Our man Sideswipe gets a chance to chat to the newest member of the Juke Bounce Werk crew, Surly. Here we find out what the New Zealand producer has been up to and how he dreams of eating chicken with Kush Jones.
How long have you been producing? Was it always footwork?
I've been making music on a computer for about 12 years, though i've had long unproductive periods, and all but stopped while i was studying just a few years ago. I've never stuck to one style in the past, i've always been curious to try different styles, but when i started making footwork a few years ago it stuck, it felt like i'd found a genre that gives me more freedom than any other, like.. as long as the bpm is right, the DJ can figure out how to drop it, and it makes the dancers move their feet, you've nailed it. how you achieve that, is up to you. pretty much total freedom in terms of what you can sample, what other genres you can reference, can even get a little creative with time signatures and off-grid quantisation. This music is the best.
Has the NZ scene influenced your production? Do you think this makes your work stand out from US or European producers?
I imagine it has, though with nothing to compare it to i can only guess at how. UK bass music has always done well in NZ, so most of my deeply ingrained ideas about production and arrangement are informed by Jungle, UK Garage, Grime, more than... i dunno, West Coat/Southern Rap, Ghetto House, Bmore, Jersey etc. I still don't feel comfortable calling myself a Footwork producer. I feel like until I've been there and lived it and can dance a few steps myself, I'm still just making 160bpm bass music inspired by Juke and Footwork.
Things have moved very quickly for you in the past year, at what point did you realize things were trending that way?
It's been less, it's coming up to 7 months since i put the first track on Soundcloud. There have been a few key moments. Being invited to join Juke Bounce Werk was the first real slap. It was something I had kinda dreamed about but didn't dare think was going to happen, and it's still almost hard to believe it's real. When Kode9 played a track on his BBC radio residency, it took a week for that to sink in. I played a gig recently and i could hear the people at the front of the crowd and one of them was telling the others the names of my tunes as they were coming in, he knew which tunes were mine, and i had never seen him before. That was real. It's probably not gonna feel real until i get to LA, to be honest.
How did the connection with JBW come about, and how has joining the crew changed things for you?
It was January, i think the third track i put online, DJ Noir (of JBW) found it and shared it on FB, so I sent them a bunch of tracks and they signed one that day. We started talking, J Drago linked me with Swish, Scatta and Kush to start some collabs, and we all just hit it off. in April, RP Boo came to play in Auckland, and unbeknownst to me, Jae and Noir had asked him to vet me for them. we played a show on a Friday night, and it must have been ok, a few days later they asked to skype and I thought... nah.. no way... they couldn't be about to ask me to join the crew... but they did!
As far as how it's changed things, on a personal level it's been huge, it's given me the confidence to write and share more music, i've been learning more about juke and footwork through collabs with the other crew members, listening to and watching them play their music, and my own, and just chatting with them. It's given my music huge exposure internationally, and the whole team has never been anything short of 100% encouraging and supportive of any creative decisions I make. I've never felt so empowered. As far as how it's changed my life locally, IRL, not much. That co-sign means very little in NZ. Apart from a T-shirt and some stickers that i was sent in the mail, I have very little physical evidence that any of this is real. I'm still just spending most of my time in my room making music, going for walks around the neighbourhood by myself and having to clean the bathroom.
Your debut EP came out recently with a hugely positive response, what is next on the release schedule for you?
Next on the release shedule... nothing I can speak on right now, i wouldn't want to jinx it. I'm "in talks" with a few labels, doing a remix here and there, but i don't wanna say too much just yet. I've spent the last month or so experimenting, trying to teach myself more about the original sound, so i'm not just rehashing the same few things i already know. I don't want to sound like a Rashad clone, but learning the history is important if you want to contribute to the culture and be a part of it's future. I guess I'm taking a sort of "learn the rules before you can break them" approach right now, so not in a hurry to release anything large immediately, until I feel like there's a cohesive body of work coming together, but i may start to drip out a couple of tracks here and there, This past week I've produced a few things i'm happy with.
Finally, any plans to tour the States in 2016 or Early 2017?
YES! I was supposed to be in Chicago this weekend actually, to play at the Pitchfork afterparty with J Drago, Noir, and Traxman, but a never ending shoulder injury has put travel on hold for the meantime. This injury has been a mixed blessing, it happened the same week i launched the Surly project, and so i've been unable to work, and unable to spend much money, both of which are prime conditions for staying in your room making music. Iwill be over very soon though, hopefully next month, to eat popeyes chicken with Kush, test a bunch of legal weed edibles and products, hang out with Pancho, and meet E-40
Surly’s debut EP is out now and available here.
Interview by: Sideswipe/Edited by: JamFransisco