Boston: “I just try to make electronic music that doesn’t sound electronic” (UnCut)

Categories Interview, Music

Jack Boston, aka Boston DnB, the young Welsh prodigy of Symmetry Recordings has talked about basically everything. His openness, immediacy and hilarious personality will surely take him to the highest tops of music. Fingers crossed! 🙂
When and how did you first hear drum and bass? Any favourite tracks from that time?

My first track was High Contrast: Basement track.  My sister showed me as she had just started going to raves, she was 17 and I was 13.

When did you start DJing?

4 years ago.

When you were 16?

Yes. That was the time when I got my first pair of turntables. Since then, I moved on to making music about 2 years later, then that’s where I am now. (laughs)

What was the drive in you for starting producing?

It was just being able to put my musical skills into a recording and d’n’b was of great interest at the time.

And you happened to meet Charlie (Break) in 2014.

Exactly. He was giving a music production seminar in Bristol, so I went down there, introduced myself, gave him a CD and it just worked.

Probably you don’t know but Break himself named you as the biggest up and coming talent in our previous interview. 🙂

(laughs) Really? That sounds amazing as he was, and of course, still is, my absolute influence in drum and bass. To be signed to his label is a massive deal for me because he’s one of the first artists I’ve ever heard, and I think he’s the best in the game. I don’t know anyone who makes as good tunes as consistently as him. It’s so good to be be affiliated and associated with the label.

What do you think his secret could be?

I don’t know! We sat down together and made some tunes as well, and it was cool to see how he works. His attention to details, in the samples he gets, and the way he sequences, in terms of mixing and point of view, he exactly knows what to apply to what. His knowledge is just ridiculously huge, he’s been doing it since he was at about my age. His 16 years of practice is the 4 times of mine! I don’t think I could make it even during that time! His music is so unique and powerful that you can always straight away that it was written by him, especially in clubs! That’s what I love about it. His sound is absolutely perfect, he’s got his own formula.

Who do you look up to in drum and bass apart from him?

Let me see my tunes… because I don’t listen to much drum and bass. When I’m making sets, of course, besides, I don’t listen that much because I don’t want to influence what I’m making. But DLR, he’s brilliant and a really cool guy as well. Pennygiles, he’s from Wales as well. As a newcomer, Ed:it. Bukem’s DJ sets really get me. And Madcap,  too, he’s supertalented.

Apart from d’n’b, who are your influences? 

Melody Gardot, of course. But it all changes, I sort of jump around. Zero 7, Alice Coltrane.  Do you know John Coltrane?  He’s a saxophonist from the 60s.

Thanks. 😀 I’m not THAT old!

No, I mean… you appreciate music! Good music!

Well done, nice try! : )

Since I remember, I’ve loved Jimi Hendrix and his blues style.

Do you make your living from being a DJ and a producer?

I’m sort of getting there, let’s say half and half. Not all, not yet, no. Two weeks ago I had a weekend with two gigs, that was quite a good intention, good learning. I could actually look into what could be a job, I mean as a full-time one.   Since getting signed to Symmetry, the number of gigs has increased dramatically. I’m really trying to push to get outside of Cardiff, outside of Wales because I know all the clubs, I know all the people. That’s why this weekend was so much fun: not just playing, but travelling around, meeting new people. I see a bit of everything, it’s just awesome.

How about playing abroad?

I played in Croatia last August, at SoundWave Festival. It’s quite small scale, around 3,000 people. I’d really recommend it to anyone!

And we recommend you to come here! 🙂

Really?? (laughs) I love hearing that my music is reaching people. Cool, thanks!

So, the the weekend you’ve mentioned was quite busy as you had a gig in Bournemouth and in Brighton.

Yeeah, both were really good gigs, both sold out! It was awesome, having so much fun.

What grabs your attention in others’ sets? What makes a great DJ in your opinion?

A great DJ is all about selection for me, however watching Charlie at Brighton was mindblowing at how fast he could do it. I’d say selection is most important, that is the basis of a good set, plus being focused and quick are the main qualities.

Is that your bass guitar in the background?

Yes, I’ve been using it today, actually, just started a new piece.

How many instruments can you play?

Just guitar, bass and keys, really. I’ve tried other instruments, but these three remained.

When did you start learning them?

Guitar when I was 6, keys much later, when I was about 16. I was getting into the idea of writing music, so I thought to expand, learn more instruments.

That was paralelly to your DJ career, wasn’t it?

Well, I can’t remember which was first actually, but I think it was playing the keyboard.

Your latest EP, Panoramic was released on the 8th April. Wonderful job, congrats! 🙂 The titles of the songs carry strong messages, too.

Usually, they’re just about the way I was feeling when I was making them. Or the imagery I get when I listen to them. So, “Panoramic” because I had a very wide image in mind. I feel like I could hear a lot of things across the range, and in my head, it’s a panoramic view of sound, if you like.   “Know Your Roots” comes from the sample I found, it’s some African music. “Life Is” was with the singer Vanity Jay, she came up with the name. “Conscious” sounds like quite mindful music, I suppose… I’m not sure now. (laughs) Kind of awakening tune, a bit tribal.

What are you conscious about?

That’s a part of the practice I’ve been well into quite recently. Conscious, present being moment sort of thing – it all came from that. The interesting way of being, that’s a big influence on all the music I make. In the state where I feel very conscious and present without the mind. (laughs)

How can you get back to this state? 

I just play instruments, basically that’s how I relax. Just sitting down and making music. Getting away from the “real world”, just locking into something else. It’s a weird state because you don’t think. Don’t think about the usual stuff you think about in life. You’re “here and now”. It’s an important state to get to, I think. Things stuck in your head can really get to you.

What do you think people like about your music?

Probably the musicality of it. A lot of new drum and bass is over-synthesized, sounds like it has just come out of the computer. I try to make it as real as possible: it’s been recorded by people. It’s the direction of music to go, I think, get out of the computer sound. I just try to make electronic music that doesn’t sound electronic. If I hear a piece of music I really like, if it sounds real, I can always touch it. That’s what I aim at but it’s very hard! Melody Gardot, well, she’s an amazing influence for me at the moment. She just sounds so real that you can almost reach out and grab it. (laughs)

So what do you do outside DJing?

I do promotion work, represent various brands in different activities. If you’ve got someone in the city centre, giving out free samples, that would be me! I work as a freelance for agencies.

It’s like being a host, isn’t it?

Yeah, kind of but it’s called brand ambassador.

What a name! Well, you go to the university in Cardiff, as far as I know.

Yes, I’m doing my master’s degree in music technology. It’s more about recording and music production in the classic sense: recording and producing bands, for example, which is where I want to end up. I don’t want to be making drum and bass forever. I want to be working in a studio. (laughs)

So what are you planning to produce then?

It’s not my main sort of music now but I like producing heavy metal because it’s so hard to do, so hard to get it right. So it’s like a constant learning curve, you know. In no other genres you can come across with the techniques they use, it’s really cool.   The reason why I enjoy is that I don’t actually listen to it that much. It gives me the position of objectivity. I don’t get so consumed in what I want to hear, I just sit back and enjoy, without being biased in any way, as I haven’t got any real preference. A band I’ve been working with recently, called Dryburn Drop is great. I helped them to record, too. I volunteer for Monnow Valley Studios, which is a really prestigious place. For example, the Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded there. It’s an unpaid position, more of an internship there: I don’t mind working there for free as the experience is I wouldn’t get anywhere else.

How do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

Probably still in the drum and bass scene, definitely. Because if I can make a living of it, then I’ll definitely do that. Making a living from DJing would be awesome. Probably coming into the late 30s, I’d like to be more respected as a music producer: recording real music, not electronic music.

What’s wrong with electronic music?

Nothing, really! It doesn’t feel to be sustainable. I don’t think I could be 50-60 years old and still be a d’n’b producer.

Probably Goldie thought the very same.

Yes but he’s an originator. He is a “one-off”. And dBridge as well, of course, and many others. They were there at the birth of drum and bass, and they all will be timeless in it. Whatever I’ll do, it’ll have something to do with music, whether it’s producing it, teaching it. That’s the main reason why I’m doing this master’s degree, it’s a safety net for the future if Plan A doesn’t really work out, I can still go and teach it. It’s a good way for future proofing yourself.

Have you ever taught? 

Not really, just 3-4 people. It was about using music production softwares. It’s great fun, I enjoyed it a lot and I think, that’s what I’ll end up doing. I’m not classically trained, so I won’t be able to teach them how to play an instrument. For that, you need be an amazing classical player, whereas I’m more of blues/jazz style. But in the end, I might be able to, I’ve never looked into it, actually.

Do you regret anything?

What a sad question! (laughs) In terms of drum and bass, I think I’ve come into it in at quite a bad time. Due to my degree, I can’t make much music at all at the moment. Today is my day-off doing from my university work, so I’ve been making music since 9 am, which means I’m really tired now. (Our chat started at 9 pm.)

I’ve got these two conflicting things: my semester is going to end in September and there’s sooo much work to do. People keep asking me about my next tunes, and I just don’t know because I haven’t got the time. Maybe if I timed it a bit better, so I finished my degree and then released all this music, capitalising on it, because if you don’t make music, people just tend to forget about your last one. In d’n’b, there are so many people, making music all the time, you can easily become forgotten, within matter of weeks if you’re not constantly releasing. It’s a bit frustrating now because I want to make music all the time, try to make a living from it, but it’s just not letting me to. Though it’s not long now, after September, it’s going to be fine. Till then, I’ve got a big research to do since December.

Oh, and what is it about?

I’m looking into the psychoacoustic effects (in English, in Hungarian) of being in an acoustic space. So, do performers play better if they are in a large concert hall as opposed to a dead studio room? Can you apply that concert hall sound to a studio hall, say through the headphones? Studios have got the some of the best equipment now, you can’t really get much better in terms of sound capture, all you can make better is the player. I think that’s where the next step is: to get more out of the actual human rather than the technology. That’s what I’m looking into: how can you achieve that in a studio environment. It’s getting involved a lot of recording, a lot of working in big spaces, which I love, being in a nice acoustic space gets me so excited, it just sounds so good. (laughs) Let’s see if I can bring some new information to the world. (laughs)

Turning back to regretting (I swear I won’t ask any more sad questions :)), do you have any regrets outside music?

No, I don’t think so. I’m very blessed in my position, I’m self-employed, I work to live. Actually, I could say I wish I’d taken up maybe a brass instrument and taken up keys earlier in my life and be more kind of classically trained. Saxophone or trumpet, I think.

Well, Charlie took all the brass instruments, apart from tuba. 

Really? I didn’t know that, cool! (laughs)

“Back to the roots”: are you planning to move from Cardiff?

Maybe to Bristol. If I find enough starting money to live down there. It’s such an amazing city, it’s got real buzz about d’n’b, real vibe. There are a lot more opportunities to expand. Cardiff is great, I like it because it’s small but you just know everyone – it doesn’t feel like you can meet influential people. Whereas Bristol, maybe London.. well, Europe actually. The world is my oyster! (laughs) Well, Bristol! Charlie lives there, it’s an amazing city: Total Science, Randall, DLR, S.P.Y and loads more. So it’s a great chance to network, meet new people and it’s great fun.

Do you think that there are real friendships in the scene?

Yeah, definitely! I think more genuine than in any other electronic genre. I’ve never been to any rave environment that is as genuine as drum and bass. You can do what you want, there’s no judgement at all. I’ve met my girlfriend at a d’n’b rave as well. It’s amazing to see that such talented and successful people like the artists, like Charlie or Makoto are so down-to-earth! Makoto was lovely, we were dancing together, having fun. He’s an international touring artist, still, he has the time to party and chill, I like it!

I’ve seen you were planning to release the EP on vinyl as well

Nooo. : ( I asked Charlie if we would do it on vinyl but he has a good point as well at my current standing: not enough people know me now. For 300 cuts you need to pay 15,000 pounds, and you just couldn’t make the money back at all. Maybe a limited run, 10-15 pieces handmade, signed. My mate has a cutter, so I’ll have my releases cut just for myself. As soon as my name gets a bit bigger, then a vinyl release will follow.   But you’re absolutely right: it’s written there, not corrected – this is my problem! (laughs)

I don’t really think about these things, about the promotion side of it, I just want to make music. That’s probably the reason for not being known that much: I don’t put a lot of effort into Facebook, into self-promotion. But I should, I know. There are so many good examples of putting a lot of effort, being very big but not making good music. 🙂 Whereas people like Charlie, who make the best music, I think and many people think as well, but don’t promote themselves a lot. He is big but you don’t see him as, let’s say, The Prototypes.  

In general, do you play vinyl?

Yeah, sure. I learnt on vinyl, and if I know that the club’s going to have a reliable vinyl setup, I’d definitely love taken it. There’s nothing like this! Pretty much every club has just CDs now, which is a shame. I think it’s nice to keep it alive a bit.  

I highly appreciate that! I’m also a fan of its different atmosphere. : )

Yes, it does. There is “Simply Vinyl” in Brighton, (like this one), which is a great night, where the rule is that you can just play vinyl. I think they should do more of that, bring it back a bit more! It is exactly the atmosphere, yes, I agree.  

What does it mean to you?

I love collecting vinyl, my collection is quite big and a lot of it is drum and bass. It’s the same as being in a physical library, it’s a different experience. You put on a record and it immediately gives you the feeling of nostalgia. I can’t feel iTunes that much, it’s different. If I put on a record, I can look at the sleeve, the artwork, it’s just a real thing. You can feel the essence of music more, you can feel where it comes from. It’s all self-made, it’s all in my head but it definitely does make a difference! (laughs)  

Well, it’s in mine, too, and I’m not even a DJ! 😀 It’s probably the routine of mixing, the moves that give different impression.

Yeah! And you know that it’s not queued up on a CD, that can be amazing. Like watching Charlie the other day in Brighton, he’s so fast. He was using all the four decks (2 cds, 2 usb), I’ve never seen anything like that. But when you see being this fast on vinyl, you know that the DJ is skilled, highly skilled in using that as well.  

When is THE album expected?

As you see, I’m busy till September but then I’m going to start collecting resources and working towards it. It’s quite a daunting thing because you need a good year to make it, coming in every day. I still don’t know if I’m mature enough… But it’s something that should happen, definitely. I haven’t been signed that long, so it’s not like a massive pressure on me just yet. I haven’t been in the scene for 5-6 years and still haven’t done that: it’s a year and 3 quarters now. But I’m definitely going to work on it and it’s definitely going to be on vinyl as well! I don’t care what Charlie says, I’ll pay for it! (laughs) Even if it’s really limited press.  

Playing live music with real instruments is a challenge and a goal for you at the same time, isn’t it?

Yes. Watching Charlie, Kyo and Mace, they did a live drum and bass set in Bristol a few months ago,  which was just unbelievable. I’d get myself on guitar, potentially a saxophone and maybe some drums. It wouldn’t necessarily just drum and bass, I’d like to take sort of in and out because bossa nova, for example, influences me a lot. Well, I’d surely add Nicola Conte to my influence list. So it wouldn’t be just focusing on drum and bass, it’d rather be a musical set, covering the full spectrum which influences me. It takes a lot of practice and you never know if there’s anyone who bothers watching it. (laughs) It’d be a DJ set with existing music, the majority being my own, then classic d’n’b and just general music I feel is good music.  

What are you scared of?

Losing my creativity, career block, writer’s block. It’s annoying because the more you fear it, the worse it gets. And that goes back to what we’ve been talking about: living in a mindful present state. It helps to get away from this self-made fear, it’s self-feeding. I’ve had long periods of that as well and it’s horrible; not really having any ideas for two months.  

When was it?

Quite recently. Prior to finishing the EP, I got two tracks in, can’t remember which two and then nothing. No ideas, no motivation. And then, I just sat down one day, didn’t really think about how scared I was and how anxious I was about not doing it, and then it just came back! The two tunes came out of it.  

So your strategy was simply letting it go?

Indeed, just not being scared any longer. You can’t explain it, really, as you don’t know where your creativity comes from exactly. All I know is that I have to turn up every day, like a job, and some days I’ll sit there completely bust, sound shit, and then some days just work out, something cool will come out it. As long as the next tune is better than the last one, it’s always going to improve, I think. The fear is when your tunes are going down.  

Yes, but do you see it from your point? It must be bloody difficult to judge!

Exactly. I hated the half of the EP. People asked me to put them on but I refused. I couldn’t stand listening to them. Of course, because I’ve heard them too much, I got very shy, I suppose. (laughs) When you’ve heard something for a million times, it’s hard to tell if it’s good or shit. That’s our main problem, I think: being able to have an objective view.  

Was there anyone who could help you with this crisis? Well, did you tell anyone at all? 

When I first met Break actually, I asked him if he got this kind of block and he said: “all the time!”. For me, it was so good to hear because I think it’s very normal! It’s not just music, any artists may get it. There’s a good book I read called “The war on art”, it gives a different perspective on working with creativity. It also helped me a lot.  

What is the craziest and/or scandalous thing you’ve ever done?

Once I’ve streaked a cricket match. And then in Seville in a rave, we left the festival at 6 am but we were there till 4 pm the next day. That was pretty grimy. (laughs) We were walking on train tracks for ages, which is really dangerous. That was 24 hours of drinking, that’s pretty scandalous, isn’t it? Many say that I live the life of a 6-year-old.  

That’s great, never stop doing it! 🙂 Last but not least: what was your most embarrassing moment in a gig?

(giggles) Once I was in Cardiff, drinking quite a lot of vodka, then all of a sudden, I felt that there is a tiny little problem with my stomach. I managed to get a mug of beer, emptied that and then I got all the booze back, though, and I carried on! (laughs) It was a pint of glass, full! I just put it on the decks, then after the set, as it was really dark in the club, I took it to the bathroom. I don’t think anyone noticed it, though, which is awesome!  

Well, hope to see you in Hungary without any kind of accidents! 🙂

Thanks, hope to see you guys soon.

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