Bristol figure Joker has been through the hype game and come through the other side.
Lauded as one of the ringleaders behind the so-called Purple Sound, a deal with independent powerhouse 4AD soon followed.
The producer's approach became confused, though, a clear case of losing his way as the options - in terms of a career - became too wide-ranging.
The relationship ended after one album, and since then Joker hasn't looked back, re-engaging with the club tropes that made him so sought after.
New EP ‘Kapsize 021’ is out now, a potent project that flirts with grime, sine wave, hip-hop, and other bass-led system functions.
Clash caught up with Joker to see what's what.
- - -
2016 was a big year for you, with a flurry of releases – what brought on this creative energy? Did you feel you had a point to prove?
Nah, no point to prove really. I find when life gets hard for me, I work hard. Losing my mum and a string of other madness put me into sonic super-drive mode. I still have a lot of it on my computer you know, it’s just taking a minute to get it all out to the world.
‘Fantasy’ kicked off your account for this year, a superb stand alone club release. What made that tune right to open 2017? Do you feel it’s emblematic of your current approach?
Just a new sound in general can inspire a whole song, EP or even album for me. I came across that choir sound and that was it.
I was rushing to be honest, I made the song, tried about 1000 mixes and 10 masters, hated them all but had to put it out before my brain’s CPU exploded!
‘Kapsize 021’ is much broader in scope – what were you trying to say with this EP? What makes these tracks hang together, do you think?
I was kind of working on a longer project, kind of an album thing really but clocked that I’m way too impatient at this time in my life to wait for vocals from MCs or singers. Instead, I pulled the project apart, took ‘Mad Night’ from it and added in ‘Melkweg Bass’ and ‘Medium Core’ to make a full EP.
- - -
Just a new sound in general can inspire a whole song, EP or even album for me.
- - -
The title cut is raw and stripped back, almost bordering on menace and paranoia. What drew you towards that sound?
Serum (a plugin synthesiser) mainly. Certain instruments, plugins and hardware bring me into a certain zone and Serum definitely brings me to an aggy, aggravated space, which I quite like.
‘Melkweg Bass’ is named after the iconic Amsterdam club. Is it a place you enjoy playing? Do you feel like clubs such as that one have their own energy? And is this something you aim to channel in your music?
Ok, here’s a quick lil’ story. I named the song ‘Milky Way Bass’ originally because it reminded me of a bassline on a track I’d written called ‘Milky Way’, but a bit amped up. I named it that just for quick reference and left it on my computer.
A few weeks later, I remember hitting up Jakes and saying ‘Yo, I’ve made this song but I think it rah sounds like you and Coki if I’m honest so it’s gonna have have to stay pon da hard drive!”. He disagreed.
Anyway, moving forward, I put the track on my USB for a show I had at Melkweg in Amsterdam. I played the song for the first time there and the whole place went mad. I was like ‘rahhh thunder foot, back foot madnesss, left, down, right up!’. That’s the story of why I renamed it after the club, because Melkweg in Dutch translates to Milky Way, ta da!
I got home after the show and was talking to Spyro about it, so I sent him ‘Mad Night and ‘Melkweg Bass’, I think he was actually first to have them still. A few weeks later, I came across a YouTube video of D Double E mixing with Spyro — he dropped ‘Melkweg Bass’ and all the comments seemed to think I made the song, without them knowing it was a Joker track. That made me drop my prang-ness about releasing and put it out.
- - -
I played the song for the first time there and the whole place went mad...
- - -
‘Medium Core’ is a heavy piece of low-end production, the sort of thing you’ve become known for doing but with a future-facing twist. How important is it to play with preconceptions? What aspects of UK bass culture are currently inspiring you?
I’m not sure i was trying to do that to be honest, I just got some hardcore sounds and kind of fucked around a bit. UK bass culture as of right now? I can’t say I’m too inspired at the moment, but I’m still enjoying what's going on if that makes sense.
You’re still based in Bristol, which is a fantastically creative city. What keeps you there? Is it the atmosphere? How easy is it to be creative in Bristol?
It’s mad because every time i go to London I’m like, ‘rah the energy here is fast!’ I could imagine if I was living in London, I’d be moving quicker and getting a lot of work done — and that thought becomes a bit overwhelming. Whenever I get home, I’m always like, ‘Nah, Bristol is chill’.
You’ve released a lot of music over the past 18 months, across EPs and singles. Do you feel an album is the next step?
Not yet, I feel like more building needs to be done with Kapsize, but I’m not too far off.
- - -
‘Kapsize 021’ is out now.
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.