By Vincent PollardThere are only a few key melodies that are probably actually recognisable anyway, right? Some tracks you have a main line in there that sounds quite natural but it's actually chopped up from different parts of things — bits that have been sped up and slowed down or played backwards. Something will sound like a bass line but it's actually something else that's been slowed down a lot so that it's hitting bass frequencies. I mess with stuff a lot to make it into what I wanna make it. I think the difference with a hip-hop record or something is maybe you sample something because you want to directly reference the thing you sample. You want to use a James Brown sample to reference James Brown in some way and show those connections. Whereas what I was doing with Rounds was once the sound was off the record and inside the computer, I didn't care about where it came from anymore. It was just a piece of sound for me to manipulate and play with. It was just electronic sound for me, once it was in there. That was my mentality — I set out to show absolutely no respect to the sound but remove it from the original place that it came from and treat it as something new that was just a digital thing that I could turn into the other thing that I needed.
What kind of hip-hop were you most influenced by at that time? Just all those great '90s producers like Pete Rock, DJ Premier and all those digging-in-the-crates guys. All that stuff was a really big deal for me. They were sampling all these records and showing an incredibly broad knowledge of music, putting together things that you hadn't really imagined together — a bit of a jazz record and a disco record and adding a drum machine and turning it into another thing entirely. That style of production and that way of working just appealed to me being a big record collector myself. I liked the idea of hunting out weird records for sounds. It was just a very natural and obvious way for me to work. Ever since I got into that, and sat there with a pile of records and a computer, it's been my favourite way to make music ever since.
And the samples on Rounds were pretty much all taken from vinyl, right? Yeah, I think so. I remember around that time I used to have my TV wired up to my computer so as I was watching TV I could record stuff coming in and take sounds out of that. But coming from that hip-hop thing, I was working with vinyl a lot for sure. It's still the same now. I still buy loads and loads of records and still work a lot in that way. When I'm working on music I'm not really sampling stuff at that time, it's more like I have a sort of sample archive that I work on all the time. If ever I'm listening to a record or watching a movie and I hear some sound, or find a sound on the internet that's useful to me it just gets put in a folder that's been set up for that month on my computer and I've got folders and folders of everything I've found going back to '97! So when I go to work on a track I'm not sitting there with piles of records and all this stuff, I'm just sitting there with archives of sound and just dipping into that and I can search it. So I can put in "guitar" and every little guitar sound I've found over the last 15 years is there so I just try to find a bit that fits with what I'm doing.
In that case, can you even remember where some of the samples come from? No! Yeah, there's load and loads of stuff that I have no recollection of what it came from at all. Especially with drums — I've got an enormous archive of drum sounds and drum breaks and things like that and I use a whole combination of those to construct drums for a track. Who knows where half of those bits came from originally? I don't wanna rip anybody off or for them not to get the credit but at the same time it's a complicated world that whole sample clearance thing. Sometimes I'll sample some weird thing where it's really difficult to track down anybody who was involved and takes an enormous amount of time that might hold the record up so I think a lot of times people put the records out and deal with it further down the line.
I remember an interview with you from around the time Rounds came out and you said that your equipment was pretty much out of date. Is that still the case, or have you upgraded since then? Yeah, I don't really care about having the newest stuff that's out or the latest upgrade or the newest synth or any of that stuff at all. It's meaningless to me. I just gotta have something that allows me to filter through my ideas. If I hit a wall where I can't do something I'm trying to do and there's equipment out there to do it I think "Okay, I need to get hold of this that allows me to do it," but it's a waste of time. I could spend ages learning new software and new toys all the time and not actually make any tracks! For me the focus has got to be on actually making music and finishing it.