In Conversation: Tim Green & The Slow Revolt
Respected UK producer Tim Green and acclaimed artist The Slow Revolt come together for a standout new collaborative single off Zurich’s Cityfox Records.
In recent years, Tim Green has become a highly revered artist in the global techno scene with huge releases for the likes of Cocoon, Get Physical, and Get Weird, while The Slow Revolt’s ethereal sound and truly distinctive voice who has found favour with the likes of Max Cooper‘s Fields imprint. These two artists really bring out the best of each other and have created what could be one of the singles of the summer.
Here, the two artists go “In Conversation” as Tim Green (bold) and The Slow Revolt (italic) discuss everything from their respective studio setups, impressions of London, production process, and more.
“There’s…a tension to the experience of London”
Hey Joe, so as you wrote the original version of our collab, I really would love to know your inspiration for the song?
Hey Tim. There’s a lot in there! I wanted to see how the song format could stretch. Rhythmically, it owes a lot to London and many of the currents in club music here over last decade – that’s the backbone. Over this I wanted synths that would almost overspill with melodic ideas, with an exuberance and energy that could counterpoint the lyric, where I’m exploring ideas of hesitancy, restraint and being out on the edge of things – fairly atypical themes for a ‘club’ track, you could say. I was aiming for a subtle tension in the track, where the momentum of the music is being slightly subverted by the message. I think the final movement of the song, where it takes a darker turn with the abstracted, shoegaze guitar draws that under current out.
Technically, it started with me toying around with a Nord Modular, a few Roland CR78 drum samples, a recording of matches being struck, some ad lib vocals, and evolved from there. There was a lot of road testing and revising of the track and I even brought live afrobeat drummer into the mix for a few shows. For me, stylistically it’s a track that hints at different worlds, which is why it was so gratifying to hear you tease out and cement its potential as a club track.
On that note, I’d love to hear what drew you to work with the track and take it this direction, and how it relates to your other work.
So instantly it was the sounds that you crafted together and used within the track. The production and creativity with each part were so fantastic, where each sound was so beautiful to listen to even on its own. Especially all the pretty descending synth and bell-like parts. Plus your vocal as ever is amazing! You know how much of a big fan I am of all your music, I listen to your music in my free time regularly. I think your song writing and ability to craft such interesting sounds together seamlessly is very inspirational. So ‘Still not born’ is no exception – which just made my creativity and enthusiasm so huge for working together on this. It just opened my mind a lot to new ideas and ways to take the song in a new direction. A different direction essentially. More uplifting musically, dance floor obviously for my target audience – but still retaining a lot of the musicality from the original. I was so happy with the way it turned out, and it gets such wonderful reactions everytime I play it out.
But you talked a little bit before how you got the initial part of the song going. But wondered firstly if you could just touch a little more on the specific sounds used in this track, and what you used to produce them? Synths and plug ins etc… Plus also you mentioned your London influence – as we’re both Londoners, I’m interested is this just a direct musical influence from London, or your taking influence also perhaps from places / things to do in London?
It’s great to hear you were really delighted in the production details – the crafting of each sound is a real pleasure for me. Gear-wise, I guess the core synth that provides most of the sounds is my old Nord Lead 2. It was Autechre-inspired purchase years ago and aside from being pretty intuitive and hands on, it has a really glassy, futuristic edge to it, which gives those cascading parts you mentioned their slightly alien character. It’s a pretty cold sound, so I put parts through the Neve clone preamps for harmonic warmth, and took it to TJ Allen at Bristol’s J&J Studios (who works with Portishead & Bat For Lashes, among others), who warmed it up further, added some Juno bass, and wrestled the mix down to something manageable! On the percussion front, there are loads of found sounds, glasses being struck, a dripping tap as a woodblock, coffee tins as shakers, microscopic mouth sounds and finger clicks culled from the vocal takes, field recordings from my local park – I easily lose myself in those details!
I’ve lived in South-East London for a long time and it’s certainly had its effect musically. That seam of soundsystem-influenced dance music that runs through the decades – jungle, bashment, garage, dubstep, grime, pirate radio, clubs like Fwd, etc – there’s a distinct London sensibility there that’s a core part of my listening and nightlife but not something Ive made that explicit in my other material. So, I wanted to acknowledge that here, in the drum patterns and the low end of this track, with a firm nod to that late 00’s moment where genres were cross-pollinating on labels like Hyperdub, Hessle Audio, Hemlock, R&S and Night Slugs. Of course, my sensibilities as a songwriter and other influences like post-rock come into play and take the track a few steps away from the dance – it’s an interesting tension to me, between music that’s more immediate, vital and pleasure-seeking, and something more reflective and self-conscious.
There’s also a tension to the experience of London, where you have such proximity to the heart of things; culture, communities, money, etc. but it can often be out of reach or inaccessible – that idea definitely runs through the lyric of the track. Of course, you soon realise that the interesting stuff happens on the peripheries; I certainly get a lot from my locale, from club nights at Rye Wax or Corsica Studios, shows at Servants Jazz Quarters, open forums like CDR and the like, there’s a lot of smaller scale, inspiring activity happening.
Speaking of tensions, you hint at twin concerns in your versioning of the track, between dance floor function and musicality. I remember coming to your studio and seeing guitars and a sizeable amp stack, to learn that youre a pretty seasoned guitarist, and your Fact magazine Against the Clock improvisation was pretty melodically rich, but your productions are often amazingly focussed, clipped and disciplined. How do you reign in your more expansive or melodic tendencies for the dance floor, is it a challenge at all? I’d be interested to hear about your production process generally and whether more traditional instruments are part of that. Secondly, you too live in London, but spend a lot of your time DJing globally, does London play apart in your musical identity? What do you connect with when you’re here?
Yeah your right to question if it’s a challenge at all, because it was probably the toughest learning curve I had to over come in the past. Even still today I have to keep it in check when producing electronic music. Back when I first started producing electronic music it was a real challenge to write essentially very simplistic sounding music. I was not used to that, as I come from playing guitar in bands with genres like Rock, Jazz, Blues etc… Jazz is especially my personal favourite with its over flowing musicality and flair. So initially I was doing tracks with way too much musicality, and too much going on. So I had to really un-learn a lot of what I knew from my years previous to electronic music. Or at least learn how to really dial it down and only use very simple, but effective ideas and musical flourishes. As some of the best electronic music has been written by people with no musical theory knowledge, and because of that, they come up with some incredible ideas! Ideas that I think people like us with music theory would never be able to think of. As we always think in scales, modes and intervals etc… always hearing the “correct” notes to hit. They just come up with random ideas through experimenting. So I try and work this way, experimenting more and letting things be out of key etc…. But then utilise my theory knowledge for certain parts of the song, like anything melodic such as a baseline, melody etc… As I still firmly believe that house and techno music can get more musical in the future, it’s just about the right amount and balance. Plus delivering it the right way to the listeners on the dance floor. As too much music can really put people off, sometimes people just want a phat dirty beat haha.
My production process is always up in the air, I don’t start the same way most of the time. I could start on a guitar, but end up with a fully electronic song. I guess, mostly I would like to write the melodies before doing the beats, as I think the focus should be more on the music than the rhythm. So I would usually play ideas out on my synths, usually the Prophet 6 and Nord Modular are my best go-to for inspiration. My Nord I just love still after owning it for so many years – I still don’t get bored. The Prophet though is a good example of, in my opinion, usually best suited to certain types of sounds. Usually, more softer songs it’s good for I find. Like great pads and leads for softer more deeper songs. For dirt and attack, either of my Moog’s or the MiniBrute works great.
Regarding London, yeah you’re right – unfortunately now I can’t experience as much as I used to. But growing up in Kent, London was where all of my first time experiences happened. I’d always travel to London from Kent. First ever concert was Paul McCartney at Earls Court. First proper clubbing was at Fabric. First Jazz concerts all in London for me as well. Then that just continued on, all of the gigs were obviously in London, where every Artist from around the world passes through. So my love of London was from such an early age, I used to love going to the city. Same goes for going to all the guitar shops on Denmark Street and playing all the expensive toys all day! But I guess now the part it plays to me is honestly the love of this city. It really is my favourite city in the world now, and my home obviously. I love being here and the City just inspires me every day. The lifestyle and environment here is just the best in my opinion, and I’m super happy being here. So all helps my creativity.
Joe as you know, I’m a huge fan of your music! And as we haven’t spoken in a while, I’m wondering do you have any other things in the pipeline, forthcoming releases you can talk about?
Likewise Tim! Well, first thing on my agenda is working out how to replicate the low end from your tracks… bass-envy aside, I hear what you’re saying about the challenge of so-called ‘musicality’ in dance music, which is often at its best at its most primitive or essential – if you come from a non-dance background, it’s tricky to reconcile. My releases thus far have arguably sat in the spaces in between genres; although I’m very focused on what I want aesthetically, part of the point of the project is to cast these tracks out as seeds of potential to see who responds, rather than feeding a strictly defined audience. I want to show a complex identity. My last ‘Sketches’ EP was a more organic & guitar-based, which BBC6music responded well to and it also opened up some new collaborations – I’ve lent some guitar to some really interesting projects this year that should see releases fairly soon. Conversely, Still Not Born is aimed squarely at the club, leading as it does with your mix and the fact that we’re releasing with the Cityfox label. I love tapping these different genre spaces and it’s pretty cool to know to anticipate this getting dropped at the Cityfox nights in Zurich and (now they’re back in operation) New York. Beyond this though, I think it’s time for me to put out a bigger release – there’s a lot in production. I’ll also be doing a tour later in the year – life has been busy of late, but I’m pretty keen to get back out and play live, where I’m most comfortable.
You’ve just come back from a tour in the States, that must’ve been great – what’s up next for you?
Yeah it was great fun actually. It was LA, San Fransisco, New York, Miami, Mexicali and then Playa Del Carmen! Quite a lot of traveling, too much to be honest, but fun none the less. Got a few days off now thankfully to stay at home in London and enjoy the weather and Wimbledon. Plus get back into the studio as much as possible before going off on a mini Asia tour and weekend on the 12th July. Then back to the states again after that tour, where ill be back in New York this time for Cityfox, as my debut for them! Amongst other dates around North America / Canada and Mexico.
I’ve also recently started my new live setup, which I’m only 1 gig into. I’ve got several more coming up over the summer with Cocoon. Plus got my debut album which I finished recently for Cocoon, which ties in with the live set as well. So a lot of my focus will start focusing more and more on this live setup and developing it a lot more also!
“Still Not Born” is NOW AVAILABLE on Cityfox. BUY