We caught up with Paul, one half of the duo, to discuss dnb history, hitting the 20 year mark and the hip hop scene
Total Science’s C.I.A. imprint has grown from strength to strength in recent times, featuring a wide array of artists such as Calibre, S.P.Y and Break to name a few. With tons of new material lined up, they return this month back in full force with a special Various Artists LP to celebrate their 20th year in the game.
The label is celebrating its 20th year, what an incredible achievement. How does that feel reaching that milestone for you guys?
Total Science (Paul): It feels like a really big achievement for us. We started out 20 years ago wanting to have a platform to release the sheer volume of music we were making. We were putting out music on all the labels we wanted to be on but we also wanted to have our own platform so that we had our own creative freedom.
It seems like there are a lot of labels that started at the same time as C.I.A back in 1996, I know Renegade Hardware and Playaz have just celebrated their 20th anniversary. It seems to be the year that the scene really took off doesn’t it?
Yeah there was a lot going on back then! Photek’s classic album Modus Operandi came out that year, which is one of the best DnB albums written, so yes it was a very good period and drum and bass was so young and fresh then.
Looking back to that time period, how exactly did you guys first get into drum & bass? How did it all start for you guys?
Q-Project (Quiff) had his first release in 1992, which was called the Freestyle Fanatic EP His next release in 1993 was the seminal Champion Sound. My first release also came out in 1993 and was called In Effect, These both came out on Legend Records, which was a label we both were involved with alongside Simon aka Gwange and a guy called Ronnie.
We started to get in the studio together in about 1994 under the name Funky Technicians. It was a bit more atmospheric than our pervious solo efforts, think LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Records. We made a tune called “Airtight” which was possibly one of my favourite tunes we’ve ever wrote.
When we got to 1996 our styles had changed and we’d found the music was getting a bit tougher. We felt we needed to change our name up to fit with what we were doing. Instead of making Funky Technicians suddenly be these producers that make tougher tunes, let’s make something fresh. So Total Science started at the same time we started our label. So both Total Science and CIA were 1996 babies!
It’s weird to think that the scene as it is now could be one that people looked back to with high regard.
Yeah, obviously you don’t think that day to day as you're just in the moment writing music and expressing yourself, going along with it. We never really had any major plans other than to just make music, we both decided we were going to do that at the same time. I was a plasterer before but I left my job when I was 21 and Quiff was an electrician. We just knew these jobs weren’t where our hearts were. Music was!
What’s the story behind the name Computer Integrated Audio? How did that come about?
It was Quiffs idea; he’s always been good with names. He had a brainwave and came up with Computer Integrated Audio, CIA for short. It just seemed fitting because we were writing computer-made bass music. It just definitely worked.
Moving onto the new VA LP, how did the 15 different tracks come together? Did you approach the artists exclusively for this or have you been sitting on these for a while?
Certain people had sent us tracks, like The Indaverz, Edit and Murdock. They had all sent music over and we knew we really liked them from the off. Calibre had sent us music and we knew we’d like it for an album project. He had “Under Bars” on the sampler and “The Trot” on the album. We asked Carlos (S.P.Y) to do something for the album too.
Quiff had a Spirit track that Digital had sent and he was going on about how much he loved it, so we approached him for it. We made the Digital & Spirit collab and decided it would fit for the LP. With Break we approached Charlie and he knocked something up for us in about two weeks. To me it sounds very like us, it’s very Total Sciencey/CIA, it’s perfect!
Listen to previews of the album
I’m a big fan of that new S.P.Y tune! It’s refreshing to hear him working on those dark basslines again.
Yea, he’s come back with his sound. He’s got lots of it on the go at the moment. I think “Be Strong” is sort of him going back to his roots.
What would you say is the distinct CIA sound then?
We haven’t really got a distinct sound because we’ve got such a broad taste. We just like good music whether it’s musical, jungley, bouncy... you name it.
There’s a time and a place for everything, isn’t there.
There are a lot of tunes that aren’t necessarily made for the dancefloor. As long as me and Quiff like the music we’ll put it out. We don’t follow any trends and we’ve never wanted to. Sometimes some of the music you get is off a certain trend but you like it for what it is, not because its fashionable. You’re not trying to do it just to jump on any bandwagon.
Looking ahead for you guys, what’s in the pipeline for releases after this album?
The album drops on Friday 24th June. Then we’ve got a Various Artists LP on Deep Kut which is the 3rd in a series we’ve done called Kuts Deep. That’s got tracks by Random Movement, Philth & Collette Warren, Concorde Dawn & Need For Mirrors, Chromatic and a new artist called In-Deed. Then we’ve got an EP from Nymfo coming out. He’s done a really good varied EP for us just covering all sorts of styles, we’re really happy with that! We’ve got a single from Phil Tangent and Need For Mirrors on Deep Kut. We’ve also got an EP still to get finished by Phaction.
I noticed you guys tweeted a collab is in the works with OneMind aka DLR & Mako? How did that come about?
That’s coming out on their Headz album. I heard a set from those guys the other week at a local club called The Black Swan, which was possibly the best set in the last 5 years that I’ve heard. It was probably 80% their OneMind stuff and the rest of the tracks a couple of old classics alongside some of their own solo tunes... It’s everything I love about Headz in one album, it’s very fresh but still reminiscent to the early 90’s sound... I haven’t heard anything like it!
What’s the summer festival season looking like for you guys?
We’ve got a few, because we’re not really mainstream we play the more underground festivals. I’m playing a festival called Big Dub in July over in the US and we’re doing Sun & Bass this year.
How are your label's night at Lightbox going?
They’ve been really good nights. The first couple were just amazing with Calibre and Lenzman. I mean, apart from the fact Calibre wasn’t actually allowed in the club for the first one - security were being dicks and he didn’t get in - I’m just going to keep my mouth shut on the whole affair haha, but it was annoying! We’ve also done quite a few CIA parties around Europe and a couple more in the UK, we’ve got some coming up in the States next week.
Do you ever write tunes away from drum & bass? You see artists like dBridge & Marcus Intalex going down new paths, are you guys set on 170?
We had a label back in the early 2000’s called Skindeep which was a house and broken beat label. We also did about 10 hip hop tracks back in the early 2000’s too with a lot of US artists, a couple of them got released. There was a track we did with Phonte with Little Brother called “Wasting Time” on a Total Science album. There’s another track on that album with the rapper Grand Agent called “All I Need”. Now we’re both going to have studios separately again we’ll definitely be writing some other forms of music. Some will definitely be hip hop. We listen to lots of it still.
Listen to "Wasting Time", a hip-hop collab with Phonte from Little Brother
Is that your big passion outside of drum & bass?
Yeah so much so and I still get wound up when I hear people online talking about how there isn’t any good hip hop around anymore when they don’t bother going looking for it. They just hear a few pop bits and write it off. It’s like trying to judge drum and bass by just listening to a Sigma song. If you were to judge drum and bass on that you wouldn’t be into it, not if you had good taste anyway! You dig deeper. I think people are lazier with the internet. It’s weird as it’s so much easier to find good music these days.
What hip hop artists are you into then?
We’re both lovers of J Dilla still, they just dropped a new album from him called The Diary which has some great tunes on it. People like Anderson .Paak who’s a singer/rapper that’s just signed to Aftermath . His album Malibu is really good. He’s done a collab with a guy called Knxwledge on Stones Throw called "Nx Worries" which is well worth checking out, it’s kind of RnB funk. It sounds very throwback but with a modern twist. DJ Premiere is still one of our favourites and continuously putting put great beats.
Elzhi’s great, Black Milk’s a seriously good producer and rapper. I’m feeling a couple of tracks from the new Havoc and The Alchemist albums. An excellent Norwegian rapper called Ivan Ave and on a soul tip this amazing new singer I recently stumbled across called Joyce Wrice, who has such a silky smooth voice!
Listen to "Suede" by NxWorries
Serious knowledge, I’ve got some hunting to do! So what do you guys get up to besides drum & bass producing and DJ’ing? What are your hobbies?
We don’t really do a lot other than producing and DJing . I do yoga once a week and meditate twice a day, it really helps me with my focus and peace of mind. Quiff runs nearly every day. He does between 10 and 14 miles! When he was living with me he was getting up at 4:30am and out by about 6:00am, mainly waking me up! Other than that, just chilling and spending time with friends, but most of my friends are music heads!
Living the dream man! In the studio what’s the setup you have at the moment and what software are you using?
At the moment we’re using Logic. We’re still on Logic 9 as we’re a bit unsure about 10 but we’re going to buy new computers soon so we’re going to have to make the move to it. We’ve been dabbling with Ableton on and on off for the last 4-5 years but every track we’ve done has been finished on Logic.
We have a UAD Apollo soundcard and use a lot of their plugins which are really good. They are modelled on a lot of the old hardware units and they’ve really done a good job getting close to the original models. We also use a lot of the Native Instruments stuff, Reaktor’s been getting caned recently! Too many others to mention.
Cheers Paul! Look forward to catching you at Sun & Bass.
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CIA LP 20 is released on Friday 24th June on Bandcamp
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22 Jun 2016