Future Bass

12 July 2012 | 11:22 am | Troy Mutton

“There’s this sort of future jungle stuff... It is proper beats, less pedestrian and less like house."

"I normally go to Australia every couple of years but, being realistic, I'm not sure I'll be doing the same thing in a couple of year's time, as in still traveling around so much and DJing or whatever.”

So says certified breaks legend Rennie Pilgrem when he's quizzed on the prospects of this being his last DJ trip down under. “I think the [last tour] thing is not some bullshit on a press release - it's the last time. Unfortunately I chose the winter to come instead of summer,” the bald Brit tells, the time of year seemingly the only thing he's really lamenting about the decision.

And fair enough too; Pilgrem pretty much pioneered the nu-skool breaks genre way back in 1996 with the likes of Adam Freeland, and founded the Thursday Club Recordings label even before then – in '93 – which would become one of breaks' driving forces. Understandably though, after 20-plus years in the game, you've gotta look around to keep things interesting. Pilgrem has been doing exactly that, and he reckons it's the breath of fresh air breakbeat has been crying out for.

“There's this sort of future jungle stuff, but it is actually very breakbeat. It's probably the most breakbeat stuff that's been around for years, which is why I like it. It is proper beats, less pedestrian and less like house. I like the fact there's this 140 breakbeat thing that's starting to happen which makes it sit compatibly with dubstep, because it's the same speed.

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“We've started a night over here called Ruffneck doing that sort of thing, it's growing really well,” he continues, getting noticeably more animated. “It's probably the most important thing to happen in breaks for ages because I think there's been a real void for several years. I'm really into it.”

In fact when Drum calls Pilgrem, he's at his home studio (see: laptop) working on some new tunes instead of finalising his upcoming release, The Best Of Rennie Pilgrem. “I just got a new synth which sounds awesome, so I'm doing that when I should be doing more boring things,” he laughs, before going on a small tangent that does indicate just how long he's been in the production side of dance for. “I mean, I spent 20 years building up quite a nice studio, and then you realise it's pretty much obsolete and pretty heartbreaking because you're getting rid of stuff that you saved up for. Say, a sampler which cost me about $7000, and I got $10 for it when I sold it. And it still works perfectly,” he adds, as you can almost hear the wince of pain down the line.

“You could just stick with old technology but it's not gonna do you any favours, so now my studio is really a laptop and a keyboard and two very good speakers, but I've just blown one, so one speaker - and that's it really!” he chuckles. It's cool though, you don't get to where Pilgrem is by being an old fuddy duddy. “It is a great thing because I can sit here at home and do a tune with the same quality as someone with a high-end studio, so in that sense it's fantastic. Last time I went to Australia I did a couple of tracks in hotel rooms that I then released when I came back. That side of it is awesome.”

The Best Of… compilation is a milestone release for Pilgrem. Spanning 21 tracks over 20 years, it takes in the first to the last; the obligatory new track. “Yeah, it basically goes from the first track Cocaine, which is 20 years old, and ends up with my current single [Defy feat. Francesca Guarino] which is that [future jungle] sorta sound… Because I've done a lot of music, I thought it'd be good to spread stuff from now back 20 years, and spread it out fairly equally over those years. It definitely goes from where I almost started to where I am now.”

What was the process of digging through the past like? “It was very good actually. I realised that I still quite like the [older] tracks, and when you're making stuff on a computer, by the time you've finished it you're kind of sick of it because you've heard it 500 times. And it's nice to revisit stuff that… It's been good, you find a track and you think, 'Wow, 15 years ago I was doing this then', and some of them are collaborations, and it brings back memories and also how much everything has changed as well.”

You'd think though that over a production career spanning 20 years there'd be a couple in there that make you scratch your head and wonder what you were thinking. Pilgrem's a pro though. “Well, yes, but they wouldn't be on the album,” he laughs. “To be fair there aren't many. I think only once have I mastered a track and then thought, 'Actually, I'm not gonna put this out', just because it seemed a bit too tame and I thought, 'Oh what are you doing?'

“When you're making music you're never totally happy with what you've done. And you have to learn to go, 'Okay, that's done, I'm moving on'. And there are some tracks where you think, 'Oh I wish I done this or I wish I done that'. But a lot of them I'm still really pleased with. I suppose that is me choosing what I would consider the best ones I've done over 20 years. So for every one I've chosen, there's another five that I didn't. All in all I'm very pleased with it.”

Which leaves us at today, with a DJ who can comfortably say he's had a pretty good time of it so far. He's also one who's looking on to his next passion besides the broken beat, and for Rennie Pilgrem right now that's art, and in particular the new technologies that are making it interesting for someone who has learnt to grow with them in the musical realm. “I've been doing art for a little while, and I've got an arts studio where I do music and I've got space where I can do all sorts of things. And I'm pretty excited about it because it reminds me a bit of when I first starting doing dance with the whole sampler technology.

“I thought I would just get into physically doing art and painting, but I've been getting really into digital art. Say the program Brushes, where you can do some pretty exciting stuff. Like you do art on an iPad or something and it records everything you're doing and turns it into a video. Technically I could also send a bit of art to a friend of mine to do a remix.”

In fact, Pilgrem feels like experiencing the shift in music technology gives him a head-start on older artists. “As far as that goes, it's really exciting because I'm quite new to it, and also there's this new technology that people who've been doing art for years would be a bit worried about. Whereas for me being used to doing music on a computer, it doesn't feel odd.” And with his online art space Pocket Gallery, things are looking rosey. “It's something I see myself doing for quite a long time alongside music. I've got the perfect set-up because I can do music, stop, take a break and do something like that.”

First though, he needs to deliver some Major Bass to Villa next weekend. And, much like the CD, Pilgrem fans will get a mix of old and new. “I think what I'm gonna do is a retrospective and new stuff, so both.”