Among the new wave of producers to emerge through the dubstep legacy, few can match the craftsmanship of Thelem's meticulous attention to detail and stunning sound design. Thelem's music combines the sounds of dubstep, drum n bass and techno, with deep sub heavy flavours, intricate but bold drum programming and intense atmospherics to produce radical and innovative compositions, experimental in nature, but powerful on the dancefloor. Also included in his artistic skill set is a mean hand at graphic design, having designed artwork for, amongst others, a number of the labels to have seen his releases, including Osiris Music and Innamind Recordings.
Thelem has come a long way in a short space of time. He first launched onto the electronic scene by starting his own imprint Orientis Records, a label which made a stir in the dubstep scene irrespective of it’s short lifespan. Featuring as it’s second release was his debut, the “Lucid Dream" EP, which included the still requested, atmospheric and gritty dubstep track "Drones”. He continued to develop this aesthetic with his release on Loft Party Recordings, the even deeper and shadowy tracks “Distilled" and "Waiting Hour”. Within a year Thelem had come to the attention of the much respected Osiris Music and Chemical Records own label Black Box, with his productions for labels such as these showcasing the continued development of his unique sound, a stunning mix of haunting atmospherics, powerful low end, and finely tuned synthesis. He has also shown his ability to work strongly with vocals, with his debut release on Innamind Recordings, including “Bring Me Down" featuring vocalist T-Man, promptly selling out.
Having refined his production aesthetics, 2014 has seen Thelem spreading his wings into new territorities, experimenting with bringing influences from other genres into dubstep, and putting his own stamp on the ever evolving uptempo rhythms to masterful effect. His last release on J:Kenzo's Artikal Music with tracks “Grainform" and "Petrichor" plus his forthcoming release on said label, the "Haunted Harmonics" EP, available for pre-order now and released on Monday 28th April, should not be missed and are an enticing view of things to come.
With all this in mind we are very happy to have Thelem present the next episode in our mix series. We got together with him to ask him a few questions about his approach to production and working with vocals, his influences, and his not so secret love of the world of celebrity cats.
You have recently been mixing up your production and DJ sets by playing and making music at around both 140bpm and now 170bpm, both in your signature style. What has prompted you to work more at higher tempos? Are there any particular labels or artists that have helped to inspire you in this? Also what do you enjoy and find beneficial about working with each tempo range?
I think listening to more higher tempo music inspired me initially to start producing it, I found I was sometimes getting stuck in a rut with constantly making 140. As a producer it was refreshing to work at a new tempo and opened up a whole new world of inspiration for ideas. There are lots of artists that constantly inspire me in all genres across the board, I like to try and take influences from all sorts and twist it into what ever music I’m making at the time, weather it be slower or faster bpm’s. As for labels I like the diversity of Exit right now in the higher bpm range, allot of the music coming out on there seems really fresh. I also love what Artikal is doing in 140 along with Innamind, It’s also really nice to have the chance to release some of my DnB on artikal on my most recent EP. What I enjoy most about working in different tempo ranges is the having the freedom to experiment more and not get bogged down in one sound or style. Also the lack of restrictions in rhythm’s and grooves is great, for example what might not work at 140 so well or sound too sluggish slower can sound cool at 170 or higher.
You’ve worked with a vocalist (T-Man) on your track Bring Me Down for which you had a video produced as well, and we’ve heard you’ve worked with him on another tune that we should be hearing more of soon. How did you come to be working with T-Man, what’s your approach when putting together a tune for a vocalist, and what do you enjoy and find challenging about working with a vocalist and vocals?
I was a fan of T-man for a while, I first heard him on a Dub Phizix’s and Skeptical release and really digged his style. I looked around on the Internet and found some freestyles on YouTube he had done, I really liked his style and flow and thought it would be sick to get him on a 140 tune. I didn’t really think anymore of it till I had a gig up north and T-man was hosting the event, we got chatting outside in the smoking area and it all went from there really. My approach to making the tune was try and leave a bit more space in it for the vocal, I wanted something pretty gritty with quite allot of drive that would compliment a vocal well. “Bring Me Down” was my first ever vocal tune and yeah it was pretty tough to be honest, I didn’t really have a clue about processing vocals or how it should be done, so it was allot of trial and error in getting it all balanced. I was lucky enough my mate Alex had had previous experience in vocals so he gave me a few good pointers, it doesn’t sound the most professional listening back but I’m happy with the overall outcome.
The sound design, atmospherics and soundscapes in your introductions and breakdowns have incredible attention to detail and a sound that would not be so out of place in a Hollywood movie. How much does film influence you creatively? Are there particular movies and movie styles that inspire your soundscapes, and do you sculpt them as if producing for a particular film or style?
I think film influences me more subliminally, recently I don’t really pay a huge amount of detail to the sounds being used within films and trailers when I watch them, sometimes the odd sample stick out which I will make note of. Although saying this sometimes I will watch films/movies just for samples I could possibly use, I’ll go on the hunt for certain sounds, from spoken word to pad / atmospheric sounds. I am a huge fan of Sci-fi films and I think this really does influence me in certain aspects of my tunes, however when making a tune I don’t really go in with the mind-set of producing In a particular film style.
There are many intricate rhythmic sounds weaving in and out of your beats that sets them apart from the rest in terms of style and originality. What’s your starting point for production and how do such complex parts come together as a whole, do you have ideas about these in mind when you start producing a tune or do you introduce them as you go?
To be honest Sometimes I go in with an idea for a bulk of a tune, sometime I go in empty headed and see what materialises. I always start my tracks with drums and get a basic groove, then go form there. The complex and intricate details are usually allot of trial and error in seeing what sounds good or works well in the mix. I never really sit and think the minute details out; usually I play around for a long time with sounds and see what happens. I probably spend to much time on the little things people wont even notice sometimes lol.
Quick fire round (one word answer):
Kebab or Pasty? Pasty
Batman or Superman? Batman
Lil Bub or Grumpy Cat? Lil Bub
Metalheadz or Exit? Exit
Toastyboy or Vex’d? Vex’d
Hip Hop or Reggae? Hip Hop
Any forthcoming releases or projects you can give us any information on?
I have some a couple bits forthcoming later on around summer, which is on the down low for now. I’m also still working on this LP, which I’m trying to aim to get done for Christmas time this year.
Finally, can you tell us a bit about the mix you have recorded for us?
The Mix is a little random, there quite allot of different sounds crammed in the short period of time. Tempo wise it ranges from 140 – 170(ish) and features a variety of beats and styles I’m currently feeling and influenced by. Hope you enjoy!
Sorrow - Murky Lurker
Piezo - Blaster
Zomby - Strange Fruit
Vex’d - Angels
D Double E - Frontline
??? - ???
Jubei & Consequence - Black Hornet
Skeptical - Tundra
Thelem - Obsessions
Thelem - Forces Of Nature
Thelem & Gremlinz ft. T-man - Mind Games
Alix perez - Gully Halves
Two Fingers - Fools Rhythm
Stray - Eazy Boy
Alix perez - U
Tmsv - Respite
Tmsv - Sundown
Quasimoto - Greenery
Buy the Haunted Harmonics EP from the Artikal Music Surus store here.