You had your first release in 2010, how do you think your sound has matured in the last 8 years? If at all?
I’m not sure whether my sound has necessarily matured as such – but I like to think my production skills have improved over the past few years, which I guess is pretty natural for most producers. My music tastes have also changed, so the tunes I write now do (I hope!) sound different to those I was writing 8 years ago.
Where did the name “Concealed Identity” come from?
Well, I’m sure most people will know the answer to this!! I went under several different names many years ago when I first started writing (Sanjuro and Konsoul to name but a few) before settling on Concealed Identity. I’m a huge fan of all things Japanese, and at the time wanted a name to reflect that to some extent. I have always loved Source Direct, and their ninja-themed tune ‘Concealed Identity’ (from their amazing ‘Exorcise The Demons’ album) provided me with the name. I’ve got to be honest though – I thought it wouldn’t be as obvious as it now seems lol!! In truth I’m not as keen on the moniker as I once was, and have considered going under a different name a number of times, but its kind of stuck, so… it’s stayed!
A few times I’ve concealed my identity to hide from people I don’t want to speak to… Is this something you do? Or are you one of those “nice people”? Lol
Haha!! Well, being an antisocial hermit I spend most of my time avoiding people lol! As for being ‘nice’ – well, I dunno, you’d have to ask people who know me….
You mention that in 2008 you rediscovered a love for drum and bass after a hiatus from listening to it, what sort of artists/labels helped with this at this time?
Labels like Shogun, Ingredients, Dispatch and Critical were releasing some great tunes at the time (‘08/’09 and beyond) – artists like Jubei, Rockwell and Stray were doing some really innovative tunes that re-ignited an interest in the scene for me. Tunes I particularly remember (and still love) are Jubei’s ‘Outcast’, ‘The Path’, and his incredible remix of Skeptical’s ‘Cold One’; Stray’s ‘Timbre’; and Rockwell’s tunes ‘Aria’ and ‘Tribes’. I was also listening to artists like Break, Breakage & Need For Mirrors – plus there was some amazing stuff I found on the Subtle Audio imprint…
Also in 2008, you mentioned that after years of experimenting with production on and off that you found your groove in your productions with the help of a new DAW, talk us through how this helped?
Yeah definitely – for several years I’d been using Reason, which whilst brilliant, was (at the time) slightly limited in terms of using actual audio samples, which is how I wanted to write… I got hold of a copy of Ableton and instantly took to it! I found it really intuitive, and it speeded up my workflow immeasurably. Plus being able to just drag and drop audio samples straight in to a project felt like a dream come true lol! The first tune I wrote on it was for the Octane & DLR/Dispatch competition to win a vinyl release. Sadly I didn’t win, but I loved getting back into the whole production process, and I just carried on from there. (Incidentally that tune is still on my soundcloud page for a free DL ….)
You now have 2 full vinyl releases with Narratives Music in recent years, how did you come about getting music signed by these guys?
I’ll always remember I was sitting in Tesco’s car park in Colchester, psyching myself up for the hell that is food shopping, when my phone went off and I looked to see Phil Blocks had messaged me out of the blue. They liked my previous release on Rawganics, primarily the track ‘Undertow’, and asked if I would be interested in doing something for Narratives… I was like “Hell YES!” I couldn’t believe it, as Narratives had genuinely been one of my favourite labels for ages, so to be approached by them was not only a complete shock, but an honour too. It was a very proud moment for me.
Staying with Narratives… “The Connection” is one of our favourite releases of 2017, so unique with those loose jazzy breaks, how did this tune come about?
So pleased you like that tune, it’s definitely one of the ones I’m most proud of – funnily enough it was also one of the easiest/quickest to write, as it seemed to come about really organically. I was at the time in a bit of a melancholy mood, and I’d been listening to Miles Davis’ incredible ‘Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud’ album. I really wanted to write a tune in that vein, crossed with Radiohead’s ‘A Reminder’ – something emotive and raw. It’s title basically sums up the feeling I wanted to get across – a connection to someone, a place, or even an object that occurs in your life that you can’t really explain or necessarily understand…. you just know that connection exists.
So coming from hardcore into dnb in the mid ‘90s, talk us through who you were loving during this period of DnB?
Well, it was more from hardcore to Jungle to dnb for me really – hardcore was kind of my introduction to dance music, and Jungle was my first love! Then I guess things from there mutated into dnb…. The list of influences from that time is pretty endless to be honest, so I’ll try and narrow it down haha! Producer-wise, it was the likes of Photek, Ed Rush, Optical, Source Direct, Trace, Nico, Digital, Spirit, Dillinja, Lemon D, Doc Scott, Hidden Agenda, Intense, Goldie, Arcon 2, Peshay, Boymerang, Die, Krust…. Man, I could go on and on!! DJ-wise I would mainly listen to the Kiss FM Wednesday shows with Groove, Fabio, Hype, Frost, Randall and Bukem who all played an incredible array of what was at the time the most cutting edge beats. Also tuning in to some of the Pirate stations around London at the time was brilliant for hearing the latest dubs, as well as catching the vibes of the music.
Moving to present day, who are you listening to within dnb now?
To be honest, I’m not listening to a huge amount of new dnb, but there are a small number of labels and podcasts that I do look out for – I love checking Doc Scott’s Future Beats Show, as he plays stuff across the spectrum. Also whenever Loxy or Paradox drop a podcast or release a tune, I’m on it – they are both true dons. As far as producers go – and genuinely without bias – I have to say Blocks & Escher. They have such a unique sound, and have nailed the balance between past and present to create a future – awe-inspiring. Also Overlook – an incredible talent, with a vast knowledge of the genre; I also really like Mako; Kid Drama; Om Unit; Homemade Weapons; SB81; Andy Skopes…oh and Dan Habarnam – don’t hear nearly enough about this wonderful producer! There’s a load more that no doubt I’ll remember once this interview’s done….
You talked about some of your fav venues in the 90s and you mentioned the “End” club. What is your view on the demise of so many iconic venues in London over the years and the impact on the modern scene?
Like most people, I think it’s a real shame seeing these venues closing down, and it is inevitably going to have a knock-on effect on the scene as a whole. But on a positive note, I am sure that other venues/nights will spring up around the country that start off very small and underground, and become the major venues of the future. In fact I think this is already happening! Nights like Soul In Motion and Rupture are growing by the year in both popularity and reputation, and deservedly so. The powers that be are never gonna kill off dnb, despite their best efforts through venue closures.
In discussion you mentioned many different and varied musical influences growing up, is your taste still eclectic?
I like to think so lol! I think it’s important to listen to all styles of music, and that is the beauty of it – there is so much incredible music out there, new and old. You still can’t beat that feeling of ‘discovering’ a band or artist, and thinking ‘how have I lived my life without this music?!?’. It was actually dnb that got me into a lot of other genres – growing up I was really a heavy rock/metal kid, but dnb introduced me to jazz, blues, reggae, dub, soul….
You discussed being into thrash metal in your early years – what are we talking here, long hair, bad attitude, fuck the world type vibe? lol
Haha! You forgot to mention acne lol! Yes, you can tell I must have been a real hit with the ladies I was quite an angry young man (and have simply morphed into a grumpy old git) It was very much the anti-establishment/elite attitude of that genre that appealed – I worshipped bands like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax & Voivod. Strangely enough I do think there is a similarity between Thrash & dnb, particularly in terms of raw energy – hence the reason why I still listen to both genres to this day.
So your output was the highest amount within one year in 2017, is that right? And what can we expect from you in 2018?
Yes I think so – in terms of releases anyway, 2017 was my busiest year so far. As far as 2018 is concerned, I’m hoping to continue working with the Narratives boys. I’m also hoping to get a release on another of my favourite labels (without naming names of course!) Things are looking good so far, but I will obviously keep you posted….
1997/98 was when you began experimenting with production and you mentioned that it took you a lot of experimenting and setbacks from your productions. You also mentioned that your material wasn’t strong enough to warrant a release from labels, this is something I’ve seen regularly in interviews with artists with electronic music, I.e.- Marcus Intalex. DJ Krust also mentioned it took him 5 years to find his sound. Can you talk us through how you dealt with this until you discovered your sound in 2008 and then had your first release in 2010.
That’s right – at first I was just learning the ropes, using a very early version of Cakewalk (with the ‘dot’ sequencer – anyone remember that?!) and a pc that you needed to shovel coal into to get it going…. But yeah, the stuff I was writing wasn’t nearly good enough to send out (I still have the tapes – yes, tapes – of a lot of my early recordings, which are sometimes fun to listen back on). Like a lot of producers, I think I started by trying to mimic what I was hearing on the radio and in clubs – it wasn’t til a few years ago really that I felt I had found ‘my sound’.
As I mentioned before, having had a break from dnb/writing in the early 00’s, writing again was like being reunited with an old friend! At the time, I seem to remember a lot of half-time tunes were appearing on the scene, and I really loved that sound, as well a very dubby/reggae influenced vibe…. So that definitely had an impact on my sound at the time when I was first signed to Tribe12. And so my sound has continued to evolve from there I guess.
Thank you Concealed Identity for taking the time to talk to us!