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Bristol, U.K.’s Julio Bashmore (real name: Mathew Walker) has been releasing meaty, synapse-tickling house-meets-bass tracks since 2009, when his self-titled EP came out on Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird label—but last summer’s major club smash, the addictive “Au Sève,” made the DJ-producer a star. Bashmore, who’s headlining MoMA PS1’s Warm Up party on August 10, fills us in on the killer cut’s creation and the success the track has helped bring him.
Your first release was only four years ago, but so much has happened since then, I’m guessing that feels like a lifetime ago.
Yeah, you’re right. The last two years feels like at least five. It’s been crazy—crazy and mad. And at the same time, it feels like it’s gone by really fast, like a blur.
It seemed like when you first hit the scene, people were struggling to categorize your music. Some people called it house, some people called it bass music, and other people were calling it U.K. funky.
That’s always been the case, from the go. For one thing, my first record was on Dirtybird, which is based in San Francisco—and that’s a very long way from the scene that I was working in. My sound then was based on U.K. funky; that was a really interesting sound at the time, but it’s kind of fizzled out now. At any rate, the first record was my twist on that, and it’s always been something that’s kind of stayed with me, and I’ve always been a bit of a black sheep because of that.
Besides Dirtybird, which is essentially a label for slightly weird tech-house, you’ve also released music on Martyn’s 3024, which releases a lot of tough bass music, and Futureboogie, which puts out fun, sometimes disco-tinged house. That range may have added to people’s confusion to some degree.
I actually never really realized that at the time; I think it wasn’t till later that I thought about it at all. It’s just the way things happened, really. Like I said, it all happened pretty fast.
I’m guessing a lot of it has happened since just last summer, when “Au Sève” was released.
“Au Sève” was the inaugural release on your own label, Broadwalk. That’s a pretty auspicious way to kick things off.
Yes, the first release! It was certainly a decent start. You never know what a track’s going to do, or if it will resonate with anybody—if it resonates at all. I had released “Battle for Middle You” the year before, and that had done really well. But I was starting to get tied in with this “Bristol sound,” which I never thought even really existed in the sense that they were using the term, which basically was “tracks with a load of 808 bass.” But that’s as much a San Francisco–Dirtybird sound as it is anything else.
Yes, that sound is actually pretty ubiquitous.
Personally, I always thought of the Bristol sound as the bassier end of dubstep, and all the offshoots from that. But anyway, with “Au Sève,” the intention was to make a track that would get away from what people were calling the Bristol sound, with no 808 bass or anything even close. All I used was this really crappy 150-quid synthesizer for the bass. The sound is actually a tuned-down xylophone.
Now that you say that, I can kind of hear it that way. But it’s a great bassline, whatever the sound.
Yeah, it’s definitely not your normal bass sound. And I used a very average drum machine—nothing special at all. I wanted to prove that I could make a solid track that wasn’t associated with those things that people equated with the Bristol sound.
The vocal sample and simple, straightforward arrangement certainly didn’t hurt the song’s success.
One thing I learned from “Battle for Middle You” was that there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had by making a song that was so simple, but could have such a big effect. If you had a look at the project files, you’d see there aren’t many tracks there. Most people would be shocked, it’s so minimal.
By the way, what does “Au Sève” actually mean?
Not much! [Laughs] I actually used the Google translator, which said it means “the sap.” But I said it to a French person, and they said, “No, it doesn’t really mean that at all.”
After the success of “Au Sève,” did you feel any pressure to come up with a big follow-up tune?
There is a bit of that pressure. I actually first thought that after “Battle for Middle You.” I was wondering how I was going to step it up from there. Somehow, I managed to do it with “Au Sève.” But at the end of the day, when I go into the studio, it’s not like I’m trying to make some huge anthem. I just make whatever comes into my head, and that’s all you ever can do.
Nonetheless, your career seems to be going pretty well, to say the least.
I’ve been pretty busy. It’s been wild.
Have you been playing lots of festivals this summer?
Yeah, lots of them, all over Europe.
And now you are coming to New York. By the time this interview is published, you’ll have opened for Disclosure and TNGHT at SummerStage, and then you’ll be headlining at Warm Up, with the Detroit-techno vets of Octave One opening for you.
Yes, and I’m really looking forward to that.
They’re both outdoor events, but other than that, they’re very different gigs. When you do an opening set for something like Disclosure, do you find yourself playing differently than when you’re headlining?
I guess so. When I first started, I had to adapt my sets even more, because there wasn’t a lot of house music in Bristol. I’d be spinning in between dubstep dudes, so I’d have to bring it down, and then bring it back up for the next guy. And somehow try to sandwich some house music in between. [Laughs] Anything is easier than that! Now I’m at least generally playing with people who use the same tempo.
Julio Bashmore plays Warm Up 2013 on Saturday, August 10.