So let’s start off where it all began for you as BMA and making beats, talk us through it.
As far as BMA goes, that came about sometime in 2013? I was getting back heavy into DJ’ing again after taking a lot of time off and I did not want to use my previous name for a few reasons actually. The main one being I had performed, hosted radio shows, netcasts, and lived all under the name “Bagel” for so long that it was just time for a change. Not that I wanted to retire that name or anything, it just had run its course! I was now a father, a fiancé and was creating a lot of work with photography, painting and doing street art, so it just seemed time.
As far as making beats I had dabbled over the years but just never got around to setting things up and learning the craft. Flash forward to the spring of 2013, I was driving home from a work road trip and had been blasting a Bailey and A-Sides B2B from Sun & Bass the whole time. I got about two hours outside of Philly and said, “Well shit, I don’t go out as much as I used to and still live for this music So I may as well finally make it happen. I pulled off at the closest Guitar Center and bought Reason and an Akai MPK Mini. Flashforward seven years and here we are!
Interesting you mentioned the former alias “Bagel” (cool and tasty name, lol). Would you mind divulging further a little bit more about that part of your musical identity?
Sure! Bagel was my nickname from 8th grade and it just stuck. When I started DJ’ing in 1994 it seemed to make the most sense to keep that going instead of using an alias for an alias! It was ALL DNB! I was playing as much Penny Black, Moving Shadow, Dread, Ram, Virus, Outbreak, Prototype, Renegade Hardware biz as I was Good Looking, 720, Creative Source. As the USA scene got more into production I was rinsing a lot of that sound. Artists like UFO!, Juju, E-Sassin, Abstract, KC, Temulent, Mason, D-Star, Trust etc.
From 1998 to 2004 I was touring regularly in the peak of the USA rave/DNB scene. I was one of the first American DNB DJ’s to netcast a weekly show. From 1998 to 2004 I hosted a 2 hour weekly show called “ECLIPSE” and had regular guests when they would swing through Pittsburgh on tour. I also was the wholesale manager for Breakbeat Science’s apparel and accessories division in New York. It was a pretty amazing time and I look back at it fondly. Would not trade that time for the world!
Like many in this industry, especially when you tour a lot, it took its toll on my home life outside of the music. That led to a few life changes and a move to Philly in 2004. I took some time off from DJ’ing to sort of reset life, but stayed active and kept up with the music as I could never imagine life with out it. I slowly got back on the one’s and two’s, and when I started getting back into gigs, hosting a new radio show, and knowing production was soon to come, I really just wanted a fresh start. I had matured a bit, and wanted this next chapter to have a different feel and sound. I didn’t want to be another older DNB DJ resting and exploiting their past. I was 100% focused on the new, modern, and cutting edge sounds coming from the scene. I wanted this new adventure to be fresh and new. I knew it was for the best to let the Bagel era come to an end.
It’s always interesting when there’s a change of name, like in some instances it’s like a fresh start to journey down a new path. Did you feel that renaming yourself BMA was a good way mentally to move in that fresh direction?
100%! I wanted this new chapter to look and feel different. Not only to the people listening, but to me as well. I was more laid back this go round. I was not as caught up in the hype of it all as I was before. This was much more for me and my art than a commodity or popularity contest. This was also at a time when EVERY DJ or producer was getting a logo and flyers looked like godawful clip art pages more than a showcase of art or culture. It also felt as if I was making it more personal and less ego driven by having it based on my real name. It was now associated with me and my family name as opposed to a caricature of what I once thought being a DNB artist was. It was simple, real, personal, and just me and my name. Nothing to hide behind. Nothing to fake. Just me, and my art, and how I see and enjoy Drum & Bass culture. Also, on some real shit, there was something about being forty years old and still being called Bagel. To sum it up: Bagel was who I was when I was a boy and BMA is who I am now as a man.
Seems like under the Bagel alias you had a busy and interesting existence! Getting to travel about and see some cool stuff I bet. What were the best venues that you had the pleasure of playing at? And any interesting standout tales to tell? Haha…
I am pretty damn lucky to be where I was when I was! There was so much energy at the parties then. Everything was fresh and new and exciting. There was not as much music online at the time so the only way to hear the tunes was to be there in person. It was so full of life and contagious! As far as venues and parties go, our weekly party FUZZ! At the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern in Pittsburgh was a church-like home. Out in San Francisco there was PHUTURO at The Top, and Eklektic at The Cat Club. Respect in Los Angeles is aces! Platinum in Philly was iconic as well. There really were so many great events across the states and Canada whose names are somewhat of a blur at this point haha….but they all were a part of something very special. When it comes to crazy tales, I will tell you over a pint and a blunt when we meet up!
How about your inspirations within electronic music that helped you make that transition into producing?
Well the final straw that made me go all in was that Sun & Bass mix with Bailey and A-Sides, but music has ALWAYS been there. Growing up in the late 1980s I listened to a lot of New Wave, Post-Punk, Electro, early Hip-Hop, and Funk. From there it went on to deeper things such as The Art of Noise, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, New Order, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, etc. From there I got heavy into Industrial and Industrial Dance Music. Once I discovered Detroit techno, UK hardcore, and rave culture it was game over and I never looked back, not even for a moment. Then, like a lot of creative people, I said, “okay, at this point I need to make the sounds, texture’s, and complexities that I want to hear!”
Let’s talk about your creative flow: firstly do you find it easy to make time for music, and do you also find it easy to get into the right head space to let creativity flow easy?
I do find it easy! I have a pretty wide array of interests outside of music so I have a pretty good routine that allows me to get to all of them regularly. I do have a rule that if I am really feeling something I just go with it, I never force it. There have been a lot of sleepless nights and too much coffee the next day. I am also one of those weird obsessive listeners to my own WIP’s. I will sketch out a new idea, bounce it, and listen to it for the next day or two. I take notes as I listen so by time I am sitting at my desk I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do. A fair amount of the creative process for me happens outside of the studio honestly. Very rarely do I open a project to work on it if I am not 100% ready to sit down and lay things out.
While we are on the topic, talk us through a normal studio session and how you personally approach starting a new track.
Depends on the day really. Some days I just sit and do sound design, clean up samples, do some sampling, chop up breaks, create kits etc. Sometimes I just want to sit at the desk and get lost in sound as the world melts away outside. Other days it’s all about making the changes and additions to a track I have in the works or a project I had floating around that I got a new idea for, or heard a sound or pattern in my head that I wanted to try to add in.
When it comes to starting a new track, it’s usually from either an idea I have for a track or EP. It could be as simple as thinking, “I want to do a run of tracks that are centered around time travel, or reincarnation, or the process of taking psychedelics”. Just depends on what is on my mind or what I need to work though in life. I keep a list of track names and topics I want to write music and design sound for. As I have grown as a producer, I find there are stories I feel the need to tell, so I try to do that.
How have the last few years been since you’ve started getting more notoriety within the DNB scene?
It has been okay. I have been active in DJing, promoting, producing, and writing DNB for about 26 years so at this point, it’s just another great addition to this wild and strange experiment we call Drum & Bass. I have met some pretty awesome people because of this music. For me, I just honestly appreciate the friendships and bonds I have made along the way. Friends and family that I know I will know and be close with for the rest of my life. It’s pretty cool.
One recent release of yours which was a break from the usual BMA vibe was the electronic exploration of Noise and Drone; dark and sinister stuff! Talk us through what brought that release about?
I’d just had some pretty heavy emergency medical issues with one of my kidneys and was doing a lot of healing, and while doing so spending a ton of time on some pretty strong pain killers and getting real out there and experimenting with sound design and creating layers and layers of textures. Add in watching more science fiction than normal, and watching how people were interacting with social media and then in real life, and was on my way to the rough outline for The Feeling Machines. At the same time, a friend of a friend over in England was launching a new Dark Ambient, Drone, Industrial, and Noise label and putting out limited edition cassette releases with pretty dope prints, packaging, and cardboard sleeves.
He was working with the Anti-Fascists Artist Union and I was super curious to maybe do something with them. Introductions were made, and I started having conversations with Steve from Industrial Coast and mentioned I would be super stoked to be part of what he was trying to do. He asked what I had in mind and I told him I had been sketching out ideas based on Modern Isolationism: how we are relying more and more on pure digital mediums to express our organic, analog human emotions and experiences. We are all rushing to post and share it all but we end up starting to feel less and less along the way. He said he needed 40 minutes worth of material, and that he would love to give me the platform to make this project a reality. Six months later, The Feeling Machines saw the light of day! I have since been a part of a few compilations and tributes to The Clash and Minor Threat, and am getting started on a track for the Conflict LP to raise some money for Shelter UK and Bergamo Hospital in Northern Italy.
Can you give us the low-down on the studio set up and what kit you are working with?
I have a somewhat small and simple set up honestly. Macbook Pro running Logic, Native Instruments Machine MK3, Akai MPK Mini. That’s it. I’m not overly fancy or complicated. I love using what I have and pushing the boundaries to make what I hear in my head.
When you talked about the Bagel to BMA transition you touched on getting in to DJing again. When exactly did you start to DJ? Also, talk us through your preferred set up.
Oh man…so true story right here: around 1994 I had just moved back from a short stint in Atlanta and could not afford turntables, so a friend and I got two off-name portable CD players, and a cheap ass ghetto mixer from an electronic shop, and just made due. It was awful and not a good look but man, we felt free and on top of the world! I scrimped and saved and eventually got my own set of 1200’s and the rest is history. I still have those SAME turntables to this day in my studio! A few mixers along the way but never anything fancy. I have never been a three of four deck DJ. I’m for sure someone who enjoys playing less tunes in a set but picking the best music that is out there.
Sidenote: as a DJ and producer I just don’t get these DJ’s who try to cram 50 songs into a 60 minute set. If you are only playing 16 to 32 bars of a track, man, stop picking such shitty boring tracks that you only want to hear clips of, or think people will get sick of in such a short time. Start playing more MUSIC of quality than “choons” that are only good for forty-five seconds. In my personal opinion DJing is about setting a mood or telling a story, not showcasing how fast you can blend mediocre music together. I will put it like this: I would rather have a fifteen to twenty course meal of memorable and amazing food than 50 bites of bland bullshit. To answer the second part: I am a Serato man as of the last few years. I have it set up for turntable and a Pioneer DJ digital set up.
Loooooooool! So many valid points in regards to DJing. We are definitely on the same page there man, especially when it comes to setting a mood and creating a bit of a journey. An hour of smash and grab 170 mixed without thought to get people moving never touches my soul! But I’m starting to think that the average raver (under the influence of something) just wants that anyway right?
Everyone has their reason for doing what they do. I do not hold it against anyone who wants to put on a show and entertain, nor do I judge anyone on how they want to enjoy the music. Different strokes and all of that jazz…I am for real just focusing on my small corner of the DNB universe and telling my story in a voice that comes from my self, and trying to elevate my crew along the way! There is room for all styles and all sounds. Find what speaks to you and be genuine with it is all I ask.
It’s actually so refreshing to hear someone who’s been active as the scenes matured through the years say they didn’t want to “rest and exploit the past”. I’ve got nothing but respect for people who move with the scene and help it to grow organically and support. From a perspective of a fan, can you give me an insight into what labels and artists you have been enjoying in modern day DNB?
I would be lying to say that the labels I am on aren’t right up there for me. Ronin Ordinance, Onset Audio, Seminal Sounds, Boey, Tactical Audio, Inception Audio, Industrial Coast, Nervosa all get me stoked. I will add in Conspired Within, UVB-76, None60, Exit, Translation, Cylon, Diffrent, Machinist Music, Methlab, Weaponry, and Lifestyle. I know I will miss some…
Also, how about those essential DJ tunes you would always love to reach for?
UFO! – Enemy Infiltration (E-Sassin Remix)Mask & Gang Related – DictationDom & Roland – ThunderDom & Roland – FluxSpecial Forces – Something ElsePhotek – Age of EmpiresThe Pedge – Whats up NowAnything from the Armageddon LP from Renegade HardwareAnything on Hard LeadersMost things by Decoder
Staying with the American scene, as a long-standing active member of the scene out there, talk us through how you feel the scene has matured since your involvement and how healthy it is in the US currently.
The biggest thing is that the music has become a staple in people’s life and it’s not just about the rave or club scene. It is consumed just as much on people’s phones, in people’s cars, or at their desks as it is at a club or party. How healthy is the scene in the USA? Hell if I know…the scene in my studio is dope as fuck though!
You are from Philadelphia correct?
South Philly yo! I actually grew up in Ohio but have been in Philly for 15 years.
How’s it to live there and also what’s the music scene like out there?
Philly is pretty awesome. It’s big, gritty, has attitude, and has a ton of art, food, and culture. It is not the easiest city to live in, I will say that. You’ve got to have some grit in you or this city will fucking eat you. It really is a pretty special place if you ask me. Parking fucking sucks though, real talk. As far as the music scene here, I couldn’t tell you really. I never leave my house to go out. I go out maybe once or twice a year? Maybe? There are events here, but I just couldn’t be bothered if I am being honest. Between being old and my deep social awkwardness, I prefer to stay at home and live in my world.
Can you give us some idea of what 2020 has in store for BMA?
A grip of new music is coming. Some ridiculous collabs that make me go, “oh shit, it’s getting real son!” Some really interesting tunes lined up for release later in the spring/summer as we all try to figure out how this COVID-19 situation shakes out. I can say there are a few remixes going down, as well as a return to more Drum & Bass tunes. I do love my halftime 170 sounds, but may need to shake things up to avoid getting lazy or predictable. I think it’s good for an artist to keep pushing their vision and art to stay fresh!