It began in Bristol, 2008. Now, with their precisely cheeky and aggresive take on funky electronica and the helping words of influentials; Rusko, Pendulum, Aphex Twin, and Skrillex, Koan Sound have been thrust into the forefront of the bass music industry’s collective eye. Low-Life’s own, KO, sits down with the duo before their Vancouver appearance to discuss grizzly bears, Buddhist philosophy, and their latest release, Funk Blaster, out now on OSWLA.
Introducing, Koan Sound.
LL: What are your specific roles?
Will: “We both do a bit of both, but I do a bit more of the producing and he does a bit more of the DJing; we kind of play to our strengths that way. That way the group remains much stronger.”
LL: What does your production process typically look like? What do you use to produce it, and how do you find inspiration?
Will: “Usually it’s just done by lots of experimentation really. We use Reason 4, and I’ve been using it for years and years but I’m still finding plenty of new things every time we use it. It’s just a case of finding a bit of inspiration in something, and then building upon that. Usually I find the best way to find inspiration is to listen to a genre completely different to what you’re trying to make whether it’s a band, or whatever – classical music even, or film music. It helps a lot when you try and bring that into dubstep, or whatever you’re trying to do.
LL: KOAN has Zen connotations to it, and you’ve released tracks with names that reference traditional definition (One Hand Clap). What does the name mean to you?
Jim: “I wouldn’t say it’s strictly personal, we just thought it was quite a cool concept. The idea of gaining an answer to a problem not through logic per-say, but sort of intuition – a deeper understanding of something.
Will: “Like what’s the sound of one hand clapping, you know?”
LL: Eleven days ago you released Funk Blaster on OWSLA. How is it being among the first releases on the label?
Will: “It’s exciting, I mean they’ve been so supportive – Skrillex and the whole team.”
Jim: “We were given pretty much complete freedom to do whatever we wanted, there were no specifications or anything. They just said: ‘we like what you guys do, so we want to release some of your music, and just sort of went from there.’”
LL: How do you feel about the EP/do you have words to lowlifes about the direction of its sound?
Will: “I mean we touched on some more funky sounding things in the Max Out EP, and we just wanted to do more of that.”
Jim: “Yeah I think it brings in influences from more acoustic genres – this EP – so you’ve got sort of funk stuff, whereas that last one was more electronic music I suppose. But yeah, it’s just a mash up of those different genres hopefully..”
LL: I was reading an interview you did with Dubsilo UK, and you spoke on your earlier influence of drum ‘n’ bass which is typically 160-190bpm. In recent tracks you’ve been down to often under 100bpm. Give us an idea of your early/current influences, and what you like about the new slower tempos.
Jim: “Drum ‘n’ Bass was pretty much the first electronic music that we’d heard, probably 2005 or something like that. Originally, our first exposure to it was people like: The Prodigy, but quickly it sort of moved down – we started exploring the genre, and finding people like Noisia and Spor who obviously are really really big influences, and that’s definitely shaped our sound quite a lot. That sort of… it’s dark, it’s quite meticulously produced, but it’s hard to describe. It’s tearout, but it’s not stupid music.
LL: Initially your influences were drum and bass, which is pretty natural. So going to 100bpm it is…
Will: “It’s quite uncharted territory that sort of tempo with the heavy bass sounds that we’ve been doing. It’s just a really nice fresh approach, and it’s just really fun to make music at that tempo; it’s a bit faster than normal hip-hop, but slow enough that it’s got a really nice groove to it.”
Jim: “Yeah we’ve been getting into people like Opiou from Australia, and this guy called Tipper, who make music at 100bpm and so we include quite a lot of their tunes in our set. And yeah I don’t think most people from the UK really know about them, so it’s sort of – unexplored territory as Will said.”
Will: “Someone called Teknian, who is a producer from Sweden. He’s pretty young, I think he’s 18 now, but recently he’s just started making some amazing things. His bass sounds very much like Spor, but he’s just..”
Jim: “He has a real breadth to his production. He can do really dark, tearout drum ‘n’ bass tunes, and can do really sort of two steppy – melodic pieces. So yeah he’s got a wide pallet of sound, and I suppose that’s what we look for in an artist really… someone who can turn their hand to different things.
LL: Everyone has to ask: 5 favorite tracks right now?
Jim: “We’ve just done a remix for Kill The Noise which is being released in a couple of weeks. The original tune is called Deal With It, and that’s actually coming out on OWSLA as well, it’s the next release on the label.”
Jim: “Another tune by Culprate which is actually on the same EP called Tentacle which is completely different from all his other stuff. It’s like a really down-tempo sort of garage-y tune — it’s wicked.”
LL: Which would win in a fight: a Lion or a Grizzly Bear?
Will: “Grizzly Bear.. they are strong motherfuckers.”
Jim: “I’ve never seen one, but who was it that was telling us.. their first ever trip to Canada, and their first time they’d ever smoked weed..”
Will: “He happened to stumble across a bear, and he just ran away from it..”
Jim: “and yeah, this bear was sort of quite a placid bear, and he saw this bear, ran away from it, and of course this bear started chasing after him. Don’t know how it ended..”
Will: “Well he is still alive so you know..”
LL: What does KOAN Sound hold for the future of bass music?
Will: “It’s a hard question because it’s evolving so quickly.. There are plenty of genres coming out that I’d never heard of which are huge..”
Jim: “As long as it stays fresh and there’s new producers coming through and there’s new ideas being generated, then that’s all I look for in it really..”
LL: Thank you for your time.
K.O & Rader