DJ, producer, label owner, mixing and mastering, music mentor – it’s safe to say Guzi has immersed himself in the music scene. Spending his 9-5’s mastering 100 odd tracks a month, while also making music, smashing sets and running his label, LoveThatBass found five minutes in his busy schedule to chat about everything in the Guzi camp. Following the ‘launch’ of rebranded GZ Audio – formerly Sub-Division Recordings, sister label to Sub-Liminal – Guzi talks about all his musical aspects, and what he’s got cooking from the label.
So firstly just overall how are we doing? With all you do in the music scene you’re a very busy man, so in general how is everything in the Guzi camp?
Yeah good thank you, it’s been a very busy year! I haven’t been doing a lot of my own production this year, but there has been a lot of other stuff going on.
I’m mixing and mastering 100 odd tracks a month, which accounts for the standard 9-5 Monday to Friday hours. Then on top of that I ‘launched’ the label GZ Audio – although it’s more of a rebranding of Sub-Division recordings.
But it’s good to have that constant work. I think this is the time of year where the scene really starts kicking off! When the sun comes out and festival season is in full swing, the scene really starts to come into its own. So I think it’s about working towards this time of year, and getting the music out there ready for the raves.
And obviously you released your album at the end of last year, did this factor into why you haven’t been focusing on producing as much this year?
Exactly, I felt like with the album being such a culmination of 2 – 3 years of production, I didn’t want to keep putting out loads of tracks over that time.
I didn’t necessarily take a break from making music as I always try to make music when I have free time, I just didn’t have any pressure to release anything after that. I was content with that project, it showed where I was as a producer and it made enough of a statement to cover me for a while, rather than putting out a release or two every month. So I’ve been a bit quiet with releasing as I wanted to let the album breathe, but there have been a couple of tunes here and there.
I had a collaboration with Epicentre which went out on Nuusic. I also collaborated with Entropy on his EP. But I’ve just got no pressure on at the moment, I’m making music when I get time.
Yeah that’s a good way to do it. Often artists feel there’s a pressure to constantly put out tunes, and jump on a project immediately after finishing one, but like you said it’s good to let it breathe and focus on other things.
There’s this documentary which featured Marcus Intalex, and I watched it ten years ago but there’s one bit that really resonated with me. He said that you can’t force it – if you’re not feeling it and you don’t have an idea, there’s nothing wrong with that. Do something else, and when you do get inspiration and the creativity starts flowing again, then jump back in. So I’ve tried to follow that philosophy. If you’re actually in the zone and you’ve got ideas flowing then it’s much easier, and you will be much more efficient and productive.
I’ve had times in my life where I’m just constantly trying to produce for hours on end, every single day, and sometimes it gets to the point where you’re not getting anything done even when you are spending so much time on it. You’re just lagging. In those times what I needed was to take a step back, so that’s become part of my production process.
DJING AND PRODUCING
Then let’s take it back, how did you first get into DJing and producing?
So in about 2010, I started doing an internet radio show on a station called Filth FM, which isn’t running any more but at the time it was the number one dubstep radio station. My show was dubstep and D&B, I was only 15 at the time but I was getting between 200 and 300 listeners every time. When you’re 15 that is not bad at all! I was an absolute nobody but it was at a time when dubstep was at its real peak, so it was very good timing too. At that age I was into dubstep, D&B, hip-hop, trap, anything that had an underground vibe really. I was basically doing that with virtual DJ and a controller, but I really got into it. I got myself some proper decks, and practiced every night for a few years. After a while I was at a stage where I was like ‘god I want to be a DJ, this is so good’.
At the station there was a dubstep producer called Cimm, he got me into producing and showed me the ropes with Ableton. This sparked my interest in the production side of things. That was probably about 10 years ago, and since then I have focused most of my time on producing, just going on Ableton whenever I’ve got a spare moment. I thought that was my best chance of doing something in the music industry and being a DJ. If I could perfect my craft and get good at producing then I should be able to do something with that. And 10 years later here we are!
Obviously for the first few years I was not that good, as it’s pretty difficult to produce. It was just learning by doing, making the mistakes by trial and error. Eventually things were starting to click, and I started setting myself goals. I was a big fan of the music on Sub-Liminal Recordings, as a DJ and I was living in Brighton. It was around 2017, but my target for that year was to get a tune signed to Sub-Liminal. I actually went and did a lesson with Turno, and before that I had done a group masterclass with Erb n Dub. Those extra hours definitely helped fill in a lot of gaps, seeing as I was self-taught. Then it ended up being the next tune I made which got signed to Sub-Liminal. That gave me a lot of motivation, so I started DJing a lot more. After getting in there with that tune, I ended up spending a few years working with Sub-Liminal – DJing at the events and putting a few EPs out. That’s why I wanted to put my album out on Sub-Liminal, I wouldn’t have really wanted to do it anywhere else. I think it is a big part of my identity as a producer.
MIXING AND MASTERING
From that, once you were at a stage where you were comfortable producing, what came next – the mixing and mastering?
So the whole time I was producing over the course of five or six years, obviously mixing and mastering was a part of that, so I was always learning bits and bobs. The one thing I have always had, which I didn’t learn, is that I’ve got a really good ear. So I was trying to learn to create what I already had in my ears. But being able to hear if something sounds right or not, in terms of musically or mix-wise, I think I have always had that. After producing for so long and doing it on my own tunes, I had a good idea of what I was doing. Once I signed to Sub-Liminal I offered to do it just to try it out. I said ‘don’t pay me unless it’s actually good and you want to use it,’ just to test the waters. And then it went from there to be honest. After a year or two, just through word of mouth I was doing about a hundred a month. Doing it so much, I’m now at a point where I’m really confident because now I’ve done it thousands of times. It’s almost like I’ve got a database in my brain of all the tracks I have mixed and mastered, so subconsciously I know when something is a bit off. It’s just about training your ears really. The more you do this the more your ears get trained to detect things wrong with the mix.
I don’t know in terms of numbers, what a normal amount a commercial mastering engineer might do in the space of a month. But in terms of experience, someone might have done two masters a week for 20 years – I’ve done more masters than them, in the space of three or four years. This isn’t surprising though when it is pretty much a full time job. Like I said, I’m in the studio normal hours Monday to Friday. Once that is dealt with, I do whatever else I’ve got going on, from making music to running my label.
So let’s chat about the label, GZ Audio – which is a revamp of Sub-Division? Firstly, what was the reason behind the rebrand?
So Sub-Division was initially set up as a sister label to Sub-Liminal. We did 29 releases on Sub-Division, and built a solid roster of top producers, some of which are now releasing on some of the biggest labels in the game. But I felt like there was a certain ceiling on what we could do as a sister label. Of course I love Sub-Liminal and everything they do, but I felt Sub-Division would always be in their shadow. So it was really to set it free. It just gives us more creative freedom, and takes the ceiling off what we could do with the label. So that was the main reason behind the rebrand. And from that came GZ Audio!
I have even changed my mastering website to GZ Audio as well,
so now the website is now a one-stop shop for the label, mixing and mastering. We will also be doing sample packs too. It just made sense for me to combine everything into a single brand, so anyone that’s going onto the website will see what is going on with the label. Whereas as Sub-Division it was more difficult to manage all those brands separately.
The general output, the quality of the music and the overall vibe will be similar to what we were doing before. Forward-thinking, innovative drum and bass that hits hard on the dancefloor.
The one thing I want to avoid is being pigeon-holed into one specific subgenre of D&B.
And that vibe can be achieved in jump up, neuro, tech, liquid, all of it. We are now even focusing on doing some 140 and dubstep releases in the future. That’s a good example of something that we would not have done as a sister label. It just comes down to that creative freedom, I can put out anything that I like, and that is as far as the decision has to go really.
And then the label’s first release was – ‘Chasing Haggis / Clansman’ from Beskar and Ominous?
Yes, so Beskar and Ominous are both from Scotland, and one day we were all talking in our group chat about different ideas. I jokingly said ‘could you make some Scottish drum and bass?’, and these two tunes are what they came up with! It’s their take on Scottish inspired D&B, hence the names ‘Chasing Haggis’ and ‘Clansman’. But I was just gathering tracks over the first few months of this year, without necessarily knowing what order they are going to be released in. Once I had the first chunk of releases sorted for the label, I decided that these would be the best ones to be first. I thought it was the best representation of the sound and vibe we want for the label. It’s just a solid start, introducing two artists who are going to be regularly featuring on the label.
Initially, we are hoping to do two releases a month for a good while, so there is plenty of stuff in the pipeline. We kicked things off with Chasing Haggis and Clansman. This is followed by a release from Shayper, and then a release from Plasmator. But we are pretty much going to have releases every two weeks until the end of summer. There might not even be an end date at the moment, if the tunes keep coming then I want to release consistently and keep that momentum.
WHAT’S IN STORE FROM GUZI
Very exciting, sounds like you’ve got a lot in store! And alongside everything with GZ Audio, what else can fans expect from Guzi?
I’ve got a few gigs lined up, I’m not DJing quite as much as I used to mainly because I’ve got more going on with the mixing and mastering side. Also I’ve got a daughter now, funnily enough that doesn’t go hand in hand with the whole DJ life! We’ve got a couple coming up in terms of Sub-Liminal gigs, which I’m looking forward to.
The main thing I am focusing on myself as an artist is to try and stack up loads of new tunes.
I have been doing a lot of collaborations, especially with the artists on GZ Audio.I’ve been slowly but surely going through about 10 years worth of Ableton projects – rather than starting loads of new stuff, I’ve instead been going back and taking loops and samples. I’ve been purging all these old projects and taking out anything that isn’t good and getting rid of it, so that I no longer have that entire project to go back and waste time on. Basically building up a massive pack of samples and loops from the last 10 years, and once I have done that I will start making new tunes with it. There’s hundreds of projects there, and each one might have, if I want to be critical, one or two things that might be usable in the future. Doing this will definitely help make new music in the long run. If you open up a project and it’s immediately got an arrangement, you’re instantly going to be swayed by that. It’s not going to spark any fresh ideas. Whereas if you’ve just got a sample in a new empty project, then you can do something different.So I just need to do all that. It’s taking me quite a while, but I’m hoping once I do that it will spark some new sounds and new vibes.
I also want to make more tracks with vocals, I think that is a long term aim for the next couple of years. Once I’ve gone through collating all the samples, and making new instrumentals. I’ve featured vocalists in the past on some of my tracks in terms of little 8 bars, but I want to start making full on vocal tracks. Not just a D&B beat with someone rapping on it, but a track that progresses musically, with a vocal. So it has that balance of an underground vibe but with vocals and instrumental that make it more of a listenable tune for when you’re at home. I think it is an aspect that is overlooked, especially on the MC side of things. I think a lot of drum and bass MCs are really missing a trick by not releasing full on tunes.
Every MC has their own different combination of bars, but if you can write a song with a theme, and it relates to each other, and has a good structure to it, I feel that could take a lot of MCs careers to the next level! And the MCs that are doing that, they are doing really well. But like I said this is a longer term goal, while I continue running the label and mixing and mastering. But across all these aspects there is a lot coming from the GZ Audio camp.
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