Simon Twine talks to Gatekeeper

gatekeeper

Will Scott Cree is an adopted son of Bristol who has been active in the dubstep scene for the last four years under the guise of Gatekeeper. He has had releases on highly respected labels including Skull Disco, Punch Drunk and Immerse, and appeared on compilations including Soul Jazz’s ‘Steppas’ Delight’ and the mighty ‘Dubstep Allstars’ series from Tempa. In 2008 Will was one of the featured artists on Mary Anne Hobbs’ seminal ‘Bristol: Rise Up’ special, airing on BBC Radio 1. With his recent set at Freerotation fresh in the memory, I got a chance to sit down with Will for an in-depth chat about inspiration, collaboration and passing on his studio skills to the next generation.

S. You’ve had releases with the likes of the Skull Disco, Punch Drunk & Immerse going back to 2006, can you tell us when you first got started with producing and did you have any projects prior to Gatekeeper?

W. I started trying to produce when I was around about fifteen or sixteen. I got hooked up with an Atari ST, a synthesiser and a sound module and didn’t really have a clue how to use it all. I knew how to play keyboards, but I had no idea about programming synths or anything like that! So I went to college in 2000 and that’s when I really started first making tunes, I was really into drum and bass then so I was initially trying to make that, but quite badly. After that course, I went to University in Bath in 2003 – I’m not from the West Country originally, I moved to Bath just for Uni. So that’s when I met Laurie Appleblim, Wedge, another guy from Bristol called Bloodman – just a whole load of people that are still producing now, and that’s when it started to get a bit more serious if you like.

Back then I was still trying to make what was essentially just drum and bass really, but it was around this time Laurie introduced me to what was becoming dubstep. He made this compilation, I’ve still got it actually, but it had things like the Sticky and Miss Dynamite thing [‘Booo!’], something from Dizzee’s first album, but also like some early dubstep – so Soulja tracks, things by Mark One and Artwork and stuff like that. I could kind of hear the garage link in it then, but I don’t know, I didn’t want to try and start making it right away; I enjoyed it definitely, but I was keen to be respectful of it and not just be like, “oh I’m doing this now”. So we started going to the nights in Bristol, and it was around the time that Pinch and Blazey started Subloaded, I think we all went to the first one, and hearing it loud it started to make a lot more sense! It was like, “OK this is not just my walkman now”, because initially with the tempo so much slower than DnB it had taken me a while to really get into it.

The first dubstep tune I made was Tomb, which I made with Laurie, which came out on Skull Disco in 2006, and it was just an afternoon jam really, just like an experiment- let’s try something at this tempo, and he had some real good ideas for where to start. I think once that came out, I was like “OK, so there’s really some space to explore this new sound now”, and I felt almost like the first rung of the ladder had been presented to me, and I was like, “OK, I don’t have to feel weird, or fake about this”. It just felt right, you know? And I started doing a couple of other things at that tempo, one of which was the one [‘Hades’] that ended up coming out on Immerse not that long ago.

So Gatekeeper was a project that was borne out of that afternoon with Laurie really, it was the pair of us, but he carried on the Appleblim mantle that’s obviously done really well, and it seemed a shame to let this Gatekeeper thing ebb away, so I asked him if he minded if I carried the name on, and he was cool with that. So after that one release together, Gatekeeper became just me on my own – though we got the chance to work together again recently for an Gatekeeper & Appleblim remix of Bristol roots dub crew Dubkasm’s ‘Respek I-spek’, which came out earlier this summer.

S. So the degree you were doing in Bath, was a sound recording/engineering course?

W. Yeah, the degree is actually Creative Music Technology, so it’s kind of interesting, it’s not about production and engineering in the traditional sense. They look quite closely at avant-garde, experimental music at an academic level, so things like Stockhausen, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Denis Smalley, all this tape experiment stuff, quite difficult to listen to initially, and they really love that. In terms of technology they were very keen on a particular bit of software called Max/MSP where you have the ability to build your own plug-ins and stuff. And I just didn’t connect to that program, it was completely alien to me.

S. Too abstract?

W. Yeah, so the course itself was a little bit strange in that respect, because I wanted to get better at production and engineering. I think what it really did was just give me a much more wide screen view of music, you know? They really didn’t, it sounds weird, but they really didn’t like cliché, they really didn’t like repeated drumbeats, they didn’t like arrangements, they didn’t like fade-outs at the end of a song. They liked incidents of sound, and sound-scapes – but its cool man, because it really inspired that whole atmospheric thing that just seems to seep into my tunes. I just like that kind of sci-fi vibe.

S. Yeah, I’m personally really into in the music of Reich and Stockhausen, like the loop phasing stuff, and all these different experimental things. And although I like it, it can be a bit inaccessible, but ultimately it influences a lot of electronic music producers, directly or indirectly, and really whether they know it or not.

W. Yeah, I guess I just came to a bit of a realisation in the second year, which was that they’re not gonna stop making us examine this stuff, it’s not gonna go away. I’d been kinda resistant to it initially – “what is this racket” in some cases, or just finding it a bit noodly; but what I realised was that there was some really amazing moments of sound in these things, like even if I couldn’t necessarily take the whole thing and dig it as a piece, there might be a wicked sound or a sample in there, just an incident that was cool. So once I started listening to it like that, I started to appreciate it more anyway, because you start listening for them, and you’re already making the ties between one and the next, so inevitably you end up listening to the whole thing, and it’s like, “OK, I’m getting it now”. So I had to train myself to appreciate it a bit, if you like.

As you were saying about how electronic artists have been inspired by that stuff, for example weird things with the timing of a melody, Peverelist does it sometimes, where its not a straight division of 4, it might be 3 over 4, so it means it’s in time, but within a bar it might have shifted beats because of how its repeating. Also, hearing Orbital doing these kind of phasing things, I always liked that kind of thing – where you have to sort of keep up with it, and concentrate a bit.

S. So you’re now teaching yourself?

W. I’m teaching on a very similar course to the college course I did before my degree, the BTEC in Music Technology. I teach a variety of different subjects on the course, but essentially I teach writing and recording of music using the Logic software program. It’s quite cool coming full circle on it, as I really gained a hell of a lot from the BTEC I did. I thought I knew a lot more than I did before I started it, you know? I’d been listening quite intently to electronic music, and you start analysing it – “how are they doing this?” So I’d got as far as: there are drum machines, there are synthesisers, there are effects units, and there is a sequencer. So once I started formally learning about these things it was bringing more and more questions. I just wanted to learn more, and I got loads out of it. I think that’s why the degree was a bit of a bump down to earth, because I think I kind of wanted more of the same, but the next strata up if you like. The whole undergraduate vibe was a very different ballgame!

S. Your most recent production is a tune you’ve done with Headhunter called ‘Jellyfish’, which is the B-side to ‘Ginneys’, on Transistor. Do you want to tell us a bit about that?

W. Well Transistor is Headhunters label, and he has been putting out his own productions, but also some collaborations. So the A-side, ‘Ginneys’, is a Headhunter track and the flip is ‘Jellyfish’. Yeah, it’s kinda cool how it came about. Headhunter has been just popping round to the house a bit, he gigs quite a lot, so he’s often not around, but one evening we started working on a tune. It was a kind of half time thing and it was OK, but I think after listening to it back later Tony wasn’t so keen on it, and I didn’t really want to do it if he wasn’t into it. So it just kind of fizzled out – we left it, and I can’t remember how, but another afternoon I ended up at his place, and I’d never seen his studio before, its really cool, in a nice dedicated room, and he was like, “lets make a tune”.

It’s got a completely different vibe to the one before, if you listen to Jellyfish you’ll know its not like a half time dubstep tune, its one of those ‘what is it’ tunes, you know! And he works so fast man – a lot of collaborating when your working on a tune together, there’s only one computer, so only really one of you can be ‘driving’ at any one point, unless you’ve got a studio that’s maybe got lots of instruments or outboard things. So I was sitting there, and I didn’t want to slow the process, we were still sharing ideas, but he laid down the drum pattern and the bass groove – I think we used some of my sounds, but he programmed that groove. So I was sitting there thinking that I didn’t want to get in his way, but I didn’t wanna feel like I haven’t done much apart from just gone, “yeah, that’s wicked, yeah!” I had the laptop with me, so I thought, well I can just jam along at the same time. So while he’s in loop mode, just trying stuff, he started adding a chord thing, which gave me a few ideas, so I got the headphones on and worked out the key it was in, and just started jamming. So within ten or fifteen minutes I started to get some things together, and I was like, “right, what do you think of these” and he was like, “yeah man, we can definitely get those in there and make it work”. So I worked on them a bit more and bounced them all off, and they ended up in the tune – we just rolled it out and that was that, and I’m really happy with it in the end.

S. So have you got any other stuff in the pipeline in terms of upcoming releases?

W. Yeah, I don’t really wanna say too much about the labels and stuff because it’s not concrete, but there’s a couple of tunes I’ve made that, depending on a suitable B-side, I think will hopefully see the light of day on a label that you’ll be familiar with. Every time I start something, I’m always trying to do something different, even though they probably come out sounding similar. I think I end up in different places a lot of the time, so if I do come up with a tune somebody likes, it’s quite rare that I’m going to have something that will fit for the flip. So that’s what I’m working on at the moment is trying to get something, you know, not just “ah, here’s a B-side”.

S. Finally, one of your tracks ‘Blip’ has recently been featured on Fabric 53, by Surgeon. He’s primarily known for his tough dense techno, although he has been playing a lot UK bass music in his sets for a few years now. So on this mix we’ve got techno from Robert Hood, Ancient Methods, and Surgeon himself, mixed up with stuff from the likes of yourself, Ital Tek and Scuba. You also played at the Freerotation festival in the summer, which showcases a range of electronic music, but definitely has a base in house & techno. With all this cross pollination going on, are you finding your music being influenced by techno, or any other styles, particularly at the moment?

W. Yeah, going to Freerotation with yourself and all the Bristol gang, it was a real eye and ear opener in a lot of ways. First of all it was cool just hearing more 4/4 based music loud, you know? I’ve been played things before and listened to it at home, but I’ve never really gone and sought out a techno DJ per se. With funk, hip hop, drum n bass, and rave – I’ve always liked break beats of some description, and I think I’d maybe unfairly written off anything 4/4 based in the mix for more than a portion of time. I felt, “OK, I’m gonna tire of that groove quite quickly”, but hearing this stuff loud I felt so dumb – of course it’s gonna be different, they’ve got different bass lines or different grooves, the 4/4 thing is almost like it just ties the whole thing together. All the experimentation, often, is going on around it, and hearing it loud it was like, “Wow! OK”. So naturally you start making parallels with things you like in other music, and maybe what I’ve been trying to do in mine, and I guess I just realised – I think even talking to you about it man, I’ve been making techno influenced stuff without even realising it! I mean, I’ve been listening to bits and bobs for years, but I never actively sought it out – everybody knows about the Detroit story and the Chicago story, and I’ve got a lot of respect for it, but I never got round to going all the way back and checking the roots.

I like to think I’m still trying to bring in influences in my music from lots of different places. Even with guitar based stuff, sometimes I’ll be listening to a drummer do a fill or something on a rock tune, and I’ll think it’s pretty cool, and I wont necessarily sample it, but I’ll approximate it. With a techno record it might be, not even necessarily a riff, but just a sound, finding something really unique, and wondering what it’s comprised of. And like a lot of a time when your coming up with a sound, you’ve got a sound in your head, and you try and approximate it, knowing full well your never going to replicate it, but via the process you end up with something unique anyway.

S. Will, it’s been great, thanks so much for your time.



For more info check out Gatekeeper’s MySpace page.


Simon Twine.

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