London is stuffed to the brim with incredible producers, so sticking out from the crowd in the capital can make for a daunting task. One man who evidently has what it takes to do so is emerging producer, Bearface. Though he’s been around for some time, it’s his recent endeavours that look set to elevate him further up the house music ladder, with his productions on his own Beartone label already perking the ears of some of the scene’s most revered names. We caught up with the man in question as he talked us through the mix he did for us, the influence Ibiza has had on his music and the unusual samples that often turn up in his records…
I wanted to start by talking about your home city of London’s music life. How do you think the city’s music scene has changed over the last while? Do you still love it or do you feel disconnected from it?
I’m a born and bred Bristolian and moved to London for my degree. During my latter school years I played percussion in clubs alongside DJs who would play house music. London has always inspired me musically. There is a vibrant scene here for most genres. Pick any night and you will find a good fit. Some of the best clubs in the world are here. Also a noisy city, full of sounds that can get stuck in your head like the planes overhead, bus engines churning and even the crazy birds that seem to never sleep.
So going back a bit, when did you first start producing music? Was there one moment or person who really inspired you to get in to the studio?
My first successful foray into house music was in 2004. I co-produced a track with friend and long term collaborator Dj Max Mistry with whom I shared a love of US style house music. We released our first track ‘Bare Brass’ on vinyl. It sold out pretty quick and went on to be licensed by Roger Sanchez’s Stealth records and featured on numerous labels. Defected and Vendetta records were a couple that really pushed our music.I suppose I first got my hands on midi gear while doing GCSE music in Bristol. The school music department purchased a load of gear including drum machines and hardware sequencers and I tried to emulate the music we called ‘bleep bleep music’ such as early minimal house acts like Altern 8.
We noticed some of your records have some unusual samples in, not least Bollywood sampled. Where do you source these samples?
Yea, I think samples can add a certain flavour to tracks, much like adding dry spice to food or stock from the shelf, pre made loveliness. Finding weird or slightly unusual samples is really exciting when incorporating them into your own music. Having Indian parents gave me access to some old, crusty sounding vinyl of Bollywood soundtracks of the 70’s. So occasionally I will chop them up in the MPC.
Are they obscure to the point where you don’t worry about licensing issue?
Most of the time I tend to add just a smidgen of vocal or chords and manipulate it to fit the track so it’s not so easy to detect the origin of the sample. I also use my own vocal or sound source and it will sound like a sample.
You even gained inspiration from an Ibiza supermarket on your track, ‘Supermercado’. What do you find so inspiring about Ibiza supermarkets?!
On one visit I spent more time at in the ‘Supermercado’ than any club or parties in Ibiza. Mainly to get provisions for my pregnant wife. It was always lively and provided me with loads of cheap entertainment – in contrast to a lot of the clubs which were over glamorous and not really about the music.
Another track of yours is called ‘Dalt Vila’. I gather Ibiza is a place that’s proved pretty influential for you over the years?
Yea – it is a good place to hear dance music for obvious reasons.The track ‘Dalt Vila’ is me imagining how dance music could sound if the monks from the monastery had been involved.
So tell us a bit about the label, Beartone. What made you start it and how’s it been going so far?
I initially setup the label as a place I could release music digitally. This was a response to diminishing vinyl sales from 2008.I am now releasing vinyl again on my third EP under my alias, Beartone.
Clever artwork seems a hallmark of every release. Is that something you’re conscious of? And why did you settle on a bear for your alias and artwork?
I’m very lucky to know great visual artists who are willing to help with the Bearface artwork. My wife Kim-Leigh Pontin and the artist z. Zenobia are mainly responsible for the look of the label. I feel it gives the music more impact and meaning.
The San Jose EP marks a comeback of sorts for you after a while not releasing records. Why was now the right time to start releasing music again?
This is the third vinyl in the series. I have been putting out vinyl although not so much. The San Jose EP has a slightly more laid back feel to that of the more recent stuff.
Was there a general idea behind the tracks you were trying to convey? Is your production style generally reflective of your DJ style do you think?
Not really. I sequenced most of the track in my MPC 3000 drum machine to give a particular feel and swing to the music. My general aim is to have production that flows in a musical sense maybe this is also reflective of my DJ sets.
Can you tell us a bit about the mix that you’ve provided for us here?
It’s mainly new music from artists I’m digging at the moment, some music from my label and a few older pieces. In the sphere of house but really back into the tech minimal sound that I started to produce in 2008.
What’s next for you?
I’m addicted to my studio so I definitely will be cooking up tunes for as long as I can. I live to travel, meet people, play and perform music so if I can do these things as much as possible that would be great.
P.S.: Bearface’s San Jose EP is out now on Beartone Records
Words by Zac