Silent Witness is an artist whose reputation is synonymous with a level of artistic output that’s ever innovative and influential. He’s able to expertly craft ominous ambiences and nefarious soundscapes comprised of an understated yet wholly absorbing depth.
Something that I found interesting when preparing for this interview was Silent Witness’ rather mysterious online presence. Ok, so he has Facebook, Twitter etc. but in comparison to the usual floods of online content for artists of his renown– Silent Witness’ somewhat enigmatic presence is surprising.
I feel that his web-based subtlety to some extent parallels the aura I get from him as an artist. His social pages aren’t a continuous feed of information and promo, and he may not be an artist instantly evident on the surface of drum and bass, but that doesn’t matter. There’s a level of producers of varying stylistic output whose influence is fundamental to the foundations of the genre. It’s when you get to this level that Silent Witness’ widespread musical influence and contribution, past and present, becomes indisputably clear.
An example of which is his role in the transition of ‘neurofunk’. 2002 – 2005 saw Silent Witness, Break, Cause 4 Concern and a few others stand out as principle pioneers in what became a prominent underground movement and a distinct progression and revival in the sound.
“It’s very nice to be associated with such acts and the ‘neurofunk’ genre. I simply played my part as a young producer trying to compete with some great names. If people remember and associate me with that, that’s cool. Music always finds a way of taking itself to the next level, and some of the tunes I hear now from brand new producers are very impressive indeed.”
I think it goes without saying Silent Witness is an artist renowned for championing a sound that embodies a mood both dark and sinister.
“I don’t like happy sounding music about 99% of the time, so you’re not likely to find anything like that in my music. I can get blissed out at times, but never “happy”! Who knows, one day I might do something in the major scale, but I just hate it!”
When reading reviews / interviews or any kind of critique or commentary on music, it seems the lines between differing genres or subgenres are infinitely blurry…
“Drum and bass has always contained different genres, applied to the dnb aesthetic. So you could make up a new genre everyday if you wanted. I just make and listen to what pleases me, and try not occupy myself with such things, although it does bother me when I catch myself conforming to, or rejecting something based on “genre”.”
There has undoubtedly been a recent revival of drum and bass in the charts. Prevalent topics of debate surrounding this commercial success are those that question ‘authenticity’ and ‘selling out’ – with the wider theme of whether for a genre to cross into the mainstream there’s an inevitability of it loosing some of its soul.
“In terms of music acts before and after success, there’s no doubt that the magic tends to disappear when the struggle is over- I think that’s evident when listening to many a famous bands catalogue. “
“Looking at drum and bass and its acts getting in the charts – well, that’s great, but to be honest I’m not really listening or paying attention. There’s usually nothing in the official charts I find worth listening to, although I’m happy to be shown otherwise. I personally think the worst thing is when the sound of commercial fodder finds it’s way into the music of previously cool labels and artists. I understand that though, artists can get bored / need money, labels are businesses and what goes up must come down.”
Dispatch Recordings on the contrary is without a doubt a label that advocates notions of musical integrity. Silent Witness is an artist widely perceived as a core part of the Dispatch family – not only down to numerous releases on the label, but also as a result of a dark edge in his sound that can be correlated with the overall vibe of the label.
In drum and bass there seems to be a strong sense of artists being associated with labels and labels being associated with sounds. How does Silent Witness feel this ‘family feel’ common amongst drum and bass artists and labels influences the sound and culture overall?
“I’m friends with all those guys and that’s how the association started. It’s great to have a label there that appreciates my output. In terms of influencing the sound, it only bears a relevance in the fact I know they won’t want to hear any guitar solos! Jokes aside though, I think we are all waiting to hear what each of us can do, and that definitely influences the sound. Drum and bass has always been insular and influenced not only by other music, but itself.”
With a string of releases on the label last year, perhaps Silent Witness’ most prominent release was his collaborative album with Survival – ‘In From The Wild’.
“The album was no different to the usual methods of working aside from the heavy mix down and compiling sessions! I think the next album should be more adventurous, and include some more experimentation. We were very much sticking to our dnb guns on that one. Next time we might record an album under a different guise so we can spread our wings a bit more.”
‘The Arc Light EP’ released today on Dispatch Recordings is a release both minimal and dynamic. It consists of forceful rolling drums and diverse plays on drum patterns and ambiences. ‘Aura’ sees an interesting juxtaposition of melancholy with Silent Witness’ signature heavier sound, discussing this; he illustrated the reason for brining this aesthetic across.
“It’s funny you pick up on that. I got the guitar out on ‘Aura’. The last thing I want to hear is heavy guitar over dnb, so I tend to lay down clean guitar lines over heavy beats and bass. I guess that’s what makes it sound kind of melancholy. I try to avoid the brittle plasticy sound it’s so easy to get in the studio so laying down some guitar is a good way of getting away from that.”
Silent Witness is not only a drum and bass producer and DJ– he also runs a company in which he produces music for film and TV called Bolo Music. Is this something he draws influence from in his creation of drum and bass?
“All the usual suspects in film have influenced my music notably – Vangelis and Moroder particularly stand out. I’m currently very much into the digital synthesis of the 80’s movie soundtracks… I like to think of my tunes as soundtracks in dnb format. I ‘ve recently been working on the music for a forthcoming martial arts TV series also and my love of old martial arts flicks certainly helped there.”
There are a number of labels and artists currently standing out to Silent Witness.
“Inside dnb: Scar, Prolix, Dabs, Amoss, Authentic Recordings, amongst quite a few others!”
“Outside dnb: Hobo (techno), Gojira (metal), Ethiopian Jazz.”
2014 is looking like a very busy year indeed.
“I have some killer tunes lined up from myself and some other artists including Survival and Klute on my label Triple Seed. I will also be giving away some free tunes on my website in anticipation of said releases, so look out for that.”
“Me and Break have a few tunes on the go, they will likely see releases on Symmetry and Triple Seed this year.”
‘The Arc Light EP’ is available to buy digitally and on wax over at Surus.