Vowel, a name you’ll probably hear a lot about in 2021. After being off the radars for a year, the Portuguese producer is finally back with a brand new EP on Overview Music. From the experience of building his own co-label Surveillance Music, to his futuristic sound-design, Vowel has definitely got a lot to say. We sat down with him to discuss his new projects, his influences, the new direction he’s taking, and what is it like to be a producer and co-label manager in Covid-related times.

– It’s been a year since your latest release, how would you define the evolution of your style?

It’s crazy that it’s been over a year already… In my eyes, there’s definitely an evolution in all aspects, either it being sound design or composition. I believe that this EP is a step up from all of my previous stuff and I think this reflects a bit more maturity in my music and maybe a slightly different musical direction than what everyone has heard from me until now.

– Let’s dive into your origins: how did you discover drum and bass and what were the tracks and artists that influenced you throughout the years?

I think I discovered drum & bass when I was in secondary school but it was only around 2013 that I actually started to” understand” it a bit better. At the time I was very much into Pendulum (original, right?) and apart from drum & bass, there was this huge kind of American dubstep “boom” that I was a lot into at the time as well. I think in general, this is what made me get into bass-heavy music. Of course, later I found out about Noisia and my whole perspective of drum & bass changed drastically. From there my interest in sonic aesthetics started to develop and that’s probably when I discovered the likes of Mefjus and Phace and I was completely fascinated by the complexity of the sounds which made me want to start making music. “Emulation” by Mefjus was probably the track that really grabbed my attention to the music production and sound design world, especially when I read somewhere that he had made all of the sounds of the track using one specific synth which is called FM8; I was mind blown by that.

 

 

Nowadays, I listen to a lot of different stuff outside of the drum & bass realm which I believe it’s an important thing to do as a drum & bass producer because it allows us to take some influences from other genres, I mean, if we all listen to drum & bass and drum & bass only, all the music that we make is going to be extremely biased by what already exists. More recently I’ve been listening to loads of Ital Tek and Lorn, there’s also this tech-house guy that I’m fascinated by called Bleu Clair, then, of course, Moderat and on a more techno-ish note there’s Enrico Sangiuliano which makes some really sick techno and I couldn’t finish answering your question without mentioning Dorian Concept, this guy absolutely blows my mind, I think I like pretty much every tune from him, he’s got so much funk!

– Let’s talk a bit about your upcoming EP on Overview Music. Why did you choose this label rather than your own imprint, Surveillance Music, to showcase your music?

I had three of the tracks of the EP pretty much finished already and I had been speaking to Oli for a bit and he actually asked me about Dusk (Pitch Black), which had been a dub for a while, I then told him I didn’t have plans for it at that point. I think everything just happened from there really. I’ve been following the label from the start and I’ve also known Pete for a few years now, since the Lifestyle Music days so I know how hard these guys work and how much time and effort they put into every single release so it just made sense to me.

I try to keep my career as an artist separate from the fact that I co-run a label. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to release music on Surveillance because obviously, I am, but it’s great to work with other people and other labels and Overview Music felt like it was the right home for this EP.

 

 

– What’s your favorite track of the EP and why?

I would say it’s probably a track called Shokunin but I do have a soft spot for Dusk (Pitch Black) (probably because it’s been a dub for so long haha). When I had the idea to write Shokunin it was the day after I had watched this documentary on Netflix called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” which is about Jiro Ono, he’s probably the most renowned sushi chef in the world (I love watching food documentaries). In this documentary, they mention the word “shokunin” quite a lot and when I understood the meaning behind it, it just resonated with me. A “shokunin” is basically someone who dedicates his life to a craft with the goal to perfect it. The day after I watched the film I got in the studio and just started writing the tune around this kind of Japanese theme and that’s when the track came along. I love the idea of having concepts attached to music and being a fan of the Japanese culture, I guess it just felt right to me.

– Now let’s talk about your label. What prompted you to create Surveillance Music? What is the story behind it?

Fun fact, I didn’t create Surveillance Music. Joao (Jon Tho) and Tiago (Blast) started Surveillance Music and I think it was just after the first release they asked me if I wanted to join them and run the label with them. I really liked their vision of it and so they asked me if I wanted to join them and after thinking about it for a minute I said yes, so now it’s the three of us that run the label: Myself and Jon Tho take care of the management, PR, and A&R and Tiago focuses more on the visual direction of the label as well as the events side of things. We also work with Ivan, our graphic designer, he’s pretty much a member of the team as well (he’s sick!!).

Our goal with Surveillance is to release music that we really believe in, it doesn’t matter if the artist has got a huge following or not, that’s not what we’re after. We’re after music that pushes the boundaries of drum & bass and also that correlates with the aesthetics of the label.

 


– 2020 has definitely been a great year for newcomer labels like Surveillance Music, Sofa Sounds Bristol, DIVIDID, Onyx Recordings, Midas Touch,… How do you see the future of these youngsters?

It’s very refreshing to see this happening from my perspective. Speaking as an artist and label manager I see loads of positives in this, usually bigger labels have a very busy release schedule and this allows artists to put out music more regularly and to not have to wait months and months for the release date I guess, this means that the tracks don’t lose the momentum.

– This makes me wonder, are you planning to work with other labels in the future?

100%!  As I mentioned previously, I like to keep my career as an artist separated from the label, it’s natural that they will cross paths along the way but it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to release with other labels. Actually, one of my goals for 2021 is to get some music out on a non-d&b label. I think sometimes we are encapsulated in this drum & bass scene bubble and I want to get my music outside of that bubble. I believe this new sound that is coming up in drum & bass is the perfect opportunity for that to happen.

– As an artist and label-manager, what are your thoughts on the current situation? What is your main source of motivation to ride through it?

I think the mindset of an artist and a label manager are two completely different things, I’m still learning how to balance these two but it’s getting better with time. As an artist it’s been very emotional and always with ups and downs… maybe because there are no shows, sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation but we need to keep positive and power through this and hope that this will all be over soon, otherwise we’re all gonna get depressed as f*** haha. As a label-manager it’s completely different, I look at the label as like our little baby and I want to make it grow regardless of the pandemic and I guess the pandemic gave us a bit more time to focus on that as well.

– Any secrets to tell us before we end this interview?

Secrets are meant to be secrets right? (haha) Well, I’m just gonna say that you can expect more music from me this year, I’m working hard towards that. Thank you for having me guys!

 

To conclude, we would like to thank Vowel for taking the time to chat with us. “Dusk” will be out on the 22 of January and you can grab it here.