Time Team: Slugabed

"...it’s a different process"

Taking an industrial sized canister of Mr Sheen to what sounds like an infinite bank of synths means Greg Feldwick is now sailing on the impossibly lustrous dreamboat of electro/rave, having done the dirty work of glitch and bass pulled from pillar to post. After a graduation from no less imprints than Donky Pitch, Planet Mu and Ramp, and after four EPs for new employers Ninja Tune (including one cheeky Busta Rhymes bootleg), his debut album ‘Time Team’ (yes yes, all those at the back making remarks about Channel 4 and Baldrick, please stop) looks backwards as much as it goes forwards. Yet it’s completely perfect for ‘now’, entering that fast-expanding category of bass music where bottom ends found themselves secondary. While there’s the odd revisit to crunches past (‘Moonbeam Rider’), the vapour emissions and stereoscopic headswims perform an enthralling hyper-jitterbug.

As Slugabed tells Clash, his spring clean is not a matter of latching onto fads or trends, but more ‘Time Team’ catching him in a particular mood, while he goes on to discuss the enjoyment of working in solitude, time management and…er…sinus issues.

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For someone who may have been sleeping, you’ve switched from the pretty grotty sounds of ‘Donky Stomp’ to a cleaner, more luminous style; fair comment?
“I think for the album I wanted to do something more heartfelt, a bit more…if it was an LP of all intense stuff like that it might get a bit trying on the ears. I’ve become more comfortable in wanting to create slightly more atmospheric music. I think it’s definitely fair comment to say that…maybe I’ve toned it down a bit, not in the sense of creativity or anything like that, just a bit less trying to put out the most intense shit I can.”

The balance between ‘dirty’ and ‘clean’ sounds – is one easier to make than the other?
“It’s not something I really think about, it’s more like what mood you’re in when you write the music, just what you’re feeling at the time. For the album it wasn’t like I made a real conscious effort to make slightly more uplifting kind of music, it was just…I was feeling nice feelings and was excited about making the album.”

So you didn’t become a daydreamer before executing ideas? ‘Time Team’ sounds like a computerised fantasy…
“It wasn’t like I had to, it was just where I was at the time I was writing it. I guess it’s a kinda honest reflection of how I was feeling and the vibe I was on when I was doing it.”

Are you able to put a percentage on what’s futuristic and what’s retro on the album? Or is the scene as such that you can’t tell whether it’s nostalgic or visionary?
“That’s a tough one actually…listening back to the album I’d like to say it’s 100% new. There are definitely big elements of drawing from the past…er…I’m struggling with that one (laughs).”

It sounds like walls and walls of synthesisers were used – what’s your average studio set up like? Full to the rafters, or a more moderate collection of tried and tested gear? Vintage computers maybe, given the 8-bit sound you’ve become associated with?
“The actual studio is mostly just using Fruity Loops with some shit speakers. I’ve got a lot of software synths, so I got back to them every time, real kind of funk synths that have served me well.”

Is that the beauty of technology today, you can create a mass of layered sound from very little set up?
“I never strive to get the newest gadgets or shit like that, I’m more interested in writing actual music. It’s not about coming up with something clever. I’m a big fan of analogue synthesisers, and I’d love to have more, but I’m not really elitist about it.”

Regardless of being synth-laden, you still get the association with all things bass – how’s your hearing from all those low-end tremors?
“I have waxing more than hearing troubles to be honest. With my sinuses I lose my sense of smell every couple of days and my hearing goes now and then. But not much noise damage yet!”

Did the fact that this is your debut album play on your mind at all? Did you feel any extra pressure during its conception?
“Its extra pressure, but it’s nice though. It’s a bigger project that you can throw more of yourself into. It’s a lot more rewarding in the long run. There was a point about half way through where I thought “right I need to actually knuckle down and make this coherent, something worth putting out as a long player”, and I feel it paid off. This is the most exciting thing for me so far in my career – the music I’m most pleased with so far, and I think it’s because of the pressure wanting to make such a solid piece, that pushed me to make music I feel so strongly about.”

Did you adopt the same approach for this album as you would any other production?
“With a lot of singles, sometimes you just wanna hit people instantly – you wanna make a banger or something a bit weirder than the next thing y’know? For an album, it’s not a different process technically, it’s a different process mentally. You know you’re putting out this body of work – it’s one big project, and not just a collection of songs. When you know that…I can put some tracks in there that I wouldn’t necessarily release as a single because they wouldn’t make sense out of the context of the album. That’s the main difference.”

What did you learn along the way, and what obstacles were you faced with?
“The main lesson was how long it took to come up with a final product that I was really pleased with. Along the way, maybe even a year before I actually finished it, there were points where I thought “hey I’ve got an album, I really like it”, and then someone would say “hmm, it’s not quite right”. I’d be pissed off for a couple of weeks and then I’d think actually they’re right, then begin to rework it. Especially for my debut album, there was a lot of revisiting and thinking about how I could make it a real nice solid piece.”

Are you someone who can produce wherever you go, or does the studio door have to stay locked for days/weeks on end?
“The last few years I’ve been doing it on a much more scheduled kind of basis; I live with my girlfriend who lives by a schedule, so I get into the studio when she’s studying at uni. I get creative as soon as I’m in the studio, like I’m flipping a switch or something I guess. If it’s going places I can’t really stop, I’ll go right into the night. But usually I try to stick to a 9-5.”

Will ‘Time Team’ give you much live scope? There sounds like a natural visual connection is waiting to happen…
“I’m doing the live set here and there at the moment, playing keys etc…I’d be very interested in turning it into an audio-visual thing eventually, but it’s quite a big task I think. Quite daunting, because I’ve never done anything like that before. I’ve always just DJ’d before that.”

So breaking out of the studio holds no fears for you then?
“I do like it – it’s very different. I do think I’m more a studio-based kind of person though. With the live set it’s something I have to work out thoroughly at home before I go out and do it. I really like getting stuck in and lost in my own creativity, being thorough and being on my own doing it.”

Has the step up to Ninja Tune been everything you expected, more daunting than anticipated, or an unexpectedly easier transition to make?
“It’s been great actually. I’d recommend it! They all seem to be really ‘on it’, really enthusiastic, they’re always there when you need them. They’ve a lot of good advice as well. Most people working there have been there for a long time, the label’s been around for 20 years, so they’ve got a lot of experience. It’s actually better than I thought it would be.”

So you’ve a debut album, on a long-celebrated imprint – do you enjoy the stuff that comes with it, like having to do interviews like this?
“It’s something that I almost enjoy (laughs). I do like talking about my music and I’ve become more comfortable doing so. Recently I’ve had a lot of interviews, and I’ve got more used to it and enjoy being able to say how I actually feel about things. At first you’re so nervous and conscious about what you’re saying that you don’t actually get it out right; so it was always a kind of an awkward situation. I’m getting to a place where I’m alright with it, it’s the not exciting part of the process, but it’s cool.”

Onto some ‘Time’ and ‘Team’ questions now – is now the best time to be Slugabed?
“It’s really working out for me. I feel really excited that I’ve accomplished this album. It’s a really nice place for me for sure.”

Tying in with the fantasist idea, is there a particular time in history that you’d like to visit, and for what reason?
“In music, it’d be nice to be around and in the right sort of scene when B-bop was starting, when it was blowing people’s minds and upsetting some people. I think I’d be into that. Otherwise, the Iron Ages, or something real rugged like that.”

Are you an individual to the point where you dislike working in a team, or does being part of a crew appeal to you?
“I do feel more comfortable working completely on my own. I like collaborating in the sense where I’m sent ideas but get to focus on them on my own. I sometimes struggle a bit sitting down with someone else in the room, trying to bounce ideas off them. I’m kind of a perfectionist where I think I’m always right (laughs). I’m very open to the idea though, I wouldn’t want to turn down any good opportunities.”

Do you look ahead in time, and if so, has the next album entered your thoughts yet?
“I’m thinking about it, definitely. I haven’t started work on it, but I’m always thinking about my next project, though just thinking about the next one or two tracks – no major schemes. There’s always something ticking away in my head.”

What’s your timekeeping like?
“I’ve got better (laughs). It’s partly where the name comes from – laziness, and bad organisation. I’m not as bad as I used to be (laughs).”

Words by Matt Oliver
Photo Credit: Trevor Traynor

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‘Time Team’ is out now.

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