Interview: Icicle @ Outlook 2012

Our Low End Lowlife chats to Icicle

Posted on Oct 2nd, 2012 in Features and Interviews / By Matthew Bayfield
Interview: Icicle @ Outlook 2012 Over the past few years Icicle has become one of the forerunners in both drum & bass and dubstep DJ'ing and production, and one of the most unique producers to pass through the doors of forward thinking bass label Shogun Audio. Bearded caught up with him to talk about blending genres, the creative process and tax returns.

Bearded: You were asked to do the nineteenth instalment in the Rinse Mix Series earlier this year. When going in to a mix like that do you have a plan of how you want to structure the whole thing or is it more off the cuff?

Icicle: Well when they offered me that they said it didn't matter, to just do whatever I wanted and they'd be cool with it. They just said record a mix and then we'll put it out. It was just after my album, which had dubstep and drum & bass on parallel tracks anyway so it was just a really nice platform to bring it together and try and make it all one thing, which is more or less the holy grail of what I'm trying to do. Just to make it all into one thing, the drum & bass, dubstep and techno as well. So when they offered me it I wanted to do that building thing, starting off with techno and working in dubstep and drum & bass. Essentially I think it's all the same music just at different speeds. So that was the concept behind that CD, but it's also the concept behind the whole of what I'm doing. It was great too because with that project I didn't have to compromise.

With a lot of sets there'll be people like "no drum & bass! I hate drum & bass!"

B: With promoters and venues do you ever get told what to play?

I: No not really. A couple of years ago the scenes were so segregated; the drum & bass scene was "THIS", play one dubstep tune or one techno tune and they would not like it, but now it's falling apart. Doesn't mean it's completely gone, but with a CD like that there was no one saying anything to me on where to take it so I just did it. But then, you know, you're a DJ so you have to please the crowd to some degree, not entirely but it can be hard. But if it's truly up to me then I just start with some techno, then drum & bass and everything in between.

B: Is it the same when producing? Do you start with a particular sound in mind?

I: I try to be as specific as possible. Earlier on when I was trying to make music it was definitely more based on a "happy accident" way of working where I'd try and sort of hit something, it just wouldn't be working, then all of a sudden you have it! You know where you want to go roughly and you are just fucking around, then you just suddenly have it. But now I'm trying to control it more, I want to be a 100% in control of where an idea is going. Think about the idea and work on the concept for a bit, before I start actually putting things down. As opposed to a "that there, this there, put a bit of bass under it, it'll probably work" mentality. So when I start making music I have to have an idea or an ideal sound and then start working towards it, and try and stick to what I was originally thinking. I use to go off on a tangent much more; start a certain way and then go off with whatever happens. That can work out well, it can work out great but also it can actually deter you from what you were really thinking about. So I think being able to stick to what you planned, where you really want to take it and not make it easy for yourself, not take the path of least resistance gives much better results.

B: Do you ever find you consciously work against a popular sound, for instance the whole mid-range tear out dubstep stuff?

I: No. You know I always find it funny that people say they are against mainstream or whatever, I think that's so stupid because those people are basically claiming to hate the definition of popular music, and they define themselves by hating the definition of something. I just make music that I like. If three people like it that's really nice, and if a hundred million people like it that's nice too. A lot of the mainstream stuff I don't really like that much, and there's some stuff that is particularly terrible. I think when it comes down to it for me as a producer, when I work on what my sound is in my mind, you know having a sound and a vibe, it is simply just what I prefer.

B: So it's just a fairly organic process for you then?

I: Yes totally. If it wasn't you'd soon be found out. You'd be an impostor haha.

B: With production do you work set hours so to speak? Do you ever say "right today it's nine to five"?

I: No, I wish it was a bit structured like that. A couple of years ago I just wanted to make tunes, but when you actually do sit down to it you make some tunes then... You do a lot of tax haha, banking, emails. It's all too serious sometimes! But you can't complain about it, nobody wants to hear it. So my days are busy, but they are just fitted together to make sure I get everything done. It's not nine to five or this hour to this hour, it's constant. It does not stop. Not for a fucking day.

B: So touring is your main source of revenue then?

I: Yep.

B: Do certain clubs book you for certain sets or does it tend to be that they book you to play whatever you want? I've noticed a lot of the nights you are advertised on tend to have a genre in brackets after your name. (Eagle eyed readers may notice I've asked the same question twice at this point... I was quite pissed by this stage in the interview. Sincere apologies and props to Icicle for being so polite!)

I: Usually they're not too strict, unless I get say, an old school drum & bass promoter who might ask me to just play D&B. Also if I have, for instance, a dubstep DJ before me and the same after it'd be pretty fucking annoying if I just went and rinsed out an hour of drum & bass. So it's always good to keep with the flow of the night, which I don't mind doing. As I said I'd like to go out and play techno, dubstep, drum & bass all the time, but it's so specific you'd need to have the whole night tailored to you. You'd need the right DJ before you, the right DJ after. End of the day you're just another name on the flyer haha.

B: Is drum & bass primarily where you operate?

I: It's what I come from, but I'm trying to break free from just one restriction. I'd say every drum & bass show I've done some dubstep in there. If they really don't like it I'll play about fifteen minutes and call it my intro and if it goes off then I'll go in for half an hour or so. It's good though because there's a process going on, I'm not just sticking to what I know and it keeps it fresh.

B: With your sets do you just have a group of tunes and say "this is my set for the month" or is it more random?

I: No man, I just drink way too much to remember that! Sometime you have some combinations you keep, or you are just in the middle of playing something and think "yeah that tune'll go in there" but apart from very occasionally, if I want to specifically do something, I'll only have one or two tracks I actually plan. I hate planning. I've been DJ'ing for a long time now, and I'm confident enough that I don't have to plan. It's all about those ones where you didn't plan it, something just comes together amazingly and you do some magic fucking mix, everybody goes off, half of them probably think you planned it and you just go "yeah!". It's good for your own value!

You can catch Icicle on Rinse.FM on rotation with the Shogun Audio show, his album 'Under The Ice' is available through Shogun Audio and his instalment in the Rinse Mix series is also well worth investigating..