Utopia Music is a label that I feel to some degree echoes the nature, of a kind of self-sufficient, eco-community – Ok, so I don’t think their a group of extreme hippies that insist on growing vegetables in the studio, but I do feel label owner Mako has setup a label with a real organic, family feel to it. The label outputs music from a relatively small circle of producers, and within this reasonably small circle there are frequent collaborations of which the results are phenomenal. Both artists and label have grown concurrently and are fast becoming prominent figures within drum and bass.
Fields (also part of Mute with brother Villem) is an artist of exceptional talent, he’s part of the Utopia family and has released on a number of the genres most respected labels including Dispatch, Ingredients and Symmetry. I think It’s fair to say a large proportion of his work is in the form of collabs and this is precisely why most recent Utopia release On Your Own / Colours is such a darn tasty treat. A Fields solo – a prospect I’m always excited by, and this release positively delivers. On Your Own is a personal favourite, the jittery rattles of restless percussion combined with gliding, abstract atmospherics make for a masterfully crafted, adrenaline-inducing track. Colours induces a repellant facial expression, mischievous, with a bouncing downright heavy bass line, this one evokes the energy of my 17 year old self, and it manages this in a somewhat elusive manner which is where I find it’s real charm!
Here’s what happened when we caught up with Fields…
Hello Fields, what have you been up to recently and how was your summer?
Hello In Reach crew! I’ve had a fairly quiet summer to be honest as I relocated back to England after being in France for about 5 months. I’ve been a bit of a snow bum for the last few years, getting away for the winter and subsequently coming back broke as hell to the UK in late spring. I wouldn’t change it for the world though; some of my best memories have been gathered out there in the mountains, not to mention many of my released tunes were written out there. It’s a great place to knuckle down to writing music and getting inspired to do so. Now I have a whole other set of inspirations, being back in Bristol at Utopia HQ.
I read in a previous interview that the Utopia gang like to get involved with the PlayStation; I hope you weren’t one of the GTA outside store campers… What are your other interests outside of music?
We do like a bit of gaming yeah, nice healthy competition and all that! I have to sit out when Call of Duty comes on though; it’s just too intense for me. Control pads will be destroyed if I try and play that game! I did actually consider going down for the midnight launch, but I decided not to on the off chance I saw someone that I know down there haha. Gaming is just a time filler though really, something to switch off the brain for a little bit. Other than that, I do need to get outside a fair bit. As I mentioned before, I’ve spent a fair amount of time snowboarding, I grew up skateboarding and more recently I’ve gotten into climbing. It’s amazing; there is so much scope for improving in climbing for me, and it’s a lot more controlled than skating or snowboarding; easier on my old knees.
I’ve read somewhere that it’s largely your brother Villem’s influence that got you into drum and bass, what’s your musical background and when and why did you decide to get involved on a professional level?
That’s true yeah… I was mostly into bands when I was around 15 or so and didn’t really get the whole electronic thing. My brother was into hardcore and dnb but it all sounded the same to me. It was actually Roni Size’s Reprazent that I could first relate to as it sounded like a band to me, I was blown away when I first realised that a lot of the musical elements weren’t actually live, but selected, tweaked and manipulated by Roni and Die. I guess it broke down a few barriers for me and prepared my ears for music that was edging away from your classic ensemble of guitar, bass, vocal etc.
As far as deciding to get involved on a professional level, it didn’t really happen like that. It was more a case of slowly getting more and more immersed in the sounds, trying djing, picking up some music software and tinkering, getting involved in promotions, and finally being blown away that some of our tunes were signed after giving some cds out at club nights; the old fashioned way. That all happened over the space of say 10 years, slowly but surely pushing on.
Drum and bass is relatively niche and has been a staple underground genre for over 20 years, I feel it’s a lifestyle choice rather than just music – do you agree, and if so what do you think it is that gives it such strong subcultural identity?
I do agree to some extent. It seems that with dnb more so than so many other genres, that there is a hardcore base of fans that really seem to stick with it through thick and thin. Sometimes that goes hand in hand with an element of narrow mindedness, a resistance to change. You see a lot of punters/ravers being overly protective of the genre, and whilst I admire the hardy dedication to the scene, that can also hold it back. It’s probably why things got pretty stale a while back, resulting in a lot of listeners jumping ship. I think that it probably has something to do with the intense nature of the music; if you can relate to dnb then it can seem like not a lot else cuts the mustard intensity wise. Now it seems that the doors have been completely blown off the hinges again, and anything goes. People are drawing inspirations from all over the place, which is what was happening in the early days, and in my opinion that’s the most positive thing for the genre. It’s cool when our genre is defined by just a bpm and nothing else. The creative possibilities are opened up, and at the end of the day, a million 2-step tunes is not the way forward.
You and your brother must have a pretty good relationship, have you always gotten along or do you have any tales of sibling mischievousness?
We’ve pretty much always gotten along actually, besides the normal sibling gripes that I’m sure every brother or sister have, we’ve always done things together and I’m sure we’ve influenced each other along the way too. Drew (Villem) came away from dnb for a few years when I was most into it so we had a bit of a tag team situation going on with dnb for a while. We share a lot of the same hobbies and like really similar music nowadays so it’s nice. There was one time when I was probably 13, we were arguing over the remote control, I ended up punching him in the back and he turned around and full swing laid me out. That was the first time I took a punch full on so cheers for the life lesson bro!
You get involved in a fair few collaborative projects, and you’ve released alongside a number of other hugely talented artists, when making a track in the studio is there a set structure to how you do things? And how does it usually come together on collaborations compared to solo work?
In a sense it’s a very similar process, in that much of the processes involved in getting a finished track are often the same; sample hunting, laying down drums, getting an initial idea down and expanding on it, mixing, mastering and polishing. Other than that there isn’t necessarily any set order to how these things get done. Many of the collaborations that I’ve been involved with have been with close friends, all in a room at one time just having fun and seeing what happens. They’re often the most fun tracks to make, everyone taking in turns as the other gets tired of the screen, with lots of ideas and inspirations getting barked around the room. We have a thing that we call the meerkat effect; when everyone stops what they’re doing, ears prick up and suddenly everyone pays attention to the edit or filthy bass hit that just happened. When everyone meerkats you know that sound is staying! Collaborations are fun because you can let go of the criticisms that you would normally put on yourself a little bit and just let it flow a bit more. The pressure is on to get it done whilst everyone is there so it can be really productive. Other collabs have been fired around all over the place until a good enough tune is born. For example, ‘Dissolve’ that came out on Symmetry was a solid couple of days from myself and Hydro, where we sequenced most of the track with all the key samples, then Mako went in on lots of edits and high end interest. We weren’t happy with the bassline in the end so fired it over to Villem who went crazy on the bass and improved it hugely. And thus the track was born.
Your currently based in Bristol, a number of artists come from or have relocated to Bristol, and it certainly has quite a scene, would you say the city has had a great influence on your sound?
I’m sure it has, but it’s hard to pinpoint individual things that might influence your music when you’re exposed to so many things on a daily basis in your everyday life and on the internet. I’d say the city in general definitely has an influence on me, but also that my attitude towards life fits in quite well to the Bristol vibe anyway. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have a Bristol sound in particular, but it’s a vibrant musical city and I love a lot of the music that comes out of this place.
Bristol seems to have a kind of free spirited vibe (the boycott Tesco artwork I feel perfectly illustrating this), what is it about Bristol? – Do you think there’s something in the cider?
Yeah probably! There’s something in the roll-ups too normally. I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that residents really love this city, and want to have their voice heard when they speak. A strong artistic under-current keeps it open minded and opinionated.
On Your Own / Colours has been released on Utopia a label you have quite an affiliation with, how did the relationship with Mako and Utopia first come about?
Me and Mako are old friends, we went to high school together. When he re-took his first year of A-Levels we were in classes together and caused plenty of mischief. We got separated in English as we just used to set each other off messing about being idiots. I was just getting into dnb at the time and so we started discovering it together. I guess we’re still discovering it together now all these years later! Mako is devoted to Utopia and I would rather release there than pretty much any other label. It feels like home!
The release is certainly one of my favourite Fields releases, what’s been influencing you off late, and what were the main influences behind this release?
Thanks, I’ve been listening to loads of new hip hop for a while now. Artists like Joey Badass, Danny Brown, Asap Mob, Flatbush Zombies, Clams Casino, Mac Miller and Ab-Soul. I’m not sure why, but I’ve just been enjoying the thugged out weird stuff and I think that definitely came out a bit in this release. I’ve been thinking a lot about picking up Maschine recently and trying to make some wonky hip-hop stuff myself.
We know you use a lot of external hardware for your productions. Can you tell us a bit about what you use? Do you incorporate any musical instruments into your productions?
I don’t really record any live instruments as such, although I’m definitely keen to do so. Most of the hardware gear is synths nowadays; I used to use the Emu sampler a fair bit and would never get rid of it but it hasn’t been used so much in the last couple of years. I’ve got a Virus C that I’ve had for a good while, and Mako next door has a Nord, a Super Nova and a Roland JP 8080 that I have access to as well. Other than that it’s all in Logic with lots of EXS24 samplers. I still like to work in a sampler style with midi on the majority of channels.
How do you feel the drum and bass sound is evolving?
I think it’s quite exciting again at the moment. There seems to be a huge diversity across the genre, with influences popping in from all over the place. I think it’s starting to get to the point where really we can say that the only thing that some of these tunes have in common with each other is that they are loosely around 170bpm. Other than that, anything goes and I think that is definitely the best way to be.
What should we be looking out for from you in the future?
In the immediate future I’ll be on the next two Utopia releases with Mako & DLR on ‘Old Soul’, and a collab with Break, Mako and Villem entitled ‘Shadowlines’. We’re sitting on a whole bunch of other collaborations that we’re not sure what to do with. We could almost make an album to be honest! I’ve also got a solo tune coming on Symmetry, more info to come on that one. I’ve just managed to get half settled in Bristol again, so I’m looking to get back to writing again feeling refreshed with new inspirations and ideas.
Thanks for reading, shout out to all the extended Utopia family and friends.
Catch me djing next at Dojo Lounge, Bristol for Foundations on 1st Nov.
On Your Own / Colours is available to buy on 12″ and digital (here)