How can a brand-new artist jump on a collabo with hugely respected jungle pioneer Digital before even dropping a single release?
Talk to Tim Clay. A man who’s arrived in drum & bass jungle in a wholesome and unique way.
In many ways Tim is old school; he got into drum & bass at the age of eight and there are videos on YouTube dating back to 2007 of him mixing at the age of 13 (see below).
His sound bites with a timeless old school twist, too; Gritty, unrelenting, high energy hardcore breakbeats with strong jungle influences; he sculpts from the most timeless and brutalist of coalfaces. Big blunderbuss Amens, thunderous Reeses, intoxicating levels of euphoria.
Yet at 29, he is 100% new gen. And, after years of mixing, raving, learning his production chops and sorting his head out, he’s arrived at an inspired point and is ready to present the fruits of years of immersion in the music. .
Tim Clay – Wounded EP is his official debut. Featuring Digital, it’s out on Function, August 18. For now, though, only one track remains officially released: Give The People What They Want. It dropped last month on a 160-themed Function VA and is a mere tease as to what’s to come.
You might even have heard some of it unwittingly. Tim may be new to fans, but not to certain DJs; the venerable Storm has been smashing a dub of Tim’s for well over a year… And it’ll remain a dub for at least another six months.
How has this happened? Let’s talk. You can listen to this ace mix while you do. Foundation fire from a futurist perspective.
I’ve been snooping. This is your debut but on Soundcloud you go back for some time. You’ve been doing old stuff before it was cool!
Haha. I kinda forget about that. It’s been such a long time ago. It’s a weird one. I got into D&B when I was 11, around 2005. Even before that, when I was 8, I got a Bass In Your Face CD for my birthday. I used to love cars and part of that was the big subs in the back. I quickly realised at a young age that bass was something I was really into so I got that CD in 2002. It had a load of jungle and D&B from the time and another CD with a lot of dark garage on it. It was pretty forward thinking looking back but that was lost on me.
I just loved the feeling of bass. I went through the usual phases of music like the Chili Peppers and bands like that. But then I saw an advert on TV for DJ Hype’s Drum & Bass Essentials and that got me properly into it. I was also listening to a lot of Prodigy stuff and used to use an old site called Back To The OId Skool where I learned how everything was all connected from hardcore. So when I got my first set of decks at the age of 12 I was already DJing D&B and old school all the way through.
So you started so young you probably started with vinyl?
I did play vinyl but I also had a really early controller so I did a bit of both.
You’re either the last of the old generation or the first of the new generation. You know what came before but you’re part of the new way!
Yeah. I still love turntables, though! I mix with DVS and vinyl so I have that feel at home. But when I go out and mix it’s on CDJs. Don’t get me wrong, if every club guaranteed a well maintained and fully operating set of 1210s then I’d play DVS every time. I love both.
Productions must have come quickly after? I mean you’re 29 now so how come it’s taken so long if you got into it so early?
I first started making tunes at 15. 2008/9 I got FL Studio and started making the old school stuff. Honestly, old school is pretty easy to work out when you’re a kid. There was a label called Paranoid Recordings and they released tracks of mine on some CD compilations. If you look up DJDeeeNBee on YouTube I’m there, aged around 13. I did a 10 minute mix for DJ Mag.
So that was my first foray into production, I did music tech at sixth form and got a bad grade. It put me off, though. The teacher didn’t have a clue. She was a music teacher and didn’t understand technology or production. It wasn’t what I wanted to do in the class and I’m not the most academic of people. So I did things sporadically. I would do some bits, then stop. I did some footworky bits. I did some exploring. I got into house and garage. Then footwork. I love it all, you know? D&B is my home but I’m happy at a garage rave or a house rave or anything.
But then around 2019 I had a break-up, needed to give myself a proper reboot and some new challenges and started taking things seriously. That’s how I got here now. Did Steve tell you how we linked?
Literally my next question!
Okay so… This is random now. I had a job at Enterprise car rental and I had to call people up about their rentals. This name came up. Steven Carr. The email had the name digital in it. My D&B nerd brain went into overload. Like ‘wow! Is this THE Digital?’ I rang him up and he mentioned Ipswich so I knew it had to be him. I actually asked the garage if I could stay in the office the next day so I could meet him and introduce myself. He comes in and it’s blatantly THE Digital so I play it cool to begin with and asked what he did for a living and he was like ‘I make music’ and then I properly fanboyed him for a bit. I got Phoenix Rising when it came out in 2007 so I was gassed to meet him! We kept in touch. If I saw him at a rave I’d say hi or he’d invite me to a rave. So that was 2016, a few years later my life changes a bit. I was looking to do more in music than be a raver.
You wanted to contribute!
Yeah. I was loving raving. I didn’t start raving until I was 19.
Oh I thought you’d be one of those younger ravers because you knew about it from young and were already DJing?
Yeah it’s weird isn’t it? But Camberley isn’t known for its rave scene and the mates I hung around with in school weren’t into D&B and partying stuff was pretty frowned on. I did the usual teenage thing and went to house parties and normal clubbing. I got to uni after a year of doing odd jobs and wanted more from clubbing. I studied in Portsmouth, I saw DJ EZ at Concrete and that was my introduction. From there I was going to the big clubs around the country. Fabric, Motion etc. So it was a sheltered existence for a while but when I got into it, I really did. It just took me longer.
Love the long game though. Besides the stalking of Digital it’s been a very hobbiest thing until now and you’re not pushing or hurrying it?
Thanks man. Yeah 2019 was when I took it seriously. I needed to reassess who I was and sort my head out. My mother passed away the year before. I’d had a break-up. I had to sort my head out. So I bought a new computer, bought logic and started to get to work. I made a track and sent it to Steve in 2019. He said it was alright, I told him I wanted to release music on Function he said ‘let’s do it’. At first it was pretty intimidating because he’s such a legend but we vibe in the studio.
Let’s big up Steve!
That’s what I mean! We’ve become really good mates and he’s always there for advice in life as well as music. I had a gig in Purple Turtle in Reading and he came down to it. He’d been in Sweden earlier that day. We’re on the same vibe and like the same stuff. It’s great.
Awesome. You’ve also worked closely with Goat Shed and now Subtle Radio with your show Pure Vibes. You’ve been doing lots of stuff anyway!
Yeah. That came through university basically. One of the guys who ran Goat Shed was the guy who ran the D&B society in Portsmouth Uni. Mo Taha. A few years after uni he knew I was serious about this so invited me on to the station. When Goat Shed sadly came to an end he recommended I speak to Subtle. I’ve known them for ages too and did a show on there years ago so that all worked out. It’s good to have an outlet. Having the radio show feels like the missing piece of the puzzle. It gives me an outlet and reason to reach out to other producers I like and say ‘here’s my tunes, what you got?’ I don’t have a very big audience but it’s not about that.
Yeah that can be built up with consistency. You can show support and be reciprocal. It’s nice to have a regular reason to mix and DJ even if it’s not to massive crowds, that’s important for your own relationship with music isn’t it?
Totally. I love DJing but wondered where it was going. Like is it worth just putting that energy into production and trying my best to make that work? But having a regular show has given me such a big passion for it.
I recently argued against a post that essentially said something like ‘if you’re just a DJ, and you don’t produce then I’ve got no respect for you.’ I had to disagree. Production is a huge investment and a much deeper discipline for sure but some people just don’t have the time they can devote to the art of production. They’re two very very different things. What do you think about this?
It’s a difficult one! Before I was producing I was often thinking, ‘Why am I not getting anywhere? I’m so good at mixing, why am I not getting bookings?’ But unless you know the promoters or you have some type of link, establishing a profile and reputation through music has better odds. Technology has enabled more people to mix. It is easier than it used to be so it’s more accessible which means it’s a more saturated market and it’s harder to break through. If you’re getting gigs and you’re making tunes it shows you’re that driven and you’re willing to spend your life making music. There’s no right or wrong answer to it. It’s how things have gone. Sometimes I wonder if I was a DJ in the 90s would I have made it just as a DJ? I don’t know.
It was different! It was much more of a physical hustle with mixtapes but every club or crew had it’s own cliques. It was hard to find ways to earn your stripes.
Yeah I was 5 back then so I guess those politics didn’t affect me haha. I guess even back then the most successful people made tunes and had labels didn’t they? Like Andy C having Ram, right?
So maybe the best answer for that discussion is that most people have to do something in addition to the DJing or the music. Whether that’s run a label or being a promoter. Just being a DJ is harder. But DJs do break through don’t they? I remember DJ competitions on Drum&BassArena. Didn’t A.M.C win a competition and break through that way? I’m not sure if I’ve answered your question but it’s a tricky one for sure.
I think you’ve contemplated it well! My rule used to be ‘never trust a DJ who isn’t moving with the music.’ some DJs might have bear anxiety that night and really not feel comfortable but they’ve made it to the set and they’ll still smash it professionally.
Oh this is an even trickier one mate. Because on the flip side of that, you see videos of a DJ dancing and loving it and then comments cussing them saying they’re showing off or being an idiot or whatever. Come off it, they’re having fun! What do you want?
It’s all personal choice. I’m sure the majority of people out there DJing are enjoying it and if you enjoy the music then you’re likely to be moving to it. Just enjoy it. It doesn’t matter how. If you love it, then embrace that and enjoy that in whichever way you want.
Yes! So what are you enjoying about this moment as you prepare for your debut EP after all these years? This is what it’s been building up to!
Yeah! Having a day job keeps you grounded massively but then suddenly you remember ‘this is everything I’ve dreamt of since I was 12 years old!’ It’s all come at the right time. I’m very excited about what the future will hold. We’ve just released Give The People What They Want then there’ll be my EP and then more releases lined up. Following them, I’m working on a collab with Philth and there’s a collab I’ve done with Steve which Storm has been smashing. We’re going to work out a flip side to that soon. Then next year I’m looking at an album.
Yeah hopefully. I’m not the fastest of producers but I’m not in any hurry to rush things so it’ll come together when it does.
Taking time! What a cool moment to document and get a mix from you!
Thanks! Yeah I’ve been prepared to wait and everything that’s happened so far has been a bonus. It’s an exciting time.