Evan Majumdar-Swift is 96 Back, the 19-year old Sheffield-born producer and DJ breathing new life into the famed electronic bleeps and sounds of his city.
Making a bold production debut in 2018 with four-tracker Provisional Electronics, the record landed via legendary imprint Central Processing Unit, marking him with the honour of being the first Steel City local to release music on the label.
An offspring of long running Jive Turkey promoter Matt Swift and an apprentice to the ever dedicated Sheffield flag bearer Liam O’Shea, it’s hardly a surprise that Evan’s natural course has led to a life of mangled electronics. Now delivering on what his debut promised, Evan returns with Excitable, Girl, a bold and colourful debut full length that sways the worlds of electro, techno, ambient and IDM into new directions, cementing his place as one of the underground’s most exciting figures.
Catching up with Evan earlier in the year before Excitable, Girl’s release, we spoke on early inspirations, the legacy of his hometown and the current climate of the electro scene.
What are some of your early fascinations with music and when did you begin to realise it was the path for you?
I guess my first real fascination with music started when I was about 12-13, I started listening to a lot of post punk; Killing Joke, Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd. etc. This was mostly fuelled by skate videos I watched at the time. I only really started getting into dance music fully at the age of about 15 or16, and that was mostly through exposure to the dubstep and grime scene at the time. Although I never really made any dubstep, I really got into producing at this time and then I started to branch outwards from that.
What were some of your first entries into the sounds you’re associated with now?
Whilst I may not have fully realised it at the time, it’s fair to say I was pretty much always surrounded by electronic music, largely down to what my parents listened to and grew up with at home. I remember one year I was bed-ridden for a week with flu and I went through my dad’s records and stumbled across that Actress album “R.I.P” and rinsed it all week without really knowing the world or context it came from. That LP is still one of my all-time favourites. A lot of the melodies on my own tracks are inspired by the vibes on that album.
You’re now based in Bristol, but you spent time in Leeds and grew up in Sheffield. Each of these cities have their own rich history of music, how do your creative juices become affected when you move habitat?
I’m not too sure whether it’s being in a particular city which affects my musical outlook most or the people I end up being surrounded by and the subsequent opportunities that come from that. I’m more inclined to think that it is the people that matter most. Being really close with such great producers in Leeds and that being the circle of friends I spent the most time with definitely fed into how I approached making music. It was especially weird when writing my album Excitable, Girl as over the course of the year I was writing it, I lived in all three of these cities at various times. I can, now that the album is completed, track all those productions chronologically and geographically in a way which feels pretty satisfying.
Your debut EP and new album have both dropped via CPU, making you the first Sheffield artist they’ve hosted. What is your history with the label?
I remember for a good while before sending the label any demos I had really looked up to CPU as a bastion of electro and many of my tastes and introductions to electro and “IDM” came from the past five years of their releases. It was definitely unexpected when I got a positive response from Chris at CPU. I was still relatively naïve and new to production then and had had very little feedback from anyone toward my own material. In fact CPU was the only label that I had ever sent a demo to. The whole process with the Provisional Electronics EP went through so smoothly, it was a dream come true really. It was basically a few weeks sending emails back and forth and the next thing I knew the test pressings had arrived! And I only actually realised that I was first Sheffield artist on the label when it was pointed out in the music press.
With mastering assistance from Warp co-founder Rob Gordon and your dad being the promoter for legendary Sheffield night Jive Turkey, is it fair to say you’ve had certified guidance around you to help you learn your craft?
I think that goes without saying! I’m so thankful to have people around me who are far more experienced in the scene than I am. I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t have been able to keep on top of everything without the advice of people like my Dad and Samir (Happa), both of whom, it’s fair to say, know what they’re on about. Rob Gordon, who I think is a genius with sound, mastered my debut EP Provisional Electronics and he has also mastered my album Excitable, Girl. He understands my sound and masters all my productions.
As a new school figure of electro and someone who is moving forward in what is sometimes labelled as a ‘retro’ scene, how do you see the future looking for movements like electro and bleep?
That’s interesting to think about. I guess electro/bleep is and always has been, an extremely self-referential genre and I doubt it will ever lose that. I’m intrigued to see where it heads over the next few years, I’m noticing a lot more obvious breaks in electro tunes and its influences bleeding into other genres. I guess it’s very ‘in vogue’ at the moment and therefore it’s hard to predict how the scene will progress once that wave has run its course.
You’re appearing at No Bounds Festival x Hope Works in March alongside a heavyweight lineup, what’s your history with both of the platforms?
It’s an absolute joy and honour to feature as a resident for both Hope Works and No Bounds. Hope Works was really where my connection with dance music kicked off. When I volunteered at Hope Works I’d be at every event and I’d go home and instantly try and make music, just because I’d got myself so excited listening to tunes in a club space as good as that. That’s a habit I still haven’t kicked; I don’t really do afters as I prefer to get straight back into the studio. I don’t think I’d be anywhere near where I am today without the guidance and knowledge I gained working there. I have Liam (LoShea) to massively thank for that.
How’s the rest of 2019 shaping up for you? DJ gigs, production dreams, or otherwise?
Well, I’ve recently released my debut album ‘Excitable, Girl’ for CPU which is beyond exciting. I’ve got a lot of gigs lined up which I’m really hyped to play. I’m also looking to get out to some of the festivals this year as well.
Beyond that I’ve got plenty of other productions that I’m working on/ finished which will see the light of day this year. I’m also hoping to shape up a 96 Back live set as soon as possible, I’m just figuring out the logistics of it at the moment. All in all it should be an exciting year!
Excitable, Girl is out now. Buy it here.
Catch 96 Back at No Bounds Festival on October 12- 14.