A conversation with Bristol producer Guido, about his latest creative movements: his State of Joy label, his city's 'purple' sound, the controversy caused by the word 'dubstep', and how he learned to write orchestrations with the music from the “Final Fantasy” video game.
When the latest generation of dance music producers came out of Bristol in the late 00s, led by the overly colourful sounds of Joker, the excitement and anticipation was palpable both on dance-floors and on paper. Riding high on the rising popularity of dubstep and the temporary mainstream acceptance of grime, young producers such as Joker, Gemmy and Guido were giving the public and pundits alike a refreshing take on sounds that were still relatively new yet already mutating, one of many early signs of just how fast the internet would make the music world turn by the 2010’s.
Five years on – or less in the case of Gemmy and Guido – and this new generation has come of age, maturing and diverging from their original cohesion, which had earned the trio the nickname of ‘Purple’ (see Joker’s interviews circa 2009). Joker is now signed to 4AD and has found popular acclaim while Gemmy and Guido have continued to work in and around the dubstep scene, pulling at the genre’s seams in their own ways, following their respective official debuts on Peverelist’s Punch Drunk label.
Coming of age as an artist in an incredibly noisy and fast moving music world has the potential to be difficult. What marks these three producers apart from many in that regard is how they capitalised, in their own way, on what made their sound originally so appealing – the melodies and their colourful qualities. In the case of Guido he first showed this potential via his debut album, 2010’s “Anidea”, on which he displayed melodic flair and writing that could sustain a full dance music album without sounding tired, no mean feat considering how watered down the genre was becoming at that point. Since then he has quietly but steadily continued to refine a more personal sound and after a quiet 2011 has released two new singles this year on his own State of Joy label. Part of the Multiverse music group, State of Joy – alongside Gemmy’s own World of Wonder label – is the latest sign that this new generation is moving ahead on its own terms and forging its own path, with help from friends of course.
While a degree of attention in Bristol is currently focused more – for some – towards slower tempos and productions that live somewhere between house, techno and dubstep, Guido has already released two of the more solid dubstep-flavoured 12” singles this year, including “Flow” with Jay Wilcox (which this writer feels deserved to be a pop crossover success in the charts). He has also been hard at work transferring his music to a live stage, sans the knob twiddling and pad bashing, but with a full band. As such, PlayGround decided to catch up with the man over the phone to find out a bit more about where he came from and where he’s going - including the live band, being tagged as this or that genre and learning to play melodies thanks to the best role playing franchise in video game history.
We originally tried to get a mix from Guido to go along with this piece but it wasn't possible. As we got the piece together however Guido got in touch to say that a video for his new live project, which we discussed in the interview, was being finished. So to go along with this “introduction to Guido” you can now watch exclusively the first video of the live band performing “Anidea”, the title track from Guido's debut album. The band features Guido on keys, Typesun on drums, Will from A Future Without on bass and Marcus on guitar. Venues and bookers, you know what to do: these guys need to spread their gospel far and wide!
So who’s Guido, where does he come from and how did he get started in music?
I started making music as a hobby during secondary school. I used Fruity Loops, and started making beats on that. A lot of my friends were into making music at the time, people like Joker and others, and we basically went from there. We went to a few places around Bristol to do this. There was a place called The Basement Studio where you could go and use a computer to make beats. I’ve been at it since then really.
What year was that?
It would have been 2003 or 2004 onwards. That’s basically how I discovered music-making programs on computers; I can’t specifically remember why I downloaded FL Studio though.
Well it was the program of choice for many people at the time, especially when you were getting started.
Yeah and also it was tiny, not even 10mb so you could download it easily.
So are you Bristol born and bred?
Sort of. I was born in Redhill, which is in Surrey, and moved to Bristol when I was three years old and I’ve been there since.
Do you have any classical training in terms of music?
Not really. I had piano lessons when I was young. I had two different teachers over a period of a few years, with breaks in between. One was more classical and one was more jazz. I used to download sheet music online, Final Fantasy sheet music, and would take it to them and they’d teach me how to play it. I then continued to do that but teaching myself how to play it.
Which Final Fantasy game did you download the sheet music for?
All of them I think. I’m a big fan. I think the reason I really liked the music from that series is that the guy who originally wrote it had no musical training whatsoever, he was self-taught [ed note: the composer in question is Nobuo Uematsu]. I only found out later on that he was self-taught but I always thought it was interesting, this idea of not being classically trained and so approaching music from a different angle. You bring your own formula to it, it’s quite romantic. You just write the music without thinking too much about it.
Was there any particular music that inspired or influenced you to start making your own? Bristol in the 90s and 00s had quite a popular and healthy music scene, especially dance music wise.
The music I was influenced by when I started was mainly grime. Which I think doesn’t really have a unified style. Depending on the producer you could have lots of different styles and approaches. You had Dizzee, DaVinche, Rapid, Ruff Squad, they all had melodic styles that I felt were quite individual and appealed to me back then. It was all simplistic in the melodies and I liked that.
It was always a really direct music.
And also the energy of the vocals was really appealing. I originally started working with lots of MCs in Bristol and made a mix CD which had about 15 different MCs from all over Bristol. So originally that was the music I was making and focusing on.
Did what happen in Bristol from 04 to 06/07, in terms of the city establishing itself as a counterpoint to London’s dubstep centre, have any influence at all on your sound evolving towards what would become your first few releases?
Well what was going on at the time around me was different. I wasn’t really paying too much attention to dubstep to be honest, in terms of stuff like Skream and DMZ. I used to go to nights in Bristol where these guys would play before they became huge worldwide names, back when they would come to Bristol and play the smaller clubs with not much capacity. I wasn’t too influenced by dubstep at the time though; I just kept on evolving from what I was originally doing with grime and melodies and my own influences.
How did you feel about being pigeonholed into dubstep then, seeing as that’s how you and your music were put forward once it started coming out?
At the time, when Peverelist put out my first release, I was new to the whole thing. I didn’t know what putting music out entailed and when people started tagging it as dubstep, or even after that when it was called purple, I just thought it was part and parcel of people wanting and needing to label stuff. I didn’t really have too much of a problem with people calling it dubstep, if people really listened to it and liked it I always thought it would be because of the music, not what it was called or filed under. As for the purple tag, some of the songs from Gemmy and Joker referenced that in the titles and then Joker mentioned it in an interview, which I thought was cool but ultimately I feel that it didn’t necessarily have too much to do with what I was making music wise despite what people were saying.
So you didn’t necessarily associate your music with colours or synaesthesia?
No, I wasn’t thinking or seeing colours when I made music.
To go back to the melodies in your music, I was wondering if the melodic aspect is what interests you the most; it seems to be a recurring, and evolving, point of focus in your music?
Melodies have always been important. I’ve been thinking recently about going to university and actually studying music and getting a degree and combining it with something else, like maybe learning Japanese [laughs]. When I start making music I always go for the melodies first and work from there. I always try and do something I’ve never done and use that as the starting point. Sometimes when I do drums first and then try and put melodies on top it feels limiting. I try to get the feeling I want from the music first by writing the melodies. With drums I find that if they’re loud and punchy then that’s already creating a vibe and so you’re going to need to adapt the melody to it rather than the other way around. I like building the drums around the melody basically. I find chords a good place to start… Recently I’ve been thinking a lot that it can be hard to come up with original ideas, so if I like something I hear somewhere I’ll play it on the piano to myself and if it’s something I’m then sure I like, I’ll try and flip it, twist it, change the melody. I’m not saying I’ll straight bite it, but find inspiration from it especially if it resonates with me.
It’s not dissimilar to the hip hop approach of flipping samples. You set up your own label recently, State of Joy, and I was wondering where the idea for it came from?
It was actually Pinch who put it forward to me. Originally the idea was to have a label for both Gemmy and I to put music out on, together. Gemmy and I both felt that maybe that wasn’t the best as both of our music was being put into this same category and it wasn’t ideal. So Gemmy started his own label [ed note: World of Wonder] and I took some time to think about what I wanted to do with this label idea and State of Joy was born earlier this year.
Albums Guido - Anidea
Videos Guido - Secret Garden
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