The debut album ‘Amplify’ blowing us away with a beautiful arrangement of night time beats
After a string of well-received releases on Punk Funk, Ground Level, Re:Connect, Control Breaks, Bijou Beats, ‘Amplify’ is the debut album by Stylus Rex, a continuously mixed set of eight carefully crafted dancefloor tracks, bass-driven tech-funk beats and late-night soundscapes. There’s also a collection of beautifully crafted videos also created by Stylus Rex. DMC catch up with Greg to get the lowdown…
What do you most enjoy about the music you make?
“The two main things I enjoy about making music are reaching a certain point in the creative process and the sense of connection with people when they’re feeling my work. So the process…there’s a point in the process of building a track when I’ve found enough ideas and sounds that work together and it suddenly feels like there’s enough momentum to create a worthwhile tune and I know that the track is starting to come together. That point feels amazing and inspiring because prior to that all I really have is some quite random riffs and disjointed pieces but from that point I know I’ll be able to make a coherent piece of music and tend to become obsessed with tweaking and arranging the track in every spare moment. I just love hitting that creative headspace where hours and days obsessing over a tune go by in a flash. And the connection…when a tune I’ve made causes a positive reaction in a club or at a party it feels huge to me. There’s risk involved in putting your work out there, a lot at stake personally. That sense of connection, of creating something that people get pleasure from and seeing that good vibe reflected back at you makes it worthwhile. Hard to beat that feeling of pumping your sounds out to an unsuspecting dance floor and your efforts being appreciated.
You’ve been a firm fixture in the breaks scene for many years now. How do you think it has changed over the years and do you think it’s in a healthy place now with this massive ‘Bass Music’ revival?
“I think there was a point in the early to mid naughties when breaks had a clearer identity and scene prior to the huge rise in popularity of electro-house which blurred the line a little with many breaks djs & producers mixing up the 4/4 in their tracks and sets. The arrival of Dubstep has blurred the line further with the harder wobblier end of that sonic spectrum finding it’s way into many of the more popular breaks tunes of the past few years. For me it’s always been about trying to make interesting music rather than sticking to the conventions of a genre so blurring the line and pushing boundaries can only be a healthy thing on a creative level. The rise of Bass Music as the encompassing, inclusive and broader scene in which breaks resides along with many other sub-genres is positive and serves to ensure producers keep on their toes to make fresh exciting music that remains forward looking and relevant.”
How have you stayed relevant?
“I don’t think it’s for me to decide whether I’ve managed to stay relevant or not really. All I know is that I try to take fresh influences for every track I make to keep myself interested in what i’m doing and hopefully that comes across in the diversity of vibes & sonic texture across the album. I’m always looking for new music and sounds to take inspiration from. Just don’t expect to hear any dubstep tracks from me any time soon. Whatever sound everyone else is jumping on at any particular moment, that’ll be the sound I avoid trying to make.”
If you had to pick one track on the album, which would be your favourite and why?
“It’d be Broken Power. I just like the contrast of the grinding, unsettling sidechained wall of guitar distortion with the softer melody line and warm sub-bass pulses. It’s probably the simplest structure of all the tracks but it’s also one of the most atmospheric tracks i’ve done. The breakdown is a warm, throbbing & darkened open space that i’m particularly proud off.”
Does your ‘Amplify’ LP reflect how you sound when you play out?
“It depends on the gig and the set time really but I always manage to fit in some of my own material into dj sets. A Stylus Rex set tends to encompass elements of techno, funk, electro, breaks, bootlegs and leftfield warehouse sounds where blurring the line between sounds and keeping it fresh with some recognisable elements thrown in is the order of the day.”
Tell us about the band you were in that got signed to Dust II Dust (Sunday Best)?
“It was a 3 piece indie-dance outfit called Multiscreen that i’d been playing drums with. We’d put out a single on Oxford label Shifty Disco which got some good exposure on XFM before Dust II Dust picked us up and put us in the studio to make a couple of eps. It was getting involved with this label that really turned me on to the underground beats scene at the time. They used to have a regular label night at the Junction in Brixton which was where I got to play my first dj set.”
You’ve worked with some amazing people (Steve Lovell (Blur, Julian Cope), Dan Carey (Hot Chip, La Roux) And Youth (The Verve, Killing Joke), tell us more…
“I was lucky enough to work with some hugely talented producers when I was active playing drums in bands and in sessions. Dan Carey was working very closely with Dust II Dust records at the point the band I was in signed to them. He’s gone on to become a pretty hot name producer making records with MIA, Franz Ferdinand, La Roux, Santo Gold to name a few so it was a great learning experience to build music in the studio with him. I bumped into him recently at a Dollop warehouse party in east london a few months ago, he’s still a proper quirky mad genius! Working with Youth was an honour especially as it involved laying down drums tracks for a Killing Joke single at the time ‘Loose Cannon’. He’s a proper old school producer who seemed to sit at the back of the control room not touching the desk but carefully giving out instructions to the several engineers/assistants that were on hand and just listening & waiting for the right recording vibe. Nice job! Unfortunately for me, the material I worked on became part of the album where Dave Grohl took an interest in Killing Joke and asked if he could play drums. They ended up re-recording all the drums on the album with Dave Grohl! I guess if my drum parts were ever going to be scrubbed and re-recorded by another drummer, then it’s hard to feel bitter when it’s a drummer as awesome as Mr Grohl. He literally just re-played my drum patterns on that track though!
What are your current top 3 tracks?
1. Machine Drum – You Don’t Survive (SBTRKT Remix) – Planet Mu
2. Peo De Pitte – Grey Tape – U&A
3. Refracture- Blue (Kraymons Time Fades Remix) – Dusted Breaks
What was the last vinyl record you bought? Do you ever play vinyl out in a set?
“Sad I know but I can’t remember the last piece of vinyl I bought. I stuck with vinyl for as long as I could as I love the sound and feel but started finding fewer tunes available on 12” and also that many venues just didn’t look after their decks and I’d have sound problems. Tend to use CDJs these days but I do still take some classics and obscurities out on vinyl in case the right moment arises.”
You are having a party, whom dead or alive is on the guest list?
“Well if this is the fantasy party where anyone who ever lived turns up if you ask them I think I’d have Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Queens Of The Stonage and The Chemical Brothers choosing tunes with me behind the decks. I’d have Anti-VJ over to to do some mindblowing light-mapping visual experimentation, Darren Aronofsky and Gaspar Noe over to add some cinematic chat, resurrect Phil K Dick to add a literary presence and see if Albert Hoffman fancied a night out too.”
What’s on the horizon for Stylus Rex?
“I’ve got a remix of Refracture’s Hate On This due out on Dust Breaks in early Feb. A remix EP of 2 tracks from the album is due out in March on Ground Level. There’s some new material i’ve just finished that’s closer to a techno vibe than breaks so i’ll be looking for a suitable label for that that shortly. I also really enjoyed doing an eclectic mix for Solid Steel’s Ninja Tunes show recently and that’s inspired me to work on some more laid back material for late night after hours listening. Looking to get out of the studio and do some more dj sets too this year. 2011 was all about the studio, 2012 i’ll be out tearing it up wherever possible.”