S.P.Y Interview: To the core

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Sam Fawcett caught up with Hospital Records' S.P.Y to talk about his Brazilian roots, his Essential Mix and his attitude towards drum n bass.

22nd Oct 2015

Image: S.P.Y

Brazilian born Carlos Lima aka S.P.Y has had a momentous year so far. He is an accidental producer and DJ of sorts, but his heavyweight talent has seen a meteoric rise to fame within the drum and bass world.

Having held no aspirations to take the dance circuit by storm, he fell into producing when he struggled to find suitable tracks to play at his own club night. Aided by a basic knowledge in Apple programmes through initial dreams of becoming a graphic designer, he secured himself as a permanent fixture within drum and bass scene.

Signed to Hospital records in 2012, his debut L.P What The Future Holds was critically acclaimed across the board and won the highly coveted 'Best Album' gong at the Drum and Bass Arena Awards. The title of his debut full length is foreboding, considering that he has gone on to make serious dent in the world of DnB, although the ever humble Carlos wouldn’t let you know about it. 

It is 2015 though that he has truly emerged the forefront of his avenue of dance music. He started the year with an Essential Mix for Pete Tong, has gone on to play at BBC introducing stage at Glastonbury and has been commissioned for remixes for chart botherers like Bodhi, Sigma, Karen Harding and Tough Love, the latter of which has been nominated for 'Best Remix' at the Bass Music Awards.

We caught up with S.P.Y as he prepares to play at A-Wing Lancaster as part of the Hospitality takeover on 30th October. 

You are now based in Bristol, what inspired a move to Bristol?

I moved to the UK as I wanted to be a graphic designer and I picked up the language really. I have been living here 11 years now, ten of them in London and then I moved to Bristol last year. Originally, I only planned to be here a year, but I stayed another and then another and now it has been 11. I kind of just fell in love with the place. 

Brazil is synonymous with rhythm; do you feel your Brazilian heritage has an impact on your sound? 

Ah yes, big time. Not just for me but for all other Brazilian producers. You grow up listening to very percussive-centric music, everything involves rhythm. There is a lot of samba obviously and that develops a certain attitude in which you believe everything can make noise. Anything from a door or a lid of a pen, anything really can be used to make music.  

I think being Brazilian and being born in Brazil has had a massive impact on my sound. In everything I try to do, even if I produce a really dark track, I always try to keep a groove.  

What is the DnB scene like in Brazil? 

The scene in Brazil was really big a couple of years ago like 2003-2007 and then it sort of died out a little bit, but now it is coming back I feel. It went back to the underground side of things, no big festivals and just small clubnights.

There are a lot of new producers coming through but right now it’s not the biggest it’s ever been but it is still going strong in the underground. There's still really cool parties. 

Has a move to England impacted or affected your music in anyway?

I wasn’t producing in Brazil. I started to produce in 2005 after I moved here in 2003. I only really started because I bought a Mac for my graphic design work and it had GarageBand built in. Back then I was running a clubnight in Camden at Lock 17 and it was only small so nobody sent me any music. I just thought, 'screw that I don’t need music sent to me. I’ll do my own!'

Another thing that was really interesting when I started was I found a lot of the software had shortcuts and keys exactly the same as my graphics software, so I got the hang of it pretty quickly. I just found it really similar to cutting an image or cutting a sound so I picked it up really fast.

So in the beginning it was really fun to make my own music, I didn’t have any ambitions. I never even thought people would like my music, just that I could play it out at my night. 

Has it always been drum and bass? 

Yeah, always drum and bass. I started to make like an old school drum and bass sound, it was where I started and fell in love with genre. 

With no experience, how did you learn production techniques? Was it all trail and error or Youtube videos? 

It was a bit of everything, I taught myself the basics and the whole YouTube thing was getting big when I was learning so I was constantly researching on the Internet, I think from like 2008 was when I really checked pretty much every YouTube video around for stuff like mix-downs and the more technical aspect.

I’ve never had the opportunity to go to school and study music production or anything like that, so I learnt everything online and through trying different things. I still to this day learn about new things and techniques through the Internet. No matter how good or bad you think you are, you must always keep learning or else it gets stale and boring. 

You're nominated for 'Best Remix' in this year's Bass Music Awards for your rework of 'So Freakin Tight' (above). What made you decide to put your spin on it? 

If I don’t like the track I don’t remix it. If I don’t like the original too much, I simply won't touch it. If I feel that I can’t do a good enough job on the track I stay clear, but with ‘So Freakin Tight’ I loved the original Jodeci track that the sample comes from and I had an idea straight away.

I listened to it and got the offer to do the remix, but before I even answered I wrote a little sketch of the track. It's kind of like a little bootleg and I listen a couple of times to see if the idea works or if I need to try something else then I go back to label and give them a yes or a no.

With ‘So Freakin Tight’ it was so natural, I wrote down the idea inside maybe an hour and then I told them I wanted to do the remix and the version was accepted straight away. 

To be nominated for anything is amazing, I was really surprised, I didn’t expect it at all. It is an honour really. I take every project differently but I like to keep it light, I don’t want to think of this as a job so I want to sit down and have fun every time I get into the studio.

I want it to be like playing a PlayStation or something, that way it makes you just want to work more and more. If you say ‘Oh, I need to wake up in the morning and do this remix’ it is a lot of pressure - I believe you can’t achieve anything that way. I have so much fun in the studio and people like what I do. It is great.

On the topic of of accolades, an Essential Mix is a real milestone for any artist, how did It feel to be asked to do one? 

It was a big honour to even be mentioned to do an Essential Mix. It is such a big deal and even now when people mention I’ve done one it is a bit surreal.

To hear Pete Tong say my name is honestly mental, especially for someone from Brazil who couldn’t even speak English and now I’m making Essential Mixes. It is a bit crazy to say the least. Even to get a track played on the radio is surreal, it is overwhelming, like I never thought ever in my life I’d be able to do something like this, it was a massive honour. 

Artist and DJs often use it to showcase their current sets, new music or tracks that have influenced them. What did you want your mix to reflect?

A lot of people want to reflect influences or where they came from but I tried to keep mine really simple. It was mainly for the person who had never heard of or given drum and bass a chance.

I wanted someone listening to be like, ‘Oh this is what drum and bass it about, I like it’. I try to keep underground, I vary from big dark and musical to uplifting but to keep the core sound of DnB. I played some classic tracks for a bit of fun, as I wanted the core drum and bass fans to love it too, but I didn’t want to go too deep. 

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