Dank, hollow synths and infectious basslines: creeping out of the darkened end of the dance spectrum come My Nu Leng. First debuting with their huge ‘Damp’ EP on Lo Note UK and then ‘The Grid’ on 877 Records, the DJ/production unit got snapped up by electro-pioneering label Black Butter. Sweeping up the vibes of grime, techno and garage into one bassy dustpan, Jammo and Tommy have been handing out hit after hit after hit.
And now, surrounded by silver and blue cans, Clash chats to one half of MNL as a faintly energetic aroma lines the air at London Bridge’s Red Bull Studios. After cruelly pulling him out of his recording session with Monki for her ‘Red Bull Studios London Presents:’ EP, James 'Jammo' Irving sits down with us to talk music.
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So firstly, how did you come up with the name My Nu Leng?
Well, we was just joking around, really. It doesn’t mean too much, and you can take it however you want really. We wrote tunes a couple of years ago and we hadn’t got a name for our collaboration work, and it was just a bit of a joke. And yeah, we just stuck with it, cos we ended up getting a release from there, and it’s stayed with us. But we quite like it because it reminds us that we’re doing something we love and not to take it too seriously, and just to have a laugh with it, really, that’s all. So we quite like it in that sense.
I had to Urban Dictionary it and “leng” means weapon, right?
Yeah, leng can mean a gun, it can mean… if you see someone looking nice you can say ‘ah she looks leng’. It sounds quite oriental as well, so it’s got a few different flavours to it, definitely.
And are you both based in Bristol, or London right now?
I moved to Bristol about three years ago, and Tommy moved over end of last year, so it’s good to be under the same roof now, we live with – I don’t know if you’ve heard of Troy Gunner? He lives in the same house and a dubstep producer called Rowl as well, so there’s four producers all under one roof, it’s cool!
Nice… that works out well then?
It’s cool, we’ve all got our own studios and set-ups, but we’re not too bad really with volume and things like that. It’s just really nice to be around really talented people as well, Troy and Rowl blow me away, so I learn a lot from them. We all go and sit in and listen to each other’s work.
Must be a pretty loud house though!
No it’s not too bad, we’re on a second and third floor, it’s semi-detached so it’s all good.
And how does it work in terms of production there being two of you, is one of you more focused on drums, the other on melody or something…?
I’ve always sort of seen us as… Well, I’m more of a producer, Tommy’s more of a DJ and we sort of thrive off each other’s positive points. Most of the mixes we put up online will be a lot of Tommy’s work and I’ll start a track and Tommy’ll get involved and we get our heads together in that way. Tommy’s still working from home at the moment so I have a lot more time to myself to start track ideas and then he loves to get involved. He’s always giving me ideas of what we need to put in the tracks and stuff so…. But it seems to work quite well that I’m at the controls and you’re doing it that way.
Nice. So where do you think the dark, Bristol vibe that we’ve just seen on the Keysound compilation is going at the moment?
We’ve always had that darker edge to our music and it’s just something that comes naturally I think. We never really force it - it just seems to happen. I think we use a lot of discords from one solid note, up like half a tone, so it gives it that sort of moody vibe, rather than sort of stick on major scales and things like that. But yeah I really like it, there’s a lot of people like Wen who’s a good friend of ours, he’s from London, and Artifact’s done a really good job of doing a moody techno style from Bristol, but yeah, the Keysound guys are just moving into a really nice modern day grime sort of sound. We kind of do that but with a 4/4, garage flavour at the same time, so yeah…
The 'Damp' EP was more heads-down, tech-y, whereas your Black Butter EP was more melodic and house-influenced, is that the direction you see yourselves going in?
We’ve just finished our first track for our next Black Butter EP and I think it’s one of the darkest things we’ve wrote so far. Ollie really likes it, so that’s gonna feature on there. We want every release to be slightly different… Like ‘The Grid’ was sort of straight 4/4 garage kinda vibes, and ‘Damp’ was a real scattered rhythm. But I think we’re definitely finding ourselves in more of a 4/4 now we’ve joined Black Butter - the kicks aren’t really going too crazy at the moment, but it’s good cos we get a lot of freedom to write what we want on that label. So, yeah, the EP’s shaping up quite nicely - it’s got that melodic stuff you were saying you’d heard from the Black Butter EP, but there’s a couple of really dark bits which is really nice.
What do you think about the other artists on Black Butter, do you have much interaction with them?
Woz is from Bristol so we speak to Woz a lot. Going to see him play tonight in Bristol; Kidnap Kid’s also playing there so it’d be good to see him. Speak to Gorgon City boys quite a lot too, that’s Foamo and RackNRuin, and Kye – Foamo - is actually from my hometown and he still lives there, so planning on sort of meeting up. I didn’t know him when I was still living there, so whenever I’m back I always see if he’s about to go for a drink and stuff. But it’s all a really nice family, so we do feel part of a unit and everyone’s just really friendly. It’s a really good label to be on.
Because at the moment you’re very much around the 125-135 mark, do you think you’ll ever venture out of that and do a drum ‘n’ bass track or anything?
It’s funny you say that, we’ve just wrote a drum ‘n’ bass track today! With Shadow Child. We’ve done two versions for the track for Monki and friends. Cos I came to the studio last week, about a week and a half ago, and wrote a 130 bit and it almost got finished, so Dave came in today and heard some elements, and he thought, right, lets go for a 170 style. And yeah it sounds really cool. I started out producing drum ‘n’ bass, years ago, so I think that’s definitely gonna start coming out. A lot further down the line, but it’d be nice to venture into that.
What are you favourite artists and labels right now, who’s on repeat?
There’s so much amazing music we’re getting sent at the moment. Obviously I’ve gotta shout to our housemate Troy Gunner, who’s had remixes of Tropics and 123Mrk. They’ve just gone up and he’s smashed it on those. When Troy sends us bits it just blows us away. Sly-One boys from Bristol are doing really well. Forget Me Not, from Bristol, yeah just so much really cool music and new producers are coming out, it’s really nice to see a lot of attention getting put towards them, definitely. In terms of labels, Black Butter are doing really cool things and it’s great to be a part of that. Keysound, Monki’s Zoo Music – I know they’ve got some cool stuff going on. God, there’s so many, I can’t think!
Words by Felicity Martin
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'Monki & Friends' EP is available from May 28th via www.redbullstudios.com/monkiandfriends
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