In conversation with Trex

Sofa Sound have been at the forefront of techy, steppy Drum and Bass since its inception 3 years ago. With various releases that have made their mark on the scene, you’d have to be living under a rock to have missed their compilations and EP’s. 

Their next release comes from Trex, who has followed up his contributions to the Sofa King Sick Various Artist LP’s with a 4 track EP. Full of fat, fizzy, stinky steppers, there is no doubt that all 4 of the tunes will be unleashed on the dancefloors when clubs eventually re-open.

We caught up with Trex and had a chat about improvement, food and the opera. 

How’s it going?

Just down on a family holiday in Penzance, Cornwall. 

It must be nice to get away.

Yeah man, there’s a storm right now but it was nice yesterday. We are staying in a house but all of my family are down as well and they’re in the tents not having fun at the moment. 

Yeah I bet haha. Where are you from?

Born in London, moved to Somerset aged 12ish. Then settled back in London in Camden.

What’s Camden like? It must be quite interesting. 

My wife has always lived there. I live in Kentish Town, which is about a mile from Camden, so it’s away from the madness of Camden but it’s still pretty urban and creative. I try to stay away from Camden Town these days, it can be too much with all of the tourists.  

What have you been up to over lockdown?

Staying as busy as possible. I’ve been teaching production on Skype for a while now so that’s kept a bit of money coming in. I’ve released quite a lot of music on my own label, Trust Audio, and doing a series of releases called ‘Stay Calm’.

What’s the idea behind Stay Calm?

Obviously the title was pandemic related. I wanted to start a tune and release it on the same day. I’d start working on it at 9am and by 6pm it would be on Bandcamp, mixed and mastered and for sale, with an Instagram update every hour to show how I am getting on. It was generating quite a lot of interest with people following it. One week I managed to get some people to send me some samples that I could use in a tune. I did it 8 weeks in a row which was great but it kind of ran out of steam. You can buy all of the tracks now on the Trust Audio bandcamp.

That sounds pretty knackering, especially with your kids at home. 

Yeah! I did a few live streams as well, with two for Goat Shed. Other than that I’ve been focusing on my label, Trust Audio. I spent some time really learning what it takes to run a label properly, with some great advice from Diego who runs Delta9. It’s hard to do everything if you’re a producer and DJ, but now I’ve had time to learn so I’ve been pushing that quite a bit. On top of that I’ve been working on releases for labels that I’m already involved with. 

Sounds like you’ve been pretty busy. 

To be honest, you have to be busy.

Are you a full-time producer?

I am now, I’ve done a few different jobs over the years. My wife is a musician and teaches piano and singing. She’s also been teaching on Zoom, we’re very lucky that we’ve been able to keep the money coming in and teach online during the pandemic. Between us, we get it done. 

It sounds like it’s quite creative at home then.

Yeah it can be, we do work together sometimes. She’s a trained musician and I’m not, so she’ll come in and correct what I’m doing. My son’s probably going to hate music [laughs]. 

Yeah, there’s a bit of pressure on him! How did you get into production?

I was always into DJing but like anyone else I wanted to get more involved. It goes hand in hand these days and it became easier with the software. Back in the day you wouldn’t be able to afford all of the gear, but I just got myself a computer and cracked on with it like everyone else did. 

When was this?

I started going for it seriously around 6 years ago. Before that I was having a couple of releases here and there but I wasn’t putting enough hours in. I really wanted to get as close to the top guys as possible and you really have to put the hours in to do that. Before, I’d come into the studio and do a few hours here and there but if you really want to succeed then you have to put a lot more in. The last 5 years I’ve really been going for it.

When did you start Trust Audio?

It was around 4 years ago, me and my mate decided to do it one day. It was mainly so I could get more of my own music out there, but we’ve picked up artists on the way. As my name has become more well known, it’s become easier to attract artists to the label. 

And it’s going pretty well so far.

Yeah it’s going well. Recently we have had Zombie Cats on the label and En:vy who’s got a bright future. We got Missing, the jungle producer, with the next release. Jaybee, Zere, Myth Madcap, Digital, Tweakz and a lot of other producers have all released with us. A couple of my students sent me some really good stuff so I signed a few tracks from them too. Lots in the pipeline

That must be satisfying to see. 

Yeah, it’s a really good feeling. 

Well the internet must be a blessing right now. 

Yeah I’m enjoying that side of things at the moment, some positives have come out of these strange times. I’m missing raves but I’ve upped my online presence and am getting to know people. 

How did you get to know DLR before releasing on Sofa Sound?

I just got to know him over the last few years, we’re both Tottenham fans. I played at Collective a few years ago with Randall. He said he liked the sound of a few tunes and I got to know him after that. It’s just taken this long to get an EP together, I’ve had a few tunes on the compilations and then it was my turn to get a solo release. I didn’t know how many tunes it was going to be, but he just chose 4 of them. I really rate him and have always looked up to him production-wise, so to get my own EP on Sofa Sound is a big moment. I’m really chuffed with it. 

That must be so good to see, the label has been going strong since it’s first release. 

Yes it’s a top label. To release on a label which is home to a lot of very talented artists is a good feeling.

They’re a strong set of tunes, Hustle Bustle is the one for me. 

It’s got a punchy little bassline on it. Jay Myth said the bass sounds like this old charty house tune called ‘Touch Me’  and to be honest, I didn’t even realise. 

Is there a story or theme behind the tunes on the EP?

J [DLR] is really busy so you’ll send a bunch and not hear anything back, but then you’ll send some more and he’ll get back to you in seconds and these were the ones that he wanted. Randall takes the more jungly sounding ones off me but I try to make a few different sounds, so these steppy numbers fit quite nicely on the Sofa. 

You’ve mentioned that you have released on quite a few different labels. How do you decide when you’re going to release on Trust versus other labels. 

I had another release pencilled in for Trust Audio now but I had to cancel it because of the Sofa Sound date. Then I’ve got a Dispatch EP and then my album for Randall called ‘15 Doors’ in the Autumn/ Winter, so I’ve had to put the Trust release on hold. It takes quite a lot of planning. I’m a studio head and not the most organised, so I put the Trust Audio release on the backburner for now. The album is now ready so that will take a lot of planning after these 2 EP’s. 

Big! I noticed that you did a few bootlegs recently, the Action Bronson one was particularly well received. 

I made that about a year and a half ago for a laugh for a bit of practice. The bootleg craze was kicking off, but there weren’t many that I liked. There wasn’t enough craft in them, a lot of them were cut and pasted and the original wasn’t worked into the track. I did my bootlegs to sharpen my tools for remixing. I’m a big fan of Action Bronson, I follow his TV programme F**k, That’s Delicious. I used to be a chef, so I’m into his food and his music. Randall picked up on the bootleg along with Shy FX and they started playing it. Suddenly it got quite a good following. 

Outside of Drum and Bass or music, do you have any influences? A lot of people talk about the overlap between food and music. 

I used to have a hog roast business a few years ago that snowballed into running pub kitchens in London, doing smoked food and burgers which were really fashionable at the time. I was doing that for 3 or 4 years so food is a big passion. I eat out with my wife at as many good restaurants as we can when we get a chance. In music, I’ll listen to anything I can. I’m really into Hip Hop and Soul and have even been to the opera a few times. 

How was that?

Well if there’s a chance to do something that I haven’t done before, I’ll go see what it’s about. You don’t always enjoy it but it’s good to experience new things. We got the ticket through someone we know, otherwise it’s hard. I didn’t think I’d get on with it that well, it’s quite a high society kind of thing. I just went down there, had some nice food and sat through the opera thinking “This is actually alright.” It’s quite an amazing thing to go to. Being into music I probably spent more time staring at the orchestra to see what they were up to instead of following the plot of the opera. 

Sounds pretty different to a rave! Your tunes are generally quite rolling, do you have an inspiration for this vibe?

That would be the Bristol sound. Full Cycle, Serum, S.P.Y., Need for Mirrors, they’re some of my influences. It seems like the rolling sound has come back around which is great because it wasn’t at the forefront for a bit. You can get rollers in any genre imo. You can get them in 80’s Soul, Hip Hop, Funk.. they just roll along. To me a roller is the feel of a track

What would you say makes a Drum and Bass roller?

The drums can roll but so could the bassline. It’s not just about the big impact on the drop, a roller progresses. I like tunes that you can mix and play out for a long time.

You’ve mentioned mixing quite a bit, would you say you’re more of a DJ or producer at heart?

It’s switched over now, any spare time I get I’ll use to make tunes. The decks are right there, I could have a mix whenever but I tend not to unless I’m doing a guest mix or preparing for a set. I’ll use any spare time to get into the studio, I’d say I’m more of a producer now. 

What changed?

Once you know how to mix, you know how to mix. When you’re a producer, there’s so much shit that you can learn. There are new plugins, techniques, software. There’s always something. That’s what appeals to me, you can keep on improving. The second that you think you’ve cracked it, you’ll get left behind. It’s always changing and that’s what I love about it. I try to stay on the forefront of what’s going on with plugins, tutorials, new techniques. I’ll see someone from another genre making a tune using completely different techniques than me, and I’ll try to make a DNB tune using that technique and see how it comes out. I love messing around with it, the production life has really grabbed me now. But I can still DJ. There are layers to DJing too with people out there who are amazing at it. But there’s only so far that you can take it in my opinion. 

You’ve mentioned a couple of things already, but is there anything else coming up that you want to mention?

The ‘Rolling Through’ EP on Dispatch is out in September. That has some remixes of Rolling Dub that have been getting hammered for over a year now, so it’s good to get those out. Then there will be a lot of promotions for the album ‘15 Doors’ with visuals, streams, videos etc etc That’s my main focus until the end of the year.

Thanks for your time, take care!