Since their respective formations, Reggae & Jungle music have been intrinsically weaved into the fabric of the UK’s collective subconscious from the get-go. It’s a true testament to the culture that these emotive, sonically-charged genres are still just as loved and cherished today as they were in the past, and that’s due to a number of factors - the ‘custodians’ of the sound ( the heads that have been there since day one and who are still living it now), the listeners, the labels, the industry and the bright new crop of talent coming through in 2020. It’s safe to say that Aries is one of these custodians, growing and developing as a DJ & producer with the genre’s ascendence, whilst continuously stoking the fire with a high-calibre selection of productions, collaborations, releases, projects, DJ sets and more over his incredibly fruitful time in the scene. A true UK legend.
Whether it’s his solo & collaborative efforts, his integral role in the seminal Born On Road and the Ragga-infused Chopstick Dubplate, or his reputation as one of THE go-to selectors in the UK, Aries has solidified himself in that very top bracket of UK dance music influencers, and it’s a pleasure to have him onboard with us here at BYTHEPRODUCER to curate an expertly-crafted, exclusive sample pack that’s available to purchase now on the store.
You’re releasing an exclusive sample pack for us here at BYTHEPRODUCER, what have you got in store for the producers out there? Can you give us a quick rundown?
The sample pack is a mixture of Jungle and Drum & Bass, and is a load of things that I would’ve used in my own songs, and some stuff taken from a few of my tracks as well. Basically, there’s a lot of drum samples, a lot of percussion samples, some classic-style percussion samples and everything that I would have used to build my tracks.
Many artists have a distinct creative rhythm when writing music. Would you say you have a clear direction you head in when collating your own sample pack?
Yeah, I do! I usually go through, looking at stuff that I’ve made & programmed in my computer. I’d go and look for some old classic samples, I try to look for some stuff that is quite typical to the sound that I particularly make so I thought about, you know, the tracks that I make and what every single element of that would be. Then, I’d go around my computer and some of my old archives and found samples that I was able to use, process & update and that’s what the pack is!
Would you say they’re from over the years? They’re not all new, they’re from various stages of your journey?
Yeah, some of those samples are from probably the last 5-10 years of my journey but at the same time, I’ve gone in and updated them all, cleaned them up, refreshed them and got them sounding good for the process of this sample pack.
Have you got any hopes or ideas for how someone may utilise this pack? Any particular way you think anyone might go with it?
Well, I hope some people from other genres of music use the pack as well. It’s not just restricted really, there’s a lot of good sample elements in there that I would say would definitely work in other genres, even if they’re just sub-genres of Jungle and Drum & Bass. I haven’t even used a massive amount of breaks!
Aries FABRICLIVE x Jungle Mania Promo Mix
Have you ever heard one of your oneshots, samples, patches or FX in a club and thought “that’s mine”?!
I’ve definitely heard some! There’s a couple of classic Aries samples that various producer-friends of mine often feature in their songs and also, I’ve done a previous sample pack and from that, I’ve heard songs made pretty much entirely from that that have been released on record labels and put out there. It’s quite flattering to hear your own music in the club, it’s also just as flattering to hear elements of your production used in other people’s production but in the club, in the venue or at the dance.
Do you take it as a positive & a compliment to your sound when producers use your samples to build their tunes?
Oh yeah, 100%. Sampling music is the whole culture of the 90’s - the amount of times that I heard music back in the 90’s and I thought it was original, and since have heard another song that was older where that sample or that part of the song came from… the entire basis of our dance music culture is based on sampling. It’s a really important thing, I think some people need the important building blocks at an early stage before they’re advanced in their production to be able to kind of, get that sound that they want. Otherwise it can be very frustrating to have nothing to start building with so I think it’s really important!
We need to touch on the Jungle sound! It’s really healthy right now, with both old & new-skool influences showing through. You’ve been here plying your trade all this time, what’s it been like seeing the genre transition and change over the years?
The whole culture progressively changes each month, each day! I think that is part of our scene: Drum & Bass, Jungle music, the whole dance music scene is all about that. It’s all about taking a new sound and moving that forward, and I think the progression of the scene over the years is healthy. I really like where the scene’s at now, there’s a really new bunch of producers out there making a fresh sound and we’re seeing the Drum & Bass and Jungle charts at the moment with a whole new bunch of people, and a whole young, fresh culture in our scene which is very, very healthy and has always been a thing and an important part of our culture to help it move forward. I love it right now, evolution is really good and particularly now I think the music scene, in a sense, has changed and evolved with digital technology and I think it’s amazing!
I guess by inputting your sound and knowledge into a sample pack, you’re contributing to that evolution directly and indirectly? Your sound is influencing & inspiring people all the time.
As a DJ, I take influence from lots of different producers and I’m always looking for fresh sounds but I also like the old classic sounds, so when I hear music that is a fusion of both, progressing, taking that forward and taking a flavour from back in the day or something else that I’ve heard before, it’s all about that for me to be honest.
You’ve been absolutely key in bringing through essential new artists in the scene. Producers like AC13, Ben Snow & Gray have found a home in Born On Road and really progressed from there, do you see yourself and the imprint as a ‘mentor’ figure for these artists?
We’ve all brought each other through. That’s how it works, so the whole thing for us has definitely been about supporting the people around us, and giving each other support. Over the years, on a personal for me, I’ve met a lot of producers and a lot of different people, and I suppose, you meet some of them and you really see the passion, and you’re like wow, these guys are really passionate about it, and when you see that passion you think right okay, how can I help them move forward? I think we’ve all done that with each other, we could take that even further back to Selecta J-Man, always supported him - he’s one of the original core label members from our team, same with Kelvin , I’ve always helped support and bring everybody through. Same with Gardna, Kelvin brought Gardna through so it’s all about supporting each other and supporting your team.
There’s a whole bunch of fresh producers out there who’ve got a really nice attitude, a good vibe and good energy. For me, that’s the most important thing! Gray has all of that, he’s been on board with us on the team, I wouldn’t say ‘mentoring’ but support & management!
Yeah, ‘mentor’ may be a bit too official now I think of it!
Heist, who did one of the other sample packs, basically was doing online tuition and one of his online guys that he was working with was Ben Snow so you could say, on a mentor level you know, big up Heist for that! But then on a support level and releasing material, we’ve helped there as well, but then also he’s had other support along the way from management and people like DnB Allstars and other places. It’s a collective thing about everybody working together to help promote and recognise good talent and good music. It boils down to Gray, Ben Snow, AC13 - these guys have all made really great music and that’s what we can hear, same with Selecta J-Man or Gardna as an MC, or Kelvin as a DJ and a businessman, that’s where we’re at.
From the outside looking in, it just looks like such a massive family vibe! On that note, looking back to b2b’s you’ve done at festivals and places like that, you’ve played with the likes of AC13, Ben Snow & Kelvin, it’s a big clash of sounds (in a good way), both old & new, are those sets a highlight?
I’ve done back-2-backs for years in various collectives, since I had a DJ partner called Benny who runs a label called Co-Lab Recordings with Heist. Benny was my DJ partner from 1996 to probably about 2005, so we always basically played together. I was a promoter running events, he was a record shop owner and late 90’s that’s what we were doing! Early 2000’s he had the idea of starting a record label, he started it and picked up a few artists, he was into Heist who he’d just started working with, this was very early days of Jim’s [Heist] stuff and then started a vinyl label. I was doing bits of music a couple of years down the line and my first tune which was ‘Herbsmoke’ , probably the biggest tune for me that I’ve ever done, came through on that label so it’s all a crazy journey. Again, it’s a support thing because Benny was & still is my good friend, and we still have that same level of support these days to what we had back in 96’.
The back-2-back thing is really cool. I have found in the last year I’ve done a lot of back-2-backs with some absolute legends, people like Bryan Gee, Nicky Blackmarket & Bladerunner, as well as loads of upcoming artists like GAW, and the regular Born On Road team like J-Man, Kelvin, Gold Dubs, Stivs, all the lads. That’s what we do, it’s all about complimenting each other, we’ve all got our own vibe & sound, we’ve all got our own music and we all mix & DJ in a different way, I think that for me is the fun bit about it! I find it challenging with other artists, like I played with Euphonique, and Gella, they’ve got a particular sound and vibe and I think when you play a b2b, you can get on their vibe, they get on your vibe and then you compliment each other so it’s important to think about what the DJ’s just played and think where should I take it now? It’s good for the journey with the b2b thing because when you don’t know exactly where it’s going to go as such.
You’re integrally involved with Born On Road & Chopstick Dubplate, as well as your collaborative & solo work, how do you split your time between the projects whilst keeping your output at such high quality?
I definitely have a lot of commitments with what I do and there’s definitely a lot of different projects that I go on. I suppose I concentrate on different projects at different points, and sometimes I’m concentrating more on one project than the other, it’s very hard to spin all the plates at the same time but I enjoy doing it all and I definitely very much love what I do. I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to do that all the time, full-time so I’ve basically been doing that as much as I can to try and keep the sound moving forward.
Aries - Herb Smoke
Throughout your career you’ve released a multitude of projects across LP’s, EP’s, compilations and more, would you say you have a preference? How does the workflow differ between each medium?
When I worked my album, I spent a long time on that, a couple of years! The album that I wrote was a bit of a journey so it was basically a collection of the different people that I work with, and I wanted to represent all those artists as part of that project. I got as many as I could in the original body of music across singers & producers, and then with the remix project that followed, that gave a body of about 40 songs and the remixes were a load of artists that hadn’t potentially featured on the album but I still wanted to feature as part of the project. It did take 2 or 3 years so I think the album process is definitely a lot longer.
EP’s and stuff, I tend not to make so many, EP’s I do personally when I make a collaboration with somebody. I did one last year with Nicky Blackmarket, a 4-track EP that we put out on Co-Lab, which was a collection of music that we’d made over a period of time that all had a similar vibe & sound, and then I did another one with Stivs which again, he’d come round and have a jam in the studio and then we made a body of music. Each one of them represents a particular vibe & sound from the person that you’re working with, similarly to what I was talking about with the DJing, that’s what I like to do with people. The one with Nicky BM, it’s got a sound, you listen to those basslines and they’re like a little Nicky kinda vibe on the bassline but then it’s still kinda Jungle-y and got the aesthetics that I would put in a track. The one with Stivs, both of us are really into the old classic Breakbeat, Jungle & Rave styles with chopped up beats and 808’s, that EP there is very much a representation of that and if you go and check the EP’s, they’ve got that. That’s mostly important to me really, I make tunes a lot but the ones that have got a sound & a vibe, they’re the ones that I feel like need to go out there.
I know Boomtown is a place close to your heart, purely evidenced by what I’ve read & the amount of sets I’ve seen there from yourself! Can you sum up why the festival is so special, and the important role it plays?
Boomtown is like a family, and we’ve been very lucky that we’ve grown with that family over the years. It’s very much a support network and very much a platform for a lot of musicians and a lot of people, the performers, artists, production crew. It’s absolutely ridiculous the event that they put on there, it’s next level. We’ve been very lucky to get the opportunity to perform at that festival over the years, in various capacities and on various different stages. It’s a really important part of the calendar for us each year and we love what the guys do there. It’s all about supporting each other, the last few years a lot of our artists and a lot of people we work with have had the opportunity to perform there and I think it’s pretty much everyone’s highlight of the year, to let their hair down and let loose!
I guess it’s a chance for you to touch base and look back each year, every year. It’s a highlight of the calendar and allows you to bring artists through that perhaps you’ve discovered over the last 12 months?
It does, and we also collect music ready for that event. Often we’ll go there with a whole bag full of new music to go out and play, it definitely is a thing!
Can you remember when you first went/played, and how you got involved?
I got asked to play the first time I went, which was the second time that they did it in Winchester, in the bowl. I was invited to go and play their warm up event at Lakota in Bristol on the Thursday, it was an interesting time in Bristol because previously the week before there was a riot and it was a pretty crazy time in the Stokes Croft part of Bristol. Anyway, I’d been invited to play at this event, there was a lot of tension in the area at the time and I went in, played and they gave me closing set in the main room and it was a Boomtown event. My friend Adam from Asbo Disco booked me, and I was playing a lot of Ragga, Reggae, Dubwise Jungle, I was playing last set and it was a full event, the whole thing was like a couple thousand people at Lakota on a Thursday it was crazy. It went off, I finished the set and the main guy from the festival came up and said “I’ve already filled my lineup at Boomtown, but I’ll give you a shout”. I was like “cool, cool can I get your number” and he said “I’ll give you a shout don’t worry, I’ll get in touch’, so I thought, I’ll get his number and I’ll chase that! But actually, afterwards a couple of weeks later, he gave me a phone call, made me an offer, put me on in the Lion’s Den on the Friday night, had a 9PM set. The only other Jungle that night was Congo Natty, and at the time everyone was really into that particular Ragga-Jungle sound so I had the opportunity to play one of the only Jungle sets on the Friday night!
Aries & Nicky Blackmarket - Champion
I was on site for the Goat Shed x Onyx Recordings x Born On Road Bristol livestream in the caves below Clifton Observatory a couple weeks back (of which the recording is coming soon), really enjoyed your b2b with Kelvin! How did you find the experience?
I love Bristol, and that was a really cool and iconic spot. It was really nice to go and DJ there, it was quite hard conditions!
But wow, what a spot. I’m very glad we got the opportunity to do that, the guys at Onyx & Goat Shed are smashing it so big up to everyone involved with that project. It was a really good day, GAW & Gray smashed it up and it was epic! I’m looking forward to seeing the final product!
Livestreams are especially big now due to the ongoing restrictions on the industry due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Have you got anything coming up, haven’t you just done one?
Yeah, we’ve just done a big one with Run Tingz & Jungle DNB Hub and it was wicked. It was the Bristol lot down, it was from our friends that run Run Tingz Recordings and they’ve been present here doing Jungle and Drum & Bass here in Bristol for quite a long time now. They put a studio together, really cool studio and a professional team, a bunch of camera and production guys as well, and had a really cool, brand new streaming platform that they can do. So, we went down there just before lockdown for a final group mix, Vandal came (who’s a massive Raggatek artist), Mandidexterous who’s a massive Tek artist as well, and Shosh who does 24hr Garage Girls, and then the Born On Road Lads! It was a really nice bunch of our friends from Bristol and the surrounding area which was cool. They crossposted it on many sites, there was a lot of people tuned in, it was epic!
Just to finish, I wanted to touch on Bristol as a whole. I’ve been long overdue a visit & going there the other day, I really got a vibe off the place. I’ve held it in a high regard and the place to be for the music we love, and your sound in general. It’s a proper hub for culture, what are your thoughts on the city?
For the music scene here, it’s history, it’s original founding members. Bristol has an amazing music scene, I’m not originally from here I’m from Birmingham but moved here a few years ago because I was spending so much time here anyway! A lot of my friends were here, I was living in London for a bit and now I’m here in Bristol and I love it! It’s a great community, it’s not too big but there’s a lot of people here within the music industry, all doing different roles. There're many people originally from here but there’s also a lot of people who have migrated here because of its culture and it’s a very cultured city with a really cool art scene, a really cool music scene and a really nice vibe. The people that have grown up round here are amazing and have a great vibe so I find it really easy to function as a human being here!
RunTingzLIVE 036 - Born On Road (Big Bristol Lockdown Stream)
Article by Cal Sorenson for BYTHEPRODUCER.com