New Dimensions – An Interview with Cern

Let’s be honest, there are very few things in life that are worse than weekday mornings.  When my alarm goes off at 6am (then again at 6:10, standardly) and I know I’m about to embark on an hour long journey through Shanghai’s overcrowded metro system, the only thing that could potentially put a smile on my face is the prospect of finally bagging a copy of that tune that’s been driving me mad for the last few months.  A few weekdays ago that release was Cern – ‘Hollow Moon VIP/Tiamat VIP’ and the label was Dispatch Dubplate.

It speaks volumes about a producer when their latest musical output is seen as more of an event than a release and for me, there are none more deserving of that title than Cern.  After his album ‘Under Another Sky’ received rave reviews earlier this year we’ve all been waiting with baited breath for the reworks of both Hollow Moon and, from the aforementioned album (sampler), one of personal favourite tracks Tiamat.  In true Cern/Dispatch Dubplate style, this release certainly didn’t disappoint so when the opportunity to grab Cern for an interview came my way I virtually jumped at the chance.  Discussing all things Dispatch, Dimensions and Drum and Bass, here’s what he had to say . . .

Easy Cern, thanks for joining us on In-Reach today!  First of all I’d like to say big ups on the Hollow Moon and Tiamat VIP’s, this release is some next level stuff, you must be really pleased with the outcome!?

Thanks very much, glad you like ’em.  I’m really pleased with how the mastering came out and stoked to be part of the Dispatch Dubs family.  Sick back catalogue so far and this is just the 4th release. 

Can I just say from a personal point of view how happy I am to hear Hollow Moon VIP finally see a release, not owning a copy has been driving me mad for so long now!  Did you ever expect such a strong reaction?

To be honest, no.  Ant loved it when I sent it over, but I only really got a gauge of how good it was doing when Goldie played it on the Metalheadz takeover stage at Northern Bass for New Year’s Eve.  That was some party, and it made my night to hear him play it.  My 20 year old self was giving my today self a high-five.

Speaking of the Hollow Moon VIP, the extended intro gives it a real epic, soundtrack feel, was that always your intention or something that developed through the production process?

It just made its way into the tune.  Making music shouldn’t always be so a DJ can play it.  I love atmosphere and creating tension. Approaching writing a tune the same way every time gets boring, so I thought about other ways to build on the original way the intro worked.  I’m a big fan of Tool, so I sampled a tune they did on Ænima, which I thought worked with the original theme of the track.

Ahh, that makes a lot of sense!  Now you mention it I can definitely hear the Tool inspiration in there.  How did you go about choosing which tracks to re-work for this release?  Were Hollow Moon and Tiamat two of your personal favourite projects or were they the tracks you felt you could expand and improve on the most?

I think it was more of the former.  I loved the way those tracks came out, probably some of my better recent work for a dancefloor (in my opinion).  It started with making the Hollow Moon VIP for Outlook Festival for my album release last year, and then after that Ant (Dispatch) asked if I could look at doing a Tiamat VIP to go with it.  Tiamat I also have a soft spot for.  I don’t usually like hearing my own tunes after they are done (because you only hear the faults), but I still like Tiamat and making a VIP made sense because it was one of the more popular tunes from my LP last year.

I agree with you, as much as I love the Hollow Moon VIP I think my personal favourite has to be your re-work of  Tiamat.  I loved the original and rinsed it to death when it was first released so it came as a huge surprise when the VIP turned out even better!  I can imagine this track has had a huge impact on the dance floors?

Thanks!  After it was done, I didn’t have a gig for a while so I was a bit lost as to how it sounded on a dancefloor, but reports were pretty good from the Dispatch family and I trust them lot.  I was vibing in the studio to it, but that was on my own, so not really the best way to test how good it is.  Enough beers in the studio and I will be jumping about to anything if it’s loud enough.

Haha!  Our site manager’s a bit like that actually!  Speaking of dance floors, I believe you recently played for Dispatch Recordings at Dimensions festival, that must have been an amazing experience!  What would you say was your most memorable moment?

I don’t say this lightly, but I’m sure everyone will understand – easily the moment of the festival for me was playing b2b with Doc Scott.  Best time I have had out there to date and we could have rolled out for at least a few more hours.  I haven’t felt at home DJing like that for ages, and obviously it’s a huge privilege to play with someone who had such a huge influence in your initial introduction to dance music.  That moment will go to the grave with me!

I remember seeing on social media recently that you’ve been busy in the studio with Gerra & Stone, now that’s definitely a track I can’t wait to hear!  Can you shed any light on what we can expect from your collaboration and when we might see a release?

Yeah, it’s been a pleasure to work with those guys.  Absolute gentlemen who obviously have loads of talent.  We are still finalising the tune and I don’t think it would be right for me to say where or when it’s going to be released just yet.  A final mix is on the way, and once that’s completed we can probably move on to the next tune if all goes according to plan!  All I can say regarding this tune is that it’s almost done.

OK, we’ll let you off, we’ll have to just keep our ears to the ground!  Speaking of collaborations, those that have already purchased Hollow Moon VIP/Tiamat VIP will notice an exclusive track called ‘Hydraulic’ with American producer Mayhem.  After almost disappearing from drum and bass to focus on other genres it’s nice to see Mayhem making a reappearance!  Can you tell us how this collaboration came about?

Yeah this tune we actually started a long time ago, and Ant really pushed for it to be done for this release.  It was sitting idle for a while.  I remember Ant starting his set with it on the Dispatch boat party last year at Outlook but it had been floating around on our DAWs for a couple years before that.  Mayhem has been doing his own thing for the last few years, but in my opinion, he was one of the true pioneers of (actual funky) Neurofunk that started to emerge from the states over a decade ago with his label Shadow-Law.  I don’t actually remember when we started but I think we were just talking and he sent a project over to work on.  He was a huge influence for me all that time ago, and working with him has been a huge break for me personally.  This release has taken me back on a journey through all those early Shadow-Law & Hostile releases from Rob-F, Impulse, Kiko & Sinthetix.  When we were a lot younger and had a lot more tolerance for stress, Mayhem was the first gig we (Cern) put on in Auckland, and we got to meet and hang out.  The gig was sick from what I remember.  A true legend, that guy.

Absolutely!  As someone that’s followed your music for close to a decade now (suddenly feeling really old) it seems incredible to look back at older releases such as The Blood Moon and Voodooguru and see how much, yet how little has changed.  I remember being drawn in by your harder techstep tracks and although your music has certainly matured over the years you’ve always managed to maintain a trademark sound.  With so many artists going way off the mark and becoming parodies of themselves during their careers what do you think has kept you so driven and focussed?

Hahah, yeah this is starting to make me feel a little old too.  To be fair to other artists, I find that it’s really hard as a creative to do the same thing over and over.  Looking back to those releases I think the music I create has come a long way, mostly mix down-wise with a few exceptions.  I still hold on to the same things that inspire me, the same music and the same era of drum and bass that, as I have said before, was probably the best drum and bass had to offer.  I think I’m what I call a selfish producer, making music that I love and not really worrying too much about money or how people will see or hear it.  To give you an idea of what I mean, I still listen to Soundgarden ‘Superunknown’ and Sepultura ‘Arise’ which are on constant rotation on my playlist, albums that I listened to when I was 16 years old!  I have kept a full time job for the last 5 years outside of music and that has definitely given me the freedom to create without the need to pay the bills with the product.

Some of the truest words that have been spoken, I couldn’t agree with you more.  Something slightly obscure now, if you could go back in time and give yourself as a young, aspiring producer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Patience is a virtue.

And lastly, after coming and dropping two VIP bombshells on us I know we’re all desperate to know what else you’ve lined up!

Well, I have a few projects lined up on Dispatch soon that I can’t really elaborate on, but what I can discuss is the remix I have done for the DBR UK LP.  I can’t wait for people to hear that LP.  Those guys have done a hell of a job!  I have a release lined up with C4C soon which I am completing hopefully this month.  There’s also the Gerra & Stone collab we have talked about.  A big chunk of the year has been on a sample pack I have done for Digital Labz (http://www.digitallabz.co.uk) which was great experience and the first time I have tried something like that.  It’s available now for those that want a slice.  Hydro & I did some work with DLR & Mako a while back which might get a release, and I have a side project I am still chipping away at that may never eventuate, but has been a couple of years work so far – that’s a slow burner.  Other projects I have going with Subtone, Overlook & Gremlinz are yet to be done but are getting closer by the day, I swear!  I’m putting a few things away for my next LP as they come but I might hold off on that for a little while (making an album mashes your brain).  I’m getting married in the new year and after that we will be moving to Melbourne to start a new chapter!  Bring it all on…

So not much going on then Cern, you’re pretty lazy really 😛 (kidding, obviously)  Thanks so much for joining us today, it’s been a pleasure!  Before you go, any shout outs?

Thanks Lindsay!  Yeah one last shameless shout before I go – if you want to book me for a gig before I head off back down-under for an indefinite period, contact Tom@Bassic.co for info and an all round lovely chat 😉

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you all important it is for you to catch Cern before he embarks on his new adventure!  In the mean time, if you havent bagged it already, head over to the Dispatch Recordings online store to grab a copy of Cern’s latest release, available on both 12″ wax and MP3 download so no excuses at all to snooze on this one.  Thanks once again to Cern for an incredibly insightful interview and as always, until next time . . . . 🙂 x x x