You could forgive Jack Dunning for feeling a fatherly sense of pride, perhaps even a hint of smugness, when he looks around and surveys the post-dubstep landscape. The Leeds based producer and label boss, better known as Untold, has long been at the coalface of this movement – the Hemlock imprint that he co-runs with Andy Spencer unearthed James Blake, after all – yet Dunning has shown himself to be a character who prefers to keep his head down and let the music speak for itself .
Past interviews have shown him to be one of the most lucid commentators on the musical sphere in which he operates, yet it’s his laid back approach that appeals most, refusing to be drawn into hype or fad. With releases on a growing number of influential labels (Numbers, Hessle, Soul Jazz and of course Hemlock) already under the belt, 2010 saw Dunning unveil a side of his sonic palette that predated dubstep by a decade or more, with the superb rave, techno and breaks influenced Stereo Freeze EP for R&S.
We caught up with the producer ahead of his performance at next month’s Bloc festival to discuss his upcoming collaborative album, the SSSSS sub-label and what tracks are ever present in his record bag.
You have an album on the way in 2011 – how long has it been in the pipeline and have you got an idea when it will be released?
The album is a couple of tracks away from completion. It’s a collaboration with another artist who I’ve been working with since around October last year. There will be an EP released soon to introduce the project, and the album will drop later this year.
Ooh, exciting. Your release on R&S last year seemed to bridge the gap between the label’s two eras better than anyone else. It sounded to our ears like you were adapting the classic R&S musical aesthetic to modern sensibilities – was this your intention? And was R&S a big influence on you in the past?
Absolutely. I really wanted to reference some of the sounds from classic R&S releases and put my take on them. The label for me stands for experimentation and quality so it was an honour to be asked to release with them.
You said in a 2009 interview that you “hope dubstep continues to be hard to pin down, disobeys its manifesto, gets called stupid names, gatecrashes other scenes and spikes the punch, elopes and has lots of children”. Come 2011, it’s fair to say it’s done just that. What has the splintering of dubstep been like from your angle, as someone who’s been ensconced in the scene for some time?
It’s been great to be involved in. It’s a wonderful mess that’s really hard to describe without using made-up names. Respect to the writers who have tried to document it as it’s no easy task. I honestly think that we will only get perspective of the importance of the scene in a few years time. It will definitely go down as a classic era of musical experimentation. The tracks I play these days are basically house or electro, but made by producers who came through dubstep. People are writing stuff that sounds like minimal techno, grime, juke etc, but it has a twist, an edge that carries through some of the trademarks of the original dubstep sound – sub bass, darkness, space and unpredictability.
Your label maintains a diverse roster, and the addition of a band, Breton, to the Hemlock stable was interesting. How did they come to release on your label?
We were really impressed with the demo. It wasn’t an issue for us that they are a band and not a producer – we just liked the tracks. It’s opened up a new audience for the label and has had great radio and press support.
“People are writing stuff that sounds like minimal techno, grime, juke etc, but it has a twist, an edge that carries through some of the trademarks of the original dubstep sound – sub bass, darkness, space and unpredictability”
What else have you got coming from Hemlock this year?
We’ve got a Breton remix package with mixes from Girl Unit and Funkineven, and releases from myself and other artists from the roster. We have two releases planned for the SSSSS imprint.
Hemlock was the first label to release material from that chap James Blake. How does it feel to see him go stratospheric in terms of popularity?
We’re really proud of him. It’s a stunning album and he’s just at the start of his career. It’s pretty crazy seeing all the press interest and promotion everywhere but it just goes to show what unpredictable times we live in. It’s great.
That Tribal Guarachero remix of “Anaconda” was cloaked in mystery. Care to shed any light on that for us? Who or what is Tribal Guarachero?
The artist who remixed Anaconda wanted to remain anonymous. The information is out there if you look in the right places. As far as I know Tribal Guarachero is a style of house that is popular in Mexico.
And on that note, was SSSSS launched for that one release or will we see more 12”s this year?
There will be three releases that complete the SSSSS project. The next in the series is by Chicago house legend Maurice Donovan (Ed – more on that here).
You’re playing at this year’s Bloc Festival. What five records are dead certainties to be in your bag at this year’s fest?
This will be my first time at Bloc – I’ve heard it’s a right laugh. I’ve been battering these tracks lately so will most likely drop them at Bloc: Maurice Donovan – Satisfied (SSSSS dub), Untold – U29 (Hemlock dub), Pangaea – Runout (Hessle dub), Blawan – Kaz (R&S dub) and James Blake – Order (dub).
Your Numbers collaboration with Roska hit the shelves late last year by but all accounts had actually been ready to go long before that. How did that collab come about?
The tracks came together really naturally. We didn’t get in the studio – just sent parts back and forth. He did the beats, I did the basslines and fx. I think we finished it in the summer but didn’t sort out a label for a couple of months. Numbers was a perfect fit.
“We were really impressed with Breton’s demo. It wasn’t an issue for us that they are a band and not a producer – we just liked the tracks. It’s opened up a new audience for the label”
You also worked with LV last year – any other collaborations on the horizon?
I picked up a synth I’d lent them the other day and we chatted about getting in the studio again. The “Beacon” track we did together is one of my favourite releases from last year so I hope we can get something together soon. Look out for their album on Keysound – it’s a corker.
What else does 2011 hold for Untold?
I’m touring the US and Canada, and am busy rehearsing the live show for the album project. I’m doing 12 hour days split between producing, Djing and running the label but none of it feels like work. It’s a blessing.