When dBridge says of your latest work that “it should be called limitless as the way ahead is full of possibilities,” you know you’re onto something. The track the Exit Records supremo – and arguably one of the more interesting producer/curators in drum n bass right now – was referring to was “The Limit VIP” by Fracture, a production that somehow managed to fuse Chicago’s aesthetic du jour, juke, with drum’n’bass and souped-up breakbeat science, resulting in something that a colleague described simply as angry. In a good way.
Both on his own and as one half of Fracture & Neptune, the London based producer has been a steady figure in the drum ‘n’ bass scene. Weathering the last ten years that saw the genre go from its London roots to worldwide popularity, amassing along the way all the shackles that such an evolution brings with it, Fracture has been increasingly interested of late in the tired but inevitable idea of ‘pushing things forward’ and “The Limit VIP” is the fruit of this interest, ensuring that he doesn’t stay within the safe confines of the genre’s now neatly outlined parameters.
The track forms part of a trilogy of VIPs to be released as one-sided 10” on Fracture’s own Astrophonica label – the first was out yesterday – complete with coloured, screen printed, hand stamped sleeves. “The Limit VIP” will be followed early next month by Om Unit’s refix of “Bad Habit” – which channels the spirit of the now deceased Philip D Kick in a rather astonishing way – and one month later again by the omnipresent Machinedrum. Considering Fracture’s admitted wish to push things beyond the limits of drum ‘n’ bass, this VIP series looks set to achieve precisely that.
We decided to ask Fracture to contribute to our mix series to celebrate the release of “The Limit VIP” and asked him some questions to go with it, touching on the series’ origin, the overall state of the drum’n’bass scene, the increasingly blurred borders between established genres and his own history.
The Limit VIP
Hey Charlie, can you please introduce yourself to the readers who may not know you – who are you, where do you come from and how did you get into making/DJing music?
Well, to date I've recorded drum’n’bass under the alias Fracture, both solo and with Neptune as Fracture & Neptune. In 2009 we started a label, Astrophonica. I also record as Compound One with Qualifide which is a Dubstep and Garage project. I got into music via my dad I would say. He's a guitarist and had a big record collection when I was growing up. I remember my parents and their friends putting on records and dancing to them. That planted the seed. I grew up in East London which at the time was exploding with Jungle. You couldn't walk 5 minutes down the street without hearing it. It was quite a logical progression.
For the last ten years you’ve carved yourself a position and reputation within the drum’n’bass scene alongside Neptune as Fracture & Neptune – releasing on some fairly legendary labels like Droppin’ Science and also setting up your own outlet more recently. What would you say have been the benefits and drawbacks of being tied to a particular scene for so long, especially one that has become a worldwide phenomenon in that time which brings with it its own set of issues (templates, pandering to crowd pleasers etc…)?
Drum’n’bass has treated me really well. As a kid I was obsessed with it and the majority of my record collection is drum’n’bass so it was really nice to go on to release music on record labels I have always admired. It's taken me around the world and has given me an outlet for my creativity so for that I am forever grateful. On the other hand the drum’n’bass audience can be quite scathing and quite often if you don't fit into the template your music will not get played and therefore not heard. So I guess the benefits are that I always have an instant outlet for music but the drawback is that if the music strays too far then that outlet closes up. Drum’n’bass also got a bad name for itself after the 90s and unfortunately it stuck. People became very disinterested with it and avoided it like the plague even though there was some great stuff post 90s.
You released an album last year which was a collection/retrospective of the music you and Neptune have made over the last ten years. How did the idea for a release like this come about and how has it been received? Did you find the experience to be quite cathartic? I’d imagine it might have helped to give you guys more inspiration/headspace to move forward following its release.
Well, one reason is by starting our label, Astrophonica, in 2009 we gained a new audience. Essentially we started again as we had both taken a year or so away from music. I realised that there was a whole section of people who maybe didn't know our previous work which I still hold very close to my heart so decided to do a retrospective. Another reason is that my good friend Bob Macc is an excellent mastering engineer and our early music sounded crap so it was a chance to have it all remastered!
It was an excellent experience. It was really nice going back over old music and hearing them after the mastering. I definitely found it inspiring. Rediscovering old methods and vibes. The whole project started as a small idea and then snowballed and we ended up with a fully remastered album of 18 tunes and some amazing artwork and video for the single, “Customtone”. We're very proud.
It’s perhaps fair to say that drum’n’bass hit a plateau a good while back, yet despite my own disillusions with it I’ve found that in recent years there’s been some interesting things happening – seemingly at the fringes of the overall scene – with people once more exploring the potentials that the genre and its established elements can afford. To you, what are some of the most exciting things/people in that regard within the scene in the last few years?
I think that the early days of dubstep really helped this. It really helped to open up possibilities again and allow for experimentation. What's really exciting now is that across the board, music can only be pigeonholed by its tempo. The edges to all the genres are blurring. If an idea works then people are trying it at all different tempos. Exit records are indeed pushing the boundaries at the moment. Working at different tempos and not getting tied down to a single sound. The Autonomic podcast series really struck a chord with me and gave me a new love for the music. There are so many amazing tunes on the series, a lot of which I have no idea as to who made them. I love that.
The three VIP releases forthcoming on Astrophonica are quite different from the usual dnb releases. Could you give us a bit of a rundown on the inspiration behind it all? “The Limit VIP” seems to have a distinct influence from Chicago juke/footwork or is that a mistaken assumption? And why did you choose the remixers you did for the other two?
Yes indeed. With the first part, “The Limit VIP”, I was trying something completely different. I was playing at a festival called Sun & Bass and needed something to shut down the dance! I thought, what can I do? I'll do a VIP version of one of Astrophonica's biggest track, “The Limit” by Fracture & Neptune. But how can I flip it? I had been listening to the Philip D Kick footwork jungle series and had been vibing from sets from Spinn and Rashad. So I thought, what if I juked one of my own tunes?
Om Unit was behind the Philip D Kick series and I had been talking to him a little so that was an obvious decision for the remix series. Likewise with Machinedrum. I'd been hearing some of his juke stuff and really liked it, it had such great energy. I also wanted to have remixers from outside of the usual drum’n’bass scene to try and really blur those edges even further.
Why the choice to make the releases limited edition, one sided vinyl? Do you feel that putting more of an effort into making physical releases ‘special’ is perhaps one way forward in this current state of flux the music industry finds itself in? By making physical products more collectible in a sense it might entice people to actually pay more attention/care more?
I do, yes. I think it’s very important to deliver something no one else does, both musically and physically. I love to create and experiment and this is just another chapter in that process. My brother is an artist and record collector too so we are always coming up with different things to do with releases. I'm always trying to do something different with my label and the branding. I've got some insane ideas coming up.
As an independent artist and label owner, what would you say have been the most challenging things in terms of the industry’s changes in the last 5 years? Most people I speak to agree that we’re still in a state of flux overall with regards to new models establishing themselves solidly. Drum’n’bass as a scene obviously benefits from its own ecosystem of support – labels, DJs, radio, fans – but do you think there’s room for improvement and if so what shape might it take?
The industry at the moment is fascinating. Always changing. It affects all aspects. Even the way people listen to and consume music. Releasing music has now become more of a calling card or a PR campaign for your live show or DJ set, it's very hard to make serious money from it now. Although it's much harder now than ever, I still see a lot of people with mad love for what they do. People with passion. So in one way the fact that there is less money in the industry is a good thing because you get less sharks, less people out to make a quick buck and more people with something to say and who want to contribute to music.
What’s in the future for you in 2012 – what are you working on, what would like to be doing etc…? Any plans to try your hand at different styles and genres?
I have a couple of new projects I've been working on which will come to fruition later this year. More imminently I have forthcoming music on Exit Records and Metalheadz. I want to further blur the edges. See where we can take it. I'm very much into 808s again and making those booties bounce on the dance floor. As for my label I want to see what I can do with that too. Do more with it, not just music.
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