On the cusp of releasing his eagerly awaited third album, drum & bass icon Break is set the dazzle the scene once again with more carefully honed, pristine percussion, twisted bass and effortless rhythm and flow.
A formidable producer since the turn of the century, Break has had records signed to labels like Metalheadz, Soul:r, Shogun Audio and Exit Records, and collaborated with Calyx & Teebee, DJ Die and Silent Witness amongst a lot more, embedding himself firmly in the forward thinking category of underground of drum & bass.
September 19th sees the Symmetry boss team up with Manchester drum & bass, breakcore and jungle experts Relapse to launch his new album Simpler Times (listen to the title track above). Foz Foster caught up with him to find out more about the new work, his thoughts on the drum & bass scene and his favourite selectors and producers.
You've been deeply involved within the scene for well over a decade now, how would you rate the current scene and what are the positives and negatives for drum & bass in 2015?
For me the scene is quite split down the middle with both positives and negatives increasing equally at the same time. There is a lot of very generic, boring and cheesy commercial DnB being made and represented, which really dumbs down the scene.
However there are more and more really talented producers coming through with very impressive music so maybe in some way they balance each other out. Sadly most of the money and exposure is aimed at the rubbish stuff so it can feel like fighting a losing battle, but the good stuff keeps the scene hanging in for the future.
You third album Simpler Times is set for release soon, can you give us a little more information about the album? Are there any collaborations, and do you have a particular favourite?
Yeah I'm really pleased to be able to get a third one done with some great people involved. I have several collabs on the album, three vocal tracks with Kyo, and other vocalists; Singin Fats, Mad Hed City and Celestine featuring also.
I've also made a track with DLR and one with Xtrah. It's pretty hard to pick a favourite as love and sweat have been put into them all. I guess two of the favourites were picked as the first two singles which are; "Simpler Times" with Kyo, and "Free Your Mind" with Singing Fats.
As well as your own music, you must also be very proud of Symmetry, what are your personal favourite accomplishments related to the label?
It's been great to release music from other artists that I really love, having a remix from Calibre was fantastic. Releasing debut tracks from artists like Emperor (listen to his first track below) and Boston has been really exciting too, helping new talent to come through is wicked.
We've had some successful label nights in the last couple of years and it's rewarding to put on a night of quality music with line ups I'd want to go and see as a raver too.
Emperor is now smashing it, it must be awesome to know you played a part in making that happen. Who do you most enjoy working with in the studio when creating music?
Most of my favourites have featured on this latest album, as mentioned above. Sadly I couldn't hook up with Silent Witness or Survival, I love a lot of our collabs from the past, but they've been busy with their projects too.
Which DJs do you rate highest both back in the day and currently?
Back in the day the likes of Andy C, Mampi Swift, Bukem, Hype, Ed Rush and Randall come to mind. As for now, I'm still loving Randall and Hype, as well as Xtrah, DLR , Dieselboy and DJ Marky. As a hip hop head too, I've got to mention both Craze and Shadow.
How about producers?
I'd say Ram Trilogy, Bad Company, Nico, Kemal & Rob Data, Ed Rush & Optical, Bukem, Dillinja, Brockie & Ed Solo and many others back in the day. Now I really rate Calibre, Calyx & Teebee, Naibu, DLR (listen to Break and DLR's 'New Design' below), Xtrah, Boston, SCAR, Jubei, Mako, Lenzman, Digital & Spirit and many others.
Deep, dark and deadly choices. Do you have any hot tips for who is going to be making a big name for themselves who we might not yet have heard of?
Boston is the best guy I've heard for a while, I've released two singles and another release on the way soon, he's very talented I'm sure will be going onto big things in the future. I recently mastered an EP for Ingredients Recs. by Monika that I really liked, he's young too so there's a lot of potential for him in the future as well (listen to 'Go With Me' below).
Do you prefer sets with or without a host? Do you have any particular favourite hosts?
I do prefer it with a good host, but prefer without if it's a bad one. My favourite MCs for a set are SPMC, Bassline, GQ and Jakes. I'm not too fussy with others as long as they have a good voice and flow, and don't shout all over vocal tracks.
It’s all about knowing when to let the music do the talking. If you weren't a drum & bass hero, what do you think you would be doing?
I think it would be music of some sort. I was a piano player and a drummer when I was younger, and in those days really wanted to be in a band. That could've happened, but I didn't really practice my instruments enough once I got into DJing. I'd toyed with being a photographer, but would have needed to put a lot of time into that too.
A lot of artists seem to experiment with doing a 'live show', would this be something you would ever consider doing or are you happy with traditional DJ'ing?
We've done a few semi live shows with Kyo and Bassline on the mics which were wicked fun. We're doing a live set at Outlook this year with Kyo and SPMC on the mics, and a guitarist called Mace that I work with so that's the furthest it's gone so far. I saw and loved the Goldie live show recently, would be great to do something along those lines, but it's pretty big budget stuff to organise.
Bit of a generic question, but always interesting to know - which country goes craziest for the music?
Weirdly it seems to change every year or two. I've always had great reactions in New Zealand in the past, but haven't been there for a while. France has been really sick in the past few years, been surprised how much the crowds love it there. The UK can still be the best sometimes too; it does just seem to depend on the vibe on the night.
Which cities do you enjoy playing in the UK?
Generally the UK is my favourite country to play DnB, places I play regularly that are always good are London, Bristol, Manchester, Bournemouth, Brighton, Cardiff, Leeds, Nottingham and I had a really good one in Glasgow last year too.
Do you notice any regional differences between the North and South?
Not really, it seems that different cities have slightly different vibes - some prefer Jump Up more, others prefer it darker and heavier, but it's not really a north / south thing. I think it's more the crowd for different events that matters, it's different crews of followers that make you notice the difference.
Finally, you've played Relapse before, are you looking forward to returning for the album launch?
For sure, I had a really good time at the last one, the crowd were great and I've always enjoyed playing in Manchester. This one is extra special as it's the first album launch party I'm doing and have got the whole finished album to play on the night. The line up for the event is wicked so I'm really pleased to be coming back up, armed to the teeth with fresh tunes.