Making Friends With is our series that sees us get to know DJs in some of their favourite hangouts
As we gear up to host the mighty Basstone at Ministry of Sound this coming Bank Holiday Saturday, we decided to get to know one of the most exciting DJs on the bill, the man that is single-handedly bringing Garage into 2018, Conducta.
Conducta is known for his very modern take on the UK's favourite genre. His original tracks are smooth and soulful with an undeniably British feel. His work has attracted the attention of some big guns in and out of dance music, with everyone from Jorja Smith to J Hus tapping him for a remix.
In the Making Friends With series we always like to do things a little different, so in our quest to get to know Conducta, we decided to bring him for an open-topped bus tour around his adopted hometown of London.
Thanks to The Original Tour for putting up with us loudly talking about dance music!
MoS: Have you ever been on one of these before?
Conducta: No, I haven’t this is my first time on a London one. I went on one in Paris one time. It was, well Paris. It wasn’t great, but this one should be interesting.
I saw one of your videos was set in Paris...
Yeah I just shot one there, it wasn’t that time, but it was a few years ago. I was dating someone from over there and, well...
I guess Paris isn’t the best city in your mind anymore?
Haha! Not exactly.
You're originally from Bristol, right?
Yeah, I'm from Bristol.
When did you make the move to London?
I made the move about 5-6 years ago. I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with London. I'm here some weeks and it's amazing. Then, I go away and think I'm so glad not to be there, but when I'm away too long, I miss it.
There is always a lot going on, particularly in music
Yeah, it's quite intense, but I like the bustle. When I'm away too long I start to feel uneasy, I feel like I need to be doing something.
Did you feel you had to move to London because this is where the music industry is?
Yeah, that's it. Everything felt really London-centric, and I wanted to be in the hub of it basically.
Bristol has a very rich music scene in its own right, with a pretty well defined 'Bristol sound'. Did that shape your early music tastes? What were you listening to when you first got into music?
It was really the early kind of dubstep sound from people like Joker, the Purple stuff. It would have been around 2005/2006. That was what really pulled me to it. The sound design, groove and swing was something that I really liked. Joker, The Purple Dubstep guys and then I got into listening to more Grimier and stuff, Garage got introduced to me and so I just took it from there.
When did you start thinking about producing?
The first tune was when I was like 15/16. My cousin and I produced a tune for a rapper and then yeah, a few years I got a bit better honed in on my sound and really started to make tunes properly.
Was it Hip-Hop you were making?
It was more Grime. I did a bit of hip-hop when I moved to London, but I started out in grime.
What kind of Garage did you listen to growing up?
I got given tapes from my brother and he put me on to people like Artful Dodger, MJ Cole etc. Those are the producers I knew at the time and I thought ‘ah this is sick’, they were my main influences because I was listening to more DJ sets than tunes. So most of the time it was me hearing songs and desperately trying to find out what they were. The last few years have been quite mad for me, as when I'm looking for music for my DJ sets, I'll have like 50 tabs open on YouTube and come across all this stuff I never managed to find back then. When you find that tune you've been looking for, for so long, it's so sweet!
It feels like garage has never really been unpopular, at least not maligned in the way that say dubstep was, but even so, it seemed that people generally stopped making it and there was very little of it coming out for a long time. Is that something you noticed?
Yeah, there was a point where it didn’t die out exactly, but there weren't any new producers making anything. With most scenes, you have like a generational switch. A new breed of producers continuously making it or adding their own taste to it, and I feel that's what garage lacked for a long while. That was between 2005-2011 and it kind of went a bit left. Garage was a dirty word in that period. I still listened to Garage, but it was strange. I feel like the genre always meant something to people, just there wasn't much of a scene because there wasn't a constant stream of garage songs coming out. It became kind of a nostalgic genre.
Then also, around 2010 there was the future garage thing. With Burial and that, how did that fit in with what you do?
People talked about it for a while and then stopped calling it that. It was kind of weird like, post-garage, post-dubstep, future garage and all that. You don't want to get too much into genres and start giving loads of technical names. That period was interesting because it was two-step and it still had that influence but was more of a left-field sound, it went down the darker route.
It definitely wasn't party music!
Yeah, I guess it was kind of like what lo-fi house is now, its the equivalent of what that was then. It’s more, not depressing, but moody. It's very moody. But I always like that. UK Bass music was great, DeadBoy and those kinds of producers and that whole period of bass producers was amazing. Because you saw the splits between, producers infusing dubstep with grime over two step but at 140bpm. It was really interesting.
They called it future garage, but it wasn't really garage at all. I mention it because the music you make is kind of a modern take on garage.
I feel like what I really do is try and take the best of part of old garage and put it into what I can make today. It's taking all those elements and giving it a new feel. Instead of just regurgitating what someone else has done years ago. If you do that it, it will always sound like a cheap imitation.
Particularly with Garage, the hits are so well known!
Exactly, it would be easy for me to go copy "Flowers" but again, it would be a cheap imitation. I think garage as a whole needs to refocus on making new beats and more songs and becoming more producer-orientated. If producers regain control, that's when garage will move forward.
Do you know of any current artists that are doing similar things to you?
There are producers around making two-steppy stuff and, I don't know, it's a weird one because there are people making garage, who make what you would say, 'post' sounds. That future garage sound, which is cool, but you get people making 4-4 stuff, making more bass-orientated stuff, like how UK bass music has gone down that heavier route. Which is cool, but me personally, I want to stick to making garage. That upbeat, soulful kind of music.
What do you use to produce? Do you play any instruments?
I used to play keyboard in like Year 7 when your parents would make you learn an instrument. I wish I picked it up properly because now I'm getting back into it, I'm using it for arranging and playing keys, but I'm not a good player. Production wise I use FL Studio to program my beats and when I'm recording I use Logic.
Is it much of a jump between FL Studio and Logic?
I have to use FL Studio to make my drums, it's just so much easier. I can make sick drums so quickly in FL. Once I got the melody down - I think the melody should always dictate the groove. So usually I’d make the melody once the cords and the bass are down. Then I’d build drums around that and that would take me like max 5 or 10 minutes. And then I’d have the structure there. I feel music is like a sandwich. The melodies and the drums are the bread, then the groove is the filling, then the other bits are the mayonnaise, the bacon, the little sprinkles of onion. It all fits together nicely.
How do you go about finding collaborators?
I try to get people who you wouldn’t really expect to hear on a garage song because I like merging parts of other UK cultures/genres and making something new. I feel like, all the old garage songs, the best ones, are RnB songs, like making RnB songs in a two-step pattern. That's also what I try to do in all the official remixes I do. I like to make it so you're hearing these artists from other genres do a garage track. Like the J Hus remix, it just sounds like J Hus on an actual garage tune. I feel like I try and give everything soul, everything speaks to me, everything feels ‘UK’.
What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you since you started off.... a ‘I can’t believe this happening’ kind of feeling?
I’ll have to see, Ermmmm...... I played Love Saves The Day in Bristol last year and it was the two-year anniversary of my manager starting to manage me. I was DJing 8-9pm, it was a hometown show, the sun was setting, it was perfect. I remember playing one particular tune, and honestly, I'm not even that emotional, but I felt it in my chest! I could feel the tears streaming down my eyes and I was like 'Woah!'. I fully froze in the moment and thought 'this is something I'm doing and this is my job'. It was a really great feeling. Every time I hear that tune, I can't even listen to it any more!
What tune was it?
It’s a tune by Tortured Soul. It’s a remix by Ethan Raindrops. It’s called "I Might Do Something Wrong". It's a really minimal tune, but the intro alone is emotional it has a massive build, the drums come in and it's really almost like tribal and trance, the bass comes in and rings and that's when it hit me, then the chords come back and it's mad, it's crazy.
Yeah, it’ll be good! The lineup is quite cool. I've been listening to Monki’s Radio One show since 2012/2013 so it’ll be cool to be on the lineup with her. I’ve never played Ministry before and it's one of those clubs that's on my checklist. It'll be great to play and tick it off the bucket list. And you know the Ministry show will attract the ravers!
Is there anyone, any heroes, you’d like to DJ with?
I’ve been so lucky because I’ve DJ’d with so many of my heroes. The only two left are EZ - I’ve played with EZ but never gone b2b - and Kerri Chandler. To go b2b with Kerri Chandler would be unreal. EZ I'd really enjoy, but Kerri... I saw him play at Phonox about six months back he played from 6-2, it was one of the best sets of my life. I think Kerri is my all time
If you're playing a festival and the DJ on before you drops one of your songs. How do you feel about that?
Ahaha! That hasn't happened to me yet. For me personally, the thing about music is that there are so many songs out there, you don't have to play my song because I'm probably going to play it. If it did happen, I guess I’d take it as a sign of respect, but it's just one of those things... Well put it this way, I’d accept an apology!
It depends on who plays it as well, let's say if it was EZ - would that be ok?
If he did it, he would definitely get a nod of approval. I don’t think he’d ever do it though. I’d never play an EZ tune before EZ. DJs need to know what they’re doing. So like if I was playing before EZ, I wouldn’t get everyone all pumped and stuff, as he’s the headliner and I'm the support. It would be all about building the crowd for EZ. And that goes for all DJs in general. I think that the art of warming up has been lost. Knowing where you are in the lineup and knowing how to DJ for your appropriate time. You see some DJs playing all these belters and it's like 10 or 11. It kind of defeats the point of the night and ruins it for everyone there.
Why do you think that is?
I think it's because everyone has access to being a DJ now, it's that narcissistic side of it, ‘I'm a DJ I want to play this tune at this time because I’m a DJ’. I understand they're eager and want to do their thing, but still. That side of DJing, that art has been lost. They forget that the night doesn't revolve around them. The line-up is created for a reason and people, play certain times for a reason. It’s about building and understanding the dynamics of how the night works.
I think we've reached the end of the tour. Just finally, where is the number one place to party apart from London or Bristol?
Paris! There’s a producer called Bellair, he’s only 19 years old - one of the most exciting I’ve heard, really cool house producer, kind of reminds me of Kerri with the groove in the tune. I play a lot of his stuff in my sets. There’s a lot of French house I discovered on YouTube. So I’ll make up for being mean to it earlier and say Paris - don’t hate guys!