UK based producer Blame, AKA Conrad Shafie has been at the cutting edge of dance music for almost 20 years. It all started back in 1991 with the release of ´Music Takes You´ on Moving Shadow Records, which is regarded today as a key track in the early development of Drum and Bass music. Then in the mid-90s, Blame signed to LTJ Bukem´s Good Looking Records label and mixed the second volume in the now legendary ´Logical Progressions´ series. Then came his own 720 degrees label which saw the Blame sound evolve further and releases on Charge, Metalheadz and Hospital Records cemented his place in the hierarchy of UK Drum and Bass.
Blame then burst back into the spotlight in 2008 with his massive anthem ´Stay Forever´ which received extensive airplay on prime-time Radio 1. The follow-up single ´Because of You´ did equally well becoming Zane Lowe´s ´Hottest Record In The World´ and going straight onto the BBC 1Xtra daytime ´A´ playlist. This then led to a number of high profile remixes including David Guetta & Kelly Rowland and Alesha Dixon.
Believe it or not, 2010 has just seen the release of Blame´s very first artist album ´The Music´, which is full of collaborations with a variety of different artists including Tinchy Stryder, Jocelyn Brown, Rodney P and Jenna G. When we heard about the album we just had to hook up with Blame to find out how it came about and to get the lowdown on what enables him to stay on top of his game...
What initially got you into making music?
I grew up listening to Electro, Hip Hop and early House music, but instead of just enjoying the music id often sit and wonder how it was all put together, and what elements were making up the tracks. It was only when a friend of mine had some college work experience at a local recording studio and asked me to come along that it all made sense. I saw how the synths and samplers were all controlled by a computer (an Atari ST back then!), and it blew my mind. I went out, got a job and using all my weeks' wages would book one night in the studio. In my first session, I must have had beginners luck because I wrote “Music Takes You” which was released on Moving Shadow, and still is one of my biggest tracks to date.
Can you tell us about your main influences and how have they changed over the years?
I think the main thing I want to capture in any track I write is energy and excitement, that's one thing that has always stuck with me since my early days. Because I grew up listening to hip-hop I would always want to have energetic and punchy breakbeats, and I would try to fuse them with the house and techno sounds that were coming out of Europe at that time. Over the years my basic approach has stayed the same, although I went through a phase of introducing some Jazzy elements during my “Good Looking Records” days. Nowadays I’m still trying to capture that early energy, but am really enjoying the freedom and expression you can get by using vocalists and writing songs.
You´ve been at the cutting edge of drum and bass production since the start. Do you still feel as inspired now as you did at the beginning?
I definitely still feel as inspired as the start! In those days it was great fun, but looking back the studio side of things was very expensive and limiting. Now you can have a full-blown studio with unlimited possibilities for a relatively cheap price, and some of the stuff you can do with software now is incredible. For me, the main thing to keep inspired is to make sure I still love and am feeling the music. As long as that love and drive to keep pushing the envelope is there I will never stop!
We´ve heard there are a lot of vintage synths in the Blame studio, but what software do you use? What are your favourite virtual instruments and why?
I'm a big fan of hardware, but some of the software is amazing. I love the Spectrasonics range, especially Trilian for bass and Stylus RMX for drums. They are both so easy to use, the sound quality is great and its really quick to home in on some killer sounds. Trillian stands up to some of my analogue synths, but without the tuning problems!
I'm also a fan of the Fabfilter PRO-Q EQ: I cant live without a spectrum analyser within my EQ anymore to show me the problem frequencies that need fixing, and Pro EQ sound so smooth and rich to boot.
I use the Steven Slate FG-X to add a bit of extra weight to my final mix while keeping the sharpness and detail that is sometimes lost when getting that extra loudness.
With all my remix work I need an amazing time stretcher for vocals, so use iZotope Radius. It is so good sometimes you can't even tell if the vocals have been stretched. I use it within Logic´s time and pitch section.
Celemony Melodyne has been an incredible addition to music production in the last year, I love using it to change notes in chords just as if the audio was midi. I never thought this would be possible!
Now, we know you´re a user of Ivory Grand Pianos from Synthogy but what is it about Ivory that works for you?
I was hunting around for a really realistic piano for a while, and when I tried a demo of Ivory I loved it straight away. The most important thing for me was the fact it was really enjoyable to play and jam with, which led me to riffs I may not necessarily have got with my old piano. The user interface is so easy to use, and the pad feature is fantastic for thickening out the sound. One great thing I found with Ivory, is that it seems to sit in a final mix really well without me having to do too much eq and compression work, which makes things a lot easier!
Your brand new album ´The Music´ has just come out which features a variety of different collaborations. What was it like working with so many different other artists on one project?
It was an amazing experience, and a real privilege to be able to work with artists of such calibre as Jocelyn Brown one day, and Tinchy Stryder the next. I also got to work with one of my childhood heroes Rodney P from the “London Posse” which was wicked! Other artists that appear are drum and bass favourites Dynamite MC, Jenna G, Selah and DRS, and some amazing new talents Fuda Guy, Alex Mills, Camilla Marie, JT Fitz and Tom Sears. It's quite a balancing act getting all these different vocals to fit on one project, but I tried to unify everything by making sure the music kept a similar level of energy and intensity throughout.
What can we expect next from Blame? Any plans for 2011?
I’m currently writing music for Jocelyn Brown's new album, as well as Ed Drewett's new album. Ed’s a really exciting new singer who featured on Professor Greens single “I need you tonight”. And after that, I’m gonna get straight back in the studio and start work on the follow-up album!
For all the info please check: www.blamethemusic.com