Song-by-Song: EVM128 – ‘Nova’ (Studio Rockers)

Originally from Bristol, EVM128 aka Luke Meads spent his formative years soaking up the best of the South West’s pioneering sound system culture, taking cues in particular from early Punk, Trip-Hop and Drum & Bass. It was only when he upped sticks and moved to London that the DJ and producer first discovered Nu-Jazz and Broken Beat, musical worlds that would have a profound impact on his own approach to music. After moving to the capital he became a regular at Plastic People for the legendary Co-Op club night, a place where he was first exposed to names such as IG Culture, Dego and Seiji. He found Broken Beat to be a continuation of the cultures he’d been exposed to in Bristol, musical communities that continued practices passed down from Jamaican sound system tradition.

Instantly inspired by his surroundings in London, Meads began to hone a sound that sits somewhere in-between the worlds of Garage, Soul, Hip-Hop, Boogie and Broken Beat. Following releases for Russ Allen’s Meltdown Music and somethinksounds, plus production work for Greg Wilson, 18th September saw the release of EVM128’s debut album ‘Nova’ on Studio Rockers – a record that fuses the essence of Broken Beat’s heyday, with snapping Garage beats, alluring melodies, uplifting Funk and killer bassline hooks. Special guests on the record include Omar, Daiva and ShyOne. To commemorate the release, the man himself gives us a guided tour of the record, running us through the stories, influences and individuals that make up ‘Nova’.

1. ‘Nova’

This track was a wonky Hip-Hop beat that I made quite a while ago. Although I’m making uptempo Garage/ Broken Beat stuff, I still can’t help making Hip-Hop beats! It’s in my nature. I still wanna get round to doing a beat tape at some point! This track which is the title track to the album is inspired by the likes of Flako’s older stuff as well as people like Tall Black guy, Maspyke, Old Kaytranada and of course J Dilla.. I mean the list goes on and on! I just love those crunchy snares and claps with an un-quantized rhythm. The process was easy really. When I feel inspired the track kinda writes itself. I had this lovely synth sound that sounded eery so that’s how it started. I played around with a melody then put a beat together to go with it. What I loved is how without the beat the melody pattern sounds different until the beat drops and then it comes together, you kind of dont expect it. I added the voice of my daughter Nova who has been my inspiration and motivation throughout the process of writing this album. She’s 2 years old and my whole world revolves around her! She’s the light of my life, that’s why I called the album Nova as it’s my first album and she’s my first child (and only so far). Even the artwork is inspired by her pyjamas! That, and pop art which I am a big fan of.

2. ‘Slo Mo’ ft Evermean/Kevin G, Davey on Trumpet

This was a track that again happened real quick. Im a big fan of Broken Beat and have been getting right back into it lately. I love that track by DKD called ‘Future Rage’. The vocals are inspired by that and Quasimoto (aka Madlib) I like how in Future Rage the words are more spoken than sang. There are 2 vocal tracks with one pitched up a bit which Quasimoto was known for. I mean, I didn’t set out purposely to do that, it just happened! I love classic piano and Rhodes piano so was playing around with that over a beat I made with these sort of Garage sounding synth stabs on some of the drum kicks. Then that boogie squelch which I cant help but do in a lot of my tracks! I’m a huge fan of Boogie music. So I guess this track is an amalgamation of all the things I’m into. The trumpet was originally piano as I have been practicing keys a lot. I decided after a few listens that this piano part would sound good as a Trumpet so I called in my main Trumpet man Kevin G, Davey who has toured with Lamb, Adam F and is a superb Jazz trumpeter. He came around to the studio and I asked him to copy the piano lick and that was that, the icing on the cake so to speak! Big ups Kevin!

3. ‘Strangers’ ft Evermean

Now this was another track I’d been sitting on for a while and again came out of nowhere. I suppose the inspiration was Garage music and Fish Go Deep’s ‘The Cure and the Cause’ in particular, with that rim shot. I don’t really know where a lot of the inspiration comes from directly. As I DJ loads I listen to tons of music and certain things just stick in my head and naturally I write music that is sparked by the things I like. I recorded a load of natural claps as I didn’t want to do a run of the mill garage beat. I wanted to push the boundary a little bit. That was the only real core decision. Everything else was me experimenting. I had just got Razor and Lazer Bass from Native Instruments so was messing around with those bass sounds. The thing is, when your having fun making music it happens pretty quick – it’s the mixing down and arrangements that take time! And big up Tony Thorpe for helping me in that area, that was truly valuable (he’s my label manager and good friend). The vocal came after, I often sit with a beat for a few hours on loop and sing a melody until it’s right, record the melody in rough then begin writing lyrics and drawing on past and present life experiences or stories people have told me about their lives. This was about a friend of mine who was in a relationship and one fell into the friend zone too much and the other was still mad in love and so found it too difficult which meant the only way is not to see that person again, they became strangers.

4. ‘Mother Nature’ ft ShyOne

Now then, I met ShyOne through doing a night with my friend Charlee Brown called 3 Feet Hi. She came and played at the night and we got invited to guest on her radio show. From then I knew I wanted to work with her. We shared the same flavour musically and are on exactly the same page when it comes to Broken Beat, Boogie , Garage and Soul. We started to send rough beats to each other to begin a collaboration and when she sent me the rough version of Mother Nature I was totally bowled over. Literally lost for words, it was so fresh and right up my street so I set about working on it that same day. Not too long after that the track was complete. I must admit that I didn’t really do too much to it as I wanted to keep that groove and not take it somewhere else, so I just added subs, textures, live drums, some synth bits complimenting what was already there, a steady arrangement and that was that. We have already started sending more beats to each other with a collaborative EP in mind. ShyOne… Ya Bad!

5. ‘Beyond’ ft Omar

This track was straight up inspired by the Boogie sound, that Funk bass! (Parliament/Funkadelic/Odyssey/Kleeer/Funk Deluxe etc) It was actually an instrumental on my last ‘Naked Truth’ EP and originally had me singing that chorus “Baby I just wanna fly away” . It was the B side on the EP and funny enough was the one everyone liked. So Tony (Studio Rockers bossman) said it would be dope if Omar sang on this. I said “really, you could make that happen?” And so he did. He knows Omar through Prince Fatty and we sent him the tune and he loved it straight away. He was really busy and was about to fly off for a while to do some gigs so the deal was if we could come up with some lyrics he could get it done in time as we were pushed too with the deadline etc. So I called on my main man kermit (Black Grape/Ruthless Rap Assassins). I sent him the tune, two days later he’d written this amazing poem/song that worked so well with the chorus, Omar loved it and a few days later it was done! I remember going to Omar’s studio expecting to sit for a day and record it, on arrival he played the tune with all the vocals recorded already, 4 part harmonies n’ all! A true don!

EVM PRESS SHOT 2015 copy

6. ‘Treatment’ ft Olmo Cassiba

This beat was again inspired by Broken Beat. It’s weird to hear it without the flute now but that was how it was. I pretty much wrote the beat overnight, it was just rolling. I knew I wanted my friend Olmo to get involved in some way as he is a massively talented Flutist and Saxophonist and old friend of mine from the Soho days. I sent him a couple of beats and he latched onto this one. A week later he had recorded all these beautiful flute parts in his own studio and sent them over. I dropped it into the project, mixed it and that was that, the tune was alive! It reminds me of a kind of 70’s cop film in parts, so cool! This and Mother Nature were probably the easiest one to work on.

7. ‘Naked Truth’ Ft Daiva

I met Daiva a while back on a visit to Lithuania where I was teaching DJing to kids for MTV Baltics. She’s in a band called Keymono and they are fantastic! I wasn’t teaching them DJing but met them on a night out and we all became friends. She has a real professional approach and amazing stage presence ( a true star.. really!) I did some remixes for them and set about working with Daiva on something for my EVM stuff. This track was the title track to my ‘Naked Truth’ EP but as it got clouded a bit by the ‘Beyond’ track I thought it only right to let it reappear on the album. It’s a great downtempo track inspired by my Hip-Hop and Soul influences. I think I was listening to A/T/O/S at the time so maybe I was slightly influenced by that? Kermit again wrote the lyrics for this so u can see what I mean when I say he’s a great poe and songwriter! The producer and keys player in Keymono (Alvydas) helped with the chorus synth so it was a proper collaborative effort this one! It’s great when you can get talented people from around the way to get involved and make some great music. It’s really quite special I think.

8. ‘Realtime’

This was another overnighter! A kind of filler on the album in the middle to break things up a bit. Inspired by the Garage sound with that snappy snare and off-kilter tambourine which I love to do. I try to add organic sounds in my music as I love that contrast between that and digital beats, soft and analogue synths. It also has that Funk bass sound in it that is my Boogie influence. There’s not too much to say about this track other than it wrote itself really. Its a jam!

9. ‘Twisted’ ft Bahia/Olmo Cassibba on flute& Sax

GARAGE!!! Yeah, straight up! Shuffling shakers and tambourines over a hard Garage beat, but it’s still mellow. I love that contrast getting something to sound tough but chilled at the same time. It’s music for the afterparty, works in a club and on the sofa! I had this beat and met Bahia through my girlfriend in Sweden at a friends house. She asked where we are from in London, we said Hackney and she said “no way, I live in Whitechapel” – we talked about music and she told me she was a singer so naturally I saw this as a sign! We kept contact and I started sending her beats. She loved this one and came over to the studio and she and her music partner Joseph XVI sat there with the track on loop and shaped the rough lyrics she had for it into a cohesive song. It was easy to work with her. She’s really pro too and has a certain vibe to her vocals, that RnB vibe. This vocal was inspired by TLC. She’s pretty militant in the studio and knows exactly what she wants. I like that!

10. ‘Feel’ IT ft Daiva

Inspired by Broken Beat again. Not any track in particular more the vibe with that Funk bass again and my tambourine flex with live congas. It has a kind of House feel to it, too. I played the piano parts on this which are kind of basic but I’m proud of it, it’s my mission to get better at keys. I’m a drummer originally but I’m trying to learn bass and keys too. I wrote the lyrics and was singing it originally but couldn’t help thinking that Daiva would sound great on this. I sent it to her and she was diggin’ it. I wanted to keep that spoken style like the DKD tune on the verses but told her she can add her flavour on the chorus. She recorded it all herself at home and sent me the parts so the process was pretty straight forward. I feel really lucky to have such amazing people around me that I can call on and share the fun of making music with. Everybody involved in this album are stars in their own right!

11. ‘Battle’ ft Romaine Smith

It’s shuffly Garage music aint it? With those Detroit sounding synths inspired by the likes of Derrick May. I heard DJ Flight on Rinse FM mix a track into one of my B sides off the ‘Naked Truth’ EP called ‘DRPN IT’. The track she mixed in was by Sleepin Giant called ‘Six’ (Typsun remix) and featured the amazing vocals of Romaine Smith. His voice reminds me of Peven Everett and Viktor Duplaix. I was literally losing my mind when I heard this mix. I was like “Dam, thats’ how my track should have sounded!” The Typsun track was really sparse and allowed Romaines vocal to breath and just fit like a glove with my tune. I just HAD to get in touch with this guy, and it wasn’t easy! Elusive is an understatement! He’s not on Facebook or Twitter, he had a Soundcloud with no tunes on it but that seemed like the only option I had of getting in touch with him. I messaged him a few times and had no reply for ages so kind of gave up on that idea until out of the blue I received a really apologetic message saying he’d love to get involved. So I sent him a few beats and he loved this one. He wrote the lyrics pretty quickly, came to London to the studio and recorded it. I was so stoked! Big up Romaine, you were the final piece to the puzzle man!

12. ‘Human’ ft Daiva & Joseph XVI (Human League cover)

When Tony said to me that I should do a cover or remix version of ‘Human’ by Human League I thought he was joking – he wasn’t! I thought about it and listened to the original for a while and really quite honestly was finding it hard to see where he was coming from. But with some gentle persuasion and insight from Tony, I knew where he was coming from. It was hard as I don’t like the original to be honest (Sorry Phil Oakey!) The song itself is really beautiful and the lyrics are bloody amazing to be fair! I spoke to Daiva about the concept and she was down so I began writing a new version. We knew we wanted it to be along that Electro Boogie line. So that was the basis to the tune really. I used all the classic electro 808/909 and Linn Drums with a nice synth flowing through it with a punchy bass with one slap bass note at the end of the phrase. Kept it real simple. Daiva really made this track and we asked Joseph XVI to write a rap to replace the part Susan Anne Sulley sings in the original and he really came up with the goods. His voice sounds great on it and really took the whole thing somewhere else. I can’t believe I’m saying this but once again Tony – you’re right!

I’d like to say a massive thank you to all involved in making this album. I feel really privileged to have had the honour of working with you all!

‘Nova’ is out now on Studio Rockers, pick up your copy HERE