Saturday, March 05, 2022

Oris Jay (RS4) part 1: on deeptech, bleep & his influences

Want to watch instead? The full interview is here as video

This interview was recorded early November 2021, after the major UK lockdowns but before the Omicron wave hit: this is part one. 

I've known Oris Jay for more than 20 years, but beyond label logistics, we hadn't spoken in detail in a long time. 

Yet he felt like a certified UK bass music legend that doesn't get mentioned enough right now. A conversation was long overdue.

So as his Keysound EP (as RS4) dropped, I wanted to catch up with him to hear his studio tips, memories of the roots of dubstep, what it was like being in deeptech and more.


[B]: First off, I am most curious to hear a little bit about the Audio Rehab deep tech era, which I was watching but wasn't in the middle of, like I was in the middle of the Forward>> stuff and dubstep with you. How did you first hear deep tech coming about, how did it grab your ear?

 [O]: It was kind of down to one guy, my old mate DJ Lombardo, who's from, represents the Leicester crew.

 [B]: A legend!

 [O]: Yeah, so our journeys have always been pretty similar. It's almost like it'd be similar but it's not that we talked about it. I was into playing jungle back in the day, so was he. Then when I moved to garage so did he. 

But if you imagine we never spoke about that, I just rang him up, and I'm like, “so what you on at the minute?” And he’s “like I'm doing garage” and I'm like “so am I!” 

So we're very like-minded when it comes to the type of music we like. And I'd got to a stage where, if I'll be honest, I had no motivation to make tunes. I just weren't... I wasn't really vibing. So I rang him up. And I was just like, “what are you on at the minute? Because currently I'm on nothing…”

 [B]: What kind of times are we talking about? What, what sort of years are we talking about for this conversation?

 [O]: So this must be five, six years ago, maybe seven years ago [2014-2016]? No later than that I don't think. And he was like “there's a new sound coming out of London in a minute, which is called deep tech.” 

And I was like, well, what is it? Tech house? Or is it deep house? He said that it's kind of both but he sounds raw and young and it's like a new scene. 

So, I was saying at that time the house scene is kind of “interesting,” because it's quite a closed door, that scene. If you don't know the right people, you're probably not getting in. So, I was like “let me hear some of [deep tech] music. Let me see what he's talking about.” 

And he sent me some of the music and one of the tracks that he sent me was, well he sent me two actually to listen to. One was by… well, the other one was Carnao Beats anyway, so that was one of them. 

And, he sent one on Audio Rehab. And I was like, “it almost sounds like garage but 4x4, and a bit techy”. And he was like, “yeah, you should try one, you should try and see what you can do”. 

So that day on that day, when I spoke to him, I thought, well, I'll load up the sounds I would use to make like a garage track and to see what happens. And what I ended up doing was my first release on Audio Rehab called “All Around”. 

And I did that track and he said “right you should send it to this guy called Mark Radford. Because Mark Radford might play this tune. It's quite a vibe this tune.” And so I said “okay, like I've never heard of him, but I'll send it to him.” 

I sent it to him when he rang me and he's like “you know I like this tune I wanna sign it…”. And I thinking like, “I don't know what deep tech is, I don't know if this fits, I don't really know much about it. But I'll go with the flow. Because you know, I like the vibe, see what's happening.” 

So I did that there. That was just done one random Wednesday afternoon. Took me about four or five hours to do. Got a wicked response off that tune. So, I made another one, and I made another one, then another one. 

[B]: Did you think at that point about using a different name for it? Because you use the RS4 stuff Audio Rehab… did that come later? 

[O]: So, I had a 4x4 release before then about two or three years before then. It came out on vinyl with a DJ from Sheffield called DJ Veteran. And it was like “DJ Veteran featuring RS4.” 

And where the RS4 comes from, it's not a desire to be any affiliated with Audi in any way whatsoever. It was just an abbreviation of Oris… RS and then because it's 4x4, I'm doing just number four, RS4. 

So it was that. People were like “oh do you just love Audi's or something?” But it’s not really, it's just it was just an abbreviation [of Oris] I used years ago for 4x4 that I did. And so I just kept it because I thought, you know, it’s 4x4. It's me, Oris, 4x4: RS4.

[B]: I’d wondered whether it was like a phase like, your fourth phase. Like: Darqwan, DQ1, Oris Jay, then it was like RS4, like the fourth Oris wave...

 [O]: Yeah, yeah, so, DQ1 was…, if you imagine a Darqwan anyway, right, so, Darqwan I had that as it was a brand and it was a name that I use all the time. 

But then I wanted to do some much more simpler music. So, I thought, well, an abbreviation or short version of Darqwan is just DQ1. So it just means music that, you know, MCs would use more, that I'm not sitting there trying to make a masterpiece. I'm sitting there trying to make music and that a MC will be on. So it’s just an abbreviation of Darqwan. 

So, RS4 was pretty much born at the same logic where Oris Jay, is just a short version RS. And number four for 4x4. So, that was all… it's not actually that creative when you think about it. 

But that's, that's what I use in it kind off, took off the RS4 sound. I think it was more, it took off because the, the actual scene was new, it was quite a fresh and it was quite green. So there was scope for you know, for new players to come about and join in. 

Mark was very supportive. Introduced me to his crew the Audio Rehab guys. 

And it was I got into a sort of vibe of it, you know, it was almost like, I was probably doing about one or two tunes a week of that sort of production rate was much higher, because I had less pressure. 

So, if you think when I'm doing a normal stuff, like the 140 stuff, I've got pressure because I'm trying to make this tune better than the last tune or I've got history with this, this this genre. 

So I don't want to get it “wrong.” Where you imagine you're starting fresh in a brand new one. But it doesn't matter if it's ‘wrong’ because nobody knows what ‘wrong’ is. Because it's new. It's green. It's fresh. 

 [B]: Funny thing is that is also how dubstep started, right? You know, Loefah saying [in a BBC DMZ doc] drum & bass and jungle has got ‘formula-d’, you know, we can do what we want.” 

 [O]: Absolutely. Same thing I remember the first time I went to London, I was in the Forward>> thing. And I was like, well, this music is so new, you can't really, you can't really get it wrong. 

So yeah, it's got a bit of a format, it's got to be a certain tempo and it's got our bass, but everything else is wherever you want it to be. 

And this just felt like that so the deep tech era, or the deep tech sort of scene felt like the original scene when I started like for the Forward>> thing because it was new you know the door was open, it was welcoming to anyone who's … if you could hold your own you invited you welcome and it just felt the same. 

So, I just rolled with it for a little bit. Ended up weirdly just playing all over, like all over the world played RS4 stuff and I was like you know I did not predict that, I just I just liked making this music it just sounded young, fresh, it was green again. 

And it was basically making me go back in studio was just something that was, it was like pressure-less music that I was making. 

Rather than when I was making my own stuff is pressure because I'm like “I need to get this hi hat right and that's go...,”  and I'm like and, and by the time have analysed a track I've probably spent all day on it and I've got probably about the first eight bars of the track. 

You know with with the RS4 stuff in about three four hours I could have got a tune done. And that's because I've just found a vibe, put it together with a little bit of mathematics to the arrangement and that was it done.

 [B]: You say that it felt like there was “no rules” but is it also true that - and I really like deep tech but -  it feels like it has a set of rules that are like “it's got to be roughly of the similar tempo and it's got to be roughly 4x4.”  

Like I don't hear a lot of people, say, using elements like breaks in it or half step or soca patterns. It's like its “kick snare kicks snare” with like a big [resonant mid-ish] bass. 

I’m trying to square off what you're saying about being having “no rules” with like actually it's got a some set of percussive rules that are pretty specific.

[O]:  Yeah. So it's got an arrangement. So it's arranged… easiest way to put it is it’s arranged for DJs to play. Over the years, DJs get lazier and lazier, the bigger they are, the lazier they are. 

So, if you got tracks that are complicated at the beginnings or are complicated to mix, they're probably going to bow out using it. But even if they're really like the tune, it’s probably not going to get no further than playing in the car or played in the house. 

So if you imagine with the deep tech, the beats are really simple at the beginning, because you want that to just be mixed. Very simple. 

You don't want to give no DJs or these up and coming DJs or whatever no complications, you just want it to just be as smooth as learning to ride a bike. That's how the formula was. 

And you’re right, it hasn't changed. No one's kind of gone outside of the box of, of that. But I guess if you keep the arrangement simple, you're more likely the club DJs are going to want to play it.

[B]:  When I emailed you… I guess it was a while back about saying, “hey, would you like to do a Keysound release?” Or more like haha “it's pretty ‘rude’ that I've never emailed you before about it. We should do this, if you're interested.” 

Well, the connection (or resonance) I kinda heard in deep tech was the Sheffield bleepy thing. 

And that's why I was wondering whether we might make a lot of sense. Because I don't think those guys are making bleep or were making bleep in like 2014. But I could hear this other like pattern… is that's something you felt, or you could hear or..?

[O]:  Yeah well, you know, when you’ve started again, you’re starting in something that's green, you can introduce what influenced you.

So I've already done it once when I did with the dubstep scene where I wanted to introduce where, where I started from. So the bleep & basses is what got me into music or got me into electronic music. 

Obviously in the 90s, I didn't know how to make music, so at the point where I did know how to make music, then I kinda added it to the music that I make because that was my main influences. 

And then obviously, I've joined a joined a new scene, which is loosely… once you're in you can change it a bit. So the first sort of songs that I did were quite what you would expect from like a bassy house track. 

But then as I went on and on and then I started to add more influences, like what would have pulled me in so there might be ragga influences in some of the tracks or there might be bleeps in some of the tracks. 

But the type of music that would have influenced me back in the day came into the RS4 sound as well, because I was making probably maybe one or two tunes a week. 

I might have just heard something and thought “oh, yeah, yeah, I forgot, I like that sound. All right, let me try, let me try house music, house rhythm with this influence.” 

So it, it was fun, because it was almost like I could reinvent myself in a different genre. But to me, it's kind of all the same, it's still me but I could try again. 

I might have made a tune years and years ago, I didn't fully like it. I didn't sound fully finished, where then you can start again in a different genre. And they can fix the issues you had with the track. 

Because your mixes is better or your arrangement is better, or your mastering is better. So rather than keep remixing the same song every sort of five years or whatever, you just make a new song with the same influence but a different genre.


[B]:  I think influences are a really curious thing. And it might be hard to imagine if you're like 16 or 20 and you're just having that first rush of falling in love with some music for the first time. But when there's been a bunch of (moments of musical falling in love) in your life is a strange sort of blessing and curse. 

I know I can't throw my influences away. I'll always be a jungle fan. I’ll always be interested in funk and hip hop. And I'll always be a dubstep fan and even though I'm making stuff at the tempo (130bpm) that we make at now. 

I'm always slightly thinking like “would Hatcha have played it?” Or “would this have been good enough for [90s Metalheadz venue] Blue Note?” which I went to but was never never made any music in those times. 

And everyone's got those influences.. I think deep down it's really hard to ever get rid of them… and maybe we would never want to, because that's who we are musically. 

But you can't start making music in 2021 - if you've got 20-30 years of music listening - with a completely clean slate, I don't think I think it's possible.

 [O]:  If I was sitting in studio today and I thought I'll start a new house tune and listen to it. I'm thinking, well, it sounds like that, like the old house tunes that I would listen to years ago, but I'm not trying to do, that is just that's just what came. 

Once you've listened to music as much as we have, it's almost impossible for you to not be influenced when you're in studio. The only thing I used to do when I made music full time was try to be influenced by some brand new sound. 

So I will listen to music I've never heard before, genres of music I've never heard before, to get an almost a different dimension or a different vibe. Because what I found, especially in a dubstep scene, a lot of the guys in a dubstep scene only listened to dubstep so they were being influenced by dubstep, which then it almost made a lot of the songs sound exactly the same. 

So I get when it comes to from a DJ perspective, that's wicked, because it means you can do very, very clean mixes because that tracks are pretty similar to this track. So I understand why you would do that. 

But then it just makes everything sound the same. And then you almost… you don't know is this a new tune or is this an old tune? I can't tell.

 [B]: I think there was a similar thing with all the stuff that came after Ed Rush & Optical’s ‘Wormhole’ in drum & bass. Like there was a whole generation that only listened to that album. And that style of quite dark grey, striped back techstep and then just, you know, and then then the scene just comes in on itself. 

So in that case maybe that's you can't escape your influences, but your influences are very narrow.

 [O]:  Yeah, exactly. So, every so often, you know, I'd wanna to listen to someone else or something different and just put on an album on I've never heard, put it on and just listen to everything. 

Why do I like this? What is it about this that I like? 

And then you know, I would think now I've got this now I've heard this album and it's, it's fresh in my mind I’d sit in studio and just make some music right? 

Now, if you do that, yeah, you're probably going to pull in some subliminal, you know, thing that you've heard in this album, but you're still going to work to your format of the genre you're, in right? So it's, it's still going so it should still work if you do it that way.

Parts 2 is here...  RS4 EP on Bandcamp now, go cop that!

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