Rising stars Jonathan Campbell and Thomas Alston, better known as GLXY, have made a name for themselves in the liquid DnB scene with releases on labels such as Spearhead, Hospital and the infamous Liquid Tones.
Earlier this year they released their debut album Research & Development on ShogunAudio, which includes the single She Sings for Me featuring both sung and rapped vocals from legendary DnB MC Delroy Pottinger, aka DRS. We hooked up with the spacey soundboys to find out how the track came about.
How did the collaboration with DRS work?
Thomas Alston: “We’ve known Del for a while now, we did These Lives with him and we wanted to get him involved in the album as we worked quite well within that time. So, we hit him up with a couple of ideas. Nothing necessarily came of it straight away, I think Del’s very reactive to a vibe if he doesn’t get one instantly it may not necessarily work for him. Then Jon came up with this idea, chopped up the sample, put some breaks over it and sent it to Del. I think he just got a vibe straight away, no joke, we sent it to him at, like, 9am and by 1pm the same day he’d hit us back with a sketch with singing, full bars and everything!”
Jonathan Campbell: “Yeah it was pretty mad!”
TA: “It came out of nowhere, I think that’s how he works, to be honest. Jack Workforce has a podcast delving into artists creative processes, and Del was on that and he said how he gets the vibe and just goes.”
The track is based around a replayed piano sample.
JC: “Yeah, though I can’t remember the name of the pianist! Tom and I spend a lot of time on Spotify, kind of modern-day crate digging. What’s good about Spotify is that you’ve got that whole ‘fans also listened to’ feature where if you find an artist that you like, you can find other similar artists. We just follow that thread until we get to people who are really obscure, then we try and find some cool stuff. We wanted to make sure that this album was pretty legit in terms of not using any hot samples. I think originally I just chopped up that sample and then once I got a vibe with that I wrote a progression based on it.”
The track seems to have a relatively unusual arrangement, in terms of modern DnB...
JC: “I think, with an album, because you’ve got 14 tunes or whatever, it’d be boring to just have the same structure in every single tune. I think we were quite conscious of that and by modern DnB standards we quite like intros that are quite long. I think most people go for a 32 or a 16, and we tend to go 48, and, if we can get away with doing it, a 64!”
TA: “We tend to have, like, a 16 before the drop with no drums. So it breaks down to a nice little bridge and then drops. If I looked in my record box, maybe 10% of the tunes have that format. A lot of it just rolls, which we try and do, but it just doesn’t work as well with our style.”
It must be quite hard getting a balance between a DJ-friendly arrangement and one that’s more suited to Spotify.
JC: “On the vinyl release of the album, some of the tunes are different from the Spotify versions. The vinyl ones are a bit longer basically, for the reasons that you just mentioned. We made the tunes originally at that length, and shortened some of them down for Spotify.”
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Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
NI Komplete Kontrol S49
Elektron Analog Heat Mk2
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TAL Ivory 5060 Tube compressor
There aren’t a huge number of elements in this track compared to some DnB tunes. How did you avoid making things overblown?
TA: “It’s bloody hard! I think most of the time in our tracks we overdo the elements we put in it, we tend to just chuck pads and little sparkly things on tracks quite a lot of the time, and to be honest, that’s become our sound. It’s a kind of quite a spacey vibe. With this track, the way the elements fit together, it didn’t really need any more on it. Del’s vocal hits the raw side of the track with the rap, and then he also adds the quite nice, spacey, floaty elements with the vocal. I think a lot of that goes down to the vocal being absolutely bang on.”
JC: “His voice fills up quite a lot of space as well. All the tunes we’ve done with him are really simple because you don’t want to take away the focus from that. His bars are always really good, I think it would do it a disservice to just layer a load of the shit on top of it... it doesn’t need that, it just gets in the way.”