Pioneering is probably an attribute given too easily to labels nowadays, but that is certainly not true of Macabre Unit digital! From helping to shape the Grime sound in the early 00's the label then went on to forge a path for the Dubstep sound to break through with their darker, heavier releases. Now one of the standard bearers for the deep dubstep sound, if you enjoy your 140bpm music, then M.U.D deserve your props and no one from the M.U.D team deserves more props than label manager and one of the most highly regarded producers in the scene Demon! We caught up with the main man to discuss his latest release from up and coming duo DyAD as well as asking about the 2 beastly free tracks that he will be giving away! Oh and not settling with that there is also a killer 30-minute mix for your listening pleasure.
Hi Demon, thanks for taking the time to chat to us, how was your summer and are you looking forward to the cold dark knights we have ahead of us here in the UK?
Hi guys! My summer was very good, we actually had some real heat over in the UK for once which was a bonus! but of course... the cold nights are always welcomed, I think I can speak for many a producer here that the dark cold English weather is the reason we have so much great music around us, rubbish weather equals productivity.
For those uninitiated with all things Macabre Unit please tell us who you are and what you do.
Ok, my name is Raff Di Renzo aka Demon / Macabre Unit / Nurve, I produce music, DJ & run my label 'Macabre Unit Digital'. I started out as a founding member of Macabre Unit alongside my long time good friend and partner in crime 9er, as time went on I evolved as a producer, trying different things and different sounds, that’s where the Demon name come into play, I have always been known as Raff Demon or Raffa Demon due to dark sounding music I’ve always been into, so it only seemed a natural move to take that guise on full time when I started to really take my own sound in a different (darker) direction. And my most recent guise 'Nurve' was set up in 2014 when I was signed off work with sciatica and back problems (hence the name). I have a good connection with Pinch and he's always supported my music whether it be under the unit or demon guise so I thought it would be a good idea to start making music aimed at him, it worked out well, the first Nurve track I ever made 'wrong number' got signed instantly and ended up being the A side to my debut Tectonic release later on that year. Happy days.
Most if not all of your music and the music on M.U.D could be described as cold and dark do you find the winter months more inspirational? Do your bookings go up during that period?
The weather doesn't affect my taste or my ear for music, it could be the most beautiful summer's day outside and I'll still be listening to some classic Doc Scott on Metalheadz or some Nico on no u turn. But yea the winter times are most definitely productive. Bad weather makes me feel calm as a human in general, so naturally that will reflect on anything I'm doing musically. As for bookings yes I am more active either side of the summer, the festivals kind of soak up everything around the summer time and if you’re involved with them you will remain active, if not... Its holiday time for a while.
What started your path to becoming a producer/DJ/Label manager and who were inspirational figures along the way?
I've always been surrounded with DJing, my dad was a disco DJ from the time I was born up until my early teens and growing up I was always helping him out with gigs... he will say he is the reason why I do what I do now and the reason I don't do too bad off it neither, I let him have that lol.. Although his mixing ain't a patch on mine :). I was a drum & bass kid, still am I suppose so a lot of my influences come from that area of the industry. As a DJ I would have to say Andy C & Mampi swift, there mixing is an art form. As for production I have many but the stand out ones are Kemal & Rob data (Konflict), Ed rush & Optical, Dillinja, Noisia, Tech itch, Dom & Roland to name but a few. As a label manager there is only one label to look up too and aspire to be like and that's Metalheadz, everything about that label talks loud!
Your latest release, Cyclic Ep which is currently exclusive to Juno is from the seriously talented up and coming duo DyAD, who have recently had success in our dubstep charts on labels such as Abyssal Audio. The label has also served as a great launching pad for artists such as Feonix. Is it the M.U.D mantra to sign up and coming talent rather than releasing music from the same established names?
For me it’s all about the music when signing an artist or track, it could be an established artist or up and coming it makes no difference, it’s very tricky to get established artists to work with you as they already have their own movements happening and unless your like really close friends or are willing to offer silly money there's no point chasing them. Plus I’ll be honest... The MUD sound is its own, and I don't really hear any established artists really even making that sound rite now, so naturally I keep my ears close to the ground and make sure that I let people know my door (inbox) is open for music anytime, I have my scouts on patrol all the time also, like a footy manager.
A lot of fans will have been introduced to Macabre Unit through the pioneering Grime days, with many legendary Sidewinder sets and genre defining production, do you feel that yourself and the rest of the people involved with the label get the credit you deserve for your role in shaping the scene?
I think the people who need to know, know. The grime scene have the utmost respect for the contribution we gave to grime and still continue to do so. I recently started making a lot more grime again after speaking with Logan Sama, he told me get on it... It will be welcomed with open arms, so I did just that and I’ve been all over 1xtra week in week out with various songs as of late. So yea I feel I get we get the credit we deserve if that's a justified way of putting it, although I am a strong believer of 'you're as good as your last song' so I don’t revel in anything, it’s flattering but I’m always moving forward.
With Grime music now back in vogue, what are your thoughts on the scene and how do you see the Grime scene moving forward? Can it build more sustainable success?
I think it’s about time grime got the props it deserves, the artists have stuck true to their craft its paying off massively for some. The support these grime artists have for each other is immense, I’m quite sure that it plays a big part in its success, and the big boys still interact with the up and coming artists, support them, guide them, that's so important and one of the main reasons everyone supports each other, end of the day these youngsters look up to big artists, and they will act how they see there inspirations act. If it's cool for them to do it... so will they. Lead by example if you're in a position of power is what I say.
Any plans to release Grime instrumental EP’s or mixes in the near future?
Yea we've currently got a 10" vinyl release out which features 2 old tracks and 2 new tracks on a label called 'Ease & Sekkle', that's actually done really well, so we've lined up another one, they are available from various stores including Redeye records, big up to J.Robinson on that move. I also have a 5 track digital ep dropping on DJ Cables Triangulum records sometime in November I believe. I’ve had a couple of one off tracks drop on a couple of compilations too.
From the early days of Grime, the dark and dank M.U.D sound then went on to shape Dubstep music into the sound we know today. When you began forging your Dubstep sound, did you ever expect the scene to become such a commercial and global success? What are your thoughts on the Dubstep sound/scene at the moment?
The rise of dubstep was outrageous, I don't think I’d ever seen a genre have so much hype around it and for it to go so global crazy in such a short space of time, but of course with that, some went onto greater things... whilst most were left with the hangover, see that's why I stuck to my guns with it all, yea so what if I still get up and go to work every day to earn my real money, but doing that has allowed me to remain true to my sound and not have to switch things up to pay the bills. If I had to do that I wouldn’t bother no more... That’s not what this is about for me. The dubstep sound at the moment has gone back to almost a roots sound, with all due respect it's not really my cup of tea... However watching all these labels follow the trends is kind of cool, more room for us to push our sound, the future sound.
Can you envisage the Dubstep sound splintering off into separate genres in a similar way to Garage in the 00’s?
It already has, from our Neuro type sound to the roots sound, to the chilled progressive stuff right through to the wonky wobble tear out stuff. Because dubstep allows producers to go as technical as they like so having dubstep splintering off into separate genres as you say works well. A lot of dubstep has the same fundamentals as dnb when it comes to production.
As lots of Dubstep labels have begun to prioritise digital over vinyl, do you have any preferences in the way that your music is consumed?
Lol it's funny you should ask me that, my Facebook fan page was the host to many a rant about people sacking off digital to just do vinyl. I have no preferred format... It’s the music I'm concerned about. I can't get my head around people who worship vinyl. I get it... physical format and stuff. Something to hold. Having someone invest in you and you're music. But it's a piece of plastic with something far more important on it... Music. Let's not forget that. Release it on all formats if you can don't cut yourself short because it seems in a bizarre way a cool thing to do.
…and when it comes to DJ’ing are you a vinyl or a digital man? What is your ideal DJ set up?
I grew up using 1210s... the CDJs we had back then we're let’s say, a bit basic to say the least, so technics we're all we had. I really like CDJs and MIDI controllers though. I do my studio mixes on a midi controller but would never use one in the club, I can't be doing with that setting up the laptop and moving this and that to play my set so it's CDJs all the way in the club's. However nothing will ever beat the quartz timed technics direct drive.
Your production masterclass videos on YouTube are seriously informative and inspiring and you also offer a mastering service through 6BFS Digital Mastering. Would you say that sound engineering is where your passion lies?
I'm a perfectionist, and I'm quite ocd with the whole music production thing so yea engineering for me works well, my idea of fun is getting hold of someone's track with a bit of a dodgy mixdown and cleaning it all up... Dissecting it almost. I'm that bad that I already know what to deduct from a track/channel just by listening to it once, I'll know exactly what's causing the problems and how to fix it. Some may even go as far as to call me a geek.
Where is the most exciting place for you to DJ at the moment, where offers the most energy and enthusiasm?
I've been blessed enough to have seen a lot of places around the world with my DJing. But hands down my home town of Bedford wins every time, I recently played there for my good friend Nomine's album launch and I can safely say the roof nearly came off. Very humbling indeed.
Any final thoughts and shout outs?
Shouts out to all my unit family, M.U.D soldiers NDread Biome Beezy Dyad Feonix Occult Saibot 207 Kodin, 9er, Capo, Lee Pinch, Mumdance, Caski, Kromestar, Logan Sama Cable ... There's a lot more of you, you know who you are x
And remember... it's all about the music. Keep it real... remain true to yourself and your art and aim for the stars
JUNO DOWNLOAD GUEST MIX WITH DEMON
"Demon (aka Unitboy) & DyAD have both compiled a chart for us - with Demon focusing on his Top 10 favourite tunes that have been released on the Macabre Unit Digital label, and DyAD introduce us to a plethora of music that have influenced their productions"
Faze Miyake has been blowing our speakers out with his Rinse residency, and his releases on Woofer Music haven't been half-bad either! However, he lands on the Rinse label with a special appearance, his first LP composed solely of his own productions. Much like the music that he plays on his radio time, his self-titled debut album is made up of UK grime hybrids, a selection of thirteen tunes that span every corner of the grim game, backed by a few special vocal appearances from the likes of Little Simz, Inga Copeland, and Izzy Brooks, along with others. Fire.
Rising up through the ranks of the digital dubstep world, Dyad are a Reading-based duo with a score of high-end productions behind them and now they've made their way on to Macabre Unit's own label with a gnarly four-track EP of enhanced floor wreckers for those who like their beats sci-fi. From the low-riding punch of the title track through to the high-flying tech-step tones of "Fear is A Choice", the production levels never dip for a moment while balancing a necessary menace with some pleasant melodic ingenuity. Check "Incept" for a more raucous grind-out, while "Resist" brings some choppy sounds to the table but really all four tracks come from the same mentality of dynamic, face-contorting dubstep for the modern age.
Brighton's Moony is back on top form, delivering yet more of his trademark slick productions on the Smoker EP. The title track is sprightly and light choppy future-step, whilst "On It beautifully fuses bassy garage with smooth 90s RnB. Elsewhere "Anti Chamber" is skippy speed-garage at its finest and "Chambers" is some pretty out-there hip-hopera. However the highlight if this release is definitely "Swimming" which is a mesmerizing blend of euphoric electro-house and rolling bassline swagger.
London's shadowy bass maestro Zomby lands on the above-the-line XL Recordings with 8 hybrid tunes, a blend of pure experimentation from the lower end of the sound spectrum. "Neon" is a wonky, bleeped-out jam, whereas "Bloom" is more of a contemporary hip-hop instrumental. On the B-side, "Peroxide" takes a slow tempo and dabs plenty of gunfire over its groove, and "Xenon" prolongs that vibe into an even more melancholic bundle of sounds and beats. On the B-side, Surf I" and "Surf II" are the housiest things we've heard from Zomby, but although many producers seek to imitate the 4/4, our main man does it his own way. "Slime" is a wonky bit of stutter-house with clear grime influences, and "Acid Surf" is a bumping lick propelled forwards by gargling swirls of 303 delight. Strong.
Project Allout mainstay Moony get busy once again. Following his UKG-primed "Smoker" EP comes his signature rewind bomb "No Good". If you've seen him play this year, you'll know how much damage this doe as it skips and stutters from moody halftime to rapid two-steps and back again. For added murkery jump straight on the VIP. All good!
Notixx made his debut on Dub Police earlier this year with three wobbly dubstep mutants, and he's back on the imprint with yet more gutter filth for the dancefloor. "Space Stomp", as the title implies, is a slow-paced growler for the peak time, "Re Up" is more of a bridge tune or simply for speaker playback, and "Tipping Point" features the vocals of Grimeace amid those sullen waves of sound and broken twists of drums.
Dubstep wreckhead Phiso drops his second EP since his debut on Acid Rain, this time coming through on the Rottun Canada imprint with a bunch of fired-up gun-shots that'll wreck havoc in the dance. The title track "Wasteland" is a real nasty piece of work with its siren wobbles, and the same can be said for "Impulse" along with "Game Corner" and "Payback". If you're into your gnarly shiz, you've hit the jackpot.