The aptly named Ross Tones (he assures me it wasn’t changed by deed-poll but derived from a misspelling of Jones) has been on our radar for a minute now. Under his Throwing Snow guise he surged into the UK bass domain last year, with a devastating debut 12″ ‘Un Vingt/Cronos’, on Alexander Nut’s newly assembled Ho_Tep imprint. Tones’ work fluently deconstructs techno, house and garage and fuses them with facets of folk, electronica and more, before binding it all back together with coarse textures and an organic finesse that sets him apart from the pack.
Not happy with the constraints of his Throwing Snow cloak he pursues a number of side projects, most notably the Black Acre released Snow Ghosts. Twinned with London outfit Augustus Snow, they have spawned a dark and brooding electronic romance with the release of debut ep ‘Lost At Sea’ earlier this year, sounding like the bastard child of “Clubroot, Björk and Various Production”. Aside from this Ross this week [August 1st] releases an ep on Rafferties Super label featuring emerging vocal talent Py and singer/songwriter Russell Morgan.
By day he works for Hear No Evil (check them out here) in the sync department, looking after record labels they represent, producing bespoke music for advert/TV, running events and handling digital campaigns for some of the biggest brands in the world. With the remaining spare minutes of the day he also co-runs labels A Future Without and Left_Blank, both labels putting out quality music, operating with a refreshing ethos.
This is an individual truly submerged in music, and the passion is plain to see when you first meet this genuinely nice chap. Hyponik managed to tempt Throwing Snow away from a pile of tax returns, and into an Old Street boozer for a few cold ones, to chat over his musical heritage, the limitations of genrefying and throwing around massive piles of cocaine.
Throwing Snow – ‘Un Vingt/Cronos’
Right, so let’s talk through your initial interest in music and how that developed and progressed throughout your teens?
The initial thing I suppose came from me growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere; if you look on Google Maps it’s just a mass of green and just being brought up with my parent’s records, which was limited, but really good. They had Kraftwerk to the Beatles to Foreigner and other stuff like that. Because I’m interested in the way the brain is moulded early on, it means that music influenced me a lot more than I give credit for really, with the Abba thing I was talking about before [before the interview Ross explained that at the age of 4 he used to repeatedly play Abba’s ‘Money Money Money’ on his Grandma’s record player] I don’t understand why but it just made sense to me at the time, the melodies and harmonies I can hear to some degree in everything I’ve done since then.
Were you listening to much radio?
Listening to John Peel while doing my GCSE’s completely changed my view, it just exposed you to so much new music, it was amazing. From there listening to everything from Aphex Twin to hardcore to like weird noise and Krautrock. That led to wanting to move to Bristol because of exposure to electronic music, in particular drum and bass and skating.
How old were you when you moved to Bristol?
Must have been about 18 or 19, I went there to do an Astro-Physics degree, which I some how passed, [laughs] really not sure how because basically I just did music and went out. I had a little studio in my house that loads of people used to come to and just collaborate. Just getting involved with drum and bass was important as I met a lot of people who I still know now, who also exposed me to a lot of new music.
I find it interesting that a lot of producers are drawing from an amalgamation of influences but all seem to share common ground with drum and bass…
Basically all the people that are writing bass music now are generally frustrated drum and bass producers, it’s like you get to know someone and ask them that question and their like “yeah yeah, I wish I could produce drum and bass but im not good enough.” It so clinical and precise that it has to be perfect where as now the music can influence that, but, [bass music] can be a lot more loose which I prefer really, it’s more ‘bandy’, it’s more organic.
You have notably worked a lot with vocalists on various projects, do you find working with vocalists more rewarding than working on your own?
Well, I’m a sociable loner so I like being by myself on the computer but I’ve always loved that human contact. If im doing all the instrumentation, everything, sometimes it just comes out as my sound and theres nothing I can change about that, that’s just the way I produce. Having a vocalist come in changes the way I think and not only that, it’s like recording folk musicians and people with guitars. Then taking the vocal and re-harming [re-harmonizing] and putting my own twist on things is really rewarding. It’s the reason I like working with vocalists. Also, when you play live it means I don’t have to be the centre of attention, I can hide away in the corner [laughs] and these pretty girls can do their thing. It’s also the inspiration I get from working with vocalists, doing stuff I would have never thought have doing, but they have – it moves me forward.
A little while back I saw an interview on XLR8R with Ben UFO, Oneman and Jackmaster and they gave various reasons why they see ‘UK bass’ as a negative term. What’s your opinion on that?
I personally don’t mind the term; I think it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a disparate genre that can be influenced by house, hardcore, drum and bass, weird hip-hop, everything, but the one thing that ties it together is sub-bass, and that sub-bass moves people. I think people are being exposed to a lot more music nowadays with the internet generation, there’s more freedom to do what you want and genrefying things is almost dangerous. There might be one house track, but you hate house generally, but it still works in your set it’s about 130-140, maybe 120 and then because it classed as UK bass it’s got people into the mindset of, actually fuck it, I can drop down to 90, I can do a Mosca ‘Tilt Shift’, or I can do a Jamie XX funky 110 or do whatever.
Throwing Snow & Py – ‘The Shadows I Make (feat. Russell Morgan) (clip)’
And it’s usually journalists that force the need for genre labels for every bpm range of music…
… [laughs] yeah of course. The genius one was ‘joy-step’, the ‘joy-step’ thing was hilarious. I can’t really remember where it came from but this guy just starting calling Joy Orbison ‘joy-step’. I can hear what he’s talking about, I can hear the sound now but to just push it straight down that avenue and be like, oh he’s a ‘joy-step’ producer, or he’s a whatever producer, you just get annoyed by that. I’m mean I’ve been called ‘future-garage’ and all sorts of stuff like that…
So what about ‘future-garage’ and ‘post-dubstep’?
[laughs] The thing is, I was like what the fuck is post-dubstep, I’ve really got no idea what it is, and what’s future-garage – garage that hasn’t happened yet? But, at the same time post-rock, I love post-rock, and everyone accepts that as a genre name.
But years of music occurred in order for that genre label to make sense…
Yeah of course. I just really don’t know about post-dubstep. I think it’s useful in the fact that you can kind of get an idea of an artist that you may like because their sound fits into that particular niche or genre, but the overall ‘UK bass’ thing is useful because people can go from post-dubstep to future-garage to a weird and skewed hip-hop thing. You need a little bit of direction for these weird genres, but to keep closely to that is dangerous. That’s why I think that ‘UK bass’ is the best term someone has come up with, it’s made in the UK and it’s bass that connects it.
So focusing on your own music what have you got lined-up release wise, collaboration wise over the coming months?
There’s a new ep on Super coming out with a vocalist called Py who’s phenomenal – absolutely amazing. We’ve got 4 tracks, one of which features a vocalist from up north called Russell Morgan who’s a lot older and does acoustic singer/songwriting but has got the most beautiful male vocal, it’s on a par with Sampha I reckon. We did a track where I gave it to both Py and Russell to write individually but they didn’t know, somehow they’ve managed to work together because as I matched the vocals together it worked perfectly as a conversation. I’m really stunned by it; it’s just a little experiment that worked I suppose. There’s remixes by Raffertie, Lapalux and Ph0t0machine and they’re just amazing, they’ve embarrassed me a little bit by killing my original. Jamie from Hypercolour is starting a new label called Sneaker Social, I’ve got a 12” coming out with them at some point in Sept which I’m really happy with. On Black Acre there’s a collaboration with Snow Ghosts and Blue Daisy which is the darkest thing you’ll ever hear, it’s so dark I don’t know how I wrote it. Next year is going to be the Snow Ghost album which is going to be the biggest project of my life, I want it to be really, really interesting.
Out of interest is there any prolific meaning behind the name Throwing Snow?
There is actually, basically I was with two of my best friends [one of whom was Matthew Ellwood an artist who created the artwork for the Snow Ghosts ‘Lost At Sea’ ep] at Christmas time in the middle of nowhere stood in a snowy field and he made a comment about northern humour being, the closer you are to somebody the more you could insult them. So you would be like twat, bastard, fuck, whatever and you can say what you want and that’s an endearing term, it makes you closer as you know I don’t mean it. And it’s like throwing snow as it kind of hurts but it’s something you don’t mind when it’s your mates, so it’s that kind of idea really. It’s not about throwing drugs around [begins to laugh] which I’ve had before; it’s not about throwing around a massive pile of coke, which I had someone suggest in the past!
Interview: Josh Thomas
Photography: William Biggs