DC’s own Rude Operator is the latest act to be seen on Doc Scott’s legendary imprint, 31 Recordings. The four-track Witchdoctor EP stands as yet another classy halftime dnb release for the label while setting itself apart with distinct jazz and tribal influences.
The title track, “Witchdoctor,” is a collaboration with Ornette Hawkins that begins with the use of spooky chimes, saxophone, and upright bass samples before it kicks into high gear with a polyrhythm-laden drop, complete with compressed tom drum stabs and subtle break sampling that cycles through a menagerie of hihats, ride cymbals, and bongos.
Rude Operator’s second composition, “Gunman,” covets a jungle vibe by making use of heavily chopped amen breaks and an old school wobble bassline while synth ambiance and instrumentation are passed under a stuttered tremolo effect. It makes for one of the most distinctive songs on the EP, thanks to clever and intricate break elements struck on a funk-ridden groove.
“Arrowhead”, our third tune of the collection, is the darkest and most minimalistic of the EP. Chock-full of classic jungle samples and marked by a very deep and dark reese- This is a track which begs to be played on a big sound system.
Last but not least is a collaboration with Born I Music entitled, “War Diamond.” This wild tribal halftime tune is marked by its liberal use of triplet notes and its (quite literal) jungle samples that are passed through heavy reverberation. A fitting contrast to the opening track, Rude Operator once again cycles through various percussive instruments, this time introducing a rolling synth bassline unique to this final track.
This EP is a great reminder of how 31 Recordings is that rare breed of label which everyone should go out of their way to check for new releases. With an affinity for subtle nuance and innovative eclecticism to every signing on the imprint, the Witchdoctor EP is no exception. But make no mistake, while this is a product of the label’s sound, the producer’s own merit is defined in each distinct composition while cultivating a palpable sense that all these tracks came from one origin.
It’s safe to say that the next release, from either the label or the artist, will be waited on with bated breath. In the meantime though, we sat down with Rude Operator to chat about DC, 31, music tech, and more!
This is a release under a relatively new project, but it sounds like you have quite some history in the Washington DC scene. What were things like when you stepped on to the scene, and what has changed since then?
Max: The DC scene in the mid-nineties was like belonging to a secret club. Outlaws were still frequent, but the area also had some of the strongest nights in the US. I remember seeing the Formation tour come through for Summer Rush and knowing I had started a lifelong love affair with Drum and Bass. The next summer I went to London.
Today, the music and scene easier to find here, but the underground, future-forward vibes are still strong. That’s what attracted me to this music in the first place: the constant push for re-invention and evolution.
Julez: I was in Phoenix for those years, but DC is where I grew up and where my roots are. We’re trying to help move the whole scene here forward. There’s a ton of talent and a lot going on!
31 Recordings is among the most storied and respected labels in the business. What is your favorite release from their catalog?
Max: Wow. This is a really hard question. There are so many classics! Shadow Boxing, Love and Happiness, Deadline—the catalogue is so deep and has serious gravity. But I gotta say, I just listened to Technology a few days ago and it gave me major goosebumps and a flood of memories.
Julez: Yeah, I agree with Max. For me, it’s Doc Scott’s tune, Technology. I think he was under an alias though when he produced it.
Max: We had to look it up: Octave One – Technology.
Tell us about the creative process of this EP– how long did it take, and what was your goal with the project? What’s important for us to know about what happened behind the scenes?
Max: I would say it took about a year total. We wrote War Diamond and Arrowhead first and sent them off to a few key DJs and labels.
Julez: The most beautiful thing about how this EP came into being is that it all happened almost by accident. I had been asked to pick up OM Unit for a show and we made a real connection over our mutual love of yoga.
Max: And tacos.
Julez: Yes, and tacos… So on the way to the club I felt comfortable enough to play him some of our tunes. He was feeling them and asked for copies. Fast forward several months, I’m living in Tokyo and get an email from Jim (OM Unit) saying he had been playing Broken Sky—our first tune—and asking if it would be ok if he passed it along. I mentioned 31 Recordings but didn’t think twice about it until several months later when I opened an email from Doc Scott expressing his interest. It was a bit shocking, to be honest. From there it was just a lot of hard work and long hours to get the EP into shape!
What are 3 pieces of software/hardware you can’t function without, and why?
Julez: My favorite tool is the API 560 EQ (UAD plugin). It’s so good for sculpting sound!
Max: There was a time when I would have immediately said, “EMU6400ULTRA.” Today, though, I feel like if you know what you’re doing, you can make quality music on any DAW, even using stock plugins. We wrote the EP on Logic 9 because I’m a bit averse to upgrading unless I’m setting up a new computer. But Ableton and Cubase are both great, as well, and I’ve used them quite a bit. We do rely heavily on UAD plugins these days, but the same outcomes can be accomplished with a bit more work using any old plugins. Except for the Roland Dimension D. That thing is magic.
What are your feelings on the progression of music-making technology through the last 10 years, and the way other producers are utilizing that tech today?
Max: The last 10 years have seen the continuation of a major revolution of the quality of plugins and in-the-box technology. Drum and bass has been at the forefront of engineering since the late 90s, but about 10 years ago, it felt like the only consideration driving the music was tech. There were exceptions, to be sure, but that felt like the major driver. These days, tech is still a big part of the music, and pushing that forward is very much part of the aesthetic. But today, like in the early years of jungle, you also see artists pushing the very definition of drum and bass forward as well. The music is evolving. And that’s what draws me to it.
Julez: The emphasis has to be on the soul of the music, rather than on the technology.
What inspires you?
Julez: Nature is my greatest source of inspiration, for both visual design and sound. I frequently immerse myself in it to help me reboot. Also, Sri Dharma Mittra, a man who has dedicated most of his life in service to humanity by teaching yoga.
Max: I listen to a lot of other types of music, and that helps to keep ideas fresh. I’ve been digging the sounds on RVNG Intl. and listening to a lot of old Brigitte Fontaine, recently. I really love jazz and leftfield world music, as well. Finding new sounds and textures and being able to apply them to what we’re doing in the studio is something that keeps me interested and focused on the future.