We're not ones to make a big deal out of numerical milestones here at Hedmuk, although there have been a few that have been noted quietly, but since first speaking with Distance about the possibility of having him contribute an interview and mix to our exclusive series we thought it might be worth holding out until we hit our half century. We're not really ones for looking backwards either, and a(n ironic) quick glance back over the forty-nine artists whose contributions precede this one is testament to the future-facing approach that Hedmuk is, and has always been, about.
Of course it's fitting, then, that we be able to talk with a producer who has, since first sitting down in front of a sequencer or - further back - picking up a guitar, been firmly focussed on what lies ahead and how he can bring a bit of himself to it. Being at the forefront of the dubstep scene since its very earliest beginnings wasn't anything to do with luck or 'right place, right time' or any of the other cliches: what really held the sound's pioneers together was exactly the fact that they were all pioneers, all looking to do something new and all bringing their own individual edge to it. Mary Anne Hobbs' legendary Dubstep Warz show was two hours of purely innovative music, and would arguably have been notably less so without the contribution of Distance (or any other of the individuals involved): such was the balance, tension even, that kept things fresh and continually moving forwards. 'This show will change your life', the ident claimed, and it was certainly no flash in electronic music's pan; things may have changed a lot since then, but what hasn't is Distance's dedication to pushing a sound, through his own productions and through the music he releases on his own Chestplate imprint, that he can believe in...
Hedmuk: To introduce yourself, what's you name, where do you hail from and how would describe your sound?
Distance: I'm Distance and I'm from Bromley, I would describe my sound as dark, futuristic, emotional energy (laughs).
H: Your interest in heavy metal, and its visible influence on your music, has been fairly well documented; but what was it that drew you over to a more electronic-based approach to writing music? How far do you feel that this more distinct musical background aided you in developing a unique sound within the 140 spectrum?
D: Well during my later teens I started to listen to the electronic artists such as The Prodigy, Aphex Twin and Portishead aswell as many others, but dance music had always been around me I just hadn't paid a lot of attention to it: my main focus was metal. Some of the bands I listened to started to include drum machines and samplers in their tracks and that's what probably sparked my original interest. During college I met a lot of new people who were into completely different styles of music to me and that's when I really began to take notice of underground dance music such as UKG, drum & bass and even some more commercial stuff. I became a massive DJ EZ fan and would always check his show on Kiss FM, but over time I noticed a darker sound slowly creeping into UKG: something which really grabbed me and it reminded of the dark energy and emotion I felt from metal. This dark UKG music became dubstep. That's cutting the story very short, but for me that is where it all started: it was at a time when I would mix Todd Edwards into Pulse X into Wookie then into something ridiculous like a Misteeq remix (laughs).
I think metal music definitely influenced my production; if you listen to my earlier stuff the drum arrangments were crazy: so many drum rolls and edits - something which I'm looking to go back to, actually. I was also one of the first people to be using distorted basses in tracks and this was because of my love for distorted guitars; it was natural for me because I had already been playing guitar for years so as soon as I created a synth sound or bass it was only natural for me to think 'well I might as well add distortion and why not a flanger', and that's how my experimentation with sound design really began: by processing my sounds as though I was putting a guitar through a multi-effects unit.
H: Both of your albums were released in fairly quick succession, and were key in establishing you as a major player with a unique sound: can you see yourself writing another album at any point in the near future?
D: I've been starting my 3rd album for the last 3 years! (laughs) But I keep getting involved in other projects, I will be properly starting it soon. I have tracks which are unfinished which I know will be album material: everytime I write something new and it doesn't really fit within a scene's template I keep it in a special folder (laughs). It will be much more experimental them my last 2, and it has to stand up to them.
H: You mentioned recently the possibility of a Deleted Scenes album, alongside Pinch: how likely is it that such an album will be released?
D: It's very likely! We've been talking about it for years and what was just us basically doodling is slowly developing into something very unique and exciting. Whether or not we make dubstep, you will have to wait and see.
H: With many of the names alongside whom you were instrumental in pushing dubstep now taking the tempo down a few notches, working and experimenting particularly around the 130bpm mark, have you been moved to try your hand with different tempos and styles?
D: I've got so much material at different tempos, I'm just holding it down for the right projects and the right time. I did have 3 drum & bass tracks surface thanks to the Autonomic lads and I've got a load of other drum & bass tracks almost finished; I actually posted up a new one today on my Soundcloud. I've been writing some crazy dark hip-hop and weird housey beats at 110bpm too, some of which are deliberately made for vocalists.
H: You've always been known to engage with your fanbase, most notably perhaps through your video tutorials. How important is it to you that that relationship between artist and fan is maintained?
D: I think it's very important. In regards to the tutorials, I've seen so many people just post bullshit which doesnt relate to anything: 'How to make Skrillex basslines', 'How to make Noisia basslines' ..... FUCK OFF! None of the people making those tutorials can make anything close to what these artists can, it cracks me up. I would rather show people the basics so they can go away and create their own sounds. Part of the reason dubstep has now become so over-saturated is because everyone has access to Youtube and rather than spend the time and produce a stem of creativity they would rather copy what some prick is doing on Youtube. It's all to easy. I spend days even weeks creating new sounds.
What you see is what you get from me, that's probably why some of the GetDarker TV episodes with me in are so messy (laughs).
H: You seemed to step things up with Chestplate in a big way in 2012, with regular releases from new signings, residencies at Fabric and 1Xtra, with the Daily Dose series. What made you decide to redirect the bulk of your energies towards the label rather than your own solo output?
D: It just felt like the right time: I was getting hit up to do so many remixes plus other things, so first of all I wanted to make sure the label was still putting out material, and secondly I wanted to create a solid label with solid artists. I didn't want to be one of these labels that ended up with 50 people on its roster, I wanted it to be a tight crew. This also meant that the artists got regular releases, rather then being number 20 in a waiting list.
As I'm sure most people know, I wasn't a massive fan of the whole 'brostep' or tear-out side of dubstep, so I wanted to be the label that remained true but still brought out future-sounding music. A lot of the other dubstep labels jumped aboard the tearout train and basically released anything they could, hoping for a number one in the charts (laughs).
As for the Daily Dose thing, MistaJam approached me to do it but at the time I couldn't because I was still on Rinse FM so it just became a Chestplate Daily Dose. That's now come to an end, but much respect to MistaJam and 1Xtra for having us be involved.
I still dont know how the Fabric thing happened, (laughs) the guys at Fabric are amazing though and very supportive. Every Chestplate takeover has been nuts: feels like the proper old vibes you got from the earlier dubstep raves.
H: Your back catalogue reveals what would appear to be a dedication to labels with a strong image in terms of the music, ideals and aesthetic that they want to represent: is this something you've always envisaged Chestplate as having? How important is it to you that your label be viewed as 'bag-on-sight'?
D: Definitely, and I want it to be one of those labels that people can trust enough to buy on sight and know that I don't just release tracks for the sake of it. Most of the tracks are ones which I've seen go off at a rave or had ravers tapping me on the shoulder and asking 'what the fuck is this?!' Some tracks just grab you and you don't why: they're the tracks I want to release! Nothing I do is based on hype, hype is exactly that: it's exciting for a very small moment and then it's gone, a bit like candles on a birthday cake. Most of the hype people see or believe to be real is actually bullshit and just a result of very good management.
H: Re-releasing 'Falling' on your own label after it had already been put out by a major label seemed a bold move: was it as simple a case as wanting to have the tune out there on vinyl as well as digital, or did you see it as an opportunity to direct a new audience towards Chestplate? How important is it to you that your music is released on vinyl?
D: I don't think it was released after, but if it was it wasn't deliberate: it was supposed to be at the same time. I pressed it because Island were not going to release it on vinyl so I offered as I thought it would have been really sad for 'Falling' and 'Malice' not to have been pressed. At that time 'Malice' was still a big underground tune in my set and some people were expecting to have it on vinyl, I still find it amazing that a label like Island released 'Malice'.
There was never a secret agenda though, no dreams of being best mates with the stars (laughs). The only reason 'Falling' got signed was because it was a big underground track that just-so-happened to work on a commercial level too.
H: Since Chestplate was established as a platform from which to release your own music, how easy or difficult was it to find new artists for the label who you felt were doing something new and original and yet still fitted, to some extent at least, with what the label already represented?
D: Well the main reason I started to sign new artists was because I was hearing new music which was amazing and yet no one wanted to release it. It all started with Tunnidge and '7 Breaths'! I just couldn't believe that no one had snatched it up and I just thought 'Fuck this! This is a sick tune and it has to come out!' I then heard music from an unknown guy called District and then later down the road Sleeper and Razor Rekta.
I just heard something very special in their music even though the mixdowns weren't great and they weren't super polished, they had a hold on me. I would have found it devastating if these guys never had a chance to get their beats out there. I'm sure so many producers at that time making deeper dubstep moved onto other sounds or became disheartened. If I'm honest, there were only a few labels which really kept dubstep interesting and kept things moving forwards; a lot of labels became lost chasing whatever sound seemed to be doing well commercially, and in the long term have completely lost their identity.
H: Finally, are there any forthcomings or anything else in the pipeline that you'd like to put the word out on?
D: My next release on Chestplate is out in May and that features 'Set You Free (feat. Stepa)' and, on the flip, 'Gorilla Force' Chestplate's next take over at Fabric is on the 24th of May. I'm also currently working on a vocalists album, which is almost finished, and even though it isn't really my project I can't wait for people to hear it.
Pinch and I are also in the thick of writing the first Deleted Scenes album and I can honestly say I've never felt this excited about a project before: next level beats!!!!!
Download: Distance - Hedmuk Exclusive Mix
District - Kraken [Chestplate]
J:Kenzo - Cause & Effect [Dub]
Cyrus & Distance - Rude [Chestplate]
Distance - Set You Free (feat. Stepa) [Forthcoming Chestplate]
Sleeper - Systema [Dub]
Distance - Gorilla Force [Forthcoming Chestplate]
District - Antidote [Chestplate]
Razor Rekta - Metro [Dub]
Distance - Twilight (Tunnidge Remix) [Dub]
Distance - Broken Dawn [Dub]
District - Transmission [Chestplate]
Distance - Meanstreak [Chestplate]
Sleeper - Species [Dub]
J:Kenzo - Ricochet [Dub]
Distance - Andromeda [Dub]
Proxima - Fallout [Dub]
Razor Rekta - Apollo [Dub]
District - Aftermath [Dub]
Icicle - Acid Step VIP [Dub]
DJ Madd - Life You Chose (Distance Remix) [Black Box]
Gantz - U Won't Mind [Dub]
Sleeper & District - War (Tunnidge Remix) [Dub]
Sleeper - Total Destroy System [Dub]
Pinch - Swish (Distance Remix) [Dub]
Amit - No Mercy (feat. Rani) [Dub]