The Reasons Behind NonRev

Deep jungle from Wales.

While many of us spend hours bashing our heads against the desk/keyboard/wall trying to squeeze out the vision we have in our minds, others have their vibe, process and their workflow down to such a delicate art, they can shred through tunes and articulate their ideas in a matter of hours.

Abergavenny-based NonRev could be considered one of the enviable latter types. If you’re a DJ on his radar, and he’s feeling generous, it’s not unheard of to receive zip folders of over 20 new tracks. On the monthly!

In fact even since launching his NonRev project in 2022, he’s released over 70 tracks, including his recent second album Behind All Things Are Reasons on Omni Music. Tapping into a very defined and stylised atmospheric jungle sound, NonRev music come from a unique place. He’s navigated some of drum & bass music’s most brutalist musical terrains for years as Fortitude, resident of the famous Therapy Sessions, now he’s fully focused on a much more specific signature while developing a deeply personal alias.

It’s a signature we can check right here with his hurricane take on Swords, a 1999 banger from pioneers Leftfield.

Too hot for a legit release, we copped it for a cheeky one. It’s yours to download right now.

Time to cut to the chase and find out where NonRev is at right now…

Mister NonRev, what has this interview interrupted?

Well right now I’m on a coach to London to go see Fever Ray tonight. So this is a good way to kill three hours haha.

Ah I thought you’d be cooking or making a tune. You’re very prolific!

I just love making music. It is one of my favourite things to do. I’ve played guitar since I was 15 and was singing in bands etc so I’ve always been very musical. Prior to starting NonRev I spent over a year completely rethinking the way I produce and so I now have my studio workflow and set up in a place where I can sit down and have a pretty much finished track in a few hours. All the technical leg work has been done so now I just focus on creating. Plus, I work from home two days a week which allows me to fiddle on stuff in the background…hehe.

Let’s address your album Behind All Things Are Reasons. Tell us the reasons behind it…

My first album on Omni (Beyond Human Systems) was basically a snapshot of the first wave of about 50 tracks I made when I started the NonRev project. Chris (Eschaton, label owner) is always really supportive and allows me to send LOADS of tracks for him to wade through. I had done two eps since the first album and so felt like a good time to have another longer snapshot of where the project is a year and a bit in. Hopefully it shows the progression in me as an artist!

My current favourite tune on the album is Took My Love. Moving stuff! Love how confidently unhurried you are with it. The beats don’t even kick in until 1m33s. Does this stand out as a persy to you or have any special stories?

I’m a big fan of long, cinematic intros and so a lot of my tunes including Took My Love have these really ambient starts with hardly any beats or percussion. Sometimes I screw myself cos there’s no hats in the intro and so I think it might put some people off mixing them. But a lot of these are just as designed to be listened to in the car or on headphones in a dark room as they are played in a club. Took my Love specifically was made after listening to loads of Wax Doctor and working on a really nice Apache variant as it’s not a break I use often so it was fun to experiment. My personal favourite on the album at the moment is probably Ease and Peace. I like how you mentioned yours as I’m always intrigued by which tracks resonate. The tracks I always think are my best, no one ever likes and vice versa.

Classic. Any special stories hidden among the tracks on here?

I don’t think there is a ‘special story’ as such but in all of my music there are always little hints and nods to all kinds of stuff that I’m into. Easter Eggs if you will, lol. The album name itself comes from a line spoken by the Log Lady in one of the Twin Peaks episode introductions (There are actually LOADS of Twin Peaks references in my tracks). The spoken vocal in I Am Here should be obvious to anyone from my generation and there are always samples, sounds, track titles that if you know… you know haha. It’s like a secret society (my first EP on Omni music and another Twin Peaks reference)

There are important reasons behind your NonRev project aren’t there? Tell us everything you’d like the world to know about these reasons…

NonRev was essentially created as an homage to my Father who passed away suddenly in 2021. We found out he had cancer the day after my birthday and then a week later he was gone… My sisters and I spent three days in the hospital room with him at the end. This was during covid as well so also thanks to the hospital staff who let us be with him.

NonRev is even his name Vernon backwards. Initially I had a really hard time dealing with the loss (still am if I’m being honest) and so I retreated into making music and started to yearn to create something beautiful to balance the darkness I was feeling. My dad always supported me growing up as a musician in bands as much as he loved to take the piss haha. My parents divorced when I was 10 and I spent every weekend with my dad so I got a lot of my musical influences from him and in turn I got him into a lot of music such as Kosheen and some more mainstreamy drum and bass. I like to think he’d tell me he thought the NonRev stuff was shit and then listen in private and secretly love it haha. My first album even has a secret track only available via bandcamp which is a remix of an old Clannad track that he loved.

That’s beautiful. RIP Vernon. Huge respect for sharing that. Tell us about your previous alias Fortitude…. That took you around the world didn’t it?

Indeeeeed. I spent about 10 years producing and DJing some mad heavy vibes as Fortitude and eventually ended up playing in I think …. 12 or 13 countries in Europe as well as Let It Roll and Boomtown. I played my first Therapy Sessions in 2011 in Bristol which brought me to the attention of my partner of almost 12 years; soul mate, ride or die and Queeeeeen of Darkside D&B, Robyn Chaos. Later I became a resident DJ for Therapy events in the UK and then eventually Europe. Some crazy parties in some crazy locations with a lot of crazy people. ‘Twas a wild decade for sure haha.

What were the reasons behind the move from ferocious D&B to the deep atmospheric jungle you’re crafting today?

Prior to Covid lockdowns etc I had become very disillusioned with the hard D&B scene and D&B in general as it was in one of those ‘everyone is only listening to other D&B’ phases where all feeling and external influence gets sucked out and the scene becomes a self emulating circle jerk.

I had been listening to loads of 90s Hip Hop and 90s jungle mixes and Good Looking albums on Youtube and so I got obsessed again with drum breaks and dirty samples and the whole aesthetic of these styles. I made a lot of like lofi downtempo demos over the course of the first covid lockdown and put out a concept album (A Town Called Hell) that no one heard but then had the epiphany of doing basically lofi hip hop at 165bpm. Eventually that became the foundation of the NonRev sound.

Nice. You worked with Voyager recently with your Sonder EP, tell us more about this experience!

STILL CAN’T FUCKING BELIEVE IT LOL. So yeah for anyone who doesn’t know, Voyager aka Pete Parsons was the engineer on an absolute shedload of the early 90s jungle tracks. He worked with everyone from DJ Crystl to DJ Rap to DJ Trace and he basically helped define a lot of the sound of jungle in the early days and also released some incredible music of his own… Including two seminal tracks – Apollo on Good Looking and Hypersleep on R&S.

Hypersleep is genuinely one of my favourite pieces of music of any genre. I knew that he had set up his own label Eternal Soul in 2021 and I really liked the track Aurora he put out as first release. I also knew that he was looking for submissions so eventually I made friends on Facebook and asked if it was ok to send him some music to check out. When he said yes in my mad panic I think I just sent him a link to all of my dropbox which at the time was about 50 demos haha. I was driving home from work a week or two later when he messaged me to say he was really feeling some of the tracks.

After almost crashing the car I got myself together and we started to chat back and forth about music etc and he stressed he was definitely going to be keeping an eye on me and to keep sending music. He probably regretted that as at that point I was making 4-5 tracks a week which I proceeded to send him. Eventually there were a few tracks that he was really into and so he gave some advice on structure, mixdown etc and we eventually got all 3 to a place where we both felt they were as strong as they could be. Initially it wasn’t planned for vinyl but I think once the distributor heard the tunes they felt it was a strong enough ep to go for pressing. It was supposed to be out last year but pressing delays etc pushed it to this year which to be fair worked better in terms of timing as I wasn’t as much of an unknown when it eventually came out haha. I’m really happy with the EP and loooooove that everyone has been sending me pictures of their copies!

Voyager isn’t the only pioneer / inspiration you’re working with is he? What else can you reveal about other collaborations or projects you have with the OGs right now?

Yes so amazingly and completely randomly I am currently working on a few tracks with Sonic / Jasper Byrne. I was a huge fan of Sonic’s solo music and his label Space Recordings back in the 2000s and obviously the Accidental Heroes and Sonic and Silver stuff as well (check out the Mixmag Disco n Bass mix). He’s been doing some really interesting music over the last decade as well as video game design. I had been checking out the stuff he was posting on Instagram where he plays sax and guitar etc and loads of it resonated with my love for shoegaze and ambient indie rock. He was into the Eternal Soul release and commented about collaborating on something which I obviously jumped at. We chatted and bonded over a shared love of Silent Hill 2 and shoegaze and I sent him a load of demos and he was really into some so I sent him the parts. At the moment we have 3 almost finished. I genuinely think what we’re making is something sort of new and exciting as it incorporates elements of Jungle, shoegaze, electronica, grunge, Jazz, Blues, TWIN PEAKS…. He likes to call it ‘Dream Jungle’ ™ . Really interested to see where this pairing ends up!

Not sure if I can mention this but I am also currently working on a track for one of the old legends from the Moving Shadow days and let’s just say if there’s any…. Justice…. It’ll get a release! I also have a few tracks finished with local beatsmith TRC2 and have just finished first collab with Chris Eschaton at Omni for a collab slash remix ep

Sick! What other notable support have you had since starting the NonRev project that’s either surprised or inspired you?

I have to give a shout to everyone who has released, purchased, played, posted about or enjoyed my music. It is massively appreciated and far too many people to list. Thanks to all the labels who have released my tracks so far and labels who have shown interest for future releases. Have to give love to Dave Dj Trax who has been really supportive throughout and was the first person to play any NonRev stuff. He played an early track of mine Conditioning on his Jungletrain show which lead to it being signed for vinyl by Kingsize for Time Tunnel Recordings which was my first ever vinyl release. I still send Dave stuff regularly and he still promotes my tunes in his mixes. Have to also give love to my buuuuddy Alicia Alley Cat, who has always been supportive of my music, for regularly playing my demos on her Kool Fm show and always saying nice things haha. Also big kisses to Lubi and Electra at Headspace Cardiff for giving me my first gig as NonRev and for just being amazing people.

Tell us about your edit of Leftfield’s Swords!

I’m a big leftfield fan and have always loved this track since I first bought Rhythm and Stealth on release in ‘99 and it’s one of those where I always meant to do a dnb remix of it. It’s basically at the right tempo already. At some point last year I started messing around with cutting samples from the tune and putting an amen under it and it worked really well. I sent it out to a few people but didn’t really do much with it but I heard it dropped by Lubi J at a Headspace night and it sounded really good so I sorted the mixdown a bit and finished it up so now it will be available for eeeeerrrrrbody. Download it because it’s a heartfelt homage to a classic by one of the most influential electronic acts and you’ll enjoy it whether you’re a dj or not.

Gotta ask a Welsh question as there’s so much exciting electronic music coming from Wales right now… What challenges face Welsh artists right now and how could things be better?

I think like most places there’s an issue in Wales with venue costs, decent sized venues etc and niche nights struggling unless they try to appeal to everyone. Good old cost of living crisis eh?! Also where I live in Abergavenny there have been one or two small festivals run by English brands who throw events in Wales but then don’t book any Welsh acts. So that can be frustrating to see. As you say there’s so much talent in Wales but a lot of organisers seem to ignore that completely.  The Welsh dnb scene isn’t always taken very seriously imo despite a lot of great artists coming out of Wales and lots of big events being thrown in our beautiful countryside. In the last 12+ years of playing god knows how many huge shows all over Europe I’ve only played in my local scene maybe 2 or 3 times.

That’s criminal! What comes next?

I have a few digital releases already planned for the next few months including my ‘dreamstep’ EP coming on Codename Records, a mini LP ‘Children of the End’ on Metius Music, an EP for Subtle Audio and then another vinyl ep due out probably early next year on Sonic Force. Lately I’ve been using lots of guitar on tracks so expect some more experimental stuff and more ‘Dream Jungle’ ™ with Sonic!

After playing an hour of my own tunes at the Codename Records takeover at Planet Wax in Jan I definitely want to start taking the emotional rollercoaster that is my music on the road so starting to push and look for gigs (promoters get in touch!!) Nice one Dave for the chance to ‘splain myself and thanks for putting this bootleg out!!

Download Leftfield – Swords (NonRev Bootleg)




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