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Back from the trip

2019 Apr 23     
2 Bit Thugs

The master of dark, minimal D&B returns after the success of last year's debut long-player 'Enjoy This Trip'

The first release after a debut album can be a strange affair for an artist. After years of honing your skills and fine-tuning your sound to create the most substantial statement of your career so far, you can suddenly go loco again. You can blast whatever shade, flavour and amount of rave juice you choose, in any direction you like.

Especially if you’re Skeptical. One of the most influential and respected artists exploring drum & bass’s vividly fertile dark, stripped-back rolling minimal funk territories right now, last year he dropped his debut album Enjoy This Trip. Written over the course of four years, it captured his stark signature with a sense of momentum that’s been building since his debut release in 2010… and it's inspired many, if not all, of the next-gen minimal-minded artists who’ve emerged since. Nominated as one of the best albums of 2018 in the Drum&BassArena Awards, like all good debut albums it certified the hype, compounded his status and left fans waiting for what would come next.

Mercifully, we only had nine months to wait. Not bad considering how drained or spent a debut album can leave an artist. Au contraire for the man known fondly as Skeppy, however – he’s explained in previous interviews that he was already writing new material before his debut album was being mastered. Far from creatively spent, he was more inspired than he was before… which is where he remains to this day.

This month’s four-track EP is the first blast from this creative spurt. More is set to follow this year, including potential collaborations with equally respected and influential act Mefjus. Rave juice galore; shadowy shades, warm flavours and what’s shaping up to be very generous amounts, Skeptical’s back at full blast and heading in your direction.

But it all starts with Fibonacci Sequence, an EP that takes its name from a mathematical sequence found in almost everything from hurricanes to snail shells to galaxies. Like the man’s footprint on the deeper side of drum & bass, it’s everywhere! But right now, he’s on the phone to us...

So, this Fibonacci Sequence. It’s everywhere…

"Yeah man, it’s in everything. Literally everything. I had no idea until I saw a Brian Cox documentary and it blew my mind. It’s in the universe, it’s in galaxies..."

It’s the sequence of the cosmos…

"That’s it. Obviously it fits in with the space theme of my last release, and I just thought it was a cool title and concept for the EP. There’s another track on the EP called Mechanism and both titles really fit with the artwork."

I can remember when I first realised how vast space was... it made me question everything. I was about seven or eight. Did you ever have an epiphany like that?

"Yeah, I guess I was about that age too. I remember having loads of books about the planet and it was one about volcanoes that gave me that type of ‘woah, fuck!’ moment. It was more about time than space though; getting my head around the idea of mountains and volcanoes forming over millions of years had the same effect.

It makes you realise how insignificant we are as individuals…

"Yeah. Like when you wake up with a minor problem and it’s doing your head in all day, but then you look up, you look around, you think about it for a second and think, ‘This is nothing compared to the much wider picture, why am I even worried?’. It makes you feel better."

Do you see things in patterns or think numerically?

"Hmmm… I don’t think so. But I do organise things in colours, and that helps me logically."

I'm imagining really neat and tidy DAW projects…

"Oh yeah, they’re the best example of how colour helps you organise your mind. Everything is organised in colours, even down to edits on 16s. It helps me know where I am, I don’t get lost and can easily jump into a project.

"I guess it’s the OCD in me, but I’ve been working with Martin Mefjus recently and he takes it to a whole new level. He keeps things in folders and colour-codes them as well."

So efficient... so Austrian!

"Oh mate, he is next-level efficient. I’m pretty tidy with my stuff and know where everything is but he’s ruthless! It’s inspiring."

A Mefjus/Skeptical collaboration sounds pretty damn inspiring too, to be honest! Did you connect through that Sink Hole remix you did last year?

"It was a bit before that. 2017 we started something, we did a few bits, I did a remix for him and I was in Austria the other day and we did our fourth or fifth track."

Oh, so this isn’t a one-off, then?

"No no, we’ve got a few things going on. We’ll get them out at some point… I’ve played them all out and they seem to work well on the dancefloor."

I can image the sound: you’re both different sounding enough to each other to make a collaboration really interesting but you share a similar spirit and mindset.

"That’s pretty much it. His sound is traditionally darker and more synthesized, and I guess mine is more minimal and sample-based. We meet in the middle and it’s working out well. He’s a Cubase user like me so it’s really interesting working with him. A lot of fun, too."

Let’s talk about your EP… it's the first new material since your album. I remember talking to you back then and you said you were inspired and had already been writing more tracks. Are these those tracks?

"Three of them are, yeah. The other tune, Fibonacci Sequence, is the older one which I did before the album. Again, that tune has been written over a while so it has a flavour which has been drawn out over time."

That’s my favourite – it’s got that classic Skeppy vibe.

"It’s all part of the mix: with releases I like having a couple of rollers and a slower 85 thing. I stick to that template for EPs and it works for me. It was quite hard working out where to go after writing my album, but I stuck to the template and I’m really happy with it."

Was it daunting to set about a new release after the album?

"There was a bit of a ‘what’s next?’ feeling, but it's nice to be free from having this one big project looming over me. You can’t get away from an album. It’s just always there no matter what you do. So not having that constantly on my mind and has felt like a weight lifted, I’m just really enjoying doing little projects and trying different things out. It’s a lot less pressure."

Sounds like you’re not thinking about album number two quite yet!

"Definitely not for a good few years. I’m much happier not being in album mode. I can get much more tracks done. Plus being on the road isn’t really conducive to making big projects because you’re always ducking in and out of projects.

Speaking of shows. I last saw you play at Let It Roll Winter a few months back. Done any more massive ones like that?

"Yeah, Rampage. That was fucking insane! It’s about 15,000 to 20,000 people which is just ludicrous when you think about it. That’s more people than a small town. I never thought I’d get to that stage as a DJ, it’s amazing."

Did you find it more daunting playing to that size crowd, or less because it’s such a mad scale?

"Less in a way. Smaller clubs are more intimate and you’re on their level and you’re with them. Massive raves like that are more impersonal – you don’t feel you know anyone. That doesn’t make them less fun or enjoyable though. It’s just a different buzz. After Let It Roll Winter, which was a good five thousand or so, I was sick. I wasn’t sure if it was adrenaline or a chocolate brownie I’d eaten but big gigs sometimes do have an effect on me. How could they not? You’re playing your music to thousands of people… that’s pretty fucking mad when you think about it."

Oh yes. So what comes after this EP?

"Well, I’ve just done a 140 remix on V.I.V.E.K’s label System Sound, a remix of Leftlow. There’s possibly some other remixes out this year that I’ve already finished but I’m still waiting on dates from the labels. I’ve got some other interesting projects in the works too, so yeah 2019/2020 are shaping up nicely."

Words: Dave Jenkins Pics: Khali Ackford

Fibonacci Sequence is out now on Exit Records

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Tags: Skeptical, D&B, drum & bass, DnB, minimal D&B, Mefjus, System Sound, Exit Records, Let It Roll Winter, Rampage,