150 demos. 39 tracks. 3 parts. 1 Violent Year.

As crazy as 2020 was, it led to a lot of musicians crafting some of their best music. From the sanitary restrictions to social isolation, one may wonder if we weren’t living in a science fiction movie. And when reality takes over fiction, a burst of inspiration may arise. At least, this is what happened for NC-17

Exploring his passionate love for films, the Toronto-based producer dedicated his artistic work during those extraordinary moments to depicting the Most Violent Year; translating feelings into sounds, emotions into musical pictures, and finding his inner artistic voice along the way.

More than just a conceptual album, Most Violent Year is a pure product of its time: raw, dark, and mystical.

Coming straight out of NC-17’s guts, we delve deeper into his spiritual and historical piece of art, through a fascinating chat with the man himself.

Most Violent Year Album Part 02 poster
Most Violent Year Album Part 02 poster

You’ve released on many of the genre’s biggest imprints like Symmetry Recordings, Ram Recordings, Viper Recordings, Renegade Hardware, Dispatch Recordings, and you also have a forthcoming release on Metalheadz… For how long have you been producing & how did it all start?

P – All started by going to film school. From there, I did a text school, where I got to do more hands-on stuff. I had the opportunity to use film cameras and stuff like that. At the same time, that gave me the chance to sneak into a couple of audio engineering classes. I was like, “Oh shit, this is fucking cool, I like it a lot”. This is how I found my way into producing drum & bass.

Falling in love with this genre, at the core, was not about partying, it was definitely because of cinema. It was the moment I realized I could fuse my cinematic love into the genre in a seamless way. And this was what was very appealing to me. There were so many possibilities of using my love for films into this music.

In terms of releases, the first one was back in 2005. It was on Mac2 Recordings, Randal’s label. And my first real hit was in 2007, with my project “Slug Path” on DSCI4 Recordings. This is where I started to get noticed by Andy C and a lot of people.

That is almost 17 years in the game. Crazy! How does a regular day look like for NC-17 now?

P – During a regular day, when I’m not writing music and if I’m not with my son and my wife, I tend to just go for hikes or to the cinema. I try to spend as much time as possible away from the computer, from TV or from screens in general. Except when I’m at the movie theater, of course.

Conversely, when I’m writing music, my weeks are much different. It’s like going to fucking war. It’s an intense process. I do that in an extreme way, like sleeping only 3 hours a day and dedicating all my time and energy to it. I’m usually completely drenched after that.

Is that why your artist name ‘NC-17’ is a reference to films that are not considered suitable for children under 17 to watch because it contains sex or violence?

P – Basically, in America, movies that are on the cutting edge of art, that are not pornographic, but are a little too graphic for the mainstream audience get the “NC-17” rating.

And one of my favorite movies at the time was “Bad Lieutenant”. It was the first film to be rated NC-17. I loved how raw that film was. It was shot in only 20 days with a small cast.

At the same time, I have always liked the raw approach of making music. One of the reasons I write songs in such a concentrated time is that there is magic to it. You’re catching the raw feeling of a moment, an emotion. You know how there’s a saying that all the best songs are made fast? I wanted to choose a name that was coherent with my raw approach to writing music.

So, instead of calling myself “Bad Lieutenant”, I thought, why not choose “NC-17”?

Bad lieutenant poster
Bad lieutenant

As you mentioned, you have a strong background in cinema, with a film degree. We can clearly feel this in your new album and in your discography. Are there particular films that got you inspired for this project?

P – Yes, there were specific films that inspired me. The main one is “Rosemary’s Baby”. You can tell from the poster, who is very similar to the artwork of the album. There were other films like “The Omen And The Exorcist”. However, I think the inspiration for this project is mainly based on my inner feelings during the pandemic.

Rosemary's Baby Poster
Rosemary’s Baby Poster

It definitely seems like it. “Most Violent Year”, straight in the title, we can see a clear link with the bleak hours of COVID-19 and repetitive confinements. Tell us more about that!

P – I think the project was mostly inspired by the times I was living in. A lot of people forget that drum & bass is first & foremost an art form, an avant-garde art form. And art is there to transcribe emotions and translate feelings. I felt that this album was a great opportunity to express how I was feeling about what was going on in the world during this time of crisis.

And this did connect to horror movies. I felt like I was living, and I’m still living, in a horror film. It was like living a nightmare every day. This album isn’t political, though, it’s mostly metaphorical and more about the sub-text. This was just me using an expression of the world we’re living in today. The Most Violent Year.

Going back to D&B as an art form, I wanted to approach this project in a way that is not different from someone writing a book or shooting a film. This album was to be treated as any other artistic endeavor. One thing I currently find with D&B is that everyone just wants to make “songs”. Producers are worried about making snares, or how loud their kick is going to be, or how cool their riff will turn out. I wanted to go in another direction. The project had to be meaningful, it had to be a commentary or a product of its time.

With the album composed of (already) 2 parts of respectively 13 tracks each, it’s a pretty large project. Which song in each part is your favorite? And, why?

P – My favorite track for Part 1 is “Howling in Silence” because it really brings me back to that techno Kemal/Ed Rush & Optical kind of vibe that was back in the early 2000s.

From Part 2, my preferred song is “Brutal Violence” because it’s so minimal, tribal, and raw. It’s the rawest of all my tracks. There’s something very mystical and magical about that one.

And in Part 3, which is also my favorite track overall, it’s called “Blood Warden”. I like its intensity and its aggressiveness.

What’s even crazier is that behind those 26 tracks, there are 100 demos sent to Dispatch Recordings. Tell us a bit more about the curation process?

P – Going back to my cinema background once more, my process was similar to when you’re shooting a movie, whether it’s a short film or a long feature. The more scenes you have, the easier it is to edit the project as a whole. So, with this album, I figured the more tracks I had, the better the end result would be. Therefore, for each part, I wrote 50 songs in approximately three months, and Ant would cut it down to about 20. Then, we would have a conversation about the best approach to go from there. Sit on it for a week, and finally cut it down to 13 songs.

The reason I did this for each part and not for the entire piece is that I wanted each part to have its own tone. For instance, if you shoot a movie and make three films out of it, you don’t use the scenes from part 1 to bring them into part 2. So, working this way would assure that each installment was unique.

And speaking about the curation process, I definitely have to mention Ant. He played a major role in it. I mostly see this album as a big collaboration with him, rather than just me sending demos to Dispatch Recordings. Even though I was writing the music, he was like the film editor. He would literally go through all my songs, picking the ones that he liked. I would also bring the ones I really liked. From there, I would start mixing down and mastering everything.

Read our interview with Dispatch Recordings here

How did this back-and-forth between Ant & you start? And, is that the reason you signed your album to Dispatch Recordings?

P – This is a very good question. I’ll need to go into the details to answer it!

Keep in mind the pandemic had just started and everybody was going crazy. I just had done a release with Ant prior to this that was called “All Weapons Out”. It was a good EP, but it didn’t do well at all.

At that moment, I had just started my Patreon. I was releasing tracks without any thought of signing them to a label. And there was no reason Ant would want to do more music with me. So, I just started to write music with no expectations, trying to be me, doing whatever the fuck I want. However, as I was writing these songs, there was still a voice running in my head, telling me I should show these tracks to some labels and see what they say.

So, I started sending these demos to Ant, and he was like “Fuck, they’re very good”. At first, I was pretty surprised by his reaction. This is where I started pushing the envelopes harder to see how he would react. Each time, Ant was enjoying what he heard.

The reality is that it’s with his feedback and his reactions that I was becoming NC-17 again. Ant was putting me in the perfect state of mind to produce unique music. He really started to nurture that feeling. And that’s when I started to become very proud and satisfied with my work.

It made me realize that the more you are yourself, the more you’re trying to be you, that’s when the best results will come out. And this is what I learned through this experience.

Before that, I was just making drum & bass songs, but now, because of this album, I truly feel like an artist.


Thank you so much to Peter & the Dispatch Recording team for the chat. You can stream NC-17’s Most Violent Year LP here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). You can also buy it here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).