When it come to future sound, the Uk born, Shanghai based artist, Conrank definitely knows what he’s doing. His powerful and beautifully melodic soundscapes can turn into a dirty, heavy hitting club banger on a dime. His sound is genreless but signature, to label it as future would be close to the mark, but still not enough to do it justice. When it comes to Djing, Conrank is a massive force to be reckoned with on any stage. This bass music mastermind knows his way around the decks like the back of his hand, and his secret stash of unreleased tunes collected from years on the scene can turn any party or nightclub into a madhouse in a matter of seconds.
Conrank is also a prominent member of the outstanding Saturate! Records family. A record label who, in 2014, put out releases from G Jones, Zeke Beats, Bleep Bloop, Herobust, Doshy, and of course, Conrank with a startlingly consistent regularity that has turned them into one of top labels to watch in the coming year.
I’ve been listening to this Conrank since his remix of G Jones’ famous tune Eyes. But his most recent ep, Exhale Therapy, featuring the legendary DJ Shadow impressed me so much that I had to try to get him on the line for an interview. Well lo and behold, I did! It was awesome to pick his brain for a bit, very insightful and inspiring. Be sure to check out the full interview below, as well as this super fresh new Remix from the badman himself, out today for free on his Soundcloud.
1. Give us a bit of your musical history, what lead you into the electronic side of music?
Well i have always been involved with music, as a kid i tried out pretty much every instrument under the sun, and nothing really stuck, then when i was 14 i got a pair of turntables and then a couple of years after i met Killa Kela and started beatboxing. I toured and did shows for a couple of years as a beatboxer, but my heart wasn’t in it, at the same time i was Djing on the side and i started a hip-hop music video magazine with my friend Ady, released some mixtapes (shout to Porge 1 and DJ Dough), and put on some events and then we got our own MTV show called Indelible Hip-Hop which was a big part of my life… Hip-hop was always my main music love but i was also into house, 90’s R’n’B and drum & bass in a big way. A big turning point for me was being in Fabric one night, i was behind the decks watching the Scratch Perverts play and they switched into dubstep… my god the crowd just lost control, the tracks were so big, was my first real experience of dubstep and it blew my mind. Then finally in 2006 i started getting my hands dirty with production, logic express lead to logic pro and nights out with friends turned into nights in with my computer and i just fell in love with it, been grinding ever since, i work really hard at what i do, but it doesn’t feel like hard work, love every second of it and that’s key. Also big shout to my homie Doshy, that dude put me on with my first Robox release, can’t thank him enough.
2. How did you and DJ Shadow start working together?
That was a huge life goal, my boy Bleep Bloop told me he was gonna pass some of my tracks to Shadow, i was really grateful but thought it probably wouldn’t turn into anything (it’s best to think that way haha), then BAM, Shadow started following me on twitter and told me he was playing some of my stuff in his sets… we continued chatting, sharing music and shizzle. Finally while working on my last EP for Saturate i asked if he wanted to collab , i knew he was crazy busy but somehow we made it work and Exhale Therapy was born… couldn’t quite believe it. Shadow is golden man.. mad talented and a really nice and humble dude.
3. Being from the UK and now living in Shanghai when you’re not touring around the world, do you find that the music you produce changes depending on where you are? If so how?
I think it does to be honest, after spending 4 weeks in Cali i found that the music i created while i was there and also when i returned home had a different flavour than usual, it was my friends who noticed it. The sounds you hear around you affect you without you knowing it , but also the people you spend time with and the crowds you play to make a huge difference. Your environment effects everything you do, even on a smaller scale … i mean if i am in my studio compared to down the road in a coffee shop i believe the energy is different and my creativity levels will be different too.
4. Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
There is so many, Swindle, Subp Yao , Swifta Beater, Sukh Knight (Thats a lot of S’s) Om Unit, Mr Carmack, Hudson Mohawke … I also love the music of everyone around me in the scene, like Doshy, Starkey, Dev79, Drill Drill, Selby, Bleep Bloop, Guerrilla Speakerz, DJ Pound, BoeBoe , Ganz, Zeke Beats, Zean, Howie Lee, G Jones… man i could list people for days, but you know who you are… all these people affect me on a daily basis, like one big family.
5. What’s your opinion on Genres?
This is actually something thats very relevant to me at the moment, i have been trying to be as open as possible to new ideas in the studio. I appreciate that i am known for a sound and style, but at the same time I am a creative human being, without boundaries, so why should genres create those boundaries. Genres can be useful, i mean if I’m looking for new grime, or trap or “future bass” 😉 then it makes it easier for me to find that stuff, but it shouldn’t limit producers, and you can say the same for consumers, don’t let genres limit you , listen to loads of different stuff , don’t be limited EXPLORE!. I believe that whatever “genre” i create , it will still sound like me, each producer has their own sound at the end of the day, from their snares to their high hats….But this debate could continue for the rest of time, genres will always be there. Confused? yeah me too.., but i think you know what i mean.
6. How did you get involved with Saturate?
Saturate was on my radar for a while and i heard that Bios was really into Boy Tell Em . We started chatting on Facebook and that was that, i do a lot of business there, it may be a huge waste of my time everyday watching cute kittens fall off things and pandas play on slides, but it’s also a good hub for meeting people and doing business, especially being in china.
7. How is touring in the US different from touring in Europe?
Its hard to drawer comparisons, cos i haven’t done shows in Europe for a long time (about to head there in April for shows though) but what i can say is that America was a really different experience, eye opening. The police presence, the food, the dank, the diners.. it was like being in a movie… and everybody is insanely nice. One thing that really hit me was when i played my tracks and people knew it, i was like WTF?! such a humbling experience, i couldn’t quite believe it, i mean, the thought of being in china and people all the way in america rocking my shit is just … well mind boggling.
8. Are there any artits you want to collab with in the near future?
There are people i’m looking to collab with soon, me and Bleep Bloop are gonna do something and of course i’ll be banging out some newness with Doshy soon enough, also me and Subp Yao are working on an EP and i just finished a track with Stylust Beats, no specific plans at the moment passed that, but I’m always open to the possibilities … I’d love to work with some more mc’s … Theres so many talented grime Mc’s in the UK right now, big shout to Problem Child and Goldfinger.
9. How do you like to get over writers block?
Thats a tough one… it definately happens. I used to fight it, but now i try to accept it when it’s there. Sometimes i do stuff thats not creative like update my website, do some admin crap, but i make sure i do it in the studio so I’m ready to pounce when the time is right. Forcing myself to cut off completely works too, like accepting, that for a couple of days I’m gonna switch off and not think about it, then 48hrs later i’m usually steaming with ideas and ready to get back in the studio. Another thing i find is if i hit a club where they play good shit, sometimes i suddenly get a wave of inspiration hearing dope new music, a few times i have gone out, entered the club, 10 minutes later it hits and i’m out the door and heading to the studio . My advice is don’t force it, but be ready for it when it comes.
10. What’s next on the horizon for you?
The horizon is an exciting place at the moment, and i’m really hyped for 2015. First up my new EP “N.W.O” is dropping on Australian label DIE HIGH in feb. I also have releases dropping on SMOG, Robox Neotech, Saturate and Doggtown plus a collabo EP with Subp Yao, and i’m working on a future release for Shadows label although that won’t be for a while. I’m also playing Australia for the first time in a few weeks which i’m really hyped for, me and Zeke Beats will definitely be collabing while I’m there. I also just signed to China based agency and management company MAE/Mad Panda who will be taking care of my asia bookings and business for me which is really exciting and something i have been looking to get sorted for a while. The last few years have been a blessing and really i just plan on making a load more music and working harder every day, i don’t ever wanna stop doing what i do, it’s my life. Also on a last little note i just wanna thank everyone who has bought / downloaded my music, come to my shows, written about me, booked me or just supported me in some other way, it’s a huge deal to me, so thank you.
Photo Cred: Lulu Zhou