Levela is known in UK drum and bass for starting his own label very early on in his career. He credits drum and bass originators like DJ Phantasy and Andy C for everything from his style to his entrepreneurial spirit, as his very diverse label Multifunction Recordings now has a number of artists signed to it and has released almost all of his own tracks and EPs since its inception. Now Levela has embarked on a new journey, having put out his first full-length LP called Genesis, and it’s a massive and obviously very involved piece of work.
With Genesis finally out and Levela taking a much needed deep breath, Your EDM took the opportunity to grill him on the concept of his biggest-ever release, what it meant to him and how he sees his place going forward in drum and bass.
Did you have an idea of the kinds of tracks you wanted for this album or a theme?
There wasn’t really a particular theme in mind when I started writing the album, I just wanted a collection of tracks covering different styles and flavors from the wider spectrum of dnb and throughout its history. I love it all, from the deeper, rolling vibes to the straight up dancefloor bangers, I just wanted my debut album to represent that and have a bit of everything included.
To that end, the album does seem like a cohesive work in itself that one could listen to in a sitting and it tells a story on its own. Was that a conscious decision? Was that the reason for naming the album Genesis?
I did set out to make a listener’s album, not just for the DJs/club to play out but something which any bass music fan could listen to from start to finish and hopefully enjoy it.
Once the album was finished and I was deciding on a name, I was trying to find something that embodies my original concept which was to show my influences right from the start of my drum and bass journey 15 years ago, and so it became “Genesis,” which literally means “the origin or beginning.”
There are a few tracks on the album like the opener “Koodana” and “Equinox” which have a sort of desert or Middle Eastern sound to them. Was this also somehow related to the album title?
The name “Genesis” came after the whole album was finished so there wasn’t any conscious connection there, more a coincidence with those two tracks.
I’ve had a number of people ask me what “Koodana” means and it is actually Hindi for “jump” – which is what the vocal says on the track – and there are a lot of Indian sounds and elements in the track so it seemed a fitting track title.
What was the inspiration behind using these Middle Eastern sounds?
I get inspiration from anywhere and anything that I come across throughout my day to day life. I remember hearing a sitar on a TV show and loved the unique and authentic sound that it created and thought then “I need to use that in a track.” So I spent some time sample hunting and collecting those eastern sounds and within the same week I’d written both “Koodana” & “Equinox” so it just came about naturally.
Seemingly random question: who’s the vocalist on track 5, “Concrete Walls”?
To be totally honest I found the a capella in an old royalty free sample pack I’d had for years. There was no name attached to it so unfortunately I couldn’t credit the vocalist. But whoever it is, I love your voice!
Another contributor question: how was working with Darrison on “Ride On”? How did you come to work with him?
Darisson is from a city called Brighton which I live really close to and we’ve known each other for a very long time. Around five years ago I wrote a dubstep track which Darisson wrote and recorded the vocal for but it was one of those tracks which never saw the light of day. Then I came across the files last year whilst I was writing the album and rewrote the new track around it, showed it to him and he loved it so again, it just happened naturally.
On “Memory Lane,” how did you come to work with Coppa? That’s a very techy track so how did you come to the conclusion that you wanted an MC on it?
I had been a fan of Coppa’s work as his vocals have featured on loads of tracks over the years and I’ve always had him in high regard as a top quality recording artist. We had recently played a show together in Spain where Coppa hosted my set and we worked well together and discussed making some music. Then one morning I laid down the initial ideas and bassline on a new project when Coppa hit me up about collabing. I just said “hey, I done this today, see what you think.” He listened and said “I love it, give me a week and I’ll have something for it.” Within two days he’d written and recorded all the vocals from his home studio in Germany. Coppa is such a pleasure to work with which is why we also made “Warriors” and added it last minute to the album.
There’s a really interesting mix of techy, neuro-style synths and sub bass on a lot of the tracks but with steppy, danceable beats. How did you decide to put those styles together? Was it tricky?
There wasn’t particularly a set goal when I started it. As I said before, the main idea for the track (“Memory Lane”) all came together in one morning studio session. I like hitting the studio with no goal in mind. I find I get the best sessions out of it when I just randomly throw ideas together until something works. Sometimes it can take weeks and other times it just happens in a few hours. I always find I end up with sounds and ideas I never would have gotten to if I was in the studio with a plan. I prefer working that way; experimenting is the most enjoyable part about writing music for me. Hours and hours tweaking a sound and suddenly there’s that eureka moment of “that’s the one!”
For the tracks that aren’t really techy, there’s a fun sort of throw-back ravey vibe, such as on “Cowabunga” and the halftime tune “The Abyss.” What inspires you about the old styles and reforming them for modern formats?
The first drum and bass track I ever heard was “Bodyrock” by Andy C & Shimon about 16 years ago which made me fall in love with the fun, “clownstep” sound and that massively inspired my own production so when it came to making some ‘jump up’ for my album I just put myself back to those times when jump up had a fun and almost cheesy vibe to it. It brings out the kid in me and I love that era of dnb just as much now as I did all those many years ago.
The diversity on this album is pretty astounding. Was it a purposeful thing to try and capture so many styles from throughout dnb’s history, or have you just sort of felt all over the board with producing lately?
A bit of both really, I have been writing and releasing predominantly jump up for over ten years now and as much as I still love it, I just wanted to see what else I could do so tried out some other styles, other genres, exploring different tempos etc and thought to myself “what do I do with all this music now?” and so the idea to compile it all in to my first ever album came about. Most of the tracks had to be changed, reworked, edited a hundred times until it felt like one, gelled-together project.
I’ve learned more in the last 12 months writing this album than I have in the 10 years of producing prior to that. I approached this project with a different mindset to anything else I’d done before and I’ve taken so much away with me that will 100% help me in the studio going forward.
What’s coming up next for you with releases, tours, et cetera?
Once “Genesis” drops on November 5th, I’ll be touring as far and wide as I can with my return to North America and Australia early next year. I have lots of music which I feel didn’t suit the album so I’m sure I’ll drop some free downloads and giveaways before the year is out. I’ve also been writing a lot of bassline house stuff under a secret name so I’m excited to see where that journey takes me as well!
Genesis by Levela is out now on Multifunction Recordings and can be purchased on the label’s website.