Laying down a nice groove is easier when you’re working alone but working together and vibing off each other’s ideas is what makes a Moonstones beat, a Moonstones beat.
The Netherlands has blessed the electronic music scene with a number of high profile artists over the last decade; from Martyn to Icicle, Proxima, TMSV, Gomes, The Illuminated, and now a relatively new act who go by the name of Moonstones. The trio stormed into the spotlight last year with their debut EP on FatKidOnFire grabbing the attention of many in the process. If FKOFd023 wasn’t a big enough statement, the group then followed up with their first vinyl release only a month later on Baltimore’s flagship, GourmetBeats. It is no secret the wonders Joe Nice has achieved in his DJ career in breaking new artists to the global dubstep community. His monthly slot on Sub FM is a gold mine for the freshest sounds and provides crucial air time for the up and comers to reveal their latest work. Huge support for Moonstones on the show resulted in the Mutations EP bringing the trio together with Malleus, an American artist equally enjoying similar recognition. Almost a year has passed since Moonstones have released new material, however once again, Sleeper with his ear to the floor, has snapped up the talented trio for a killer 10” on his label Crucial Recordings. With their new record shipping this week, I pinned down Crucial’s latest signees for a few questions about their music, influences, and the new release on Crucial Recordings.
Easy guys, thank you for taking the time to speak with me, how’s it going?
All is well mate, thanks for having us!
For those not familiar with you and your music, who are Moonstones, when did the three of you meet and how did the project come together?
Moonstones are a DJ trio and a producer duo based in Deventer, Holland. We met way back in high school, primary school even, where we were mates, classmates and – having the same taste in music – bandmates. Around 2008 when we went to uni we started discovering dubstep mainly through Gomes & Brutuzz and a rave called “Dubbel” in Enschede. We bought some decks, started DJing and later hosted a night called “Klub Dub” in Het Burgerweeshuis in our hometown.
Could you tell us a little bit more about this musical journey and your interest in building beats?
Musically, it’s been going in all directions, but we always preferred a darker, underground, badass kind of sound. Our mutual musical interest started off with metal, without a doubt. Listening to bands like Limp Bizkit, Slipknot and Korn as kids, to bands like Opeth, Tool and Animosity growing up. After that we went into different directions briefly, only to discover that later all of us separately got into dubstep, which brought us back together. DJing was a sort of natural development from being into the sound so much and production started from an interest in sound and an urge to make something of our own, except for only trying to create sick blends behind the decks. And for the fun of course, it’s all about the fun!
How do you go about working on tunes together, do you prefer to develop stems individually or organise sessions in the studio as a group?
The process is different every time. Sometimes we build a beat from scratch together, which is a lot of fun but takes a long time. Most of the time we make grooves separately and build from there together. Laying down a nice groove is easier when you’re working alone but working together and vibing of each other’s ideas is what makes a Moonstones beat, a Moonstones beat.
In terms of production, from the hardware you use, to any additional software and plugins you can’t live without, how do you make the most out of your studio setup when approaching the build of a new beat?
We use Logic 9 together with KRK Rokit’s or Yamaha HS8’s, depending on which place we are. Nothing much to it. A lot of sounds are sample based. We love this little plugin called Frohmage from Ohm Force.
The hallucinatory motif in your work (à la Gantz) groups you in a circle of new producers experimenting with a range of dark and abstract designs, from hypnotic polyrhythms, to paranoid arpeggios, and obscurely chopped samples. What attracts you to this “aesthetic” of music over other genres?
A taste in music can only be described in some sort of physical reaction you get when you hear certain sounds. For us it happens to be a dark, raw, groovy sound, which can be found in all genres. As far as production goes, a beat does not necessarily have to be “experimental” to be dope, but that’s just the way we end up producing. Basically, it’s one big mix of the things we love brought together. Inspired by our first musical love, metal, which is all the terms you just described, with elements from dubstep producers that we dig and influences from all across the musical scale. And of course, we want to try and bring something new to the table.
You’re first vinyl release “Mutations” dropped on GourmetBeats last year. How did it feel to finally have some material out there on physical format, and are you happy with the response it’s had? Malleus’ remix complemented the record rather well wouldn’t you say?
Having a release on Joe Nice’s label is unreal. We used to (and still do sometimes) set our alarm clock to listen to his show on Sub FM in the middle of the night, hearing all these classic dubs and the boundless enthusiasm he has towards the sound. Now this guy is reaching out and wants to release our music on vinyl? It’s crazy! The Malleus remix is sick. In our opinion, Malleus is one of the most exciting and prolific producers at the moment. His music is, apart from mixing, suitable for just listening, which is rare in this genre we believe. His music makes us want to make a beat and simultaneously quit music.
You’ve also been snapped up by Sleeper for his Crucial Recordings imprint. What does this signing mean for you as an artist, and what did you want to achieve with your first solo vinyl release?
We’ve been following Sleeper since his first release on Chestplate. To see / hear him develop the way he has is really interesting. To have a release on his label is amazing. The sounds of him, Foamplate, EVA808 and Oxossi fit really well together and we hope this 10” contributes to this sound.
When Sleeper first sent me the tracks, they had Crucial written all over them. Given the stripped-back experimental sound the label has quickly become synonymous for, did you feel that you could push the boundaries a bit more with this release now that you’re a little more established?
We wouldn’t say that we are established. Besides, we think that Yen Pox is a natural development for us. It wasn’t something we planned on doing or thought about in terms of pushing the boundaries.
Mesck created the typography for the artwork almost entirely out of ashes which I thought was a nice touch. Which label artwork has grabbed your attention the most recently?
Yeah out to Mesck. The artwork is amazing and with his approach working with real ashes gives it that bit extra. We really like the timeless designs some labels have. From the Tempa font to the old Box Clever sleeves and of course Tim’s Medi heads. The power of simplicity we reckon.
There’s a nice collaboration with Saule on Soundcloud called “Triple Threat”. How do you find sharing the workflow on a joint project with another artist compared to how you guys would approach a Moonstones one? Do you feel that it aids your own development as a musician as you share and discover new ideas with other producers?
It’s interesting to see how other guys work and create sounds, but collabs are hard. We have a few unfinished collabs that we just can not finish. Sometimes it’s like that. The Saule collab was very swift and immediately felt good. It’s a real 50/50 collab we believe, with equal input from both Saule and us, which is nice.
On that note, what else can we expect from you in 2016, is there any other forthcoming material, interesting projects, or up and coming music gigs you can inform the readers on?
Not much yet, but there are always some beats in the works. It’s been a busy summer; Koen just started new studies, Dennis rounded up his own festival and Frank just moved places. But the darker days are ahead, so that means beats season is about to start!
Thank you for your time guys, all the best with the forthcoming projects. Are there any final comments / shout outs you wanna share to wrap things up?
Out to you guys for the time and interview, thank you. Out to Alex, Joe, Olaf and Will for putting out our music. Out to Ben and Reece for the constant DJ support. Out to the international crew supporting and sending us music. Out to everyone hitting play on our Soundcloud or putting the needle on our records. Big up!
A track… by your favourite new artist: Samba – Un you’re currently opening your sets with: Malleus – A New Sky Shines (An Old Shadow Glooms) you give the rewind treatment every time: an oldie called ‘In Principe’ by Dutch producer Kubus and a dub called ‘Loyal Team’ by Dark Tantrums you would like to remix: a Headland beat