Insight Interview: Rift

Rift is a talented young producer from the UK who is currently receiving serious attention with his eclectic blend of dark garage, minimal drum and bass and melancholy chillout tunes. We caught up with Rift recently – read his story here…

Hey Rift, thanks so much for agreeing to an interview. Where are you based? Do you tend to travel a lot, or are you firmly rooted at home?

I’m based just outside of North London (near-ish Luton). I tend to stay at home but I’ll go into London every other week, and I visit Glasgow fairly often too to see family. I actually lived in Glasgow for a few years when I was younger, some of my earliest memories are from when I lived up there, but I am very fond of both cities. I’ve been travelling around a lot more recently to look at universities though, got to visit some pretty cool places like Bath, Nottingham, Bristol, and I’d honestly love to move to any of those places.

Can you recall your first real exposure to music? 

I have this pretty vivid memory of my first exposure to music actually. I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, and I was in my dad’s car and he’d parked in this work car park somewhere for a few minutes, can’t remember why. And I remember it being the middle of the night and being the 6 year old I was, I was just exhausted by this point, and my dad had put some music on to help put me to sleep, and I remember him putting on Clocks by Coldplay, which remains a favourite of mine to this day. My dad was the one who started getting me into music properly, I remember from my earlier years I listened to the likes of Foals, Bloc Party, Friendly Fires, and Everything Everything. Lots of indie rock stuff, took a good few more years for me to get into electronic music actually.

How and when did you first begin writing and creating music?

I was maybe 14, and I downloaded the trial of Ableton Live 7 onto my laptop and had just spent a while messing around. It was just doodling really, nothing serious, it was just to amuse myself more than anything I suppose. Then it hit my 15th birthday and my dad (who loves his music and is one of the main people who have driven me to try do well in what I do) bought me Ableton 9 as a present, and I just thought wow I feel like I’m going to have to learn to do this properly. I guess it was from there that I really put the time and effort in to try do well, from that moment I produced at least a few hours every day (I think I got slightly obsessed).

Can you describe your music for us?

I don’t really know how to describe it anymore really, I began with producing drum and bass and house, so I’m heavily influenced from producing that and the music I listened to within those genres, and later on I shifted to the more ambient, future garage side of things. At this point I just kinda do whatever works, one thing I always try do is make my music stand out, seem different from the crowd. I think the style that carries over from genre to genre that I make is always dark, I can’t do happy melodies to save my life, but then again the sadder darker melodies suite the future garage style. My music is also much more based on the ambience, the feeling it creates rather than making catchy melodies or whatever, and I feel when producing that that’s always in the back of my head, making sure it’s got that feeling, whatever it may be, more than anything else.

Have you ever played live? Would you like to in future? Any upcoming shows?

Unfortunately no, although I would love to. I’ve had a few conversations about doing shows with some people but nothing solid has really materialised yet. But hopefully in the future, yes, I would play if I could. I go to quite a few drum and bass shows, heavier stuff generally, if I could do shows I’d either do that darker minimal DnB stuff, or stuff similar to the early future garage, stuff like Burial, Synkro, Etched.

What have been your biggest influences?

This could be a very long list… I’ll try keep it short as possible though. I draw influences from different places for different genres, the main split is between my DnB and my garage, although the influences obviously eventually end up cross-overing with one another.

Like I said before I’m heavily influenced by the early drum and bass music I listened to, early Netsky tracks particularly, ‘Starlight’ and ‘Your Way’. My more recent DnB is also influences by guys like Signal, Ewol, GLXY, Mitekiss. I love the minimal styles they all have, and all have this liquidy roll to them, they feel so smooth. Mitekiss’s ‘Ocean Tower’ is probably my fave from the lot.

My garage stuff is undoubtedly influenced by guys like Ghostek, SaviD, Koh, Burial, Craset. I find it ironic that I can be influenced by one of my own tracks, but when SaviD and I remixed The Grey’s ‘Leaving’, the style of SaviD’s production wore off on me, and I’ve definitely been influenced by that experience. The same can be said for when Koh and I were working on ‘Sleepless’ over a year ago now. That was right at the start of me learning to produce garage, and he was the only other garage artist I was really in contact with, so I suppose that’s where all my style stems from.

There’s also a lot of individual tracks that have shaped the way I make music too. The likes of Calyx and Teebee‘s remix of Matt Lange’s ‘In and Out of Phases’, Gate’s ‘Kei‘, Craset & glo’s ‘She is Light’, Bustre’s ‘Don’t Forget’, Direct & Mr Fijiwiji’s ‘Hysteria’. The list could go on forever really.

Do you think producing electronic music requires technical or creative skill? Or both?

Both, but the amount of ability in either area of course varies between styles and individuals. The best tracks have a good balance between the two, although my taste usually means I like to hear a bit more technical skill. I don’t really know what the balance is with my music, I’m convinced I’m not skilled in either area particularly. I like to hear more technical stuff in the music I listen to, but I’m not as good at implementing it in my own music as I’d like to be. But everyone can get by and do well as long as they at least have a basic understanding in both areas I feel.

Do you tend to find creating music a cathartic or therapeutic experience? Has creating music helped you cope with difficult times in your life at all?

Generally yeah. It’s my go-to activity whenever I’m stressed or upset, it’s easy to lose yourself in the details of producing. It’s particularly useful considering the music I make sounds much better when there’s that emotional factor behind it, there’s more of a drive to get the ideas out, and more of an inclination to spend the time within the details.

I remember about this time last year I shattered my collar bone in 4 places, I could barely move from where I was sat for weeks, I left the house about twice in 2 months. Music was the only thing keeping me sane, I couldn’t leave the house, see any of my friends, and my mum was out at work still so I was alone most of that time too. That was the time when I made my Burial ‘Night Bus’ remix, which is probably my favourite piece I’ve made. This is just one example, but it became a way for me to channel everything into something positive, a distraction from reality almost.

Any new genres you’d like to explore in future?

There are plenty that I’d love to branch out into, or at the very least attempt to make. I remember talking to Sker a month or so back about maybe doing a few post rock tracks, although he’s travelling a lot at the moment so I’ll need to see if he’s still up for it when he gets back.

I feel my music is moving into a heavier, more sound design-heavy direction, so naturally I’d like to try out a bit more in the area of neurohop and drum & bass, and I want to try out combining the heavier basses with garage and future garage more, similar to Kursa’s stuff. I sort of did that with my track Phobetor, kept elements of my older future garage style with the newer basses, which I feel worked out pretty well. I’d definitely want to try out more stuff like that. Oh, and breakbeat. I love breakbeat.

Do you have any thoughts on the future of underground musical styles such as future garage? Do you think the scene will evolve further?

Yeah it will evolve for sure, in what direction though I’m not sure. I’d love it to go back to its roots, the old lofi kinda stuff, mainly because that’s the style I like the most. However, sadly, I’m not sure if that will happen, although guys like Etched and Ecepta are helping to bring it back again in their own forms. I think guys like Aether, Enzalla and Myst have helped begin to transform the style again, I’d love to see how their styles evolve within the genre. Guys like Aetherworld are also coming out with very diverse stuff, he seems to be creating his own genres at this point.

Any new releases coming our way?

Pleeeenty. Currently working my way through a stockpile of oldish stuff while I had exams going on, but I’ve got lots of stuff in the works including remixes for Lavance, Maeror and Direct, and a bunch of originals too. Got a few finished bits and pieces waiting to be released on Martian Bass Records, Citate Forms, Sekai, Wavecity, Harrow, plus a few unsigned pieces too. So in short, loads of music.

Do you enjoy working with other artists? Can we expect any new Rift collabs in future? Any specific artists you’d like to work with in future?

Yeah I do love getting to work with other artists, its always a rewarding experience, even when the tracks don’t get finished. I have collabs planned with Ecepta, Shwin, Hajimari, Maxheart, Aetherworld, The Greys and Azaleh currently, all of which I very excited about, and there’s quite a range of different styles too, so hopefully everyone will enjoy them.

Artists I’d like to work with? Working with Sorrow would be incredible, I’ve wanted to bring my garage tracks in a similar direction to that of his music, a bit better to dance to rather than just listen to, and getting to work with him would definitely be an experience I wouldn’t forget. Myst or Aether too, I’d like to do something similar to my track Homeless with them, I feel we could definitely get something interesting going there.

Do you have a favourite track / song of all time? Favourite artist?

Sorrow ‘Mourner’. There’s something about that track that just catches me every time. It’s slower than Sorrow’s normal stuff, but it has this dark energy, the track always feels like its on edge, but you can still hear the feeling behind it, I love it.

Favourite artist? Probably Sorrow, although I’m not as big on his recent stuff, I loved his earlier garage works. Looking purely at more recent music I’d say my favourite artists would have to be either Lavance, or GLXY.

It’s been said that a life in music can be a hard one. Would you agree with that?

I can see why it would be, but I’ve found it alright to be honest. It can be tough, especially at the beginning when all you want is to be the best from the start, and to impress all your friends. Accessing the right audiences quickly too can also be hard, and without that access it will naturally be a bit more stressful and harder work.

I suppose I’m lucky in these respects, when I started out I never had in mind wanting to take my music far, or do well or anything like that, it was just a hobby. I just wanted to doodle and sketch with sounds. I always sort of had this mindset, so I never really get particularly stressed out by not gaining followers quickly or anything like that. So I suppose as long as you don’t stress out too much and keep realistic goals, the rewards will come. Yes it’s definitely tough but it’s only made tougher if you worry about it too much, it will kill your motivation and inspiration, just focus on making music you love. After all, if you don’t love what you do, why are you doing it?

Any other Rift projects on the horizon that you’d like to tell us about?

Yeah I’ve got all sorts of stuff on the horizon. A lot more minimal drum and bass, I’ve really been getting into that recently and I want to push that forward more. I also quite often go back to the sort of stuff I made when I started out; deep house, some bass house stuff, a few 2step/speed garage pieces too. I make them every once in a while but I never release them, they are more to just amuse myself but I’m going to try get a few which are more release-ready and hopefully put some out.

Been getting into making instrumentals a bit more too, hiphop sorta stuff. There’s two tracks with Maxheart on the way, one of which is a wave track, a genre I don’t actually explore too often despite enjoying listening to it.

And finally – are there any tracks / artists that are relatively unknown that you’d like people to know about?

Yeah I have a lot of good friends who definitely deserve a listen to; ShwinEqualize, Ecepta, Maeror, Dawncall, Tim Schaufert, Xandra. Been friends with them all for ages, some of them since the very beginning of my production career, and all make fantastic music which you won’t regret listening to. Vorso is also definitely going to be big very soon, his sound design is some of the best I’ve ever heard.

There’s also a few other guys worth having a listen to, Mesqa‘s recent stuff has blown me away particularly ‘Wander’, and Craset‘s music always has this almost trantic element, I get mesmerised whenever I listen to his stuff, ‘She is Light’ will always be a favourite of mine.

Thank you so much Rift!

Thank you!

Rift’s back catalogue is available here and here.