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FIVE STEPS: Chris Octane

FIVE STEPS: Chris Octane
Jack Smith

It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Leeds-based artist Chris Octane. The first release on his new imprint CO:RE and his first away from long-time collaborator DLR, ‘Synthetics’ / ‘Gaia’s Dub’ sets an intriguing precedent for the label’s freeform, creatively unrestrictive ethos; a clear evolution from the off-kilter production technique we heard within their debut Method In The Madness LP. Following on from the release of the single, the producer was kind enough to give us his Five Steps, from the track that started it all through to the future of his sound.

Step 1: Origins

Omni Trio – ‘Renegade Snares’. I think that was one of the seminal tracks for me. There’s countless others from that era but this one stands out in my mind as being one of the early greats.I was starting to get heavily into music around the time (I didn’t realise it then) although none of my friends were. One of those strange, personal interests I guess, but I was never one to follow. I never thought I’d end up here, being interviewed on the launch of my own record label. Funny how much influence the early days of Jungle / Drum & Bass really had.

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Step 2: Introducing

I’d say, ‘Octane & DLR – Back in the Grind’ was the track that got me (and J) on the map.  It was quite different to the mainstream DnB that was coming out at the time. We were playing with vocal samples and we just got a natural funk going. It just happened to be one of those tracks that wrote itself, so to speak. Start to finish in 2 days which is something I’d never done before and will likely never do again. We mixed and mastered it later after a few club plays but the bulk was done in two days! We had a load of kit between us at the time and used most of it a lot of the time so finishing a track in such a short period of time was quite the achievement – especially for us!

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Step 3: Foundation

To be honest, I don’t really feel I have ‘made my name’, as such. I’d have to say the Method LP as a whole is the closest it comes really. It was structured as one big piece rather than it’s individual parts and I think I’ll always see it as one piece. We earned a lot of respect from our peers with that release and we’re both enormously proud of it. It’s easily the best work I’ve done yet. At least, It’s the work I’m most proud of.

The creative process was so varied in its approach. We recorded a lot of the material ourselves in our studio. We had guitar players, vocalists, sax, trumpets, viola etc. etc. etc. – we even recorded a sound system in the club we were based in! It was a massively invaluable experience. We also had too much kit to mention!! The studio rooms we had during our time in Leeds were pretty sweet – albeit very expensive for us – we write DnB!! Our combined studio kit along with a few select pieces we were borrowing from a friend were probably worth more than we’ve ever earned from music!!

The album was always going to be a Dispatch release. That’s both our homes. We’re all really good mates both in and out of music and Ant helped a lot during the building process and the final structure.

I think I’ve always been unique in my approach to writing and it no doubt comes through to the listener. As I mentioned, I was always a bit ‘alone’ in my writing. None of my friends have had the interest and it’s something entirely self taught. I didn’t have YouTube or production forums or any decent magazines for that matter. I didn’t study music. I actually qualified as a Bricky at 17/18 and music was a hobby. I’d never even considered the possibility of it being a profession.


Step 4: Present

CO:RE is my blank canvas. I have the freedom to do whatever I like.  I’ve always been a little off-centre in my writing and this is the perfect creative outlet.

You can hear in the Method LP that there’s a distinct grasping of the obscure – especially with ‘Cometh the Horde’ and the Cymatic material.  I think the writing process of the album really pushed us to want to explore more and it pushed us in slightly different directions. We thought, “Why not leave OD on a high”. Working together has been great for both of us but we’re artists and we need to explore and learn new things without the influence we’ve had over each other.  I personally cannot wait to get back in the studio with DLR and see how we’ve progressed.  That will be an interesting session!

‘Synthetics’ and ‘Gaia’s Dub’ are my first big steps out of the comfort zone.  I’m using much, much more of my own sound design and recordings. I’m being as open as possible to what’s in my head and not just ‘sick bass’.  I think those tracks will go to Ant! I’m writing without rules or any specific plan with CO:RE.  I’m writing more artistically which is something I definitely needed to do for myself.  I’m enjoying a new development process.


Step 5: Future

I don’t have any clips of forthcoming material right now but I’m working on a few really exciting collaborations that will hopefully come on CO:RE later this year. Because I have absolutely no rules or expectations, the collaborators are entirely free to go mad and I think it’s going to be really interesting to peek into the musical alter-ego of known artists.

The sound of the future NEEDS to be personal exploration of music for new artists I think.  There’s a lot of samey, vacuous music coming through the whole industry and, although DnB has always been good at growing with its fans and expanding its influence, I think the greats of the future will be –  and have always been – the innovators.  Though they won’t all be greats for innovation, at least they do it for the right reasons.


Chris Octane – Synthetics / Gaia’s Dub is out now on the artist’s new label CO:RE