Nestled in the borough of Lawerenceville in the city of Pittsburgh on the 17th of January, an amazing night of music unfolded. Flux Capacitor Productions and 412 Boss Crew Productions teamed up to bring a delightful treat to Pittsburgh: the legendary Jon Stanley aka Cyantific. Coming off a tour in Australia and a leg of shows along the west coast of the US, the London native flew in to lay waste to Cattivo. Stacked with solid support from Pittsburgh natives, Varden Armstrong, Skulletri, and Kped set the stage with perfect vibes and good beats.
What followed was a powerful performance from the man himself. The tone was set from the very moment Cyantific walked up to the decks, opening with The Prototype‘s Remix of the legendary Blood Sugar with Planet Dust teased in, sending the crowd into the frenzy. The set then continued as an ode to the last decade of Drum and Bass. With dubs and tunes within the last year woven seamlessly with some of the best bangers that have come out in the 2010s such as Bricks Don’t Roll, Diplodocus, and Take You Higher along classics like Up All Night, Cyantific’s skills on the decks exemplified the same quality and virtuosity seen in his production. To close out the night with even more insanity, Pittsburgh’s very own Dropset (whom I spoke to briefly in an interview) stepped up to the decks.
Even after playing an explosive set, Cyantific was kind enough to chat with me for almost half an hour on the chilly streets of Pittsburgh, where we spoke about mixing, production, and his very own journey into the wonderful world of Drum and Bass.
Haji: So first things first, that intro had no business being as nasty as it was.
Cyantific: Thank you man. Well the thinking behind that was basically I was playing Boxing Day at a festival in Perth, and that was the first set of my Australian tour, which this American tour was back to back with that. That Prototypes remix of Blood Sugar is still not out yet and Pendulum always plays well in Australia, particularly well in Perth. The intro I just did for that set but then I played it in the next set in Australia and it really did the business there as well. So I kind of ended up doing it for every set on that tour, and then I was like “you know this really works” because it doesn’t matter whether you are in Australia or where ever because it’s Pendulum, it’s Planet Dust. Everyone knows Planet Dust, so you just pull the fader up, get the reese from Planet Dust, people lose it.
A lot of your set was like half current stuff and the other half was almost a farewell tour to the last decade of Drum and Bass. You had tunes coming in like Diplodocus, Footpath, and Take Me Higher out of nowhere, so what’s going through your mind when you are behind decks?
So you have some go to’s, like Footpath to me is a massively underrated tune and I always play it. I got like 3 or 4 mixes that I really love doing with it. Things like that, and I’ve recently have been playing Up All Night again because even if people don’t know it, like people way too young to know it, it’s such a good tune people lose it when it drops you know? It’s like the very best tunes from the past 20 years like Take Me Away, things like that, you can drop those and people will respond. They’re classics for a reason.
So you obviously drop classics alongside current stuff, what are your go to’s coming out of the last 2 years or so you drop in your sets?
Well, I actually stop playing Desire for a while, cause you kind of hear it every set. But then, if you are playing at the right time, later in the night after people have had a few drinks, they’re going to get into it. Full Send was one of my favorite tunes of last year and I will probably be playing that for ages because honestly, I think 1991 doesn’t get enough credit for his ideas. I told him that in person actually, I saw him in New Zealand a couple of weeks ago. For me, he is the most exciting act.
So 1991 is up there as one of your most exciting acts in the past couple of years. Anyone else come to mind?
Well I can tell you who’s going to kill it. There’s these Dutch guys who write stuff under BLVCK CROWZ and I came across their stuff and I was like “holy @*#$” and I messaged them on Instagram like “dude you’re kind of making jump up but its really melodic and interesting, let’s do a tune.” Within 3 weeks we had a tune finished, my next single. They’re super talented.
So has this been your first time in the US?
No, I’ve been here many times. I don’t even know how many times I’ve been here. I was in the cab from LAX and I was going past all the places and I was like “I’ve stayed there, I’ve stayed there”. I love LA, its one of my favorite cities in the world.
Do you notice any differences when you are over here in the US or Canada versus Europe given that Drum and Bass has more of scene there?
Yeah, but people who love this music love this music. Sometimes you can be playing a show over here and it feels like you are back in Europe. People love the music. Sometimes when you do the bigger shows like EDC and stuff, you know that different things work more like halftime.
Because of the nature of the festival.
Yeah because it’s more of a dubstep crowd proportionally and you kind of want to give them something they can understand.
So one thing I did was go around the crowd tonight and asked them “hey if you had a question for Cyantific, what would it be? The main one I got was when did your journey into Drum and Bass begin? Was it more so a track that you heard or a show that you went to that started it all?
I was really into Public Enemy and Cyprus Hill, things like that. Then I came across The Prodigy. This was when I was in high school. I think that was a lot of people my age’s route into Drum and Bass. Because you heard all that and you’re like “this is getting into the chart at home”. Back then it was really easy to pick up pirate radio. I didn’t have a TV in my room, I had like a little clock radio by my bed. When I was like 13 or 14 you’d just listen at night and you’d go through all the stations and you would hear this music and you’d be like “what the hell is that?”. It’s like “I don’t understand it, this isn’t the stuff you hear on TV or on the radio in the car”. I just ended up gradually through that going “oh there’s record store near me”. And then I remember going and buying my first piece of vinyl.
And what was that first piece of vinyl if you remember?
The first one I bought was In The City Life by Goldie, but then I bought this dBridge tune. So I went to HMV which is like a big chain record store to buy In The City Life but then I went into a proper record store to buy the dBridge tune. And it was kind of like “Oh! There’s this whole world that I don’t know about”. Then that turned into: I’d get £2 for lunch which is like $3.50 and I wouldn’t eat lunch, I’d steal my lunch from the canteen so that in 2 days I could afford a piece of vinyl. I did a load of jobs to save up to buy some really crap belt drive turntables because I knew from that point at about 14 that I am going to do this as a job. “I don’t care how, I just want to do this”. That’s as simple as I can put it.
Just like the spark that lit the fire?
Yeah, and I’m super lucky because a lot of people don’t really figure out what they want to do for like ever. I knew definitely from that kind of point of buying records and having turntables I was like “I don’t know how I’ll do it, I’m going to do it. I’m going to make my career music”.
So you started with getting some vinyl then some turntables, when did you actually start making drum and bass?
Sort of around the same time because I was really lucky my dad was a computer programmer, so he had a lot of hardware around the house. I can’t really remember where he found it or through a friend, he got me this really basic piece of software on a floppy disk. I just started sampling things. I remember sampling Pulp Fiction, like Samuel Jackson’s monologue, and it seemed so dumb right now. Just sampling like an Amen loop from Burial by Jumping Jack Frost and I was like “Yeah I’m making music now”. I mean it sounded like absolute toilet but it was start, like “this is it, I’ve made something”.
Just starting to get into it?
Yeah, and it just progressed into that. I didn’t finish high school because I was just really into smoking weed and making music.
In those years, I know you mentioned the Prodigy, but were there any specific Drum and Bass producers at the time that really made you go “I want this sound” or “I want this vibe”?
That really didn’t come until I think I was about 16 or 17 and Johnny L brought out this album called Sawtooth and I just remember hearing it and being like “Holy &@#$, this is it”. Optical as well, Matrix, those guys when they came through because Drum and Bass sound very similar in the drums, sampled beats. Then Optical comes along and it’s like “What the @$&% is this?”. It’s like he opened the door to allow people to be completely weird.
With like neurofunk and Wormhole and what not?
Yeah, even pre-Wormhole before he even hooked up with Ed Rush, it was just different stuff and I was like “I’m sold”.
That’s a great place to start. So looking over the years how would you say your workflow in the studio changed?
So the first half/third of my career was a duo. I was working with this guy who didn’t want to DJ, didn’t want to be involved in the image of the whole thing and what have you, but he was incredibly musically talented. So when we split in sort of 2010, he didn’t want to make Drum and Bass anymore and I was like “Dude that’s fine, you go off and do your thing”. It kind of left this gap where I was the more technical side and more so doing the drums and what not so I was left to figure out how to fill in the gaps. That part has been really fun and very difficult.
Well, learning not necessarily music theory but how music works.
Kinda like the vibe rather than how chords work?
Yeah just learning these different things. Like learning that I like suspended chords because of the tension and figuring out over the course of time has been interesting. Just little things like that, little musical nuances. You realize you’ve just been doing a lot of things and when you figure out what you’ve been doing you’re like “Ah, ok I can put a label on that”. I was working with Raphaella on a song, she’s really talented on the keyboard, and she was like “Oh yeah yeah, it seems like you really like suspended chords” and I was like “Oh is that what that is?”. Because I’m totally not into the whole music theory thing.
If you had anything to say to any budding producer in this climate of Drum and Bass, whether it is in the US or Europe, what would be your go-to advice?
The big lesson for me was in going solo. Basically anyone can do what I could do. It’s literally just a question of learning a thing, and doing it over and over again. But you have to do it, but actually enjoy doing it. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re going to have problems. But that can be down to your process. I would say when you sit down to write music don’t think about the outcome, don’t think “this is for this, this is for whatever”, just sit there and just create because its fun. Like just write an idea in 30 minutes to an hour and be like “alright, whatever, I’m going to put this aside and do another one” and leave them for a little while. Come back to them to see if they’re good or not, rather than be like “I got to sit here and make something the sounds as good as Noisia” because you’re not going to do it. Now you might do it if you keep writing music over and over for like 10 years. But if you sit down and think “I’m going to make this song into something as good as that” it’s just not going to work like that. That would be my advice in a nutshell, I could go on and on about this for a whole day.
Since we’ve been talking for a bit, I’m going to close out with some random lighting round-esque questions: What was the favorite thing you ate last week?
Sushi in Seattle with great company, it was a good time.
What would be your ideal setup while playing a set in terms of decks and mixers?
2 Denon’s and the Denon mixer. I got the SC5000 but I know they came out with the 6000s.
Any reason for the Denon’s?
It’s the difference between using a flip phone and the new iPhone in terms of processing power. I’m not even exaggerating. Pioneer is slacking hard.
Well they did come out with that new 6-channel mixer.
The mixer looks cool, it’s a good start. But the decks are crap compared to the Denon’s. If you tried the Denon’s you’d be blown away. I have to shoutout to Denon UK for hooking me up. But having used them, I know that they’re on a completely different level. The first time I used them in a club setting, well actually in front of 7000 thousand people at a festival in New Zealand, they performed exactly how I wanted them to. I put in my USB and they pulled up all the settings I loaded up at home, lit up in the exact same colors. They are incredible.
So why haven’t you made an album called the “Cyantific Method”?
I’ve played with those kinds of names but I’m like “do I want to do that?”
You know turn it into a meme?
Yeah, it would sound good but I can come up with something better than that.
With that, let’s end it on memes: Are rollers a subgenre?
To me, that’s all just jump up.
You might make some people mad in DnB memes.
I don’t really care, because I used to buy records in 95-96 and that we would call jump up. Like Dope Dragon and stuff like that.
There it is folks, Cyantific said it.
But I don’t care what people want to call it, call it what you want.
As long as it sounds good?
Yeah, do whatever.
I want to thank you man for talking for such a long time.
Dude thank you very much.
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