Big Up Mix 90 ~ Sully

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Sully, original rude boy selecta with an exceedingly polite demeanor, lifts a monstrous slab off the hardcore continuum and chisels out forty minutes of bass weight that’s equally physical, emotional, and cerebral for the 90th mix in our podcast series.

The UK producer and DJ cleverly edits a handful of exclusive tracks that only serve to reinforce his highly individual sound; the characteristic collisions of dense percussive fragments with immense, alien atmospheres, all bound together by a sensual celebration of human interaction with evolving technology.

Many UK producers stake their territory either in the sentimental spaces of the distant past or in the speculative imaginings of the far, far future but Sully occupies the ever-present “now” like no one else. In lesser hands, these tracks would come off as Indecisive tangents but Sully’s deep knowledge and passion for music make this mix a refreshingly natural summation of the underground agenda — then, now, and beyond.

[toggle title=”Track List”]Logos – Fairchild Clouds [Unreleased]
DJ Monita – Luv Ta Luv Ya (Fracture’s Astrophonica mix [Unreleased]
Wen – Ghost [Unreleased]
Desto – DILLIGAS [Unreleased]
Metaghost – Ghost Lounge VIP [Unreleased]
Lee Bannon – Value 10 [Ninja Tune]
A Guy Called Gerald – Alita’s Dream [Juice Box]
Horra – NMMND [Unreleased]
Etch – Groove Control [Unreleased]
Metaghost – And I And U [Unreleased]
Sully – Inroads [forthcoming Hsuan Records]
Foul Play – Dubbing You [Oblivion Records]
69 – Desire [Planet E][/toggle]

The man behind the classic Sully recordings, Jack Stevens, caught up with us in between gigs to share his perspective on picking tracks and the dilemmas of the digital age.


interview by Kit

Hi Jack, I’m feeling this mix so much. It opens with that lush Logos track, so unique, and then touches on a lot of classic UK sounds, nostalgic 90s d’n’b, some fwd grime, plus a little Detroit… it’s all there. Amazing. It almost feels like a coda of your Blue record; the selections really compliment your existing style. I’m wondering if that’s something you’re aware of when you DJ… Do you consciously dig around for ways to allow your personality to shine through the mix or are you just picking tunes you enjoy? Is there even a difference, really? Tell us about some of these white labels tucked away in here.

I hadn’t consciously made a ‘roots of Blue‘ mix when I put that together, but you’re right, the feelings I get from those tracks are definitely the drive behind that EP too. There’s an element of curation in it ‘cos there’s a whole world of music that falls into the ‘tunes I enjoy’ category that I didn’t consider for this mix, because they would have diluted the vibe.

Yeah, there’s a fair chunk of unreleased stuff in there, starting at the beginning with Logos. It’s really good to hear him further what he started on Cold Mission. There are still echoes of eskiboy strings in there, but with that tune I’m hearing a new warmth; there’s almost a new-age rose tint to it. Fracture’s remix of the Skeleton Krew classic is a prime bit of break mashing, should give you a pretty clear idea of why Fracture has been getting a lot of rewinds when I’ve been playing it out. I think the Wen dub really proves the strength of his sound, because a Wen tune is obviously a Wen tune, regardless of the tempo. I hope he does a few more at that speed, ‘cos his tracks always have a great sense of space and they’re like a rush of cold air amongst a set of rinsing breaks.

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"Ghost Lounge VIP" feels like you'd catch it playing in some back alley bar on the astral plane, where the ceiling and floor switch as you enter the room.

[/quote_left] Desto’s “Dilligas” is proper machine boogie, love the g-funk leanings in it. I recently saw D do this track live — properly live with no laptop, just synths, drum machines & an MPC — and it’s the same cut, no trickery involved. Not many producers could do that. Horra I met playing out recently, he was proper on one, usually a good sign that and the tunes didn’t disappoint, a real melting pot of ideas and raw energy. Etch has been seriously prolific, so many dubs from him and the tautness and detail of his productions keeps going up, Groove Control has a lot of old school nods but the restraint and focus is very current. Finally I’m just really buzzed by Metaghost, very out there productions with uncanny flow, “Ghost Lounge VIP” feels like you’d catch it playing in some back alley bar on the astral plane, where the ceiling and floor switch as you enter the room.

Blue is such a cool record, but it’s very much a shift from some of your earlier work. As opposed to your last record, Carrier, it seems to be moving away from the quieter, 2-step feel, the tense, sparse dubstep, and into looser, rougher junglist territory. You must have grown up with that sound — when did you start making music and what were your tools? What is the Blue EP about for you? Have you considered where you might go on future Sully material?

It’s funny, my first releases were very much hardcore and rave and jungle flavored, before El-b and Burial made garage click for me. I did a tune on 2nd Drop called “Give Me Up” and that is pure hardcore, pianos and all. So it’s a return to that really, but with a lot more knowledge. Not so much technical knowledge, but rather an idea of what kind of palettes and grooves I want to use and also, crucially, what not to use. I have a lot of ‘don’ts’ when it comes to making tracks, and the challenge is working with those confines.

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I have a lot of 'don'ts' when it comes to making tracks, and the challenge is working with those confines.

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I’ve never really planned where I’m going to go. It’s always one tune at a time and whatever I’m feeling on the day. I do feel really at home working with breaks at the moment though; the rhythmic freedom you get and the physical human element to them really works for me. If there is a wider goal it’s to build tracks around those staples that get me buzzing and hopefully catch a vibe that hasn’t been pinned down before.

Keysound is really the perfect home for your music. No matter what angle you take, you paint the UK sound in an artful way, but crucially bring some of these classic sounds into the modern context Keysound love so much. How did you get involved with Martin and Dan?

I first sent tunes over to them in ’07 or ’08. I’d been listening to their show a while and was really into the sounds they showcased: at that time it was a mix of classic dark 2-step and more leftfield grime and dubstep. I loved hearing the garage they’d often start the show with; those old El-B and Gurley whites were a big inspiration. Still are. I thought what I was doing would fit in nicely, so I passed over “Trackside” and “Jackman’s Recs” and had a pretty buzzed phone call with Martin shortly after. I think those tracks were quite key, ‘cos they were early examples of the sound the label is really getting a name for now. They had a rolling skippy drums but with halftime, and 4/4 bits, and that dubby darkness to them. There is a lot more to the camp than that, but I’d say that is the overriding tone. Thinking back, we didn’t meet in person until just before “Carrier” came out, which seems mad really, but there is more of a family feel to the label than ever now.

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I think if you completely cut out sound systems and crowds from the equation you're losing a big part of the buzz, for sure; there's no way to fully experience those things by proxy.

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Let’s talk a little about DJ culture in general. In the States, becoming a DJ is often an end unto itself, especially with our history of disco, house and, later, hip hop and turntablism, with the concept of original production often an afterthought. Historically in the UK, the approach has been vastly different: that playing records go hand in hand with production and that the relationship between the audience and the producer lends direction to works-in-progress. I’m personally fascinated by the proliferation of online mixes and wonder if there will be any lasting consequences to new dance music a) by and large not being danced to and b) not experienced with full sonic intent of the creators. Any thoughts on the matter?

Listening to shows like Uncle Dugs’ on Rinse, it surprised me the ‘DJ first’ thing was actually pretty common over here too, which makes sense for a lot of reasons. Like you’re gonna need a big record collection to get into sample based production, and that kind of collagey work is really just an extension of a nice blend on two decks. And you’re not gonna get many stoned kids dabbling for fun when a basic set up was serious money, whereas now I’d say it’s easier to get started producing than it is deejaying, at least in the material sense. The web has changed things a lot too, but in the UK at least there was always pirate radio and tape packs, which pretty much did the same job and are accepted as totally valid expressions of the culture. The main difference is the internet is a more accessible medium, and it’s a lot less idiosyncratic, so probably won’t be cherished by the few, in the way the past alternatives were. But it still serves the same function of connecting and introducing people who can’t get to raves to the music.

I think if you completely cut out sound systems and crowds from the equation you’re losing a big part of the buzz, for sure; there’s no way to fully experience those things by proxy, but I think everyone knew that in the ’90s and we still know it now.


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