With only a moderate interest in drum and bass it’s fair that, before hearing the Uprise Audio ‘Live From The Future’ compilation, I had never even heard of Stealth and Altair. Their featured track ‘Lost Highway’, a beautiful soundscape of hypnotic rhythms and spine chilling melodies, really captured the conceptual fabric of the album. As a personal highlight, I started to dig through their respective discographies to see what other gems I could wrap my ears around. To my delight, their producing careers stretch back a number of years with a healthy amount of music put out via an interesting range of labels. Drawing from the golden era of drum and bass, Stealth’s sound reflects the dark, futuristic sci-fi textures that RAM Records, Metalheadz, Renegade Hardware, Virus to name a few, once championed during the mid-late 90’s. Raw in energy cut straight for the dancefloor, Stealth has flirted with the idea of his own “sound” over the past couple of years as credible labels such as RAM Records and it’s sister label, Program, have been quick to snap up his recent output. It goes without saying that if Andy C gives you the seal of approval, you must be doing something right. On the other hand, Altair’s approach is a more cinematic affair with the emphasis placed predominately on layers of rich melody and rhythmical groove. Dabbling with a framework of tempos, Altair’s experimentalism has been acknowledged by a decent amount of perhaps lesser known labels on the account that his output remains heavily consistent. His music is poetic neatly convoluted into an odyssey-esque complex that transports the listener away from actuality and deep into celestial slumber. With that being said, it seems fitting to see the pair join forces to collaborate their ideas and knowhow to produce something novel. Stealth’s deep bass-driven grooves fused with Altair’s melodic soundscapes have already spawned exceptional results, ‘Silent Dream’ is just one example. With further material on the way, I was eager to include Stealth and Altair to our exclusive feature series and show some support of our own. Along with an engaging interview, they’ve contributed a tangential mix, as well as an exclusive free track.
TRUSIK: For those who don’t know you, what are your names, how did you acquire your aliases, and how would you describe your sound?
STEALTH: My name is Ali and I produce under the name Stealth. I’ve had the name for a long time now, it was back when I first heard about stealth technology and stealth bombers etc. Being a young teenager I thought it would be a cool DJ name. Although I like the name I kinda regret it a bit now as the word is not really unique to me, if you type ‘stealth’ into Google a million different things come up before you get to any of my stuff. However at the end of the day, a name is what you make of it. You could be called arse piss, and if you still made great tunes, nobody would care. The name would become synonymous with good music. I would describe my sound as miscellaneous back to the futurism.
ALTAIR: Hi, my name is Carl and I’ve been producing under the name Altair for a few years now. The name was actually thought up by a friend back in 2005 who I used to write tunes with, we had one release and then ended up going our separate ways and I ended up sticking with the name. I guess I’d describe my sound as Electronic music with a heavy focus on Atmospherics.
TRUSIK: When was your first contact with electronic music, and how has it shaped you as the person you are today?
ALTAIR: I don’t think I could tell you what my very first contact was but the record which got me into electronic music in a serious way was The Prodigy’s “Music for a Jilted Generation”, I remember hearing “No Good” for the first time round a mates house back in ’94 or ’95 and being amazed by the raw energy the music had. I had always been a bit of a Rock purist up until that point but I went out and got the album the next day and listened to it on repeat for the next 6 or so months, it really changed my outlook towards music and made me realise there was a world outside of Rock. Over the next few years I got more and more interested in Electronic music and ended up investing in some 1210s before eventually taking up producing a few years later. It’s fair to say it’s had a massive influence on my life.
STEALTH: I’m pretty sure my first contact with electronic music was the Prodigy’s Experience. I have 2 older brothers who are 7-8 years older and they got into the early rave scene, so growing up I was subjected to a lot early hardcore from them listening to pirate radio etc. The Prodigy though sticks out as the most memorable artists from this period and to this day still influence my work.
TRUSIK: Stealth, having read your interview with Kmag last month it is pretty clear that you have made substantial ground in terms of building beats. Looking back over the past couple of years, how have you progressed in your approach to music production? How much of this has contributed to the development of your current sound?
STEALTH: I think the biggest thing that’s changed for me in the last couple years is just understanding production values properly. This has allowed me to approach the ideas I wanted to get down with confidence, to do it properly and see it through to fruition. Previously I’d often get stuck when it came to sorting out the inevitable problems I had incurred due to throwing in all kinds of sounds with a lack of regard for the mix down. This led to hardly ever finishing projects because it would become a nightmare to work on. Sound selection is one of the biggest things, but you have to have a good ear to know whats worth selecting and whats not. The old saying is true… You can’t polish a turd!
TRUSIK: Altair, you too have been producing electronic music but on a different flex to Stealth. Experimenting with a range of different tempos, your tracks have featured on a number of different labels and compilations spanning back several years. Similarly, how would you say your music has matured and developed over the last few years, and which tempo has given you the most flexibility when translating your ideas into sound?
ALTAIR: I’m not sure if my actual music has matured, I’m still making stuff on a similar tip to what I’ve always done but obviously the production has developed a fair bit over that time. Tempo wise I’m open to just about anything, slower tempos are good because they give you a bit more space between the beats in which to fit your sounds but higher tempos offer more energy. I can’t really see myself ever focussing solely on one particular tempo, as an artist it seems like an unnecessary limitation to place on yourself.
TRUSIK: With Stealth focusing on dancefloor-based steppers, and Altair composing stripped-back melodic chillers, the production styles couldn’t be at more opposite ends of the spectrum. When you each set out to build a track, do you always have a clear direction of what you want to achieve, or do you begin with one element and let the process organically take form itself?
STEALTH: Although we have very different approaches and visions, we both share a love of music and are into similar stuff. Because of this we usually let an idea manifest organically when working in the studio – bringing our individual strengths to the project where necessary, but taking it in a direction that feels natural to both of us. I don’t find the process that different to when I work alone, the only difference being that its easier to finish something on my own as there’s less compromise on certain decisions, but then that’s what makes the stuff we finish so special.
ALTAIR: I think Ali summed it up well. Working with him has definitely changed and influenced my workflow in a positive way, previously I would spend ages tweaking one section before moving onto the next but now I prefer to get ideas down quickly and worry about tweaking things later. Switching to Ableton Live for the creative process has also helped massively, it lets me get ideas down so much quicker than other software although ultimately everything ends up getting imported back into Logic for arrangement and mixing.
TRUSIK: Uprise Audio recently released it’s debut full length LP titled ‘Live From The Future’ which features your collaboration, ‘Lost Highway’. With no prior affiliation with the label, how did you become involved with the project and can we expect further appearances from you both in the future?
STEALTH: I have known Eddy for a long time through music. He used to produce drum and bass under the name Eddy Woo, and we always kept in touch. I was aware of the waves he was making in the dubstep scene, so when I had finished a few tunes with Carl in the 140bpm realm I naturally sent them his way to see what he thought. That track in particular stood out and that’s how we came to have the release. There will be more to come in the future for sure. We have been working on a body of multi-genre projects over the last year or so, and have some really exciting stuff in the pipeline.
TRUSIK: ‘Lost Highway’ along with ‘Pilgrim’ sees your collaborative efforts entering the 140BPM territory for the first time. By adapting your approach given the additional space the tempo provides, how have the studio sessions progressed so far, are you happy with the results? What are the chances of building something special for Youngsta?
STEALTH: We are both really happy with Lost Highway. Personally speaking its one of my favourite tracks I have been involved in. Dropping the tempo down has definitely opened up new doors artistically and I have really enjoyed the stuff we have done. We have also experimented with other tempos, but 140 seems to be quite a versatile and interesting pace, so we have and will certainly continue to work more with it in the future. We’re loving what Youngsta does, hopefully one day we will write something that he thinks is special.
TRUSIK: I think it goes without saying that both of your styles compliment each other very well and the collaborations I have heard so far are just subliminal. Your track ‘Silent Dream’ is a beautiful piece of music. Combining your knowledge and skills, you’re now working on a body of new material under a new alias – Heavy Elements. Can you tell us more about this ambitious project and the type of music you’re putting together?
ALTAIR: As mentioned earlier we have been experimenting with different tempos and styles for a while now. It just seems right to house them under one roof and come up with a name for it as a unified project – Heavy Elements. There is no solid plans as of yet other than to make music we both love and see where that takes us. Watch this space.
TRUSIK: Outside of production, what other interests or hobbies do you dabble in? Do any of these activities inspire you creatively when returning to the studio?
STEALTH: For sure. I draw inspiration from life in general, and there’s no doubt that your mood and temperament is a huge factor in what comes out in the creative process. I love to cook, geek out about science and technology, watch films, stroke my cat, help old ladies across the road, feed ponies, go out and generally have as much fun as possible with the people I love.
ALTAIR: Likewise I’m obviously big into feeding ponies, who isn’t? Apart from that I’m massively into Motorsport and Football, my obsession with both borders on the unhealthy and probably takes up more time than it should. I’ve also been trying to get more into cooking, Ali’s a bit of a don chef so I’m hoping to get some tips from the master.
TRUSIK: What else can we expect from Stealth and Altair in 2013, is there any forthcoming material, or other interesting projects you can inform the readers on?
STEALTH: There are no more collab releases lined up for us before the end of the year. I have a solo drum and bass track coming out on RAM records this month – Nightfall [feat. Codebreaker]. Apart from that its all about next year now. Onwards and upwards!
ALTAIR: Yeah really looking forward to next year, lots of things in the works at a variety of tempos including a Hip Hop project we are both really excited about.
TRUSIK: Take us through the mix you put together for us.
STEALTH & ALTAIR: We’re not really sure how to describe it other than “a collection of scrumptious beats, new and old… mashed together for your listening pleasure”. It was a lot of fun putting it together, we hope you enjoy it.
TRUSIK: Finally, your five favourite tracks at the moment…?
STEALTH & ALTAIR:
Joe Hertz – At Your Touch
Boards of Canada – Sick Times
Mitch Murder – Remember When
Jon Hopkins – Collider
Submerse – Melonkoly