UK BREAKBEATS: It’s a Jungle out there!
With City Jungle only days away, we snuck past the music lab and stole Noxious Aquatic (aka Timothy Constable) himself and asked him to explain his mischievous music behavior –
What exactly are UK breakbeats?
Pretty much any British dance music that isn’t House, Techno or Trance. There’s a whole history to how the beats came off old funk and soul records, but I won’t bore you with that now. The show name references Jungle, which was the first of these styles to emerge in the early 90s. Characterized by fast-moving “break” – beats set against slow-moving subby bass, it achieved most popularity as Drum n Bass, which came to the fore a bit later on. We are using these styles (together with some Dubstep and Breaks) as a launch point for our own musical journey, one that is really all about city life, its maniacal as well as it’s wonderful qualities, seen through the eyes of someone who wants to, well, dance.
If, poor soul, you want the history lesson, read on…
On a James Brown funk record, when the drummer takes a solo (a “break”), they don’t just go mental and hit everything they can (unlike lots of drum solos), but they keep playing the beat, with a few extra little funky hits thrown in for hip effect. When Hip Hop producers started making music using looped beats in the early 80s, these “breakbeats” (quite illegally) were often lifted straight off old funk and soul records. The most popular “break” ever is the Amen break, recorded in 1969, a feature of close to a million tracks, and the backbone of jungle and DnB.
I hear you’re a percussionist, composer, electronic producer and singer (did I miss anything?). Which came first?
It all started pretty early. I came from a musical household and went to an arty school, where we sang every day and played recorder… I started composing pretty young too, if you define it loosely. My parents made the mistake of buying me a pair of drumsticks when I was 3 years old…
How did you come up with your alter ego Noxious Aquatic?
I’m a big fan of the production alias – it’s like a band name for one. It really helps you to get a vibe on when you’re writing alone, makes what you’re doing feel like part of something bigger. If you play different instruments in a bunch of styles like I do, it also helps people know what they’re in for on a given night. My music is not particularly noxious, nor is it overtly aqueous, but I’ve been Noxious Aquatic for some time now.
Where did you meet your fellow City Jungle collaborators?
Synergy and Speak Percussion have collaborated a few times in the last couple of years, but this one is pretty special. When I first met Eugene (director of Speak) he said he was really into Drum n Bass. I thought he was joking (because I know almost no classical musicians who are!), but turns out we had a shared passion for the style. We’ve talked on and off about doing a project like this ever since, and now here we are. My partners in crime at the Synergy end are Jared Underwood and Evan Mannell – both of whom have played with everyone, have their own solo stuff going on, and are extremely inspiring musicians to be around. Equally so Tokyo Love-In, who I only met this year, but whose films and clips totally suited what we wanted to get across in this project. Speak are performing the music of Terminal Sound System, who is a great producer out of Melbourne.
Previous to City Jungle, which of all the collaborations and tours you’ve done was the most “dangerous”?
I feel like I have to say my time in Senegal working with Aly N’Diaye Rose and his family was the most dangerous, both overtly (because Dakar is a pretty wild city, a jungle in fact), and because it was so fundamentally challenging musically. But there have been lots – Synergy is a pretty brave music-making-machine when I think about it – and sometimes you’re there thinking: “ we’ve got a show to do tomorrow, how is this ever going to work?” But percussion is such a universal language, and somehow we always seem to come through ok!
Do you ever DJ for dance parties or clubs?
Yeah, bits and pieces. I was in London for a while about 5 years ago and did a bunch then. I feel like I guest in that scene, even though it’s a mad rush to play for people when they’re going mental. I think if you want to write good dance music, then at some point you have to have a spin, otherwise you can’t really know what it’s like. It’s a whole other way of engaging with the music.
So is the audience allowed to get up and boogie?
The Audience should always be allowed to boogie. The show is not primarily about getting down, if only because once we get all our gear in there, there won’t be a lot of real estate to spare, but if peeps want to take it on to the floor, I’ll be stoked! We’re also trying to get across that this music is beautiful beyond its practical purpose (ie. to fill the dance floor), and to bring it to people who might not be inclined to go out to a club night.
It would certainly be a great place to start if you were planning an all-nighter. Think of it as an epic, immersive, music video. Crazy.
City Jungle opens this Wednesday, 19 October @ 8pm.