We got the chance to sit down with drum & bass legend Emperor following the release of his new ‘Shadow’ EP
When the word Neurofunk is mentioned, it’s difficult not to think of anyone but the DnB heavyweight that is Emperor. To fans of the big man it must feel like Christmas already as he releases his brand new Shadow EP on the Neosignal imprint and my is it a stomper. Showing off every aspect of his production skills, Emperor brings a range of immaculate drum loops and filthy bass synths to the table and continues to impress us here at MA.
The first track on the EP and the one you’ve more than likely heard already, ‘Defect’. A powerful a glitchy neurofunk masterpiece, featuring strong snare hits and fantastically produced synths, it will have you up on your feet within 30 seconds. The track begins softly with some orchestral-like build up before teasing the rush that is about to overcome. In the background, you can hear a vocal clip that doesn’t make any sense until the drop and just as ‘malfunction’ is uttered we are thrown into the unknowing world of Emperor production.
The bass kick and synth are practically perfect as usual, creating that resounding ‘donk’ throughout the song but particularly for us it’s the gritty synths that make the song. Especially around 1:55 into the track when he pulls out some sort of noise you’d expect to hear in a horror movie and it is wicked sick. The tune continues to jump between beats and synths making standing still almost impossible and finishes off with brilliant progression and a smooth switch up of sounds to make the track interesting. More like this please!
The next track is the title track, ‘Shadow’, again beginning with a perfectly harmless building, dipping noises in and out of the background, easing the listening in and testing the water before something magical happens. The track drops and the energy instantly switches. Beautiful work on the drum track means the listener is constantly moving to the beat and pulling the erroneous bass faces. The energy that Emperor manages to bring to the production of DnB is truly something to behold.
The track switches up around half way through the first drop and switches to a lulling half build up before throwing everyone back into full force and yet another switch up in the track. The synth in this section particularly sounds like the song is being thrown from one end of the room to the other and obviously, the bigger the sound system the bigger the throw. Looking forward to seeing Emperor drop this at his next festival in particular.
‘Calypso’ is the third track on the EP and only very slightly different to his usual production. This track begins with a rolling drum track and some seriously eerie background noises to fill. As the track drops in, the absolutely wonderous synth he has created lifts up an octave and delivers the listener into full bass hands and continues to rise! The energy is still there in every beat however ‘Calypso’ brings a much deeper and darker vibe to the EP and the sheer eeriness of this track makes it perfect.
Having Emperor prove the range of his production capabilities like this and like he has done many times before makes for real quality listening but wait. Just wait for that second drop. As he brings the track back in for round two you hear the switch up almost immediately. The rising bass turns into a flurry of heavy bass wubs and kicks the entire track into a whole new level of grittiness. There is a lot of appreciation needed for production of this height and we tip our hats to you sir.
Rounding the EP off to a heavy end is ‘Tireless’. A powerful techy release to give this EP the final tweak of perfection. The track begins with a high pitched repetitive synth that lasts almost the entire track, giving it that feeling of being stuck in a dirty bass filled loop and reliving the same power from the track every time a new drop swings around. The drum track starts off as a glitchy collection of kicks and snares to put the listener off balance but still in the mood to skank.
Half way through the second drop Emperor switches the drum track that recognisable kick/snare combo to deliver a brand new sensation, allowing the listener to run with the track and truly come to terms with the flow and dirtiness of the bassy synths. Before loading the onslaught again, he brings the track down to a techy breakdown including that repetitive and slightly unnerving noise to put the listener in a trace, ready to be kicked into 6th gear one more time.
Emperor is figuratively killing the scene at the moment with almost every release he brings out being absolutely as filthy and impressive as the last. If you like what’s on this EP you’ll more than likely want to check out his recently released ‘Dispositions’ Remix EP including remixes from names as big as Phace, Ivy Lab and even a special and beautifully made unplugged version of his track ‘Made of Light’. Keep an eye out for Emperor’s events near you this year, he is not one to miss, we promise, and we were so fortunate to be able to sit down with this drum & bass don to ask him more about the release!
Hello Emperor, it’s an absolute pleasure having you here with us today! What have you been up to since the release of your ‘Shadow’ EP?
Hey! Thank you for having me. Since this EP, I’ve spent all my time playing my new 7 string guitar, and trying not to think about too much dnb! I like to take a break whenever I’ve had a big production streak for a couple of weeks, then I feel refreshed with more ideas when I’m back in the studio again.
The EP is being released on Neosignal Recordings – did you approach this release any differently than your releases on Critical?
In terms of the tracks, I feel like I didn’t necessarily approach them differently; I just felt like these particular tracks would sit right on Neosignal. Not to say that I couldn’t have put this out on Critical, because I could have, but I’ve wanted to release something with Flo (Phace) and Michael (Misanthrop) for a long time now, and it felt right for this EP to be on Neosignal.
We have to say the entire EP is utterly fantastic – the gritty production on the synths really stands out, especially in ‘Defect’ – can you tell us a little bit about the secret to creating such unique sounds?
Thank you! It really means a lot. Most of this EP came about from Serum, after working with it I’ve just been consistently having fun on sound design sessions, which is usually a big battle for me. I find it hard to motivate myself to work with certain VSTs, so to find something that I click with so easily is a god send.
‘Calypso’ is another favourite, and goes far in demonstrating your ability to produce a wide variety of sounds – how does producing a more chill track like that compare to writing some of your heavier tunes?
Although I wouldn’t really say it’s a ‘chill’ track, I do see what you mean. When working on Calypso I was more focused on the feel of the track, rather than just thinking technically all the time. It’s all dictated by mood, most of the time I’m not consciously thinking, ‘I’m going to write a heavy dancefloor tune!’, it’s just sometimes it ends up that way, and sometimes it ends up being a weird melodic liquid tune!
You’ve worked a lot with Mefjus in the past, what’s it like working with him? Is there anyone you’d like to collab with in the future?
It’s a real experience. I learned a lot from him. I think our studio habits work well with each other for the most part, we contrast a lot in terms of decision making, which you’d think would be a nightmare but it works well. There’s definitely a few people I’d love to work with, and hope to in the future. I’d love to get something on the go with Noisia, but most of us would so I’m not alone there!
Your unplugged version of ‘Made of Light’ in the Dispositions Remixed EP is absolutely beautiful, how much involvement did you have in this version? Do you play any of the instruments yourself?
To be honest, it was 90% SOLAH. Her and a friend recorded it, the label and I loved it. I mixed it all down, but the track was her idea. It is very beautiful.
Thank you so much for your time Emperor, it has been an absolute pleasure! One final question: if you were forced to make an entire EP of a completely different genre of music, what would you choose?
Thank you, once again! I’m actually writing music for a heavy-metal project at the minute, so watch this space!