Following the release of his debut solo album ‘Half Life’, Grafix chatted to Love That Bass about solidifying his sound while ‘throwing himself into the abyss’ creating this 14-track project.
Ahead of the album launch at Colours Hoxton, he reflects on the difference producing as a solo artist, as well as previewing an all-star night of drum and bass, and offering advice to all aspiring producers out there.
So firstly just overall, how are you doing? Obviously throughout the year you’ve been extremely busy – making music, playing events in the UK and abroad, live streams etc. so just in general, how is everything going in the Grafix camp?
All good on this end thanks! I’m feeling relieved that the album is dropping. Excited, fulfilled, and like I said, very relieved. As always post-album, I went into break time for a period. I took a step back from producing to realign my chakras. After producing that much stuff for one project, you definitely need a break. But I’m actually past that phase now.
Usually with an album project you finish it a good six months before it’s actually released, and in that time you are left dwelling on it, sitting on it, thinking I should have done that differently. So by the time it eventually gets released, you’ve already moved past it in your mind, and now I am keen to get back into the studio and work on some new bits.
On top of the album it’s been a busy couple of months, especially with gigs. I’ve done a lot of stuff in Europe for the first time in ages. It’s been my first batch of European shows post-Covid, which has felt like a bit of a shock to the system! It’s been really fun getting out there and connecting with the fans again, playing drum and bass to the lovely crowds.
I’m also doing my livestreams, keeping people engaged, which is always a good time. Of course I’m finding time to do real-world stuff – I play tennis and golf, have been hanging out with mates, whatever helps keep me alive really! But overall keeping myself busy and feeling very positive.
Sounds like you’re very busy indeed! So let’s get straight into the album! ‘Half Life’ is your debut solo album, could you summarise what this project is all about?
So the concept of the album for me was to create a collection of sounds that solidify the Grafix sound. When you release music over the course of three years, as singles or EPs or whatever, it can feel very disjointed. It’s coming from different places and from different artworks, and you’re experimenting with various things. So I think it’s very nice for a fan to listen to a stream of consciousness in an album, and see where an artist is at in their sound and production. It also gives new fans a good introduction into my music.
The benefits of an album project is you can put 13, 14 tracks into one body, and allow new fans who haven’t heard your music to have a nice piece of meat to bite into. Of course it’s as much for my current fans as it is for my new fans.
I used it as an opportunity to tap into different inspirations and different styles. I wanted to have a balance of light and dark, vocal layered and instrumental, chilled out and heavy. I wanted it to tick a number of boxes for a number of audiences, and I certainly thought about that as I was putting the project together.
One of my goals was to achieve dynamic, high-energy mixdowns that were delicate enough for home listening but aggressive enough for the dancefloor. I’ve always loved trying to achieve that synergy of ticking both sides.
On top of this, drum and bass is a DJ driven genre. A lot of the power lies in their hands. I am just as much a fan of DJ music as I am listening music, and contributing to the DJ culture was always a fundamental part of me as a producer. I want young DJs to listen to this album and pick bits for their sets, flick through and try out different mixes. I want the music to hit those audiences as much as it hits the average listener.
Listen To Half Life
And what’s the meaning behind the name ‘Half Life’?
So it’s kind of a double meaning. Anyone who watches my livestreams or is in my discord knows that I’m into gaming too, and I grew up playing Halo 2, Halo 3, stuff like that. And Half Life was a game just before Halo, it was a bit of a cult classic. So for one there’s that!
Also as a term, I think ‘Half Life’ is quite relevant to the culture, particularly music culture today. Everything has a half life, a shelf life, things expire very quickly. People will watch TikToks for five seconds and skim past, and some people will also listen to an album for five seconds and then skim past. You really have no idea about the shelf life of anything these days. Some may consume this album at the speed of light, and others may listen to it for many years to come. Particularly with an album project, as an artist I hope people take the time to sit down and listen to it all, but obviously that’s not everybody’s way of consuming music. Some people will be done with it in a day, and there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s nothing negative about it, that’s just the place we are in at the moment. But there’s also lots of people who will listen to it in a different way and try to find all the hidden meanings and Easter eggs.
It’s actually quite amazing how many different ways people consume music. But as an artist, all you can do is float it out into the stratosphere and hope for the best! But as far as the name goes, it’s that and a gaming reference. So I guess pick the one you like more!
Life As A Solo Artist
Then obviously as mentioned, this is your debut album as a solo artist – how have you found it creating an album on your own, compared to past projects as a duo?
This is quite an interesting one. I think any producer in a duo or a group, they will all agree with me that sometimes you can get complacent, sometimes a bit lazy. You get used to your partner doing the bits they are good at, and you do the bits you’re good at. It’s just a natural way of being in a duo I think, you realise your strengths and weaknesses and a dynamic naturally forms through that. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I think I eventually got to the point with Fred V where I wasn’t fulfilling myself as a producer.
It wasn’t the same as 16, 17 years ago when I started producing, which is actually crazy! I think I must have been about 14 with my laptop, in my bedroom, ignoring all my schoolwork, and making tunes instead. I think I wanted to recapture that part of me.
It’s not all just because of being a duo, but it’s how it becomes when you take this job as a career. Everything escalates, you set out bigger aims, and you have all these expectations and it starts to feel much more serious, and less as much as that kid in your bedroom. And with this project I wanted to try and achieve that raw inspiration on my own.
I also really wanted to challenge myself – put my own skills to the test, better myself, and learn all the things that I wasn’t too confident at to become a more fully functioning, well-rounded producer.
I threw myself into the abyss with it, and I’m really happy I did it. It’s been a nice journey, and I’ve still got so much to learn, as every producer will agree. You are never going to know everything, and there’s always someone better than you. It’s quite an inspiring thing knowing that, because it means that there is always an opportunity to achieve more. I felt it was easier to do that on my own.
Me and Fred are still great friends, I adore him, one day we will continue to make music together I’m sure. But I think we both needed this journey on our own, and we are both really happy that we took the plunge.
I feel very happy that we are finally at this stage where I am releasing my first album on my own. Creating the album was the hardest thing that was thrown at me as a solo act. There were obviously ups and downs, there was a lot of second guessing, that’s why you’ve got to have your friends who you can bounce ideas off. I’ve got to shout out Metrik for this, he’s been a really fundamental part in my growth as a solo producer. He really helped me grow, gave me a lot of confidence, and inspired me to write better music and think about music in a different way.
And speaking of Metrik, you’ve collaborated on a track for your album, ‘Skyline’. Can we just find out more about this track and working alongside him on this?
Yes so Skyline is the third track in a trilogy of Metrik and Grafix collabs. I obviously had ‘Parallel’ on his album. At the time we talked, saying 100% the favour will be repaid! He would have a track on my album, it was always going to be the case. But Skyline was actually the first idea we ever worked on together, before Overdrive, before Parallel. I believe we started it about two and half years ago, so it has been floating around for a while! Pushed to the background and then brought back, but it’s nice when that stuff happens. Sometimes you just have to wait for the right time for it to see daylight.
I actually wrote the vocal about some stuff that was going on with me at the time. I flipped Tom a version of it – with me singing it, the chords, the basic arcs and the drop. And he was like ‘yes, this is us all over’, the first Metrik and Grafix track. Of course he then jumped in and completely Metrik-ed it! I think we also fleshed it out when we did a three-day studio retreat together at Devon Analogue, which is a famous studio in Devon. We locked ourselves in and got a bunch of ideas going, and worked on Skyline a bit more then, as well as some other stuff.
Then when it came to my album coming out, I was like ‘Right, what song are we going to go with?’ We both felt Skyline was the best fit, because it was the first track we had ever worked on together. It’s a really special tune in that sense, as Skyline was the tune that inspired us to make more music together.
Half Life Launch Party
Well I’m sure many would appreciate that getting the ball rolling on the Metrik & Grafix saga! And then you’re launching the album at Colours Hoxton on June 11th?
Yes, very excited for it, also very nervous! It’s nice we could coincide it with the album coming out, an intimate show to present all the music from the album. Especially to a crowd who are there to see this music. I think it will be really special, definitely one to remember. By then people will have had a couple weeks to sink their teeth into the album, so hopefully will have built some excitement for the show.
I know we are going to have some good production brought into the club to display all the visuals. I have to shout out Club Artefact, the amazing motion designer who did all the visuals for the album. I got them done about a year and a half ago, to coincide with a New Zealand tour I was doing. There was a lot of spitballing with a designer on Pintrest, and we came to this idea that we wanted it to be geometric, lots of black and red, with black and white photos flickering around. It basically ended up inspiring the artwork, and the whole look of Half Life came from those visuals. And this has synergised perfectly for the show, the visuals coming from the exact same place as the artwork.
I can’t wait for fans to enjoy not only the music but also the lights and imagery, it should be a great experience.
Not only is this your album launch, but this is your first ever headline show in London! Does this add anything to the overall night?
Well it’s my first ‘hard-ticket Grafix show’. I’ve played Hospitality events in the past, I’ve been near the top of the line up, I’m sure I’ve headlined ones with Fred back in the day. But as far as the first solo-Grafix project goes, this is the first hard-ticket Grafix show in London, ever! And it definitely does add something, not just excitement, I’m a bag of nerves about it too.
But all I can do is try and put on a great show for people to come down and enjoy. Then I’m going to hang around, have some beers with everyone and get involved with the crowd because I do love to do that, I’m very excited.
On the night there’s a hell of a line up – you’re being supported by the likes of Krakota, Ruth Royall, Thread, Lauren L’aimant, Siege MC and of course Fred V! How does it feel to have an all star lineup like this to support you?
Yeah I love all of them, these are all very dear friends of mine. I spoke to them all before the show, and I have known them all for a very long time, so overall it’s very family vibes.
It’s a very nice combination of talent and producers, and singers as well. I can’t wait for Lauren L’aimant and Ruth Royall to jump on stage and sing some songs from the album. It will add so much good vibes to the night and I’m super excited to watch them all do their thing, as much as I am to play!
And then on top of the album, what else can fans expect from Grafix?
Of course festival season is upon us – I’ve got Liquicity, Let It Roll, Tokyo World in Bristol, Hospitality Weekend in the Woods to name a few. I’ll definitely still be live streaming amongst it all. I’m also going to be working on some new remixes, some of them are quite exciting.
I can’t talk about it yet but it’s a nice way of keeping the momentum going post-album. I’ve got one in particular coming out fairly soon, which I know people have been asking for for ages, so stay tuned for that!
Now one for all our producer readers out there, do you have a favourite plugin that you use for your music?
For me it’s 100% a mixdown tool, a plugin called Trackspacer. It’s an unbelievably good utility for people in their mixdown stages of their music. I literally could not live without it, it completely helps my mixdowns. It’s quite a boring plugin to choose, I know!
Phase Plant is great as well, it’s a new sort of creative synthesiser I recently got into. But overall my top choice for me is Trackspacer.
And finally what advice would you give to any aspiring producers out there?
So this one is one that has come up a lot throughout my time in the scene, and it’s as simple as keep going.
There’s so much information to revise and study from on the internet. Bury your head, get into the learning process, practice makes perfect. Utilise every tool there is out there to make your life easier, watch Youtube tutorials, workshops, that sort of thing.
It’s a lot different from when I was younger, where you literally had to buy magazines and get CD’s out of the magazines to get production tips.
I’d also say to use stock plugins, when you first start out you don’t need to buy loads of plugins.
But overall just keep going. It may take some time but things will start to click, and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Good things will come!
Grab your tickets to the Half Life album launch party from Skiddle
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