Voltage is definitely one of the most promising young artists on the global Drum and Bass scene. With releases for big companies like RAM, Playaz, CIA, Shogun Audio, Spearhead, Innerground, Low Down Deep, Smokin Riddims and many, many more, the artists has quickly become one of the most well-known talents in the world of 170+ bpm rhythms. Shortly after being announced as the Best Breaktrough DJ and Best Breaktrough Producer by the prestigious The National DnB Awards, the artist was the main headliner of the Power Plant event held in Sofia. Thanks to the organizers of Гръм и Бяс (Grum i Bias, translated as Thunder and Rage and sounding roughly the same as Drum and Bass), our team had the chance to take an interview from the guest right before his set in Club Mixtape 5. After a serious of unfortunate events, pardon the pun, Alex managed to talk to Voltage for a short while about his projects and views regarding the music. A recording of the whole interview is available at the end of this publication, where we will provide a Youtube link. In the next couple of lines we've written the most important parts of our conversation. We've taken the liberty to shorten both the questions and the guest's answers at times.
I started DJing probably at around 1994 when I was 13-14 years old.I used to help out at one of the record shops with Tobie Scopes from Serial Killaz and Donovan Badboy Smith, Lee from Metalheadz so I kind of got into the music pretty early. I used to just help out there every Saturday, however, I didn’t start producing until 2008.
I don’t want to sound too narrow-minded by saying you are a jump-up producer, but that’s just how I’d label you. It seems however that despite the genre, you can easily shift from one style to another, and they all sound great! I always easily find a hint of old-school vibes in your tracks. How did you formulate your own sound? Which artists inspire you?
I do a lot of sampling. I’m quite into sampling a lot of jazz, hip-hop, progressive rock, krautrock, Tangerine Dream, CAN, Amon duul, really obscure stuff, Miles Davis, Pat Matheny. I’m really into live, if you listen to 2-3 of my tracks you’ll always find some jazz samples, like Bob James, I sample him a lot.
As I said you always manage to bring the emotionally-charged, stripped-down, clean old-school sound. Do you use hardware or software?
I’ve got quite a lot of analogue gear. I just prefer the sound, I use a valve mixing desk, I like the rawness of it, I don’t like the music to be too bright, to me drum and bass should be more about the bass, more bass-driven. To me a lot of the tunes in the past, maybe 4-5 years, kind of lost that rich fat warmness on the bottom, and got really bright and toppy, almost as if they were made for phones. Using analog gear brings back a lot of the music’s depth.
Apart from the machines we use today, what other differences do you find between dnb from back in the day and what we get served now?
The music’s definitely changing now, I do predominantly jump-up things and it’s definitely changing there, more people are using live-sounding drums, going back to the breaks, writing melodies again, music you can actually sing to, solid riffs, whereas 2-3 years ago people were making more random noises, no melody, no catchiness to it. It’s definitely regaining the old Bristol sound from back in the day- Full Cycle, that V Recordings stuff, so it’s good.
Let’s talk more about your own label Natty Dub. What pushed you towards launching your own imprint, how is it different to all the rest that already exist?
I actually don’t run that since 2 years. I had to sell it as I wasn’t putting enough energy into it. Back when I started it I was making so much of that old Bristol sound yet nobody would put it out there. People were buying my other stuff but not this. So I had to get it out there. It picked up quite speed easily though.
You often play back to back with Serum and Bladerunner. I’d say you really go well together. You also have a joint project called Kings of the Rollers. Tell me more about the project, is it just a trio that performs together or do you plan on producing as well?
We all kind of like have the same kind of vibe, maybe not DJ-wise, but musically, in terms of selection. Everybody know what we do separately, so we thought let’s make what we all do by ourselves together. It’s just about the DJing though, we’re all quite busy with our own projects, we focus on giving a different set to the listeners, that’s it.Are there any labels you still haven’t signed to but aim for?
Hospital! Deffinitely that's my next target.
Finally, can you give me the top 3 tracks that you currently spin?
Serum - ESP
Ten Walls - Walking with Elephants (SPY Remix)
Upgrade & T.I. - Shotdown