SBTRKT is one of the fastest growing electronic music producers of our time. He is one of those musicians who has benefited from the internet revolution, with music bloggers praising him as a God. Famous for blurring the lines between deep house, techno and old school dance music, all while wearing a tribal African mask on stage, Don’t Panic decided to find out what the future holds for one of 2010’s star on the rise.
How are you?
All good. On the tail end of completing composing music for this Barbican show.
Where do you find your inspiration?
The cliché: everywhere really. From listening to old music, contemporary, new electronic stuff, and just getting outside and looking around.
How did you start your musical career?
Ever since playing instruments I’d always had the urge to compose my own music rather than play what was already written. So from there I’ve worked through teaching myself the piano, drums to synths and sequencers to where I am now.
This last weekend you will be played at the 10th Bicycle Film Festival at the Barbican.What's your relationship to bicycles? I mean, are you the BMX kind of guy or the fixed gear dude?
I grew up cycling BMXs around. I've got to admit I like the looks of fixed gears. But riding one these days gets you stuck in a certain trendy camp I’d rather not be put in. I used to ride a Raleigh racer a lot where the chain constantly fell off.
You're pretty famous for the mask that you wear on stage, what's that all about?
It’s about bringing out a persona that befits the music. In African societies masks were used in religious and social events representing spirits of ancestors. They come to life, enhanced by music and atmosphere of the occasion. I base it around the sentiment that SBTRKT is about the musical identity, hence the mask brings that to life, rather than who’s behind it. I work alongside a designer named Hidden Place who interprets each release I make with the masks and artwork.
Do you always wear the same mask or do you have different ones that you wear depending on mood and situation?
Essentially that’s a nice sentiment that they change with mood but not yet! I have around five.
And differing ones for live shows vs. DJ gigs at this point.
Can you tell us a bit about your coming EP Step In Shadows?
It's four tracks. The main A-side is called ‘Look At Stars’ and features Sampha on vocals. Other tracks are ‘Step In Shadows’, ‘Colonise’ and ‘Hide Or Seek’. I guess its just a snapshot of where I'm progressing as an artist somewhere in between my last release for Young Turks and where I'm going with my album next year.
How was it to work with Jessie Ware for your collaboration Nervous?
It was cool. I was introduced by Tic from XL Records. She’s an amazing vocalist. I've got some further bits in the production for possible future Jessie Ware releases.
You're featured on Modeselektion vol.1, what's your previous relationship with Modeselektor?
I'm a big fan of both Modeselektor and Moderat, and I sent them tracks of mine to hear for DJing. I asked about remixing something for Moderat, unfortunately too late. They asked if I could do a remix for their ‘Art & Cash’ single they released. They loved it and released it on a 12”. They asked about me making a track for their compilation, which is the one forthcoming.
You will be traveling quite a lot soon, what are you most excited about, the States or Germany with Modeselektion?
All of them to be honest. I went to New York earlier this year to play in July. But to see other cities will be amazing. I've no idea what the reaction will be like over there. Again playing alongside Modeselektor at dates around Germany, Europe and UK later this year is going to be great. I love their live shows.
Do you think people receive you and your music different abroad from home in the UK?
I don’t think so. Everywhere seems to have received music equally. Though people pick up on what’s going on a lot faster in the UK from radio to blogs. Well at least for the music I write.
Except from the release of your EP, what are you most excited about this autumn?
Generally just completing my album, its nearly done, and seeing it find a home for next year.
Would you like to share a secret with us?
I've got collaboration with another band on the album.
Where will you be in a year?
Probably writing a second LP. Possibly writing answers to another interview asking about masks.
Bjork. One day.
What are you most proud of?
The album I've created for release next year.
Worst thing that ever happened while you were on stage?
DJing alongside Skream earlier this year at Tuesday Club. My laptop stopped mid set – silence afterwards was deafening. But shit happens and it only makes you stronger.
Getting more screams and reactions when you play original new music than to already known tracks.