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Artist Perspective: the Evolution of Drum & Bass

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Drum & Bass veteran producer and DJ Nookie has been part of the genre's evolution for over a decade. From humble roots in pirate radio to dream deals with labels like Sony Records, Nookie is undoubtedly one of the leading names in the D&B scene. In this MOTU.com exclusive, Nookie shares his take on the evolution of Drum & Bass music and its production and distribution.

My involvement in the Drum & Bass scene stretches back to the early rave scene. I've been producing music professionally for the last 15 years, and over these years I've witnessed many changes in the way we produce underground dance music. I started using a humble Casio RZ-1 Drum Machine, Akai S950, Atari ST and a DX7 keyboard. These days we're fortunate enough to be able to produce music with so much more power at our fingertips.

Strictly Digital: Drum & Bass and MP3

The rise of the MP3 revolution has also played its part in Drum & Bass. Many of us are now able to send our tunes straight out of Digital Performer to DJs all over the world to play in their sets via various instant messenger services like AIM or MSN. The main reason I got into making music was to get my music heard to a worldwide audience and MP3 has now made this easier to achieve through the correct channels.

Last year, with my partner Gary, I started an MP3 download website to help new up-and-coming producers, as well as established producers, get their music heard on a global platform and to be rewarded commercially and financially.

Check it out at http://strictly-digital.com/

At the moment my studio setup consists of a mixture of software and hardware. We have a Centrino Laptop PC and an Apple G4 Power Mac using MOTU's Digital Performer 4 with a host of various plug-ins and software instruments including the excellent MachFive universal sampler plug-in. We do still have some hardware instruments, including the EMU E6400 sampler. The great thing about MachFive is that it actually works like a conventional hardware sampler but with so much more freedom to expand our production creativity.

The ever-evolving technology in music production has always played a big part within Drum & Bass. Many producers are always searching for new ways to create fresh and radical sounds. Rufuge Cru's classic "Terminator" on Reinforced records is a prime example introducing the "time stretch" effect within Drum & Bass. This effect has now been widely used in drum samples, vocals and even basses. This is one of the great things about Drum & Bass music; there are no boundaries, no rules to what influences you can use. From the raw-sounding Ragga vocals, bass lines and sound effects to the smooth, funky Jazzy Rhodes and double bass to the lush deep atmospheric pads. Drum & Bass has definitely captured the hearts of may people including many well-known recording artists such as David Bowie, Everything But The Girl, Annie Lennox, Herbie Hancock, Larry Heard and Bjork, to name but a few.

Using digital audio has now proved to be an integral part in modern music production, and a good solid audio interface plays a very important part. I use the MOTU 828 FireWire interface in the studio and have also used the 828 and DP4 on the road to record some of my DJ-ing sets live on individual audio channels. In a club environment, a stable piece of equipment is absolutely vital. The 828 has established itself to be a reliable contribution within my production setup, on stage and in the studio.

The sampler has been an integral part of my music production set-up since I started producing 16 years ago, from my trusty old Casio RZ-1 drum machine, to the S950, S1000, S3000, and then on to my E6400. These days the software revolution has taken over 80% of my set-up. The sampler is still very much part of the main core in my productions, and the MOTU MachFive satisfies all my sampling needs.

There are many soft samplers in the market at present, but very few actually work like a hardware sampler. The editing functions on the MachFive are very easy to use and they actually makes sense! I very rarely use audio channels these days—most of the time I'll import the audio sample directly into MachFive and use it like a hardware sampler. It's much easier to change a MIDI note riff then change the audio file.

CPU performance is also a very important factor when using software instruments and plug-ins and I find MachFive to be very generous on my computer even when MachFive is full to the brim with my dirty samples!

MachFive has helped me a great deal when importing the huge sample library that I've accumulated through the years and through the many sample formats that have come and gone...time to dig into my old sample library again!

Producing Drum & Bass has definitely evolved greatly since I first started writing music, and every day new producers are breaking through, stamping their mark in Drum & Bass history. Guys like Artificial Intelligence, Calibre, High Contrast and Mathematics to name but a few are part of the accumulation of new-school producers writing numerous dance-floor Drum & Bass classics. At present the Drum & Bass scene is musically very healthy. Quality control plays an all-important part in today's productions which can only be seen as a good thing.

Using a combination of software and hardware there has never been a better time to start producing music and save what precious little time we have in this modern-day society.