Some artists have a definable sound, happy to let their music be packed into little boxes and categorised. They make our lives easy. Then there are the artists who have a sound that just doesn't fit anywhere. They are what they are, nothing else. They also make our lives easy.
The problem is, every now and then an artist comes along that doesn't want to do either, keeping us on our toes and throwing us a curveball when we least expect it.
This is L-Vis 1990. Co-founder of label and club night Night Slugs alongside Bok Bok, he is an artist whose musicality has shifted from explosive hyperbass on his debut 'Change The Game' to propulsive Chicago house on 'Club Constructions Vol.1' all via the smooth pop sensibilities of album 'Neon Dreams'. The unifying feature being an increasing focus on 4/4 rhythms.
'Ballads', his latest release on Night Slugs, see's him ditching the 4/4. Instead tumultuous bass, eery atmosphere's and hi-definition synths are the order of the day. Clash caught up with him to find out more…
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Let's take things back to where it all started for you. What were your formative experiences with music?
From a very early age I was obsessed with my father's record collection – I would spend hours just looking at record sleeves and ask him to play the ones I liked the look of. The records that caught my eye back then where mainly by David Bowie, Roxy Music, Devo, The Jam.. kinda weird records for a primary school kid but as I grew older and started to understand music more these were the records I kept coming back to, mainly because I liked the electronic elements. It's sad to think that kids born these days won't have the same tactile experience looking through their Dad's iTunes!
Later on in my teens I moved from rummaging in my Dad's record collection to my best friend's older brother. He was a DJ and had an amazing collection of French house, this is where I discovered Daft Punks 'Homework'. That record totally changed my life. From that moment on I knew I wanted to DJ. I was around 15 when I got my first turntables, I took the lead from my friend's brother and started to practice playing that French touch stuff – HMV had 3 for £10 on Roulé and Crydamore records back then! When I was old enough to start going to clubs it was all about jungle, drum 'n' bass, and garage in the UK at that time. I raved a lot and got hooked on bass, house had to take a little back seat for a while.
Booking Drop The Lime for So Loud!, a club night you were running in Brighton, had a huge influence on you. You to switched up your whole style and lead to your debut single 'Change The Game'. What was it that made such an impression?
Back then, around 2006/7, after many years of playing jungle and garage, I had kinda got lost in the electro wave and was throwing parties of a similar nature. I booked Luca on a recommendation from a friend who ran the 20JazzFunkGreats Blog – I didn't know too much about Trouble & Bass but I took a punt and made the booking. I pulled in a 15K sound system for a 150 capacity club, we set up actually at the back of the club looking at the speakers so we could feel the full weight of the system – crazy idea, thinking back! I was blown away by his set, he had such a different and unique sound, but it was all centred around bass. This was my moment of re-connection with bass music. I wrote 'Change the Game' the next week. This was the track that made Alex first reach out to me after he saw it posted on some blogs. The seeds of Night Slugs were sown.
You then moved from Brighton to London, where you began putting on the first few Night Slugs club nights. How did the name come about?
We were playing a lot of baseline and niche around 2008, some of the London producers – mainly Paleface – would name each of his tracks 'Something Something Slugs' – e.g. Club Slugs, Screwface Slugs. A 'Slug' was a Bassline. We liked this idea so we spent a while back and forth on IM coming up with the other word. 'Night Slugs' stuck.
You've recently moved to New York, has it been a challenge settling in?
The first few months were pretty difficult, I didn't produce anything at all but I was prepared for it. I actually managed to get my 'Clone' EP and 'Ballads' all wrapped up before I left London last September! When I moved over I just brought a few of my key drum machines and one of my more portable synths, the rest of gear is still in London at the studio Bok Bok and Girl Unit now use. Since the New Year I have been lucky enough to be in a new studio space in Brooklyn; a friend of mine moved to Berlin and like me had to leave his studio and much of his gear, so I inherited his stuff. Funny how things work out! The space is small but has a great vibe, I'm really hitting a good new flow right now.
What about the UK? Is there anything you miss?
To be honest me and London needed a little space. I was living there for 7 years I saw our scene really grow into something great but over the last few years I think it hit a plateau in my eyes. I'm really not feeling the current direction of the UK scene, it's all about tech and deep house, the raw innovation that made London great has been totally lost for now. I'm really looking forward to seeing a punk reaction to all the bland mediocre house out there! Food wise, other than Turkish food and a good roast on sundays I'm not missing really missing much, the food game here is next level, I would find it hard coming back after being so spoiled here.
'Ballads' feels like a move in a new direction for you, considerably more stripped back than much of your previous work. Was that your intent behind it?
'Ballads' is definitely the opening of a new chapter for me. The main intention was to continue building the increasing vivid world world that has been developing in the Night Slugs camp since Jam City's 'Classical Curves' and Girl Unit's Club Rez'. Space and atmosphere were my starting points, I wanted to see what i could do if I wasn't confined to the 4×4 kick pattern, I really found and exciting groove that I'm going to continue to develop. Underlying all that I wanted to send a big "fuck you" to the bland UK tech/deep house trend!
What was the process behind making the tracks?
Like I mentioned before, these were the last tracks I made in London, almost like a goodbye note! People think that they can hear New York influences in the record, maybe my head was already there? Saying that, all of these tracks started life with a small sample/element from a few different disco records, they are pretty much indistinguishable now but they are there. I challenge anyone to find out what each of them are though! After that I would set the tone and atmosphere of the track with a simple held chord on my DX7 then build from there.
Like all Night Slugs releases the artwork accompanying 'Ballads' seem to capture the essence of the track. You enlisted the help of Nic Hamilton for the artwork and video, how did you guys hook up?
It was a lengthy process of Alex and myself going through different designers show real and portfolios eventually we found Nic's stuff and saw great potential, so we linked up over email as he was based in Melbourne. Nic did an absolutely amazing job, I could not be happier, he really captured the essence of the record, Night Slugs' aesthetic and my vision for the world I wanted to create.
You've recently began DJing as JM Anthony how does that differ from your set's as L-Vis 1990?
At the moment I'm just working out what JM Anthony is about and what his sound is. I have a few tracks in the works but who knows, I've avoided serious alter egos in the past, I would have 20 by now if I changed my name for every new style. I like to switch things up all the time – I kinda have musical A.D.D. – but that's what L-Vis 1990 is about.
How did your release on Clone's Jack For Daze come about?
I first linked with the Clone guys when they asked me to do remix for one of their other artists, the mix never really materialised but we stayed in contact. A few months later I sent them 'Circuits' which they loved so they asked if I wanted to do a Jack for Daze EP. This was actually the only other label I wanted to release on other than Slugs, I jumped at the chance.. such an honour to be on such a prolific label.
When you instagrammed the tracklist for 'Circuits' there was a sixth track, T2JQ, how come that never saw the light of day?
That track was super weird drum track.. I made it in one take on a drum machine run through my Secret Weapon FX processor! I think it was a little bit too stripped back.. Maybe I'll give it away at some point.
Aside from 'Neon Dreams' you have worked predominantly on your own, with only a handful of remixes alongside Bok Bok and two original tracks alongside Feadz and T. Williams. Do you have any plans to do more collaborations?
I've actually been collaborating quite a lot over the last year, there are a few EPs and singles and even an album in the works! The projects are all very different and really show a new side of me musically. I have a very crazy album project with Simbad that I'm really excited about, an EP coming with a certain Fade to Mind member, some distorted EBM style techno with Lee Douglas, a club track with Joakim.. and I'm jumping in the studio with Mike Q this week. Other than that I'm heading to Chicago for the first time in May and I have plans to get in the studio with one of my Dance Mania heroes! A dream come true!
What else are you working on at the moment?
We are still working on the 'Icy Lake' EP, this is going to be the first collaborative Slugs & Fade To Mind release, It has now turned into a trilogy of remixes from me, something about that track is so special! 'Temptation Ha' will be coming out on Mike Q's Qween Beat label with a great vocal from Dashuan and my remix of Django Django's 'Wor' will be coming out on white label very soon! I'm also making a new Jack For Daze and starting to work on a new live show now, it will be nothing like the the Neon Dreams show and will be in collaboration with a video/installation artist so watch this space!
Finally, what would you pick as your eight desert island discs?
Nile Rodgers – Yum Yum
Melba Moore – Love's Comin At Ya
Loose Joints – Is It All Over My Face? (Larry Levan Mix)
Paris Mitchell – All Night Long
Rihanna – Diamonds
Art of Noise – Moments in Love
Omar S – S.E.X.
Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You
Words by Will Bunch