We’re pumped to host this mix from Royce Rolls. It was recorded 100% live and it’s a bit of a ‘best of 2011′.
I was introduced to Robin around the middle of last year by Cooly G after she signed him to her label Dub Organizer. As you will read in our interview, he is an artist with a lot of experience. From Hip Hop to Dubstep to Theatre – he’s been there! Best of all he became a father last year and his daughter is bringing a new dimension to life.
After a flurry of unofficial remixes and bootlegs NYC label Trouble & Bass gave Royce the nod of approval, posting up his unofficial remix of Supra 1’s I Believe. Back home, BBE records enlisted Rolls for his first official remix of TY’s Heart Is Breaking feat Sway and Roses Gabor. With a solid debut EP release just before the dawn of 2011, Rolls has been busy in the studio creating sounds influenced across the board, from 90s Jungle and Speed Garage through to the latest soundsystem vibes from across the world. Matched with varied production techniques like gritty sample-heavy chops to euphoric synth breakdowns, his sound is hard to pin down.
Check out our exclusive interview with Royce Rolls here and visit these links for more:
Look out for more news about the Dub Organizer compilation and mixes from artists on the label over the coming months.
How long have you been producing music for?
Woah.. years man! (laughs).
I mean, I started when I was 13 or 14. Yeah, sort of 14 really. I got my first beatbox. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one – a Yamaha RM1X.
Oh yeah… wow okay.
Yeah that came out like ‘98/’99 and that was the start when I got that. Before that I was sort of messing around trying to DJ, but I never had decks or anything; I could never really afford them. I wasn’t that interested in DJing straight away, but I sort of DJed in a youth club every week when I was 14.
It was this under age club that was run by a church. It was like an underage rave – it was hilarious! They didn’t have vinyls though they just had CDs – you know the old style like typewriter CD decks. So I used to go down there and DJ with friends.
Before the Yamaha I had a keyboard. I would get frustrated because I’d record down a bass-line and drum on one tape recorder then sort of play it back and maybe record it all on another tape recorder through the mic. That was pretty much it – I could only have a few tracks.
When I got this little Yamaha thing it just kind of exploded for me really man. For a month I was just on it every night after school and the whole weekend. I was just trying to learn everything on there. It didn’t sample or anything – it was just a synth basically with a sequencer.
Then I made a tape and I played it to some of my friends in school and they were like “cool, cool” and whatever. I was like: “Who do I give this to? Who do I take this music to?”
Back then, I wasn’t even burning CDs – it was on minidisk or something like that. I mean, I couldn’t make loads of demos and send them to people. I just had a few tapes and being a kid in Teesside I couldn’t just walk down to the Sony offices in London!
So I took this tape back to the guy [Mike] who sold me that bit of kit. I was like, “it was kind of your fault that I made this!” (laughs)
Mike kind of laughed at me and told me to come back at lunch so he could have a little listen.
I was really into Jungle and Drum n Bass but I couldn’t sample on the Yamaha. Obviously ninety percent of Drum n Bass and Jungle back then was all sample based with the Amen Breaks and everything, so I just couldn’t get that sound. So my tape was all kind of like housey trance stuff.
Anyway, I went back and he was like, “Wow man! I can’t believe you’ve come back in a few weeks with a demo like this, you’re just a kid!”
He told me to get in touch ‘cause he managed local artists and he was part of a band. He introduced me to scratch DJ K-Delight who I kind of half knew because I had heard of him in the area. I think he’s well known in the Australian Hip Hop scene.
So by 15 I had a major label knocking on my door for one of these trance tunes! Mike had sent it off to a lot of people and got local DJ’s to test demos in clubs around the North East. Then he came to see my mum – he didn’t want to manage me straight away, just like help me out.
So once or twice a week after school, when I was 14 or 15, I would go to this guy’s house. He had a home studio and he would just teach me how to do stuff basically; like compression and mixing down properly.
Mike had a singer who’s kid was big – it was actually Zoe Birkett. If you go back to the original 1st UK Pop Idol, she came third and is now a singer on the West End! She’s from my end and we made a couple of tracks together. We were like 14 or 15.
So what happened with the major label interest?
They didn’t realize how old I was. Mike sort of a passed a lot of my demos out but was keeping it quiet of how old I actually was. He didn’t want anyone to think anything straight off. So yeah, they started sniffing around and they sort of freaked when they realised how old I was.
My mum didn’t really want me to sign anything or get involved until I could handle it myself and after I had finished school and stuff. To be honest, they also lost a lot of interest when they found out I wasn’t old enough to go and DJ in a club and promote it. At the same time it was a good little confidence thing. I suppose that was the point when I realized that music might be a thing for me.
Confidence is really important when you’re starting out…
Yeah, definitely. This guy Mike really helped me out and gave me loads of confidence. But by 16 I sort of moved out of the area and just really lost touch with him.
I moved down to the Leeds/York area to go to music college just after my GCSEs. Then I sort of started a new chapter and got more heavily into Drum and Bass, Breaks and UK Hip Hop at that time. I was at Leeds College of music from 2000 to 2002.
Did anyone mentor you in those days? What type of music were you producing? Yeah there was a lot of great people at LCM, and although I was mainly studying Performance and Jazz during the day, I used to hang out a lot with the Degree and HND music tech students when I could. A couple of guys really helped me out; one was doing releases for LTJ Bukem’s label Good Looking, and I used to hang out round his studio in Chapeltown, where he also introduced me too Jerk Chicken and Jamacian food as well (laughs). He taught me all I needed to know about sampling and convinced me to get a decent sampler. He also gave me a retro-fitted 4 meg Atari ST to go with it for sequencing.
Then another guy Andy P who was involved in the Breakbeat scene; he gave me my first sets in Leeds at his own night where I would play out live on the RM1X and sampler, as I still didn’t own my own decks; all my spare cash at this time was going on studio gear.
That early gig led to loads more and I also ended up doing bits for some of the biggest promoters in Leeds at the time. I got more into promotions through this as well and learnt from a lot of great people and also got to meet loads of great artists from all over as well as Leeds, like DJ E.A.S.E [Nightmares on Wax], Ed Rush Iration Steppas, DJ Die, Utah Saints, Groooverider, Coldcut, Fingathing, MC Verse and so many more it was a great time. I even got given a mid-week night to help organize. I was keeping the age hush hush though (laughs). I still wasn’t quite legal.
You were saying before that your first demo came out totally differently from the type of style you intended to make. Do you think that type of ‘happy accident’ is a major part of producing music?
Its was more down to the limitations of the gear I had at the time, which in a way pushed me harder and I learnt more tricks and the ins and out of what I had at the time. I remember trying to make the Amen break on GM Midi drums and never really getting it right but I learnt a lot from doing it (laughs) I just worked with what I had at the time and the strengths of the equipment which was mainly House and Trance style sounds even though I was really burning to get the Jungle sound but couldn’t do that till a few years later when I finally got a sampler. The whole game has changed though since I first started with everyone being able to pretty much make what they want using plug-ins and a laptop, but I still find the best accidents happen when the hardware comes out. I’ve had quite a few producers come round the studio to find my plug-in folders pretty much bare (laughs), I am still mainly on hardware and sample based for synth’s and sounds. I think limitations can bring out the creativity and mixed with a few happy accidents like when the Midi goes wrong or the Roland hasn’t warmed up properly, will always produce something no-ones heard before.
I can hear from your tracks that you have been producing for a long time and that you have a good technical knowledge. How did you learn?
Mainly from the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet along the way; especially back in the early days with Mike, at college, and when I was at Uni hanging out in Ed Solo’s and other peoples studios in Brighton. I didn’t really take a course involving production till I got to University at 18; so the four years up till then it was just self experimentation with whatever equipment I could find and just learning from others that were willing to help.
What advice would you give to budding producers and people wanting to learn?
Just get involved, find out who’s doing things in your area and in most cases people are happy to help if you help out too. I’ve made a lot of tea, carried a lot of records about, handed a lot of flyers, helped move a label office and re-fit studios, but I’ve always got so much back in the way of knowledge and skills back then. I would also say learn the basics whether its synthesis, sampling or whatever it will make getting round all those colourful plug-ins a lot easier if you understand the processes going on in the background, and will definitely help if you make it into a big studio. And just believe in your self and your sound; I would probably say that’s one of the most important, you need to create your “own” sound even if your taking influences from other artists. Plus that said at the same time don’t get caught up in your own hype if things suddenly explode at whatever level you’ve got to keep the balance.
Tell us about some of your ‘ups and downs’ since you started?
Wow deep one! (laughs)
It’s a funny old game. Like any business there’s up and downs, sharks in the water, and mistakes to be made and things to be learnt from those experiences. This kind of links back to keeping the balance. (laughs)
Some of the early “ups” were the early Major interest and writing and performing some music with the RM1X live for a show in the Millenium Dome in 2000; I also wrote some dance music for another theatre production in Teesside about the same time, meeting and performing with Jazzy B (Soul to Soul) for the opening in Stockton, and generally my whole experiences at College in Leeds and Uni in Brighton.
After Uni I played some of my biggest shows ever as a touring Scratch DJ playing with Busta Ryhmes to tens of thousands in Africa, hosting Portugal’s version of the DMC’s plus other gigs in Europe and further a field.
I’ve also got so much out of the teaching and workshop based work I’ve been involved with. One thing I’ll always remember was teaching a 13 yr old how to make his first “wobble” bass-line using the LFOs; the look he gave me when it clicked was priceless.
There’s always a balance though and I would say some of the downs were when the Hip Hop bubble burst and a lot of work dried up for me mainly due to not having any control over what I was doing just being the beat-maker and crew DJ.
There was a point where I didn’t even go into the studio for nearly two years just out of frustration with what was going on at the time. Up until recently, I would trust someone with their word, until out of the blue they tried to get their major and lawyers to sue me over a simple miscommunication.
Another close friend of mine recently got his track ripped off by another big name after he supported them and played out his track thinking they would rep it, not rip it. I think that affected him deeply for a little while too.
But yeah, you just have to rise above it and keep doing your thing. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for all the experiences that I have had. Positive or negative, it’s all game. (laughs)
What have you learnt from that and what approach do you take now?
I’ve learnt a huge amount from all those experiences and maybe for a moment I let some of them affect me. I think I am a lot wiser than I was, and as far as passion and love for the music, that’s only got stronger in the last couple of years. I think there’s always a trick or two to learn everyday though, anyone who thinks they know it all is either not human or just lying (laughs).
I think my approach is a lot wider and more open than maybe it was back in the day.
What does being signed to Cooly G’s label, Dub Organizer, mean to you?
Oh man, so many things!
I am really excited about this year and the link up with Cooly G and Dub Organizer. It has been on the cards most of 2011 so there’s a lot of anticipation building up, but yeah its going to blow the roof off (laughs).
We first got chatting when she’d heard a demo from me and that was it, we just kind of clicked musically and it was go from then on. It’s been hard to link up as it’s been busy times but I recently went out to Switzerland to play electronics on her new live show at Switch festival.
Cooly has also lined up other amazing artists and DJ’s for the label, on top of her already being repped by some of the biggest names in the game; its exciting times and definitely means a lot.
What releases have you got coming out this year?
The first Dub Organizer compilation is coming very soon with my track Avalon Riddim featuring on that. Then two EP’s are following on Dub Organizer, the Listen EP and Battle 4 LDN EP, I am really excited about these two – can’t wait for them to drop. There’s also talk of another Dub Organizer compilation coming later in the year too.
I’ve also got a double A side coming soon on WW called Avalanche Riddim with a remix pack to follow. This ones been waiting for over a year for release, and again I am really excited for this to finally drop.
I’ve written two EP’s this summer with another producer and old friend Rogue State. One is based round the 130/140 sound which might be coming with their own label R8 Records, and one is a UK Moombahton sound featuring Bongo Chilli, aka Peppery, City Culture and long time Ragga MC Deebo General.
Last but not least, look out for a remix on Whistla’s (SubFm) L2S label coming soon as well.
So what are your other plans for 2012?
It’s going to be a hectic one with the music this year, but I’ve got plans to set up a small clothing label with my partner, something I’ve been banding about for years.
On the personal side I just want to be there and support my little girl. She’s the new big thing and a total inspiration to everything I do now. Having her has been a huge learning curve in itself. The next generation is here! (laughs)
I also do a bit of Mountain Biking and would love to go back and do the Mega Avalanche this year, but we’ll see, it needs a lot of planning and was a big challenge when I did it a few years back. It was the most dangerous and craziest thing I’ve ever done outside of the rave. (laughs)
Whatever happens this year it’s going to be fun.
Royce Rolls – Best of 2011 Live Mix – Tracklist
1. Royce Rolls – Battle 4 LDN (prt I) “Exclusive”
2. Mosca – Bax
3. Julio Bashmore – Battle For Middle You
4. 2 Bit Thugs – Hacienda
5. Purpl Pop – The Way [T.L.G.B Dub Edit]
6. Didz – Invaded “Exclusive”
7. Dutty Dan – Movin It Large “Exclusive”
8. Royce Rolls “v” Robin S – Why Dont U Show Me Love
9. Rogue State & J Vandal – The Chant “Exclusive”
10. Myth Rychards – Twisted Techno Wheel “Exclusive”
11. Royce Rolls – Electric People “Exclusive”
12. Crystal Zulu – One Man Island “Exclusive”
13. Karin Park – Tiger Dreams [Photek remix]