A soundtrack to an imaginary film.
What marks out Felix Manuel from the hundreds of other UK bass producers that have emerged in the last few years? At the very least we can say with some certainty that few have created an EP as good as Mountains. The 2010 four-tracker for 2nd Drop Records displayed a startling knack for sample manipulation, stringing out hip-hop, dubstep, techno and gabba to form a rich and cinematic whole. Gabba? Yes, gabba. As part of the Yardcore crew on Sub.fm, Manuel became schooled in the quickest of club genres—breakcore, ghettotech, drum & bass—and continues to dabble with tear-out styles during his far-reaching DJ sets. Jazz is a further touchstone of Manuel's sound, particularly (or perhaps specifically) in terms of his recorded output. His 12-inches for On The Edge and Smokin' Sessions to the aforementioned 2nd Drop, have all been based on judicious samples, although Manuel is just as likely to borrow from classical music or an overlooked soundtrack.
That latter source is particularly pertinent here: in approaching RA.307 Manuel set-out to compose a "soundtrack to a movie that's not been made," freeing himself from playing to an imagined dance floor in favour of creating an atmosphere through tracks by Chris Watson, Herbie Hancock, Untold, Marcel Dettmann and plenty of his own matertial.
What have you been up to recently?
Working hard and moving house. My record collection is a total mess, but on the plus side it now has a room to itself. I can't wait to get it sorted.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I started by recording a live mix in Ableton Live at my flat in south London. I then spent a couple of weeks chopping it about and adding extra samples: remixing it and adding field recording atmospheres and film samples. I wanted the post-production to really add value. I needed to be doing things that would not be possible in a live setup, like remixing folk tunes into techno and working to an obsessive level of detail.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
It's the soundtrack to a movie that's not been made. I wanted it to set the scene for my own productions rather than showcase how I DJ at a dance. Sound design and incidental music for TV and film is a big influence on me in my productions. Taking this approach freed me up. It allowed me to do a lot of things I'd never get away with on a dance floor, both technically and in the selection.
Mixing for a podcast is totally different to mixing live in front of a crowd. You have the opportunity to create something timeless. It's not about reacting to a place and time and an atmosphere; it's about creating an atmosphere from scratch. If you focus on pulling out all the latest dubplates to come across as cutting edge as possible you end up sounding very "now." I wanted this mix to stay on people's iPods for as long as possible and to linger in the mind. I hope that including tracks from as far back as the '60s, right up to future releases will help. Hopefully I'm playing people something they haven't heard before in a way they've not heard before.
You have a background in DJing breakcore and generally up-tempo styles of club music. Have you given much thought as to why your productions to date have ended up so comparatively relaxed?
My productions are based more around a process than an aim. I've learned to really go with the flow when I'm producing. When I'm in my studio at home I'm in a relaxed setting so I guess it's not so surprising. It wasn't until I let all of my influences into my productions that I started to really get somewhere with them. You can hear a breakcore influence in the Mountains EP I think. The idea for the fast 4x4 kick section in "Mountains Pt.2" came from gabba. I was particularly thinking about the drop in "Way of the Homeboy Pt.2" by Hellfish and Producer.
You appear to favour a sample-based approach to making music. What are some of your preferred genres/time periods to draw upon?
Jazz is my main source. I guess I mainly stick to 1966-76...a little later for European stuff. I've been collecting jazz records for like ten years, I'm really proud of my collection. Classical music and soundtracks are also important starting points for a lot of the ambient and dub sound design in my music. I try to use synths as little as possible but it can be really hard to stick only to samples. I paint myself into a corner. Sometimes I just can't find a source for what's in my head. More natural, acoustic sounds have always appealed to me. Up until I got into techno my main focus in electronic music was always hip-hop, trip-hop and jungle.
Do you get a chance to play any of your own material out?
I always try to get one or two of my own tunes in there. It's annoying that I can't test out new stuff when I'm playing all vinyl. That's something I'm working on: a setup where I play all vinyl apart from a few "live" elements from a laptop. I might have that together by the summer.
What are you up to next?
I've got an LP in the making. Very excited about that. Nearly there, but I've got lots to do still. My next 12-inch is coming very soon, and there's a remix 12-inch on its way too. One track from that's in this mix.