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FIVE STEPS: Andyskopes

FIVE STEPS: Andyskopes
Jack Smith

Andyskopes‘ latest release on UE regulars Utopia Music is a quintessential marriage of Jungle old and new, a beautiful Amen-laden excursion that highlights the continued relevance of the highly influential sound in 2013. We thought it apt to get the producer on board for a Five Steps, as he details his experiences with early Headz material from the likes of Photek, Dillinja and Paradox, and the evolution of his production technique, through to his breakthrough release on Renegade Recordings and UM013.


Step 1: Origins

I’m a bit hazy on the details, a lot of these ‘experiences’ involved being pretty wasted! I guess the one that is most relevant is the first time I remember hearing Seven Samurai by Photek, in ’95 or ’96 around at a friend’s house. I wasn’t at all into DnB, but this totally changed my mind, the atmospherics, bassline and drums just slayed me.

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My friend then made me a mixtape with early Headz tunes on it, from then on I was hooked. Never really went out ‘raving’ in those days so I wasn’t really influenced by big tunes or trends, I had some friends who had similar musical tastes which helped to educate my own (so big, big thanks to them, they know who they are!).

I’ve been making music in some form for 20 years. Have always played the guitar and a bit of drumming. It was basically inevitable that I would try and get involved in the scene, so first came the usual route of DJ’ing, record buying, playing out and once that got serious the interest in production soon followed.


Step 2: Introducing

The first properly completed track I made was called Get The Idea. I think you can download it for free if you search around. It was based around the Dynamic 7 – ‘Squeeze Me’ break and a few chords. Back then the bass was definitely a secondary thought so the fact that the bassline came out nicely is a mystery to me! Also the fact that it was done through in-ear headphones and built in Mac speakers!

I was very influenced by Paradox at the time (still am) so it was all about the breaks. My main influences (and still continues to be) are early Photek, Dillinja, Doc Scott, and Source Direct etc, so I think their influence shines through as well. Also, I was also very interested in the Inperspective guys and what they were doing as they seemed to be very like-minded.

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The break was sequenced in Reason on Dr Rex, found a pattern I was happy with. Then put some extra kick, snares and percussion over the top, making them blend as much as possible. I then exported the break and did some different edits of the loop in Soundforge (reverses, different pitches up and down). Finally imported it into Cubase and copy and paste. The last bit was editing and chopping the break in Cubase so each 8 bar loop was different. I would say the tune took about 4 days. The chords and samples were 75% from sample packs, and then there’s a vocal from the beginning of ‘Rainy Dayz’ by Reakwon. It just came together. I took it round to my friend Reform’s house who did one final polish with the mastering, I had no clue about those things.

Just typing that production process sounds so long winded! My production style and process now is almost 100% different!

I was friends with Bailey & Breakage from round my area, they liked the tune and Bailey played it on 1Xtra. The next thing I knew I was at the first Technicality All Nighter (epic night) and Equinox played ‘Get The Idea’. Was a special moment, and a shock, how the hell did he get my tune (I’ll let him off)?!


Step 3: Foundation

I would say the two tunes signed to Renegade Recordings were a turning point (‘These Sounds’ with Madcap and ‘I Came Down’ with Reform). I think these were the first tunes signed to a big label and I was happy to get recognition from the TOV camp. Also Yesterdaze VIP, signed to Good Looking and So Much More which was championed by Hospital (hear these tunes on my Soundcloud page).

But, I guess the tunes that stands out is Call To Arms, made with Mr Joseph. It’s the tune I get the most recognition for. I’m basically judging this on people telling me, the amount of YouTube uploads and the fact one of my heroes Seba signed it!

There is not a lot to say about the production process, the guts of the tune only took me a day to get down. This is not usual for me, I normally procrastinate endlessly about the initial loop idea for days before I’m happy. Basically the tune just flowed and fell into place with no struggles at all. It was one atmospheric sci-fi sample which had some interesting textures and I just layered some various strings over. The vocals were one of the endless batches of samples that my good friend Mako had given me, they happened to be in tune so I rex’d them up and positioned them as I felt appropriate. I still wonder if they really make sense lyrically?! They were put in that sequence because of the way the vocals grew in emotion, not to make a lyrical statement. I Used Cubase 5 as the DAW, Kontakt for the samples, Massive for the bass and mostly Steinberg plug ins. I also made the tune using my Sennheiser headphones, no monitors, as I’d recently moved into NHS accommodation (due to my day job). I don’t think all the hard working nurses trying to sleep after night shifts would appreciate a filtered Reece coming out of my room.

The polish is all done by Mr Joseph. Trev added a huge amount of percussion and helped to beef up the entire tune with FX, plugins and drum edits. Our collaboration process seems to work like that, one of us does the outline and then sends it to the other one who adds the spark and give it that extra level. Seems to work well with us. To be honest, we’ve tried to sit together and make a tune from scratch but that isn’t really the way to work, you can’t force inspiration (90% of the time), it just hits each of us at random times.

I’d met Seba a few years ago when we were both DJing in Bristol but hadn’t seen him in ages. Trev went out to Sweden to DJ (I think it was a night organized by Physics) and met Seba, they got on pretty well and Trev sent him Call To Arms and Trash Talk when he got back to the UK which seemed to hit the right notes for Secret Operations and what tunes Seba was trying the release at the time. The rest is self-explanatory. I still play the tune in my sets and I’m certainly not bored of it!


Step 4: Present

‘True Chord VIP’ was basically just taking all of the processes I’d learned from the original ‘True Chord’ and expanding on them, ‘True Human Emotions’ was the same. I think that for years I’ve been procrastinating about production, not necessarily the ‘loudness war’ (that has always been an issue) but more ‘how am I going to sound like Optical’ and ‘how am I going to make bass lines like Break?’ I think I had lost what I really enjoyed making which was melancholic strings with edited flowing breaks and 808s. I’d been listening to a lot of the Scientific Wax radio shows and just felt inspired. That sound is what initially got me into DnB and it’s also what I feel most comfortable producing.

The only thing that had changed from my previous ‘choppage’ tunes was that my production set up is considerably better: Cubase 5, lots of Native Instrument software and enough plugins to keep me creative (all purchased thank you very much!).

The most important plug in was Camelphat. This was used as the compressor and filter for the drums, lots of automation on the HPF, LPF and resonance, mainly on the kicks and snares, but basically experimented until there was a nice 16 bar pattern. It just really helps to make the dynamics of the drums interesting and you can really make sudden, but smooth, changes. That is definitely a Dillinja technique, he used to do that so well in the mid 90’s. More recently BKey is just the man when it comes to a filtered break.

The other element that I used Camelphat on (plus other fx) was the ‘science’ edits, it just gives the crazy timestretches that extra grainy and dirty feel, also just makes them unique and slightly more futuristic in my opinion. Your average amen edit needs to go a bit further these days to stand out from the rest.

Steve Mako, the label head of Utopia Music has been a good friend for a long time, I think that I basically rinsed him with amen tunes over the last 10 years! For a while it had to be amen orientated or I wasn’t interested, I’m slightly more diverse now! Maybe I was grooming him for this release over many years, part of my master plan! Only joking. I think that Steve hopefully saw two tunes that had that mid ‘90s edge to them with a modern feel and I’m very happy that he took a risk, against trends, to release them on vinyl (always a nice feeling to have your tunes on vinyl). So cheers.


Step 5: Future

I have quite a few things in the pipeline. I don’t want to say too much because I’ve been around too long to promise anything. But I would like to say there is some very exciting projects coming up, mainly involving breaks! I think my Soundcloud is a good place to start and keep an eye out for updates. One thing I will say is that the original True Chord will be available in the very near future, so watch this space!

The ‘sound of the future’ is difficult to really define. Things progress, morph and move on so quickly these days. Also, like fashion, things go in cycles. I always keep an eye on Soul:R for the ‘cutting edge’ these days. I do think it’s important to be true to yourself though and not just follow trends. One thing that does really interest me is the size of the ‘choppage’ scene these days. Nights like Rupture and Jungle Syndicate going really well (after all the success of Inperspective & Technicality) is so good to see. I hope the future is bright for them all.

I’ve got a few gigs coming up around London. One exciting one is the Fizzy Beats launch of their new EP which I’ll be featuring on with Eveson, Mr Joseph & Pennygiles. Big up to the Fizzy guys.

My ‘Urban Essential’? Apart from Stussy t shirts it’s probably my AKG K701 reference headphones.