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First Listen: Mr Beatnick – ‘Savannah’ EP (Don’t Be Afraid)

So here we are, Mr. Beatnick caps off a trilogy of elevated EP’s with ‘Savannah’; a wonderfully crafted and imaginative reflection of what the beat man has to offer. Released on Don’t Be Afraid with the help and encouragement of good friend, Benji Semtek, ‘Savannah’ hits ears April 8th.

A real solid release, with each of the four tracks carrying weight in their own right, the EP encapsulates an emphasis on arrangement so common in the work of Beatnick. Worth a specific mention – the title number, ‘Savannah’, offers a refreshing example of the level of movement and ever sought after emotional value attainable within a track, with Nick applying an affective balance of both to the piece.

‘Blue Dream’ struck me as being another standout – a well layered, progressive body mover. Again, a prime example of finding that balance between movement and engagement, in that the chords and melody, emotive in nature, lend themselves effectively to a beat driven backdrop.

Nick was kind enough to provide a bit of background on the release and answer some other questions along the way. The guys head is in the right space and both his mentality and attitude towards all things music seem spot on – top guy, top release.

Stream the ‘Savannah’ EP exclusively via the player below.

 

So, how would you say ‘Savannah’ fits into the trilogy of EP’s you’ve released since 2011?

I think its the natural culmination and conclusion of the three, brings all the threads and ideas together that the earlier two EPs established, and definitely on side B, hints at where I’m heading with my music next. We did the launch party last Thursday at a packed warehouse / loft space, and the experience gave me a chance to reflect on the music and where it has taken me, in an environment that was as close to a tailor-made “rave utopia” as I’ve experienced. It was great to play through some highlights from the trilogy, and touch on the influences that inspired them. By the time we came to “Savannah” in the set and the track “Parallax Scroll” in particular, the energy levels were off the scale – I definitely think Savannah is the highest energy, most diverse and most colourful of the three EPs. Love to everyone who came down on Thursday by the way, I was absolutely blown away by the vibe.

Had you planned the trilogy straight up or was it something that developed after the initial release of the ‘Synthetes’ EP?

The idea for the trilogy started to take form as I was writing “Sun Goddess” I think. “Synthetes” was much more compiled by Semtek, assembled and developed from various sketches that had been sat on my hard drive for years, that I genuinely thought would never see the light of day. As I began writing “Sun Goddess” and finding my feet, I started to realise there was a richer, more diverse story taking shape, and that it needed another EPs worth of songs to tell it properly. Sometimes things just develop naturally in that way, you know. Follow the writing and it tells you the story, just channel the ideas and melodies. Let the subconscious part of the brain do the hard work and focus on transcribing what it you already are doing instinctively. That’s the essence of what I try to do nowadays, suppress all that pointless over-thinking. I’m so proud to have this body of work under my belt now, if I went back in time and showed these records to a 23 year old version of myself I’d struggle to believe I’d made them!

All three EP’s (Synthetes, Sun Goddess and Savannah) have been released on Benjamin Semtek’s ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ imprint, your relationship must be strong..?

We are old mates, and truly the whole DBA story has grown in a way that neither of us expected. It makes sense for me to have released in this way, I’ve had total creative control throughout, and Benji has put in a ton of work encouraging me and spreading the word.  None of this would have happened without that partnership, and nowadays I definitely play a small role in the label, acting as a sounding board and helping to bring new artists into the fold. What I enjoy is the fact that we have completely contrasting tastes and influences, but yet somehow always find a middle ground in the music – that’s what good partnerships should be about. I have trouble with labels who don’t understand the artist’s viewpoint, or who consistently try to tamper with their direction, that’s nonsense and sadly all too common these days.

Are you having some time off now on the production front or have you got anything else in the works?

Actually it’s the reverse, I feel incredibly inspired at the moment. I’ve written about 10 tracks in the last two weeks, the majority are rubbish, just gestalt therapy, me spilling out ideas, but I think I should have a fairly prolific year if I keep up the pace. Steve Braiden and I have been working in the studio a lot recently, when our schedules and stars align, so hopefully there should be something cool forthcoming there. I’ve also been tightening my remix game – watch out for my remixes of Photek and Suit Dancer dropping in the next few weeks, and something for a house legend in the pipeline at the moment, fingers crossed.

It’s been made apparent through your previous releases that, above all, you make your music for you – with no real intention of pleasing any particular demographic. Presumably that’s the case with the Savannah EP?

Absolutely. To understand my story, you’d have to understand how I ended up accidentally making dance music records in the first place – I just followed what the music was saying to me in the studio, I didn’t expect proper djs like Jamie XX, Deetron, or Paul Woolford to pick up on it, it was such a surprise to see my records turning up on their playlists. I’ve come to meet and get to know the sort of people who buy my records as I’ve started touring more around Europe and the UK, and the pleasing thing is, it seems to largely be people like me – people who grew up digging crates and love that craft, that sonic attention to detail that tends to go astray in house music these days. I’m not here to fill your inbox up with lukewarm tech-house, I’m here to craft records that make you want to get up off your sofa and go to the record shop, records that give you that warm, machine-soul feeling of yore.

Were there any specific intentions with the Savannah EP? In terms of theme, exposition or thought process?

Definitely. There were all sorts of things that ended up on the cutting room floor this time, mostly cause I didn’t feel they were sonically or conceptually up to scratch. Some equipment changed in the process too, my beloved Korg Poly 800 MKII, which I rinsed on “Shifting Sands”, died a slow, painful death. Ended up buying a ton of new equipment to replace it, especially rich polyphonic synths from the 80s, I think that’s added a lot to the texture. And there’s lots of cheap, nasty drum machines on this one too… I’m not sure I want to give all the conceptual ideas away for “Savannah”, have a Google and you might get some idea of what inspired the music, particularly with “Blue Dream”. Certainly the idea of imaginary landscapes was one mental image I kept returning to, particularly with “Parallax Scroll”, it’s a tribute to my brother and our misspent childhood listening to rave music and playing video games. All in all, I like the idea of the organic world rendered via synthesiser means, exploring that symbiotic relationship between the natural and the artificial is the guiding theme here.

I’ve always appreciated your ability to add a sense of ‘expedition’ to your tracks, in that a lot of your tunes move along a deviated path as opposed to a linear one, using different layers or what have you. Is this something you’ve consummated over the years or is it naturally how you make music?

I think it comes from my background as a hip hop producer, my early work was based on layering found-sounds and samples, and gradually I came to incorporate more and more of my own playing, so the sound evolved naturally from there. I don’t really have the words to articulate why or how I do it this way, it just feels right, and lets me get the ideas out quickly. Layering is definitely the most important technique to master. Most tracks start with a seed that grows into a song from there, with “Savannah” it all started with those DX7 chords you hear in the intro. You are right to spot that arrangement is important to me though, getting the balance right between repetition and development is the key. To quote Brian Eno via Oblique Strategies “repetition is a form of change”.

Anywhere in particular we can catch you playing the EP once it’s out?

Not that many gigs to speak of for April, but I’ll be making my Fabric debut on May 10th, and Sonar Festival debut this year on the RBMA stage, alongside TNGHT and Krystal Klear. Apart from that, keep it locked to www.facebook.com/mrbeatnick , I’m sure some bookings will be added soon. Sincere thanks for this chat, enjoyed it.

Interview & words: Will Edge