Gnasha: Dominant Debut

We got in touch with Gnasha to learn more about her debut EP, ‘Contortion’, which recently landed on Foto Sounds. The Leeds-based, 22-year-old producer has smashed her way into 140 with the EP’s title track ‘Contortion’ selected as Cuttah’s ‘Fyah Choon of the Month’ on the Deep Tempo vlog, ‘Jitter Dub’ and ‘Cleo’ premiered on the Infernal sounds and GetDarker YouTube channels, and a FKOF premier of ‘Highlander’, her fresh collaboration with Lampa. We’re excited to welcome Gnasha to the scene in her first ever face to face interview, getting the lowdown on Leeds and Huddersfield nightlife, forthcoming bits and 2020 lockdown tactics.

What was the first dubstep song you heard, or the track that made you think, “right, I’m going to make this”?

Well, I couldn’t pin it down to a particular song. It’s weird because when I was a kid it was either Metal, Happy Hardcore, or my favourite, The Prodigy, and I remember asking my mum, “How do you make that music?”. Then I finally came across this website called Club Create and it had loads of loops that you just had to arrange. After using that I eventually found FL Studio, and started to play about on that. But I didn’t have a clue what I was doing because I’d never seen any of it before.

Do you still use FL Studio?

I use Ableton now, I haven’t used FL Studio in ages. In my first year of uni there was a massive discount so instead of Ableton being around £500 I got it for £100 and yeah, from there I’ve carried on using it and never really looked back.

Are there any particular nights around Leeds that helped inspire your production?

Yeah, I used to go out a lot in Huddersfield because there was a really good scene there, but eventually all the venues got closed down. At the minute in Leeds there’s Sub Dub and Beneath the Surface, they’re doing pretty good things. I think they had a night with Navy Cut, Jack Sparrow’s label. I was meant to be playing for them at some point, but then 2020 happened.

With live events being unavailable, have you taken to livestreams or online DJ sets?

I recently recorded a guest mix for the Foto Sounds radio show on SWU.FM, which the label heads Khanum and Unkey host. Other than that, not really. I haven’t been doing much DJing recently, but I do book out a studio every now and then. I mainly use Pirate Studios, or the studios I can book through my uni. I’m paying £9K a year for them, so I may as well use them.

How has Covid and lockdown affected your creativity?

When we first found out we were going into lockdown, I was like, “Oh yeah, all this time to write music!” Then a month in I just had no inspiration for anything. I remember getting really frustrated because every day I’d be on it and then just be like, “do I even know how to write a tune?” But I managed to get a few out.

Were any of the tracks from the ‘Contortion’ EP written during lockdown?

Yeah, in fact all of them were pretty much written in the first month of lockdown. And then I’ve just been doing little bits since then. Playstation came in handy on those days it wasn’t going well.

In your track ‘Bunker’ with Griz-O, How did you find working with an MC changed the track writing process?

To be honest, the track was meant to be an instrumental and I sent it to Khanum. And he was like, “Oh, this would sound great with someone splitting over it.” And I was like, “Well, if you want to try it, why not? We’ll see how it goes.” And then I got the vocals back and just had to mix them in really, so the track was already made. I had to take a few elements out, so it didn’t sound too busy, but the majority stayed the same.

Could you tell me more about how tracks like ‘Cleo’ and ‘Glaze’ are created, which hardly retrace their steps?

I really like the Eastern sounds and I don’t know how to play in music, but I write in the scale so I know I can’t go wrong. Then I play about with melodies and work out where I can fit each part. So I’ll write a massive melody and then try and arrange it in the track as I go. Most of the tracks I’ve written I didn’t have an idea already; I just sit down and see what happens. I always use the double harmonic scale. I jot that in before and then whack notes in randomly – sometimes it can go wrong, that scale in particular can sound ‘off’ if you have a certain two notes playing alongside each other, so it’s just trial and error really.

The koto and shamisen vibes have been growing in dubstep, like in ‘Renshi’ by Traces on Albion Collective. Where did you grab the koto samples in ‘Cleo’ from?

I tried writing some tracks by sampling, but if I’m honest I’m not very good at sampling. I can never get it sounding clear, nice and balanced, so I always end up writing in my own using Kontakt libraries like the Guzheng from Native Instruments. If you’re going for that sound I’d recommend pretty much any of the factory library instruments. I also love the Ethereal Earth and Straylight packs for atmospheres/pads.

What’s next?

I’ve got a forthcoming release with Instigate which just got moved back to February. It was meant to land this year, but it’s been pushed back. Other than that, I’m writing more stuff at the moment and then I’ll submit to more labels and see what they think. Have a few in mind who I’d like to submit to, just limited on tunes at the minute so It’s a hard decision to make of who to submit to first.

Who is your favourite Beano character?

I don’t actually know, I never watched it or read it. Someone asked me what my alias was, and I was watching Dennis the Menace at the time and I was just like, that’ll do it. Me and Beano don’t go back very far. It was spur of the moment because I had a set in Huddersfield and they asked what my name was. I thought that Holly didn’t have much of a ring to it. I hope that’s not too much of a let down for people, maybe if we stay in lockdown I’ll commit some time to the beano comics.

Contortion EP is out now and available from the Foto Sounds Bandcamp.

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