Vivek’s legendary SYSTEM imprint continues to go from strength to strength with each release further cementing itself as one of the most iconic pillars of underground bass music. Not much needs to be said about the priceless value of these records and the rate at which they fly off the shelves come release day. For the collectors among us, 7 PM now marks an emotional minute where anxiety brews mad hysteria as that intangible thought of missing out shivers down your body. And with SYSTM008 and some limited edition slipmats up for sale in a matter of hours, tonight is no exception. The quality of the music certainly speaks for itself. Each record represents the sound system mantra “You Have To Feel It” and those who were present at the moat last summer know what I’m talking about. Today, it’s all eyes on Versa as we celebrate his debut record on SYSTEM. I caught up with him to discuss all things music related and he kindly let us premiere his A-side track ‘Rainfall In Dub’.
TRUSIK: Easy Michael – how’s life at the moment?
VERSA: Life is cool man, I’m in a bit of a transitional period right now… in between houses and studios but I’m still able to make music and that’s all that matters!
TRUSIK: You were in Sri Lanka when we last spoke, was it a nice trip?
What did you get up to?
VERSA: It was an amazing opportunity to get away from UK life, and work with some amazing musicians. I played some wicked gigs in India and in Sri Lanka then spent most of my time making music, it was a really productive trip!
TRUSIK: You’re playing with Rowl in Zagreb, Croatia today which you must be looking forward to. What kind of set are you guys gonna play, do you pre-plan those things?
VERSA: It’s always fun playing sets with Rowl as we vibe off each other really well. Nothing is pre planned but I’m sure we will start off slowly and make our way through to 170bpm somehow.
TRUSIK: You two have worked together quite a bit having appeared on Smokin’ Sessions and M.U.D respectively. How do the collaboration sessions typically work when you 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?
VERSA: It varies quite a lot to be honest. Sometimes we will start with drums, sometimes with music or a sample we might like… I guess it just depends on what we’re feeling at the time. There’s not really a formula we use when it comes to starting something new, we will work on it for a few hours and by then we know if its gonna be dope, if not we scrap it and start again!
TRUSIK: Following on from the previous question – from a personal perspective – how would you say you have progressed in your approach to music production over the past few years? How much of this has contributed to the development of your current sound?
VERSA: I have consciously stripped back my production, personally I love it when a track has minimal elements but maximum vibes. I have been focusing on creating space and dynamic within the sounds I use rather than throwing in any many layers as I can.
TRUSIK: Your production style is very much focused on the dub techno crossover – akin to early Headhunter, TRG, and Biome – so what attracts you to this “aesthetic” of music over other genres?
VERSA: As I mentioned, I love the space and movement you can create in dubtechno. The mysterious and pulsating energy. It’s definitely thinking music.
TRUSIK: We’ve noticed that a number of producers have adopted what we like to call the “DMZ Tradition” – beats built with rootical percussion, dubby atmospherics and reggae inspired basslines. Your next release on SYSTEM seems to fuse the “Versa palette” with that aesthetic. Was this a conscience move on your behalf or just a coincidental result of experimenting in the studio?
VERSA: I have always made dub, since the first time I fired up a sequencer 10 years ago! It just happened that my 2step and garage influenced stuff got noticed first. I still make all sorts but I’m glad that my dub riddims are getting some love now!
TRUSIK: SYSTM008 features two beautiful tracks; Rainfall In Dub and Road To Righteousness. How did the connection with VIVEK come about resulting in those two tracks being signed? And are you happy with the response you’ve had playing them out?
VERSA: Thanks! I’m humbled with all the feedback and support with the release so far. I’ve heard that people like Jah Shaka are even playing it, to have one of my idols supporting your work is an amazing feeling. The release came about when I got Vivek’s email one time and sent him over a batch of tunes… He hit me up almost straight away saying he wanted Rainfall in Dub, and Road To Righteousness was confirmed while I was out in Sri Lanka.
TRUSIK: The beginning of the year saw you teaming up with NDread, Inkarv and Saffire D’Soul to self-release a debut album under the soul collective pseudonym: Proclaim Knowledge. Can you tell us a little bit about how this project came together, and are these jazzy R&B flavours a style of sound we can expect to hear more of?
VERSA: We’d been working on that project for years believe it or not! Me, Dread and Kieran (Inkarv) are all from Milton Keynes and have been friends for years. We were lucky enough to be put in touch with Saffire by another friend of ours called Timmy (FT/Junction13). We started firing over some neo soul bits to her and the results were epic. It took us a while to get the final versions together, at the time we were all living in different places which made it hard work. We knew there was a demand for the album from the feedback on soundcloud etc so we decided to put it up on Bandcamp. You can definitely expect to hear more, we’re already going through some ideas for the next project.
TRUSIK: While on the topic of diversified production, who would you say are your main influences outside of electronic music, and what other interests or activities inspire you creatively when returning to the studio?
VERSA: I have always loved reggae music since I was a wee lad, and jazz, soul & blues are also a massive part of my life. Some of my favourite all time artists are Jah Shaka, Mad Professor, Dennis Brown, Twinkle Brothers, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, Groundation, Earl 16, Scientist, BB King, Jimmy Hendrix, Fela Kuti, Dexter Gordon, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Quincy Jones, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye & many more. I find that if I have a creative block exercise, getting out into nature helps. I always seem to find solace in the woods! I think it’s important to have a good supply of herbs and fresh tea in the studio too.
TRUSIK: (laughs) So perhaps a more generic question, but what producers within (or outside) of the bass music spectrum are making your ears prick up, so to speak?
VERSA: DjRum, Biodub, Deadbeat, Indigo (watchout for Ancestral Voices), Simiah…
TRUSIK: Finally, what else can we expect from you in 2015, is there any other forthcoming material, interesting projects, or up and coming music gigs you can inform the readers on? A guest appearance at SYSTEM perhaps?
VERSA: I got some wicked gigs coming up in the UK, Berlin, New York and more, cant wait for those after a quiet start to the year. Myself and Rowl also have a 12″ coming out on Voyager soon with some tasty remixes! Keep an eye out for that one.
TRUSIK: Thank you for your time fella, we hope the new record is well received by your fans – I’m sure it will be. Are there any final comments / shout outs you wanna share to wrap things up?
VERSA: Yes, props to Vivek for the SYSTEM thing of course… out to the team as always – Rowl, Dread, Demon, Simiah, Inkarv, Caski etc…