Sam Binga: Cross-pollination at 160

Slow/fast producer Sam Binga has created a stir over the past 18 months with a frenetic brand of dancefloor-friendly footwork, earning him his stripes as a valued exponent of the flourishing 160 movement and esteemed affiliate of the UKs most progressive drum and bass labels, Exit Records and Critical Music. With a summer of touring behind him and a spate of releases chalked up for the next coming months, we caught up with the cheeky Bristolian for a natter and a nose..

Hi Sam! How do you do?

Very well thank you, been running around Bristol like a headless chicken today, but better to be busy and getting things done in the real world rather than sitting around twiddling my thumbs, endlessly cycling between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Which I certainly never do…

Youre just back from a whirlwind tour of Australia and New Zealand. How was that for an adventure? Whats the Ozzy drum and bass scene like and what were your highlights?

The first thing to remember about Australia and New Zealand is that it’s really quite a long way away. I got on a plane on Wednesday in London and got off on Friday in Perth – Thursday vanished. One of the gigs was in Adelaide, which is the only place I’ve been to that has it’s own timezone on the half-hour, rather than the hour. And every other animal is poisonous, or vicious, or both. But despite all that, it was really good fun – everyone that came to the shows was really enthusiastic and brought the vibes, and it was wicked to catch up with a bunch of friends I’ve made out there over the years. Special mention goes to Farj Fader of Garage Pressure / Aquatic Lab fame – we spent a heap of hours in his Kings Cross studio reminiscing over old breakstep classics and unreleased dubs. Farj brought people like Oris Jay and Lombardo out to Australia before dubstep had even really become a ‘thing’ in the UK, so he’s got a huge collection of great stories and rare tunes from that under-appreciated time between the death of garage and the rise of dubstep. Biggups Farj, and biggups Oli and Saul at Blood And Gold who put the tour together.

Youve been putting some hefty remixes out there over the past year with My Nu Lengs Masterplan, CHVRCHES’ ‘Recover, Tesselas Hackney Parrot, plus Dabs & MC Kwality’s ‘Skull & Bones, which have each smashed the dance without much trouble. Is remixing something you particularly enjoy? And what qualifies a tune for the Sam Binga treatment?

Yeah I enjoy remixing tunes, particularly if they’re outside of the world I’m normally associated with, but they’ve got certain spice that let’s me see how they could be translated across into my sound. So with the Crackney Parrot, Tessela’s original was based around a rude Think break and a hardcore diva vocal – that was a no-brainer to have a crack at. And similarly with the My Nu Leng remix – when I heard Fox’s vocal, I knew that it would work at a footwork speed. I’ve got to say that I’ve been lucky in terms of people giving me access to the parts of their tunes – big love to Ed Tessela and the Leng boys! I’ve got a few more remixes on the way as well, including a couple for some of my musical heroes, so I’m looking forward to getting them out there, or at least to putting them on Soundcloud and basking in the warm glow of people saying nice things about them online…

Redders has featured on a number of your tracks so far, and with the forthcoming EP release of Astrophonica collab project FDGD comprising of yourself, Fracture and vocalist Rider Shafique, its great to hear a strong dancehall vibe coming through. Whats significant to you about bringing that sound to the table within the context of contemporary 160-170 music?

Dancehall is some of the best ‘dance music’ out there – in the sense of, it’s literally really good to dance to – and the vocals add so much to the tunes, in terms of hooks, lyrics, humour, and gyal-friendly cheekiness. It’s also easy to go down a vortex of over-serious intensity when you’re working by yourself, so I find that writing with a vocalist – and a vocal style – in mind can help me avoid that. Plus so much of the good stuff in dance music has come from the cross-pollination between Jamaican and British sounds and ideas – all I’m doing is putting my own spin on a vibe that’s been incredibly fruitful from the days of Shut Up And Dance.

It’s also been fun working with Redders and Rider, as with both of them, we’ve really tried to go beyond their usual comfort zone. Redders is an amazing lyricist, but we’ve focussed more on his naturally charismatic delivery and quirky turns of phrase; and Rider is generally a on a deep conscious tip, but for the ‘Fi Di Gyal Dem’ EP, we got him to channel his inner Shabba Ranks and give us some classic slackness.

Anymore releases on the horizon for 2014?

The ‘FDGD’ EP with Fracture and Rider is out now digitally – the vinyl has been a bit delayed (because if it was easy to put out vinyl it would just be no fun at all, right???) but that should be hitting shops very shortly in some super-nice hand-stamped magenta-print sleeves. After that, I’m finally doing a solo EP for Critical (although it features vocals from Redders, and a collaboration with Deft), which I’m pretty hyped about. And if we get time, me, Chimpo and Trigga are going to try to get ‘We Run Tingz / MCR’ out before the end of the year.

On the visual side of things, you have a reputation for presenting a bold and in-your-face aesthetic with each of your releases from labels across the board, and considering your direction of the AYO! video; do you feel that a hands-on approach to what you create is important? And what guides you in your approach to the presentation of your craft?

Again, a lot of my approach to the visual side of things follows a similar pattern to the way I approach the musical side. I’ve tried to develop an aesthetic in my music which is based around embracing mistakes, deliberately pushing lo-fi processes, the avoidance of focussing on po-faced technicality for its own sake, and the amplification of original and unique sounds. So with AYO, we bought some knackered old VHS cameras off eBay and shot with those – we could have shot on an SLR and used a plug-in to emulate the feel of film, but

1.) That’s really dull

2.) Anyone could do that (but not many people could be bothered to lug around a massive out-of-date camcorder (Just as anyone can use a tape emulator plug-in with Logic, but not everyone is going to actually record sounds to C90 and back again)), and

3.) All the stuff that went wrong in the shoot ended up being some of the best bits in the video.

So yeah, I’m all about making stuff a bit crap, but in a good way. Or at least, that’s my excuse for my shonky mixdowns, terrible videos, and tasteless pink records. Out to Aodh at Bearpit Media ( for putting up with my ridiculous ideas for videos, and turning them into something good.

The hybridisation of drum and bass music with juke, trap, footwork and jungle flavours has reinvigorated the scene over the past year or so. This stirring up of the 160-170 landscape toward an genre inclusivity like never before is somewhat uncharted territory. How do you feel that this particular vein of the genre is evolving, and to what effect?

Yeah it’s a vibe at the moment – I’m getting sent more and more tunes that I find exciting and want to play out, and they’re not all by Fracture! Although most of them are. He’s such a bastard. I hate him. So I would like this particular vein of the genre to evolve so that Fracture somehow becomes less good at it. Beyond that, I hope people keep pushing what they’re doing and trying new things out – sometimes it can be tricky to balance the need to reference the past with the boldness needed to shape the future. I’m not even sure what that means, but it sounds great. Get me a TED talk!

 The mighty Fabric London is turning 15 this year. How do you recount your experiences as both a raver and player of the revered night club?

I think I mentioned in my last interview for Fabric that I still get a bit blown away by the fact that I’m allowed to play here – it’s always loomed so large in the section of my mind linked to clubs and dance music!

The first time I heard one of my own tunes while I was on the floor was a pretty big event for me; nowadays, those times when you’re DJing and you realise that the music you’re playing, on this amazing system, is connecting with all those people out there… Those moments are pretty special too.

The attitude Fabric has towards you when you play there is exemplary as well – the equipment is perfectly maintained, the monitoring is great, there’s always a sound guy around for the changeover between DJs… Things like that mean you can turn up in confidence, knowing that you just need to concentrate on presenting your music the best way you can – all the other stuff is being taken care of by professionals. There’s a lot of clubs around that still don’t come anywhere close to those levels.

Youre playing at FABRICLIVE for Critical Sound in room 2 on the 10th October 14. What can we expect of your set?

Assuming I get a chance to finish the mixdowns off next week – a bunch of new stuff!

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Author: Hanna Wiggins