Geode, of the latter, in particular, having collaborated on releases for Innamind and now OpenEarz - Promise One still retains a strong sense of independence; moving, refreshingly, at his own pace and away from empty hype and shallow scene building. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it gives his music a sense independence and originality too.
There's a measured approach to his production, marrying the raw edge of a hip hop indebted, sample-based approach with the skintight, minimal rhythmic aesthetic of the proto-dubstep sound peddled by the likes of El-B and Zed Bias. The resultant space is where the groove or, as is becoming a more regular occurrence, vocalist lurks. With the news that Syte is relaunching his OpenEarz imprint with three of Promise One's finest, we caught up with the man behind the monitors for some words and a new mix to add to the series.
Hedmuk: By way of introduction, what's your name, where do you come from, and how would you describe your sound?
Promise One: Hey I'm Nick, I grew up around North Yorkshire and currently live in London. My sound tends to come from the garage roots of dubstep, I guess: rolling tunes around 140. Prefer to let the music speak really, but that's probably a cliché now...
H: When did you first get into making beats? Have you always been involved in writing music, or has Promise One been your first foray?
PO: I started out on Reason, having been introduced to it by a friend; that was about 10 years ago. I work on [Ableton] Live now and used to make instrumental hip hop/breaks stuff under the name Defiant Kinetics - always been a fan of sampling from that respect. I play the drums, started that a little before I got into making beats and have always played in 3 piece bands for some reason, probably just because it's less complicated!
H: There's a skip and swing to your drums that feels reminiscent of garage's period of development into dubstep's early sound - is this somewhere you find yourself taking influence from, or are there other places you feel you draw more from rhythmically?
PO: I think that era was always really interesting to me, so I'm sure its an influence. I like offbeats and swing, rim shots and all of that El-B and Horsepower goodness. Drumming certainly helps, sometimes I play bits in with an MPD and sometimes I just use a mouse, it depends on the tune.
H: You've got a few releases under your belt already, but your next will be your first on vinyl. When did you first get involved with Syte, and how did the idea of resurrecting the OpenEarz imprint come about? How important is it to you to be putting out music on a physical format?
PO: Jim (Syte) had been planning a re-launch for some time and brought up some ideas to get me involved with a release around the same time I was finishing up the collab with Sparkz. I played him the final version and then we agreed with George (Geode) that 'Chroma' would sit well on the flip side and that was it! I'm really happy about putting out music on vinyl, it's been a goal of mine for a while. Records will never go away, I don't ever see a replacement format coming, so it's the best we have. The HD DVD was the successor to CD but the MP3 took the lead: we've gone backwards, if anything. I've cut most of my earlier tunes to dubplate as I love the process, but it is expensive. I collect and buy vinyl because it's important to me to have physical records. There is an element of quality control which isn't really a consideration in digital, but I don't play vinyl out due to dub cutting costs and a lack of [vinyl] support from most clubs.
H: With the lead track from the forthcoming OpenEarz release and your recent MIK bootleg, you're showing a real knack for working with vocals. Is this something you've always experimented with, or discovered more recently? Can we expect to see more work with vocalists from you in the future?
PO: Coming from a hip hop background I've always been into vocals, but equally I appreciate the instrumental side of the genre. The first tune I ever made with a vocalist was called 'Technicolour', with a guy called Kid Kareem, under Defiant Kinetics. I never really understood grime for a while but some of it is quite interesting to me, especially rhythmically. I wanted to make a track with a grime vocal but which didn't sound like a grime tune, and one that was a bit playful; that's how the MIK tune came about. I haven't got any specific plans to do more vocal stuff at the moment but no doubt something will come along soon.
H: Take us through how you approached the mix you've done for us.
PO: I wanted to play tracks from producers I'm feeling, and also to represent OpenEarz. I'd say it starts off at a comfortable pace and builds up to darker more intense ending - I think there is still a lot of good, interesting music being made around 140. It's great that producers are going in different directions but I'm not seeing any reason to change from around this area, it just naturally resonates with me.
H: Finally, are there any other forthcomings or anything else in the pipeline that you'd like to put the word out on?
I seem to be playing more DJ sets at the moment so that is taking up more of my time, which is fun. I suppose I consider myself more a producer than a DJ, though. I need to get back on the beats, it takes me a long time to come up with a finished idea; I'm not one of these people who writes three tracks a week: it's more like one tune every couple of months! The 'See We Roll EP' is forthcoming on OpenEarz on vinyl and digital formats (with 'Ghost Note' as a digi exclusive) and should be available mid-to-end of February.
Download: Promise One - Hedmuk Exclusive Mix
Indigo - Premonition [EARZ002]
Gunston - Danger Again [Dub]
Lefty - Wise Guy [Dub]
Lack - 432 [Dub]
Congi & Geode - Flow One [Forthcoming Chord Marauders]
Piezo - Antelope Swing [Dub]
Promise One & Geode - Chroma [Forthcoming EARZ004]
Ago - Backlash [Dub]
Baitface - Disrobe [Dub]
D-Operation Drop - Justice [Dub]
Promise One - Ghost Note [Forthcoming EARZ004]
Subreachers - Spitfire [Dub]
Promise One - See We Roll (feat. Sparkz) [Forthcoming EARZ004]
Elemental - Spring Dub [RUNTIMECD001]
Promise One - M.I. [Dub]
Clearlight - No Rules [Dub]
Argo, Karnage & MarkIV - Unforeseen [Dub]
Mikael - Blessed [Dub]
Nanobyte - Impartial [Dub]
Sub Basics - Untitles [Dub]
Facta - Poliwhirl [Dub]