I have been slipping deep into a weather induced Jazz binge the last few weeks. It seems the weather has turned from dry hot days of Kenny Dorham’s “Afro-Cuban” to the deep blue, wet city streets of Ornet Coleman’s “Shape of Jazz to Come”.
But during all of this I came across something completely different, an artist called Neat from Lyon in France. I was intrigued by the description provided on his Soundcloud page, placing his music in “the blurred era of post-dubstep” … a “greyzone between dancefloor and deep music”. Listening to his compositions there was clearly a heavy dubstep influence in the rhythm and tempo, however some haunting vocal samples and syncopated synth lines suggested a more experimental side. He has recently been working with sub specialists Airflex Labs for his latest EP “A light I Know” in which has taken to exploring the deeper, sub-frequencies of musical production.
I caught up with him to find out what Neat was all about and what this “Blurred era of post-dubstep” really is…
Dave: Hi, so first of all can you tell all of our readers who or what is Neat?
Hugo: My name is Hugo, i’m from the south of France, currently based in Lyon. I got into making music 12 years ago with a classical drums/percussion training, playing rock/jazz/whatever in several bands. I started to move around electronic music 8 years ago when I first discovered early electronic-infused pop/rock artists. I think my biggest influence at the time was (and still is) Detroit techno. Artists like Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, Deepchord, Basic Channel…I got hooked by the sounds and textures which I found extremely innovative, not to mention the prominent rhythmic aspect.
So I bought some drum machines and stuff to jam with. I learned all the production side step by step, with an incredible lot of trials and errors. I think my actual sound is the result of years of learning, plus a whole lot of influences ranging from concrete music to photography, but also simple things like human moods and behaviors.
Dave: A lot of people would consider Dubstep to be the most cutting edge music in the worldwide underground scene at the moment, yet you place your music in the “blurred era of post-dubstep” … is Dubstep outdated in your opinion? and what is the “future garage sound” that you have talked about?
Hugo:Well i don’t think it’s outdated, in fact i think it doesn’t really mean something anymore. What is Dubstep : Wobble ? 140-ish bpm ? Syncopation ? At the time of the first Tempa releases we could easily define the Dubstep “sound” because it was something we never heard before and we needed to stick a name on this new breed of dance music. Now it’s a bit tough to be honest. Do you find artists like James Blake, Ramadanman or Sbtrkt that close to the first Mala and Loefah’s dubplates ? I don’t…
The interesting thing is that it has spawned a whole lot of subgenres now, it’s a bit confusing to be honest. That’s why i’m using “blurred era” : you don’t really know how to categorize what you’re listening to. Maybe it’s a positive thing, more music and less meanings!
As for Future Garage, it’s a subgenre that uses the codes of Garage but with fresh ideas. It’s far from the pitched r’n'b songs with a skippy beat on them. It has that shuffled groove, heavy sub bass, and maybe a more IDM side. I think it’s promising if we take it a bit further. Check Whistla, Submerse, Sentinels, Opti…
Dave: So when you sit down to make new tracks are these the artists that you aspire to emulate or out-do with your music? Who are your influences?
Hugo: I’m not really into copycats/competition to be honest, although I often pick good ideas here and there. When I start new tracks I tend to have an idea/concept before rather than dabbling with sounds and putting them randomly in my sequencer. I think it’s the hard part. Production is one thing, but if you have no ideas behind, it won’t help.
In terms of influences at the moment i really feel every bit that comes out of Hessle Audio, also Peverelist, 2562, Floating Points, Martyn… But I come from techno and it still influences my sound in a way, artists like Matthew Dear, Miro Pajic, Oni Ayhun, Marcel Dettmann and all the new Berlin school.
Dave: What is your opinion of the underground electronic music scene in France at the moment? Do you think it compares to the rest of Europe and the USA?
Hugo:We’re experiencing some issues here. We have loads of talented artists in France, and i’m not talking about the cheesy french touch renewal. The problem is that we’re confined in a way of interacting that just doesn’t work. For example in the UK, artists are always trying to push their visibility by meeting people, showcasing, chatting, planning projects. They have a social schema that allows this, in my opinion. I have a feeling that here we are a bit stuck, like everyone is doing his thing alone. It’s a cliché to say, for example, if you’re making techno you should go to Berlin but it makes sense in a way. As an artist you naturally want to gain some interest, and it’s tough when you’re living in a place where there’s no proper “scene”. I mean, you have internet, but that’s not all.
The problem here is that it’s actually difficult to push a local scene as there’s not that much interest. People are not so curious in the end, they tend to fall in the trends quite easily and there’s not much room for alternative and forward-thinking music. For example in Paris it’s hard to hook up people on what you’re doing unless you’re booking big names or releasing on big labels.
Anyway the situation isn’t that freezed, you still have a lot of musical activism.
Dave: So has working with Airflex Labs influenced your music? Is it a creative relationship?
Hugo:I don’t think it has influenced my music too much to be honest. But it was very helpful to meet some people who share your thoughts about a lot of things, including music and its future. It’s a creative and productive process because we always share our opinion about new tracks, ideas, etc. It maintains a busy climate, i think it’s a good thing.
Dave: Do you have any events or tours coming up in the near future? What’s next for Neat?
Hugo: I’m doing a few gigs here in Lyon and Paris [...] I have a few remixes in the pipeline for Isotroph and Nekochan, hopefully a collab EP with Submerse, plus some more tracks of mine…
Stay tuned, big things to expect from Airflex in the near future !
Dave: Great! Well thanks so much for talking to us here at Dirtyradio.org .
I am going to be featuring three tracks from Neat’s EP on my Black Box show this Sunday at 7pm GMT. You can also catch more info on the album and get your ears wrapped around some music at Neat’s Soundcloud and websites here: