effects on the sequenced track at the same time. My laptop is showing it's age lately though. When I can afford it I'm gonna upgrade. I've a lot of ideas for live stuff that I can't run on my current set-up.
G: How extensively have you played live in the past, and where?
BL: I've been playing my stuff out for a few years now. I've been a regular at Electrotoxic for over two years now and I've also played a number of other club nights and festivals round Belfast and Derry, such as the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Vis-Sonic (in association with OneDotZero) and the Celtronic Festivaland. Also memorable was when local DJ/Producer David Holmes invited me to play his New Left Bank club night in early 2005. I've played for Bugklinik in Belgium a couple of times too.
G: What's the Northern Ireland underground/electronic music scene like, anyway? Is there a dubstep scene developing yet?
BL: Dunno what to say about NI's music scene really...it's pretty small which means marginal stuff struggles a lot more than it would elsewhere. This goes for everything, not just dubstep.
G: Presumably it's quite a close-knit little community?
BL: Typical leftfield gig turnouts are in the low hundreds at absolute best, usually. Club nights come and go quite a bit - there isn't a great selection of venues which doesn't help.
G: From a political/religious point of view, does the music unite across the Great Divide?
BL: Yeah, course it does. Nobody asks what background anyone else is from cos it's just like anywhere - people out to have a good time and hear good tunes.
G: Any other local headz I should be keeping an eye out for when I'm over?
BL: I'm gonna big up my mates at Electrotoxic especially Iso9 who runs the nights cos he's booked me more than anyone and has a really open-minded attitude. Two local producers I swap a lot of music with and have "producer talks" with are Gary Spence (who records amazing quirky house and soul music as T-Polar) and Filaria (who makes all sorts of weird acidic jazz madness).
G: Wicked...see you on Halloween night, Baz!
"Brood/Sunshine" is out now on Hotflush Recordings. You can buy the 12" here, or the download here.
Details of the forthcoming event that I'll be attending:
Electrotoxic Halloween special featuring the Leechrum Records tour...
TIM EXILE live
The Person live
Chris Coffe live
Barry Lynn live
Sunday October 30th @ The Bunker
(Laverys middle bar)
admission £5 before 10pm, £6 after.
TIM EXILE live
The Person live
Chris Coffe live
Barry Lynn live
Sunday October 30th @ The Bunker
(Laverys middle bar)
admission £5 before 10pm, £6 after.
Full report in due course!