Stepping up, stepping in… Epicentre makes his debut on 1 More Thing with his first mix in over 10 years!
A Manchester stalwart who first emerged on Euphonique’s Subwoofah imprint way back in 2013, Epi’s strong-arm breakbeat signature has been a junglist’s staple long before the genre enjoyed its long-overdue renaissance.
Hitting hard on labels such as Deep In The Jungle, Audio Addict, Nuusic, 24 Karat and Dutty Bass Audio, over the years he’s smothered us in uncompromising, hard-hitting tracks that always pay homage to the original jungle style. It’s a sound you can feel across this short but savage mix that embraces the foundation and plenty of upfront heat.
More recently his touch has been felt in other aspects of the movement as he’s launched his own mastering service. Working across the full electronic music spectrum helping people make their music sound the best it possibly can, Epicentre is always happy to share his knowledge…. And even happier to debunk false engineering myths.
We caught up with him to learn some tips and find out where he’s at. Enjoy the mix and get to know…
It’s mental health awareness week. You’ve been very vocal about the importance of looking after your mental health. How’s your health right now?
It’s good at the moment mate. I have to be careful. I’m my own worst enemy though; I work too hard, I don’t get enough sleep and that’s when I go downhill. So I’ve set notifications on my phone to remind me to come out of the studio and be normal. When I’m looking at them and going, ‘Fuck that, I can’t be bothered with taking a break today,’ that’s when I know I’m going downhill.
Yes! Red flags for me are when I’m lying in bed and going ‘fuck it’ about the gym even though I know it’s going to do me good.
You always feel better for it afterwards don’t you? But you still can’t push yourself.
That’s right. That’s the spiral isn’t it?
It is. And you’ve got to accept that that’s how your brain is and how you’ve got to work around it. You either work hard to make the best of the situation you’ve got, or you end up at the bottom of a bottle or a bag and it’s not the way to do it. You end up worse don’t you?
You do. How’s your relationship with weed?
It’s getting better and that’s something I’ve noticed. When I’m slipping into depression I noticed I’m chain smoking spliffs. I’m disciplined with it now. I give my brain a break and don’t smoke from first thing in the morning. There’s definitely a correlation between people I know who smoke from morning and people I know with shitty mental health! Every one deals with things differently don’t they?
Absolutely. How’s business? You’re an in demand mastering engineer since I last interviewed you…
It’s going really well. I couldn’t ask for more to be honest. I’m well busy and everything is through word of mouth, I’ve not paid for any advertising or anything, it’s all through recommendations and I couldn’t be more thankful. I’d lost my job six months into covid and my mental health wasn’t doing too great and my job was getting pretty toxic. I was getting hammered by the bosses. They were focused on time and money and literally nothing else.
So I had a choice. Find a new occupation and start at the bottom and work my way up again, go to another machinist job or do this. I gave it 12 months and it’s gone really well. I couldn’t be happier with the feedback I’ve had and the relationships I’ve got with artists.
It’s not like I’m making stacks of cash. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to make this work but I’ve never been happier. I’ve got freedom and I’d trade that for a 50% pay cut any day of the week.
Love that. It must give you a different insight into music, too?
Absolutely. I’m discovering some great stuff. Things that I’d never have picked up otherwise. That’s well inspiring. And it’s really interesting how you work with different skill levels. Some people are releasing on top labels, some people don’t know how to export their tune from their DAW. You’ve got to feel it out and understand their level of knowledge before you get too technical on them. But when you do help someone and you hear what they’re making? Wow. Sometimes the people with the least amount of technical knowledge come up with some of the maddest ideas.
Yeah totally. Would I know of these artists?
Probably not. There’s a lot of people out there just making great music for pure pleasure in their bedrooms. There’s a lot of emphasis and focus on trying to make money from something the minute you’re good at it. But there’s a lot people out there not following that or chasing that dream and those are the people who are making the best stuff. They’re not trying to follow a formula or trying to sound like the latest number one Hypedit, they get on with it, get a tune going and sometimes it’s amazing and that’s one of the best parts of my job!
Sick. How has that helped you with your production? Has it taken pressure of you as an artist?
It’s made it worst! My music is now a business card for my services so unless the mix and mastering is impeccable then I can’t put it out because it will reflect on my work. Or I’ll feel it will. However I have started playing with ideas, I’ve done a few collabs but it’s not something I’m chasing as much.
You seem happy with that
Yeah I’m fine with it. My musical itch gets scratched in a different way every day now. The goal was to be in D&B 24/7, not necessarily making it 24/7 but being involved in it.
Contributing in a meaningful way
Yeah a bit like what you do. We’re not at the forefront making tunes and playing big sets but it’s still an integral part of the structure.
You’re very similar to Guzi in this way.
Oh he’s such a knowledgeable guy. He was my crutch when I first came into this. I’d never been self employed or freelanced or anything. But he gave me some great advice and said ‘if people come back ten you’re doing it right’. You can master for anyone and they’ll say it’s good but if they don’t come back then you probably haven’t done the best job you could have done.
Yeah they are. It’s about 90% return rate for me, so I’m happy.
I’m happy with your mix!
Good to hear because it’s my first mix in about 10 years.
It’s not something I put lots of energy into. When I was younger I was all over it. I must have done my 10,000 hours in three years. I put a lot of energy and focus into making the music and the business. I still buy tunes and still have a little mix every now and again but only to practice before I play out. But that mix is something I’ve been playing in the raves which has been going down well and some classics in there.
I love the switch to older stuff!
That’s what I love about jungle. It’s timeless so you can do that. Mixing different eras of D&B is much harder because of how the production style changes. You could play the best old tune ever but if it’s played after something modern that’s highly engineered then it just sounds whack or you lose your crowd.
Yeah unless you’ve got it rolling on top of another modern tune. Where have you been playing recently?
The last gig I did was with the Progress Centre for Hit N Run which was sick. One of the best places I’ve played in a long time. I’m happy playing once a month or so round here in Manchester. The lifestyle of a touring artist doesn’t suit me.
I hear you! What’s exciting you about the music anyway?
There’s a lot of great liquid out there right now and I’d never thought I’d say that because I’m not traditionally a liquid man. Maybe I’m more into it because I’m trying to learn a bit more music theory and bring a little more musical content into my work I don’t know but I’m feeling a lot of musical D&B right now.
Of course I also love the soundsystem style like Shy FX, he’s always one of my biggest inspirations. Voltage’s Dubplate Box thing is amazing, too. That’s going right off and totally up my street.
Yeah! I was thinking about this lately. I saw a post that said, ‘What’s the difference between D&B and jungle?’ And for me the main difference is that you can make other music into jungle but you make D&B as D&B.
Go on. Perfect analogy. That sample based approach and the sound design approach
That’s it. D&B has always been a sound design arms race but it’s very different with jungle. It’s much more vibe based.
Totally! Where you at with your musical lessons?
I’ve had some lessons from Speaker Louis, not going to deep but just learning scales and how to build chord progressions and making sure samples are in key. Little details, you know? I did a few tunes with louis and then had a few lessons but now I know the basics it’s something I’m teaching myself. That seems to be the best way I learn.
Speaker Louis is a bit of a dark horse! I only learnt recently that he’s also in a punk band
Yeah La Phaze! They’re sick. Louis is heavily underrated. He’s a great musician, he makes good tunes, his mixdowns are impeccable, the sky is the limit for that man. He’s into the soundsystem sound too but he’s smashing it.
You’re smashing it! Debunk some myths for me. A lot of people think they’re mastering engineers when they’re really not…
Happily mate! So firstly, high-passing everything is not the silver bullet to headroom you think it is because of the phase issues, it actually increases the volume of your track.
Linear phase EQ, too… Although it can be useful, it can also completely destroy a drum track. If you use heavy linear phase on a drum track you almost hear like a reverse drum before the kick hits and it winds me up every time I hear it.
That sounds like it could be a cool effect in places though?
It can be. And creativity will always prevail over established techniques if it gives you the effect you want but in this case it’s not used for effect, it’s used as a silver bullet for EQ and it shouldn’t be used in that way. Linear phasing has a specific use that it’s really designed for. I’ll probably get a lot of shit for saying this because everyone has their own take on engineering. A lot of people can master their own tune and make it sound decent but it’s a whole different art to mastering other people’s music and making it sound good. People think if it works for them then it must work for everyone’s music but that’s not the gospel.
It can’t be. Everyone is cooking with different ingredients and utensils
I try and teach people or give them a set of tools to draw from. There’s no cut and dry ways and it’s knowing what to do to fix certain issues. At the end of the day it’s all about creating a good sound and if it sounds good, it is good.
Amen to that. And I guess the tools are always developing or changing
Massively. Technology is moving so rapidly, especially for drum & bass because we like to be upfront with what’s going on. Even things we were doing six months ago are outdated now. Funnily enough I shared a memory on high passing kick drums this morning. Someone said, ‘You don’t want to do that, just change the sample.’ But I’d posted that a year ago when everyone putting shit loads of sub bass in the kick drums. Now we’re using much tighter kicks so it’s not so accurate.
I’d have thought a nice bit of sub bass on a kick would be sick?
Nah mate, you’ve got to think about the sub bass of the actual track. If you’ve got sub bass on the kick and the track, and they’re out of phase, they’ll count each other out.
Okay, makes sense. Debunk another thing!
We don’t use true peak limiting in D&B and no one gives a shit about Spotify! Just master the tune to as loud as you want it. If it’s going on Spotify let them worry about turning it down.
Yes! I’d say the same about tune length, too.
I’m glad you brought this up! We’re missing a trick with streaming. I think this format creates space for longer tracks that aren’t club friendly. Like Dub Phizix Winter Songbook. Perfect for home listening, bang it on and get on with whatever it is you’re doing. There’s a market for that in Spotify – longer, more artistic intros, get back into film scores as intros. I certainly want to hear more music like that on Spotify.
I agree. Speaking of Dub Phizix, have you ever thought about being his stunt double? This is all very similar to the convo I had with him last year. Sick studio backdrop, very dry and funny, Manchester vibes. You’re both bapheads. The two of you are cut from very similar cloths
Haha, well thanks for the compliment but there’s a massive gap in talent! He’s one of my all time greats, he’s got his own sound, he’s an excellent engineer and excellent artist of all music. He’s a natural. It’s second nature to him. I take a lot of inspiration from him and I enjoyed that interview you did actually. Watched it twice.
Ah nice one! So what new releases can I hear from you musically in return?
Nah, I’ve got some collabs coming. Something with Guzi and something with a guy in Australia called Poynt Too. But to be honest you’ve caught me just a little bit early as I’m only just getting back on the tunes again. Like I said before, I’ve not be pressuring myself at all so who knows what will happen with it? I just want to make good music and enjoy what I’m doing. Once the music is made and it’s in the hands of the labels I let them do their thing. It’s out of my hands and I can crack on with whatever I’m doing next. No pressure, I’m happy.