There is something to be said about dance music producers that come from a UK Garage or Grime background. Not only do they have a feel for bumpy, ’90s-infected House that sounds ethereal and timeless, but they also carry a distinct bass-driven sound as well that gives them a lot of crossover appeal within electronic genres.
Tesfa Williams aka T. Williams was a star in the Grime and Bass scene for 10 years. Breaking in at the wee age of 17 years under the alias Dread D, his singles were selling in the thousands. As luck would have it for House lovers, he found his way back putting out tracks on labels such as Kerri Chandler‘s Madhouse Records and Strictly Rhythm not to mention remixes for heavies like Disclosure and Maya Jane Coles.
Continuing to display his intelligent hybridization of influences, in 2017 he formed Conch Records with Julio Bashmore and continues rocking with Volume 3 of his distinctively unique Sodality series.
We are thrilled to sit down with T. Williams for a brief interview as well as listen to an exclusive mix.
Being a huge Garage head, I’m very interested in your past with producing Grime and Garage. You went by the name of Dread.D? Tell me more about that time period and when you were a part of the Black Ops collective.
I began starting to try to produce Garage when I was in high school when I realized I had no hope at DnB with the limited equipment I had. In my early days at college I met a friend, DJ Dice, who was part of Black Ops and knew Jon E Cash. I used to cut dubs and give them to him to play on radio which led to Jon E hearing my music and asking me to join the Black Ops Collective.
At the time I was just trying to make Garage with my EMU ESI 4000 sampler and a computer running Cubase VST & ReBirth. Little did I know that having such limited equipment would push me to create music that was later labelled as Grime.
I was mostly studying and raving on the weekends during that time period. But they’re some of my fondest times as a raver, hearing my music in clubs for the first time and seeing the crowd reaction. This was and still is a massive driving force behind the music I make today.
There has always been something pretty unique about producers from the UK, which sometimes works to our benefit and other times to our downfall. We get bored of a sound very quickly and move on, even if the public only want the same old sound from you.
Your collaborative work with Julio Bashmore and the label Independent Conch Records is meant to be more of a cross pollination of different electronic genres? I’ve noticed in the past several years that bigger House DJs seem to be more experimental in their sets now, willing to take chances. I always thought it came from festival culture… What are your thoughts?
For myself and definitely the Conch label project I’m doing with Julio Bashmore the experimentation goes back to the need to create as you did when you were first starting out without any of the pressures or expectations of social media, management, labels, press, etc.
I feel there has always been something pretty unique about producers from the UK which sometimes works to our benefit and other times to our downfall. And that’s that we get bored of a sound very quickly and move on and attempt to keep innovating and experimenting, even if the public only want the same old sound from you. So thats my reasoning behind wanting to keep things spicy and cross pollinate and experiment as much as possible right now. It’s something I truly need to do to be happy as a producer.
I really really love Sodality Volume 3! Especially the “Same but Different” track. Can you tell me how you created it and how you get inspiration for such groovy drums and basslines?
This all came from experimenting and just playing around being absolutely carefree. The whole idea behind the Sodality series is me releasing some of those fun tracks that I do in the studio that you may not be able to fit into any box or genre but still would be a total vibe.
So with this track I went back to the previously mentioned program ReBirth to make the whole thing. The great thing about using this program is that I was limited to the sounds and the step sequencer. The whole loop was built on there using one of my favorite modules, then I bounced it out and arranged in Logic adding the sirens and samples to the mix. It all came together really quick and natural.
What tools do you work with in your studio and how important is sampling to you? I think I read somewhere that you absolutely must have a sampler in your studio.
At the moment I’m mostly in the box. So I’m using Logic Pro X with soft synths and plugins. But my sample library is key to the whole operation. Also I’ve got about 80% of my records in my studio at the moment so it’s great to be able to play records I’ve collected 15 to 20 years ago and gain inspiration from all of that as well as current stuff. So basically I definitely couldn’t make music without the option to be able to sample. But currently I’m using the EXS24 sampler.
You’ve been making music since you were 12. What are some production essentials you had to learn the hard way now that you’ve had years of experience behind your belt?
I definitely learned how to mix down my tracks the hard way. From back in the day when I was 12 and I’d just be a taking a stereo recording directly from my Sound Blaster sound card and only have one trick up my sleeve and that was only being able to change the track levels. It’s safe to say I’ve come a long way from those days. What’s funny though is sometimes I’d get lucky and get things kinda right, especially for the Grime times. Kind of becomes a part of the flavor of the track, slightly crunchy and pushed with that computer hiss all the way through. Was fun times but glad I’ve more than learned a few more tricks since back then.
We are so excited for your mix! Can you tell us a little bit about it?
In my mix I’m going to do a spot of digging through my records seen as I have access to 80% of my collection now and put together a classic old to new House & Garage blend with some exclusive dubs of mines and friends thrown in.