So how easy is it to make forward-thinking house and techno twenty-five years after you went out and heard that music for the first time?
I guess quite a few of the things I’ve been making are supposed to sound old, but at the same time still to sound new. It’s pretty well known that fashions and sounds revolve around over decades, so whatever’s been out will come back in at some point. It’s computer music and I’ve always thought it needs to have some kind of soul, but it needs to sound like it’s been made by a computer, by this fucking machine that does crazy shit. That’s what’s always excited me. There’s so many things you can do, so many synths, so many plugins, so many production techniques, that there’s no excuse to keep making the same track.
I don’t necessarily ever go into the studio thinking I’m going to make a certain type of tune. I just turn it on and press things until something sounds like it’s gonna excite me. It has to sound fresh to yourself, and you know when it does and when it doesn’t. In the past two years I’ve made easily a hundred tunes as Trevino, and not a lot of them are good. People have asked me what I think my biggest selling point is as a producer and I think it’s just that I know when I’m doing something good it’s good. And when it’s not I know it’s not – I’ll turn it off and move on, or leave it and come back to it and change it. I think that’s moved from the drum and bass into the techno – when I think I’m on the right track I know I’m on the right track.
I just turn my gear on and press things until something sounds like it’s gonna excite me.
So you don’t go in the studio with any set plan of what you’re going to make?
I’m not a good enough producer to be able to hear a tune in my head and go in and make it. I don’t necessarily have the musical knowledge – I guess I’ve not learnt that much in education terms over the years. Experience has always been the most important thing to me. I’ve been asked to do video things in the studio and it’s just like, you’re just gonna fucking laugh at me. I’m just gonna make myself look like an idiot! For all the music you do hear of mine there’s 99% of it you don’t, and that’s for a fucking reason, do you know what I mean?
The thing with those video interviews is that the only producers who usually do them are the ones who work in a really methodical way, so people watching them might assume that every good producer works like that. They never see people like you who are making great music but don’t know what they’re going to make until they start hitting some buttons. It’s almost like that approach isn’t as valid in some way.
There’s a lot of producers out there who are great engineers but they’re not making great music. They make everything sound fucking brilliant but they always use a certain snare because they know that snare’s perfect to go with that kick drum… All of a sudden you define exactly what your tune’s going to be before you even start making music. That’s one of my criticisms of today’s drum and bass. It’s all about it sounding amazing. I don’t give a fuck… Well, I do care how it sounds, don’t get me wrong, but the vibe’s always the first thing. It has to be about the vibe and then you work around it.
Which was definitely the case with the first few years of jungle and drum and bass, that it was just rough.
That was the exciting bit. It was rough as fuck but there’s something good about that. You listen to people like Shed, he could make it clean if he wanted but he’s purposely making it rough and that’s what I like about it. It’s rough because it’s meant to sound rough, that’s the whole fucking point of it.
You launched your Marcus Intalex scholarship at the Manchester MIDI School earlier this year. Do you think you’d have liked to learn about production in that way if it had been possible when you were starting out?
None of that existed back in the day. Would I have been able to afford it? That’s a different question. It’s all different now. When I started back in 1991 I didn’t have a computer, I didn’t have anything. Ever since being into New Order I’d always wanted a synthesiser, so I bought one, played with it for an hour and just thought, ‘What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?’ I saved up to buy this Juno-106 for £300 and it just sat on the shelf because I didn’t know what to do with it. You couldn’t really make music without a studio and a computer and nothing was cheap back in the day.
The amount of money we spent on studio equipment over the years is probably pretty frightening. Probably between fifty and a hundred grand – maybe more. To get access to making music you needed money or a friend with a studio. When I was growing up it was a dream but it was almost like it was never gonna become a reality. I never expected to be doing this – I was thinking I’d just be an accountant who liked synthesiser music.
What was your breakthrough moment? How did you make the step from having that synth on the shelf to actually making music?
Well I sold the synth, gave that one up as a bad idea. I worked in record shops and one of our distributors was L Double, who had his own studio and asked if I wanted to come over. We made our first tune and literally a week later Grooverider was on the radio saying it was the best tune he’d heard all year. That was like, ‘Fucking hell, we can do this,’ and in my head it was like, ‘I wanna make a tune that Grooverider plays, I wanna make a tune that Doc Scott plays’ – these people were inspiring me to be who I was and I wanted to give them music that they’d respect. Rather than how many copies a single would sell, getting the respect from your peers was the most important thing.
I never expected to be doing this – I was thinking I’d just be an accountant who liked synthesiser music.
Is that still the case now with Trevino?
Not really. Well, yes and no. I suppose it’s always there. Martyn said he got an email from Marcel Dettmann saying he loved one of the tunes from the new 3024 thing. Having a tune in Marcel Dettmann’s box is really good because I really respect him as a DJ. Having people like that into your music just gives you confidence. It spurs you on.