Five Steps: Seba
An artist who needs no introduction – we’ll give it a good crack anyway – and possibly Sweden’s finest export since Henrik Larsson is the one and only Seba. Pivotal at the height of GLR-era Jungle and a mainstay throughout its evolution towards what we call Drum & Bass today, Seba and his own label Secret Operations have developed at the same rate, ushering a mutation of sound that has remarkably remained as fresh as that pivotal 12″ ‘Sonic Winds’ / ‘So Long’ some eighteen years ago.
Perhaps most symbolic of this development is Seba’s music of the present in the form of his Mesmerism EP, a four-track two-parter whose years of technical ability and emotional drive are pooled together to form a package as engaging and versatile as they come. An emphatic follow-up to 2013’s excellent Identity LP, Mesmerism’s four cuts are an entity unto themselves, all varying in style and approach whilst retaining the core musicality that has defined Seba’s work to date.
A “Jack of all trades, master of all” if you will… So without further ado it’s a great pleasure to introduce Seba’s Five Steps, from the influence of early Techno and 70s Soul & Funk to the process of creation behind the aforementioned ‘Sonic Winds’ and ‘Planetary Funk Alert’ to Mesmerism and beyond.
Step One: Origins
My first contact with Drum & Bass was probably Genaside Il’s “Narra Mine”. I believe this was in 1992. A DJ I knew at the time put it on a mixtape, and it just blew my mind, I loved the contrast of the laid-back tone in the keys and vocals and the rough, energetic beats together with an aggressive MC. I was into techno at the time and this track opened a new door and introduced me to breakbeats. For me it was a fusion between techno and hip hop. A few years later, I was tired of ragga vocal samples and I discovered “Music” by LTJ Bukem. I quickly decided that this is the way forward. This is what I want to do.
Step Two: Introducing
I must say that the first track I made is “Sonic Winds” on Good Looking, even though I had released tracks before this. “Sonic Winds” was the first track where I felt that we (Lo-Tek and I) had taken a direction that felt new, fresh and creative. We were heavily inspired by the track “Sonic Sunset” by Model 500, which is obvious if you listen to both tracks. The one thing that made that track special is that we used an analog synthesiser, the SIEL Opera 6. Not many people used analog equipment in those days.
Step Three: Foundation
I guess “Planetary Funk Alert” is one of my early tracks that people most remember. It is different because the breakdown is quite late in the track and the way it breaks down comes as a surprise. The track is very musical, deep and soulful. I was listening to a lot of 70s soul and funk at the time, and this is reflected in the track, and I remember playing it out at Ministry of Sound and someone came up to me to say “that track has such a Seba sound”. It came as a surprise to me, and I remember going back to the studio to focus on creating something that wasn’t so obviously me. I guess I wasn’t interested in creating a common sound. I wanted people to like my tracks without knowing it was by me. It’s still the same today, even though I do create certain tracks with the knowledge that it has a “Seba” sound.
Step Four: Present
The four-track EP [Mesmerism] is released on two separate 12″s. It’s intended to be a follow-up to the album I released a year ago and I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. The album was intended for listening whereas this EP is aimed more towards a dancefloor and the title track is quite different from what I usually do as it’s a half-tempo track. Another track that stands out is “Still Life” which I’ve made for my set at Sun & Bass 2014. It has a warm Mediterranean feel… The sound I’m writing today is still similar to what I was doing in the 90s as it has the same depth and warmth, but with today’s technology it’s much cleaner I can do a lot of studio engineering which was impossible for me to do back then. I still use my SIEL Opera 6 from time to time.
Step Five: Future
I do have a few unsigned tracks… Some new material with Paradox for example. Unfortunately I can’t reveal the titles or the labels yet, so I’d rather discuss something that was released not too long ago. I did a track called “Under The Sun” for a Subtitles compilation in September. The track got licensed to Andy C‘s Nightlife 6 shortly after. I don’t necessarily count this track as the ‘sound of the future’ but it’s a crowd-pleaser-hands-in-the-air-track without being too pop-orientated. I love this track as much as I think it is silly! [My one] Urban Essential and most forward-thinking track that I’ll always value is Amit‘s “Pirates” as I believe that it’s set the foundation for the modern “minimal” sound of today.
Seba – Mesmerism EP is out now on Secret Operations. Grab yours direct from the label’s official store.