Proudly introducing our new interview series: ‘Groundbreaking’.

Studio Drum & Bass has always been striving to promote cutting-edge material; putting forward the innovators of our scene, from the visual creators to the labels to the music producers. As barriers between genres are becoming more porous, production tools have become easily accessible online, and new sonic territories are being explored due to the constant rise of new technologies, speaking of innovation has never seemed this relevant.

And, there wasn’t a best way to start this new series than to have an in-depth discussion with the genre-defying, sound-design wizard, gyrofield. From releasing on Inspected, Liquicity, or even Upscale, Kiana has been propelling new ideas in the scene with every of her release, bringing together her wide-ranging influences into innovative concepts, all this at such a young age.

So, let’s dive right in!

For an interview on a subject as complex as innovation, it seems like a necessity to start by going back to the basics. Could you tell us your own meaning of an “innovative track” and give us a good example?

g. –  For me, an innovative track is made with an awareness of the surrounding music, recognizes the tropes and possible nuances of its style, and creates a unique experience out of familiarity. Each track in music is a permutation of some elements, and an innovative track possesses the artistic and technical nuance so that all the elements within it form a permutation that sounds unique. This can be done by implementing outside influences, such as the RnB components and songwriting of ‘Independent’ by Halogenix, or by creating a completely unusual sound palette, such as the pure-noise impacts of ‘Hindsight’ by Buunshin.

Taking into account your entire discography, which track do you think is the most innovative? And, why this one?

g. – I’d pick ‘Search Optimized’ or ‘Cold Sink’.

My EP ‘Synopsis’ has a lot of colorful synth work and interconnected melodies, and ‘Search Optimized’ really exemplifies the spirit of the work. Out of all the tracks I’ve made in my cat life, I’ve never built such a complex system of call and response. It was a very fun track to write, design, and arrange, and I think it makes for a tune that’s very re-listenable and engaging throughout.

‘Cold Sink’ is the most stylistically unique track from ‘Tech Flex EP’. The outside influence came from Film Noir and indie cinema. I wanted to invoke certain images without detailing a full narrative. The skittering percussion, the rumbling guttural basses, and the airy, ghost-like vocals all serve to create an eerie, haunting soundscape. Having highly stylistic elements throughout a track can definitely elevate it, and in this one, I think everything works together as a whole to conjure emotion.

Going on with a quote from the legend Optical:

“The music we make and play has become some of the most technically difficult, but also exciting and powerful, of all the bass music genres to produce”

As clubs were closed for more than a year, do you think the pandemic impacted the way producers made music, sometimes accentuating the technicality of their productions over the vibe?

g. – It really depends on the way a producer approaches music and inspiration. Some people are fueled by the energy and vibe of nightlife and club music. When the clubs closed, some of my producer friends complained about not being able to hear their music live. That’s the effect clubs have on some people. For me though, the experiences and stimulus I receive from the world inspire me the most, so during the lockdown, I wrote music about the collective turmoil, the isolation, and the social movements that erupted during that time. I was still an “outsider” to the drum and bass scene then, and I’d never played at a club, so I relied on my perception of the wider world to create.

As for the quote, I think Drum & Bass producers often take themselves quite seriously, and it’s something I would personally avoid. It is true that the genre has evolved to such heights of technical skill, that it feels daunting for “outsiders” to take root. However, I was attracted to this genre because it turned the intangible and unreal into exciting music, and I want to keep emphasizing the fun and “magic” of it when communicating to other people. I want to keep a carefree attitude when it comes to talking about drum & bass. I’m just here to create a vibe and maybe show you something new with sound.

Do you think there are other electronic music genres that are currently bringing some kind of innovation into d&b?

I think bass music is slowly becoming an amalgamation of itself, in a good way. Dubstep and Jungle and UK Garage and UK Grime/Drill have always been adjacent genres, and now more than ever producers are making tracks in all different styles and blending their production techniques and conventions. Personally, I am quite influenced by techno and experimental music, as well as pop and rock. The sound design and composition approaches of the former two influence the form of my music, and the songwriting & instrumentation of the latter two influence the songwriting and harmonic aspect.

More globally, which drum & bass tunes have been groundbreaking recently for the genre? And why?

g. – The recent drum and bass tracks that really stand out to me execute elaborate concepts, deliver a precise vision, and bring in interesting influences. One such track is ‘Angels’ by Simula. It executes a sound I’ve thought about a lot but never figured out how to execute. The details and octave modulation in the main sound makes it fulfill the purpose of a bass and a lead at the same time. It’s very effective in its design, and its singular presence in the mix provides it with impact.

Another track is ‘Stop This’ by MISSIN, which came from a golden streak of releases on the NËU imprint. This track forces clashing rhythms together using repetition and an impeccable sound palette. It creates a wall of noise that manages to balance raw aggression and granular detail, displayed across an understated track structure that fully showcases the intensity and character of each component. This track has never left my mind since the first time I heard it. It’s quite a beautiful and disgusting enigma.

The last track I want to mention is ‘Love No More’ by Sleepnet. It shows Nik’s expertise in distilling the essence of drum and bass and delivering that energy in a concise package. The concept of this track – The monolithic, brooding chaos of drums and rumbling low end – is something I’ve also experimented with within my own unreleased work, and it made me very happy to see someone else execute it so well. An innovative track needs not overstay its welcome or overcomplicate itself with embellishments, it simply needs to make a strong entrance and deliver its message. This track did just that.

Moreover, which producers have been recently putting their imprint on the genre, not only with a single release but with what they are bringing overall as artists? And why?

g. – For me, the best drum and bass is coming from the new worldwide generation of producers. Now more than ever, musicians can access top-quality software and hardware tools, and the playing field has been leveled at a high standard. Producers who are able to understand the technology at their fingertips and utilize that to create something unique are the ones making the most memorable music. Artists like The Caracal Project, Grey Code, IMANU, latesleeper, Nami, etc. all have their own sophisticated sound derived from experimentation and rich knowledge of modern music production. On the other side of the world, talent is brewing from Asia and Oceania, with artists like Radiax, Bold Theory, and Fetus all bringing their fresh takes on drum and bass and wider club music.

Which labels do you think are currently at the forefront of innovation in bass music? And, why these?

g. – VISION have long been purveyors of cutting-edge bass, they’ve been receiving music from a wide range of talent and this keeps their output dynamic and ever-changing.

Unchained Recordings are a burgeoning Chinese label that sources from the underground bass scene in Asia and beyond. They take advantage of booming music scenes and the talent that emerges from within them, bringing in producers from the West as well to foster international connections.

Microfunk Music is a mainly Russian collective that has long been exploring the miniature and synth-driven side of drum & bass. They provide music that sits fairly between home listening and club experience. Their devotion to their sound makes them a unique facet of drum and bass & electronica, one that is not easily categorized into singular genres and styles.

Lastly, I must give a shoutout to Music Squad. A collective consisting of the new generation of bass producers, they pull the strings in so many aspects of the internet electronic music scene. Having been a long-term fan of their work, I was very glad to be able to join their ranks, and being able to collaborate and mingle with this group of producers has been invaluable to me. Please watch out for any new releases from us 🙂

Big thank you to Kiana for answering our questions. gyrofield will be playing at our next event in Paris, on the 26th of November. Link to the event here